Sunday, January 26, 2014

"They're already married. I'm just going on a date."

Grey about killed me on Friday. 

I was upstairs in bed, propping up my busted knee (ah, aging), when Grey rushed up and asked me, excitedly, to come downstairs. I followed him to the kitchen, where he and Neve had set up a little ice cream date at the kitchen table. The lights were off and there was a lit candle in the center of the table. 

"Aunt Audrey, we're having a practice date and you're invited!" A little Flowers in the Attic, but my heart started melting. /heart melt scale: 10

I fixed my bowl of ice cream and as I put it on the table, Grey jumped up and pulled out my chair. /heart melt scale: 50

Grey, the 7 year old casanova, explained to me that he was practicing for when he takes his classmate, Mya out for a date. 

"Mya? I thought you were going to marry Mira?" Mira was a girl he met in pre-school, who he's been in love with for years. 

"Well, I was in love with Mira for a long time, but then I saw Mya and now I love her."

"But why?" Neve and I asked. 

"Mya is so much more beautiful!" I couldn't help but laugh at this, thinking, Daamnn that shit starts early.

He then went on. 

"I'm going to pull out her chair for her. And I'm going to bring her a plate of cookies. And we're going to sit at the table, asking questions about ourselves." /heart melt scale: 300

"Like what her favorite color is, or if she has any pets?"


"Are you going to tell her about Meg and Moo?" (his dogs)

"No, I don't think it's time yet. I'm going to like, ask her if I'm too kind." 

"Too kind?"

"Girls don't like kind boys." (Once again, Daaamn this shit starts early.)

"I'm sure they do, you should always be kind." (how do you explain to a 7 year old that yes, girls go through a "I only like assholes" phase?)

"Well, I asked her if I winked too much, and she said yes, so I winked at her again, hahahaha"

/heart melt scale: 1,000

"What about the cookies, are you going to bake them yourself?"

"No, I'll just order them at the place."

"Classy touch."

"I know." And then he just grinned from ear to ear. /heart melt scale: 70

Then, he jumped up and whispered in my ear, "I'm going to bring her flowers!" and sat back down, grinning. "And after I give her the flowers -- no roses, because they have thorns-- I'm going to give her her surprise. 50 silver diamonds and 50 rainbow colored diamonds." /heart melt scale: 1,000

"Oh wow, that's a lot of surprises!'

"And then, we'll sit outside and relax by candle light." 

"Are you going to hold hands?"

"I think her hands will be full of diamonds." /heart melt scale: 500

Grey told me that he wanted me, Mimi and PopPop (my parents), his Mommy and his Daddy, and Neve to come, also. "You can sit at the table behind us."

"In case you get stuck or have a problem?"

"Yeah, we'll be at the vineyard, and we're going to sit in the high chairs. You guys can sit in the back chairs. The girls will wear dresses, and the boys will wear tuxedos. Mya will wear the prettiest dress she has." /heart melt scale: 1,000,000

"I think it sounds like a really special date. You and Mya are going to have a good time."

"Yeah! And since I just went on a practice date with 2 girls, going on a real date with 1 girl will be a piece of cake." 

For a little kid who only talks to me about Skylander Giants, this blew my mind. He was glowing and grinning like a love-sick teenager the entire time. By the time they blew the candle out and I was putting the bowls away, my heart had melted into a giant puddle in my socks.

I went back up stairs, and Grey and Neve followed me. 

"Aunt Audrey, should I get Mya Sun Flowers or Daisies? I really want to give her big Sun Flowers."

"I think you'd have an easier time finding Daisies right now. Maybe you can give her Sun Flowers when you take her on a date in the summer time."

"Oh, that's a good idea. We're going to have so many dates. Like, 5."

/heart melt scale: 5,000,000 

"Should I give Mya my $4?"  

"Aww, no, you should use the $4 to pay for the date, instead."

"But, no, I'm going to use that $4 to buy my Iron Man." 

"That's a pickle."

"I know! I'll say I forgot my money, and then I'll make mommy and daddy pay for it." Then, we high fived. 

/heart melt scale: infinity

It all starts so early. It's hard to believe that he's 7, and that in 7 more years, he'll probably be trying to go on actual dates. And in 10 years, he'll be old enough for girlfriends and real relationships and all the hell that comes along with dating in high school. I hope, in that time, he still feels like he can talk to me about the dates he wants to go on. And I can tell him to keep his Gentleman instincts, but to stay away from the girls who say he's too kind. 

