Navigate / search

Turn the Page

I’ve noticed lately that I spend a lot of time missing things.

Tonight, on my way home from work, it was just me, the road, and the bright blue moon.  The backs of my hands glowed as they rested on the steering wheel, and I wondered who forgot to turn the lights off Upstairs because it almost felt like day – a day devoid of color other than soft indigos and aquas, but still light, somehow.

I usually pass a few cars on this stretch, but tonight the highway was eerily desolate – as lonely as a highway gets at 2 in the morning.  The feeling of isolation didn’t get better when Seger’s Turn the Page came on the radio, I kid you not.

On a long and lonesome highway
East of Omaha [And I am east of Omaha.  Way east.]
You can listen to the engine
Moanin’ out his one note song…

And it suddenly occurred to me that, no matter how much I don’t like this town or am antsy to move on, I’m probably still going to miss this road one day.

Much like I miss roads I’ve hated before.

Nostalgia does wonders for sour memories.

This I know.

This road is amicable, loyal, and has never failed to take me where I need to go.  And even if I’m no longer here several years down the line, I’ll be damned if this road doesn’t stay almost just as I left it.  Running from my house, to the bar, and back again.

One day I’ll turn the page on this portion of my life.  But this road isn’t going to budge.

And that’s somewhat comforting to know.

Cracked cake batter sky – Not the same moon from tonight, but close.  I took this photo from my back deck in November, 2010.

So Happy Together

Imagine me and you
I do
I think about you day and night
It’s only right
To think about the [blog] you love
And hold her tight
So happy togetherrrrr…..

-The Turtles, “Happy Together”

Okay, was that awkward?

And has it really been a year today since I started this thing?

I can’t believe how much has changed since March 2010.  And I’m just going to say it – 2010 was a bitch of a year.  For me and many people I know, it seems like last year was like dangling bait – giving us some things we think we might want, only to snatch them away again.

And then, just when we think we’ve hooked ourselves a nice big walleye, all we come up with is a bunch of seaweed.

Twenty-ten can kiss my ass.  Because it certainly kicked it.

But good.

So let’s look at a few of the things that have changed since I started this blog.

By the end of: March 2010 March 2011
Age: 27 28
Employment: Army contractor working with GIS and Sustainability programs. Waitress.
Approx. Number of Times Hugged by Drunk People I Don’t Know: 5-10 5,782
Countries Lived In: 1 2
Fluent in Curse Words in Number of Languages: 2 3
Blog Posts Written: 9 212 (260 including my Costa Rica cohort, Erin)
Blog “hits”: 225 29,278
Average “hits” per day: 45 149
Hard Drives Destroyed: 0 2
Aspirations: Undefined We’re getting there.


You’d think by these comparisons – especially the job thing – that I’d be less happy this year than I was last year.  But not true!

(In case you weren’t around, I quit my job in order to go to Costa Rica and make hot sauce.  Feel free to read about that fun little adventure over in the Bon Voyage section of the site under “Living and Learning.”)

In any case, think it’s safe to say that I’ve been going through a bit of an identity crisis since I started this blog (and honestly, it started even before that).  Whether you recognized it or not, a big part of this thing has been working through who I am – the things I like – the things I don’t like – and just putting it out there to see what I (or anyone else) can make of it.

So if you’re new here, click around.  Explore.  Ask me questions.  I won’t bite.


It’s crazy for me to look back through actual documentation of the things I’ve done.  It’s definitely not much, but for someone who has a terrible memory, probably because she went through that pot smoking phase during her senior year of high school (sorry mom!), it’s nice to see.  Nice to see I did something, you know?

For example, I did a lot of cooking (You can see all of the recipes in the “Down the Hatch” section under “Living and Learning“):

California Grilled Veggie Sandwich

California Grilled Veggie Sandwich

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Portobello Shroomies with Creamy Scallop Topping

Spinach Salmon Bundles, Cube Steak Sandwich, Shrimp Asparagus & Sundried Tomato Pasta

Spinach Salmon Bundles; My Favorite Steak SandwichShrimpy, Garlicy, Asparagusy Pasta with Wine

I also did quite a few projects that can be found in “Crafts and Decor” and “Making Messes” sections, both under “Around the House“:

Kitchen Cabinet Cork Board

Cabinet Cork Board

finished mirror

Sprucing up Thrifty Finds

Kitchen Layout Options

How to Plan a Functional Kitchen Layout

So there’s definitely been some progress.

