Saturday, December 31, 2011

MOAM's Best & Worst of 2011

What a doozy of a year, dudes.

I had been thinking this year was all crap, but it turns out that most of this year was pretty awesome and that just a couple really crappy thing happening made me feel like the whole year had been tainted. That's a bad way to think.

I even had a hard time narrowing down my "best" list to only 10 things, whereas my "worst" list has only the one Terrible Awful thing that happened, plus three other minorly terrible things. It's nice to be able to put the year into perspective.

So, as is my habit, I have listed out my best and worst things of 2011, except this year I honestly couldn't come up with 10 worst things. I didn't want to wrack my brain over it, so I'm leaving it at only 4 worst things. And, in the interest of full disclosure, these lists are pulled from posts throughout the year. Other awesome or awful things have happened, but I astoundingly didn't write about all of them.

Here we go!

Moam's 10 Best Moments of 2011

10. We bought a new bed, and bedroom furniture. This may not sound that awesome, but that bed is the best. It's just a regular old bed, but I love it. Long time.

9. My living room went from a mess to success. For reals. It was frigging awful, and then we had a garage sale, painted the room, and filled it with normal furniture that real grown-ups would not be ashamed to have in their homes. Behold the before-and-after (and don't worry, only that one wall is green).


8. I started another blog, Tired & Stuck, with Internet buddy Libby, and real-life buddy Christina, so that we could chronicle our journeys on the road to pregnancy. So far none of us have been able to maintain a pregnancy, but finding an entire community of women out there who get it has been invaluable.

7. My husband got a new job. There's just no being happy in your off-hours when your on-hours are misery. He's so much happier, now, and that makes me happy, too. 

6. The Royal Wedding. I threw a tea and held a viewing for the marriage of Will and Kate, and damned if it wasn't one of the most fun things I did all year!  

 And these scones were the bomb, too.

5. We discovered Cambria and Hearst Castle and all the wineries down yonder. It was a fun little escape.



4. Our good friends were married, and my husband officiated the wedding. It was a blast! I haven't asked for their permission to publish wedding photos on my blog, so will refrain from doing that ...

3. We went to Las Vegas with a few friends and pretty much ate our way up and down the strip. We saw a great show, had a fantastic massage, stayed in a gorgeous room, and lost a decent chunk of change! It was fabulous.



2. I witnessed my first birth! And it was a home birth, to boot! And I somehow managed to take photos of it, even though I was crying too hard to see through half of it. There just aren't words for how amazing this experience was, and how much in awe I am of my friend, Katie. Not to mention that the end result was a gorgeous baby boy, Charles Anthony Aaron, who was born on my birthday. I could not be more honored.



2. (Yes, I cheated and put in two No. 2s) I went to BlogHer with my soul sister, Christina, and met so many beautiful, talented, kind, wonderful women. And learned so many things. It was an awesome experience and I'm so thrilled that I did it. It was something I'd been wanting to do for a long time, and it feels good to say I made it happen.


 1. You might have predicted I'd say the best thing to happen this year is that my amazing, strong, wonderful sister gave birth to my beautiful niece, Ava. The immediate rush of love and protectiveness I felt for that kid the moment I saw her surprised me. She's the little nugget of love my family's been waiting for.



Now, this has to be done, because it is my tradition, and that is that. Here are my four worst things to happen this year (at least there aren't 10!):

Moam's 4 Worst Moments of 2011

4. I am still an overly voluptuous lady. Like how I call being fat "voluptuous"? Love thyself and all that. I still haven't got it all figured out. Obviously. I mean, a 21-day vegan cleanse? Yeah, that's gonna work. Pshaw. I love food, and don't especially love exercise. Also, weight doesn't drop off the way it did when I was in my early 20s! I'll be tackling this issue again in 2012 by trying to treat myself kindly and not restricting too many foods so I don't feel deprived and binge. And also exercising. Blergh. Speaking of which, check out this video for a little inspiration.

