Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Last year I didn't even acknowledge Thanksgiving. We were supposed to go over Robin's parent's house, but I decided to skip and stay home. When I woke up on Thanksgiving day last year the first thing I thought of was about the flurry of activity that was normally going on in the kitchen when Mom and Dad were alive. We always woke up to the smell of Thanksgiving dinner that Mom had been preparing since the wee hours of the morning. Last year, on Thanksgiving morning, the kitchen was eerily silent and it made me so sad.

Robin was scheduled to work this Thanksgiving so we knew that we wouldn't be going to her parent's house. I wanted to at least have some sort of Thanksgiving since I really did miss it last year, so I decided to cook.

I've never cooked a Thanksgiving meal in my life! I've made some of the side dishes on occasion, but I've never cooked a turkey, or a piece of meat as large as that! I'm addicted to the websites and and I subscribe to Food Network Magazine and Rachel Ray Magazine so I went and searched for recipes that were tried and true to include in our meal.

When I cook I have a slight problem with never sticking to the exact recipe. I always add something, take something away, double it, half it... you name it. This causes a bit of cooking anxiety because I never know how anything is going to turn out, unless I've made it before. When I make something new I always tell Robin "Sorry if it's horrible. I've never made it before!" That's my mantra. So far, I don't think I've disappointed, or maybe Robin just hasn't told me!

When I finally decided on what I was making for dinner I made a folder on my computer with the recipes. I was still having dinner anxiety so I got very anal retentive with my cooking. The first thing I did was make a list of all the spices I already had in the spice cabinet and then uploaded it into my phone for future reference. I hate going to the grocery store and not being able to remember if I have a certain ingredient - I always end up with duplicate spices!

From that point I took all the ingredients for the recipes and made a spreadsheet. I consolidated everything and compared the items to what I already had in my cabinet. Yeah, yeah, I know! It sounds crazy, but I didn't want to forget anything or run out of something and have the store be closed! Robin and I went to Wal-Mart to get everything and after that fiasco I made a decision that if I ever cook Thanksgiving dinner again I will plan and shop one month prior to the holiday!!

Yesterday I was woken up around 8am by the phone. It was Robin. She said she wasn't feeling well and asked if I could come get her from work. She didn't want to drive because she felt dizzy. I threw on some shoes and went to get her. When we got home we both went back to bed. When I woke up it was REALLY late so I got up and started cooking immediately. I was hoping that she would feel better later because I didn't want all this food to go to waste. I had also invited my sister and her girlfriend over, but we weren't sure if they were coming or not.

The night before I made the Cinnamon Apple Cranberry Sauce that I saw on a Food TV Thanksgiving show - it looked soooo tasty and I've always been a fan of homemade cranberry sauce! Yesterday I conquered the dressing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes... I feel like I'm forgetting something.

For the turkey I decided that was going to make Good Eats Roast Turkey - Alton Brown's recipe. I don't think I have ever had a turkey that went through the brining process. My Mom certainly had never done it - she was of the "low and slow" turkey cooking school. I always read recipe comments from the people who have tried it and there were so many people that said that they used this for the first turkey they cooked and how easy it was. How could I go wrong? Also, I saw the Good Eats episode where Alton cooked the roast turkey and it looked pretty simple.

The night before I made the brine and dumped it in a square cooler that I lined with a heavy duty outdoor lawn and leaf bag. I didn't want all that salt water and the spices to penetrate the cooler. That would be gross. I dumped the turkey in there (I wish I had a video of me wrestling the bird!) and then dumped some ice in it. When Robin got up in the morning I had her turn it over - she cheerily told me that she "Flipped the bird"! LOL! That afternoon I shoved it in the oven, set the thermometer and left it alone until it was done.

I was wondering how in the heck someone cooks an entire meal and puts it on the table and everything is still warm. How does that happen? You can only cook one thing at a time and then by the time the next casserole is done that one cooked before it is cold. I figured since we weren't sitting at a table or anything we could just serve ourselves buffet style.

When I took the turkey out of the oven I put the other casseroles in there until Traci and Tanya came over - when they arrived the food was sufficiently warm enough to have dinner - problem solved! I thought it might have been too ghetto for all of us to make a plate and take turns using the microwave to warm it! Haha!

