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Archive for the ‘Five Dollar Posts’ Category

Five Dollar Post: Components of a Holiday Weekend

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

For many people a three-day weekend is a perfect opportunity to skip town and do something exciting or relaxing for a few days.  We frequently take long weekends to visit family or friends.  But this year we spent Memorial Day weekend at home, and it was one of our best.  What made it so great?  I’ll tell you:

  • Two meals cooked outside
  • One trip to the farmer’s market yielding cherries, watermelon, tomatoes, asparagus, and a couple of early peaches
  • Multiple loads of laundry done
  • A craft started and finished (yes, I did a craft!!!)
  • A lunch at an old-timey soda fountain complete with ice cream sundaes for all of us (That tiny one on the left was “The World’s Smallest Hot Fudge Sundae” for IEP)
  • The gas grill all cleaned up and ready to go for the summer season
  • Two flower beds planted
  • Two mornings of sleeping in until 7:30 or 8:00 because GAP is such a rock star and got up with the boys
  • One very early but sweet morning with my boys while GAP slept in
  • A sermon filled with blog fodder (stay tuned for Thursday’s post)
  • A church picnic following the service, complete with farm animals to pet and a bouncy castle to jump in
  • A new window box of herbs purchased, hung, planted, and ready to keep me in caprese salad and orange mint drink all summer long
  • Two dogs bathed
  • Many laughs shared with my husband and my boys

It was one of the most productive, satisfying, and enjoyable weekends I’ve had in a long time.  It left me very little time for blog writing, so I’m afraid this is all I have to offer you today.  I hope that you also had a wonderful holiday weekend.

Five Dollar Post – Pining for Fall

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Around this time each year I allow myself to start really pining for fall.  Here in the Midwest fall doesn’t really set in until early to mid October, so even though the start of September seems like it should bring a change of seasons, I actually have another month of patient waiting to endure before we can finally close the door on summer.  Nevertheless, we’re in the home stretch and it only seems fair that I reward myself with the daydreams of fall that I’ve denied myself these past many weeks.

With that, here is a little account of some of my favorite things about fall.

  1. Pumpkin and butternut squash are everywhere.  They’re inside raviolis and risottos on restaurant menus.  They’re in ice creams and lattes.  They’re roasted as side dishes and whipped into purees with cream and butter.  Mmmm.
  2. The color brown.  I’m all for jewel tones year round, but in the fall I love wearing clothes in shades of brown.  Everything feels warmer and cozier (specifically sweaters) when it’s brown.
  3. Marshmallows.  I have a sort of embarrassing habit.  In the fall and winter I have a penchant for roasted marshmallows.  I stick a couple of big ones on a fork and roast them over the gas burner of the stove.  They’re really good in hot chocolate, but sometimes I just eat them plain.
  4. Football season.  I don’t even like football.  I can sort of follow a game, but what I know about the sport is vastly outweighed by what I don’t know.  Even so, I love the ambiance of a football game.  I love being curled up in our basement in jeans and a sweatshirt watching IEP practice hiking the ball and listening the GAP hail the glories and woes of his fantasy team with each game.
  5. Baseball playoffs.  Baseball is my sport.  I haven’t followed the regular season much this year, partly because my team is in the toilet and partly because pregnancy has greatly diminished my capacity to focus on much of anything.  But I always love the postseason.  I love seeing fans bundled up in coats and earmuffs.  And I love keeping track of each series and who is winning.
  6. Bundling up.  Jeans, sweatshirts, and thick socks.  I love seeing my breath when I walk the dogs each morning.  I love the way IEP looks in his ear-flap hat.  And I love the feel of cozy clothes that are well broken in.
  7. Chili.  I’m a fan of most chilis, but I’m especially a fan of my own chicken chili.  It’s a recipe I made up out of thin air years ago and I’ve tweaked and perfected it over time.  Last winter it reached new heights of deliciousness, and I can’t wait to dust off the recipe this year.
  8. Raking leaves.  Actually, it’s not so much raking leaves that I love (because I don’t).  It’s really watching IEP jump into piles of leaves and laugh at himself.  There’s just nothing about it that ever gets old.
  9. Prancing dogs.  Our poor dogs are not cut out for summers like this.  Anything over 80 degrees is really unpleasant for them.  Over 90 is dangerous.  And over 100 is sheer torture.  They were made for winter and I love seeing their animated spirits bounce back as soon as the morning air brings its first chill.
  10. Wine.  This really has nothing to do with fall itself.  It’s just that for me this year fall means I can enjoy a glass of red wine again, and I’m very much looking forward to that.

