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I’m Packin’… Or not.

Okay.

So I am fairly notorious for never being properly prepared for a trip.  But this time?  This time it’s like… extra bad.

Let’s just say we’re T-minus 3 hours from leaving our house, and we still have not packed, I haven’t sufficiently broken in my plane ridin’ jeans (since I failed to buy a decent pair of plane pants), my camera battery isn’t charged, I barely speak any Spanish, and I still don’t know the exchange rate from U.S. dollars to Euros.

Assuming Spain jumped on that whole European Union bandwagon.

The problem is that it never really feels like a trip is actually going to happen until the plane is burning rubber on the tarmac and I kiss the ground goodbye.  (Although let’s hope the plane doesn’t actually burn rubber on the tarmac.  I can’t imagine that would be good.)  This mentality makes it awfully difficult to actually remove items I might need from my bathroom and closet and place them in various bags for transport.

Add to that the fact that only a day or two after we arrive in Malaga, we’ll be heading off on Ryan Air with only strictly size-regulated carry-on bags to spend the majority of our trip on the islands of Ibiza and Formentera.  In fact, the only reason we’re bringing a checked bag (or two) at all is so that we have plenty of room to bring home the maximum allotment of bottles of Spanish wine and other food souvenirs.  This means that we basically need to fit everything — including my DSLR and 2 lenses — into two small backpacks.

In case you’re new here, this is what I packed for 2 months in Costa Rica:

Travel Bags

See that nice, green bag on the left?  That won’t be coming.  It’s too big.

See that black bag on the right?  That’s the bag that’s supposed to fit all of my camera gear, my swimsuits, probably underwear, possibly toiletries, and anything else we can manage to stuff inside.  Then, the rest of our clothes, shoes, and my purse will have to fit inside a second, similarly sized backpack.

Two bags.  Period.  No exceptions.

And I’m actually mildly concerned that backpack might be on the large-side.  I’ll have to measure.

So you can see why someone who normally procrastinates on packing anyway might be particularly intimidated in this scenario.

Oh, well.  I suppose if space gets really tight, we can throw out some of Justin’s clothes, because it’s not like I’d ever leave the camera behind.

Speaking of leaving things behind, I’m bringing my Netbook for use on the plane and maybe a bit in Malaga, but it’s very unlikely that I’ll be taking it to the islands.  This means that I might be sparse on blog posts for a bit, but I promise I’ll make up for it upon our return to reliable internet connections.

That said, I wrote a guest post that will be featured on the blog Simply Solo this Tuesday (5/31), so I really, really hope you go over there and check it out.

Muchas Grassy-ass!

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I Have People Pods.

Not pod people.

But people pods.

You know — different groups of people with whom you identify in different parts of your life.

Except for me, it’s like… extreme.

There’s the “home” people — My husband, current neighbors, and basically anyone who knows me in my nightmarishly perfect suburban ‘hood.  I make dinners and attend cookouts and swap garage codes and recipes and repair man referrals.

There’s the work people — that eclectic group of bar coworkers whom I can’t help but love for their individual quirks, stories, and there-IS-no-such-thing-as-sexual-harassment-when-you-work-in-a-restaurant attitudes.  And that last part is true.  Except when it’s not.  And unless you’ve never worked in a bar/restaurant, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

There’s the old work people — you know, that “real” job I had back before I flipped my sh*t and decided that a 2 month trip to Costa Rica and a savory bar stint were far better alternatives to a gray cubicle and a steady paycheck.  My old work people are awesome, too.  (I’m nothing if not consistently fortunate in finding fantastic people with whom to bitch about work.)

And also a plethora or other old, old work people.  It’s kind of ridiculous how many jobs I’ve held.

My family — immediate, extended, and those through marriage. With divorces and marriages and relocations, I’d say my family makes up several different pods.  Even the members of my immediate family — mom, dad, sister, brother — each live in a different state.  But those are the people who, while they’re less familiar than my current coworkers with the person I am today, will always remember who I was back when I had braces and wore scrunchies and bought my first training bra.  They knew me before I was… me.

And my college friends, from 2 different colleges.  I still keep in touch with many.  The first set knew me when I was trying to “find myself” and was full of hope, ambition, and Everclear.  The second set knew me as the non-traditional older student — the studious one who preferred wine over Everclear and was there for the degree, more than anything else.

My Costa Rica people.  Only for a little while, they were mine.  I won’t forget them.

Military friends.