I was going to take a photo of my first turkey - it was quite pretty, but we were a bit challenged with taking it out of the pan. It wasn't really cooperating so when we finally got it out it was... well, not very pretty anymore. Robin did take a photo of her plate that she posted in Facebook.

I must say that I am pretty proud of my first Thanksgiving dinner - especially the turkey. I'm convinced that brining is the way to go. That turkey was the most moist, delicious turkey that I've had (if I do say so, myself!)

We had a late dinner, around 8pm. I ate one plate and was toast. Both Robin and I were in bed by 10pm with our bellies full! We couldn't even think of dessert!

My goal of enjoying turkey leftovers all weekend is well under way!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


When my Mother passed away one of the "things" I inherited was Maggie. My Mom had two dogs. Maggie and Uno. Maggie is almost 12 years old and we have had her since she was a puppy. I barely knew Uno (named so because of having only one eye) so I re-homed her with the insurance lady at State Farm whom she is still happily living with.

I didn't think I could care for a dog at the time so I also re-homed Maggie. The lady took her home and ended up bringing her back the next day because her husband had a terrible allergic reaction. How did he not know he was allergic to dogs? Anyhow, I'm glad things turned out the way they did because I think Maggie is really happy living here with the other 3 crazy dogs, Jake (the most handsome cat on the planet!) and us. Sometimes I still feel bad about even thinking of re-homing her. She's my shadow and follows me everywhere. I think she would be really sad living elsewhere.

One thing about Maggie is that she has a tendency to get what I like to call mangy. She's a Lhasa Apso/Shih Tzu mix so her fur can get really long. My Mom used to get her groomed every other month, or so because she also has skin allergies. We're talking special, expensive medicated shampoo and a fancy haircut. My Mom would tell the groomers to keep the hair on her face and tail long and I never really cared for that. I thought it looked weird. Over the Summer Robin decided that Maggie needed a military-style cut so one day I came home and looked at her I was in shock. She was practically naked!! I think she liked it though because she pranced around like she was super-hot! I could tell that she was also much cooler without all that crazy hair in the way.

Over the past couple of months Maggie has gone without the grooming because of financial reasons. She's starting to look like her crazy old, mangy self and I told Robin that we need to break down and take her to the groomers, which we agreed to do this weekend. Well, today I get a call at work from Robin who proceeded to tell me that she attempted to give Maggie a haircut on the back porch with the electric trimmer. Robin decided that I was right and said that it was harder than a person would think it would be... Maggie's hair is really thick! Robin said "Well, at least she can see now!" A good thing since Maggie's hair hangs in front of her eyes!

When I came home I had to laugh because I really wasn't prepared for what I saw...


What in the hell happened to the top of her head? You know, I didn't even ask, but I think Robin and I came to a silent agreement to leave the dog grooming to the professionals.

I love that Robin tried <3 !

Saturday, November 20, 2010

42 Years

Today would have been my parents 42nd anniversary!

It's been almost 8 years that Dad passed away and almost 2 years for Mom. They were so young! I think that's the hardest thing for me.

How is it that so many people have parent's that live into their 70's, 80's and 90's? Sometimes I get mad when people are so sad when a loved one (especially a parent!) passes away late in life. I know I shouldn't get upset, but I do... They have no idea that they should be happy they had so long with them and that they lived so long. 56 and 62 is just way too young to die.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Boxes of Slides

While growing up my Mother was the photo taker. She took pictures of everything... holidays, family trips and just every day life. I guess this is where I get my love of photography. Oddly, I never saw my father hold a camera. The only time I know of where Dad took photos is when he was stationed in Seoul, Korea in 1970 when I was a year old.

My Mom has a photo album that Dad brought home from Korea and I would look at these once in a while, so much that I think I have actually memorized all of the photos in them. I was always intrigued by the photos of the Korean wedding that my Father took (that I now can't seem to locate!) In all the photos the bride wasn't smiling. I remember asking my Father why she wasn't smiling and from what I remember he said it was bad luck. If the bride smiled then it would mean she would have a greater chance of having a daughter. I've read somewhere that if a Korean bride smiles during the ceremony it will also mean a lifetime of hardship. I'm sure there are many truths to the tradition.