And hopefully, he saves enough money to buy all those diamonds. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Digs (or, home again home again, jiggidy jigg)

So, I moved back into my parent's house over the weekend, and I'll be here for the next 6 months.

But Audrey, you're all asking, didn't you just move out like, 5 minutes ago?

Yes. Yes I did. And there's a slew of reasons as to why I moved out so suddenly, but I'll get into them later.

But I did stay up til 5 AM on Saturday packing everything in the condo, and then spent 7 AM to 7 PM moving to Gainesville and dropping off furniture. By the time I got home and finished unloading the last of brick a brack from my mom's truck, I was beyond sore and exhausted. I'm ready to just throw everything I own into a donation pile for the Lupus Foundation of America so my next move is done in 4 hours.

At 4 AM. On the verge of psychosis. 

For now, though, let's concentrate on how awesome my new room is. Since my basement room was dismantled and de-walled when I moved out in September, I had to move back upstairs. But, my parents and their friend Sue cleaned and re-painted my old room, and when I brought my great grandmother's furniture in, the room took on a life of its own. I've never liked blue paint before this year, when I inexplicably fell in love with shades of Robin's egg. I don't understand the sudden blue love, I do love this place.

The room color is "babbling brook" by Valspar.

Antiques and Ikea. Story of my decorating life. 

My reading corner. So excited to stare wistfully out the window.

Woo, vanity times. Hopefully this will encourage me to shower and wear make up and not look like a zombie.

Morning Encouragement

Another form of morning encouragement

Maybe one day I will grow out of indoor outdoor patio lights and paper lanterns.  No promises.

I've become one of those women who hang up "Goal Clothes," ie. I want to this to fit me better someday.

I found out I can stream Amazon instant videos through my Wii. Life is forever changed. 

The tiny closet is going to take some getting used to. Basically, half my clothes are under my bed.

Morning encouragement is encouraging. 

The next 6 months should be pretty comfortable (provided I can fix the low-flow shower head). Plus, I'm now able to pare down on all my shit that's just clogging up boxes and closets and every useless corner. Also, being able to sock away 90% of my pay checks for the next few months is going to kick so much ass.


And now I'm off to go tromp in the surprise snow storm that's going on. I love waking up at 5:45, taking a shower, and then finding out that the Federal Government is closed. But hey, I'll take a snow day any way I can get it.

Blackie the Hippo, RIP

Last week, Leah alerted me to the passing of a glorious, but somehow lesser known American celebrity: Blackie the Hippo of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Mr. Blackie was born on a Game Reserve in Tanzania in 1955. At a little over one years old, he was captured, crated, and shipped to the booming cultural metropolis that is Ohio, where he grew to be 3,700 lbs of zoo-tastic Hippo sensation.

dat face

Humanely euthanized at the ripe old age of 59, Blackie was believed to be the oldest living Hippo in North America. Not many animals get to set a record in their lives, and to spend at least 58 years of that record setting life spraying poo against the walls in front of squealing children is just delightful. He even sired 3 sons while in captivity (way to go!), which was a real shot in the arm to the Hippo Community. In 2008, he was officially retired, and spent the last 6 years of his in a private, heated tub, eating and sleeping to his heart's content. Not too shabby.

Son of Blackie

Oh Blackie, even though you were more brown than black (seriously, what a missed opportunity for a name, Cleveland Zoo), you were a majestic creature. A true "river horse." I hope you're happily spraying walls of Hippo Heaven with poo.

Blackie enjoys Pumpkin Spice on his 50th Birthday

RIP, Blackie the Hippo. Cleveland, and the world, mourns a favorite son.

(ps. Seriously, have you seen a hippo pooping? it's gross.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hello, Biological Clock

I think I've contracted baby crazy.

For the first time in my life, I've gone from saying "if I have kids" to "when I have kids." Which, to anyone who knows me, or reads this blog, is as strange a statement as me saying "I want to go back to school and major in Mathematics."

