This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Where Have all the Graces Gone?

Somehow my 52 Graces have only amounted to 25 actual postings of things for which I am grateful. That's okay, I'm good at playing catch-up (though I don't know if even my grateful self can think of 24 things for which I am grateful right now...)

Grace #26 Air Travel
Air travel is quick, relatively efficient, and statistically the safest way to go. There is always something interesting going on at an airport and always someone interesting on the plane. When I want to go someplace I want to arrive NOW and air travel is my best bet to make that happen. Airplanes bring our loved ones to us and, perhaps more importantly, they take them back home when we are just DONE!

Grace #27 Warehouse Clubs
I recently had a party for a large group of people and warehouse club shopping made my life a lot easier. I know many jokes are made about cans of olives that contain 112 servings, but let's face it, when you have a lot of people it's easier to buy one large can and perhaps a few servings left over, than to buy 16 little cans. Better for the environment as well. Besides our warehouse club, BJs, doesn't just have food -- it has everything! It's a feast for the eyes everytime I walk in. TVs, jewelry, clothes, gadgets I didn't even know I needed, Oriental rugs, vats of shampoo -- they're all just waiting to be put into my extra-large cart. I am drawn to their book tables like a magnet then after spending oh, say 20 minutes perusing the books I like to move on to the clothes, which takes about another 15 or so. By the time I have finished with clothes Steve is just about done in TVs and computers so we meet up to look at gadgets and food. It's retail marital bonding at its finest. Beth and Steve plus BJs equals true love. See why I'm grateful?

Grace #27 Baking soda
Yes, I am that crunchy granola that baking soda has made it as a Grace. I have always used baking soda as a natural alternative to scouring powder, in the laundry, in a pinch as a deodorant, for baking, for volcano making, and as a poultice for bee stings. Recently my new stylist Lisa (we'll talk about her in our next Grace) even had me put baking soda in my hair. Cheap, environmentally friendly, safe for pets and kids, easy to use, and with no harmful side effects. (And available at BJs in a 5 pound bag!) I love baking soda!

Grace #28 Lisa, my new stylist
Stylist? Hairdresser? Salon Technician? Hair care professional? I'm never exactly sure what is the politically correct term, I just know that I love the way Lisa does my hair. As part of my year-long-quest to find a good stylist I have been to 6 different salons, including an at-home-in-the-basement-stylist-whose-towels-smelled-like-mildew, and I hadn't really found a fit. Lisa gave me my first haircut in over a year where I didn't emerge looking a little shorn and defenseless. Lisa is also the only stylist to tell me that with fine (read: thin) hair like mine I should make a paste with baking soda (!) and water and spread it on my hair 2 or 3 times a year to prevent product build up and increase shine. I have spent thousands of dollars on hair glazes, shine gels, and clarifying shampoos over the last two decades only to have a 22 cent home remedy actually work the best. Thank you Lisa, you rock at hair styling and I am grateful.

Grace #29 Facebook
I know my sister-in-law is having heart palpitations reading that Facebook has made it as a Grace (and I'm not even scraping the bottom-of-the-Grace-barrel yet!) but I had done something terrible and Facebook is enabling me to attempt to "make it (somewhat) all better." Almost a year ago a friend of mine in Colorado emailed me about a lump in her breast that turned out to be cancer. She ended up having a mastectomy. I was very worried for my friend and exchanged many emails with her prior to her surgery. I was very caught up in the drama of my own little house-finding-debt-reducing-new-friends-making life at the time and didn't send any flowers or cards to her during or after her surgery. I didn't get any follow-up emails from her after her surgery and time went by and I meant to email but didn't because I felt like an ass for not sending any flowers or cards and now look how much time has gone by and now I really feel like an ass and why isn't she sending me an email update and Dear Lord what if she died?

