wallowing in the psuedo-psycho-babbleonian Empire of Her Majesty


Posted on : 1:38 PM | By : Jennifer

I know it's a little late in January to be doing this, but I have decided to share with you, my three faithful readers, my most shameful and disgusting secret of 2009.  Are you ready?  Better buckle up for this one:

I bought an O--as in Oprah--magazine.

In my defense:  see my Standard Line of Defense (i.e., It Really Wasn't My Fault.)

It was two weeks before Christmas. I was making fresh salsa to give as gifts to my friends and neighbors (if you didn't get any from me, it's because I knocked and knocked and nobody ever came to the door.) Mid-salsa-making, I ran out of peppers and had to run to the corner grocery store to replenish.  Due to its sinful markups, I generally avoid this particular place unless I am in dire need of just a few essentials, as was the case this cold winter's day.  I entered the warm little market and my tired, overshopped back and feeble, overspent mind instantly succumbed to the cozy market's dim lighting and rotisseried chicken aroma.  (Do they make candles in this odor?  They should.  Let's shoot Scentsy an email.)

Compared to my standard back-breaking, bulk-buying expeditions to Wal-Mart (please don't judge, especially if you live in Portland or voted for Obama), setting foot in that store was like walking into a spa.  It was clean, it was pretty, and everyone was superduper nice.  The least I could do was buy something from these good and gracious people.

Caught in this dreamy holiday bubble of warmth and good cheer, the latest cover of O caught my eye, all silvery and smooth, with a glimmering Oprah sitting at her table, sipping what I could only presume was a fifty-dollar cup of organic green something-or-other that adds a decade to your life and eliminates the need for mammograms.  Add to all this that she promised me with her eyes--Oprah promised me, I'm telling you--that if I only opened that magazine, this year I would finally get what I really wanted:

1.  Rich.  Thank you, Suze Orman.
2.  Skinny. Thank you, Bob Greene.
3.  Perfect relationships. Thank you, Dr. Phil.
4.  The secret of life (by going on vacation for a year.)  Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert.
5.  My own way (by putting-my-own-needs-first-for-a-change.)  Thank you, Martha Beck.
6.  My Best Life. Thank you, Ms. Winfrey.

As I picked it up, the shiny pages fluttered to the opening editorial-- How to Stop Spending--nested gracefully between the Gucci and Prada ads.  Like a zombie on the holiday episode of "My Favorite Things," I shelled out $4.95 (that's a lot of peppers) and held the cool, slick volume close to my body, a little giddy over this uncharacteristic impulse buy.  I tightened my hold on the glossy and glanced around quickly as I beelined for the car.  No one was going to steal this moment from me.

Later that night, soaking my jalapenoed skin  in a well-deserved jetted bath, I finally sank into the riches I had been saving all day long.  I eagerly flipped through this iconic tome of American femaleness but, as you may have gathered from  my subtle forshadowing, I did not learn how to get rich, skinny, validated, enlightened or fulfilled.


I did, however, learn two rather significant pieces of information from this vault of info-tainment:

#1:  "Living My Best Life" apparently means living any other life than the one I'm living now.  My current life, it would seem, remains a problem to be solved.  By Oprah's staff.

#2:  Elizabeth Gilbert is the single most annoying person on the planet, with Martha Beck in a close second.  (Oprah, of course, remains in a cosmic league of her own.)  And yet they all made a few bucks off of my back.

Are you as disappointed in me as I am in myself?  I'm sorry to have burdened you with this confession, but doing so has made me feel a bit lighter, kind of like when Bilbo gave Frodo the ring.  And now, my friends, you are at liberty to cast off your own cares of 2009.  What was your lowest moment this holiday season?
Come on.  Let's talk about it.

Oprah would.

Born in the year of the rabbit


Posted on : 11:16 PM | By : Jennifer

1999, to be exact.  Eleven years ago.

According to Chinese tradition, this means that Rachael is articulate, talented, ambitious, virtuous, and has excellent taste.  I must admit, the accuracy of this description lends credence to those oft-underestimated Chinese horoscopes with which our daughter has recently become fascinated.

