Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eats

In honor of our new (lywed) Thanksgiving, I decided to try out some new recipes to test on the in-laws. (I really should use my own parents as guinea pigs, since they have to love me no matter what, even if I poison them with un-tested recipes. Maybe I'll just tell the Haynes that Tanner made anything I bring to their house... that way they'll pretend to like them even if they're seriously janked up...) Anyways, these particular recipes were a hit. The cake was moist and had a delicious spice to it -- the very essence of the holidays. And the spinach was cheesy and rich. Mmmmmm... I love Thanksgiving left overs!

Best-Ever Pumpkin Cake
(original recipe from Kirsten, posted here on her awesome parenting blog)

1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin [Erin's note: Yeah, I accidentally used 30oz pumpkin pie mix, added the sugar and oil, and had a slippery, sugary, slop that I put in the refrigerator after I realized what I had done... I have hopes of resurrecting the sacrificial pie slop into something edible when I get back from Eldorado.]
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, beat pumpkin, sugar and oil. Add eggs; mix well. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, spices and salt; add to pumpkin mixture and beat until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour into two round pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until cake tests done. [Erin's note: I had to bake the cakes longer to get them to set in the middle. I took them out of the cake pans so they wouldn't burn on the edges, wrapped them in foil except for the middle, and cooked an additional 10 minutes.]

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons milk
Chocolate shavings

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl until smooth. Gradually add sugar; mix well. Add milk until frosting reaches desired spreading consistency. Frost cake. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Eat until you're sick.

Spinach Madeline

2 packages frozen chopped spinach
4 Tbl. butter
2 Tbl. flour
2 Tbl. chopped onion
1/2 cup reserved spinach liquid
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Red pepper and salt to taste
6 oz. Jalapeno jack cheese, cubed
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the spinach according to package directions. Squeeze and drain the spinach, and reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour, stirring until blended and smooth (but not brown). Add onion and cook until soft, 4-5 minutes. Slowly add reserved liquid and evaporated milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Cook until smooth and thick. Add the seasonings and cheese. Stir until cheese has completely melted. Combine with cooked spinach and stir until blended.

With a plastic spatula, scrape the spinach mixture into a large baking dish. Optional: Top with breadcrumbs. Bake in a 350-degree oven until lightly browned on top and bubbling around the edges.

A New(lywed) Spin on Thanksgiving

This will be the first Thanksgiving in 25 years that I have not spent with my family. I'm sad. And, I'm excited. Can you be both?

I knew this was coming. When you get married, you have two sets of parents, both who want to see you over the holidays. You and your spouse are the chew toy that two lock-jawed pit bulls are fighting over. Well, not really, our parents are more like harmless Lab puppies lazily playing with a toy, with one happily giving up when he rolls over and discovers an equally interesting dust bunny.

Both our parents invited us to Thanksgiving festivities. We tried thinking of a way to see both, and make both family celebrations work -- I was not quite ready to give up on the idea of seeing my parents on Thanksgiving, as I had for my entire life. But, after realizing that the amount of driving and time wasted in the car just didn't make sense, we decided to visit the Haynes family, since the Sullivans are coming to visit our house for Christmas. My parents lovingly understood, bellied up, and started playing with the other dust bunny, my sister.

So, we are headed today to Eldorado for my first Thanksgiving with Tanner's family and our first real holiday as a married couple (no offense, Halloween and Veteran's Day). Like I said, I'll be missing my family, but I am also very excited and looking forward to my first experience as a "real" Haynes at a real Haynes family holiday get together. I'm not just the girlfriend tagging along, I'm a real part of the family. I think it will make the fact that I'm a married woman seem even more real (I know, this should have sunken in by now). The food will be different, the traditions, the house, the faces I see, but I know the feeling will be the same as the one I've always felt: warmth, love, thankfulness, and happiness. And Tanner and I have a LOT to be thankful for -- each other, our new marriage which has changed and blessed our lives, and the loving and selfless families we've each been adopted into.

For you married folks, I'd love to hear how you handled holidays as newlyweds, and what the experience was like for you. I know this is going to be the first of many wonderful Thanksgiving with the Haynes. I'm looking forward to the new experience, and willing to take with it all it brings -- the happiness and the longing. I think it will make me appreciate my new AND old family more than I have before.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Date Night! Newlyweds Leave the Nest.

The thing about my office is, there's only three of us there. Because it's an intimate group, the work environment is pretty laid back. For example, we bring our dogs to the office. The casual circumstances also mean I don't dress up for work -- AT ALL. My daily attire usually consists of jeans, a top, sweatshirt, Crocs/flip flops, and a ponytail.

