Turkey vs. Fem-Beast

You guys.

LOOK WHAT I BOUGHT LAST NIGHT.

20131125-085143.jpg

WHAT?!?

So who would of thought that I would get so worked up standing by myself in front of the massive wall of roasting pans in Bed Bath & Beyond? As it turn outs, cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner is apparently a really big deal to me.

Weird.

Because of Bill’s work schedule, we won’t have the opportunity to travel and see family for Thanksgiving this year. Even though it will just be Bill and I in our quiet little starter home on Thursday, I feel like that makes it that much more important to celebrate the day. What I didn’t expect was that making my first turkey would feel like a huge responsibility. I’m determined to make it from scratch because if I’m going to take on this rite of passage into wifehood, I’m going to go big and stare it down in the face like the fem-beast I am. Turkey, hear me roar.

But really, I’m pretty nervous. I have been putting a lot of thought into our menu, scouring over websites and blogs and magazines and Pinterest, trying to pick out the perfect combination of healthy and traditional. Oh, and when I say “putting a lot of thought into”, what I’m really trying to say is something more akin to “obsessing”, or perhaps “researching thoroughly in a state of suppressed-and-consequently-simmering panic”. Need proof?

20131125-085411.jpg

The two of us are going to be eating Thanksgiving dinner all the way to Christmas.

I think all this is coming from watching the pre-holiday planning and preparation, as well as the intensive day-of labor, that my mom and grandmother took so seriously growing up. One year I helped, taking on all the gross de-necking and what have you that my mom was clearly disgusted by, but other than that my turkey roasting skills are as underdeveloped as one’s turkey roasting skills can be. However, if there was ever a time to be grateful for the first year of marriage – you know, when the honeymoon isn’t over and the adoring husband pretends he doesn’t mind a disaster of a house and enthusiastically chews tough/burnt/undercooked dinners – well friends, this would be it.

So in conclusion, here goes nothing! That Caphalon box you see above is here in my kitchen as a glaring reminder of the character-building to come in the very near future. And let me say that this year, along with my family, friends, and a wonderful life, what I am thankful for is this blog. Because if this all goes to hell, as is entirely possible, at I’ll have some material to write about and you’ll have a good laugh at my expense.

Here’s to solidifying my status as a domestic hot mess, and I think we can all agree that there aren’t too many feelings as grand as validation!

xo

Advertisements

Midweek Muse: Your Inner Voice

Yesterday, a life-changing moment occurred. I had the incredible opportunity to present to students a workshop that I had created from the ground up. It was something a little different from what had been done before, something that I thought our students might need, and something that was undoubtedly, unabashedly, from start-to-finish ME. From the moment the idea sparked to the second I finished speaking, “How to Get to Where You Don’t Know You Are Going” felt like my baby. I was so invested that I realized I have been metaphorically holding my breath, unsure of how everyone would respond. I put my entire self on the line with this thing, not too mention my sanity, working ten to eleven hour days with no lunch break (plus over the weekend) for a week straight just trying to get it done. I was completely and utterly vulnerable.

But when I saw my extremely hard-working coworkers had cleared their schedules to attend and students were sighing in relief as I told them that they will, in fact, survive all this life business, I started to feel like I was doing something great. I was making an impact. I was in MY ELEMENT. And to be honest, as students came up afterward just to thank me for the  hour, I realized I had used my voice and stayed true to who I was while creating this project. I smiled for the rest of the day, knowing I have found a workplace place that values my voice and supports me in my creativity, even when that voice and that creativity are a little off the path of what has traditionally been done.

I’ve never felt like this before, and it is really something. So as a little Wednesday inspiration, I wanted to use one of the messages from my presentation to pass on some of that feeling and support to YOU.

Don't Let the Noise

(From foryouyouyou.tumblr.com via Pinterest)

If you ever need some support in staying true to your inner voice, I’ve got your back.

When It Floods…

You know those weeks when hardly anything goes right, nothing comes easy, and frankly, everything just kind of sucks? This was one of those weeks.

Like Thursday. Ohhhh yes, let’s talk about Thursday. A shining, pretty little example of the week in general. Before I get into details I want to establish that the week was one of those – and I know we’ve all had these – with too much to do and nowhere near enough time, energy, and patience to get it all done. Think on that for a second, and have a little sympathy. Now, that means that I needed to get into the office early. But lo and behold, the first time I slept through my alarm in all of 2013 happened to be, you guessed it! THURSDAY. Up, ready, and out the door with time to spare, but a girl’s got to eat, right? Of course this means a pit stop at Pete’s for Simply Oatmeal and Genmai Cha tea. (Sidenote: If you haven’t tried that tea, go do it. Classic Japanese green tea with roasted popped brown rice sounds weird, but it smells and tastes amazing.) Of course, the line is long and takes forever. I still get into the office early, but later than anticipated, and in general, I don’t enjoy inhaling my breakfast at my desk while trudging through email.

