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A Good Thing Gone Bad

In the midst of all the packing and airline melodrama Katie and I had going on last week, my body decided that it, too, would capitalize on this opportune time to start actin’ a fool.  And act a fool, it did.

I could easily ramble on for the next five paragraphs about the symptoms I had and what all led up to the final diagnosis — and I did in the first draft, before remembering that long-winded monologues detailing your every pathological idiosyncrasy generally make people want to chew their legs off or jump in front of moving vehicles to make it stop.

So, instead, let’s just say the good news is: I’m not dying.  Can I get a what-what?!

However, the bad news is… I can no longer drink wine.

Delicious, stress-reducing, body-tingling, confidence-boosting, life-affirming wine.

Why not just stop feeling while I’m at it?

While there’s no way to test for it — since, technically, it’s not even an actual allergy — recent events seem to indicate that I’ve developed an intolerance to the sulfites in wine.

For those of you who’ve had no reason to ever learn about sulfites — because, why would you? — they’re preservatives added to extend the shelf life of processed foods such as baked goods, soup mixes, pickled foods, dried fruit, potatoes and potato chips, trail mix, jams, maraschino cherries, condiments, juice, molasses, guacamole, etc.

Dang.  There goes my world-famous Molasses Pickled Prune Bread with Guacamole Marmalade recipe.  The PTA Council will just have to find another Refreshment Coordinator for the monthly meetings.

Even then, sulfites and I would be cool if that were all but, for whatever reason, they had to go and “naturally occur” in grapes.  And then wine had to go and “be made out of” grapes.  And then I had to go and “be sensitive” to grape sulfites.  Really, there’s a lot of blame to throw around here.

By the way, I couldn’t find any pictures, but here’s what I’m guessing a sulfite looks like:

Sulfites are characterized by douche-y smirks, Ray-Bans and circa-early ’90s soul patches.  Also, they’re known to lurk around local high school hang-outs, wear button-down flannel shirts with the sleeves ripped off, and drive beater Camaros they claim to be “restoring”.

It’s no wonder my body decided to wisen up and lay the smackdown on these suckers.

The cause for sulfite sensitivity is unknown, but apparently it’s pretty common for people to randomly develop it later in life, and the only “cure” is to avoid foods that trigger a reaction.  Which is a pretty lame cure if you ask me.

Never in a million years would I have suspected such an utter betrayal by my internal organs but, apparently, developing new allergies is one of the many sadistic tools your body has at its disposal to destroy your will to live as you get older, thus paving the way for your bitter-ass retirement years.

Fortunately, my sensitivity seems to pertain specifically to wine and certain juices (Orange, I’m looking at you), so I guess I should be thankful that my culinary habits don’t require a major overhaul.  Plus, some friends have put me onto certain low-sulfite wine brands to try and I can still drink beer like a champ (or at least as well as I was able to before, which was actually not at all like a champ).

Normally, this would be the part where I indulge in a little righteous self-pity but, during my exhaustive Google research over the past week, I’ve come across a number of blogs written by people with sensitivities to all sulfites, and it definitely puts things into perspective.  Considering they’re as much a staple of the American diet as flour and eggs, this means every grocery shopping trip, restaurant, social gathering, buffet, snack tray and baked good made by a well-meaning neighbor is a minefield of potential toxins for them.  And you don’t hear them whining.

One blog I especially loved was Wine NOT!, written by a spunky, hilarious lady who’s adapting hilariously to her new lifestyle.  Seriously, cannot emphasize the hilariousness enough.

Hilariosity?  Hilariality?  Hilaritude?

Whatever, just go read her blog.

(Ed. Note: Ok, I actually just clicked on her blog and today’s post is about scooping a growth out of her neck with a melon baller.  So if you’re not into that sort of thing, maybe wait until tomorrow to start reading.)

Anyhoo, what I’m trying to say is, in the Grand Scheme of Things, considering all the potentially horrible diagnoses I could’ve been handed, I got off easy like Lindsay Lohan on a drug charge.

I’ll drink to that!

Feel-Good Monday: How to Swindle Your Neighbors

When I woke up this morning, the first thought that went through my head was, “Why am I still here?!”