Online friends.

High school friends.

High school job friends.

Friends of friends.

And each set — each pod – sees me a little differently.  I’m still me — always me.  But the context changes from person to person, place to place.

I can’t decide which view of myself — from various pod perspectives — I like best.

Do you have all these pods, or am I alone here?  Do yours blend together or stay fairly separate?  I’ll admit it weirds me out when people from polar pods overlap — work with family, past with present.  I worry that they’ll catch on to the fact that I’m not always the same, and I might have to choose which person I want to be.

And that just seems so… permanent.

It’s 4:16 a.m. and I can’t remember why I started writing this post.  Anyway.  I hope I made a point.

It’s Almost Like Going Back In Time

We did something crazy yesterday.

Outlandish.

Wild.

(No, we already went skydiving last year.)

(And I already quit my great-paying job to make hot sauce and rappel water falls in Costa Rica.)

So what could possibly be next?

Bungee jumping?  Bull riding?  Hang Gliding?

While I’d love to try all those things (except maybe the bull riding), what we did yesterday was much, much scarier.

We cancelled our satellite t.v. service.

GASP!

I know!

That’s so… un-American of us.

Fortunately, since Justin is in the Air Force, that negates any other seemingly un-American things we do.

We’ve been talking about quitting t.v. for years — even before our income was cut in half.  And I’ll admit that while the decrease in funds played a role in cancelling the service, the real fact of the matter is that when we took a good hard look at our lifestyle, we realized that television was one huge distraction preventing us from doing things we either need to get done or truly enjoy.

Like house projects.

And reading.

And… you know… talking to each other.

Television had become the symbol of lethargy in our house — the reason to not take the dogs for a walk on a lovely evening, or the reason to not quite start building that desk for the office.

So.

Before you completely panic on our behalf, it’s important for you to know that we won’t be cut off completely from the world of sitcoms and movies and… what was that last thing?  Oh yeah, world news.  We haven’t chucked the plasma into the dumpster, we haven’t cancelled our Netflix subscription, and we haven’t traded our tennis shoes for moccasins or started growing out our body hair.  It’s just that from now on, we’re going to have to work a little harder for the distractions, concentrating our efforts on the things we really want to see — downloading the latest Dexter episodes from illegal sites and watching marathons of My So Called Life from Netflix on the weekends.

We might cave and get an antenna so I can still watch the news in the morning.

Honestly?  The thing I think I’ll miss the most is cranking up a mood-dependent satellite music station while I cook or paint a room or clean the house.  Sure, I can still use the free online radio stations, but there’s something about surround sound that makes work seem just a little more… vibrant.

But no longer sitting down to a smorgasbord of commercial-free DVR’d movies and sitcoms for hours on end?

I think I’ll get used to it.

After all, not one person laying on his deathbed ever said,

“Man… I wish I’d watched more t.v.”

P.S.  I think I’m addicted to Pinterest.  In case you missed it yesterday, I’m sending (what seems to be limitless) invites to anyone who wants to join up.  Just go to yesterday’s post and leave a comment telling me you want an invitation.  It’s seriously organizing all of the clutter IN MY HEAD and I’m pretty sure it could finally be the answer to either multiple orgasms or world peace. I’ll let you know.

Life Just Got a Little Easier

**UPDATED**  Good news! It looks like my “invitations” to Pinterest regenerate each time I send one, which means I’m thinking there might not be a limit for how many I can send. So if you want one, let me know in the comments and I’ll keep sending ‘em until it doesn’t let me send ‘em anymore.

You seriously have no idea how exhausting it is living inside my head.

Unless you’re like me, in which case I feel for you.

I do.

It’s like this crazy, tangled mass of dreamy ideas, creative projects, and bucket list items juxtaposed with practical to-do lists, books to read, and inquiries to write.  It’s like Jackson Pollock has set up studio inside my mind and is redecorating the whole thing by tossing over neatly organized file cabinets and scattering the contents of card catalogues and painting over all of the sterile, whitewashed walls with this:

Except with more orange and less black.

If you do know what this is like, or you have no clue what I’m talking about but you love being really organized, I have found the answer, my friends.

And it most certainly is not blowing in the wind.