3. My husband's identity was stolen by some douche. Thankfully we didn't lose any money and everything worked out just fine, but things were mighty tense up in here for a moment. 

2. I saw my grandparents' house, now that they don't live there anymore (since my grandpa died and my grandma moved into a retirement home). It was frigging depressing. Enough said.

1. Again, you might have guessed what I'd say here. I had a miscarriage. I've said enough about it in previous posts, and yeah, this is the Terrible Awful thing that tainted all the happy things that happened this year. We are trying again, and everything will work out next time; I must believe.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Food flops

Some of my latest recipe-tries gone wrong ...

First, a recipe from the December 2011 Everyday Food. Tangerine cake. 

This wasn't a flop so much as just not worth the amazing effort it took to make something that tastes basically like a slightly citrusy pound cake.


 Zesting tangerines: Not my favorite, dog. Even Grand Marnier didn't save it.


 Meh. It was just all right.



Next up: Chicken mole. Also Everyday Food December 2011.

It looks good, and it's been cooking in the slow cooker all day so it must taste good too, right? Not so much. It was a bit flat and just not as flavorful as I was hoping.

Plus the picture of all this shit I blended up was prety cool, so I was hoping it would work out. Not so much.



Last up: Chocolate Coffee Gingerbread Cake from Bon Appetit, Dec. 2008. I thought it would work out because it had this:


 But even chocolate couldn't save it because it had this:

Crystallized ginger. Not exactly something you want to bite into when you're eating cake, it turns out.

Here were all the ingredients. It also called for an entire cup of molasses. It tasted very seasonal but that ginger really threw the whole thing off.

Next week I'll publish photos from a stir-fry that turned out really great ... 






Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hanford

What you need to know about Hanford:

- The water stinks. If you get a beverage that contains ice, you might be in for a nasty surprise.

- The air stinks. Cows.

- My grandma lives there.






















Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Glerrrrggghhh

Christmas turned my brain into a mash of chocolate, gingerbread, and coffee (ask me what kind of cake wasn't exactly a huge hit at Christmas?). All I can do today is make bullet points.

- Ava hiccups after every feeding. I have the most adorable video of it. Maybe I will post it some day when I'm feeling less lazy.

- Ava also farts really loudly.

- The last two weeks look like a really insane blur in my brain. I finally hit a wall yesterday and spent much of the day in bed with a headache.

- We figured out how to make Ava smile: Make farting noises. She LOVES it. It's a good thing she was born into this family and not some uptight family that doesn't think farting is one of the most hilarious things ever; right up there with poop and vomit.

- I did manage to cut my toenails yesterday. Major accomplishment, woot!

- My husband did the laundry yesterday. I didn't ask him to do it; he just did. I am not sure this has ever happened.

- In related news, no one has done the dishes since Saturday night.

- What'd you get for Christmas? I got some cool stuff. My big gift was one of them fancy Garmin watches. This means I'm going to become a runner. Ahem.

- I could go right back to sleep right now. Unfortunately, more immediate plans call for scraping deadly black mold off the shower tiles. Yes, I'm well aware I am disgusting, and a poor excuse for a wife and/or housekeeper.

- I'm still reading 1Q84 and I have NO idea where this storyline is headed.

- OH MY GOD THE BOOK.

- Sometimes the most awful things happen on Christmas.

- I need a vacation.

- I have five days to finish the book. $%*%#@$. Fuck balls.

- I got a bunch of Christmas cards after Christmas, and they all had pictures of babies on them. Did I mention I need a vacation? And a vat of wine?

- Feeling sorry for myself is SO last August.

- I haven't shaved my legs in a month. I'm growing hair for warmth.

- I need to stop writing bullet points and get a move on.

- Good bye.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Little one


This is Little Ava at 5 days old, stretching. You may not feel the same way about her, and I understand, but I have watched this video maybe 25 times because this kid fascinates me. This is just a short phone video of her stretching and yawning. She's lying on a light blanket because she's a little jaundiced.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My husband's favorite cookie of all time

I know no one's reading this week, and that's just fine. I'm not, either. But I couldn't post this recipe after the new year because it's against my religion to eat cookies in January.

