An Oatmeal Morning

One of my favorite parts about a cold winter morning is breakfast. Specifically, my bowl of oatmeal. This may sound random, and I suppose it is, but just look at it!

Delicious, I tell you.

The thing that is so wonderful about this oatmeal is that it isn't just oatmeal. It's the mix-ins, if you will, that make it so tasty (not to mention healthy, although oatmeal is plenty good for you on its own). Here's my oatmeal mix-in recipe, written just for you, dear reader.

Something oatmeal-y. A packet of instant oatmeal or a scoop of quick-cooking oats does the treat. Or go all out and cook up a serving of Bob's Red Mill steel cut oats. That's my vote.

Something sweet. Honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar. It depends on the morning. On this particular morning, it's brown sugar.

Something milky. Not too much, mind you. Just a little splash of milk or cream or half-and-half, to make the oatmeal nice and creamy.

Something fruity. If I have strawberries, blueberries, or bananas on hand, they're definitely going on the bowl. If I don't have fresh fruit, it's usually dried cranberries. Any dried fruit would be good actually. And sometimes, if they're both sitting around, fresh and dried fruit go in together. That's what you're seeing here. Why not?

Something nutty. This is pretty much whatever I have on hand. Almonds are a favorite. Pecans and walnuts are great too. Or some of each. This morning, it's walnuts.

Now get your eyes off my bowl of oatmeal and go make your own. Yum. Then do the same tomorrow. Your body and your taste buds will thank you.


Loving the Governor

I just read the most wonderful description of our favorite person, the Illinois governor (do we have to call him that still?). After I stopped laughing hysterically, I thought I'd share it with you:

"I love Blago.

I love his beady little eyes. I love his Serbian shock of hair. I love his flaring nostrils. I love the way he jogs through the snow under indictment, like a stork in spandex trying to gallop. I love the way he compares himself in quick order to Pearl Harbor, Oliver Wendell Holmes and a dead cowboy."

Can't you just see him? It's priceless.

It was written by The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd—you can read the rest of her column here.

Or why not try your hand at your own description of that dashing fellow who, it appears, doesn't have just once screw loose but many (under that perfectly coiffed noggin of his, of course)? I'd love to read it.

Then again, I think Chicago mayor Richard Daley summed it up better than anyone could, with one word mind you: Cuckoo.


Recycling (and fails)

It's a sad day in the world of Julie. Sigh.

I just spent a good hour attempting to recycle the items that have taken over our garage. It happens every so often—I wait too long and suddenly a trip through our garage is like navigating an obstacle course, with broken-down cardboard boxes threatening to tumble over in one direction and boxes full of brown glass bottles and tubs of soda cans blocking your way the next.

So I got down to business, sorting and organizing all that recycling before loading it into my car and heading to the great new recycling center I wrote about last month. The only problem? It was closed.

"Darn," I said to myself. Then, in an attempt at optimism I said, "Well, self, maybe they just shortened their hours until spring." But deep down, I knew better.

So instead I drove down to the big recycling bins across from the park. I was out of luck with all the glass crowding my trunk (it's not accepted there), but at least I could recycle the cans and plastic containers and paper there. Only I hit another snag in the game plan: the giant bin for cans and plastic was full. No, more than full. It was overflowing. People had even left bags of items that didn't fit sitting on the walkway next to the bin (not good stewardship, in my opinion—who says hey, the recycling is full, I'll just throw my waste down on the ground for someone else to deal with—but that's another rant for another day).

So I dumped the tub of paper items I had with me in the paper bin (one little tub! out of a whole car's worth of recycling!) and headed home, determined to find out when the Good Sam recycling place was open to go back.

And then my greatest fears were confirmed. According to their website, due to financial difficulty (hmm—bet you haven't heard that phrase at all lately), the recycling center closed on 12/31/2008. Sigh again.

So now I have a car full of recycling and nowhere to take it.

This makes me very sad, for a number of reasons. For one thing, Conservative Boy (yes, him!) and I have gotten very good at recycling. Most weeks we only have one bag of garbage (that's not even all the way full) to take out to the curb. But what good does it do when there's nowhere to take it?