I realize I’m way behind the times on this discovery, but hey — I’m one of those people who stubbornly refuses to sign up for the newest “it” thing for as long as I can justify waiting ’till they work out the kinks or ’till my friends and readers start pestering me day and night and their urging voices creep into my dreams and haunt my thoughts and I finally, finally succumb to the peer pressure and add yet another user name and log-in password to my mental database of access codes because of course I’ve waited so long to sign up for the latest gimmick that the user name I’m trying to standardize for myself is already taken and the password I’m trying to standardize for myself isn’t long enough or doesn’t have a special character or has too many sequential letters and WHY DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE EVERYTHING SO DAMN DIFFICULT?!

See that paragraph above?  I don’t blame you if you didn’t read it.  That is what it’s like inside my head all. the. time.

Exhausting.

So.  Enter the latest craze (at least in my mind) in social media and “cloud” networking:  Pinterest.

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that I finally decided to give this a try.  Right now, I have tons of web browser bookmarks, saved file images on my hard drive, actual printouts in folders, and excel spreadsheets with links to various home improvement ideas, rooms I like, vacations I want to take, art projects I want to try, etc.

They are everywhere.

The fantastic news is that these ideas — these things I stumble across online that I like but can’t process right this second so I bookmark it to revisit at a later date that doesn’t EVER arrive — can now all be easily accessed via Pinterest.

For example, Kelly from Tearing Up Houses posted this beautiful kitchen on her site.  I love so  many things about this kitchen, that I know I’d like to save this photo for one day — in the far, far future — when Justin and I might stay put in one place long enough to build our dream home.

Rather than right-click the photo and save it to some random file somewhere on my computer (which will inevitably get lost when I buy a new computer or another hard drive crashes), I click the little “Pin It” button that’s now on my bookmark bar, and BAM!  The photo is saved on my Pinterest page to whatever “Pin Board” I designated (in this case, Inspiration Rooms), along with the link to where I originally found the photo!

So assuming Kelly’s page is still there in 50 years when we build our house, I can go back and find the source of the photo and see whether there’s any more information about it.  I can also type my own notes on each photo, so even if the original source no longer exists, I still have whatever information I bothered to note.

Also, whenever I browse my “Inspiration Rooms” pin board, I can easily delete any photos I no longer like.  Pinterest also lets me browse other people’s pin boards for a virtual slurry of inspirational goodness.

It can be a time waster,  yes.  But it also turns my Pollock’s into tranquil beach scenes complete with calming breezes and sweating bottles of Red Stripe.

And that, my friends, is priceless.

The one annoying thing I’ve found about the site so far is that you need an “invitation” to sign up.  That required me requesting one from the main page, and it took a little less than a week to receive my invitation in the mail.  I have no clue why they do this.

The good news is that it appears Pinterest has given me 6 of my own invitations to send to friends, so they can sign up immediately.  So, if any of you are interested and haven’t already joined, leave a comment below telling me so (hey, I rhyme!) and I will email the invitation to the first 6 people who ask.  Just make sure you actually want it so that it doesn’t go to waste!

**UPDATED**  Good news! It looks like my “invitations” to Pinterest regenerate each time I send one, which means I’m thinking there might not be a limit for how many I can send. So if you want one, let me know in the comments and I’ll keep sending ‘em until it doesn’t let me send ‘em anymore.

OMG it’s DIY BZM – BFD!

1,000 points to the first person who can translate the title.

I always get a little nutty before I leave for a trip.

You’d think I’d be doing real preparations, like diligently laying  clothes on my bed and testing their fit in various suitcases and carry-ons, performing a pageant of mini-toiletries on the bathroom vanity stage while judging which ones to tuck inside my bi-fold sundry travel pouch, and scheduling various rub-downs and polishes and waxages to prepare myself (and the world at large) for superfluous amounts of exposed skin.

But no.

I never pack more than half a day ahead of time.  Even for that 2 month trip to Costa Rica.  See, I don’t know what kind of money the rest of you people are made of, but I actually need the stuff I pack.  My closet isn’t divided into a “vacation stuff” section and a “regular stuff” section.  (Though wouldn’t that be nice?)

To me, that would be a waste — like dumping out half a pot of stale coffee and buying towels solely for decoration.

In true procrastinator style, I pack everything in my head weeks in advance, and then I pretty much just dump everything into my bag the night before we leave, toss in a few extras before we hop in the car, and assume that a) I can most likely buy anything pertinent I forget, and b) I most likely won’t die if I forget anything I can’t buy, because nothing is really that pertinent, when you think about it.

Unfortunately, my particular brand of stinginess now has vacation prep spillover into the arena of professional pedicures and BZM (Bikini Zone Management).