While going through Mom and Dad's things I found several boxes of photo slides. Over the weekend I broke out my little scanner and ran some of them through it and found one photo of myself and my sister that I had never seen.

It's a weird feeling when you find a photo from your childhood that you have never seen before. I absolutely remember that outfit - it was one of my favorites! And look at my little sister - some things never change! This was taken in 1975 or 1976 - We lived in Lake Bluff Mobile Home Park in Oakwood, Illinois. My Father was a U.S. Navy recruiter in Danville, Illinois. I'm not sure what's happening with my hair in this photo. My Mom always kept it short, but I think I'm sporting a ponytail here.

We just moved to Oakwood about this time and ended up staying there until 1979 - just after that awful blizzard of '78 that made us prisoners of the trailer park. Complete torture! I remember one of our neighbors went into labor and they had to take her to the hospital on a snow mobile and then some kind person came door to door on their snowmobile and took grocery orders - staples only! They had to dig us out of the house because the snow was so deep that it blocked the door. When they finally plowed the roads I remember the snow was so incredibly high - higher than most of the houses - er, mobile homes! It was great for a child, but I can't imagine what it was like to deal with that as an adult. Yeah, I'm not a fan of snow.

There were only a couple of slides that were taken in the U.S. There was one of my Mom and Dad from 1979 when we went to visit Mom's Uncle Henry and Aunt Edna. When I looked at the photo I had to do a double take. Later I pointed out to Robin that I definitely take after my Mother since we both have a smaller left eye - this photo was evidence! I've always hated this trait and now I know where I get it from! Ugh!

My Mom's Uncle Henry and Aunt Edna lived in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. They weren't really her Aunt and Uncle. Her Aunt Edna was actually her God Mother. They were distant cousins - I've forgotten over the years how, exactly, they were related and there's no one left to ask so I'd have to look it up. We rarely visited our family in Massachusetts, but I remember this visit like it was yesterday.

Edna and Henry were great! I loved spending time with them, although it was a rare occasion. During this visit I remember sitting with my Mom and Edna in the kitchen and Edna was showing my Mom a photo album. I really didn't understand what we were looking at, but I knew that the photos were not from a fun time since Edna was crying. Later I learned that Edna was Polish (and also knew Pope John Paul II!) and had lost everyone in her family in Auschwitz with the exception of her brother. She just returned from a pilgrimage back to Auschwitz and was showing my Mother the photos. I guess I asked a lot of questions because soon after my Mother bought me 'The Diary of Anne Frank' to help me understand. To this day it's one of my favorite books. I've never gotten away from my obsession of learning about the Holocaust. Again, it's my Mom's fault. I only wish I had the opportunity, as an adult, to talk to Aunt Edna about her experience in Auschwitz.

Most of the other slides that I scanned were from my Dad's days in Korea. After going through them I was amazed that my Father actually had an amazing eye for photography. I really wish he had picked up the camera after he came home!

One from the wedding that I had not seen before

My Dad - He's the one on the right :)

Aren't these great? Who knew that my Dad was such the photographer! I put the whole set on my Flickr page.

I never realized I would learn more about my parent's after they passed away than I would when they were alive. I wish I could have 15 minutes with each and every friend so I could tell them to make sure they don't make the same mistakes that I did. Talk to your parents. They are not just your Mom and Dad - they are people who had lives long before you came along! Don't pass up the opportunity to get to know them! Some day it will be too late.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Mac Off

The other day I was reading my weekly email from the Charleston City Paper and saw a blurb about the first annual "Mac Off" being held at the Charleston Visitors Center bus shed.

Um, what? First cupcakes and NOW mac-n-cheese? Those are my two favorite food groups!

At first I was excited to go and when I was getting ready I ran out of steam because I had nothing to wear. All my winter sweaters are STILL in Ohio (yes, it's been almost two years!!) and I've been having some really blah days about my personal appearance. I am convinced I look like Morticia Addams all the time because of my long dark hair and my love of all things black. Though she is much smaller than me... she probably isn't running off to Cupcake Camps and macaroni and cheese competitions all the time!