I know what some of you are going to say right now. Stop recycling. It's not worth it anyway. It wastes more energy than it saves. But you know what? I don't buy it. Yes, recycling does require energy—the energy to transport the goods to where they are recycled, to sort them, to break them down and manufacture them into whatever comes next. But the energy used to manufacture new products from raw materials is at least ten times more than the energy consumed by collecting and recycling—and by transporting the recycled goods to retailers too. (I did not pull this fact out of the air, by the way—it's from a 2004 study from the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. This is the sort of thing I like to read for fun.)

And, even if we aren't going to run out of room for landfills anytime soon, as lovely Umbra points out:

"... landfills themselves are no innocent wildflowers dotting the landscape. Piles of trash lying smushed together are fairly disgusting, seeping dubious goo and farting to beat an 8-year-old on a school bus. The leachate of our trash melange contains dangerous toxins. Diverting garbage of all sorts becomes increasingly urgent as electronics consumption (and thus disposal) rises. Recycling innocent tuna cans forms a habit that may eventually pave the way for recycling cell phones and car batteries."

I had to quote her. She says it so eloquently!

But still, Umbra's wisdom does not solve my problem. My car is full of recycling and I have nowhere to take it.

Photo: Rosa Say from Flickr


Penne a la Betsy

Last Friday I tried another new recipe. It's called Penne a la Betsy. This one drew my eye because:

1. It's made by The Pioneer Woman, whom I absolutely adore for her wackiness, recipes, photography skills, lodge, handsome cowboys ... oh, and wackiness

2. With a name like "Penne a la Punk-Ass Betsy" (or Penne a la Betsy if you're being formal), it has to be good

3. It's pasta ... and you know I love pasta

4. It has shrimp

5. It's easy

6. It's pasta

Well, you get the idea. So, for all these reasons and more, try it yourself. It was pretty darn delicious. Serve with crusty bread, a salad, and a glass of wine and your Friday will be complete.


Not Getting Salmonella

Yikes! I almost got salmonella poisoning. Well, maybe I almost got salmonella poisoning.

In case you haven't heard, there's a big recall on products containing certain types of peanut butter.

I'm a huge peanut butter fan. I mean, huge. Currently I have brownies with peanut butter chips on the counter, chocolate and peanut butter ice cream from Oberweis Dairy in the freezer, giant containers of crunchy and creamy peanut butter in the cupboard ... well, you get the idea.

So the other day when I heard about the salmonella outbreak I dutifully checked the FDA website to confirm none of my tasty products are included. At the time, I was safe.

Then I just read that the recall now includes some Clif products that contain peanut butter. Uh-oh. When I'm running between teaching and taking classes I often eat part of a Clif bar as a snack so I don't croak. (Trust me, you don't want to see what happens when I don't eat regularly.) I just stocked up on Clif bars over the weekend for this very reason. And yesterday, I carried a certain Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif bar around in my bag in case I needed a snack right before teaching. But I forgot about it. So I left it in my bag because I knew I'd need a snack during my night class since it goes for 3.5 hours straight and I have to eat dinner at 4:45 p.m. in order to make it to class on time.

But our professor brought us cookies so, again, no snack.

Thank God!!

One of the Clif bars I have (the Peanut Toffee Buzz) is safe because the date isn't listed on the Clif bar website. But the one I almost ate yesterday is definitely included on the list.

Now, I realize I may have eaten that Clif bar and been totally fine. But still, it's not a risk I'm willing to take so that poor fellow is now sitting in my garbage. I'm tempted to toss the other one too, in fact. I hate the idea of wasting a perfectly good Clif bar, but you can't be too safe, right?



I love reading. Love love love it. I've been a big fan of reading since ... well, since I can remember, actually. First, of course, I was a fan of listening to the stories my parents read to me. And as soon as I could, I started reading every book I could get my hands on—mostly fiction, but occasionally nonfiction and poetry too.

I didn't read romances or science fiction at all, but devoured mysteries and action adventure stories and historical fiction and, of course, a lot of the "classics"—Hemingway has long been one of my favorites, Twain, Nabokov, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Orwell, Bronte ... you get the picture. I also discovered some great modern fiction writers over the years and, of course, regularly indulged in the likes of John Grisham and Clive Cussler. (I love Dirk Pitt. Always will.) See? I was open to a variety.