Now I just have to wait until all my little dreams come true.  The great thing about these dreams, though, is that I know they all will come true.  Perhaps not as quickly as I’d like, but in due time.

Five Dollar Post – Why the Fascination with Brinner?

Friday, July 29th, 2011

At lunch yesterday I sat in my company’s cafeteria with my normal dining companions and we got onto the topic of what to have for supper.  (There’s nothing like planning the next meal before you’ve finished the current one…)  One coworker mentioned “brinner” (breakfast for dinner) with the same enthusiasm I’ve heard from lots of other people in the past couple of years.

I piped up and said, “I just don’t get what all the fuss is about brinner.”  My colleague responded, “But, it’s breakfast for dinner!!” as though that explained everything.  I told her that I understood that she was current with some sort of cultural heatwave around eating breakfast for dinner (after all, there was an entire episode of Scrubs dedicated to the fascination with brinner), but that I still didn’t understand why breakfast served in the evening was any more exciting than breakfast served in the morning.

Then it hit me.  I came up with my very own (probably genius!) theory regarding this otherwise inexplicable excitement over an egg served after 10:00am.  I posited that the excitement stems not from breakfast at supper time, but breakfast at all.  No matter how many nutritionists preach the value of starting the day off right – with a full breakfast – far too many people blow it off.  We stir protein powder into a glass of milk and call it a meal.  We eat a Nutrigrain bar in the car on the way to work and think it counts as breakfast.  Or we skip it altogether.  But very few people – or perhaps more accurately stated, very few young working people – eat an actual breakfast every day.

And that is why so many of my contemporaries are drooling over brinner.  If they don’t eat breakfast for dinner, they don’t eat it at all.  Breakfast foods are wonderful.  Eggs, biscuits, smoothies, pancakes, waffles, bacon, and so on are terrific foods.  Forsaking them all for the convenience of a granola bar is a shame.  But I think that may be what has happened here.

I may not eat bacon and eggs every morning, but I do eat a real breakfast every single day.  And if I ever stopped, well, I’d be very cranky for starters, but more importantly, I’d really miss eating breakfast.  Perhaps then the fascination with brinner would resonate with me too.

Because it’s Friday and I’m feeling lighthearted, let’s take a little poll.  Do you eat breakfast every day?  What is your most common breakfast?  I’ll go first. As I mentioned before, I’m a crank if I don’t eat breakfast, so I take it seriously. Most days I make a strawberry-banana smoothie and a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter.  This week it’s been toasted banana nut bread, an egg over easy, and a small bowl of strawberries.  In the winter I switch to oatmeal and hot chocolate.  Okay, your turn!

Year End Markdowns: All Thoughts One Dollar

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

I’m going offline for a couple of weeks.  It’s time to close the books on 2010 and settle into uninterrupted time with my family.  But before I sign off, I want to offer one last Ten Dollar Thought for the year.  This blog will turn one while I’m away, and before I hit the ground running in 2011 I want to say how much this year of writing and conversing with each of you has meant to me.  I believe I am a better person because of Ten Dollar Thoughts and because of your contributions to it.  Thank you for reading, for thinking with me, for challenging me, for supporting me, and for being a part of this journey.  With that, here are the exquisitely pedestrian thoughts I plan to explore over the next couple of weeks. 

How much cream can you put into oyster stew before it gets really shameful?

Will I be able to finish the book I’m reading before the end of the year, or am I giving up?

Homemade marshmallows are so much tastier than store-bought, but kind of a hassle to make.

For the first time in my life, I don’t think I’ve listened to enough Christmas music this year.

I can’t wait to meet my new niece in April.

What does a roasted chestnut actually taste like?

I wonder if Katie Couric will go back to the Today Show next year.

I’m so happy that today is my last day of work this week.

I miss my sisters-in-law.

Maybe I should just pony up and make the stupid marshmallows.

Oh, and a coffee cake too!

I haven’t watched Elf or Christmas Vacation yet this year and I’m almost sure that’s some kind of crime.

Things that solve most problems include: soft sheets, pasta carbonara, and a hug from IEP.

I hope 2011 is as terrific as 2010 has been.

Five Dollar Post: These Are a Few of My Fa-vor-ite Things

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Oprah Winfrey I am not.  So don’t get your hopes up that halfway through this post you’re going to read the words, “Everybody gets a new car!” because that is not going to happen.  Sorry to disappoint. 

