Monday, December 31, 2012

Good Riddance

I still haven't decided what to do about blog pictures, which is why I haven't written anything lately. Clearly I think too much about everything. But it's the last of this wretched year, so let's kick it out the door, okay? I don't want to dwell on negativity, but I am so, so ready to say good bye to this year.
This year brought us a miscarriage, 3 car accidents, Sam quitting his job, cockroaches!, and lots of other drama. 2012 kicked. my. trash. I usually have a laundry list of resolutions each January: exercise every day! make my bed every day! visit a new museum every week! never complain! start volunteering! This year, I am keeping things simple. I am going to get back to work. I've felt so worn down to the core by everything going on this year, that I've noticed I let a lot of things slip. I want to work harder at life and live more deliberately. Fight back at whatever life continues to throw at me.

Even still, with all that junk 2012 gave me, there was tons of good too. I visited family in Texas and Utah. I visited friends in Wisconsin. I ran a half marathon! I made a lot of new, great friends. I feel so lucky to have my little family of three. I feel lucky to be a mom at all, and I think I have become a kinder and more patient mom.

I'm not going to lie, it makes me really nervous to say I am excited for 2013 (because look where that got me last year!!), but I will say I am ready. So let's (finally!!) look at this picture of my holding a spatchcocked turkey spine. I think this picture is a pretty good descriptor of how I feel about the coming year. Cautiously optimistic/excited about what could be horrific but also maybe awesome?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Creature Report

So. Do you want to know about the turkey?!

We drove to Ocean City on Thursday, and we planned our massive feast for Friday. Once we arrived, got settled, and put Bria to bed, we got to work on some food prep. This included brining our bird. This was the first moment of truth. I get squeamish when dealing with a raw chicken tenderloin, so I knew it was going to take some serious guts. I opened up the turkey, and began rinsing it. I tried to work mechanically, but for some reason it was shocking to me how much the whole thing moved like an actual body. And when it was turned on its breast, I couldn't get the image of an infant having tummy time out of my head. That turkey was so soft and floppy! Then there was that whole thing about the neck and giblets. Again, not sure what I was expecting, but pulling that turkey neck out of the cavity was the most traumatizing experience of the whole event. I can't even begin to process how disgusted I felt. I kept filling up the cavity with water, swishing it around, and dumping it out, hoping the giblets would come with it, but I didn't really see anything come out. I hoped I could call it good, so I just put it in a huge bag o' brine, and stuck it in the vegetable drawer of the fridge.

Twelve hours later, it was time to spatchcock. I was feeling a bit jittery and anxious about the whole thing-- definitely wondering if I was crazy to attempt this on my first ever turkey. I fetched Elisa to give me moral support, and she stood by my side telling me over and over "there is no use for a turkey other than food!" In my extreme raw-meat phobia, I covered the counters in garbage bags, then parchment, which turned out to be genius, because then I just folded up and threw it away at the end. I rinsed and dried the bird yet again (oh, and when I rinsed it, hey! there was a little paper bag full of giblets that was poking out the end!) then rolled up my sleeves, put up my hair, and got to work.

When I bought my new shears, reviews said they cut through bone like a dream, so here I was imagining it would be like cutting butter. Clearly I have not spent a significant amount of time thinking about turkey carcasses. The first instruction was to cut from the tail up to the neck, along one side of the spine, cutting through the ribs. Again, I tried to rid my mind of the image of a tiny human body (so soft! so floppy!). That first bone (it must have been part of the pelvis. ack!) was hardest, and I wondered, yet again, if this was a bad, bad, bad idea. But I soldiered on, hacking my way through bone. Little bone shards kept flipping out as I sawed and pushed and wriggled through, but eventually I made my way up to the neck. Done! Now for the other side. Again the first bone was hardest (the first cut is the deepest?), but I maneuvered up, trickier this time, since I didn't have the stability of the spine being attached to the other side. I pinched my fingers in the shears' handles (it hurt! I have a blood blister!), but kept going and going until I snipped through that last chunk of skin near the neck.

