I’m going to get a bit personal today folks, because, well it’s Valentines Day, and I CAN.

Yesterday the boyfriend (M) and I were heading over to a friend’s house for a Sunday barbecue. While sitting in the passenger seat examining myself in the flip-down mirror, the ever familiar thought that 99% of women frequently have (damn you Giseles) popped into my head: Ugh.

And of course, being a woman I often wonder if the thoughts I have about myself are all in my head, if the breakout I see under the makeup is actually visible, if the frizz on the back of my head is a hallucaintion.  This prompts me to ask M, “Do I look gross?”

– Now, let’s be honest, if a man has any semblance of a brain he will answer “Of course not!” quickly – but not too quickly, lest he appear false and lying. And this M did; he replied “No, you look good!” And then he paused and said, in a well-natured tone, “You complete me.”

He said it with a smile, almost in the way you might say something silly and exaggerated, like “you are the most spectacular quarterback in the world!” (me to him on that one), but there was something behind the laugh that made me think that there might be a grain of truth there.

And let me also say I had, not five minutes ago, declared that he “was the most annoying man on the planet.” But in this  moment in the car, I had the feeling that maybe it was true, not in the cloying-and-annoying-co-dependent-relationship way, but in an actual partnership sort of way. The I’ve-hitched-my-wagon-to-yours-because-I-want-to kind of way.

So maybe Valentine’s Day is an excuse for companies to sell massive amounts of candy, flowers, and the like, but before you dismiss the whole day, think that maybe, behind all that commercialism, there is genuine thought or emotion. That maybe when you’re buying candy for your significant other because society “forces you,” you choose their favorite kind.

And even if the thought ends up being from you to yourself, to quote Martha Stewart, “Its’ a good thing.”

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Sometimes I think that the only way to get through life is with a revolving sequence of Monty Python sketches.

Because really, half the time the world seems to be governed by this kind of logic:

Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People’s Front?
Reg: Fuck off! We’re the People’s Front of Judea.

And what does the New Year bring? Change? Growth? Resolutions people abandon in February?

Maybe.

This holiday season, it seems to be big on engagements. Couples all around me are getting engaged, and I find it both very happy and also a little sad, considering my boyfriend and I haven’t really been speaking to each other for 2 days after an argument over a ceiling light in the bedroom.

So I don’t think I will be getting married in 2011. Which is fine. I will, however, be giving birth to a thesis – and it’s already about half-written.

And in an important way, this means more to me than a ring!

I also think that I’ve finally – finally – figured out what I would like to do with my professional life. Therefore, I am christening 2011 as the year of the career, in which  I will not worry about what is happening to me romantically.

Cheers!

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I heard the bells on Christmas Day.
Their old familiar carols play.
And wild and sweet the words repeat.
Of peace on earth goodwill to men.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

 

 

 

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The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.
~Jay Leno
 
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. 
~Norman Vincent Peale

 

 

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.  Don’t clean it up too quickly.  ~Andy Rooney

 

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Roses are reddish
Violets are bluish
If it weren’t for Christmas
We’d all be Jewish.
~Benny Hill

 

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The worst gift is a fruitcake.  There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.  ~Johnny Carson

 

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And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?  It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.  And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.  ~Dr Seuss

 

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Happy Holidays!

[Start playing your hee-haw music]

Turkeys live on my street. And around my street. And on the next street over – and let me tell you,  the dang things have not figured out that if a car is approaching, they should run off the street, not into it. I digress.

[Cue end of hee-haw, begin playing theme from unsolved mysteries]

But there is a mysterious aura surrounding these turkeys.

Why, you ask?

Every year around the summer they appear, and get larger/fatter accordingly. And then, around the end of every November, they disappear. Surreptitiously.

There are several possibilities here:

1. (Being the most biological reason) They migrate. Because it’s cold. And they only have feathers, unlike their neighbors the woolly sheep. (Do turkey’s even migrate? They’re not very aerodynamic.)

And you thought going home for Thanksgiving was hard...

2. They disappear into the bushes for all of winter. Again, it’s cold. (But the chickens seem to handle it ok…)

3. They hide from me. Seeing how many times I’ve very nearly hit them with my car, I don’t blame them.

Really, dude?

4. [The final and most morbid of all the possibilities] We eat them. Thanksgiving + chubby “free range” turkeys has very few outcomes, most of which don’t really end well for said turkeys. But would you want to eat turkeys that ran around all day? Would they be gamy? And I’ve seen some turkeys that are huge; these, not so much.And I like the idea that they aren’t all, you know, stuffed.

It’s a mystery.

Suggestions?