December, however, is a much different story.

Sorry for the lousy phone photo. I'd have taken pictures of the process and the cookies with my regular camera if I'd known they were going to be such a big hit, but as it happens they'd all been demolished by the time I took this photo.

These are peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Very simple, and very tasty. They turn out nice and crunchy once they've cooled a bit, which my husband loves because he enjoys dipping his cookies in milk. If you are a dipper, or are married to one, this may be the cookie for you.

Here's the recipe! It's a slightly tweaked version of a Betty Crocker recipe.

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (I use creamy)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chunks (I use chunks, which you can buy in bags just like chips. You can use chips or whatever you have on hand)

Heat oven to 375. In large bowl, beat brown sugar, peanut butter, butter, and egg with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and place on cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Bake anywhere from 9 to 15 minutes -- I find mine take about 14 minutes to come out golden brown. Cool 5 minutes and enjoy. Makes a little over 2 dozen.




Monday, December 19, 2011

A mad, mad month

I'd been feeling very sorry for myself and thinking I wasn't going to put up a Christmas tree or decorate or any of that nonsense ...

Then my niece was born (two weeks early) and suddenly I was like: MUST MAKE COOKIES. MUST PUT UP TREE. MUST ... DO ... EVERYTHING.

So that's what's going on around here.

We did erect the ol' faux tree. Which: I sort of hate fake trees because they don't smell good and they look stupid because they're too perfect. But! They are mighty convenient.

Since we put the tree up, Murray's been staring at it longingly. That cat wants to be in that tree, eating my bird ornaments. There's no doubt about it. He has his eye on a red one near the top with impressive tail feathers.

Here he is, gazing at that bird ornament. We've got SSScat canisters set up around the tree, otherwise you bet your bippy not only would that bird be history, Simon would be perched in the very middle of it, bending the crap out of the branches. Ask me how I know this.


Just staring at that tree. Sorry, I didn't turn the lights on for this photo. When Murray's doing this, Simon just sort of stares at him like: You moron. What you are supposed to do is wait until they go to bed. Then we wreak havoc. And wreak havoc they have been known to do. A couple weeks ago they managed to overturn one of the family room lamps after we'd gone to bed.


He's a bit tortured over his inability to get into this tree. It's an endless source of amusement for me.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to bake things and go torture my poor sister some more. 


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The best thing to happen this year, BY FAR

Meet my sweet niece, Ava Noel, who arrived early yesterday morning. She is a little munchkin who makes mewling noises like a baby lamb and whom I basically do not believe was living in my sister's womb for all that time. My mind does not compute.


 I could stare at that face for hours. She has the family face; there's no denying it.



We expected lots of hair, and we were not disappointed. We are a little surprised that it's brown, since both my sister and her husband were very blond little children, but we are happy with this mop.

I'm an aunt, you guys. I can't stop thinking about it.


Monday, December 12, 2011

The books of 2011

Last year I read 31 books. And this year I read ... 31 books.

Is that weird, or what? Especially considering that several of the books were from the "A Game of Thrones" series, and those books are like three books in one?

Speaking of that series, this year was the Year of the Series. I typically avoid series because I feel annoyed that the author is trying to trap me into reading all their shitty books. And oftentimes series really are shitty -- like the Twilight series. Lord help me, those books are bad. But you had to read every damn one, didn't you? But anyway, this year I read three series. Although one I finally gave up on -- the Sookie Stackhouse books. Oh, mama, those are rotten. The series I read that I ADORED and which you must read as soon as possible because they are making them into movies is the Hunger Games series. Just fabulous. Those are absolutely my No. 1 books of the year.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the list of books I read in 2011, in the order in which I read them. They are rated on a 5-star scale, 5 being awesome and 1 being crap-tastic.


