Christmas! v. 2017

Ohhh, Christmas holiday. It didn’t get here one second soon enough. With Joel working long hours and me working long hours ALL FREAKIN MONTH, we’ve both been counting down to getting a few days of sanity back.  Continue reading “Christmas! v. 2017”

Festivus!

Last year’s Friendsgiving was such a blast, we decided to do it again this year. But, in true Audrey fashion, I brought up making plans whenever we got together with our friends, and then forgot to nail down actual plans for the dinner until the day before Thanksgiving.

Whoooooops. Continue reading “Festivus!”

Comfort food, ch. 3: Oatmeal Turners

Ok, so I know oatmeal isn’t exciting. And I know a lot of people could careless. But let me put this out there: I freakin’ love oatmeal. Yes, I am a living on the edge wild child for the fibre treat. I love hot porridge, I love oatmeal skin products, I love the way it feels to sift through a bag of oats with my hands, and I love to fucking destroy a plate of oatmeal cookies. Continue reading “Comfort food, ch. 3: Oatmeal Turners”

What Mom Taught Me: a Mother’s Day post

My mom taught me heaps. A few years ago, I published a piece on Thought Catalog called “Things My Mother Couldn’t Teach Me.” It’s a bit of a downer, and super full of mid-20’s angst (I wrote it post break up, whilst full of feelings and whiskey). I came across it this year when Mogul.com re-published it. I winced the entire time I read it. Ohhh, to be 27 and full of agony again.  Continue reading “What Mom Taught Me: a Mother’s Day post”

Christmas!

Ah, Christmas. I love this time of year. I’m even accepting that it’s a summer holiday now, and somehow it’s just never going to snow and I won’t get to wear sweaters. And I’m like, almost ok with this. Continue reading “Christmas!”

Tree party

On Thursday, Joel and I had our traditional Tree Party, officially kicking off Christmas 2016.

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Tree Party started when Joel was visiting me in the States in 2013, and we’ve had a version of it every year since. It’s basically us and some tasty beverages putting the tree together while eating Pigs in Blankets and watching a movie. It’s fun, it’s adorable, and I’m not even ashamed to admit that this year I started to get excited for it in September.

This year, I found a tall-ish fake tree for $12, tree lights for $8, and jewel toned baubles for $10. I think it’s the most Christmassy our tree has ever looked, and I’m really jazzed for it.

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The enthusiastic tree prepper
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Mini Frankenfurters in Blankets – yes, I had “You’re a hot dog/But you better not try to hurt her, Frank-fur-ter” stuck in my head the entire time I was rolling these guys up
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Stringing the lights
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YAY ORNAMENTS!

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I’m a little obsessed with it. I’ve been tinkering with ornament placement since Thursday, but every day I look at it and it makes me smile. I’m happy I went with multi-coloured baubles instead of red and green. It’s definitely making me think “Fun Summer” Christmas, not “holy fuck it’s hot and why isn’t it snowing” Christmas, which is awesome.

I keep hearing from my friends who have toddlers that parents only have a handful of magical Christmas seasons with their kids. At first I thought it was a bit bullshit- Christmas is awesome no matter how old you are. I always looked forward to Christmas, because it was the one of the few times my family were together laughing, eating, watching movies and having a good time – amidst the occasional drama flair up from visiting family members or my over-worked parents. With the exception of Christmas 2001 when the whole year was kinda shit and my dad was overseas for Christmas and each of us were going through some form of depression so we just said “no fucks given” and left the tree in the garage and decorated a $5 fern plant with household nicknacks on Christmas Eve (which sounds really sad, but it ended up being a fun time and thinking about it always makes me happy), my parents always made a big, big effort to make Christmas a big, big deal. We always had a huge tree with all the trimmings, presents, a giant breakfast, and lots of hang times. So the season has always been magical and happy for me.