Lest you think the hard work was over, I then flipped the bird on its butchered back and splayed the legs outward in a manner which can only be described as inappropriate, and tucked its wings back into its widened neck. Then, to break the breastbones, and to make the turkey lay flatter, I pressed on the breast of the turkey, trying to get good leverage. This proved rather difficult and resulted in my feeling as though I were giving the turkey CPR. Seriously disturbing. I think my height was the problem-- I couldn't get my weight on top of the turkey, so I enlisted Sam. Sure enough, he was able to get those key pops and cracks out of the bones. After slipping enormous pats of butter underneath the skin, we placed the bird onto a cooling rack within a foil-lined baking sheet. Underneath the rack I put chopped vegetables and herbs to keep the turkey drippings from scorching and smoking. Then, it went into a 450 oven for 90 minutes. (Only ninety minutes!!) She emerged crisp, golden, juicy, and cooked to perfection.

**guys! help! blogger says I am officially out of photo storage! is there an easy and free solution out there for me?? I really want to post the picture of me holding the turkey spine triumphantly...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

In Which I Unleash My Inner Artist

Up until about a year ago, if anyone said the word craft, I would shudder. There was something about doing crafts that seemed to epitomize being a stay-at-home mom, which was really hard for me. Yes, I'm aware I am a stay-at-home mom, but I've struggled having that be part of my identity as well. So I developed this aversion to crafts because it felt like I would be letting myself go to enjoy them, and I wanted to resist! I didn't want to lose myself to tole painting and vinyl letters. You should know I realize this is absolutely ridiculous. But it was real enough to me that I actually brought it up to my therapist. Ha! Soooo, over the last year I have worked through some of my stubbornness and have come to really enjoy creating things. (I even got a sewing machine for my birthday!) Granted this means my projects sometimes (often?) look like an eight year-old did it, but I don't even care.

Ok, this leads me to share this link where you can see two shirts I painted for Bria using a stencil from the Alison Show. Serious crafty skillz I tell you-- cutting and painting! Anyway, I love her crafts over there because they are really accessible, but also because they're cool. It doesn't make me feel like I need to wear Mom jeans and perm my hair to make them. If anyone wants to have a craft night to make some things from a Hip Handmade Holiday, let me know! I'm totally game.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Planning Ahead

Did you know it's proven fact that the moment you notice your child has been in a really good, happy, cooperative stage, they are within days of turning the corner and unleashing their eternal fury? This is true. Therefore, it would be wise to never notice or express gratitude for good behavior, lest you curse it away.

 That being said, I woke up to this little love note right next to my pillow (the image is flipped, obviously).

Also, I feel like I want this playing on a loop at my funeral:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When I started this blog, I wanted it to motivate me to focus on happy, positive thoughts (read my header up above). I get really bogged down focusing on the negative, and I want there to be more light and positivity in my life. So, inspired by my sister Whitney, who has been doing this for years, I try to make little happy lists. So here it is for today.

 Organizing the shelves by my fridge. This is the spot where we put everything in limbo. That bill I need to look up? Shelves. Spare bobby pin? Shelves. Burned out energy efficient light bulb that needs to be taken somewhere special to be recycled? Shelves. Random coupon for floss? Shelves. Stationery? Shelves. Anyway, they get messy and crazy really quickly, so it was so satisfying to get them all straightened.

My sister Lindsay and I have been texting quick little videos of our kids back and forth. Those cousins love each other, and they're always happy to share a little dance, joke, or well wish.

I bought our Thanksgiving turkey, and it's a beaut! Excited to butcher, brine, and bake that little thing.

I saw Breaking Dawn part 2 last night with some friends, and it was lovely to sit next to a friend who has never read the books or seen the movies so we could laugh through the whole ridiculous thing. Sam cautioned me to be kind before heading out (when am I anything but? ;)  because he said I might be the only one in the group seeing the movie ironically. Thank goodness there was someone to share a couple of snarky comments.