Angelology, by Danielle Trussoni - 3 stars. This book was like: What if angels lived on Earth and were kind of assholes?

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen - 5 stars. I never did see the film version of this novel but I really, really enjoyed the book.

Origins, by Annie Murphy Paul - 4 stars. This book examined how a baby's time in the womb affects the rest of its life. Pretty fascinating!

Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility, by Sami S. David & Jill Blakeway - 5 stars. I bought this book after I'd already been trying for a while to get pregnant. I got pregnant about five months after I bought it, so ... who knows? Maybe it worked. 'Course, I miscarried, but nobody's perfect.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen - 4 stars. This was a fun memoir written by a woman with really astounding bad luck and an awesome sense of humor. She grew up Mennonite, so there is a wealth of material to draw from.

Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work, by Mel Bartholomew - 3.5 stars. I really wanted to plant a garden this year, and reviews on this book were really great. Halfway through it, I kind of wanted to kill Mel. He's always saying it's so easy, but it sounds so hard. I never did get that garden planted, not that I can blame Mel for that.

Room: A Novel, by Emma Donoghue - 5 stars. Awesome book about a woman and her son held captive in a room for several years. You will tear through it once you read the first page. It's just fantastic.

The Genie in Your Genes, by Dawnson Church - 3 stars. The scientific prose in this book had me yawning, but some of the things it had to say about prayer and the possibility of alternate universes were quite interesting. The author believes you can heal yourself ... with your brain.

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, by Ree Drummond - 3.5 stars. This book was just OK. Maybe it's because I'd already read most of it on the Pioneer Woman site. I did get it signed by Ree in person, and was hoping to really love it more, but couldn't get there.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey - 3.5 stars. I really wanted to love this book, too. I love Tina Fey and think she's brilliant and hilarious, but something in this book had me feeling like she thought I was stupid, even though she and I have never met. I'm not sure how she did that.

Tinkers, by Paul Harding - 3 stars. Oh sheesh, Louise. I read this because it won a PULITZER, you guys. Well eff me sideways. If this is the kind of thing I have to write to win a pulitzer, I'll want to blow my brains out when I'm done. It was really depressing is what I'm saying.

A Game of Thrones: A Song of Fire & Ice, by George R.R. Martin - 5 stars. The first book is undoubtedly the best. And unexpected things happen, which is good.

A Game of Thrones: A Clash of Kings, By George R.R. Martin - 4 stars. Pretty good!

A Game of Thrones: A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin - 4 stars. Also pretty good!

A Game of Thrones: A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin - 2 stars. This one sucked donkey balls. I wanted to punch George R.R. Martin in the face when I was done with it because I was so bored.

A Game of Thrones: A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin - 4 stars. Pretty good! That's more like it, George.

Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris - 3 stars. What's up, stuff I read while I was waiting for my miscarriage? Oh, you're a kind of shitty book with a decent story line? All righty then. The TV show is so much better.

Living Dead in Dallas, by Charlaine Harris - 3 stars. Meh.

Club Dead, by Charlaine Harris - 3 stars. Meh.

Dead to the World, by Charlaine Harris - 3 stars. Meh.

Dead as a Doornail, by Charlaine Harris - 3 stars. Meh.

Definitely Dead, by Charlaine Harris - 3 stars. Meh.

All Together Dead, by Charlaine Harris - 3 stars. Meh. WHY AM I STILL READING THESE.

From Dead to Worse, by Charlaine Harris - 3 stars. Meh.

A Visit From The Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan - 3 stars. Everyone was going on and on about how much they loved this book. I found it irritating and self-indulgent.

Earth Abides, by George Stewart - 3 stars. What's up apocalypse? Love ya lots! This was written in the 70s and is a commentary on how stupid and wasteful people are. It wasn't as awesome as I expected it to be.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins - 5 stars. YES. Awesomesauce. Read it.

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins - 5 stars. YES. Again. Still awesome.

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins - 5 stars. What's up, best series of the year?! Can't wait to see you in the theater!