I finally got dressed and we headed downtown, parked and walked over to the bus shed. From the beginning the event was sheer chaos. We weren't really sure of how the event was going to run and the girls at the ticket tables weren't very forthcoming with information. We paid our admission and walked in. We passed the I.D. check table since we didn't plan on drinking and then walked into the area with the vendor tables.

There were people swarming about and we had no idea what to do. Robin saw people with tickets so we assumed we needed those to get our mac-n-cheese samples. We walked from one end of the shed to the other looking for a ticket table - not an easy task with millions of people wandering aimlessly! When we got to the end and saw nothing so we walked back to the front to ask the girls at the admission table. They told us there were tickets "inside" but they would sell us some. Uh, thanks!

Cheesy Chaos!

The vendor tables were set up in one long row and if you wanted a sample you simply stood in the long line and when you got to the front you gave them your ticket and they gave you a sample. Tickets were a $1 and really... most of the samples were kind of small.

Nothing too exciting for $1

We each bought 5 different types of macaroni and cheese and I only ate two. Well, I sampled the others but honestly, they were gross. The first one we sampled I think we spent more time looking at it intensely trying to figure out what was in it... some kind of meat. I didn't finish it. I actually spit two out right after putting them in my mouth (I know... classy!) and the other one Robin tasted and then immediately caught me before I put it in my mouth and said "Don't do it! You'll hate it" - well, I didn't listen to her but she was right. It was horrible. I won't name names, but I WILL say that the best one of the five that we tasted was from Crave.

Cheesy goodness from Crave!

I was pretty disappointed because the Mac Off website said that sampling was going to be from 7pm to 10pm but several of the restaurants actually ran out of mac-n-cheese before 8:30! We were in line for Palmetto Cafe and were only 5 people from the table when they ran out of samples! What?!?! I was pretty bummed because I overheard several people say that they were one of the better ones!

The last of Palmetto Cafe's samples :(

I'm wondering how it will effect the results of the contest if most people weren't even able to sample some of the restaurants because they ran out. By the time we made it over to J. Paulz their table was completely wiped clean. They must have really run out really early because it was only 8pm at that point!

I think if the Mac Off is going to continue as a tradition they really need to rethink their set up. First of all - they need a much bigger venue! Secondly, the restaurants need to have signs ABOVE their tables so people can tell who is who! There were so many people that you couldn't tell where the line ended, or if there even was a line! Most times you couldn't tell what line you were even in! We got into a routine where Robin would wait in line and I would walk to the front to see what restaurant it was. The restaurant visibility was pretty shabby. I think only two restaurants had signage that was visible to everyone. Finally, plan for a crowd - don't run out of mac-n-cheese, people!

I think both of us were ready to leave soon after we arrived. Neither of us drink and you couldn't stand in one place without being in someone's way. After we (quickly) ate through our tickets we made our escape and headed to the top of the parking garage where our car was. Robin joked that we should have made our own mac-n-cheese and just sat up there in some chairs eating it out of a pan while enjoying the view and the music.

Now there's and idea for next year! At least we would save $30!

The Visitors Center and bus shed from above

Our beautiful city at night!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day!

Being a Navy brat for 30 years it's hard not to think of Dad on a day like this. It's one of those days when you have a twinge of regret about not saying all those things that you always meant to say but never did like "I'm really proud of you and your immaculate military service". It's one of those days when you think and wonder about all those questions you meant to ask your Dad about his military service, like...

Dad, why are you "packing heat" in this photo?
Who taught you to use a gun?

You were a kid in this photo - would you have REALLY used it?

Was this in Korea?


Why were all of our family trips at military-related places?

As a kid I saw more submarines, ships, war museums, battlegrounds and forts than most people see in a lifetime! Not that I'm complaining. As an adult I still love to visit these places but back then I could not care less about going to see another war ship! A ship is a ship and we were dragged from one to the other. Look at our faces in these photos - we look thrilled!

Now that those days are long gone and all the adults in the photographs have passed away I would love the opportunity to go back in time so I could beg to visit another battleship just to have a few more moments with my parents and grandparents.