Forgive the cliche, but raising Rachael really has been eleven years of joy. She is kind, intelligent, talented, happy, freakishly creative, energetic, fun, mature beyond her years, spiritual beyond her years, with a capacity to love well beyond her years.  She is sensitive to others, always thinking of others, always worrying about others, always going out of her way to make others happy.  So this year we decided to Bring Honor to her not once, but twice.  She deserved every bit of it.

Honor #1:  "Chinese New Year" party at Grandma's on New Years Eve.  We had it early so she could celebrate with her cousins who were visiting for the holidays.

We had fun painting scrolls

hanging lanterns

trying to eat Costco's Orange Chicken with chopsticks (spearing works)

admiring the New Years Baby

and enjoying a few choice moments of sibling harmony.

We wrapped up the night by making origami face masks and watching Kung Fu Panda.
Afterward, the kids relished their annual chance to stay up until midnight.
It was a perfect way to ring in the new year.

Honor #2:  Last night, on her birthday's eve, Derrick and I took Rachael to PF Changs, sans extra siblings, for the first time ever.  Rachael loves Chinese food and has always wanted to go to PF Changs to try the "real" kind (we don't get our kids out much.)  It did not disappoint.  Through the evening, I sat back and noticed that Rachael's behavior during her birthday dinner was typical of her behavior at large.  She was happy.  She was enthusiastic.  She was thankful, gracious, polite, chatty, funny, playful and thrilled with everything.  She was impressive with her ten-minute dissertation on the role Abigail Adams played in Revolutionary America and the continued effect Ms. Adams has on our country's women today.  She was tickled (as were her moochy parents) when our server upgraded her free mini-dessert to a free big dessert in honor, I can only assume, of her general cuteness and likeability.  The server's generosity was not wasted; the flourless chocolate dome was fairly licked off the platter.

We had a great time with much luck, the biggest indicator of which is that we can call this phenomenal little girl our own.

Happy Birthday, Rachey!  You bring honor to us all.

this genetically-engineered food thing is really getting out of hand


Posted on : 11:44 PM | By : Jennifer

Tonight I made cupcakes for my daughter to take to school tomorrow.  I opened up the egg carton and gasped in astonishment at the gargantuan eggs that sat inside it.  Because I knew you wouldn't believe just how gargantuan these eggs were, I propped one up against an apple for a convincing visual aide:

Imagine my added shock when, still intimidated by their sheer size and volume, I cracked one of these eggs open and two yolks spilled from it into the bowl.

Something about this midnight experience sharply illuminated, to me, just what eggs really are (chicken fetuses), and how strange (disgusting) it is that we eat them.

It's freaky how big these eggs are.  I'm officially freaked.

Fancy Shmancy


Posted on : 3:59 PM | By : Jennifer

Last week, the cutest, funniest, smartest, kindest, most competent, capable, responsible, active, adventurous, caring, sensitive, optimistic and loving husband and father in the world celebrated his 37th birthday.  He thinks he's old.  We think he's wonderful.

We wanted to do something special for him this year, so the kids dreamed up a "Real, Fancy Restaurant" (their words).  We hung Fancy Tablecloths over the entryways to the dining room, dimmed the lights, and lit Fancy Candles on a Fancy Table complete with a black tablecloth, fresh flowers, and Grandma's Special Super Fancy China, which hasn't been used since two Christmases ago.  (Yeah, it's that Fancy.)

This was no dummy establishment. Megan named the restaurant Derrick's Delights and typed up the following Fancy Menu (note the many fanciful adjectives):

  Drinks:  World's Finest Champagne (Martinelli's White Grape Juice, of course)
Appetizers:  Bistro Salad of mixed greens, capers, and onions
Entree:  Succulent Indian Curry, steamed jasmine rice, warm, crisp flatbread

Dessert: Decadant Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with rich vanilla bean ice cream.

It all went off perfectly.  Dad came home, waited in the Fancy Foyer (our living room with a few dining chairs set in it) and relaxed to Fancy Classical Music while mom changed from sweaty chef to glamorous date.  We sat and enjoyed our Fancy Fare while the gracious waiters showered us with flawless service.  The youngest waiter, however, got bored with serving and decided to sit down next to us and be served instead. (He's nobody's fool.)  We allowed this addition to our Fancy Romantic Dinner because, honestly...how do you shoo away a four-year old with a mustache?