That's where I kept getting stuck. Next thing I knew it was July and I hadn't heard nor contacted my friend since her surgery in February and now I was afraid. What if something had gone wrong? What if she died? Do I send an email and her husband reads this email coming some 4 MONTHS AFTER her surgery from a "concerned" friend and now he has to explain how my concern is touching but just a little too freakin' late? Then one day in November inspiration struck me (yes, now a full 9 months after her surgery and I'm still angsting because I'm still behaving like a spineless ass) and I thought "what if I look her up on Facebook?" So I did. And God takes pity on spineless fools and so she happened to be on Facebook too and apparently has a very forgiving soul because she accepted my friend request and even asked for my address so she can send a Christmas card. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't been able to reconnect in such a cowardly way. I fear that I may have done nothing. I fear I may have let cowardice, fear, and procrastination take over and let 2 years, 5 years, a lifetime go by all because I felt bad for not sending a card. Flowers. An email for God's sake! Learn from my mistakes, grasshopper. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions but there also may be some technology redemption.

Grace #30 Keurig
Last year for Christmas Steve bought himself a new-fangled coffeemaker that used little individual sized serving cups to make fantastic coffee. He bought a Keurig. I balked at the price. I balked at him buying himself another Christmas gift. I balked at the environmental impact of creating all that waste. I balked at the precious counter space that would be taken up in our then-pint-sized-kitchen. (I use the term "balk" Steve uses the term "bitch", just so you know). In the past year I have since changed my mind about the Keurig. No longer is Steve buying coffee every morning, afternoon, and evening from Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks. No longer is he drinking coffee at home but complaining about it because it tastes burnt or bitter or old. No longer am I buying Chai Tea Lattes from Starbucks (which, located in Barnes&Noble, means I then have to buy a book or five...). Our ridiculous coffee-chai-book spending is reduced by 99% all because of that little Keurig. AND there is a re-usable stainless steal cup that totally environmentally friendly! What a Grace!

Grace #31 Aeropastale
How can an over-priced poorly made tween/teen clothing store make it to Grace status? Well I'll tell you: Aeropostale is not-overpriced if you're willing to give up your email address because they will send you coupons, coupons, and more coupons in addition to their regular, big sales. They are not poorly made compared to their competition and frankly in our new global economy I have changed my defnition of poorly made anyway. However, those reasons are not what elevated Aeropostale to Grace status: Aeropostale makes it as a Grace because Aeropostale is well-lit, the music volume is bearable, and they don't have half-naked salespeople hanging out the entrance trying to solicit, well I'm not even sure what they're trying to solicit. When our daughter graduated from Gymboree Steve and I were a little stuck as to where to buy her "special" outfits. We drifted in and out of Children's Place, Gap Kids, and Justice through her 8s, 9s, and 10s, but now, at almost 11, our daughter's taste is changing. She is closer to being a teenager than she is to being a little kid. I don't want her to rush her childhood. I don't want her dressing like a 16 yr-old when she's only 11. I also want her to have some freedom to choose her own style. Aeropostale is the perfect compromise. Aeropostale is trendy, hip, and they put their logo on everything so she looks cool to her peers. Abercrombie and Hollister are clearly out right now: they are too dark, the music is booming, the perfume is cloying, the unisex-extremely-dark dressing rooms are a little too suggestive for my taste, and the salesguys/girls that routinely stand just inside the doorway with (for the guys) their shirts completely unbuttoned or OFF and (for the girls) their 3 layers of button down shirts unbuttoned just 2 buttons too many and worn clearly without a bra -- well again, I'm not sure what they're selling, but I know I don't want my almost-11-year-old buying it. Thanks for turning up the lights and turning down the music Aeropostale, you earned yourself Grace status.

Grace #32 A wood burning fireplace
For the past decade I have lived the good life: I pushed a button on a remote control and like magic a beautiful fire appeared before me. No fuss. No dirty logs. No smoke. No matches. I didn't see a downside until we moved here and with our first properly-drawing-chimney I see what I was missing with gas: No sound. No connection. No woodsy-smell when you walk outside. Steve described it perfectly when he compared watching a gas fire to watching a football game on TV and watching a wood fire to being at the game. It's the connection. With our sealed-gas fireplaces we watched through a window. We were removed from the process of starting the fire. We were removed from the process of watching something burn. There is something buried deep within my DNA that just loves a real fire. Dirty logs, yep we have 'em being delivered on Tuesday. Bugs? Quite possible. Smoke, oh yeah, I'm not claiming to be "green" on this Grace. Still a Grace? Yeah, it is.