Leisurely reading quickly falls by the wayside when you have other reading obligations, however. When I was in college I got my fill of reading for fun on breaks but read very little of my own choosing when I was in school. (Although, fortunately, one of my majors was English so I often had the opportunity to read something other than textbook material for class.)

After college, my leisurely reading was still sporadic. I'd spend all day staring at a computer screen writing words or editing words, then often came home at night to edit more words as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. Sometimes, you just have to have a break from words. So I'd catch up on a couple of magazines here and there, read an occasional book, but nothing too intense. Mostly I'd do my reading when I was traveling and didn't have to think about anything else.

Then, of course, I started school again. And started teaching. Then all leisurely reading ceased, except for whatever magazine I'd read while on the elliptical or riding the bike at the gym. My days were filled with reading student papers and environmental ethics missives and essays I was considering having my students read in class ... no time for anything else.

So, needless to say, by the time I finished teaching and taking classes last semester, I'd accrued quite a list of must-read books I wanted to work my way through. I made a pretty good dent in them, and managed to whittle down the giant pile of magazines in my office a bit too. It was quite a variety:

I started with So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger. Then read The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (not exactly a lighthearted beach read, but I was hooked contemplating how the planet would react should humans one day vanish ... interesting stuff).

In between those, I hit a Jodie Picoult kick, because they're quick reads that deal with some pretty interesting topics: Change of Heart, Keeping Faith, then Perfect Match.

Now I'm halfway through with The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and am crossing my fingers I can finish it before it gets abandoned for my grad school reading.

The problem is, in the course of catching up on my leisurely reading, my to-read list somehow has grown even more. So I've resolved to do leisurely reading every day—even if it's only for five or 10 minutes a day. We'll see how that goes. Check back with me in a month and I'll probably say, oops, didn't do it. My head will be reeling with environmental economics and student descriptive essays by then. But we'll see.

In the meantime, what books should I add to the list?


A New Use for Broomball Shoes

The last time I wore my broomball shoes was nearly a year ago, when I played a game of midnight broomball in Des Moines. Prior to moving to L-Town, Conservative Boy and I played on a co-ed broomball team—although our team was inexperienced and ... um ... not exactly the best team in the league, we had a terrific time. So I was sad when I had to pack up my broomball shoes because, as I discovered, there wasn't anywhere around here where we could play.

But then right before Christmas Conservative Boy had a brilliant idea (don't let that go to your head, mister): why not wear our broomball shoes when walking Butter?

I tried it recently when the sidewalks were so coated with ice that nobody in their right mind would walk a large dog (who sometimes walks me more than I walk him—we're still working on that). Or any dog at all. But with broomball shoes on? Piece of cake.

The shoes are pretty warm (perhaps even warmer than my cheap, albeit awesome, moon boots) and cushiony. And their big rubber soles provide traction on the ice, so although you can't be as sure-footed as you would be on dry pavement, you can walk along on icy streets and sidewalks with relative ease. So, while even Butter slipped and slid around in his hurry to pee on everything possible, I felt relatively surefooted.

Now that we're back into reasonable dog-walking weather (read: no negative temps) it's time to get Butter back out for his daily walks. Rest assured if you see me around town later today with a playful yellow-white dog in tow, I'll be wearing my broomball shoes. They may look goofy, but I'm hopeful they'll save me from a broken bone or five.

That's why I've been thinking that the manufacturers of these broomball shoes should get their butts in gear and do some cross-selling. Think about it: these shoes would be perfect for delivery people who regularly have to brave icy sidewalks. Tie a pair of these babies on and suddenly those sidewalks aren't a workman's comp claim waiting to happen. And not just that. Think of all the serious walkers who hate to be cooped up inside on icy days when they can't possible walk outside. With broomball shoes, they can. In fact, in wintry climes where ice is the norm a good number of months out of the year, why wouldn't you wear these shoes whenever you have to go outside?

Seems like a good idea to me.


Coming Home to Butter

Whenever I come home from class or the gym or wherever else I may be, this fellow greets me. And he's always exceptionally excited to see me. Always. Even though he's gazing at me over the top of his gate.

The hallway and bathroom are Butter's domain when we're away (well, except when I'm not around and Conservative Boy lets Butter have free reign ... but that's breaking the rules, and it has led to the destruction of many remote controls).