For some reason, after returning from my single-life reunion the other weekend, I woke up Monday and got all dressed up. I had purchased some new sweaters at Kohls before I left for the weekend in College Station, and I'm one of those people who wants to wear the new clothes I buy the very next day. So, I got all gussied up: new belted sweater, skinny jeans tucked into some black boots, and my nice black wool winter coat. I even straightened my hair and wore it down. I had no reason to look decent, just felt like it. (Maybe I was inspired by all the single girls in College Station, who still take the time to make themselves look presentable!) I even thought as I was going out the door, "Man, why am I wasting this cute outfit today? I should have saved it for a day when I had a doctor appointment, or something, so at least someone would see it!"

As it turned out, the outfit was not wasted. Tanner called me at work, and told me he had been missing me. We were both gone all weekend, and the week before he had been working until 9 or 10 each night. My sweet guy then asked me if I'd like to go out to dinner at one of our favorite local Italian joints in Weatherford, Pastafina. I was so happy. 1) It's always good to feel like you've been missed, and to know someone thinks about you when you're not there. 2) It's great to have something special to look forward to during the work day. 3) My cute outfit would be appreciated. 4) I love carbs.

The thoughtfulness didn't end there. When I got home, Tanner surprised me with flowers! What a guy. We had a great night, just chatting and eating and being together. Who says the romance has to die when you get married?

A happy newlywed, glowing over flowers and a dinner date!

Mr. Thoughful himself.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Single-Life Reunion

Sometimes I miss old seasons in my life. "Miss" might not be the right word, or maybe it is. I don't miss old times because I'm not happy where I currently am in life, or not looking forward to my future. I miss them because they were special and memorable. It's just a sense of nostalgia, a fondness for a time in my life that was wonderful. For instance, I had an amazing childhood. All of my creativity was born during my little girl days playing "imagination" in my childhood home -- a historic house on Arlington Street in the Heights of Houston, a place that felt more a fairy land than a regular old house in a regular old neighbourhood. Sometimes, I wish I could go back to that season of my life, be a little girl again just for a moment, to relive the innocence, the laughter, the magic, and feeling that anything's possible.

I also miss my single-life days in College Station. Particularly when I was working on my masters degree. I was living by myself for the first time, had my own horse in my own backyard, and had a wide-open schedule (as you often do in college) to do the things I wanted -- I just had to fit in my school work here and there. I was working as a barn sitter at a place that became my escape from the hustle and bustle, and also working at a lakeside bar where I raked in tons of money and spent my evenings watching the sunset while I made drinks and chatted with people. I made wonderful new friendships working at that bar, The Hook. I met one of my closest friends, Colby, and worked with another one of my best friends, Jennifer. I was blessed with many other friendships as well, and had way too much fun singing, dancing, and blowing fire behind the bar with Colby, Jennifer, and Sarah.

Last weekend, Tanner headed to the deer lease with his best buddy Scott, and instead of resigning myself to the lonely life of a deer widow, I decided to have a little single-life reunion while attending Chris and Leslie's wedding. Chris was my boss at the Hook, and I knew there'd be a great collection of old friends celebrating his marriage. So, I packed up my stuff, shacked-up in Colby's apartment (she's also living by herself for the first time -- it's such a fun adventure), and pretended to be a single college girl again (well, minus the flirting with and dating other guys).

Leslie and Chris were married at 7 F Lodge, in College Station. It was beautiful, romantic,
quaint, and outdoor-chic. Here is the chapel and Colby posing by the reception hall. She's wearing a hot little number we bought that day at Target -- the budget-friendly but fabulous store for college girls!

The old gang (clockwise): Colby, Sarah, and I; Laurie and I; the gang with the
bride and groom; the girls dancing just like old times!

The chapel at night -- if this isn't romantic, I don't know what it! I was missing
my husband right about this time...

I capped off my weekend as a single girl by visiting my sister, Kathleen, for breakfast at her house in Snook. She cooked up a mean batch of french toast and breakfast fries, which I gobbled up while chatting with her and her boyfriend, Zach. I always love going out to her house in the country -- the quietness and space of the Brazos Valley is something Tanner and I really miss living up here in N. Texas. It's a shame I didn't take any pictures at Kathleen's, because it was really one of the highlights of my weekend.

By the time I was enjoying a scenic drive on some back roads taking me to I-35, I was ready to ready to return back to my newlywed nest. The weekend was great, and it was so fun to relive the old days. But I love my husband, and we're living a new season of our lives right now, one that we'll look back on 10 years from now with fondness and nostalgia, so I'm gonna soak up every minute and enjoy it while it lasts.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Bed That Ate the World

Our first big purchase, and I mean BIG purchase as a married couple was our new KING-size bed. It was clearly evident from the start that Tanner's bed from college was not going to be good for our marriage. As I described earlier, Tanner can cause quite a commotion at night, striking all kinds of poses at my expense. Not only was the double bed too small to provide me a buffer, it sagged in the middle, forcing me to roll towards center, funneling me directly into the line of fire.