I know that’s not an ideal mantra to start the day, but I couldn’t help it.  I wasn’t supposed to be laying in my own bed.  I was supposed to be sitting at the airport, waiting to get on my flight to Central America.  But now as I sit at my kitchen table, breathing in the aroma of my freshly brewing coffee, I’m realizing – if I was supposed to be there, I’d be there.

By the way, if you’re curious, here is a demonstration of how I drink my coffee (excuse the extra wide aperture and shaky hand.  I obviously hadn’t yet consumed any of the much-needed coffee at the time – which was a few minutes ago – these pictures were taken):

First pour cream into bottom of cup.

katie's coffee cup

Then pour coffee.

katie's coffee

Finally, dump in prolific amounts of sugar.

katie's sugar

Basically, the resulting beverage should taste like sugar-laden cream with a hint of coffee.  I like the smell better than anything.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

So.  I guess the fact that I’m sitting here drinking a cup of coffee-flavored cream instead of having my naked body scanned in 3D at the airport means I need to figure out what to do with my unexpected, extra un-paid week.

If I really feel like getting dirty, I could paint all of our trim or clean out the garage – two things that could desperately use my attention.  And knowing me, I might just decide to start one of those projects late Thursday afternoon when I should be getting ready for the long drive up to Frederick, MD so I can chill with Erin for a couple of days before we leave.  I find I work best under pressure.

But considering I still need to pack and take care of a few other mundane things before I head out, I should probably stick to small projects for now.

Our neighborhood has a community garage sale twice per year.  Yuck.  There are so many other things I’d rather do with my time than dig through other peoples’ unwanted crap so I can let it sit in my own garage until I donate it to Goodwill because I never did figure out how to affordably reupholster that old chair that would’ve been so perfect if it weren’t covered in that awful maroon velvet or where to hang that one painting that could’ve looked so cool in a retro sort of way if my entire house was cool in a retro sort of way.  Which it’s not.

And yet every six months I find myself getting up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday (which actually isn’t unusual anyway) to get to the “good stuff” before someone else nabs it.  What can I say?  We live in the stix and garage sales bring out my competitive side.

Plus, I love, love, love haggling with people.

At the last sale I snagged this set of mirrors.  The old lady wanted $15 for the pair, but I got her down to $8.  Sucka!

gold mirrors

Now I’m no designer, but I’ve watched enough HGTV to know nothing says style like gilded gold mirrors.  Right??

Okay, maybe not.  But I thought they might look cool if I spray painted them, because while the color is awful, the detail is kinda interesting.

mirror detail

So I covered the mirror part in frog tape and newspaper, bought some semi-gloss white spray paint, and went at it.  I don’t really care for spray paint with its non-environmentally friendly qualities.  But.  I wasn’t about to try to take a brush to the little nooks and crannies of these puppies.  In the end, laziness won-out.  But if anyone has “greener” suggestions, I’m open to ’em.

Spray Paint Mirrors

I’m actually pretty happy with the finished product.  Alaina thinks I should sand off some of the white for a more antiqued look.  I think Alaina should get her ass back in her kitchen and get it finished so we can see the final pictures already.  (You know I love you, A!)

What do you think?  I think I’m done.  Unless I decide to paint them a funky teal or something, which I’m seriously considering.

Now, as usual, I just need to figure out where to hang ’em.

finished mirror

It’s Kitty Video Time…

Why, you ask?

Because it’s been a long week.*

And because it’s raining out.

And because it’s 4:38 p.m. and I’m still in my pajamas.

And because my brain is mush from the last three chaotic days spent rescheduling the trip to Costa Rica** since the airline we were going to be flying out on Monday decided to — how shall I put this delicately? — sh*t the bed.

And because I think we all could appreciate somethin’ cute n’ fluffy right now.  Or maybe it’s just me.  Either way, we’re all gettin’ somethin’ cute n’ fluffy.

And because the only productive thing I’ve done all day is brush my teeth and I intend to keep it that way.

