Catchup.com

Once upon a more productive time, I used to do a catch up blog every month. Ah, the days when life was simple, unencumbered by the wild throws of admiration and attention that sudden success and fame brings. Continue reading “Catchup.com”

Comfort food, ch 2: Sweet Metric System Casserole Cookies

I love cookies. Or biscuits*, as my British based, adopted homeland calls them. I love pies and desserts, but my most favourite dessert is soft, buttery, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and creamy vanilla ice cream. /droooooool

Continue reading “Comfort food, ch 2: Sweet Metric System Casserole Cookies”

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.

Thanksgiving

I’ve wanted to do a Friendsgiving style dinner since maybe before I moved to Sydney. But I’ve just never had the wherewithal or the space to get it together. I mean, my first Thanksgiving here literally snuck up on me the day before, and was thusly celebrated with little fan fare. The second one was better thought out, but as we were in a tiny heat box apartment with only 3 plates and 2 chairs, there wasn’t any space to entertain. But, as luck would have it, at Joel’s exhibition, Hugh (our master chef pal) and I started to loosely plan a big Thanksgiving dinner.

In mid-October we remembered we were planning a dinner (actually, Hugh remembered, because I’m absent minded professor), so we picked a date, set a menu, made a plan, and on Friday night, we made it happen. With Hugh at the ham helm and the grill station, and me with the mayonnaise and bacon salad (America) we fed 17 of our pals and killed many 3 for 1 bottles of wine. It was fan-damn-tastic.

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When I think of Thanksgiving food, I want cheesy green bean casserole, heaps of mashed potatoes and gravy, piles of turkey, stuffing, etc etc. But when I think of cooking and eating a meal of cream, cheese, starch and gravy in the air conditioner-less heat of an Australian November, it makes me want to curl up and die. So we adapted the traditional meals for something more light and summery — but still paid homage to the fat filled, cheese topped, heavy, heavy style traditional noshes. What we ate:

  • Ham with pineapple/lime/chipotle glaze with a chipotle apple sauce
  • Glazed and grilled carrots, and squash and broccolini (topped with pickled carrots)
  • Green beans tossed with almonds and pickled onions
  • Red Skin potato and bacon salad
  • Corn bread from scratch
  • Homemade pumpkin pie with spiced whipped cream
  • Mixed berry cobbler
  • Honorable mention but didn’t make it to the table – buttermilk rolls and mini bourboun pecan tarts.

The meal didn’t come together without its share of Audrey-style mayhem – I was meant to do a big shop on Wednesday night so my Thursday night would be totally free for baking, but Glued to My Phone Election Night Blues got the better of me.

I went to the store, but it was only to buy bacon for dinner and to cry in the aisles like a basket case. So on Thursday, I did my big shop. 90 minutes and 30lbs of groceries later, I was exhausted. At 8PM Joel took command and made most of the corn bread (ok, he really made all of it but I read the recipe to him and grated the cheese and pointed out that I forgot to add the creamed corn, so I’m taking credit, too). Around 9 PM I started boiling the potatoes and putting the pie together. By 10PM the pie corn bread was done, the pie was baking, and the potatoes were still hard, and I was counting how many hours of sleep I’d need to be up at 6:30AM and not feel like a zombie for work. By 10:45PM the potato salad was done, the pie was burnt to a crisp (fucking *F to *C), the buttermilk rolls were scratched, and I was all “fuck it.” and went to bed.

But, the meal was still a success! Hugh is a genius with food, and it’s a meal I wish I was still eating. Here are some moderately good pics – mostly blurry and mostly forgetting key elements like the green beans and the whipped cream gun, but some pics are better than none:

It really was a fantastic night – friends, wine, great food, laughs, and even some interpretive dancing. Thanksgiving is intended to be a day where you reflect on your good fortunes, and for showing gratitude for those good fortunes. I felt the gratitude. And I felt the love. It was a night to not dwell on the negatives (Trump), and it was a night of reassurance that not everything is dark and terrible. As I looked down the table filled with people and candles and conversation and food being passed around and everything just felt – good. If I were the Grinch, this is where my heart would break the frame.

I am incredibly thankful for my Sydney family, for Joel’s friends who have never treated me like a stranger and who I now consider to be my friends, too. I’m thankful for my life here. I’m even thankful for this year, even though it’s been so hard, it’s been so eye-opening and revelatory to support systems I didn’t realise I had.

I’m thankful for the life I live, and I am thankful for the people around me.

And I’m thankful for that ham. Seriously, it was damn delish.

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.

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

Father’s Day

Father’s day isn’t for another few months here, but it’s already happening in the States. And since my dad is there and not here, I’ll go ahead and do my Father’s Day post early. Not that I need a holiday to celebrate the most righteous dude in my life.

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My dad. Big Larry. LT. Pop Pop.

My dad is a relic of the good ol’ days of America. He was born and raised in the mid-west by a concert pianist and a civil agricultural engineer, and learned to live modestly, value education, love music, and to always work hard and sacrifice when necessary. In another life, my dad would have been a sheep farmer, driving a tractor on his land and wearing overalls, or a college professor with suede patches on his elbows and a thermos full of black coffee. But he ended up being a major in the US Army, working with the Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security, and a bunch of other top secret world traveling “You Don’t Have Top Secret Clearance So You Can’t Know About It” stuff.