The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides - 3.5 stars. I really loved Middlesex, and wanted to love this book, but it depressed the everloving shit out of me. Its description of depression is way too accurate. Lots of people are loving this book, though, so don't take my word for it.

1Q84, by Haruki Murakami - in progress. I anticipate 4 stars. Shhhhhhhh. Don't tell anyone I thought I was reading a book by Kazuo Ishiguro, who wrote Never Let Me Go, which I read last year and LOVED. In any case, I'm kind of loving 1Q84. Feel free to read it!

What books did you read and love this year? Tell me! And friend me on Goodreads! I put a button on the sidebar.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Let's talk about the R-word

Finally dug out my list of 2011 New Year's resolutions.

There were 38 of them. I accomplished 4.


I'm removing two resolutions that I think are dumb, so that leaves 36 resolutions. Of the remaining unfinished 32 resolutions, I believe if I really try, I can complete an additional 9.

REALISTICALLY, I will complete probably 3 of them, the most important of those being to finish the book. Finishing the book will really make the remainder of the resolutions moot -- I don't give a crap WHAT I didn't accomplish this year as long as this blasted novel is done.

I usually do much better with my resolutions, but I think I got completely distracted this year by the pregnancy/miscarriage nonsense. I lost focus, big time. I'm trying to learn how to be a buckle-downer, but it's not inherent, so I have to struggle against my own tendency to daydream and distract myself with other things.

I'll make another resolution list, once this year is over. Really, I just need this year to go bye-bye. If you've read me for a while, you know I love the New Year; love that fresh start and new chance to make it work. To make amazing things happen.

Maybe that will be 2012's mantra. Make amazing things happen. I believe we're each able to accomplish so much more than we realize. Will have to think about this some more.

Do you make resolutions? How is your 2011 list looking?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Crazy Cat People: Guest Edition Part 2

Feeling lazy (and insane. See previous post re: finishing novel by the end of the year). Therefore, here are some submissions from readers!

First, from my friend Mary! Brace yourself!


This is just wrong in so many ways. And yet ... that dude's belly button totally looks like a cat's asshole. So there you have it.

Next up is something sent to me by my old college newspaper editor, Aaron. It's a meme generator called Bad Advice Cat, and I. Am. Loving it.

Bad Advice Cat looks so excited about his bad advice! There are tons of these things, some funnier than others.

This isn't advice so much as a wrong-headed statement. And yet, hilarious! Did you just say, "Spaghetti spaghetti spaghetti!" with an Italian accent while holding your hand in that ... Italian way? No? Huh.

This reminds me of when, in the fifth grade, a DARE officer told us about some chick that was high on PCP who attacked the cops and COULD. NOT. BE. STOPPED. She was like ... Chuck Norris on steroids. I think the story goes she got shot to death by the fuzz but not before she took, like, eleven bullets and ka-powed 42 cops in the face. This may have been my fifth grade imagination at work. In any case, I never forgot that story, did I? And I never did PCP. Although: I probably never would have even heard of PCP if the DARE officer hadn't told us that story, nor would I have been the least bit curious about it.

Tangents are fun.

What the ... Bad advice? This is awesome advice! See, I have a problem. It's not so much that I get bored when people speak in extraordinary detail for 20 minutes about something I can sum up for you in about 30 seconds. It's that this kind of thing makes me feel TOTALLY INSANE. I don't need to know what you were wearing or what you ate for breakfast the day you went to the music festival, just tell me about the fucking festival and be done with it already! Please, for the love of God, people. Leave the unnecessary details where they belong -- in your crazy brain.

All right, that's about enough Bad Advice Cat. Please, someone, go generate some new Bad Advice Cat memes and send them to me.

Last up is a photo from a reader named Kelly, whose daughter seems to have a borderline unhealthy obsession with cats. This photo was stolen from Kelly's daughter's facebook page around Halloween (Also: I should have posted this photo around Halloween but oopsies).