Grace #33 Snow
I am a little scared to drive in it. I am usually poorly dressed for walking in it. I don't always like the accompanying cold and I despise shoveling it. Yet I love snow. Snow is falling right now as I type and how can you ever have a Christmas in New England without snow? I hope it keeps on falling right through the holidays. Our mountains look beautiful, the trees are glistening, the Christmas lights look magical and our daughter is having the time of her life sledding down our backyard. I will probably be singing a different tune in January (perhaps I'll be "balking" a bit?) but for right now I'm in the spirit and I say Let it Snow!

Grace #34 It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
I am not cool so any reference to pop culture in my blog is always coincidental, probably not timely, and certain to have at least one error in it. With that being said, I have been harboring a private love for the show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia for years. The show is politically incorrect, the characters are even more shallow and neurotic than my favorites in Seinfeld, and the dialogue is liberally peppered with profanity and downright hilarious slang. It's one of the few shows on which Steve and I can agree and watch together so it's a marriage bonding experience every Friday night (the show is on Thursday but it's on late so we TiVo), and the show never fails to entertain. Warning label: you need a sick sense of humor and virtually no political correctness to fully appreciate this show. Something that makes me laugh every week with my husband, now that's a Grace.

Grace #35 Such a Pretty Fat
Jen Lancaster's book Such a Pretty Fat was the most fun read I've had in a year. The book arrived one day in a box of books sent to me by my devoted reading friend Deb (you remember Deb, made me do this blog?). I shouldn't have started the book when I did because I was supposed to be cleaning/preparing the house for a big dinner party I was hosting in 2 days, but it was on top in the box, the title immediately intrigued me, and once I started it I couldn't stop reading and I couldn't stop laughing. I kept making deals with myself: if I go to the 3 grocery stores necessary to buy all the supplies for the party I can read for 2 hours. If I do Jen justice and work out for 2 hours this morning I can read for 1 hour this afternoon. If I survive cooking for 10 people with my limited culinary skills, I can read 'til I finish the book.

The deals paid off, the party shopping was accomplished. I worked out on schedule. I survived the party. I finished the book. Jen shamelessly promotes her other 2 books (Bitter is the New Black and Bright Lights, Big Ass) throughout the footnotes of Such a Pretty Fat and so I of course feel it necessary to reward that behavior by going out and buying those books and her latest Pretty in Plaid (hey, at least I won't need to buy the chai latte!) because I want Jen to keep on writing. Don't have her books? Visit her blog at or your nearest bookseller and maybe even treat yourself to the chai latte, yes?

Be prepared to laugh until your abs hurt (which tones them!), a definite Grace.

Grace #36 Brie en Croute
It's hard to believe that a vegan who is allergic to dairy can wax poetic about an appetizer featuring brie, but I am a diverse blogger and besides since when have I truly "waxed poetic" about anything? Let us return to this "big dinner party" about which I have been hinting in several past Graces. Steve thought it would be nice to invite his 4 direct reports and their spouses to our home for a casual holiday party. I thought it would be nice too, until I realized that it was me that was expected to cook said dinner for said party. My culinary skills are somewhat limited, shall we say? Anyway, commence with invitations he did, so commence with decorating, angsting, cleaning, angsting, shopping, angsting, menu-creating, angsting, and cooking I did.

The menu I created was really a menu Deb created for me and I was going to present as my own and that was the menu I was sticking to until 3 days before the party when Steve casually mentioned that half the invitees were vegetarian. Armed with this new information I decided pork loin was out and fire roasted vegetable ravioli was in. I threw in a hodge-podge of appetizers, salad, and bread and called it dinner. Once again Deb was forced to wrestle my menu down to manageable (read: palatable) selections, and I was set. Amidst all this menu-wrestling my neighbor happened to mention that she makes a fantastic brie appetizer whose name I couldn't remember but she'd make it for me and deliver it on said night of party. Score!