So then the day takes off, and it’s one thing after another flying in to push back all of the things I really have to do, like prepare for that speech I have to give to the higher-up’s advisory council and that huge presentation I have to give tomorrow and, oh yeah, that highly anticipated workshop I’m so glad I came up with two months ago that I felt was SUCH a great idea, and all the students I’m supposed to see in between. That means that even though I woke up to one of those days where I’m so constantly hungry that I’ve turned into an insatiable beast, I already know that a lunch break is out of the question. Good thing I brought the leftover Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya that I was SO looking forward to… dropping straight upside down on the floor with a huge splat, not a single bite or ounce of integrity salvageable from the steaming ruined pile. And as luck would have it, as I’m a sniffling (read: crying at work) hunched-over mess in the middle of a main office thruway trying to clean up the disaster, an employer recruiting our students walks by. And so does an intern. The look of pity from the former and a confused look of awkward terror from the latter later, I’m left sans lunch with zero pride and no time to get a replacement  as I head back to my office to shut the door and sob while attempting to type and squint through tears at this stupid PowerPoint that’s ruining my life. If that weren’t enough, I’ll spare you the gory details of the extra hour I stayed late, the painful and emotional conversation, the unexpected dropping of money, and the changing of every stoplight in town just before I got to it when all I want is to JUST GET HOME that occupied the rest of the day.

Instead I’ll just tell you that right at the moment when I had absolutely HAD IT and fruitlessly started yelling at the asshole tailgating me in the middle of my small town just to take my anger out on somebody (ANYBODY), I also realized something else.

I realized, “This is water.”

This was water.

This is, was, and always will be… water.

If you don’t know what I mean, please watch the this video created by TheGlossary.com and inspired by a speech given by novelist David Foster Wallace:

For me, on this ugly Thursday, the realization that this was water cleared the way. All of a sudden I was able to remember the parts of my day that weren’t that bad, and oh yeah, the parts that were actually… GOOD.

The part where my husband showed up at the office with a plate of fish tacos to let me eat and work through lunch and our dog to get me to smile (if only just a little).

The part where an unprompted coworker told me I was rocking it, despite feeling like I was trudging through quicksand while trying to beat the deadlines.

The part where I actually had a job at which to have a bad day.

Or how about my favorite part, when I finally walked through the door to my home to find it warm and comforting, with pot roast and vegetables simmering on the kitchen counter, filling every room with their smell, and with the gentle humming of washer and dryer filling the silence upstairs. Indy was sitting on the couch, happy to see me. Bill came tearing down the stairs, a smile and humble pride at figuring out the Crockpot all over his face.

The funny thing about water is that the more you thrash and kick and fight it, the faster you sink. But if you stop struggling and just feel it, eventually you’ll float back up to the surface. So that begs the question… Are you going to let it all come flooding in to surround you and fill your lungs so you drown? Or are you going to stop focusing on the shit, and see the beauty and the peace and the calm lying just beyond the surface?

Your choice, love. Your choice.

Make Your Home Happy

The single best piece of advice I got on marriage came from a coworker at the bridal shower my office threw for me a few weeks before our wedding. This instruction came from a particular coworker who is someone I look up to greatly: she is always fun, doesn’t take life too seriously (in the best way), lives in a constant state of utter fabulousness, and is generally the life of the party, whether you like it or not thankyouverymuch. Her advice, which I have taken to heart is simple.

“Always try to make your home happy. Do something, no matter how small, every day to make it that way.”

Every few weeks, she comes up to me at work with the sole intent of asking me, “Ashleigh, are you making your home happy?” The anecdote that came with this question on the last occasion really shed some light on just how central this practice is to her marriage and just how well it works. “Even just lighting a candle. Sometimes when my husband and I are fighting and we can’t solve it, we stop talking, light a candle, and just sit in silence. It totally works.” Then she fell into her contagious little fit of laughter that seems to convey just how little she cares about how absurd she thinks she’s being. Well, oh-role-model-of-mine, I don’t think you are absurd at all. I think you are quite marvelous.

Putting this into practice is not always easy, and the simple things are often the ones that fall through the cracks. This is even more true due to the fact that Bill and I have opposite work schedules, and it is quite the bummer. I work a normal 40-hour work week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Easy enough. But layer on top of that Bill’s schedule of Friday through Tuesday from 2 p.m. to midnight, and things become tricky. We almost never have a full day off together. Case in point, from September 3rd to December 24th, we will not have had a single day off to spend together. So basically, as newlyweds, we are not only trying to figure out this whole marriage thing, but we’re trying to figure out this whole marriage thing with very limited time together. I find find myself wanting to put a lot of effort into making the moments we do have a little extra special, but life often gets in the way and the “important” things take over.

This Sunday, an autumn-themed breakfast prepared while Bill was still asleep meant that he woke up to a home warmed with the smell of pumpkin and cinnamon, and we spent a very rare quiet morning sharing a lazy breakfast at our dining room table. To bring the spirit of fall inside, I pulled one of my favorite things out of the cupboard.