And obviously some fall-backs.

But definitely some progress.

Because, even with the job quitting and the Costa Rica traveling and the hard drive crashing and the overall turmoil I’ve been choosing to throw at my otherwise placid existence, I’m seeing an improvement on my outlook.

Defining Domestiphobia has allowed me to see why I was feeling trapped in my 9-5.  Why I felt the need to do more.  Why I felt like change – BIG change – more than anything, was the best thing that could happen to me.

In the end, it turns out, if your heart really wants something, you can do one of 2 things:  Deny it, or accept it.  While denial seems like the simpler option – simpler than rocking your world, shaking things up, embracing uncertainty – I can almost promise you that it’s not.

Regret, suppressed passion, and lethargy are not generally things that will make you feel good in the end.

In the end.

In the end, all we have is our own sense of contentment.  Did we love?  Did we laugh?  Did we learn?  Did we come out of it scarred, broken, humbled… but satisfied?

The truth is, we might never find that thing that makes us feel truly complete.  But the excitement of the search – the discomfort of the unknown – is the fun part.

Don’t you think?

Here’s to another year of living and learning.  Sometimes crashing, sometimes burning.

But hopefully it will be worth the ride.

The Man Behind the Curtain

This really isn’t intended to be a self-deprecating post.  Not at all.

And no, it’s not about Justin.

The intention is to show you that even though I always claim to not be perfect, I really. am. NOT. perfect.

So today I’m pulling back the velvet curtain I’ve draped in front of the not-so-attractive aspects of our home to reveal the trembling, scatterbrained, decrepit old man who’s desperately been trying to pose as a Cosmopolitan cover girl for the past 4 years.

And the truth shall set me free.

For example, remember that garden we planted last year?  Well I might have hinted at one point that I thought it was infested with termites.

Then I discovered over the winter while meandering around the yard (okay, I was picking up doggie doo) that yes, it most definitely was infested with termites.

Garden Bed Termite Damage

FAIL.  The seedy little buggers were smart enough to destroy the back of the raised bed where it couldn’t easily be noticed.

And remember that landscape bed we “made over” in the front of the house?  Yeah… well 2 different plant species later, the mulch still looks decent and is relatively weed-free, but the bed is also live plant free, and that’s just not right:

FAIL.  I’m telling you, I can’t keep plants alive to save my life.  Someone HELP me!

Here’s the porch railing that desperately needs to be painted:

FAIL.  We seem to have forgotten that things that don’t necessarily start out as problems in a “fixer-upper” can still turn into problems if you’re remiss in regular upkeep.

And here’s the drywall patches we messed up in the living room:

MAJOR FAIL.  That was one of the first projects we did in this place, and let’s just say our naivety shows.  In fact, the entire color scheme of that room is jacked.  It’s getting re-painted this summer.  With FLAT paint – not high gloss.

Oh yes, and the carpet in the hallway still looks like this:

Old Carpet

Only a little worse.

Oh, and this reminds me, the trim still needs painting, too.

Anyway.  My point here is not just to show you how disgustingly negligent we are when it comes to our house, but to admit just how difficult it can be to finish projects, maintain regular upkeep, clean, repair, and still find time to live in and enjoy the space.

It’s not fun pulling back this curtain to reveal all of our blunders and admit that maybe we were in over our heads a little bit when we bought a “fixer upper.”  It’s not fun to admit that we don’t have it together like so many other home owners (and bloggers) with their perfect green grass and crisp front porches and hole-less floors.  It’s not fun to admit that maybe I’m just not cut out for the ‘burbs.

Or maybe the ‘burbs weren’t cut out for me.

And this is where my particular brand of Domestiphobia comes into play.

I want to have a nice home, where I don’t have to feel embarrassed about holes in the carpet or cobwebs on the front porch or missing shoe molding in the laundry room.  But at the same time, I don’t really care.  Not that much.  I know these things need to get done, but my priorities for my limited attention span tend to get focused elsewhere.

Like food.

Or travel.

Or writing.

Or photography.

Or wine.

So I’ve decided I need to set weekly goals, so I can ensure that these little projects that add up to one big headache eventually get done.  I’ll announce this coming week’s goal on Monday.

Because a home shouldn’t be the source of constant headaches, you know?  It should be a place full of sunshine and warmth.