I had to use the flash to get these photos to come out, so you'll just have to imagine the sultry ambience, the darkened decadence, the sheer extravagance that was Derrick's Delights:

The Fancy Dessert:  a flourless chocolate cake that was supposed
to look like the one from Julie & Julia.  It almost did, until it sank
in the middle.  (Keep trying, Mom.)

Ethan was just told that he would be receiving his 
tips in fruit snacks.

My two favorite smooth-skinned fellas.
(Facial hair on men is so overrated.)

Derrick left (stayed home) one very satisfied customer.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
We think you are the fanciest of them all.

Festivus for the Restivus


Posted on : 11:50 PM | By : Jennifer

They got to me. Those rotten, stinking magazine covers finally got to me.

This December, as I pulled out old Enrichment Night crafts and homemade ornaments to deck my little hall, I found myself wanting to break out of my tacky standard of decor (i.e., this...)

and shoot for something more along the lines of, say, this...

I looked around my living room bathed in mismatched, garish red-and-green garb and realized that my holiday decor was approximately two decades out of style (which is quite an accomplishment, considering that I haven't even owned my own home half that long.) I found myself suddenly wanting Christmas to be about all the things it's not supposed to be about: money, nice things, slick appearances. I began yearning for a sleek, department-store styled silver and gold theme; understated yet elegant, dignified yet festive, untouched by sticky hands and preschool-produced glitterglue wall hangings "for Mom." I'd like to say that I tempered my materialistic desires through my own self-control and character, but the thing that really halted it was my pocketbook. Short of Oprah arriving on my doorstep, a Christmas Miracle Home Makeover was not happening this year.

So I decided to turn my holiday aspirations to something far more attainable: having fun. I'm happy to say that I met and exceeded this goal, and did it all without the help of Martha Stewart Living. A few highlights:
  • Wavy Lays potato chips dipped in chocolate fondue. What a happy accident. Two great tastes that coagulate-on-your-thighs-together.
  • Scoring positive feedback on the Slurpee giftcards I gave to my nieces and nephews. Who says money (and junk food) can't buy affection?
  • Setting a new world record on pounds of sugar and fat consumed in a single day by a woman my height and (now increased) weight. It shouldn't feel this good to plump up, but somehow it does.
  • Beating my sisters in trivial pursuit (Dad was my teammate--need I say more?)
  • Beating my sisters in cards (Mom was my teammate--dig into her past for more info on her cardsharkiness.)
  • Our first ever fake tree. Definitely not our last. Convenience trumps sentimentality yet again. And I can't even pretend to be sad about it.
  • Ice skating with the the ward, watching Alvin and the Chipmunks with the kids, cooking and baking with the women, a Christmas Eve program with the whole family, staying up late to watch Julie and Julia with my sister who I never get to see, post-Christmas shopping for eight hours while Grandpa-the-Saint watched all the kids, staying up too late, sleeping in too late, and waking up to brilliant new snow. It's amazing how much kinder each morning looks when it doesn't start until ten a.m. I spent the better part of a week:
  • Too lazy to exercise.
  • Too lazy to clean my house.
  • Too lazy to blog.
  • Too lazy to eat a vegetable.
  • In elasticized waistbands for the majority of the day and night (yes, Virginia, you can wear pajama bottoms to the grocery store...)
  • Soaking up my family
  • Soaking up the season
We are a lucky, lucky crew to have one another.  Here's some visual proof (and please forgive my spacing errors; my computer's buggy tonight.)

The thrill of opening (yet another) lightsaber.
And thanks for the cute jammies, Grandma Laura.

This interchangeable purse was a big hit for my Mom. Have any of
you seen these? They are supercool. (And doesn't my mom look cute?)

Is Christmas Day really this painful for men? Really, guys?

Cute fam! As you can see, Makenzie's my spunky middlechild kindred spirit
(remember what I told you, Kenz...it's compliment when they say you're like me...)

Our gift from Grandma and Grandpa S. was to dogsit Abby for four weeks.
(Yeah, Merry Christmas to you, too.)

Grandpa's just the best. Especially at Christmastime.  He broke from tradition and started
his shopping a full 48 hours before Christmas Eve.  The stores didn't know what to do when
they saw Rod Christensen coming in so early. I'm sure some kind of door prize was involved.

And then there's Frank.  I feel a certain kinship with him this year.
Let Martha Stewart have her designer Christmas.

Long Live Festivus!