Butter knows where he goes when we leave well enough now that often if we're putting on shoes or coats he'll run into the hallway and wait patiently for us to put up the gate. Or, if he hasn't figured out it's time to go, all we have to say is "go to bed" and he assumes his position.

It's a wonderful, arrangement, really. And then he'll sit there, head resting on the gate, tail wagging, until we leave.

And when we come home? Man, is he excited to see us.


Defining Home

When is it, exactly, that a place becomes your home?

Not in the physical sense, of course. The place where I’m sitting right now writing this is certainly my home. But when do you get to the point where you’ve put down roots, where you’ve occupied a place where you weren’t born long enough to be considered a bona fide resident?

It’s a tricky question and one I’ve been mulling over lately. I recently attended a holiday party when I was speaking with a couple of women who’ve lived here the majority of their lives now—20, 30, 40 years, perhaps more. But they weren’t born here and they weren’t raised here. And so, they reminded me, they’re not L-Townites. And never will be.

I certainly don’t consider myself an L-Townite—and don’t expect to be anytime soon. I’ve only lived here for just over a year. Yet that conversation got me thinking about when, if ever, you shed your past associations with certain locations and come to see yourself as a resident of the place in which you currently live.

For most people, I think it takes a while. Quite a while.

There’s something about the place in which you’re born, in which your parents choose to raise you. Of course, if you happened to move around frequently as a youngster, perhaps you learn from an early age to embrace new locations and never really identify with a certain place. But if you spend most or all of your childhood in one location, it’s natural that you would come to identify yourself as a resident of that town, that state, even that region. (I grew up in Hulett. I’m forever a Wyomingite and a Westerner, even though I keep creeping farther east.)

And so, when your childhood memories and the key developmental years of your life are rooted in one place, odds are wherever you journey afterward, when people ask where you are from you pause, torn over blurting out the place you grew up or where you live now.

There are, of course, times when you will identify with the state and town in which you now reside. They don’t let you keep license plates forever, so the license plate on my vehicle states that I’m an Illinois resident. (Let me tell you, giving up the last external vestiges of where you grew up, like your driver’s license and license plate from your home state, is hard.) And when something great happens—a certain team makes it to the Super Bowl, a candidate from your state wins a national election—you’re proud to say where you live. But the thing is, when something not so terrific happens—like when an incredibly crooked governor gets caught doing something he shouldn’t and turns the state into the laughingstock of the country—you are certainly not a resident. You are an outsider who can’t understand how the natives could possibly have voted him into office. That’s one of the benefits, I guess.

The fact that you may not consider yourself home in a new place is particularly likely if you move to a smaller town like I did. Then, as the women I chatted with at the holiday party pointed out, it doesn’t matter how many years you live there. If you weren’t born there, if you didn’t take your first steps in that county and the whole town didn’t watch you grow up, you’re an outsider. Even if you’ve raised your own children there. Because there are things you just don’t understand. If you can’t gossip with the woman at the bank about a mutual middle school classmate of yours or explain the convoluted way in which you know the man walking by—he’s the second cousin of the brother-in-law of Bob, your preschool playmate—then you are not a native.

I lived in Des Moines for more than 6 years before I moved here. Four of those years I was in college. College is a different world, in which you are most assuredly identified with where you came from rather than where you are. Coming from Wyoming, I (and my roommate, who surprisingly was from Wyoming too) were anomalies to all the suburban Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Minneapolis students we went to school with. You’re from where? They’d ask. Then utter something along the lines of: Wow, I’ve never met anyone from there before. Or wow, I’ve never been there before. Or, of course, I’ve been to Jackson Hole.

After college, I stayed in Des Moines for a couple of years, and came to love the city even more than I had when I was in school. Yet deep down I was still a Wyomingite, even as I took pride in the way Des Moines revitalized its downtown and the pivotal political role the state plays with the Iowa caucuses.

Here? Well, here I’m still figuring things out. I have been welcomed to L-Town by many incredibly kind people. But to many of them, I am Conservative Boy’s girlfriend. Most couldn’t tell you my last name, even if they were threatened with bodily harm. (And, come to think of it, at first I wasn’t even his girlfriend ... everyone said wife or fiance, because the fact that we weren’t married or engaged was incredibly confusing. But that’s another story for another day.)