In reality, Tanner's crazy episodes are more infrequent occurrences than regular happenings, but space was still a priority for me when it came time to consider a new bed. Despite being abnormally affectionate and wanting constant physical contact for the 17 hours I'm awake (if Tanner would carry me in a BabyBjorn, I'd be totally happy), at night, I really don't like to be touched while I'm actually sleeping... at all. Cuddling while slumbering, no thanks. A cold toe brushing my leg, please no. A good bed-time snuggle while watching TV or chatting pre-sleep is cozy and lovely, but when it's time for REM, it's time for personal space. It sounds harsh, bitter, cold-hearted, I know -- but please believe me, I make up for it with uber-cuddling and mega-hugs and kisses at all other times.

SO, after much discussion and debate and back-and-forth about whether to buy a queen or a king, we settled on a king. One of our main priorities was finding one that would alleviate some of the back pain Tanner has each morning. After looking first at memory-foam mattresses, and then realizing a king would cost the same as a small yacht, we picked a Simmons, with individually-wrapped coils and a 4-inch layer of memory foam on top.
When the delivery men brought that sucker home and plopped it in our bedroom, Tanner and I pulled out the drafting paper and pencils and began designing an elaborate layout of catwalks and bridges to navigate through the room since it had been SWALLOWED by the blob bed.

Spanning the great divide.

I jest. We have a large master bed room, so the thing fit in there, but it is gigantic. I've appreciated the extra sleeping space and have been getting some nights of heavy, uninterrupted slumber. But, strangely enough, the bed has actually made me a bit more of an affectionate sleeper. With all this acreage to sleep in, I'm so spatially distant from my hubby -- I look to my side, over the fence, and a mile down the road, and there he is sleeping on the other side. At times, it's made me feel a little lonely and isolated, and I've actually found myself creeping through the neutral country, into the hostile territory, just to check in and see what's up. But... just like a traveler, I find myself thinking, "This place is nice to visit, but there's no place (and no sleep) like home." It's back to my side, and my antisocial, wonderful sleep.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I'm SO Matronly

I've been a bridesmaid once, at my bestfriend Summer's wedding to Tanner's bestfriend Andrew. (Because the world totally revolves around us, I'm sure this is how they introduce themselves to others, "Hi, I'm Erin's best friend and this is Erin's husband's bestfriend, who also happens to be my husband.") A couple weeks ago, I was an "attendant" in a wedding for my second time, in one of my dearest friend Jennifer's wedding.

Since I'm now a married woman, I guess I was what you would call a bridesmatron. According to various dictionaries, a matron is
(1) a married woman who is mature and staid or dignified and has an established social position
(2) a woman who has charge of the domestic affairs of a hospital, prison, or other institution
(3) a woman serving as a guard, warden, or attendant for women or girls, as in a prison
(4) a female animal kept for breeding

I would like to claim that I'm dignified and mature, but you'll have to ask Jenni if my behavior reflected that at her wedding. I did give a semi-dignified speech, but I also wore my hair in a side ponytail, boogied shamelessly on the dance floor, and suggested Jennifer wear a white, decorative bird in her hair -- so that might have counteracted any maturity points I scored. Obviously I don't work at a hospital or prison, although sometimes I think I might be admitted to either. As for the last one, let's not even go there -- there will be no breeding, human or animal, at the Haynes household anytime soon. So, all in all, I might not be so matronly. I guess I was more or less a bridesmaid who happened to be married.

Whatever I was, I had an amazing weekend, and it was so wonderful to see Jennifer and her soul mate, Ryan, become husband and wife. This lovestruck couple is two of the most devoted people I've seen -- they will be together forever, I'm sure of it.

I rode down to the wedding with Michelle, Jenni's sister, and her son Hayden.
Jenni LOVES her nephew, and I can't wait to see what a wonderful mother she'll be (someday soon??).

Christi is Ryan's sister, and was also one of Jenni's bridesmaids. She's an amazing woman and we spent tons of time together helping Jenni wrap up loose ends and just hanging out. Jenni gained another sweet sister, and I got a new friend in the deal!

THE bird.

Christi, Anna (another bridesmaid and new friend) and I, the morning of the wedding enjoying breakfast with all the girls. We look pretty good for having stayed up till 4:30 AM the night before, and waking up at 7:30 AM! Too much decorating, talking, and program-making to go to bed!

The happy could themselves! Minutes after becoming Dr. and Mrs!

Tanner and I at the reception. I have such a handsome husband! We have a new sense of appreciation for all the planning that goes into a beautiful wedding, and we were happy to just sit back and enjoy the party!

Colby, Jenni, and I all bartended together in college. Now, we're all growing up and moving away. But distance and time haven't torn us apart, it's just made us appreciate each other even more. I love both of these amazing women!

Ryan had everyone rolling on the floor laughing when it was time for him to get Jenni's garter. He's a newly practicing veterinarian, so he whipped out some shoulder-high plastic gloves before, ahem, heading under her skirts for the prized garter.

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