Maybe this new realization comes from watching a marathon of Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant and thinking "eh, I could do better than that." Or, maybe it's that my Instagram and Facebook feeds are clogged with adorable, well dressed, well behaved babies with big curious eyes and wacky baby grins. Or, maybe it's the fact that Leah and Mary announced that they're both pregnant and are due within 2 days of one another, making it 5 women I know who are pregnant and due mid-2014. Or, maybe it's Joel and that picture I saw of him on a walk with his friend's toddler that was so cute it basically launched my uterus into overtime. 

Whatever the cue, something has tipped off my brain that I'm female and therefore should have a maternal drive.  Which has resulted in the unexpected thaw of my biological clock, and those creaky hands are ticking fast and furious (too soon?) toward the hour of procreation. Not that I'm taking my temperature and plotting ovulation days (not that I could if I wanted to, I've spent umpteen amounts of money on trying to figure out what's wrong with my reproductive system and have been told by 3 different OB/GYN's that I flat out don't ovulate--hey did you want some TMI, by the way?), but I am thinking of the innocuous aspects of having a baby: names, onesies with dinosaurs on them, that giraffe squeaky toy that all the Yuppie kids have, what if they grow up loving sports and hate reading, etc.  

As I've said before, I've always had a strict NOPE policy when it came to having kids. I've been anti-baby because I'm woefully unprepared to have kids, both mentally and financially. But, lately, the idea of having a little DNA copy of me running around and [hopefully] being awesome brings a stupid smile to my face. Instead of dreading having kids because they'll "tie me down," I'm looking forward to incorporating kids into travel and moving adventures, like my parents did with us. The sacrifices that come with kids now seem "loving" to me, instead of "fucking horrible and not worth it."

And now that I've become ok with having kids, the topic of reproducing is everywhere. Kinda like when you're really hungry but you're trying to eat healthy and all you see are ads for Double Bacon Cheeseburgers. It's even popping up in the unexpected places. The other night, I was babysitting my brother's kids, and Neve, my 4 year old niece, was "doing up" my hair (which includes spraying my hair with water, brushing it, tying it in knots, and pinning bows everywhere), and we had the following conversation:

Neve: I'm going to make you look like a grown up. Like my mommy.
Me: Well, ok...
Neve: You're a grown up when you have a baby. Mommy has babies. Aunt Mary is going to have a baby. 
Me: Yep, that's true.
Grey: Neve, Aunt Audrey is a grown up.
Neve: No, she has to have a baby first. When are you going to have a baby?
Me: ...

Seems like my clock can now be heard by the outside world.

Friday Night Selfie Hair Party
Better double up on the birth control.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Terrible Tuesday

Yesterday morning:

7:30: Wake up late. It's cold. I miss cross-over chat times with Joel. Indiscernibly sad mood.

7:45: call from my brother. Huge Bummer.

8:30: Am almost moved to tears by a touching article in the Washington Post about my friend Lizzie's wedding that I attended last month. Start thinking of Kristin and Tyler's wedding that was just featured on Capital Romance. Brimming with feels.

8:55: call from doctor.
"The results from your ultrasound came back and there are some, uh, suspicious looking spots on your liver and your right kidney."
"Uh, suspicious?"
"Yeah, it could be a cyst, or kidney stones, but we can't be sure. I've talked with a few other doctors here and we think the best course of action is to get a cat scan. Are you still in pain?"
"Yes, it's still on the right side and in my back."
"Ok, well, let's get the cat scan done as soon as possible."
A bunch of mumbles and squeaks from me later, and she gives me the name of the office to call and says she'll call me back with the order number.
9:00: I've been sick for over a month. The antibiotics didn't help. "Suspicious spots." Thoughts of cancer/cirrhosis/tumors/cysts/every bad health decision I've made is flashing through my mind. "could be a cyst." Start to panic.
9:05: Supervisor comes to ask me a question, I burst into hysterical tears.

9:07: Supervisor sends me home.

9:27: Get home, recycling trash can is missing from my front yard.

9:30: Favorite sweat pants have cat barf on them. IN THE LAUNDRY BASKET.

9:45: Schedule cat scan.
"Alright, you are pre-registered and your authorization is under-way. And you have a $200 copay."
"Two hundred?"
"Yes ma'am."

10:30: Need to distract myself. Start first episode of Bridezillas.

Noon: Debate ordering pizza. Mom offers to pay for it. I order pizza.

12:30: Eat pizza out of the box while laying in bed alone, in sweat pants, and watching Bridezillas. Sad Cat Lady dream: Achieved.