Since I met Sam, he has lauded the movie Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, the Best Picture winner of the 1927 Academy Awards. This may be one area where Sam's snobbery exceeds mine, because I'm typically not one to choose silent black and white films for our viewing. So for almost eight years, I've heard him talk about how amazing it is. I finally bought it for his birthday in July, and we watched it last night. Of course I had just seeing Breaking Dawn, so the contrast was even more stark, but Sunrise was poignant and beautiful, rich with symbolism and motif. I recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone. It made me happy to finally share in something Sam has loved for so long.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Well, hello.

So now I'm curious. Ummm who is reading this thing? I had been toying with the idea of starting a new blog for a long, long time. In fact, I started this blog in January! But it was private up until this point while I was deciding what to do. I mean, I am a serial blog starter, and I find it obnoxious. But I wanted a place where I could talk about anything I wanted-- didn't have to be food and didn't have to come with pictures of Bria (but could definitely include those things too!). So we can call this my hybrid blog. Anyway, hi! I project this blog has a life span of either four months or four years.

So. Let's talk Thanksgiving real quick. I'm making the turkey for the first time! In fact, I have never roasted any sort of bird, and I'm super nervous. I am going to try brine (though I can't decide if I'll do wet or dry), and I am going to spatchcock that thing. The idea is to cut out the backbone of the turkey so you can lay it out flat and the legs will cook at the same rate as the breast. I'm terrified. But I bought new poultry shears, and I'm hoping I can channel my inner surgeon so I don't mind the sound of snapping bones.

A couple more random things about next Thursday:

I read these 10 Laws of Thanksgiving and loved them. I'm so excited and starting to feel all sorts of festive. (But I am a scrooge. Please let's not talk about Christmas until Friday, ok?)

If you're going to have green bean casserole, please volunteer to make it and follow this recipe, ok? Martha is Martha for a reason, and no one should eat canned green beans on Thanksgiving. Or ever. 

Bria is most excited about the brussels sprouts. Like, even more than pie. I love that girl.

Monday, November 12, 2012

In which I run 13.1 miles and wax philosophical

So, I ran a half marathon on Saturday. No big deal.

It's been on my life goal list for a while now, but I've never followed through. But when my exercise partner went out of town for the summer, and I heard my friends talking about running the Richmond half marathon, it felt like the perfect storm (in a good way). This year has been really, really hard, and I needed a project: something that would make me feel alive and would help me remember (or maybe learn) that I can do hard things. Earlier in the year, I never could have considered running the half, because I should have been eight months pregnant right now. When I started considering the half, I wondered if it would be possible because hopefully I would be 3+ months pregnant (again), but I figured it would just be a good way to keep me exercising during that sluggish first trimester-- I definitely worried about having morning sickness on the day of the race. But now, here we are, and the only thing that made me nauseated on race day was my own nerves. I found a lot of catharsis in training-- there were plenty of runs when I was glad to be alone on the path so I could squeeze in a good cry while I ran. I thrived on thinking how proud I would be crossing that finish line.

My training was a little crazy. I was exercising consistently before signing up for the race, but I was not in running shape, and hadn't run more than 3 miles since high school. True to my nature, I procrastinated starting the training, so for the first few weeks, my long runs increased by two miles instead of one. But once I hit seven miles, I started feeling pretty good. I knew I would finish the half (even if I had to walk), and I also knew I never wanted to run another half marathon ever again. I skimped on plenty of my weekday runs, and even injured my hip and had to skip my 10 mile run. I had consistent knee pain the entire time, and got in the habit of icing my knees every night before bed. By the time I ran 11 miles, every. single. step. hurt. (I finally invested in some new shoes, which helped some.) As race day neared, I kept saying how nervous I felt, but when people asked why, I couldn't really come up with a good reason. I knew I was ready-- I think it was just the excitement and nerves of doing something I had never done before, and it felt like a big deal. (Plus, I had been nervous before every long run.) I was also feeling embarrassed about my pace and had to keep reminding myself that it didn't matter how slow I went-- even if it took me over 3 hours. All I wanted was to finish!