Day before party: I go shop at BJs for said fire roasted vegetable raviolis. Uh-oh. They don't have them. I don't panic, remember how diverse I said I am?, I simply buy the butternut squash raviolis instead (and all of you stop being aghast that I am buying frozen ravioli in bulk for my main entree). I was planning on a simple red sauce but now with the butternut squash in stead of the fire roasted veggies I am thinking cream sauce. But what if people don't like cream sauce or aren't expecting a cream sauce knowing that I will break out in hives and probably soil myself should I consume the cream sauce? What about pesto? Does pesto go with butternut squash? Oh screw it, I buy all 3. Deb kept saying "keep it simple and classy" which sounded great on the phone the week before but wasn't translating well while I'm panic shopping at a warehouse club. I buy an olive tapenade. I buy a bag of holiday M&Ms. I buy a bag of Hershey's miniatures. I buy meatballs. I buy 10 whole cloves of garlic to roast. I buy spinach, cranberries, walnuts, mixed nuts, enough carrots and celery to feed the state of Massachusetts. I buy bagel chips, Wheat Thins, Sociables. I buy cream cheese, cranberry-orange chutney, Tuscan simmer sauce, olives, and cheese. Steve and I go out that night and buy enough alcohol to create 8 different martinis (our house signature drink, we decide), apertifs before dinner, and Irish coffee after.

Day of Party: I go to an Italian bakery and pick up the assorted pastries tray I have ordered for dessert. I get my face waxed. I work out at the gym. I come home. I panic. I clean. I panic. I arrange veggie trays, fruit bowls, cheese and olive trays, olive tapenades, chunks of bread, blocks of cream cheese smothered in cranberry-orange chutney. I liberally sprinkle the house with bowls of nuts, pretzels, M&Ms, and Hershey miniatures. I fill vases with cranberries and insert votive candles. I set the table complete with gold charger plates and the Pottery Barn reindeer napkin rings. The decorating has calmed me until I realize don't have enough wine glasses. I panic. I also realize I never started the Italian bread in the bread machine and now there isn't enough time. I call neighbor for wine glasses. I call Steve to pick up bread on the way home. I panic. I shower. I put on planned-for beautiful white blouse. I try to button blouse. Somehow my fat has re-distributed itself and now I am Chesty Laroue. Blouse won't button. I panic. I'm sweating. No Tom's of Maine natural deodorant for me today folks, I need Secret Platinum. I try on beautiful plum colored wrap shirt. My cleavage explodes out the top. I settle for plain green sweater and wear my apron over top (you know, the one with the big center pocket) trying to look more festive, or at least like I'm cooking instead of just re-heating. I use enough shimmer eye shadow to blind the unsuspecting and I go downstairs. People begin to arrive. No brie en croute yet. No wine glasses. I force everyone to go on a tour of my house. I reward them with alcohol and urge them to consume my 14 appetizers. People smile. People drink. People talk. They shuffle. No one looks comfortable. No one eats! Brie en croute arrives. Its arrival creates a little buzz but still no one eats. I eat. I have nervously consumed 2 glasses of wine and 1500 carrots. I am buzzing and slightly orange. No one eats. Finally I start proclaiming about how good this appetizer is and how glad I am that my neighbor made the Brie en croute and I cut it open. The brie oozes beautifully, the sugared cranberries glisten, pastry is flaky, the almonds flow out tantalizingly. I take a big scoop. Another guest, watching my over-the-top-blissful performance does the same. He raves. Then his wife takes a bite. She raves. Finally, after an hour and a half, my guests are eating! After they begin to eat the party begins to flow. The alcohol consumption is doubled, the laughter begins, the shuffling ceases and we have a great party. A great party, all because of Brie en Croute. See why it's a Grace?

Okay, 36 Graces. Not 49, like I should have to be perfect, but when have I been perfect? A good showing. Enough to illustrate that my life is full: full of laughter, love, mishaps, embarrassing moments, and frustrations. And I am Grateful.


Deb said...

Sometimes it's the little things that keep us going- thanks for sharing - as always- quite fun!

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