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He’s the quintessential “dad.” He always knows the answer to any question I have, and any sub question after that. In fact, some of my best memories with my dad are the long drives back and forth from the barn when I was little, listening to his lectures as I asked questions. He can fix any broken toy, grow any plant, make any piece of furniture, fix almost any faulty car part, and pre-GPS days, could always pin point my whereabouts and get me where I needed to be as I wailed in anger through my cell phone. He’d always fall for the “But mom said it was ok!” line. He’s the first person anyone asks when they need help with something. He has like, 6 Master’s Degrees. He has always driven with a coffee cup (not a travel cup) filled with steaming hot coffee and has never spilled — even when driving stick shift and reversing. He can load a moving truck like it’s Tetris, and with almost no training, he’s become a professional landscaper.

When I’m on my game, my dad and I make a good team: we’re both hyper-focused, highly creative, and super dedicated, which came in handy since he was always very good at indulging whatever ridiculous building project I had in mind. I always try to apply the “measure twice cut once” rule he taught me, but let’s be real: I got all the impulsiveness that was bred out of him through generations of patient farm work. But I think my initial “Hey–I can make that!” home project ideas comes from his engineer genes. Unfortuantely, we’re also both absent minded professors and are ridiculously clumsy. We are king and queen of losing things we’ve just put down 5 minutes ago, accidentally washing a load of laundry without soap, or tripping over air and knocking our heads into things (although I blame that on us being so freaking tall that gravity confuses us).

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I never realized how much my dad sacrificed for us until I read his promotion orders when he finally made major. I read that he had been up for many jobs that would have gotten him promoted sooner, but he declined the positions because it would have meant moving, and that would have meant pulling Josh from his orthodontics program, and all of us out of school. My parents knew how hard it was on Shayne to move and start at a different high school, so they wanted to avoid it with us. As a result, my dad took different jobs in order to stay on the same military base for nearly 10 years so us kids could finish school. And my dad got overlooked for major as a result. But he did it for us. I can’t think of any other military dad who would have taken path.

My dad is amazing. He’s selfless, encouraging, loving, and fiercely loyal. He’s given me such a profound example of fatherhood, just by being there. And my heart swells when I think of how proud I am of him and how much I love him.

And seriously, no one has ever rocked a pair of overalls in Washington DC quite like my Oklahoma born dad:

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Thank you, dad, for always being there. Thank you for giving me an example of what a father should be. Thank you for helping me with my bags every time I’ve moved. Thank you for valiant attempts at teaching me math. Thank you for making me drive in rush hour traffic on I-395 when I’d only had my driver’s permit for 24 hours. And thank you for overlooking how many seasons of 16 & Pregnant I’ve bought on your Amazon Prime.

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Here’s to many more years of Billy Boogie Worrell!

Love you! Mean it! xoxo

Mother’s Day

Geography prevents me from being with my very favorite moms, so today I am paying tribute to them in blog form. Which is basically the highest honor anyone, anywhere can receive. Right?

My mom is awesome. Despite the tremendous hardships she’s endured, she’s never lost her spirit, her sense of humor, or her crazy ability to love unconditionally. I may look just like my dad, but I am all Kim Turner. From our love of thrift stores, coffee, and books and story telling and sentimentality to being highly emotional and a little hard to handle–but always quick to admit it–at times.

Mom, a few days before she had my brother Shayne. #dathair
Mom, a few days before she had my brother Shayne. #dathair

She’s a protector. She’s a provider. She’s a shoulder to cry on. She’s a baby whisperer. She’s the best cook I know. She’s the dispenser of very sage advice that I never listened to. She’s my number one fan. After 30 years, her don’t fuck with me mom tone still makes me wince. She’s been the one to clean up after me, take care of me, and stay up with me to make sure I’m alive on the two occasions that I’ve been black out drunk, and she still loves me. She takes care of my fur children that I couldn’t take with me to Sydney. When I was having a really hard time with life in early 2007, she left a bag with a card and a small treat hanging from my bedroom door every day for almost a month. She’s one of my most favorite people in this universe.

Mom, about 27 years after I was born.
Mom, about 27 years after I was born.

I’m pretty lucky to have been born with a built-in second mom, my sister Mary. And now she’s a real mom! I’m beyond sad that I can’t be there while Henry grows up, but seeing my sister fulfilled and full of love for her little creature makes me so happy. I know, without a doubt, that Henry will grow up as probably the most loved child in this world.

Mary getting Henry's nursery together about a month before he was born.
Mary getting Henry’s nursery together about a month before he was born.

My sister Mary is about two and a half years older than me, and she’s always been there for me. I don’t know if I can depend on anyone the way I can depend on Mary. She would literally give me the shirt off her back. We’re fundamentally different, the way sisters can be, but we would still walk through fire for each other. From playing Barbies to coaching each other at horse shows to calling each other at 2 AM when we’re upset, we’ve grown up together and seen each other through it all. As she puts it, “You saw my hoo-ha in the delivery room. You’ve sat beside me while I nursed Henry. There’s literally nothing left that’s TMI for us.” Beyond scarring me for life, it’s absolutely true.

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My little big sister

So Happy Mother’s Day to the two women I miss more than I miss air conditioning. They have seen me at my rock bottom lows, and they’ve been with me to celebrate my most ecstatic highs. They drive me crazy, but I don’t know what I would do without them. I most definitely can’t wait to have lunch and walk around Target with you two again. xoxo