However, this time of year gets me excited for all of my favorite aspects of the holiday season, so I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Music
Provided you don’t work retail, I think holiday music is one of the best ways to get into the spirit of things.  While I will always have a soft spot for Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” (because it’s awesome!), my tastes generally run to the more traditional.  My all-time favorite albums are:

Christmas with Julie Andrews – No one can sing “Joy to the World” like Julie.  No one.  There are updated versions of this album which don’t include Joy to the World, and they just aren’t as good.  But you can get the original album on iTunes and you won’t regret hunting around for it. 

We Wish You a Merry Christmas by the Boston Pops – This originally aired as a television special in the ‘80s and we recorded it and watched it on VHS every year.  John Williams breathes new life into some of the most traditional Christmas songs.  And the Alfred Burt medley about halfway through contains my favorite Christmas music of all time.  If you can listen to it without singing “O Hearken Ye” for the rest of the day then you’re stronger than I am. 

For Unto You by Stephen Marq – Several years ago I was flying through Minneapolis in December and Stephen Marq was playing in the gallery of shops and selling CDs.  It was one of the best $20 I’ve ever spent.  His stunning piano interpretations give me goose bumps. 

Treats
Williams-Sonoma’s Peppermint Bark – delicious and addictive.

My Aunt B’s Peanut Brittle – no link for this one, but I’m sure you can find somebody else’s version.

Cinnamon Hot Cocoa – I have a friend who thinks cinnamon is overrated.  I think he’s wrong.  Cinnamon is delicious and this recipe (slightly adapted from an old Cook’s Illustrated) proves it. 

Whisk together in a medium saucepan over low heat 1 cup water, 6 level tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 4 heaping tablespoons sugar.  Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.  Add 3 cups lowfat milk, increase heat to medium low and heat until steaming, but do not allow to boil.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ¼ cup half and half.  Take a sip and immediately faint from the wonder that is cinnamon hot cocoa. 

Candy Canes – This is IEP’s addition.  We gave him his first one at the Christmas tree lot last weekend and he polished it off in about 10 minutes.  He requested that I include it on this list. 

Movies

Elf – I love Will Ferrell.  I especially love Will Ferrell as an oblivious and overgrown man in tights.  And Zooey Deschanel manages to be deadpan and dreamy at the same time. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas – I have such a soft spot for Charlie’s sad little tree.  I haven’t seen the entire thing in years, but each year I manage to catch a few minutes of a television broadcast here and there.

Decorations

Nativity Scenes – We have two this year.  The first set my Aunt B (of peanut brittle fame) gave to GAP and me the first Christmas we were married.  It was designed by Jim Shore and I love the bright colors and patchwork feel.  The second set was given to IEP by my mother-in-law.  It’s Fisher Price and completely toddler proof.  Most people put the angel on top of the stable.  But IEP is a nonconformist and believes that the camel deserves the place of honor.

Garland – I dream of the day when I will live in a house with a large staircase with a wooden banister.  I will wrap it in garland every year.  In the meantime, though, I satisfy my garland addiction by framing our front door in intertwined garland and twinkle lights.  It’s a beautiful sight to see as I get home from work each evening.      

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However you celebrate the holidays, I hope you have a wonderful season.  And please let me know if my lists above have any gaping holes.  I’m always eager to learn about holiday perks that I might be missing.

Five Dollar Post: There are these things

Monday, May 31st, 2010

There are these things that make me happy.

Like these guys, one so much larger and the other so much smaller than I, and yet we all fit together perfectly.

Like this rainbow, which glistened in the sky after buckets of rain fell on us one evening last week.

Like these ever-shedding dogs, whose kisses are sloppy, whose smiles are genuine, and whose love is unconditional.

And like this tiny blond curl, which bends up over the edge of his perky red cap and makes me melt just a little bit.

Five Dollar Post: The Exception to the Rule

Friday, March 5th, 2010

It was not two weeks ago that I got up on my soapbox and said that we shouldn’t judge.  Oh, what a hypocrite I am today.

I suppose, as is the case with many rules, there is an exception to this one.  I was right; we shouldn’t judge… each other.  (Sure, celebrities are people too.  And Jennifer Garner shouldn’t be subjected to the castigating daggers of Perez Hilton and other blights on humanity every time she wants to take her little girls to the playground.  (Luckily for her she has stunning bone structure.))  But the exception clause to the “don’t judge” rule most certainly applies to that once-a-year judge-fest that we like to call The Oscars. 