Ohmagawww the cute! Kittens are so friggin adorable. Then they get bigger and destroy everything you own. This is why we can't have nice things.

I'm sure I missed some submissions. I promise that any new emails, FB messages or tweets will be placed in a special folder so that I remember to post them later on. Keep sending them, guys!



Monday, December 05, 2011

Bullet points - holiday edition

  • I am going to finish the book by the end of this year. This may mean I may need to go dark for a while and be even more hermit-esque than usual.
  • I started a diet Saturday. What, December's not a good time to start a diet? 
  • I'm afraid to look at the New Year's resolution list I compiled last December. 
  • I am going to a cookie party tonight. What, a cookie party isn't a good thing to go to when you're on a diet? 
  • I lost six pounds in two days. It's the Southbeach diet. Yes, I realize this is sort of amazing/disgusting/shameful/awesomesauce. 
  • If I don't finish the book by the end of the year, I'm going to finish myself. Imma go live with the fishies, ya see?
  • The only resolution I recall that I kept was to get pregnant, and that didn't work out. Balls.
  • Some day I'm going to write a book titled: "This was a lot harder than I expected." It'll be out in 2076, when I'm 98 years old.
  • The cookies I made for the cookie party tonight are meh. They're OK. Thankfully. If they were awesome, I'd need to eat them. Long story short: I'm not winning the cookie contest. 
  • Why I feel compelled to tell the internet every time I start a new diet is beyond me. It's obviously a bad idea. Not the diet -- the publicizing of the diet. 
  • If I see you at the cookie party, don't mention the diet, ok? 
  • Giuliana is having a double mastectomy. I know I'm not supposed to give a shit about famous people, but I feel for this woman. 
  • I think "clean the junk room out" was on the resolution list. Oh, BALLS. 
  • I've had a headache since Saturday. I assume this is me detoxing off sugar. 
  • What is the deal with mid-season television finales? I call bull shit.
  • You guys, I'm about to become AN AUNT. Ohmagawww.
  • I don't want to pay $14.99 to read 1Q84 on my Kindle, but I'm going to, aren't I? After I finish writing that fucking book!
  • I'm never going to write another book as long as I live.  
  • I haven't bought a single Christmas gift. BALLS.
  • I take it back. I'll probably write another book. Because I like pain and being a loser. And also being rejected.  
  • I've been thinking seriously about working for a large liquor store. I mean, cheap wine, right? 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

One time when I had a killer cold, my husband took me to an Asian noodle place in Palo Alto called Zao (which has unfortunately closed). I got a soup called the Cold Buster (or something like that) that made me feel about five thousand percent better, besides tasting extremely awesome, and I've been wanting that soup ever since.

I believe this Asian Chicken Noodle Soup from Eat Live Run's site is the closest approximation I've had since. It's really delicious and spicy, and basically the perfect thing to eat when it's so cold I can't get my toes to warm up. I'm not sure I can ever eat regular chicken soup again.


I chopped up two heads of baby bok choy. It seemed like too much, but ended up being the perfect amount.


I generally dislike pictures of raw meat, and this is no exception. However, it is undeniable that there is chicken in this dish!


 Ginger & garlic


Scallions


One jalapeno, sliced thinly. You can leave out the jalapeno (which makes the soup VERY spicy), or you can seed it and then put it in. Or you can just put in half. Whatever. We like it spicy. Clears the sinuses.


 Chinese noodles.


 These are the kind I used and they worked great. Got em from Whole Foods.


Top the end result with cilantro (and later with sriracha sauce -- not seen here) and go to town.

This recipe gets two thumbs up from both me and my husband. It's such a perfect winter soup.

And if you aren't already a devoted fan of Eat Live Run, you must become one. I was just recently made aware of her site (thanks Lisa) and this is her second recipe I've tried, the first being the chicken tikka masala that I just about died over, I was so happy (In fairness she was trying someone else's recipe). She's also entertaining to read and has great photos.