A few notes about the video:

1.  That’s Roxy.  We have two cats, but she’s the only one we like.  The other one shrieks at us and hides a lot.

2.  The clip ends rather abruptly because, a millisecond later, I say something to the camera and my morning voice is  not cute.  I sound like a transsexual undergoing hormone replacement therapy.  And if you’re at all familiar with that, you know it’s not a good sound.

2.  This video was taken at our old house.  Please do not gaze upon the abject horror of our living conditions and pity us.  We did this to ourselves.  Those shoes and boxes by the couch?  Stayed that way for four months.

3.  I promise I will not dredge up an old cat video from the archives for my next post.  At least, I’m pretty sure I won’t.  I mean, I’ll try my hardest not to but being lazy is feeling pret-ty good right now…

* Oh, and, by the way, we’re happy to announce that the Costa Rica trip is back on track with only a week-long delay.  In the words of Chuckles: Boo -yah!   Details to follow when I feel like rejoining the human race.  Thank you and goodnight.

** Ok, Katie did most of the calling and negotiating.  But it was really tiring hearing about it.

Meant to Be – Like Cheese Under a Mattress

When I was little, I used to ask my mom to drive really, really fast down this hill with a dip at the bottom on our way to daycare.  I got such a thrill from that tiny uprising in my stomach – that flutter that happens when your body is thrown off-kilter from gravity.

Why don’t we get the same happy rush when the same thing happens with our emotions?

Today was a helluva day.  You see, the airline on which Erin and I booked our tickets to Costa Rica is having some financial troubles, so they decided to cut back on their flights.  They decided to cut back on our flight just over a week ago.  The online booking agency through which we booked our flight *cough*CheapTickets*cough* did not notify us of this fun fact until a couple of days ago.

It was not until today that we were able to negotiate an itinerary change and get ourselves on another flight.  Because as much fun as it would be to get stuck in Cancun with unlimited funds, our funds are not, to say the least, unlimited.

Just a minute ago I received another call telling me the new flight has been canceled.  That fluttery, uprising thing happened with my emotions.  The guy from Cheap Tickets might have heard me cry.

In 2004 it took me over 27 straight hours to get from Valdosta, Georgia to Strasbourg, France.  I traveled by car, plane, subway, another subway, train, and another car to get there.

So it’s really no surprise to me that this happened.

The thing is, cliché as it sounds, I’ve learned to try to make the trip itself part of the fun.  I know it can be a pain in the ass to get somewhere – especially when I really, really, really want to just be there.  So I have to do what I can to enjoy the ride.

Even if what I really want to do is punch someone in the face.

After all, 27 hours is 27 hours.  That’s more than a full day of my life that I can never get back.

It took me a month to get from Omaha, Nebraska to Omaha, Nebraska (by way of Washington, California, Arizona, and Colorado, to name a few).  I traveled by Tracker.

When people ask what we’ll be doing during our free time in Costa Rica (if we ever get there), they seem surprised when I tell them we don’t know.  But it’s like the Gin Blossoms said, “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.

The same holds true, I believe, for a trip.  Too much planning can only lead to disappointment and missed opportunities.  We won’t be lethargic in our off-time – but we’ll always be open to something we didn’t plan – especially because we didn’t plan anything.

For the Tracker’s Wild Western Extravaganza road trip, I didn’t even know I’d be traveling with anyone until a couple of days prior.  I had just given notice to one of the restaurants that employed me, and a fellow server thought my trip sounded fun and asked to come along.

We had never really hung out, but Lizeth was a 5 foot-nothing feisty Latina who shared my freestyle travel philosophy.  She ended up coming with me all the way to San Francisco before flying home (she actually had to go back to work – sucka!), and it ended up being much more fun than if I’d gone alone.

At our own leisurely pace, we were able to explore Seattle’s colorful, energy-packed Pike Place fish market…

Pike Place market

…get a free bottle of whisky from a sketchy motel employee…

…hug a soldier…

..and even stumble across Seattle’s famous wall of gum one night when we became completely and utterly lost.  We didn’t know it was famous.  We just thought it was a gross (but cool) wall of gum.

It turned out getting lost on those downtown streets was a great way to learn our way around the city.