As a teenager I was VERY rebellious and if I was told I could not do something I did it anyway. I didn't care about anyone but myself and I really put my parents through hell. I went through a small anti-patriotic stage around the 10th grade where I wanted to just get out of the United States because I thought it was the most screwed up place on Earth. What the hell did I know?

I remember visiting family in Illinois and while there we went to my cousins band recital. I remember when they played the National Anthem I decided (being the rebel that I was) NOT to stand. My Father looked down at me and said "Stand up" and I looked back at him and said "No!" Again, he said "Pamela Anne, stand up!" I always knew that if my parent's whipped out the "Pamela Anne" that I was in trouble! I will never forget the look of hurt, disgust and sadness that crossed my Father's face when I didn't stand. He was a military man and the son of a military man who was also a son of a military man. I sat there feeling horrible, but I had already made my decision to be an ass. My whole family witnessed it, but never discussed it. I'm sure they never brought it up to my Father and my Father never questioned me about it and it was never discussed again. I regret that I never apologized about it.

Times, of course, have changed and I've matured greatly. If I hear the National Anthem (especially when it's done right!) I always become emotional because it always reminds me of that single event in my life and my Fathers disappointment in me, and also because I really do love my country tremendously. Baseball games are a real bitch sometimes.

Being a military brat is something that you don't really think about while living it. It doesn't dawn on you until you are an adult that there are actually kids who live in one place their entire lives! It's unimaginable! It was just the way we lived and no one really talked about it in our family. We were just the family that lived away from Dad's hometown. My paternal grandparents would come visit every year wherever we lived (which might explain all the military-type vacations!) but we never knew how proud my family was of my Dad.

I found this picture of my cousin, Denise, when going through Mom's photos. She was dressed up as "Sailor Denise" for my Dad. Cute!

One of the most defining moments about how my Grandfather felt about my Dad's military service was actually at my Father's funeral. It was just before the service was to begin. The immediate family was given a private moment with "Dad" and then escorted to the chapel that was adjacent to the visitation room. My Mom and sisters said their goodbye's and moved on leaving me alone in the room with my Grandfather and his wife Mil. I said my goodbye and went to walk out of the room but stopped at the door to wait for Grandpa. When I turned around I saw my Grandfather standing alone, by the side of my Dad's coffin with his head bowed. After a moment he stood erect, at full military attention and gave my Father a full salute and said "Carry on, Son!"

I have no idea what happened in the moments after I witnessed that and I will never forget this moment for as long as I live.

I would love to have my Dad and Grandpa back to hear their stories. I wish I had paid more attention on days like this...

Can you imagine the good times and story telling that happened on this night?

I am so honored to be the daughter, Granddaughter and Great Granddaughter of wonderful military men. I will forever remain proud and grateful for their service.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Meditation Garden

It's so depressing when the time changes in the Fall. I loathe when I get off work and walk out the door and it's dark outside. I think to myself every night when I go to bed: "I'm going to get up early and be at work at 7am so when I leave work I still have a couple hours of daylight!" Yeah, whatever. A morning person I am not! Each night I set my alarm to get up and end up snoozing for over an hour. The bed is so comfortable that I'd rather lay there being annoyed by the alarm. Most times I actually reset the alarm so I can sleep longer. I've never been one of those people who can jump out of bed at the first sound of the alarm. Those people are annoying (but how I envy them!)

This time change is really cramping my "favorite time of day" photo taking time! You know that time of day when the sun is setting and it turns everything a beautiful golden color and everything glows? Seeing the sunset on the city like that always reminds me of a day I spent in Bath, England. Most of the buildings I saw in Bath were made of this gorgeous honey-colored stone that just glowed in the sunlight! Every time I see the sunset and the glow on the city, I'm always reminded of the day I spent in Bath. So beautiful!

The other day after CupcakeCamp I told Robin that I wanted to go over to St. Francis Hospital (where I had my thyroidectomy) to check out the new meditation garden. My friend Joan of Charleston Daily Photo posted a blog entry with photos of the garden that she took on a recent foggy morning. So gorgeous! I just had to go see what it was all about! We headed over there and it was a race against the sun since it was around 5:30pm. I think we arrived just in time!