The night before the race I had this great philosophical moment. I realized that whenever I think of the various life goals I have (like running a half marathon) I imagine the Courtney who does those things to be without flaws. Like, when I finally achieve (blank), I'll finally be fit, be organized, never procrastinate, know what I want to do with my life, etc. (because obviously I couldn't achieve all those goals if I didn't!) But I realized, hey! I'm still the same Courtney who is running this half marathon. I'm still very unorganized, I'm too uptight, and I often feel like I have no idea what I am doing. But even with all that, I am still running a half marathon. So this Courtney, seriously flawed Courtney, can achieve anything. (Isn't this awesome and cheesy?) But also, I put in the work and I got better at something. It was really hard work, but it was also gradual, and I slowly got better. I mean, seriously, whoever thought 4 miles would be considered a "short run"?

The day of the race was awesome. I was still feeling embarrassed about my speed, and I was trying hard not to make self-deprecating comments to my friends. But I was also feeling pumped! We got to the starting line, took a group picture, and it wasn't too long before we were off! I started my running tracker, to tell me when to take walking breaks (1/4 mile about every 2.5 miles), and started up my AWESOME playlist (I spent hours fine-tuning that thing). The first song was rockin the suburbs by Ben Folds. Perfect. I got a huge grin on my face, and started off. Around three miles I got a little choked up. I thought to myself "I am running a half marathon!" and I couldn't believe it. The first five miles flew by-- I didn't want to take that first walking break, but I did knowing I needed to conserve energy. And my pace was super fast! I knew it was from the adrenaline, excitement, and the crowds of runners, but try as I might, I couldn't (and didn't really want to) slow down. Even after the second walking break, I flew through. We ran through Bryan park, and I knew the halfway mark wasn't too far off, where I could expect my awesome fan club to be cheering me on. Coming out of the park were some hills, and sure enough, there were Sam and Bria giving me that boost I needed to keep going. After my next walking break, my knees were really starting to bug me. I was keeping a pretty steady 10:20 pace, which was much faster than I was used to, and I knew that the walking and starting up again was particularly hard on my knees (a slower pace is more conducive to injuries), so it was important to keep going. But I got a little worn down. I had an energy gel, and just tried to keep moving, but I started thinking about how I still had five more miles to go. And that seemed like a lot. Until-- wait, no! I was wrong!! Somehow I had gotten mixed up, and here I was coming up on the 10-mile marker. It was like Christmas morning! I got choked up again, thinking about how far I had come (this happened again at mile 11 and mile 12). One last walking break, and I was on the home stretch. My last interval was 2.6 miles, and it went like lightning until mile 12. I thought that last mile would be the easiest, but I felt every step. My knees were really starting to hurt-- actually worse than they ever had before-- and I was starting to worry I was doing serious damage. We rounded a corner, and suddenly, there it was: mile marker 13. This was it! I was trying to keep it together, but as soon as I saw the finish line, I was like a blubbering baby. I was trying really hard to not sob, because that just seemed awkward, so I just focused on maxing my pace for that last .1. I focused so hard I forgot to even look for Sam and Bria in the crowds. And as I crossed the finish line, I looked at the clock and it was 2:29. I covered my eyes and limped out of the finish area while I tried not to cry too hard. I did it! And not only did I finish, but I smoked my goal with a respectable first-time finishing time!

So, will I ever run a half marathon again? Every day of training I swore I never would, but the actual race was so awesome, I can't say that I'm shutting the door completely. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Trying to Make up for the past Nine Months

Last week was a doozy. I'm not even sure why, but Bria and I were both feelin' it. Perhaps it's the changing seasons and the new school routine, but we were both on edge for a while there. This week is better-- especially today. It could be because I am wearing a new shirt and nail polish. I always underestimate what a mood boost it is to feel put-together.

