Wednesday, February 24, 2010


A few weeks ago, Darby and I were hanging out with some people who work in his lab. One of the women, an international student from China, had seen some pictures of our family Christmas on Facebook and asked if I had a big family. I said, "Well, I have one sister and one brother, so not too big. What about you? Do you have siblings?" She said, "No . . . we have a one-child law." (At this point, I felt pretty bad and ignorant, but she didn't seem offended.) Then, she kind of sighed and said, "It must be so fun to have brothers and sisters."

And, it got me thinking, she's right. It is really fun to have siblings. Sometimes I take that for granted. (Disclaimer: I know there are many happy families with only one child. I'm not saying that siblings are necessary for happiness, just that it's easy to forget what a blessing it is if you do have siblings.) I've shared quite a few stories about my sister on this blog, but I haven't shared as much about my brother (part of the reason being that he's not quite as crazy as Hannah). To rectify this, I thought I'd share some of my favorite memories of the three of us together.
  • When we were little, Hannah and I would play school, and Matt always wanted to play with us. We didn't think he played the right way, though, so we'd make him sit in the other room and be the principal. I still remember him yelling from the other room, "Hey, aren't some of the kids being bad?" And we'd just yell, "Nope!" and keep on playing. (That was kind of mean... I'm sorry, Matt!)
  • We loved to play church, mainly so we could take "communion." We'd get Saltine crackers and break off little pieces and eat them, along with our grape juice.
  • Hannah and I would dress up in my mom's wedding dress, and Matt would be the groom (one of the downsides of having only sisters).
  • On Christmas Eve, we would all sleep in the same room. We weren't allowed to get up until 6 a.m., but usually one of us would wake up earlier too excited to go back to sleep. Whoever it was would wake the others up, and we would softly sing Christmas carols to pass the time until 6 a.m. (I recently shared this story with Darby, and he seemed to regret that he had married into our family. I think he's afraid I'll try to pass these traditions on to our children... he's right!)
  • Hannah and Matt (or Mom and Dad) are going to have to help me out with this one. I have a vague recollection of listening to some Christian rap/hip-hop (seriously!) CD and singing along and jumping on and off the couch. Did this happen?

And, because he doesn't get enough press on this blog, here's a story involving only me and Matt. I think this incident happened when Matt was about 10 and I was about 14 (a fact that will be very embarrassing for me when you hear this story). I went out to get the mail while Matt was playing with a remote control car on the driveway. As I was walking back up the driveway with the mail, Matt thought it would be funny to chase me with the remote control car. Well, I got really scared and started screaming and running toward the house. I tried to open the door, but the knob didn't turn, so I just smashed my wrist against the door and fell to the floor crying, scattering the mail all over the garage. I went in the house sobbing, telling Mom (and maybe Dad) how Matt had terrorized me with his car. In the words of Andy Bernard: "That was an overreaction." We still laugh about that one.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Simple pleasures

I've been trying lately to appreciate the little things in life. The winters here can be very hard. Even though it is staying light longer, February is always difficult because you are so ready for it to warm up, but you know that it will be realistically be about 2 months before that happens. But, even with the cold, wet weather, there are so many things to be thankful for. Of course, I'm always thankful for the big things like Darby, family, friends, health, financial stability, etc. But it also helps to think of all of the little things that bring me joy. Here are a few that I've been thankful for recently:
  • A steaming cup of coffee in the morning
  • Waking up and thinking that your alarm didn't go off and then remembering that it's Saturday
  • Getting a card in the mail
  • The sun coming through my office window in the afternoon
  • The smell of bread dough
  • Surprise coupons that print at the register
  • Turning on the TV and happening to catch a favorite movie
  • Someone bringing homemade goodies to work
What are the little things that make you happy?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Darby and I have never made a big deal of Valentine's Day, but we did have a nice little date on Friday night. Any excuse to eat out, right? We went to Red Lobster on Friday because I figured it would be less crowded than Saturday, and we went super early, so we could get home in time to watch the Olympics opening ceremonies. (How lame are we?) When I went to pick up Darby from school, he surprised me with a single rose and a package of conversation Jelly Bellys. So sweet!

I made dinner for our small group tonight. Now that that's over, I'm just relaxing watching figure skating. I love the Olympics!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Special visit

My mom and dad came to visit this past weekend. Darby and I always enjoy it so much when our parents come stay with us. I've always had a good relationship with my parents, but living far away definitely makes me appreciate time with them even more.

It snowed about 6 inches in the 24 hours before they arrived. Darby was at a conference until Saturday afternoon, so Dad got to shovel the driveway. Fun trip, right?

We had a fun time talking, playing games, going to see Sherlock Holmes, making food for our small group's Super Bowl party, and, of course, eating a lot.

Darby and Mom playing Dr. Mario. Mom has her game face on. :)

I always enjoy having company because it's an excuse to make lots of food. Darby was making fun of me because I actually made lunch on Saturday. Normally, we just eat whatever's available. For dessert Saturday night I made a "banoffee pie." It was very rich and very good. The recipe is below:

Banoffee Pie
Slightly adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy Gooey by Jill O'Connor

Filling ingredients:
2 cans (14 oz each) sweetened, condensed milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (2 oz.) brown sugar (If I make this again, I might leave this out; the filling was a little sweet for my taste.)
4 Tbsp. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. salt
boiling water, as needed

1. Stir together the milk, vanilla, brown sugar, melted butter and salt. Pour into a 6 cup oven proof dish. Cover with foil.
2. Place the dish in a 9 x 13 baking pan and fill the pan with boiling water until it reaches half way up the sides of the dish.
3. Bake the milk mixture, stirring every 15 minutes, until it has turned a toasty caramel color, 1 1/2 -2 hours. Remove from the water bath and let cool.