What a beautiful, peaceful spot! It's just another reason to love Charleston!
(See the full set of photos HERE)

Sunday, November 07, 2010


The other night, while relaxing at home, Robin asked me if I wanted to go eat some cupcakes in a few days... um, YEAH!! She went on to explain that there was going to be a CupcakeCamp at Aloft Hotel in North Charleston.


So, apparently the gist is that vendors, people or whomever bring cupcakes in to be eaten and eventually judged. It's a free event and they invite people to come in and eat all the cupcakes they want for FREE! How can you say no to that?! We made plans to meet up with my friend Carol and her family to get our cupcake on!

Carol later told me that on the way to the event she had her kids in the car (who both know me) and also a pre-teen friend of one of her daughters. She told them that they would be meeting us there and then went on to tell the kids (especially the one we had never met) that Robin and I were lesbians... just so they would know. This made me laugh. I mean, what did Carol think we were going to do? See cupcakes and not be able to control ourselves and start making out?? The friend of Carol's daughter apparently was very excited about this news because she (according to Carol) started clapping her hands excitedly because she had "never met a lesbian before"!! LOL! That was hysterical to me! I made sure to give her some extra attention! I didn't want her to have a disappointing "first lesbian meeting"!! I think I might have scared her a little, though.

Anyway, the event was from 3-5pm and we arrived just a little after three. When we walked into the lobby of the hotel it was chaos. There were people everywhere and no indication of which direction to go. There was a line wrapped around the room so we just followed it and made our way to the back. We had no idea what we were doing or what line we were getting in. We just hoped that this particular line led to cupcake heaven!

Carol sent me a text asking me where I was and I said "in line" - she soon came to find us told us that we were, in fact, in the cupcake line. She waited with us and gave us the scoop about how it worked - they bring out new flavors of cupcakes in 20 minute intervals so when you got to the table it was a crapshoot of what you were going to get!

When we finally got to the table we grabbed a napkin and quickly perused the selection. The first one I picked out was a tasty looking Oreo cupcake and also a carrot cake cupcake with rum raisin icing - hello! When we got to the end of the tables I saw another that had a Reese's peanut butter cup on top that was practically melted into the chocolate cupcake. omg! I told Robin to grab one of those so we could share it!

The cupcakes were amazing!


Chocolate with cayenne pepper and candied bacon and one with pomegranate (not sure of the flavor!)

A sea of cupcakes! Yum!!

Shrimp and Grits with Pimento Cheese

Robin's first round - Carrot Cake, Reese's for us to share and Tiramisu

After finding a place to sit Robin ran to get some beverages. When she returned we dug in! I started with the carrot cake cupcake and was really wishing that I had a fork, it was so huge! I must say that after that first cupcake I was done. Robin had already gone to fetch a second round for us and I still had one and a half cupcakes left to eat. I managed to take a bite of the Reese's cupcake and it was delicious, but I think it put me over the edge of sugar-overload! I sat and drank my coffee and talked to Dave until Carol and Robin returned.

CupcakeCamp was quite the people watching event. I would occasionally turn my attention to the judges table and they were taking all of this quite seriously. I tried forever to get a picture of the female judge sniffing a cupcake like it was fine wine until I was successful. It made me giggle.

Sniff, Sniff!

Cupcake Judges. One could be so lucky!

When Robin was waiting in line she met up with an old friend of mine named Zoe who used to hang out with me, Carol and all of our "punk" friends downtown back in the eighties. Robin has actually never met Zoe before today, but Zoe recognized her from Facebook and all of our crazy photos, which is really funny. Pretty soon we were all reunited (I haven't seen Zoe since the eighties!) and hanging out and having some cupcakes!

Carol, Zoe, Me & Robin

Who doesn't love cupcakes?

The event was really fun and it was great catching up with old friends! Oddly enough it turns out that CupcakeCamp was the brainchild of an old classmate and former co-worker of mine, Heather. I had no idea!

We ended up coming home with several cupcakes that we got, but didn't manage to eat - our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs! We did manage to put a hurting on several of them while there!

Cupcake Aftermath!

They should do this every month!!