Did every guy who reads Domestiphobia just get uncomfortable?  Are there any of you left??

That’s right.  Now that I no longer have a steady paycheck and some nights leave the bar with only $11.80 in my pocket (no, I don’t want to talk about it), certain extravagances like trips to the spa are few and far between.

This kills me for 2 reasons:

1)  Until fairly recently, I had never really been a “spa girl.”  I felt uncomfortable with the idea of strangers touching my feet and picking at my toenails and judging my body hair.  But then, once a co-worker broke me in to the wonderful world of soothing aromatherapies and trickling fountains and music with flutes and complimentary wine, there was no turning back.

2)  Until very recently, pedicures were something I bought for fun — a relaxing day with a girlfriend.  Plus, when my feet look pretty, I feel pretty.  Happy feet equal a happy Katie.  I didn’t actually crave pedicures until I could no longer afford them — until I quit my cubicle job and started waiting tables, running around a restaurant without sitting down for 5-9 hours at a time.

Oh, the irony.

But it’s not a total loss.  Between small tubs of soapy water, $1 mini bottles of toenail polish, pumice stones and drugstore supplies of Nair, I’ll get something worked out before we leave.

See?  DIY applies to pedicures and BZM — not just home improvements.

So if I’m not busy packing or primping, what, exactly, makes me so nutty before a trip?

House cleaning.

Yep, I’m that girl.

When I can see a departure date fast approaching, I start looking around my house — at the small layer of dust coating the bookshelves, the un-vacuumed carpets, the spotty mirrors — and my eye starts to twitch.

(Okay, not really, but my friends know I like to do this fake eye twitch thing when I get irritated.  Yes, I’m weird.  This shouldn’t be news to you.)

How can we leave the house in such disarray? my frantic mind wonders.

What kind of mold might grow on those leftovers if we don’t eat them or throw them out?

What if someone breaks in while we’re gone and sees what filthy pigs we are??

But mostly, I just don’t want to come home from a long vacation knowing one of the first things I’ll have to do (besides laundry) is clean.

Yuck.

So that’s why I’ve been slightly MIA lately.  That, and the fact that I’m trying to plan a not-so-typical baby shower for Alaina (more on that later — it will involve alcohol), edit some photos I took for my neighbor, beta read my friend’s novel, start/finish a few other writing obligations, and complete a slurry of other tasks/projects to which I’ve committed myself before we leave.

WHAT was I thinking?

The only thing keeping me motivated at this point is knowing that soon, sweet soon, I will be here:

And if anything can numb an overwhelming sense of unfinished obligations, it’s sun, sand, and Spanish wine.

dolce far niente.

Which is Italian, not Spanish, but it doesn’t really matter because pretty much all of those Europeans have it figured out.

Flibbety Jibbitz

Truth time.

How many of you are just working whatever job you happened to fall into in order to pay the bills, but you’re still secretly holding out hope that you’re about to stumble across your multi-million dollar idea that initially seems kind of lame but everyone else loves for some reason, like post-it notes and drink umbrellas and those fugly decorative things designed to bedazzle the swiss cheese holes of even fuglier Crocs (seriously — that stay-at-home mom sold her idea for $10 million to the Croc people).

And, once that happens, you’ll be able to retire and your life will finally — finally – start?

**Imagine me sheepishly raising my hand right now**

Some of these ideas were slowly cultivated, researched, and marketed, while others were lightning strike strokes of random luck — the exact opposite of stepping out your front door, tripping on a crack in the sidewalk, and knocking out your two front teeth.  All because you wanted to get your mail.

But for the most part, they all have one thing in common:  they are all products or services that are playful, interesting, and have a broad range of appeal.

However, there are certain niche businesses who undoubtedly generate respectable sums of money while providing goods or services that are… shall we say… less than respectable.

(Or are they actually incredibly respectable because they’re so mind-bogglingly disrespectable — unrespectable? — repugnant?? — that it almost makes them look genius?  Almost.)

The idea:  A couple of days ago I read about a man named Bart Centre, who started a company in 2009 called Eternal Earth-bound Pets, which offers a pet rescue and fostering service to Christians who might be whisked up to Heaven in the event of a Rapture.

The genius:  Centre has built a network of 44 pre-screened atheist animal lovers who have the means and desire to rescue pets from the abandoned homes of the Saved.  In guaranteeing that his caretakers are atheists, true-believing Christians can rest easy, knowing their beloved pets will be well cared for in the hands of those who are destined for Hell.