And ethereal coffee.

A place where you can kick up your shoe-riddled feet, sip your vodka-laced lemonade, and honestly attest that life is, in fact, really really good.

In the spirit of sharing, are there any projects – home-related or otherwise – that you’ve been putting off because it just doesn’t interest you?  Sometimes saying typing it out loud can help, because putting something in writing makes it a lot harder to ignore.

And P.S.

For those of you who didn’t believe me about the green underwear:

Oh, yes.  I just posted a picture of my panties on the internet.

God bless America.

Where Corned Beef, Facebook, Lingonberries and Wandering Desks Come to Play

I have several things to address here.

First and foremost, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I love this holiday, because even though I’m not Irish, it gives me an excuse to wear green underwear (green is my favorite color – not that you really need an excuse to wear green underwear) and drink dark beer (also my favorite color) and eat corned beef and cabbage like it’s my business when any other time of year people just look at me weird for actually loving corned beef and cabbage and wanting to eat it by the plateful until my skin forms a lovely crinkled pie crust of an edge around the waistline of my pants and why are you judging me?!

Second, I finally caved to Mark Zuckerberg, who’s undoubtedly trying to take over the world, and created a Facebook Page for Domestiphobia. I also learned that until I cave again and either pay to self-host this site or pay WordPress for an upgrade to edit the code for this site, I can’t just add a simple “Like” button to the sidebar that you can click to like Domestiphobia on Facebook.

So, in the interim, feel free to click the little Facebook doohicky on the right side of the screen, which will take you to the Domestiphobia Facebook page where you can click “Like” if you want to stay connected to me via Facebook. Of course, you don’t have to do this, but I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want to do this.

The tentative plan is to add photos to that page that you might not see here on (not because I don’t want to share, but because I might never actually get around to writing entire posts about them) and also allow each of you to post photos, questions, links – whatever you want – and maybe generate some discussion. Who knows?

If nothing else, it’s a great way for all of us to cyber stalk each other.

Third, I’m really excited because in a couple of weeks, Alaina and I will be day-trippin’ it to IKEA in Charlotte with the intention of outfitting our homes with the latest in ready-to-assemble Swedish decor. She thinks we’re going so I can buy some things for the office and she can find some items for her nursery, but we’re really going so I can indulge in delectable Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce served cafeteria-style.

I just hope the Tracker can handle all of our purchases on top of our growing bellies (hers from the baby – mine from the lingonberries).

And finally, this Saturday (March 19th) marks the 1 year anniversary for this blog. I know, I can’t believe it myself. I plan to share some interesting facts about the site and maybe recap a few of my favorite posts, so if you’re new here or haven’t been able to read everything I post every single time I post it (although again, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t do that), Saturday’s post will be a good one to catch.

And now, because it’s gorgeous outside and because I’m no longer stuck in a cubicle, I’m going to go in search of something that could potentially be used for the top of my jerry-rigged office desk. (And no, the one from Overstock hasn’t arrived yet. I’m actually a little envious of its cross country tour, which has so far made stops in Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and is now finally taking the straight shot over to North Carolina.)

Just a little tip for today: If you see me flying down the road in the tracker with my body contorted around a piece of wood that you would think would be way too large to fit inside my vehicle, don’t ask questions. Just get out of my way.

Thank you.

What? Everyone Knows I’d Be a Great Mom

The other night my sister and I were watching the same television show at the same time.

I know this because she called me from her apartment in Miami and we proceeded to discuss important issues like why the brunette would be a better choice for the Bachelor but he was so obviously going to pick the blonde because he’s a douche and just look at her.

*I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I only watched 2 episodes of The Bachelor – the first and the last.  And that’s only because there wasn’t a new How I Met Your Mother.  And I obviously can’t do something productive during T.V. time.  Because it’s T.V. time.  Duh.

Anyway, I politely told my sister to shut up and hung up the phone because the show was back on.

A bit later, she called me again.

Kelly:  Hey, did you see that commercial?

Me:  Umm… what commercial?

Kelly:  The one with the mom and the kid and the Jell-0 cheesecake things.

Me:  You know I don’t watch commercials.

Justin:  [pretending to work on his computer but snickering obnoxiously]

Kelly:  Oh, well it reminded me of you.

Justin:  [louder snicker – still doesn’t make eye contact]

Me:  How so?