If we had been on an itinerary, we might not have climbed the Astoria Column and ruined our ability to walk without a limp for the next 2 days.  (Lesson learned?  Calves do not like spiral staircases.)

Astoria Column

Nor would we have stopped for a tour of the cheese factory in Tillamook, Oregon, land of, “Cheese, trees and ocean breeze!”  If we hadn’t stopped, I wouldn’t have been able to leave my souvenir brick of spoiling cheese under the mattress of that hotel in San Francisco.  (That’s another story for another time, but trust me – they deserved it.)

Tillamook Cheese Factory

Sure, you miss a couple of things when you don’t plan.  We’d hoped to catch the famous sandcastle contest in Cannon Beach, but instead all Lizeth caught was soaking wet pants when we had to wade across the bay to get into town.  All I caught was a kite to the back of the head.  No joke.

The sandcastles had already washed away with the tide.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.

And without a GPS, the excitement of seeing the unmistakable bright orange peaks of the Golden Gate Bridge rising behind a hillside caused us to stick our heads out the windows like a couple of terriers attempting to taste the wind.

First glimpse of the Golden Gate

And even though we didn’t plan, we were still able to hit many of the major tourist attractions.

We drove through the giant Redwood tree:

Redwood Drive Through

We embraced the culture of Fremont:

And we soaked in the famous San Francisco architecture:

San Francisco Architecture

It’s comforting to know that as long as I have my mind, I’ll never forget the barefoot, guitar-playing hippie who offered us pot not 3 minutes into our lunch stop in Arcata, California.  Or getting lost on the BART and ending up in The Castro (where the look-but-can’t-touch eye candy was excruciatingly palpable).  Or seeing Kurt Cobain’s old house in Seattle.

And after Lizeth flew home, I drove down the 101 to L.A. and absorbed the art and energy of Venice Beach.  I crashed on a friend’s couch in Phoenix and climbed Camelback Mountain.  (Okay, I only made it halfway – but it was Phoenix in July!  I don’t care of it’s a “dry heat” – 111-degrees F is HOT.)  I changed into shorts on the side of the road in the middle of the deserted desert when my a/c decided it’d had enough.  I got food poisoning in Albuquerque and had to sleep it off in my car at noon with the windows cracked.  I witnessed a red-hot sunset behind the Rockies, a lightning-riddled rainstorm between myself and the sun causing the colors to blur like a saturated watercolor painting.  Fireworks welcomed me into Colorado Springs later that evening, and I watched more from the deck of my great-aunt and uncle’s home, cocktail in hand, overlooking the Garden of the Gods and the rest of the city far, far below.

These things – these things that happened by chance will always resonate because I remember them the way they were – not the way they should have been.  And that’s why it’s okay that we still don’t have a flight.  We will.  When we do.

I’m not completely zen.  If I could leave a brick of stinky cheese under the airline’s mattress, I would.  But I can’t.

So, my friends, that is why I don’t plan.  I happen to like being a terrier with my head out the window.

Recreational Equipment Impaired ®

Ok, I hadn’t planned on mentioning Saturday’s fateful episode because I’ve already done a few of those “Hah, how delightfully kooky I am!” kind of posts and I figured I’d better cool it on those for a while before you guys start thinking a typical day for me entails sobbing hysterically in the shower, scratching the eyes out of people in magazines, writing rambling letters to the President warning him that Wilford Brimley is trying to poison the local water supply, etc.

That’s strictly a Sunday thing.

I’m watching you, Quaker Oats man.

However, since Katie brought it up — with a little dramatic flair added for comedic value — I feel I should explain the situation so that my mother-in-law doesn’t have to worry that I’m going to snap under the stress of packing some day this week and go after her baby boy with a frying pan.

So, it went like this:  I drove to the REI in Rockville on Saturday for what started out as an entirely innocent errand to exchange a rain jacket I’d bought online for a smaller size.  The exchange went smoothly and that might’ve been the uneventful end to the most boring cocktail party story ever except, just as I was turning to leave, some dark, twisted thought sprang from the bowels (ew) of my mind.

Oh, what the hey, I thought to myself.  Shucks, since I’m here anyway, I might as well take a look around this here shoppin’ establerment and see if I there’s anything else I might could use.  Git ‘r done!  Earnhardt forever! Because, naturally, that’s how I talk in my head.

