The dangers of unmapped chocolates

I’m not a big Valentine’s Day person. In fact, I’m really not a big gift/special day person at all. It’s just not the “love language” I speak.

But, occasionally, I will find one of those iconic heart-shaped boxes on my desk or kitchen table, and I always regard it with intense suspicion. I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend on the part of chocolate makers to fail to include one of those little “maps” that identify each piece by shape and size and reveal its contents.

Without the map, you’re wandering blind in a minefield of strange nuts and coconut bombs that might go off at any moment! One false taste and BOOM!! there you go, gagging all the way to the water fountain and hoping your taste buds will have mercy on your brain and die quickly.

I always feel like Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series: quietly scrutinizing my box of assorted treats, trying to use logic to determine which ones might have horrors within. Then, almost sure I’ve chosen “a nice toffy,” I bite into an unassuming chocolate to find – UGH!! almonds!

I’ve learned by now the flat ones are just chocolate with nothing inside. Pieces with bumps on top likely contain nuts – but not always. Oval-shaped puffy pieces could contain chocolate mousse or fruit cremes… but they could also contain coconut… which is even worse than nuts. It’s like starting Jenga and waiting for the last pieces to fall.

Some people enjoy this uncertainty; I find it stressful and unhappy. If I wanted to play Russian roulette with my taste buds I would buy jelly doughnuts and not check the color first.

What eventually happens is that I break open every piece to find the ones I want and then try to pass the busted ones to the Mister or anyone else who might want them, which I understand isn’t incredibly appetizing.

So this is an open plea to chocolate-makers everywhere: PLEASE! For the love of fruit cremes, include a diagram in every box! Not just the fancy ones for rich ladies, but the little samplers for us common folk too.

Maybe then I could open an unassuming box of chocolates without feeling like I’m playing “Operation” and waiting for the buzzer to go off.

**Am I the only one who does this?**

 

Deck the halls with food and pastries, fa la la la la la la la la

Oh my goodness. I’ve eaten more food in the last week then I think I’ve had in a month on the island. That was the ultimate goal after all, so I am definitely far from complaining, but man! I’d forgotten there were so many choices in the world!

Red meat, flaky pastries, soft potatoes, fragrant sauces, dips and creams; meals served with complimentary rolls and cinnamon butter; steamed vegetables that don’t include pumpkin squash… It’s been incredible. I actually got to a point this weekend where I would have done almost anything just to sit on the couch and have a simple bowl of Captain Crunch cereal. We are so blessed to have friends and family fighting for the time to take us out to eat. My father-in-law has actually been keeping a list over the past months of places and foods that I’ve mentioned craving (which reminds me, never mention something unless you are one thousand percent sure you have to have it).

We are so incredibly blessed and happy to be home. Our first Christmas evening is tonight, with the rest of the Mister’s family exchanging gifts tomorrow and then meeting up with my side of the family starting Christmas day around dinnertime. It’s been a fantastic break so far and we still have almost two weeks until we return to what the Mister has been calling “the island of misfit toys.”

Meera, for those who’ve been wondering, is doing fine. She’s got a big yard and a half-dozen new friends to cause havoc with, so I’m more concerned about the girls watching her than I am about her. (And about the state of our old house, which has two dogs sleeping unattended in it until we return.)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

There’s no place like home…

Being home at long last has been nothing short of fantastic. Everything from the crowd of family waiting for us at the airport to the naked trees to the easy turn of the wheel in my Honda to the quick and courteous service at various restaurants and shopping centers across middle Tennessee. I had finally adjusted to island life before we left, and now that I’m here I can’t believe what we have grown accustomed to.

I mean, when I walked into Firehouse Subs today in the ‘Boro a half-dozen people shouted, “Welcome to Firehouse!” I almost fell over in fright. If somebody yelled at me when I walked into Rituals Coffee on the island I would automatically start looking for whatever I had just done horribly wrong.

We’ve been to Cracker Barrel and Olive Garden and I’ve been eating myself almost sick since we got off the plane. The mother-in-law and I went grocery shopping today and the tremendous amount of fresh foods everywhere, in their fabulous array of bright, not-rotting colors, made me want to buy and cook everything in the store just because I could. And the cashier had a CONVERSATION with us! It’s unheard of; doesn’t she know you’re not supposed to acknowledge the existence of the person in front of you until it’s time to demand their payment?? The nerve of her.