Kelly:  Because if you were a mom, I could totally see you doing what the mom in the commercial did to her kid.

Justin:  [busts out laughing]

Kelly:  See, this adorable little girl is standing in front of her parents, and her mom is telling her this awful story about how another little girl got trapped in some horrible dark cave with snakes and bogeymen and no cartoons.  And the daughter, who looks terribly frightened, is all, “But she got out, right mommy?” and the mom, in complete seriousness, goes, “No.  She was trapped there for 100 years. All by herself.  And that’s why you should never take mommy and daddy’s Strawberry Cheesecake Temptations.”

Me:  [silence]

Kelly:  And that is so YOU!

Me:  What?! [looking towards Justin to gain a sense of camaraderie, but to no avail]

Justin:  [smiling]  You know you would.

And I hate to admit it, but it’s true.

It’s probably why my neighbors rarely ask me to babysit and why, when my sister does have a baby, she’ll be hesitant to ever let me near it.  Especially if “it” is a girl.

It would be like this cartoon from my favorite comic blog, Fudge That Sugar, so aptly explains:

Comic #17 by Kat at

See, I would definitely be Kat in this scenario.  In fact, I probably have been Kat in this scenario.  I have very few qualms about telling it like it is.  Especially to children.

They need to learn, right?

I mean, really… what’s so wrong with letting my daughter think something bad will happen to her if she eats my food?  It’s MY food.  There’s a reason they make children so gullible.  Totally acceptable parenting, if you ask me.

Which you didn’t.

And now we all know why.

How to Remember the World is Big while Riding the Small World Ride

It’s not all too often that you find out someone you know is doing something truly, mind-blowingly admirable in his or her life.

And I’m not talking about having all the Christmas shopping done by Halloween or filing taxes by the end of February.

I’m talking about something remarkable.  Something challenging.  Something that would push you to the brink of your limits so quickly that you would never even toy with the notion of doing it yourself.

In fact, it makes you uncomfortable just reading about it.

I have a friend, and his name is David.  Actually, I’m not positive I can call him a “friend” as opposed to just an acquaintance since we don’t talk very often, but he keeps popping into my life at random, unexpected times, and the sheer happenstance of one such occurrence makes me want to refer to him as “friend.”

He lived in my tight-knit dorm during my freshman year at college in Ohio.  In fact, he was probably one of the evacuees during the Great Metal-in-the-Microwave Debacle.  After I quit school to take my western America  road trip, we pretty much lost touch.

Fast forward a couple of years to the time I was living in a small off-the-interstate town in south Georgia, of all places.  I mean, it literally was the place where people stopped to get something to eat on their way to Florida.  I know this because I brought them their steak and their peanuts and sang, Fried chicken, country hog, it’s your birthday – yeehaw! to them on their birthdays and swept up their peanut shells long after they left for the mystical land of Orlando to don Mickey Mouse ears and ride the Small World ride (undoubtedly getting the song stuck in their heads for days) and have far more interesting characters sing them far more traditional birthday songs than the one I got paid $2.13 an hour to sing.

But, if you’re lucky and I really like you, I’ll sing it to you on your birthday for free.

So anyway, I was at the “mall” in this south Georgia town with a friend one day when she dragged me into the Hallmark store (Rachel is a Hallmark addict and I love her for it) so she could pick up some new cards.  And there, perusing the shelves as though he had some business being at the Hallmark store in Middle-of-Nowhere Georgia, was David!

“David?!  What the hell are you doing in Georgia??”  I have a really warm way of welcoming people back into my life.

It turns out he was there to teach, and it’s a crazy small world, and blah blah blah, and yes, we should definitely get together for coffee and here’s my number so we can catch up and let’s be sure to not speak to each other again until I move to North Carolina and you move to Texas and we find each other via mutual friendships on Facebook.  Okay?


And it’s via Facebook that I recently learned David is doing this truly incredible, inspiring thing in his life.

Are you ready for it?

Okay, here it is:

He’s walking the Appalachian Trail.  All ~2,200 miles of it.

Now, if you don’t know what that is or how big that is or what that means as far as sheer impressive distance, it’s this:

From the state of Georgia to the state of Maine.

That’s 14 states.

And he’s walking.