The twist:  Following the website’s compelling tag-line (“The next best thing to pet salvation in a Post Rapture World“), is an intro paragraph that reads… well… more than a little patronizing:

You’ve committed your life to Jesus. You know you’re saved.  But when the Rapture comes what’s to become of your loving pets who are left behind?   Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.

Then there’s all the businessy stuff, followed by the terms.  Centre charges a whopping $135 for the first pet ($20 for all subsequent pets), guaranteeing rescue for up to 10 years from the date of payment.  The article states that Centre is now servicing 259 clients, and at $135 a pop, that comes to almost $35,000!!  (*Note:  Until the recent May 21st Rapture estimation, the business had been charging $110, so he hasn’t made quite that much.  Yet.)

The question:  Is this okay?  Regardless of what you believe, is it ethically responsible for a man to blatantly poke fun at another person’s religion and then make money off of the very beliefs he mocks?

In my opinion, the answer is a surprising, yes.

Because in the end, whether he’s mocking or not, he really is providing a service — peace of mind to those who believe, and a little humor to those who don’t.

And just like a Jibbitzed Croc hole, how could it be wrong when it feels so right?

The End of the World as We Know It

I really don’t have much to say through the foggy haze of my sleep-deprived mind, but 2 things:

1)  Why, why – when he knows I have a job that keeps me up half the night on the weekends and he’s been a bartender himself, would my neighbor decide that 8:00 a.m. is an appropriate time to use a chain saw?

It kind of makes me hate the suburbs.

2)  Did you know that Fayetteville, NC, approximately 20 minutes away from where I live, is where the American Humanist Association is apparently planning a 2-day extravaganza with over 175,000 attendees to celebrate what they expect to be the failure of the prediction that the world will end tonight?

All I can say is if the world doesn’t end tonight, it should be one Hell heck of a party.

The Rapture is predicted to happen at 6:00.  I’m supposed to be at the bar to work at 6:00.

Honestly?  I can’t say I’ll be too bummed if I don’t make it.

P.S.  How much you wanna bet that my ex-counselor won’t be attending the Atheist party?

Mean Things Come in Small Packages

I don’t know what’s going on with the Universe right now, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the tides and the moon and waxing and waning and the frogs in the pond in front of my house because I have been attacked by not one, but two dogs in the past 5 days.

And the humiliating thing is that they’re not even dog dogs.  Each was a little rat-yapper, adorable and cuddly on the outside, and vicious, maniacal, bad-ass dog wannabes on the… well… outside.

In order for you to understand my seemingly irrational fear of these 4-pound monsters with sharp, sharp teeth, I need to take you back to the summer of 2004, when Justin and I lived in our first horrible apartment together in Valdosta, Georgia.  It was the kind of place where we could hear our neighbors screaming at each other in thick, southern accents through uninsulated walls, and where large, burley men named “Chops” drank beers from coolers in the back of their pickup trucks in the parking lot.

It’s important for you to know that I am not even exaggerating a little.

And Chops was actually a really nice guy.  He almost always offered me a beer.

One particularly beautiful day, I decided to take a walk through the ‘hood.  (In retrospect, this was not my most brilliant idea, considering we lived on the edge of exactly that — a ‘hood.)  I passed a home with two adorable black and brown daschunds (those ridiculous but oh-so-cute little wiener dogs) playing in the front yard.  I noticed that one was tied up and the other was not, and it occurred to me that the untied dog was probably a stray.

Now.  I’m the type of person who, if I encounter a stray dog that I don’t deem dangerous, will try to “save” it and find its proper owners.  So I crouched down on the sidewalk, a good 20 feet away from the stray, and extended my hand, palm-up, as an offering of peace and friendship — the human equivalent of an offered butt to sniff.

Come here, little fella.  Let me see if you have a collar.

The dog’s response?

His hairs immediately stood in a straight line down his back — a line I call the line of meanness when it comes to angry dogs — a line that says, you probably shouldn’t f*ck with me right now because I have a line of meanness running straight down my back that displays my unmistakable ferocity to would-be predators.

Then he bared his teeth.  A mouth full of sharp little angry alligator teeth that — I’m not going to lie — would most definitely hurt if they were to chomp down on… say may ankle, since that’s about as high as he could reach.