Anyway, we have lunches and dinners booked with various family members throughout this week, and I’m sure the same will happen once we get to the ‘Boro starting Christmas day. It’s just such a good feeling to be home and sleep beneath heavy piled blankets and wake up to hot chocolate and the fluffy little dogs barking at the birds in the feeders.

Oh – and something else I’ve learned since we got home – it’s apparently much easier to ski on Wii sports if you do it with your butt in the air and don’t look at the screen. The Mister now holds the family high-score, but we’ll never let him forget how he got there…

Super Seven Saturday

Wow, I’m not even sure where this Thursday went. Did we have one? I have absolutely no recollection of a Thursday this week at all. So I guess this is Top Ten Saturday; or, to keep with the whole same-letter thing I’ve got going on there, Super Seven Saturday.

So here we go – for this blog’s first even Super Seven Saturday, here are seven not-often-thought-about reasons why we are excited to be going home tonight. (The obvious ones are family, friends, the holidays, etc. but I feel like everyone knows those.)

1. It’s cold where we’re going. And not that that is particularly exciting – in fact we are scared to death, since the 73 degree low last night felt freezing to us – but it does mean that all the mosquitoes are dead, which is legitimate cause for dancing in the streets.
2. Christmas music will be playing on the radios and store speakers, and it won’t be the reggae version on steel drums either (which is just really weird).
3. We’ll get to sleep past 6:30! Yes, we love Meera to death and will miss her very much, but she’ll be having a blast in a big yard with a half dozen other dogs and we’ll get to sleep without a sudden wet nose in our faces very early in the morning.
4. I’ll finally be able to prove that I can physically get a tan! Granted, it’s not very much of one, but the fact that there is even the faintest color difference under my tank top straps is a big deal for me.
5. Home looks like Christmas. The Marriott is the only place I’ve seen a tree anywhere, and our old house is the only one I’ve ever seen with lights on it, although they are sad, droopy lights that have been there for years and no one can figure out how to turn them on. Or take them down.
6. We’ll get to pass out the awesomely cool, tropically-inspired gifts we’re bringing back. You’d be surprised the sorts of things people can make from a coconut. 😉
7. We’re going to get three whole weeks where we don’t have to worry about if the car is going to start, if it’s going to stay running, if something is going to fall off or if it is going to stop fast enough. We won’t have people zooming around playing chicken with oncoming traffic until they can slip three-wide back into their lane. We won’t have people stopping in the middle of the road, holding up long lines of traffic to have personal conversations with their friends. However, we will have to remember to drive on the right side of the road. And we haven’t seen a traffic light in eight months, so that could be interesting too.

What do you look forward to most when you’ve been away from home for a long time?

I’ll be home for Christmas. You can count on me.

So it’s Monday again. Those things seem to come around every week, don’t they? But this Monday is special. This Monday is the last Monday we will spend on this island for almost a month! Hooray!!!

However, it’s also the Monday of finals week, which sort of puts a damper on the whole thing.

But, so far the Mister has been studying hard and seems to be feeling good about most things, so we’ll just have to wait and see how it all goes. Results should come out this weekend and we’ll be able to say whether or not we’re moving on to third semester by the time our plan lands in Nashville on Saturday night.

Nashville. Country music. Winter weather. Hot chocolate. Driving on the proper side of the road. Southern hospitality. Olive Garden bread sticks…. I’m just so excited I can hardly contain myself. (Southern Florida television has been showing an awful lot of Olive Garden commercials this week, thus my craving.)

It’s so close I can almost taste it.

The Mister has three more exams to finish between now and then, though, and Friday will be a day of relaxing for him and packing for me before we head to the airport early Saturday afternoon to fight two hundred other Rossies for the seats I paid for back in April. Yes, I paid for them. Yes, I have tickets. No, we are not 100% guaranteed to get on the plane. Welcome to St. Kitts and the wonderful efficiency with which everything works here. BUT, I promise you all now, I will be on that flight. I might be in an overhead bin; I might be zipped into a suitcase in cargo, but I will. be. on. that. flight. Or there will be blood in the streets.

It’ll be 1 a.m. Basseterre time when we land on good ole Tennessee soil, and we’ll be exhausted, stiff and sore, but dog gonnit, we’ll be home.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Top Ten Thursday – Things to be thankful for on the day after Thanksgiving

So yesterday was the first Thanksgiving that the Mister and I have ever spent away from family, and it was definitely atypical, but a wonderful sort of atypical. I spent the morning and early afternoon babysitting Thing 1 and Thing 2, cradling Thing 2’s warm baby softness on my hip more than usual because he wasn’t feeling well. Then I came home and cooked my corn bread casserole in a frenzy, hopping up and down to make the oven cook faster (because that totally works) and sending the Mister on a classic whirlwind dash to the grocery store after the first cornbread mix I opened was, umm… shall we say, not alone?