In other news,  instead of making a complete Thanksgiving dinner a la last year, I will this year be making: pies. Gluten and dairy-free pie recipes to be posted soon, featuring pumpkin pie and healthy(er) pecan pie! (I’m also thinking of making mini mandarin orange curd tarts. We’ll see.)

When pumpkins start appearing on porch steps….

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…it’s almost Halloween!

The lovely time when culture encourages us to over-consume sugary-sweets, carve the heck out of pumpkins, cover our houses in fake spider webs, and roam the streets dressed up like crazies. But it’s so much more than that…

tumblr_lal1e2O3Iv1qzahuvo1_500.png  Maybe it’s because my birthday is right before the 31st, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the day. I plan my costume all year – this week I even got an idea for next year’s costume while shopping for this year’s.

But really, Halloween is a celebration of the my favorite season, full of caramel apples and hot cider. It rings of old-America, with all our graveyards, Edgar Allen Poes, witch trials, haunted houses, Pagan rituals, and vaguely-Puritanical beliefs.

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And let’s not forget Harry Potter….

But you know what might be one of the best things about Halloween?

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It’s the last holiday before the “Holidays” begin. The last hurrah before the gift-buying, turkey-baking, tinsel-throwing madness. You don’t have to visit your long-lost relatives, or worry about what to get your annoying brother for Christmas, or shovel snow out of the driveway.

You may, however, dress up like a complete tramp by adding “sexy” to any normal costume (sexy Chewbacca, anyone?), mix candy corn with alcoholic beverages, wear some form of animal ears/antennae to work, or watch It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown for the 10th time.

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Revel in the season, folks, and soak up all the lovely Orange

(…before the explosion of Red and Green.)

“Pssssst: I’m gluten-free!”

While some might think that everything is being commercialized these days, (which I agree is not always the best thing) the mass marketing of products can sometimes be good!

Case in point: my local Target (what? it’s not like I said Walmart – that’s gross) is in the process of converting to a fresh-market store, and has greatly expanded their food section; basically it’s like a regular grocery store now. I was today very happy to see that, in their baking aisle, they now carry more specialized products, specifically Gluten and Dairy-free baking mixes! So with only ingredients from Target I can actually make Easter cupcakes that my mom and I can, you know, eat. And since I didn’t have to make it all from scratch, it was quite quick and easy.

These may be the cutest cupcakes I have ever made by the way (though I stole the idea from my aunt, who makes them every year, only with carrot cake. Sorry for the not so great photo.)

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So, for all you gluten-and-dairy-avoiding folks out there, here’s the recipe I used.  (to make 12 cupcakes)

For the cake:

Betty Crocker Gluten Free yellow cake mix. Now you might be thinking that since this is a regular supermarket brand that it might be less tasty and healthy than the organic or health-store versions. Not so. So far this is the best (for consistency, taste, and texture) that I’ve come across; Bob’s vanilla mix, for example, was not good – it had a very strange taste and a too-airy texture. The ingredient list is very short for BC, and there’s nothing that you won’t find it any other gluten-free mix.

To prepare the mix, you simply need eggs, gluten-free vanilla (available in many stores these days), and butter. Of course, I used Earth Balance spread, which is everything-free and works great in baking, to make it without dairy. And as I’m always looking for a way to cut fat out of recipes, I used half-butter and half-applesauce (organic, Trader Joe’s with no added sugar; it has an amazing apple smell). I also added a handful or so of sweetened coconut.

– For the icing, I used Betty Crocker whipped Butter-cream, which, surprisingly has no dairy and is labeled gluten-free. (of course, it’s not the healthiest, but it’s better than many of the other icings out there. Though Target does carry a brand of natural vanilla icing I’ve also seen at Whole Foods if that’s more your style.)

– The decoration is made using coconut (dyed green with a couple drops of food coloring) to make the “nest/grass” and jelly beans (with spots) to make the “eggs.” I also threw in a couple marshmallow bunnies, cause they’re darn cute!

The result? The best gluten-free dessert I’ve made yet! Usually I can always tell the difference but these are just as good as any wheaty-milky thing.  The applesauce and coconut don’t stand out as strong flavors, but they kept the cake moist and chewy – it didn’t have the weird-light texture of normal cake mixes.

So, to everyone out there with dietary restrictions, don’t lose hope; just because you can’t eat the original, doesn’t mean you can’t still have some version of your favorite holiday food! (Maybe one day scientists will find out that gluten is actually really bad for people, and we’ll be saved because we already don’t eat it…or something like that.) And it even Target can provide options for those with limitations, who knows what will happen!

Therefore, since Easter is a time of rebirth and renewal; have faith in whatever seems fitting, and Happy Easter! 

P.S. Go for the ears.