And then?  Then he barked.  Well.  It wasn’t so much a bark as a yap that just wouldn’t stop, and it struck me as ridiculously hilarious that this little turd of a dog responded to my mild approach in full-on attack mode.

It was like this, except meaner.  Much, much meaner.

But here’s where it gets embarrassing.  The second the chuckle escaped my lips, the dog took off, headed straight for my face.  Apparently, he did not find it amusing.

So, I reacted with my gut, and I ran.  I ran back the direction I’d come, and that little effer chased me down the street.  Once he felt I was a suitable distance away from the house, his line of meanness flattened out and he returned to his docile playmate, still tied up in the yard.

What.  The.  Hell.

That did not just happen.  I turned around, determined to pull up my big girl panties and pass the house unscathed, but the second he sensed my approach, up went the hairs and out came the teeth, like I’d angered the Hulk or something in wiener dog form, and you know what I did?

I went down another block to pass the house.

It was an emotionally traumatic experience.

So, fast forward seven years to my latest encounter this past weekend with the yappy little mutt of my neighbor’s who, while he appears ferocious and hyper as little dogs go, is usually very licky and wiggly when you actually head over to play.

But not this time.

This time, for some inexplicable reason, he found it pertinent to latch himself to my arm using only his teeth, and let me tell you — it hurt like a sonofabitch.

I impulsively dislodged the dangling black critter’s teeth from my flesh and continued next door to complete the task I’d set out to start, which was letting my other neighbors’ dogs outside while the owners were out-of-town — much nicer and gentler dogs in the form of a German Shepherd and Chow-mix.  Then I headed home to Justin’s graduation party and dulled the pain with Cabernet and Southern Comfort, though not at the same time.

The bite left a small wound and a bruise that has since turned a lovely shade of yellow and will probably leave a scar as a helpful reminder that tiny, vicious dogs are not to be trusted.

And just in case I didn’t get the message, I was walking Mara across a dam in our neighborhood yesterday, when from out of nowhere this little yapper was suddenly about 10 feet behind us and closing in quick, the line of meanness prominently standing on its deceivingly adorable and fuzzy little back.

Startled, we turned to face it head-on.

Luckily this time, I was prepared.  I was prepared with a beast who had 50 pounds on this thing easy, and all Mara had to do was take one aggressive step in its direction in my defense, and it immediately pulled a 180 and ran off from whence it came.

And now?

Now I’m pretty sure I can never leave home without her.

Running Dog

*Disclaimer: I do NOT think all small dogs are mean. I have met plenty of friendly daschunds and other yappers who haven’t attacked me. It just so happens to be that those are the only kinds of dogs who have attacked me, hence the generalization.

Plant Nanny Giveaway Winner!

Although I read through all of the comments to the giveaway, I knew the only fair way to pick a winner was to use random.org to select the winning comment number.  Some of your responses to what kind of wine you enjoy cracked me up — and others I’ve added to my list “to try.”

***THE WINNER HAS BEEN RANDOMLY CHOSEN!***

This giveaway is no longer accepting entries.  I used random.org to select the comment number of the winner, and the winner is:

Rebecca! (Who likes a Pinot Noir.)


Thanks to those who participated — I wish I could send plant nannies to all of you!

Leggo My Sausagy Breakfast Casserole Stuff

So.  In case you didn’t notice, I have a fantastic giveaway going on right here.  And let me just say this:  Many, many more people viewed the giveaway than entered, and I’m thinking either 1) This giveaway is not lame – it’s just that only certain people are cool enough to want it; or 2) You couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment or were scared to leave one because you thought I might judge you for your choice of wine.

All I can say is, 1) Be cool.  Enter the contest; 2) Click on the number of comments at the bottom of the post to leave a comment from the main page or just scroll down to the bottom of the comments and type something in the “leave a reply” box; 3) While I don’t believe all wines are created equal, I do believe that there are people in the world who aren’t going to think exactly the way I think or like the exact things I like.  Rest assured I’m the last person to judge.  I think we established that here.

Now that the boring business stuff is out of the way, I noticed that I’ve been getting some new readers lately who’ve been leaving really, really nice comments.  I’m not sure where you’re coming from, but thank you.  Also, I’m super amazed when some of you who’ve been reading this for a while now mention something I posted 6 months to a year ago.  I mean — I don’t even remember what I posted this week, let alone last year, so thank you for continuing to not only read my public account of my successes and failures, but for actually remembering it.

On second thought, feel free to forget about my failures.  Who wants to remember those?