Anyway. OISK.

It turned out wonderfully, coming out of the oven piping hot just in time to wrap it in blankets and carry it across the island (funny how, here, going literally across the country on a daily basis is normal) for our potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner with our island family. I also made spiced holiday cider, which was well-received despite the group’s initial disappointment about its lack of alcohol.

We are always thankful for each other, for friends and family back home and for the blessings that allow us to be independent. However, since this list is a day late, I’m going to assume you know about all those obvious things and instead focus on the things we are thankful for on this day AFTER Thanksgiving.

1. Meera has not thrown up in the house, even though her belly is full of the rubber duckies she sent to their dooms while we were gone yesterday.
2. Our roommates made more food for their island dinner than we did and have graciously offered to share their leftovers.
3. We have a wonderful island family to be able to share important moments with. We are forever thankful for having such a solid foundation here, even when we’re all so far from home.
4. We get the keys to our new apartment tomorrow afternoon!
5. We head back to the United States two weeks from tomorrow!
6. I don’t have to worry about the temptation to venture out on Black Friday and spend a ridiculous amount of money because stores here have never heard of such a thing.
7. The Mister fulfilled his agreement to do well on at least three of his last four exams, so we are celebrating tonight by having dinner at the Marriott and hopefully seeing Catching Fire in theaters for the second time.
8. A beautiful sunshiney day with a good amount of breeze, and the hope that I won’t be covered in a sheen of sweat by the time I’m done packing without air conditioning.
9. The fact that a half-dozen people told me my corn pudding and cider were wonderful last night and asked for my recipe. One of the highest compliments a southern woman can get, and it rarely happens, so I’m reveling in it. 🙂
10. The fact that this blog has spread wider and become more popular than I ever thought it would, thanks to referrals by viewers like you (cue PBS sponsor music). But seriously, thank you for all your support over the last two years, and I look forward to entertaining you long into the future.

[Oh, and in case you want those recipes, here they are below. :)]
Corn bread casserole : I’ve found that cooking on 350 for 45 minutes leaves the inside too gooey, so I would say either leave it in a little longer or cook on 375 instead. Just make sure you can scoop a little out and it’s fairly solid in the middle.

Spiced holiday cider : For those who were at the dinner last night, I used only about a cup of pineapple juice because I ran out, so it’ll probably be a bit more punch-y if you want to use the full amount.

And now, for the Christmas music! Happy holiday season everybody.

It’s just shrubbery…

I’m going to commit one of the cardinal sins — I’m going to poke fun at my mother in law. 
(Don’t worry. She knows and she’s ok with it.) 

The mister and I have been hearing for at least a week about how excited the mother in law is to decorate her house for our Christmas arrival and prepare her Christmas brunch list. So when we get to her house Sunday afternoon, she wants us to come see her tree in the living room. We’re expecting an exceptional display, and the tree is beautiful! All lit up and covered in red ball ornaments, surrounded by glittering presents and gift bags bursting with colorful paper. It truly is impressive. 

Partly because it’s only two and a half feet tall. On a step-stool. 

Instead of reacting to our surprised stares, however, she rushed to show us the other piece of holiday joy in her house — a snowman on the computer room desk. Very festive. She just laughed at our expressions. 

Her response to our teasing went something like this: “He’s (meaning the mister) out of the house! I don’t care anymore. When it’s time to take the tree down, I’ll put it in a trash bag and stuff it in the attic and be done! Voila!!” She was so excited, and it’s hard to keep teasing a woman who’s so joyful about a tree in a bag.

This is actually not an unusual exchange at my in-law’s house. It’s perfectly normal for us to sit in the computer room and debate the merits of the Elvis Presley ‘Blue Christmas’ version versus that of Porky Pig. (Which is what we’re doing at this very moment, as I’m writing this.) But you can’t help but love them. They even provide entertainment when they’re not around, as the mister and I had fun allowing people to believe Richard Geer was at our wedding (the father in law looks just like him. And I’m not exaggerating.)

So, I suppose the long story short is that I have been blessed with a wonderful in-law family. My biological family is wonderful too, don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t trade them for anything, but I think there is something to be said for having chosen a good in-law family. It just shows, more than anything else I can think of, that I truly do have good taste. 🙂