I was talking to Whitney today and mentioned a couple super fun things coming up. This year has been awful. Like, possibly the worst of my adult life. Extreme? Maybe. Accurate? Totally. But I have a ton of fun things to look forward to in the next couple weeks. Is the year trying to make it up to me? Here is its effort so far:
1. Cirque du Soleil on Saturday!
2. A conference featuring one of my favorite people ever. I'm totally starstruck
3. A staycation with Sam next weekend-- Bria will spend four days with her cousins!
4. An extended weekend trip to Madison to visit my besties, Elisa and Matt.
5. I'm running a half marathon? This will only be amazing if I actually accomplish it. (I think I can. I think I can.)
6. Thanksgiving is going to rock: Elisa, and my SIL Rachel and her partner Theresa are coming! We're renting a beach house in Ocean City too. It's going to rock.
7. Then it will be the holidays, and who can even be grumpy during the holidays??

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I signed up to run a half marathon.

. . .

Yes. I. Did.

I can't believe it. (I know, I know, there are people out there who run full-fledged marathons.) But this a big, huge, fat deal for me. I've said I would run one forever, but I haven't run consistently since high school cross country. I have exercised consistently every day for the last year, so I feel like I'm coming from a good place to start, plus I have friends running it too. And I want to do this. I know it will be hard, but I know I will be so, so proud of myself if I do it.

When I was finishing my 3-miler yesterday, I started thinking, "yeah, girl! you got it! you can totally do this!" and then I thought "but a half marathon is ten miles longer than this." And it kind of made me want to cry. Obviously I instantly realized this was a bad way to view things. I am working my way up, baby! So what if I can only run 4-5 miles right now? It's like I tell Bria every time she complains about walking anywhere: if you keep going when you're tired, that's what makes you stronger.

When I registered for the race, it asked if I wanted a nickname printed on my bib. I deliberated on it for a couple minutes and then settled on "McPhie." It's what my sisters and I say to ourselves when we need to stoke that Scottish fire coursing through our veins: "You can do it, McPhie!" I have a feeling I'm going to be saying that a lot over the next two months while I train. You can do it, McPhie!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

grinch results

Sometimes you put your daughter to bed early. Even if that means she'll stay up chatting in bed past when she would normally fall asleep, it's ok. Because sometimes long days just need to be that 10 minutes shorter. But something that makes me happy is we've gone two days without a tantrum. I'm not saying I think that will become three, then four, then forever, but I'm happy to have a break. Those things are intense.

While Bria was at school today I had a couple options of things to do. One was catch up on last night's Private Practice, and the other was to run to the store and make dinner for a friend (and mother of three) whose husband is out of town for a month straight. I debated until nearly the last minute, and the more charitable side of me won. I am so happy I chose to delay whatever sort of entertainment I get from watching tv dramas in favor of delivering a bit of cheer to my friend. It actually has a lot to do with anxiety. I love to do little things for people I care about, but I am always worried about how it will be received. In making dinner for someone, I am instantly filled with panic about whether they will think it's gross or, if they have kids, whether they will think it's gross and then it's more of a hassle in the end for them. But I doubt that's actually ever happened, and if it has, well, if the tables were turned, I would always be grateful for a friend's gesture of kindness.

I talked with my dad on the phone today for a while (which makes me super happy! because usually he's about a 3 minute convo type guy), and I was telling him about the tantrums Bria's been throwing lately (see above), and I reminded myself by telling him how important it is to respect a child's agency. I am grateful bria is her own person and she is discovering her personality. I am grateful my belief system revolves heavily around respecting choice. As frustrating and exhausting it is to parent a young child who is exercising her agency, it's exhilarating to watch her develop and grow. I hope she learns how to be well-adjusted in this world while never denying who she truly is and what she truly desires out of life. This is the type of stuff that makes parenthood heart-wrenching. The elation and the exhaustion are so extreme, sometimes I'm not sure I'll survive feeling such intense emotions on such a consistent basis. This must be how one's heart grows and grows.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Brinner Strikes Again

We ate waffles for dinner. I'd say we do brinner a total of 3 times a year, so this is quite the interesting coincidence! Apparently it makes me happier than I realize.