When I finally made it out of the store two and a half hours later, I imagine the parking lot surveillance cameras caught a wild-eyed, disheveled person who vaguely resembled me bursting through the front doors like I’d just been released from a 48-hour hostage situation, pausing just long enough to whip my head wildly left and then right, and then tearing off in a dead sprint across the parking lot without looking back.

For those unfamiliar with REI (which stands for “Recreational Equipment, Inc.”  Droppin’ knowledge like bombs!), it’s a national outdoor and sporting goods retail chain that supplies every conceivable brand and type of gear for the knowledgeable climbing, camping, mountain biking and general outdoors enthusiast.

Which, basically, translates to the seventh circle of hell for people like me.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I consider myself an outdoorsy person — I like to hike, camp, trail-run, mountain bike, eat possum, etc. — but me stepping foot into an REI is akin to someone who likes to read attempting to plow through the entire Encyclopedia Britannica series in one sitting.  You’re just in way over your head, my nerdy little friend.

The thing is, I’m not what you would call a “decisive” person.  If you give me two options, I will choose Option A, then change my mind and choose Option B.  Then change my mind again.  Then ask which one you’d choose.  Then try to listen to which option fate is telling me to choose.  Then make a list detailing the pros and cons of each option.  Then convert said list into a color-coded Excel bar graph.  Then, if given enough time, have a nervous breakdown.

So, it goes without saying that I don’t do well in scenarios where I’m given too many choices.  And, being a major retail chain, choices are what REI is all about.  So, being the person I am in the situation I was, I ended up spending half the day wandering aimlessly up and down each aisle (and possibly through part of the Men’s Big & Tall next door somehow) trying to discern the difference between 10 similar shiny packaged products, praying that someone would swoop in and save me from this private hell of personal freedom.

Every once in a while I’d see a busy store clerk bustle by, at which point I’d shuffle after him a safe distance, whimpering and holding out two items like a toddler asking to be picked up.

What is a ‘nonadjust Poly/Neoprene retainer’ and why is it trying to make me insane?

And on the rare occasion they actually stopped for me (and didn’t break into a jog after looking back and seeing my hungry eyes and quivering lip), here’s how the exchange typically went:

Me: Please.  I’m looking to buy a hydration bladder for my backpack.  Just tell me which one I should get.

Bearded, Teva-Wearing Store Clerk: Well, that depends.  How many liters is your pack’s capacity?  Is this for a technical daypack or a multiday excursion pack?  Does your pack have an internal frame or external?

Me: Um, see, it’s a backpack.  It’s about yea wide and yea big (hold my hands appropriate distance apart) and it goes on my back like this (mime putting on a backpack).

Bearded, Teva-Wearing Store Clerk: What capacity is the pack’s reservoir sleeve?  How many drink tube exit ports does it have?  What type of access port design are you looking for?

Me:  (Blink several times.  Maybe drool a little.)

Bearded, Teva-Wearing Store Clerk: Do you want a rigid or molded hydration bladder?  Made of rubber or flexible plastic?  Do you intend to use a water purification-adaptable system?

Me:  Lookie here, Brent.  I guess your carabiner key chain and your “Life is Good” T-shirt qualify you for some sort of Eagle Scout merit badge in smug condemnation, but I will not be suffering your crap today, my friend.  So just tell me what to get or I will rip off your stupid ponytail and make you eat it.

Okay, so that last part was in my head.  What I actually did was mutter something incoherent and then scuttle away like a crab.

So, by the time Katie called, I was a bit stressed out.  I mean, I was so confused and uncertain that I almost bought a fanny pack.  Fortunately, I regained my senses in the nick of time, paid for the few items I’d manage to decide upon, and got the hell out of there.

So, hopefully, explaining that episode has now put everyone’s mind at ease that I’m not a neurotic nutjob.

Wait.  I guess that really didn’t…

Aw, crap.

Pop! Goes My Dignity

Today I did something I’ve never done before.

I was thoroughly impressed with myself.

Wanna know what I did?

I sewed a button.