1 PM: Outlook on life begins to improve. Pizza is magical.

What a morning--all before I had a cup of coffee. I'm glad my supervisor let me go home and I'm glad I had friends to vent to and Joel to Skype with and my mom to be there for me and provide me with pizza magic. But, yeah. Jeez.

I saw my doctor later that day when I picked up a prescription, and she explained the possibilities a little more, and how it's natural to feel startled when you get news like this. I felt better. But, I'm still really scared that something horrible is going to come from the cat scan. I mean, I feel I'm just getting my life together. This is the part where Life is supposed to bust in and say "HEEEEEY..."

BUT, I'm trying really hard to keep positive "it's just a cyst" thoughts. And positive "it's just a kidney stone and here's the procedure that will eliminate the pain" thoughts.

So yeah. Until then, though, stay tuned.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Fancy Coffee at Home (or, Take That, Starbucks)

I drink coffee everyday. I have since I was about 16 or 17. My family are all big coffee drinkers, and I remember sneaking my mom's coffee when I was little. After I saw Clueless, I tried drinking it as often as I could because I hoped it would stunt my growth. Unlike Cher, I did not want to be 5'10" like Cindy Crawford. Ha, did that backfire.

During the week, I usually allot just enough time in the morning to get dressed, brush my teeth, and get to the office before my caffeine headache kicks in. When I'm at home, my Cuisinart Grind n Brew is my best friend. I've experimented with different ways to drink coffee, including all the coffee-house espresso drink varieties, and ways to brew at home. The best at home coffee I've had, I'd have to say, was when I stayed in Paris. Every morning, the father of the kids I nannied would make coffee in a pour-over style coffee maker, and serve it with warmed milk. That coffee was the best way to start the day. I mean, waking up in an uber-hip Bohemian Paris apartment was the best way to start the day, but the coffee was pretty choice, too.

So hip.

But this new Latte at Home technique comes close. It doesn't matter how late I am to this party, this shit is fancy, and so much easier/less taxing than driving to and waiting in line and spending $6 at Starbucks.

While it's not a true latte, (I don't have an espresso maker), it's steamed and frothed milk mixed with extra strong coffee, and there's something richer and tastier than making a cup and mixing in cold half n half or powdered creamer. Typically, I tend more toward the latter. As I get older, my dairy tolerance gets smaller and smaller, which is a tragedy in itself.

The only special tool you need for this is a milk frother, which you can pick up at Wal-Mart for like, $9, or order through Amazon for anywhere from $10-40. The one I have is from Mellita, and it runs on 2 AA batteries. My parents got it for me years ago, and I've taken it with me everywhere I've lived, but it's always sat in a kitchen drawer, waiting to be used. All I can say is, I'm sad I waited this long.

Also, pro-tip: Using a cup and saucer just like, does something for the soul. I can't explain it. Adding a fancy touch to something you do every day sends your ill-used Fancy Glad into hyper drive. It just feels nicer.

Tools of the trade: cup and saucer, milk (or half n half) spoon, butter knife, milk frother, microwave safe measuring cup 

Measure out a 1/2 cup of milk or HnH

Microwave it until it's steaming, but not boiling (boiling messes up the froth). I find 1:30 works for me, but keep an eye on it just incase.

Put the frother in the milk, THEN turn it on (or do it the other way and make a mess), and move it up and down for about 10 seconds.


Use a knife to hold back the froth while you pour as much steamed milk or HnH as you like.

Remaining Froth

Pour in as much coffee as you'd like, and stir. This is also where I add sugar. 

Start spooning on the remaining Froth. You can go back and re-Froth if you need to.

Keep spooning...

A little more...

Almost done!

Et voila!
Woo, derpy faces and fancy coffee! 

You can also top it off with cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, etc. It's not my thing, but spice your heart out. Also also, you can substitute hot chocolate or hot tea in place of coffee, and the results are still delicious. Have you had a hot tea latte? You really should.

So I'll be off, enjoying some fancy coffee at home while I watch another episode of Sister Wives, because that's how I roll

How do you make your coffee?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year; Old Chicken

This past Sunday, my parents came over bearing a gift from God: a family size meal from Popeyes chicken.