In January, I decided my mantra for the year would be "respect your body so you can trust your body." For myraid health reasons, I'm trying to give up refined sugar and white flour (actually, including white potatoes and white rice!). Which sometimes (today) feels impossible. I know I will be happy if I do it, but I'm not quite sure how to get there. I have been exercising every weekday morning at 6:00 since September, which is the most consistently I have exercised before. Ever. In my entire life. And it feels amazing. Two weeks ago I took off because my sister was in town and then my exercise partner went out of town, and I felt so sluggish all week. I ended up needing a nap everyday, I felt cranky, and I craved more junk food. Snapping back to my exercise habits that last two weeks has been like night and day. The sad part is, I think I used to feel like that every single day! So, now that I'm trying to give up sugar and white flour, I wonder how great it will make me feel, and obviously don't I want that? I'm going to try to work harder for it.

For her birthday, Bria wants a strawberry cake with pudding, strawberry frosting, and strawberries all over the cake. This girl knows what she wants. Please, let her never lose that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

peeking from behind clouds

Some days it's hard to be thankful for much-- like when your husband's show gets canceled. (Especially when you already set some serious balls in motion when he got that now-non-existent contract.) But regardless of my family's employment status, my life is full of many wonderful things.

The chocolate raspberry pavlova I made last night
A kind and loving husband who is my best friend (even when work stressed him to the max)
A healthy daughter who was finally able to go to the doctor yesterday
A shining sun and a mild winter
Gossip Girl streaming on Netflix (hey, a girl is allowed guilty pleasures.)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

pancake positivity

I think the thing that made everyone in DC happy the last two days was the weather. It was over 70 degrees yesterday! On February 1st! Amazing, I tell you. This winter has been so mild, which is particularly beneficial for my mental health.

Also beneficial is learning that today is Candlemas, so I have an excuse to make and eat pancakes for dinner. Who doesn't love Brinner?

Friday, January 27, 2012

The first report of happy

So one thing I want to do with this here blog is post things that make me happy. So today, here are some things.

1. Sam didn't go to work until 3:30 pm today (which isn't the happy part), but it meant we had the morning together while Bria was at preschool. We thought about cleaning and working and what-not, but instead we watched Parks and Recreation AND 2 episodes of 30 Rock. Watching tv in the morning? That makes me super happy, y'all.

2. We went to the park for a quick outing before Sam left, and it was SIXTY degrees, so, obvs, I didn't bring a coat. However, my weather app didn't mention how windy it was, so I was f.r.e.e.z.i.n.g. at the park. But the blue skies made it worth it.

3. This dates back to elementary school, but whenever I go to anyone's house or any social event or basically have any agreement to interact with someone, I always panic last minute that I've got the wrong day, time, or person. (Has this ever actually happened to me? No.) But despite my random anxiety, I asked a friend if I could borrow a movie, she said yes, I walked to her house, knocked on her door (after re-checking our text convo to verify the arrangement), and even chatted a while before leaving. This is a big step for me, friends. Spontaneous social interaction (which led to a movie night)? Score! Happy!

4. And now it's the weekend. The world is a good place. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Beginnings

For a long time I've wanted a new blog. Somewhere to to write about more than food, but not something dedicated to the goings-on of my family. A place where I can be and express myself without the inane and angsty ramblings of blogs I maintained in younger years. I read this blog post and realized what I want this new blog to be: a documentation of my search for beauty, joy, peace, truth, and light. In a nutshell, hey! I'm a hippie! And I want to tell you all about it. A common problem with blogs is the crafting of this perfect and happy image, and while I want to document the positive things in this world, I want to be upfront and honest about myself. This blog will be designed to help me see the beauty in life, because all too often, I miss it. There are many, many days when I contribute nothing positive to the world, but I hope that by searching for and documenting more of the happy, joyful, and beautiful moments in life, I will be more aware of the abundance of those things in my life.