Often, if I am not with Conservative Boy, I am a strange woman that no one knows. It’s funny, because sometimes people I’ve met a few times with Conservative Boy genuinely won’t know who I am when I’m not with him. (This, of course, causes C.B. to laugh. He thinks it’s funny that my identity is so closely tied to him. My take? Not so funny.)

And so I continue to see myself as a Wyomingite.

The only problem is now I feel a bit unmoored. My parents still live in Wyoming, but not in the town in which I grew up. So visiting them now isn’t quite as much about going home as it used to be—instead, I often see them when I’m traveling and they’re traveling. Why not? Still, going back to Wyoming is as close to going home as it gets.

So perhaps the whole state is now my home. Minus Jackson Hole. I know that might cause quite a consternation among those of you who are not Wyomingites. It’s probably the place the majority of you have actually visited in the state. And Jackson Hole is beautiful. Lord almighty it’s amazing. But to me, someone who grew up in the northeastern corner of the state and regularly covered a good portion of the rest of it for school sports and other activities, Jackson Hole isn’t Wyoming. It’s where people who aren’t from Wyoming go. It’s another world entirely. But that too is another story for another day.

Needless to say, I may be an L-Town resident. I may vote in local elections here and attend the high school basketball games on Friday nights and complain as much as my neighbors about the fact the city still hasn’t picked up all the downed limbs from that storm after Christmas. I may enjoy the much more pleasant winters here and delight in the amazing flowers that blossom every spring and summer that never even have a chance to grow in my native climate.

Still, I am a Wyomingite. Just on hiatus—even if it might be a long one.


Finding Butter

Most of the time when I walk out of my office to refill my coffee cup or grab a snack, I find Butter curled up snoozing in his favorite spot in the hallway (this is also the post he assumes when we tell him it's time to go to bed). Or he snoozes on a patch of open floor space near the dining room table, so he's poised to hop up the second I emerge. Occasionally, however, when I walk out into the living area I don't immediately spot or even hear him.

I expect to discover Butter has made a stealthy escape and is outside terrorizing the squirrels that cause him so much anxiety every day.

But no, he's just found a patch of sun.

There are only three times when you'll find Butter alone in the living room. One: When he has a rawhide bone in his possession and is hiding from us because he wants to chew it in peace. Two: When he is sitting in front of the picture window, keeping a close watch on the world. Three: When it's late morning and sun is streaming through the window and he's sprawled on the floor, napping away.

I always have this overwhelming urge to join him. What could be better than curling up on the carpet in the sun for a snooze?

It's also the only time of day Butter doesn't race after me into the kitchen in case he's getting a snack with me. Something really important has to be going on for him to get up. Really though, can you blame the fellow?


New Glasses

I picked up my new glasses last week.

The ones on the left are the new ones. The ones on the right are the old. The shapes are a bit different and the details are a bit different. But yes, both have a similar style. The same as every pair of glasses I've had since I was in high school.

I can't help it. I try on different styles and colors but they don't just work. My skin and hair are so fair that less chunky, less dark frames don't pop enough. Besides, glasses are my most permanent accessory. I don't want them to be too boring.

But what's so important about these new glasses isn't what they look like. It's what they do. They help me see. That, of course, sounds painfully obvious. Go ahead, say what you're thinking: So did the old ones, Julie.

Only here's the thing. They did. And they didn't.

When I went in for my eye exam before Christmas, I found out a startling fact. While my left lens improved my vision dramatically, my right lens actually made it considerably worse. In other words, the prescription for my right eye was wrong. Very wrong.

The doctor thinks it was botched when the lenses were made—instead of a 10, it was a 100, or something like that.

When I first put those old glasses on about two years ago, I couldn't help but say whoa. Everything was really distorted. But I was told with a dramatically different prescription that happens, and it takes the eyes as long as a week to adjust. Friends and colleagues who had glasses confirmed this fact. So I struggled through a good week feeling slightly off-kilter, then got used to the lenses.

And wore the wrong prescription. For two years.

That explains why I'd sit at my desk with my glasses on and Conservative Boy would harass me for squinting. And why although the glasses were supposed to improve my ability to read street signs and such, I still hated driving at night in places I didn't know because I couldn't read the signs at all. And it explains why when I was golfing or wearing sunglasses I just wouldn't wear my glasses and I did fine. One eye was worse, one was better (or at least less worse). Either way.