I have a love/hate relationship with Popeyes. From 1989-1992, we lived in Louisiana, and I remember Popeyes being the only fast food restaurant around, more so than McDonald's. Awesome, right? But, as a kid, I wasn't a fan of fried chicken. I liked the skin, but I hated the bones and I thought the chicken was too "wet." (I was a weird kid). In fact, I'd only eat the drumsticks because it had the least amount of chicken under that glorious fried skin. I'm not sure how or when it happened, but somewhere in the 3 years we lived in small town Louisiana, I soured on Popeyes and didn't try it again. 

This past summer, though, I found myself in a situation where Popeyes was the only dinner option. I've grown up a bit since 1991, and now I'm a far more sophisticated chicken eater (did I tell you about the time I ate 18 breaded barbecue chicken wings in 18 minutes? or when I ate an entire bucket of KFC in about half an hour? Classy dame.) so, I ordered a two piece and hoped for the best. 

If I couldn't remember what Popeyes fried chicken tasted like before, it is now permanently burned into my soul. For a fast food chain that's always been on the scary side of the trashy food spectrum (most Popeyes restaurants look like run down hobo shelters), the food is ridiculously good. The breading is perfectly golden and flavored, the chicken is tender and moist, the biscuits are buttery, salty, soft and flaky, the colesl---I could go on. 

So when my parents showed up with the bounty, and then told me I could have the left overs, I was pretty pumped. Free delicious and considerably unhealthy food! My idea of a good time, especially since I have to stretch every penny I have at the moment. Keeping Fiscal Responsibility in mind, I decided to stretch my chicken budget by picking the chicken apart from the bones and making chicken salad or chicken divan. Incidentally, I also ate about a pound of fried chicken skin (what else is there to do with it?), which left me breathing heavily and feeling distinct pains throughout the left side of my chest. The rest of the evening was just a greasy blur. Whoops. 

The next day, after I regained consciousness, I pledged I would use the left over chicken for healthier means. 

That resolve lasted, of course, for about 5 minutes. Out of nowhere, I got a craving for Buffalo Chicken Pizza. I'm not a fan of buffalo chicken wings, but I've had the pizza version, and it's delightful. So I went to the store to get a pizza crust, and saw a jar of Buffalo pizza sauce. It was $6. And it was across the aisle from all the hot sauces, including Frank's Red Hot. That's when I remembered that Mandy at M Cubed has a really simple recipe for it that involved Frank's Red Hot. And Frank's Red Hot is fantastic. And costs $1.29. Frugal!

I made the pizza tonight, and it was fantastic. Mandy's recipe uses homemade crust and buffalo chicken breast, but I took mine a step in the lazier direction by buying store bought crust, and obvs, using pre-cooked chicken. Regardless of how you do it, it's really simple, really delicious, and really bad for you.

M Cubed's Buffalo Chicken Pizza (lazy Audrey edition)

Steps 1-4: dice chicken and marinade in Frank's Red Hot; chop celery (I would have added onion if I had had an onion. Or the motivation to go to the store and get an onion.); watch Game of Thrones

Sauce Elements: Frank's Red Hot--I use Ketchup style because it spreads easier, and I'm still a bit of a hot sauce whuss, and this mix is milder. Also, a spoonful of Marie's Creamy Italian Garlic spread, i.e. the best spread I've ever tried. I typically hate ranch, but this is life changing. I put it on everything. 

Feel free to get as OCD as you feel while you're spreading the sauce. It took me 20 minutes because I can't let it sit unevenly at the crust. Yes, I'm in therapy.

Add layers of cheese and celery. I used mozzarella and sharp cheddar. The onion would have gone between the cheese and celery layer. I'm regretting not adding onion. 

Pile on marinated chicken.  If you use your hands, be sure you don't have excessively dry skin. Otherwise, Frank's Red Hot will set you on fire.

MOAR CHEESE. I don't understand when people say "That's too much cheese." Freaks. 

Bake at 350* until the reaches your desired level of doneness, typically 20-25 minutes. 

While that's baking, eat the mini-buffalo-chicken-salad that you made with the left over toppings. It's good. 

Et voila!

The result is a rich, cheesy, spicy deliciousness. I'm sure you could even make a low-calorie version of this and it would still be good. And I have lunch for tomorrow.

So, what's up 2014? I'm 1 day in and I've already stuck to my Resolution of Cooking New Foods, Not Wasting Food, and Saving Money.

I'll start the "eating healthier" thing next week.

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