Like the willowy celebs themselves, my position stands on two legs.

First, the whole event is about judgment.  Scores of people voted on which movie, actor, actress, director, sound editor, best boy grip, and craft services vendor was THE BEST.  So it’s not like they’ve gathered together for a group hug and Honorable Mention trophies.  There are winners and losers on Oscar night.  The participants are prepared for this.

Secondly, they’re prepared for this.  There are days when celebrities try to masquerade as normal people, and this is not one of them.  This isn’t grabbing lunch with a girlfriend or coffee after yoga class.  This isn’t picking kids up from school, clothes up from the drycleaner, or the dog up from the groomer.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is the single biggest red carpet event in the world.  Basically what I’m saying here is: these people know exactly what they’re walking into. 

They know full well that Joan Rivers, Steven Cojocaru, Giuliana Rancic, and the incomparable (I kid!) Billy Bush will harpoon their every sartorial misstep over glasses of bubbly the next day (while secretly toasting a society that cares enough about this stuff to permit their making a living by doing what amounts to a cross between prom-night gossip and Monday-morning quarterbacking).  The celebs know this is coming.  They’re ready.  They’re armored in Vera Wang, Harry Winston, and Christian Louboutin.  They’ve brought their A game.  (Unless, of course, they’re Bjork.)

And this is why on Oscar night I quite shamelessly take the low road.  Like my sister, I take superficial pleasure in Oscar night.  I comment on whose attempt at reinterpreting “flapper chic” works, and whose doesn’t; whose cleavage is perfect and whose is gratuitous; who achieves something altogether otherworldly, and who looks like a hot mess.  I make note of which acceptance speeches are witty or touching, and which are self-serving and filled with drivel.  And most importantly, I place about 378 phone calls to my sister so that we can emulate the banter we shared as teenagers, huddled up with popcorn in the den of our childhood home.

I will concede that Oscar night doesn’t necessarily bring out the best in me.  Quite frankly, my time could be better spent.  I could read thought-provoking literature or engage in challenging conversation.  But as Aidan so aptly pointed out earlier this week, we need some time in the shallow end of the pool.  We need the freedom to cast aside our fractured thoughts and pondering questions.  We need the silly and the playful as an antidote to the serious and the solemn. 

For me the Oscars are one such antidote, and I’m waiting eagerly for their red carpet arrival this weekend.

Five Dollar Post: Date Night Reviewed

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Because a couple of people have asked for a follow-up; and because I am enjoying a pleasant and quiet afternoon while IEP naps and GAP attends Mardi Gras festivities; and because it was so much fun to begin with, I am adding a bonus post today.  This is not of my typical ten-dollar variety.  It is just for fun and because I want to.  (Look at me breaking my own M-W-F posting rules!)

So, last night was wonderful.  I arrived at the theatre a bit early, having hit all green lights en route (must have been a good omen!).  When Robert arrived he opened his arms wide to offer me a big hug, and we then collected our pre-purchased tickets from the kiosk.  We debated on soda size and popcorn size.  I confessed my movie-theatre-exclusive addiction to Milk Duds.  Robert showed me his personal technique for evenly distributing butter amongst the lower layers of popcorn.  And we made our way into “theatre number seven on your right.” 

We elbowed our way through all the lovebirds to perfect seats in the first row of the stadium section of the theatre; built-in footrest for me and larger-than-life views of Jessica Biel for Robert.  With about 15 minutes before show time we chatted.  Blackberry vs. iPhone?  Should Robert get a new car, and if so which model?  Cast as a sports agent in this movie would Jessica Biel be even hotter than usual?  And sundry other topics.  It was fun sitting there with my friend, no romantic pretexts, chatting about odds and ends and laughing intermittently.

The movie was… better than I expected.  Granted, my expectations were low.  I thought last year’s Valentine’s Day, ensemble-cast flick He’s Just Not That Into You was depressing, tried too hard, didn’t flow, and generally, um, er, sucked.  So I wasn’t about to walk into disappointment unprepared again.  And yet… the star wattage wasn’t too distracting.  The plot, while wholly predictable was still enjoyable.  The dialogue contained a few dud lines, but not too many.  Several scenes were genuinely funny.  Bradley Cooper was hot.  Oh, and so was Jessica Biel.  Everybody wins!  I thought the whole thing was a lot of fun and I’m very glad I went.

The whole evening was further evidence that my mother’s theory on relationships holds true.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!