Across ridgelines and over mountains and through rivers and facing snow and rain and heat and mosquitos and bears and carrying everything he needs on his back like a turtle except he’s not a turtle – he’s a person – and he’s really doing this.  Alone.

For 5 months.

Nearly half a year of his life will be devoted to this thing.

You can read about David’s journey here on his blog, and I highly encourage you to do so because people just don’t do this every day, you know.  Sure, some people hop on the trail here and there and call themselves accomplished, but the thru-hikers are a special crowd.  You could read A Walk in the Woods by renowned travel writer Bill Bryson for a comical glimpse of what this entails, but even ol’ Billy didn’t do the whole thing.  Not even close.

Seriously?  How blown is your mind right now?  Because mine’s pretty blown.

And I hope he doesn’t mind that I’m writing this because he didn’t know I was going to do it.  But that’s what he gets for friending me on Facebook.

And I don’t care how small we sometimes think the world might be with our cars and trains and planes and phones and internet and everyone staying connected all the time because, when you’re walking across it, experiencing the grime on your face and the blisters on your feet, you just might finally come to realize that it’s not really as small as you’d thought.  It’s really not small at all.

‘Cause We’re Livin’ in a Material World

I know it’s been a while – a long while – since I’ve posted anything about home improvements.

With the exception of certain small-ish projects I’ve mentioned here and there, like painting the office:

and painting/organizing the inside of the hall closet:

We really haven’t been doing a lot around the house lately.

And, I’m ashamed to admit, the closet (which admittedly had more to do with putting off other things I should have been doing than actually making a closet look nice) isn’t even done yet.  But almost.

I promise.

Sort of.

My avoidance of all topics home related is most definitely not because everything is finished.  I could share a list of the things we still need to do before we could ever hope to sell this place, but then I’d probably start crying and my tear-soaked keyboard would malfunction and I’d have to add to the list yet another piece of electronic equipment that’s crapped out because it can’t handle being around me and my hormones.

By the way, I love the fact that being a woman allows me to blame all irrational behavior on hormones.

What?  You think it was immature to throw my POS cell phone across the room?  Well it was the hormones, bitches!

What?  You think I made the waiter feel bad because I cried when he told me they’re out of tiramisu?  Well don’t blame me – it’s the hormones!

Love it.


Like I was saying, the fact that we haven’t been working on house projects has nothing to do with the fact that we’re done.  Far from it.  It’s just that with Justin working his butt off to get promoted (and coincidentally inviting me, of all people, to fancy events) and me gallivanting off to exotic places like Costa Rica, Miami, and Nebraska, (okay, they can’t all be winners), we just really haven’t had the time.  Or the money.  Oh, and my whole quitting my job to “find myself” and make a huge career change thing is actually fairly time consuming too.  And I’m talking about writing – not waiting tables.

But I thought you should know that I’ve finally taken another step towards completing the office.  That photo you saw of the paint job above is the room in its interim phase.  I was just taking a breather before moving on to the next step.

And what is the next step, you might ask?

Organization, organization, organization.

Oh, and I want it to be pretty.

The overall mental plan for the room is to build a new work surface, create a wall of shelving and storage, and paint the existing bookshelves.  If I can find a deal, I might replace the ugly fan with a new light fixture.  I’m working on a very strict budget here, so the goal is to make this as comfortable and functional of a workspace as I can (since I will mainly be working from home), without spending more money than I’ll be making in a year.

(Sooo… what?  Like $50?  Riiiight.  Although, that would be a vast improvement from the $7.88 I earned last year.)

This means we’re getting rid of the two cheap-o desks that were given to us out of pity by another Airman when we moved into our very first shoddy apartment and had only a bed frame with mattress, an old trunk (used as a coffee table), and an entertainment center to our names.  (Yes, we knew what was important.)

Seriously.  We didn’t even have a couch.

So those old desks will either go on Craigslist or we’ll donate them to some other poor military person just starting out.  (Have fun with that, friend!  The debt-less road to materialism is a long one.)

The tentative plan in my head is to jerry-rig a new L-shaped desk into a corner of the room.  The long branch of the “L” will be constructed using filing cabinets (I will need lots of file storage) and some type of narrow-yet-long table top component.  As you can tell, this part is yet-to-be determined.