Needless to say, I was fuming that I'd gone two years with a wrong prescription. But excited about the prospect of improving my vision even more.

It did take a bit of time to get used to the new, right prescription. But we're talking an afternoon and evening, not a whole week. Now I catch myself squinting and have to stop—I don't need to, it just became habit. I also notice I look over or under my glasses a lot, which is unnecessary. Must've been a habit I picked up because somehow, subconsciously, my mind knew I sometimes saw just as well without looking through the lenses.

Ah, vision. It's nice to have you back.


Those Cookies (Again)

I made the cookies again. The ones I couldn't stop thinking about until it was time to make Christmas cookies and started thinking about again the second the Christmas cookies were gone.

They're chocolate toffee cookies. And they're divine.

I couldn't resist. They take a bit of time to make, and last night I had time. So why not? When Conservative Boy is out of town (at a conference in San Antonio until this evening), I'll bake. And enjoy Julie time. (You know, yoga, lots of reading, talking to Butter a lot.)

The only problem is Conservative Parents are going to be mad at me. Well, I think secretly they'll be excited when I bring them a plate of cookies. But then they'll be mad because I'm thwarting their attempts at eating healthy before their next vacation. I'm not really. I'm just sharing the love. Besides, life's too short not to eat chocolate toffee cookies, even if you do have to wear a bathing suit soon.

Jilly's Mocha Fudge Sauce

There's nothing like homemade fudge sauce on ice cream. Nothing. Well, except maybe homemade mocha fudge sauce with ice cream.

It is, of course, exceptionally healthy. So good for you, in fact, you may want to eat it plain. Not that I've tried that before or anything.

3 tbsp. butter
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/2 c. strong coffee (liquid)
1/4 c. light corn syrup
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

In sauce pan melt butter and chocolate. Stir in remaining ingredients except vanilla. Bring to boil and continue boiling gently without stirring until thick and smooth (about 10 minutes).

Keep a close eye on the fudge sauce while it's boiling so you don't have to deal with this.

It's a real mess, to say the least.

Once it's thick and smooth, add the vanilla. Serve immediately.

Or pour it into jars and give it away as gifts. Yum.


Letting Butter Talk

When that big, strange tree with all the lights and shiny things was up in our living room and Julie had just left with her suitcase to go somewhere she called "DC," Conservative Boy brought me a present.

It was a giant present and he was very excited about it. I tried to be nice and show my appreciation. But the truth is, I couldn't quite figure out what it was.

And I'm still not really sure about it, even though Conservative Boy and Julie keep nudging it toward me and trying to get me to play with it.

I'm a little bit worried it's a monster. But it doesn't make a lot of noise like that big monster Julie wheels out of the closet and plugs in and drives over the carpet a couple of times a week. It mostly just lays there. Still, something isn't quite right.

I mean, it looks like a bone. A giant bone. And when I get brave enough to lick it, I have to admit it sure does taste like a rawhide bone. But it's so big that it scares me. I paw at it and when it moves I jump back. It moves, people. That's why I'm sure it's a monster.

And you know what else stinks? Since Conservative Boy brought that present home and we ran out of rawhide chips, I don't get anymore bones or chips. I go and stand patiently at the cupboard where they keep them and wait for them to give me one. But they just tell me to go play with my bone.

What bone?

They can't possibly mean that giant thing on the floor. There's no way.

Buttons & Bowknots

A lazy Saturday morning calls for the revival of a lazy Saturday morning recipe from childhood. When I think of weekend breakfasts from when I was growing up, two things spring to mind: coffee cake and buttons & bowknots.

(Wait a second. I just realized I never posted the coffee cake either, did I? I could've sworn I did that. Oh well. I'll share that soon.)

So, without further ado, I present to you an incredibly easy, cinnamon-y breakfast (adapted from Betty Crocker, of course). Try it tomorrow!

2 c. buttermilk baking mix
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. milk
1 egg
1/4 c. butter, melted (I guess you could use margarine if you really must)
1/2 c. sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix thoroughly baking mix, 2 tbsp sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, milk, and egg.