20131110-221740.jpg

This stuff is to die for. Pumpkin plus cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg is QUITE the combo, let me tell you.

20131110-222044.jpg

I decided to add a little something extra in the form of honey and chopped pecans in place of the traditional butter-and-syrup staples. Great decision.

20131110-222119.jpg

One of the things that makes home happier for me is having flowers in plain sight, so these autumn lovelies took center stage on the table.

20131110-222144.jpg

A surefire way to measure success when it comes to Bill and food? A severe lack of eye contact while said meal is present. This quick little spread took about 20 minutes to prepare but made a huge impact on my week. I easily could have poured myself a bowl of cereal and called it breakfast, but it was much more rewarding to hear the grizzly bear upstairs awaken from his slumber to the whiff of something delicious coming from the kitchen and subsequently follow his nose, stumbling loudly down the stairs. The payoff that resulted – the look of utter surprise followed by hungry anticipation followed by genuine appreciation followed by complete mutual contentedness in our full, happy bellies – will always be worth the effort.

Sounds like a happy home to me! This is officially my mission from here on out.

Midweek Muse: Commit

this is my commitment

to live up
to the spirit
that is in me

-source unknown

20131106-095100.jpg

find it… feed it… free it.

Halterween: A Tradition is Born

Here’s a piece of irony for you.

One of the things I’ve been so looking forward to in marriage – and I mean really excited about – is the establishment of new traditions. Why is that ironic? Well, I suppose it’s because the very definition of tradition (according to Dictionary.com) is “a continuing practice” or “a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting”. So basically I’ve been excited about doing the same thing over and over again for an undetermined amount of time. Coming from a generation obsessed with a constant stream of shiny new things and keeping up with the (fill in the blank here: times, trends, outrageous/materialistic/overly dramatized reality TV family that I’m secretly infatuated with… don’t hate me for my guilty pleasures), you would think traditions would be the last thing that would get me going. But maybe that is one of the reasons why I AM so fired up about new ideas becoming Halter family mainstays. Traditions offer a warm, home-y sense of security in an age where constant bombardment with pressure and expectations is commonplace. If you think about it, traditions are great conversation starters and so fun to talk about because they are always so… weird. Quirky. Ridiculous. In fact, they are often the only excuse we have to legitimize being weird, quirky, and ridiculous. I mean, seriously, how else would I get away with some of the things I wrote about in a previous post, like eating cookies for breakfast on a certain magical holiday? Traditionally, calories don’t count on Christmas morning. And you can’t argue with that – it’s FAMILY TRADITION.

It seems to me that in order for something to become tradition, it has to have happened twice. After the first time, we can intend for something to become tradition, but that’s all talk until it actually does. That is why Halloween was so highly anticipated for me this year. Last Halloween, my roommate and I co-hosted a dinner party that consisted of a small guest list, butternut squash lasagna, costumes, and lots of candy. We were over the downtown scene with the 21+ crazies shedding themselves of any and all sensibilities or societal rules (plus, getting a ride home on this particular night is a big, fat pain…), and we decided to bring the party to us. It went well, and a bar was set. Since that night, however, I have referred to it in my brain as the “First Annual”, but I’ve been unable to put my money where my mouth is until this year’s fete.

SO I’m proud to introduce to you snapshots from “The 2nd Annual Supper Bloody Supper at the Halterween Mansion”!

20131104-090954.jpg

First up, we took down every ounce of normality in terms of decor and created an ambiance and vibe that was sure to please. (Those apple slices you see in that picture? Caramel apply vodka jello shots. Deadly.)

20131104-094108.jpg

My gorgeous co-host to the left (Cher from Clueless) and some lifesaving help to the right (Mean Girls!).

20131104-091430.jpg

On the menu, slow-cooker vegetarian chili with optional pulled pork on the side, corn bread, and a sweet potato bar complete with all the fixin’s you could ever dream of.

20131104-094118.jpg

An endless spread of booze and sugar guarantee a good time.

20131104-091038.jpg

Next ingredient: amazing friends bringing the cheer.

20131104-094055.jpg

Mixing and mingling…

20131104-091059.jpg

The hubby as Minnesota Vikings embarrassment Josh Freeman and the pup as the penguin to my polar bear.

20131104-091135.jpg

New friends were made when Jim Harbaugh joined the festivities.

20131104-091240.jpg

And NFL coach royalty Harbaugh and Ditka put Freeman in his place.

20131104-091312.jpg

Again with Caramel Apples… Deliciously dangerous.

20131104-091340.jpg

An unplanned Arctic (and okay, OKAY, Antarctic) takeover.

20131104-094213.jpg

And finally, the family to make it a family tradition.

The bar has been set high, my lovelies. I’m already jazzed for the 3rd Annual Supper Bloody Supper at the Halterween Mansion, and all the “Annuals” come, in all their weird, quirky, ridiculous glory.