But then I thought a bit more, and I realised that I can’t remember the last time decorating the tree as a family was a thing. And that bums me out a little. I always loved that my parents decorated for the holidays, but I never invested in the experience. And at some point I stopped participating. I mean, I helped my dad a few times by handing him tools when he hang the lights outside, but mostly I just reaped the coziness that came from their efforts.

So maybe you do only get a brief time where the magic is real and your kids want to be a part of it all – when decorating the tree is serious bizness, when waking up to open your advent calendar, or in my case – move the candy cane from the snowman calendar to the tree, when hunting for hidden presents is a top priority, and leaving treats for Santa is non-negotiable. But it seems to come back in full force when they start their own families, and their own little traditions.

And that’s kinda nice.

Ellie

It’s been a tough week for my family back home. A tough week that’s resulted in the loss of our dog, Ellie. My parents brought home Ellie and her sister Lucy from off the side of a road puppy sale in Ohio in 2008, and they have been filling our lives with sloppy kisses, smelly faces, bellowing barks, sincere commitment to resist potty training, greasy coats, disgusting moments (why do dogs eat their own vom?), and general hilarity ever since.

Ellie was the sweetest dog. Her tail wagged a million miles an hour, and she never met a person she didn’t immediately love. She adored to be brushed, petted, and fussed over. She was silky and slinky and the glamorous counterpart to Lucy, who was always scruffy and smelly and slobbery no matter how many wipe downs she got. She went into season way sooner than our vet or we thought she would, and she had to wear a diaper. She would wrangle and put up a fight until my mom put a pair of my niece’s girly underpants over it, and just for the fun of it – a dog sweater. After that, Ellie had no problem wearing the diaper. A girl has to have an outfit, you know. She always sat on the couch like a person – leaning on the arm – when she wasn’t stacked directly on top of Lucy.

 

She and Lucy were two peas in a pod who probably hadn’t spent more than one weekend apart since they were born. It breaks my heart that we lost this sweet pup, and it really breaks my heart to think of neurotic Lucy going it all alone.

It’s a cruel fact of life that our animals fill our hearts and lives, and for all too briefly. We can’t ask them what’s wrong, or what we can do to help. We have to make the hard decisions to ease their pain, we hold their heads as we say goodbye. And it never gets easier, no matter how old you are. My heart breaks all over the place, for Ellie, for my family, and for my Lucy.

xo, sweet pal.

Good Gravy, episode 1

I love my parents – they’re hilarious and adorable and they’re best friends and huge nerds, and they compliment each other in a million different ways. But my favourite yin/yang quality of theirs has to do with my favourite breakfast: biscuits* and gravy.

My mom is the cook in the family. She reads cookbooks for fun, re-creates recipes after eating a dish at a restaurant, and has a vault of self-learnt recipes that impossibly blends complete trash food and gourmet dining. With the exception of something we now call “Corn Loaf”, a corn and cheese side dish that was supposed to be a fluffy Mexican corn dish that somehow went wrong and solidified mass of corn and goo that we could almost cut in slices, I can’t remember a single dish my mom has made that I haven’t liked. No one makes a grilled cheese sandwich or a plate of scrambled eggs like my mom. And I’ve tried for years to replicate my all time famous dish of hers, Baked Chili Spaghetti, to no avail. I’ve been asking for about ever for her to write these recipes for me, but I always get the same answer – “I’m not sure – I just make it. Just take X and X and X and go with it!” She’s a jerk.

My dad, on the other hand, passed his cooking skills down to me. We both need detailed instructions and tools. But we both looooove to eat. So it all balances out.

One of the biggest things I miss about living with my parents is the food. Particularly the big Sunday or holiday breakfasts. “Breakfast Skillets,” which are individual skillets layered with a fried egg, hash browns, sausage gravy, and topped with cheese and crumbled bacon. French toast fried perfectly with crispy edges and a soft center and topped with maple syrup and powdered sugar; Bacon and egg fried rice; but the best of it all is biscuits and sausage gravy.