I like these shallow drawer cabinets from IKEA that Kelly from Tearing Up Houses used in her beautifully serene office remodel to use as the desk “legs”:

The short end of the “L” will be replaced with this desk from Overstock:

It looks almost exactly like this desk from West Elm, but at just over $150 including tax and shipping, the Overstock version is less than half the price:

The shallow drawers will be perfect for some pens, a couple of notepads, and some of the electronic-y type computer equipment (DVD drive, external hard drive, etc.) that doesn’t need to stay out all of the time.

Not a bad deal, huh?  Although West Elm does have an awesome mirror version of this desk that I think would look pretty damn sweet in the office.  But, at $599, it’s just a little out of my budget.  And I’m pretty sure it doesn’t come with a maid who will stand next to it all day to wipe off my fingerprints and tell me to get back to work when I distract myself by squeezing pimples and checking for food in my teeth in its reflective surface.

Plus, I hate to think of all the bad luck I’d have when I crack one of the mirrors by throwing my cell phone too hard across the room.

Because these things happen, you know.

It’s the hormones.

Love the Girl Who Holds the World in a Paper Cup

Drink it up.

You know, I really don’t know much of anything.

What I do know is that sometimes I feel so lost, so clumsy, stumbling around like some idiot in the dark when the light switch is right in front of my face and there are so many paths I could take and there’s no one standing around with a map or directions telling me, Here – take this road.  And then I just get overwhelmed with indecision and sit in the middle of the intersection to pout until I get run over by an 18-wheeler.

But does anyone ever not feel that way?  (If you don’t, please don’t tell me.)

What I do know is that I probably shouldn’t attempt to write blog posts at two in the morning when I’m a) buzzing from a busy night of waiting tables, b) tipsy from a glass of Jack and coke, c) drunk off of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and cold, cold milk (thanks to a very special person whose underwear I happen to clean), or d) all of the above.

What I do know is that many of my days currently revolve around food.  Whether I’m planning it, cooking it, serving it, or eating it, I’m starting to feel like food is consuming my life.  And really – shouldn’t it be the other way around?

(Don’t worry.  I’m not sure what that means, either.)

What I do know is I have two of the cutest dogs that have ever walked the face of this planet and they’re so, so lucky because if they weren’t, I might have had a harder time getting over the fact that they destroyed my calla lilies today.

What I do know is that a girl at the bar totally made my night tonight when she walked up to me, slipped me a $20, and said, I’ve been a waitress before.  I know how it is.  You’ve been awesome.  I know my boyfriend’s a handful.

Her words made me feel really great.

And also a little slutty.

What I do know is that I can’t keep trying to measure my accomplishments (or lack thereof) against other people my age.  Because, the thing is, who am I to put a weight on accomplishments?  Education, income, career, lifestyle… they might all affect how “accomplished” an individual feels, but happiness – in my humble little opinion – is the only true measure of success.

And I’m talking about genuine happiness.  Not just the face you put on at the class reunion.

What I do know is that Catherine is a “blog friend” over on Simply Solo.  Her father, who must be the wisest man on the planet, expelled to her these words of wisdom while she was in the throes of a quarter life crisis: “We’re all lost, Catherine. Don’t you think I’m lost? I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”

What I do know is that I don’t know what I’m doing.  Not in the slightest.

But then, if it’s true that most of us really are lost, then neither do you.

And that makes me feel just a little bit better.

*Title from Danny’s Song, by Kenny Loggins.

Lovin’ Marines and Coq au Vin

I just learned that the Marines are in town, apparently conducting their annual spring artillery training.  Which, incidentally, would explain why the ground is tremoring in this fault-free zone, my house is shaking out of sheer fright, and outside it sounds like “thunder” when there is no storm.

Gotta love living near a military installation.

Lately, with all the noisy aircraft flyovers, it feels like I’m living next to a major international airport without the convenience of… you know… living next to a major international airport.

But I have to admit – the planes are pretty sweet.  Sometimes they make for some fairly amazing backyard barbecue shows.

Unfortunately, I have yet to see something like this raining down over my backyard (they usually manage to hit the drop zones):

I have no idea from where this photo originated.  It’s very likely that it belongs to a local photographer, so if it’s yours and you want credit (understandably) or want me to remove it, please let me know.

Anyway.  This post isn’t going where I’d planned.

It’s just that those explosions are so distracting!  It’s like the handicapper ear buds George had to wear in the short story Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut.  They periodically make loud noises so George, who was smarter than your average bear, couldn’t concentrate, thereby making his thought process more on par with his simple-minded wife, Hazel.  And every time a loud noise went off in George’s ear, Hazel would see him wince and say, Boy, that one was a doozy, wasn’t it?