Beat vigorously 20 strokes. Round up dough on a lightly floured surface (in my world, that's just the countertop); knead 5 times (I did it 7 and it turned out just fine, if you must know). Roll 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a floured doughnut cutter.

Twist the larger pieces of dough into bows (think 8s). Place the holes (buttons) and bowknots on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

Immediately after baking, dip each in melted butter, then cinnamon and sugar.

Eat while warm. Try not to let the dog reach them. He'll give you those puppy dog eyes and stare longingly at the table and let me tell you, it's hard to resist ...



Last post on DC. Promise. But I really must share photos from my very first trip to the Lululemon store My Sister manages in Bethesda, Maryland.

Lululemon is a great company to work for and a terrific place to shop too, as anyone who has worn their clothes can attest.

Even the exterior of the stores are cool (and each one is totally unique).

My Sister has been with the Bethesda store since it opened this summer. She got things going here. It's her baby.

She even modeled for some of the photos in the window. This is her.

There's also a picture of her crotch in the window. Really. It's important, to show off how flattering Lulu clothing is. But you'll have to stop by the store yourself if you want to see the crotch photo. Sorry.

Oh, and did I mention that one of the best things about Lulu is how personalized their service is? You even get your name on the dressing room door. Like this.

I am Sista Lulu. My Mom is Moma Lulu. How cool is that?



Sorry, folks. I didn't really try BINGO tonight. Although that would have been fun. Rather, I went to a yoga class. And, sadly, it reminded me of playing BINGO.

Strange? Maybe a little. It took me about half of the 45-minute class to figure out how I'd describe it to others. Not as vinyasa yoga, mind you (which is what it was supposed to be). But BINGO.

In case you don't practice yoga, let me tell you this: you don't want want your yoga class to remind you of BINGO.

Seal 1. Silence, as all the BINGO fans scan their cards. Warrior 2. Still no BINGOs. Bent wrist pose. Silence.

Bent wrist pose? What the heck is that?

OK. So not only was I distracted by the fact that the class was reminiscent of BINGO, with the instructor calling out the names of the poses then saying nothing else in between, but I also spent a good portion of the time trying to figure out where the pose names came from. I had never heard of some of them before, and some poses that were pretty darn familiar had the strangest monikers. Not their Sanskrit names, mind you, but very American names unlike anything I've ever heard them called before. Which isn't to say they aren't reasonable names. Just a bit strange to this yogi.

I tried another yoga class at this same local gym about a year ago, but accidentally went to some sort of yoga fusion class that involved very little yoga and some strange weight-lifting exercises. So I hadn't been back since. But the new class schedule I got in the mail the other day listed a Yoga II class, and it said specifically it was for those experienced with yoga, so I decided to give it a try.

There were three other women and the instructor in the class with me tonight. The other three women regularly practiced at the gym. Good for them. The instructor informed me she called the class "slow flow." OK. Great. As long as there's "flow" in there, I'll be set.

Only, as I believe I mentioned, it wasn't flow, it was BINGO. There wasn't any flow at all. Get into a pose. Pause. Get out of a pose. Pause. Get into a new pose, after the instructor calls it out. It certainly wasn't like any level two class I've ever experienced before—no arm balances, no inversions except for plow, no flow. Sad.

Still, I'm glad to see that the other women in the class with me enjoyed it and keep coming back. It certainly wasn't for me, but any yoga is better than no yoga, right? And I did feel a bit looser, a bit more relaxed afterward, despite the fact that less-than-stellar yoga classes sometimes make me more tense than before I went to class.

Yet one more reason why I should just hurry up and become a yoga instructor myself, right? BINGO!

Old Ebbitt Grill

I promise I'll stop posting about my adventures in Washington DC soon. But first, because I said I would, I have to share one last gastronomic endeavor—a light dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill, the historic oyster bar and grill located near the White House.

With its dark wood paneling and deep velvet booths, it's the sort of place where it's easy to imagine politicians gather to strike deals. It was a favorite watering hole for presidents including Grant, Cleveland, and Roosevelt, and you just might spot a political insider or journalist there today (along with plenty of theater-goers, of course).

Plus it's a favorite stop for my family—My Dad and My Mom frequent it on their many trips to DC, the summer I lived in the city I brought Conservative Boy there, and when My Boss and I were in town for a conference we sidled up to the bar for dinner not one but two nights in a row (she found the oysters hard to resist).