Mom makes a helluva good gravy. I’ve never actually seen her make it – it just always appeared at the same time as the scrambled eggs did – both hot and ready to eat, with only one pan being used. It’s a mystery to me. For all the cooking talent my mom has, she can’t form a biscuit to save her life. They come out lumpy, malformed, a bit like a gargoyle fist – if that gargoyle fist was slammed in a door a few times. They break when you touch them and they’re pretty dense.

That’s where my dad comes in – his gravy may taste floury or be too watery, but his biscuits are always geometrically perfect with flat golden tops, and have the most perfect smooth and fluffy texture. I remember watching him make the dough, flouring the counter top, rolling the dough with a rolling pin, and using the same cup he always used to stamp out the biscuits. It’s the only cooking ritual I remember my dad having in the kitchen – besides the giant bowl he used to eat cereal.

With my parent’s powers combined, they make one awesome sauce breakfast. And it’s just one of those little anecdotes about their relationship that I think is too adorable.

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I was looking through our fridge this morning and noticed our bacon was about to go off, and I immediately thought about making gravy with it. Even though I never made bacon before. So I called the Breakfast Masters for a crash course in Gravy 101 – what kind of spices to use, what kind of utensils, and basically the most important aspect of gravy – which is continuous whisking.

Now, this is for bacon gravy, which isn’t as good as sausage gravy – (which I’m attempting next week), so this is an abbreviated method (mostly so I won’t forget when I try again next week)

Step 1: Fry lots of bacon. Sing the bacon some sweet songs to encourage all the grease to collect in the pan (you only have to do this in Australia, where the bacon isn’t NEARLY as greasy as it is the US)

Step 2: Once bacon is at desired doneness (extra crispy for me, please – I want that shit to shatter in melty bacony goodness), remove from pan and wrap in aluminium foil to keep warm.

Step 3: On medium heat, melt some butter (see above note about Bacon not being greasy enough)

Step 4: Sprinkle a couple table spoons of flour over the butter and whisk that up with either a whisk, a wooden spoon, or the bottom of a flat rubber spatula – whatever won’t scratch up the pan

Step 5: Whisking constantly, cook the flour and butter for a few minutes until it’s really clumpy. If you don’t cook it long enough the flour will taste raw.

Step 6: Add milk – I eyeballed it by adding 1/2 cup at at time. And whisk whisk whisk.

Step 7: Season with salt, pepper, whatever else you’d like. I threw in some cajun seasoning.

You can add more milk if it’s too thick, more flour if it’s too watery

I served mine over toast with the fried bacon. And it tasted just as good as my mom’s, which made me feel like a double champ – 1) because I tried something new and it wasn’t a disaster, and 2) because it was delish. It felt like a taste from home.

But I also feel like a world of heart clogging, thigh jiggling, gravy topped food opportunities have opened up for me – and that’s hella exciting.

Tune in next week for episode 2! We’ll see if my biscuit game is on point.

 

*I should clarify for my non-Americans that I mean scones – biscuits in the States are the equivalent of scones in Australia. The first time I mentioned biscuits and gravy at work I was met with some grossed out and confused looks.

“Like… biscuits? Covered in gravy?”
“Yeah, it’s SO good.”
“um, ok.”

 

My Favourite Flannel – a mom story

For Mother’s Day in 2012, my sister Mary and I took our mom to Art and Soul restaurant in Washington, DC for brunch. As we were eating, we noticed a very wealthy looking table near us with about six people sitting at it. Lots of Coach and Michael Kohrs bags aside – it just seemed like one of those tables filled with people who have money. Including a completely bored, sullen, “don’t wanna be here” girls about my age –  completely under dressed in shorts, a tank top and a plaid flannel shirt.

She looked miserable the entire time she ate, but her flannel. I loved her flannel. I mean, I fall in love with random clothes worn by strangers all the time, because I’ve been obsessed with clothes since I was a kid and learned how to dress myself. But this shirt looked so cool. And so comfortable. It wasn’t like the big man flannel that I wore when I was a no-good-angst-ridden 13 year old. It was fitted, looked really soft, and the pattern was reversible – tartan-ish on one side with a royal blue base and green and red stripes, and a red and royal blue check on the other side so when the sleeves rolled up, there was a brilliant contrast.