Aaaaaand I’ve distracted myself again.

What I really wanted to show you was what I made for dinner the other night.  Because I know you care.  And because I gave you a little teaser at the end of yesterday’s post:

Now, I’m not gonna lie.  There’s a bit of work involved in this one.  But it’s not hard.  It’s just work.  Work of the chopping, browning, and simmering variety.

Work I don’t tend to mind.

And I have to say, this is the recipe that you tuck away for special occasions or when you really want to impress someone.  Especially if that someone has a Y chromosome and a bunch of testosterone floating around where logic and reason would normally reside.  (Ha! I’m kidding.  You know I love you, boys.  Almost as much as I love my girls.  It’s the chromosome thing.)

The recipe is Coq au Vin – with an Italian twist.

Don’t let the fancy name scare you – it’s just chicken (well, literally rooster, but we’re gonna go ahead with chicken) and wine.  The Italian twist comes from the sausage.  Because you know I can’t just use chicken and leave well enough alone.  I like my greasy meats.

The genius original recipe can be found right here.

You could serve this over rice, pasta, or even mashed potatoes, but I chose a bit of a unique route.  Since the recipe isn’t exactly healthy, I decided to make faux mashed potatoes out of cauliflower, which I’ve done before with much success.  (Thanks Tracy for the fantastic recipe!) Of course it’s not quite the same as real mashed potatoes, but with a hefty helping of Coq au Vin alla Italiana over the top, who the hell cares?

Here’s what you need to make it the way I did (I cut the amount of chicken in half, but kept everything else pretty much the same):

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (this might even taste better with bone-in meat, but I didn’t want to deal with it)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 (4 oz.) links sweet Italian sausage, sliced (I actually had to use mild Italian sausage because my po-dunk grocery store didn’t have the sweet stuff.  I think the sweet stuff would’ve been better.)
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used more like 3/4 lb. because I bought them in bulk. I looove me some mushrooms.  And I knew I’d have plenty of sauce since I used less chicken.)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can whole, peeled tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
Coq au Vin ingredients

Whew.  That’s a LOT of stuff, I know.  But it also makes a LOT of food.

1.  Heat the 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  (I use my enameled cast iron dutch oven for this, because it allows me to make everything in one, single pot.  But if you don’t have one of these, that’s okay!  Just use a regular frying pan for this first part.  You’ll just have more pots to clean – sucka!)

While your pan is heating up, mix the flour and poultry seasoning together in a shallow dish.  (I like to use a pie pan.  Don’t ask me why.)

2.  Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, then throw about half of your minced garlic into your preheated skillet and add the chicken to brown for a couple of minutes on each side.  Keep in mind that you’re not trying to cook the chicken, here – there will be plenty of time for that soon enough.

3.  Meanwhile, wash and chop your onion, mushrooms, and carrots.  (And you don’t have to peel your carrots, but I do.  I think they’re…I don’t know…nicer that way.  You know, as opposed to mean, dirty carrots.)

4.  When the chicken is browned, throw in your sliced sausage links and stir ’em around.  Let that cook for another few minutes.

5.  Add the carrots, onion, mushrooms, rosemary, and the rest of the garlic to the mix and stir everything together.

6.  Finally, add the wine and can of tomatoes (including liquids).

Notice the smell.  Oh, the smell.  It’s times like these I wish they had scratch ‘n sniff computer screens.

Stick a lid on your pot, turn the heat down to low, and let everything simmer and come together in a veritable orgy of deliciousness for about 25 minutes.  Then season with some salt and pepper (don’t forget to taste it!) and let it simmer for another 10 minutes or so.  The chicken will be nice and soft, the veggies will be cooked, and everything will smell oh, so delicious.

*Note: My sauce was still a little thin for my taste, so I added a tablespoon of corn starch to 1/4 cup of cold water and stirred it into the pot to thicken things up a bit.

7.  Serve alone in a bowl, or over cauliflower “potatoes,” regular mashed potatoes, brown rice… whatever floats your boat.

And if you have any of that red wine left, be sure to drink that, too.  Because, if anything goes with coq au vin, it’s… vin.

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee -” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”

from Harrison Bergeron