If there’s anything at which I fail on a regular basis, it’s cooking.  That’s a big reason I like to share recipes on this site — to catalog those occasions when it actually works out — if not exactly according to plan, at least it’s still edible.

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, and since we had a bit of company last weekend, I thought I’d share an old favorite that I use almost every time we have house guests:  The Breakfast Sausage Casserole.

For those of you who are new and don’t understand why a self-proclaimed domestiphobe is getting all Betty Crocker on you, the short answer is that I’m a learner.  I like to evolve.  If I’m bad at something but I enjoy it anyway, I make the effort to get better.  So if you’re scared of cooking but want to learn, there’s no better way than to just dive right in.  Accept the fact that mistakes will be made, and we’ll all get along just fine.

(And trust me — sometimes there’s nothing more therapeutic than chopping up an onion and throwing it into a simmering pan of butter — especially if you have a particularly vivid imagination and can picture the onion as a crazy ex boss or that horrible guy (or girl) who broke your heart for no reason back in college.  This is all figurative, of course.)

And if you’re not afraid of cooking and are already pretty excellent at it and consistently pronounce the word prosciutto with an accurate Italian accent, you might just want to go ahead and skip this post entirely.

So.  Breakfast casserole.  This is a classic recipe that everyone should keep in their arsenal for low-maintenance house guests because it’s relatively inexpensive, it feeds a lot of people, and the leftovers are fantastic.  Plus, you make it the night before, so all your hungover self has to do in the morning is preheat the oven and pop it in.

There are many variations of this dish — I know Justin’s mom has at least 2 different and delicious recipes she makes when we visit — but this one is my favorite because I got it from my grandmother.

To make it, you will need:

  • 2 lb. Sausage (As usual, I use Jimmy Dean’s sausage. For this one, I use one hot and one regular. I make too many things with sausage.  I think I have a problem.)
  • 3 cups of seasoned croutons (any brand will do)
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese (any kind – cheddar, marbled… I think this time I used a brick of blended Monterrey Jack and cheddar. You can buy the bags of pre-shredded stuff, but I think it tastes better when you grate your own.)
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 tsp. dried mustard
  • 1 small can mushrooms, drained (optional) (This would also be great with some fresh sautéed mushrooms.)

I apologize for the lack of step-by-step photos in this post.  I may have been a glass of wine into making this and distracted because our guest had already arrived.

1)  Heat a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage, break it up and heat until it’s fully cooked (no longer pink).

[Imagine there's a picture of sausage cooking on the stove here.  I'm sure I have one somewhere from the other 8-bagillion sausage recipes I have here, but I'm too lazy to look.]

2)  While the sausage is cooking, grease a 9×13″ pan and layer the croutons on the bottom.  These will eventually become a soft crust for the casserole.

3)  Sprinkle the 2 cups of cheese over the croutons.

4)  When the sausage is finished cooking, drain the grease (or use a slotted spoon) and layer the sausage over the cheese.

Note:  This is a pretty basic and hard-to-screw-up recipe, but I will have you know that the layering is important.  If you mess up the order, you could end up with croutons floating at the top, and that just doesn’t make sense.  I might have learned this from experience.

5)  In a large bowl, beat the 6 eggs with a fork.  Stir in the teaspoon of dried mustard, 2 1/2 cups of milk, and can of cream of mushroom soup.

Pour this mixture over the top of the sausage.

It will be lumpy and perfect.

Now’s also the time to add the canned mushrooms if you’re using them.  This time, I did not.

6)  Cover and let it sit in your fridge overnight.  This is when the croutons will soak up all that milky, eggy goodness to form a nice, soft crust once baked.

7)  Set your alarm for a couple of hours before you want to eat.  Drag your bedraggled self to the kitchen and preheat your oven to 300-degrees Fahrenheit.  Nap on the couch until the oven is preheated.  When the oven is preheated, stick in the casserole and go back to bed for 1 1/2 hours.

Or, if you’re smart, make coffee — lots of coffee — and wait for the casserole.  Because if you have a crappy oven like mine, the casserole might get a little… crisp.

But the amazing thing is that it’s still SO good!

This holds together a lot better if you actually let it cool a bit before devouring.

It’s not fancy.  There’s no prosciutto.  It uses canned soup, for crying out loud.

But it reminds me of a Sunday morning at grandma’s.  Before life got all… hard.

And that, my friends, is worth every, delicious, sausagy bite.