I’ll admit, I stared at the flannel throughout most of the brunch, wondering where she got it, and where I could get it from, what outfits I’d wear it with, how it’d be the best thing to wear during the summer because it’s light, but soft and warm and how it’d ball up easily in my purse without being too bulky. It was literally like staring at a puppy in the pet shop window, but you can’t find anyone who works there and therefore you can’t reach into the cage and get the puppy because if you do the person wearing the shirt would be like HEY GET OFF MY SHIRT.

Yeah.

So half way through our meal, I noticed Miserable Girl take off the flannel, and drape it across the back of her chair. I thought to myself, oh man I hope she leaves it. And moments later, when the shirt fell off, and wedged itself between herself and the seat of her chair, and she paid NO attention to it, I thought ohhhhhh she might really forget it! I mentioned the shirt to my mom and my sister, who weren’t at all surprised that I was obsessing over a stranger’s shirt. Fuelled by a few brunch mimosas, we all became fixated with whether or not she’d leave the shirt. Or maybe it was just me. I might have had a few more mimosas than them. And then, their check came.

The check came, and it sat there. The group just lingered over their coffees. One of the older people at the table finally slipped an American Express in the sleeve. Miserable girl still looked miserable. Still made no effort to collect her shirt. The waiter came by to pick up the sleeve. The family sat and lingered some more. The girl continued to not give a shit about her shirt. It was driving me crazy. Would she remember? Would she leave it? THE SUSPENSE.

AND THEN – it happened. The family started to gather their things. They pushed out their chairs and got up from the table. Miserable Girl followed suit. And then she left. Without her flannel. I was beaming inside. We all high-fived. I was figuring out how to casually slip over to the table to grab the shirt when the bus boys got to the there and started clearing it off. A new suspense – will the bus boys see the flannel?? I waited in horror. And to my dismay, a bus boy grabbed the shirt and took it up to the hostess, who put it in her stand, and out of my reach. Damn.

We made jokes that it was probably a cursed shirt anyway – who’s rich enough to just forget a flannel shirt that you inappropriately wore to a 5-star restaurant? I tried to put it out of my mind, but I still kept an eye out to see if Miserable Girl would come back.

But she never did, and even I knew it was too much – even for my impulsive hobo instincts – to wait for the hostesses to walk away and give me the opportunity to steal the shirt. I didn’t think I could pretend with the hostess that the shirt was mine because I was wearing a Sunday dress and a cardigan like a good southern girl. So it was a loss. We had had a great meal and an amazing time at brunch, so not getting the shirt wasn’t the end of the world. But it was still a bummer.

We paid for our meal and started toward the car, and my mom told us she’d meet us at the car since she had to use the bathroom first. When mom got back to the car, she pulled something out of her purse – IT WAS THE FLANNEL! “I walked past the hostess stand and asked her if anyone had turned in a flannel shirt, because my daughter left it behind.”

Best Mom Ever.

The flannel was everything I wanted it to be and more – it was soft, and the colours were amazing. Even better, it was a perfect fit- right down to the sleeves being long enough for my Amazon Arms. And it did indeed look great with shorts and it also did fold up perfectly in my purse without too much bulk. I didn’t even care that it was Hollister (I really, really don’t like that brand. Or Abercrombie & Fitch. I think it has residue from all the mean kids who wore it exclusively in high school. Those clothes and Adidas Moves cologne.)

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I was so happy and frankly – absolutely surprised that my good Christian mom pulled something like that. I was floored. I’ve worn the shirt a million times since then, even when I gained weight the shirt shrank and I couldn’t button it comfortably anymore. It’s one of my favourites, and every time I see it I think of how awesome my mom is.

I think there are two kinds of moms – the moms that nag you to not forget your stuff in public, and the moms that will lie to a hostess to get you the shirt you want. I’m glad I have the latter.

xox