That’s right – I took my own two little hands and this cute little sewing kit and sewed a button back on my shorts.

sewing kit

I have NO IDEA why the button popped off while I was wearing the shorts.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie




Steak Sandwich


I know why the button popped.  But I don’t want to talk about it.

The point is that I was able to successfully reattach the offending button.


Buttonless Shorts
sewing button
sewing button
shorts with button


As a self-admitted domestiphobic person, I have to consider today a whopping success.

(And I’ll pretend I didn’t first have to Google “how to sew a button.”)

Maybe I’ll celebrate with some pie.

The Sink’s In Here Somewhere…

In the words of Erin’s frog, she is completely harshing my mellow.

I mean, I was happy just floating along, all, “I’m SO ready for this Costa Rica trip.  I’ve got typhoid  shots and a backpack – what more do I need?”

And then came this post.  This awful, horrible, mellow-harshing post that, aside from making me laugh at Erin’s pantaloons, sprouted this demonic little thought in my head that maybe – just maybe – I should think about packing.

Have I been worried about the language barriers?  Sure.  Have I been concerned my fragile little underexposed body might have difficulty adjusting?  Of course.  Have I been concerned I’ll make a true American ass of myself by not understanding the culture?  No doubt.  I expressed all of those concerns here.  I’ve already admitted that when it comes to this trip, this is me:

But in all  honesty, I haven’t let myself freak out about these things because:

a)  I’m doing the best I can to prepare in a limited amount of time by studying up on some Spanish (and buying a phrase book); seeing the doctor and getting proper medications; and reading up on Tico culture in my nifty little guidebook, and

b)  We’re going to be working for a great family who, at every chance they’ve been able to get so far, have been straightforward and quick to reply with what to expect.

But then comes Erin with her post about practicalities, like packing??!

Not to mention the panicked phone call I received from her at REI just yesterday when she was struck with an insurmountable bout of indecision.  (Did I tell you I wouldn’t tell anyone about that, Erin??  It’s a good thing only 6 people read this.)

So I’ve decided it’s time to start assessing where I stand, starting with the GINORMOUS bag of goodies and gifts my exceedingly generous friends from work gave me over excessive amounts of tequila (accompanied by a small amount of margarita fixings) after my last day at work.

Okay.  Wow.

I will admit there are a few items here I may not be taking to Costa Rica.  See, I have a limited amount of room in my backpack, so it’s inevitable that some things out of this huge, thoughtful bag of gifts will get left behind.

Like maybe these:

Peace flip flops

Not because they’re not totally awesome, but I do need to be a little practical here.  I’m only allowing myself to bring 2 pairs of shoes (possibly 3 if I can’t find the right wet/dry amphibian shoes), and I’ll need my 1 pair of flip flops to work with the majority of my clothes.  Unfortunately, I just don’t have that much teal in my wardrobe.  But maybe I should.

And these two items:

Bug Hat

While I understand the practicality of packing the proper head gear, I should probably be realistic about what I’ll actually wear.  For example, the first hat might really come in handy if I find myself devoid of bug spray or if I decide to take up beekeeping, but I’m hoping to avoid both scenarios during this trip.  And the second… well…


There are, however, some really really great things in here that will definitely be making the cut.

Like food.  Can’t go wrong with that.  And while I might not be bringing all of this food, I can definitely see where it might come in handy on the trip out there or during one of our weekend excursions.

Snack Food

And how cool are these nifty little tools??  I find myself walking around the house just looking for an excuse to use these.

These are just a few of the multitude of basic hygiene and toiletry products, which are fantastic (don’t ask about the Gold Bond – hopefully I won’t need it):

And this – this I was really excited about.  VERY few people are cool enough to sport one of these:

Head Lamp

I am lucky enough to be one of those people.  To prove it, here’s me during a Geology field trip circa early 2006:


See?  Cooler than words can express.

They also got me this great little sling bag made out of recycled products.  I haven’t actually tried to take it out of the pouch because I’m afraid I won’t be able to get it back in, but rest assured I will likely get my use out of this puppy once we’re there:

Recycled product bag

There were many, many more things in there as well, including a rain poncho, first aid kit, ear plugs (in case Erin snores), ibuprofen, and sanitary hand wipes, just to name a few.