Make graham cracker crust following the recipe on the back of the graham cracker crumb box. Let cool. (You can, of course, use a store-bought graham cracker crust, but homemade is so much better and not hard at all.)

When the toffee has cooled but is still soft, spoon it into the crust, spreading it evenly. Refrigerate until the filling is set. You can cover the pie with plastic wrap and keep it chilled for 24 hours

Topping ingredients:
3 medium ripe bananas
2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. Peel and slice the bananas into 1/2” thick slices and arrange over the toffee.
2. Whip the cream at medium speed with the confectioners’ sugar until stiff peaks form. (Tip: Stick your mixer bowl and beaters in the freezer for 10 minutes beforehand, and the cream will whip up much faster.)
3. Pile the whipped cream on top of the bananas, spreading it toward the edge of the crust. Cover all of the bananas to prevent them from browning.
4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The rest of the story . . .

It's only fair that I now share about my role in the infamous piano recital costume disaster. I was playing songs from The Entertainer, so my mom had sewn me a flapper costume. It was a red and black boxy dress with sequins and fringe (which my grandma had found for some outrageous price). I had helped mom pick out the pattern, but when I saw the dress, I refused to wear it. I thought it was too flashy (which, hello, was kind of the point). Despite my parents' reminders of how much time and money had been spent on the dress, I remained adamant. I ended up wearing some pink dress my mom had in her closet. It didn't look 20s-ish at all.

This was 12 years ago, and I have only just now been able to think about this story without gut-wrenching guilt. I feel so bad for treating my mom like that! I didn't consider her feelings at all. It didn't help that the dress was hanging in my closet for years after the fact, mocking me. Now, we all kind of laugh about it, but it was not funny at the time.

The funniest part of the story is that the main reason I was embarrassed to wear the dress was that I had a crush on one of my fellow piano students (who is now married to my friend Whitney's friend, Jenna—small world). But do you know what he wore? A full lion costume! I don't know that I've ever told my parents that that was the real reason, but they probably guessed.

Sadly, this was not my worst bratty moment. No, that prize would have to go to the time I pitched a fit because I didn't like the color of the new car my dad had bought for me (and eventually my sister) to drive. My poor parents.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Fun weekend, bad Monday

Darby's brother Jeremy came to visit us this past weekend. He had training for his new job in Chicago, so he rode the train down for the weekend. We had a lot of fun---ate at some yummy restaurants, played Wii, and went to our first Illini hockey game. That was quite an experience; the fans are pretty rowdy. It was fun, though, and much cheaper than most of the other sports at the U of I. I'm glad Jeremy was able to come up; we don't see him that often. Hopefully next time his wife, Janice, can come too.

Darby and Jeremy

In other news, I found out on Monday that I will have to get a crown on the tooth I had a root canal on 18 months ago. Boo! The dentist who did the root canal said I most likely would not need a crown. Then, I had to switch to a new dentist to get the discount offered through my health insurance. From the beginning I didn't like the new dentist, so when she told me I'd have to get a crown, I was suspicious. I called the old dentist, and they told me to bring in my x-rays, and they'd take a look at the tooth.

Well, the new dentist gave me a PHOTOCOPY of an x-ray of that one tooth. Thanks a lot. When I got to the old dentist, the hygienist was really rude and made a big deal about my x-rays not being good enough (like it's my fault). She told me they would have to do more x-rays, and I said I wasn't going to do that and I would just wait 6 months until it was time for me to get x-rays again because I don't have dental insurance. The hygienist said, "Those are a different kind of x-ray." At this point I was really frustrated and started getting choked up. I did NOT want to end up paying for x-rays on top of the crown. I told her, "Well, maybe I'll have dental insurance by then or something." She said, "So, if we have to do x-rays, you're going to leave." I said yes. At this point, she decided she could ask the dentist if he could look at the tooth without x-rays. And, imagine that, he could! It took him like 5 seconds to determine that, yes indeed, I will need a crown. To the tune of $1,000. Ouch.

I am very glad I refused the x-rays, although I wish I had done it without crying. Everyone in the office was treating me so gingerly after that, like I was going to blow at any minute. They were like, "Have you heard about our payment plan, sweetie?" "Do you want to make an appointment now or think about it for a while." I do not have a good track record dealing with doctors. It's just horrible when you feel so powerless, and there's so much pressure to get hundreds of dollars worth of procedures done, and they don't give you any time to think about it. Ugh! I get so emotional. But, after a couple of days, I'm feeling better about it. I'm going to sign up for the 12-month 0 interest payment plan, so I won't have to take all of that money out of savings. And I have a plan to save money on groceries and entertainment each month until I get it paid off. By the time this is over, this stupid tooth will have cost me well over $1,500. Maybe I should have just had it pulled. :)