Because it's popular, you can bet you'll have a wait for a booth in the restaurant. But never fear—there are four lovely mahogany bars, and it's first come first serve. We ate at one on this trip.

My Dad and My Sister ordered a big platter of oysters. They said they were delicious. I'll take their word for it.

My Mom and I, who aren't big fans of raw oysters, opted for the grilled ones. Very good.

And look at this crab cake I had. Isn't it a beaut? (It tasted pretty darn delicious too.)

Best of all, the service was terrific. In fact, I think every time I've eaten at the bar I've been greeted by a genuinely nice bartender more than happy to serve. And you can't beat that, whether you're a Senator or not.


The National Museum of the American Indian

Finally, more than a week after I promised it, I'm here to tell you about the National Museum of the American Indian, which I visited while I was in Washington DC.

I was incredibly excited to visit the American Indian museum. I mean, come on folks, it's about time the first people to inhabit this country got their own museum in our nation's capitol. I only wish it would have happened sooner.

The exterior of the building is pretty darn cool. It's quite distinctive from the rest of the stuffy buildings on The Mall, which is exactly the way it should be.

Inside is striking too. But, admittedly, it's a bit confusing figuring out where you're going and what you're looking at. Which is one of the biggest problems I had with the museum. The building is loaded with beautiful artifacts and history, but the permanent exhibitions, Our Universes, Our Peoples, and Our Lives, leave something to be desired.

They're designed to represent important ideas and experiences in Native life and history. And at that they certainly succeed. But by dividing the exhibits up into these overarching categories, visitors (at least this visitor) end up coming away with a fuzzy notion of what American Indian culture in general is and was like, without gleaning very many specifics about the many Native communities represented in the museum.

I realize that a full representation of even one American Indian culture could fill the entire museum, so of course things had to be edited in order to represent as many cultures as possible. And those people who didn't grow up immersed in an area rich in American Indian history of one sort or another (like I did) undoubtedly learn quite a bit.

Still, I came away wanting more, wanting a clearer representation of the myriad cultures briefly showcased within the curving walls of the museum. Each Native community has its own art, culture, and history, that I can't help but wonder if they all get the short shrift when grouped together.

Yet I know, too, that no museum can be all things to all people. And despite my criticisms, the museum is certainly worth a visit. Spend some time there, learning about the Native communities included in the exhibits, perusing the pottery and beadwork and weaving they're known for, learning about what challenges American Indian communities today face. It's well worth it.

Oh, and whatever you do, do not leave without a stop in the cafeteria. If you do nothing else, you must sample the food. Particularly the Plains offerings, which include one of my most favorite meals: Indian tacos.

(What you're seeing: tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cheese, chili with buffalo meat, atop a piece of golden fry bread. Mmmm.)

If you've never had an Indian taco, you're missing out. Try one at the museum. Or if you're in Illinois, give me a little warning, and I'll scrounge up what's left of my Wooden Knife fry bread mix and make one for you.

Oh, and a piece of fry bread with honey? Now that's the ideal dessert.



Well hello. Sorry about my absence. I'm here to wish you a belated happy New Year.

So, happy New Year!

I would have stopped in to send best wishes for 2009 sooner, but I've been a bit busy lately. You see, I just returned from about 5 days in lovely Naples, Florida, where I was visiting (Not So) Conservative Grandmom and Conservative Granddad with—you guessed it—Conservative Family.

What have I been so busy doing that I didn't have time for you, dear reader?

Well, I was eating seafood. (Including exactly one oyster, which is as many as I can stomach.)

Sleeping in.

Getting my very first professionally done pedicure (really!) thanks to (Not So) Conservative Grandmom's generosity. (No, those are not a random little girl's feet. They're mine.)

Playing Apples to Apples and Scattegories by the pool.


Laying on the beach, staring at the ocean (and the interesting characters walking by).

Celebrating Conservative Boy's 26th birthday (it's on Jan. 1, in case you were wondering).

Reading. A lot.

Celebrating New Year's Eve.

Hunting for seashells. (Kid Sister found these ... aren't they cool?)

Now you see why I didn't manage to post at all while I was in Florida. I was busy.