I’m incredibly lucky to have worked with such amazingly thoughtful people.  It almost feels like I don’t need to bring anything else.  Almost.

I’m also very lucky I look good in a headlamp.

Just sayin’.

I’m In Love, I’m In Love, And I Don’t Care Who Knows It!

Two things:

1.  Chocolate.

2.  Peanut Butter.

I love chocolate and peanut butter so much.  How do I describe my passion?  Let’s see… If I could have a 3-way with chocolate and peanut butter right now, I would.  I might even let them videotape it.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie

As it stands, my enjoyment of this delicious peanut butter cream pie (recipe found here) has remained relatively private – shared with only a few select neighbors in the protective confines of their living room.

See, I was assigned the dessert responsibility for their “Dutch BBQ” the other night.  For some reason this pie, which I hadn’t made in several years, popped into my head.  I couldn’t get it out.  Luscious creamy peanut butter base with a fluffy chocolate topping.  Have I mentioned how much I like chocolate and peanut butter?  (See “Who the Heck is Katie?” at the right.)

Here’s What You Need:

  • 1/2 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cold milk
  • 1 C. peanut butter
  • 1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 (9″) prepared graham cracker crust
  • 2 (3.9 oz.) packages instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 2 C. cold milk
  • 4 peanut butter cups, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (Optional – I know it takes away from the presentation, but I often forgo these little adornments on desserts.  I feel like it adds stress when cutting the slices because everyone wants a piece of the peanut butter cup and there might not be enough.  It also dictates the size of the pieces.  And that’s just not right.)

Here’s What You Do:

1.  Put your half brick of softened cream cheese in a bowl.

Softened cream cheese

2.  Add 1 Tbsp. of sugar, 1 Tbsp. of cold milk, and 1 C. peanut butter.  Stir until creamy.

Add 1 Tbsp. Sugar
Add 1 Tbsp. Milk
Add 1 C. Peanut Butter
Stir until creamy

3.  Fold 1 1/2 C. of the cool whip to the peanut butter mixture.

Cool Whip

If a little bit of it falls on your finger, just go ahead and lick it off.  You shouldn’t fight impulses like this.  Fighting them makes you grow up.  And no one wants to do that.

Taste the Cool Whip

Fold in the Cool Whip.

Fold in Cool Whip

The Cool Whip will make it nice and fluffy.

Fold in Cool Whip

4.  Spread the peanut butter mixture into the bottom of the pie crust.

Spread mixture into pie crust

5.  Whisk the pudding mix and 2 C. cold milk together in a large bowl until relatively smooth.

Chocolate Pudding Mix
Add milk to the pudding mix
Whisk milk and pudding mix

6.  Add the remaining Cool Whip and stir to combine.

Add remaining cool whip

7.  Spread the chocolate mixture on top of the peanut butter layer.

Spread chocolate mixture over peanut butter layer
Double Layer Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Okay.  So it’s not the most attractively presentable dessert to take to a gathering.  But I promise you, when people get a taste of that creamy, chocolaty, peanut buttery goodness, they won’t care.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Especially when served with a tall glass of milk.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Milk

Seriously.  If you ever want anything from me – almost anything at all – shove a piece of this under my nose and I won’t be able to resist.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Whipped Pie

Is anyone more crazy about chocolate and peanut butter than me?!

Does FEMA Make Housecalls?

So, I started packing for the trip this morning. Seeing as how it’s less than two weeks away, I figured it’d be prudent to start now so that I don’t, in a last-minute panic-blind frenzy, end up with a suitcase containing 20 pairs of shoes, a waffle iron and no underwear.  And, frankly, I’d rather not spend my first week in a Costa Rican jail facing public lewdness charges for trying to mime ‘Where can I buy underwear?’ to the locals.

Besides, my Puritanical beliefs require me to wear old-timey pantaloons to hide my shame from the ever-vigilant eyes of God.  And those suckers are a nightmare to shop for.

So, as I said, I started packing this morning and would like to pause for a moment to share with you a photo that accurately reflects my mental state right now.  (Okay, that, and I didn’t feel like doing any more packing.)

Somewhere under there is a kitchen table.  And possibly another cat, because I haven’t seen the other one all morning…

Mind you, this may not look like a travesty just yet, but keep in mind that (a) I’m a neat-freak to the point of being emotionally crippled by mess and disorder, (b) I started packing less than an hour ago, and (c) this is just the dining room.

Believe me when I say that in the bedroom lurks a massacre of clothing, toiletries and unspeakable, butt-clenching horror.  But I refuse to show it to you because what also lurks in there are a few small, mildly annoying mystery stains on our bedspread that have since become one large, gruesome mystery stain after I sprayed stain remover on them.  So, the boudoir is off-limits until our bed no longer looks like the scene of a ritual animal sacrifice because I’d rather not have any of you jumping to any conclusions about what sort of kinky shenanigans go on in there.

Man, I hate packing.  Whether it’s for a weekend trip or a two-month-long excursion, it’s always accompanied by the same irrational fear that I’m going to forget something important and irreplaceable and be royally screwed for the rest of the trip.

Holy crap, Katie and I leave in ten days. TEN DAYS.

That’s not nearly enough time to become fluent in Spanish.

That’s not nearly enough time to become a well-read expert on Costa Rican geography, history, politics, economy and culture.

That’s not nearly enough time to tone my thighs and abs and cultivate a warm, golden brown tan so that I can cavort playfully in the surf in a skimpy gold lame bikini like they do on Sports Illustrated covers.

I’m fully anticipating total anarchy mixed with periodic insanity and bouts of uncontrollable crying before all’s said and done.

(How fun am I??)

Guest Bathroom Befores and Not-Quite-Afters

You don’t have to say it – I already know.  You’re mad because I’ve been lax in my home renovation updates.  And I want you to know that I understand.  It’s okay to be upset.

It’s like 4 months ago I tricked you into thinking this blog was going to have actual DIY projects and before-and-after photos.  I took you out to a nice dinner, opened the car door for you, wore a fancy suit – then, when we started to get comfortable, I began complaining about your cooking, making jokes at your expense, and wearing my holy underpants.

It’s inexcusable, I know.  But the thing is, people change.  Interests change.  And while it’s still incredibly important that we get this house in shape before we have to sell it, I’ve got bigger fish to fry right now than picking out flooring to replace the worn-out carpet in the living room or scraping popcorn off the rest of our ceilings.

But.  That doesn’t mean I can’t show you some things we’ve done already.  There are several rooms in the house that, while not complete, are vastly improved from the day we moved in.

Aside from the remodeled kitchen, our guest bathroom has probably seen the most change.  I showed you how it looked like a crime scene for several months while we attempted – in vain – to remove the maroon paisley wallpaper.  But lucky for us, and our guests, it now looks a whole lot different.


Guest Bathroom (before)


Guest Bathroom After


Kate's Guest Bathroom Wallpaper Removal



Kate's Guest Bathroom Crime Scene



We tiled the floor with porcelain tiles bought at Restore Warehouse for a fraction of what they would’ve cost at a tile store.  The actual DIY process of tiling the floors was not captured in photos.  Let’s just say it consisted of approximately 48 hours of intense stress, sweat, near-filing of divorce papers, and maybe a little blood.

Curved shower curtain rod

We tore out the old brass shower doors and had the nasty yellow tub refinished.  Then we hung this nifty curved shower curtain rod to make the shower extra roomy.

Decorating the Toilet

I haven’t hung anything on the walls yet, but I have decorated my toilet.  Because I’m cool like that.  We added the wainscoting and chair rail (all that white trim on the bottom half of the walls) because when we ripped out the vanity, we may have damaged the drywall.  Just a bit.  So this was our solution.  Happy accident, right?  We only had to re-do it once.

And I bought this nifty cylinder thing to hold the TP.  Pedestal sinks look pretty, but they’re sure not ideal for storage.

And um… we can wash our hands.

Rolled-up Towels

We can dry ’em, too.


And if we find we need to do dirty, smelly things in this pristine new room, then at least we have this.

Any questions?