living. loving. laughing.

living.  loving.  laughing.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

a weekend that just makes sense.

This past weekend James, Mr. Darcy and I drove 2.75 hours north-ish to celebrate the 90th birthday of one great man: my grandfather. We jam-packed 24 hours as full as one could make it, starting out with the search for the perfect beanie:


James, if you haven't noticed, has quite the healthy fetish fascination with always covering his cold, bald head - hence a cousin trip to downtown Grass Valley to see the sights as we searched for the perfect hat!

We had quite the adventure in trying to find a place to stay this weekend; generally we stay with family when visiting Nevada City, but there was no room at the inn this weekend! Much family + a foot of snow + a beloved problem dog named Mr. Darcy made for a tough time trying to find a place to stay after our original plan ended up with a power outage and lack of way in there with the local road closed. It was then that we stumbled upon Swan Levine, a fabulous bed and breakfast that one posed as a Nevada County hospital where none other than my dad and his two younger sisters were born! Of course, once they heard where we were staying, they decided to come check in as well:


The "surgery room" (or "pink room", as it's sometimes called to unsuspecting visitors) still boasts its original tile floor!

this is why everyone should support their local B & B:


And because we were able to take our deranged lovable Darcy-pup!


And also because such coffee makes you take such pictures as this:


Sometimes we like to pretend like we're really, really tough, just to scare the masses few who might be convinced.

To celebrate Grandpa's birthday, the whole fam-damily went to THE WILLO off old 49. I wish I could describe the beauty of this old roadside diner: it's kindof the city's best kept local secret, at least for the meat-eating types. They've got a fat grill in the middle of the dank, dark restaurant, so you know your meat's being grilled to perfection. You can choose from three different sizes of steak, or get chicken, halibut, or catfish - James, of course, chased after his southern roots and ate catfish for dinner, while I opted for the halibut. (mmm, my favorite!). Every meal is the same: meat, salad, baked potato and beans. AND a scoop of ice cream for dessert - I mean, come on, people!


So here pictured is (my) Uncle Kensell, just hanging out with his grandbaby Nicole. Love.

It was then time to remember why we ventured to Nevada City in the first place: to celebrate 90 years of life! Grandpa then proceeded to direct us like the family chorus we are, only then to be topped by a toasting speech. Hey, when I'm 90, I'm sure as hell going to be toasting myself!


You work those boots, girl! (I sure wish I could still work one leg in, one leg out!)


What grown woman doesn't like seeing her grown husband hiding under a blanket just to entertain your local three year old who needs to go to bed, but just wants to play one more game (!) with Uncle James?


The fun's not over yet! "Let's play follow the leader!" Thus followed five grown males around an old country house, stomping in the footsteps of said "I'm almost four!" little lady.


Family makes sense. Being so, so weird together makes sense. It was a weekend that just made sense.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

dinner fixins' ...kinda.

Oftentimes I'll arrange meals by what's already in our fridge that needs to be eaten, like, now. So the other day I noticed that we had extra amounts of Gruyere and Pecorino Romano cheeses. As per the first, I stumbled upon this recipe, wrote down what I didn't still have at home, and took a trip to Lucky's.

Now Lucky's is that grocery store that - dare I say - attracts quite the interesting group of people. There have been times when I've wondered how near-expiration my purchased chicken is, and if the milk was on "super sale!" because it was about to start smelling "super sour!" But still, it's our closest grocery store, so I am embracing all that Lucky's has to offer.

So what then was the last item on my list? Jerusalem artichokes. I needed a pound of them, so I searched and searched the veggies section, but to no avail - where WERE the Jerusalem artichokes, and can't regular Monterey county artichokes suffice? I decided to approach Mr. Friendly Grocer Man:

"Excuse me, sir, but do you have any Jerusalem artichokes?"

"Jerusa-what?"

"Jerusalem artichokes." He looks around - to our left are the Monterey artichokes, and to our right are some jumbo-sized even rounder artichokes that looked like this:



"You know, sometimes we get some artichokes in from the middle east that look like these ones here..." (and he points to the oversized jumbo-chokes).

Me: "Eh. Interesting...well, I have a couple of regular-sized ones at home already - I'll just use those." We exchange good-byes, and I head home to make the cheese and artichoke chowder.

Now here's what I realized I needed to do and have upon pulling out the recipe and beginning to read it for the first time:

*1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, sliced into water with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice added

How the HECK am I supposed to slice an artichoke that looks like this?



You don't have to be a kitchen rocket scientist to know that a regular ol' artichoke, especially in raw form, is not going to easily slice. It was then that I decided to actually take a look at google, and see if Mr. Friendly Grocer Man and I had been correct in our Jerusalem artichokes assumption.

...now how is THIS even considered an artichoke?



Looks like ginger to me.

Needless to say, no cheese and artichoke chowder were had for dinner...but the regular ol' artichokes were eaten alongside for good measure.

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What's your cooking blunder of the week?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

online dating advice...



It's no secret that our friend Dr. Neil Clark Warren set James and me up....aka: through the portals of E-HARMONY. And when you're in the midst of online dating, it's kind of this weird, dirty little closet secret that no one's supposed to know - but you want to meet someone, and so here you are, secretly online chatting away with the world, trying to get to know this person through the portals of cyberspace. It's weird...but for some of us, it works. So today, upon writing back to a friend who's entering the online dating journey, she had some questions. Here follows some answers (to her questions...and then some) to this now-anonymous, amazing woman:

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1. There might be a few different rounds of it [online dating], and that's okay! I think between eharm and match I probably did 5 or 6 different rounds over the course of like 5 or 6 years. (ie: once a year I'd realize that I needed to get out more and date because I wasn't meeting anyone through YL or teaching).

2. Just be yourself...simple, I know, but be yourself in your answers (and not in what you think they want to hear), and also be yourself in your initial response to these men, ie: am I actually attracted to THEM or simply to the idea of dating in general? Am I only writing back to them because I feel bad, or do I really want to talk to them? I think that's one of the best things about online dating: it almost gets rid of the first couple of dates for you because you're putting stuff out there, getting to know the other person. For me, if I couldn't imagine making out with him, DELETE! Classy, I know....but I had to be attracted to the person.

3. You're going to be attracted to people who aren't attracted to you. People are going to be attracted to you whom you're not attracted to....so, don't take it too seriously and just have fun! Dating is just getting to know someone, and if that someone isn't someone you could ultimately see yourself with, then just say good-bye!

4. BUT don't think that you have to decide whether or not you're going to marry this person on the first date. I think for a lot of us in Christendom at least who haven't dated in awhile, it's like, a rare gem to find an actual date - but if the whole point of dating is (again) getting to know someone, then simply focus on that and not on the crazy far-off future.

5. So...in answer to your questions: don't be "that" girl who keeps messaging them if they haven't responded. Play the game, though: if you've been communicating for awhile, feel a connection, but haven't heard back, then hit them up again. If you just liked their profile but really have no history, then don't be a stalker. They'll write you back when they're darn good and ready.

6. The balance of showing interest but not too much interest: here's what I think. If you're into a guy, then let him know that you're into him. That doesn't mean you have to write him an email saying, "hey, I'm into you - are you into me?" but you can show him you're interested by doing just what you'd do with a YL kid upon hanging out: get to know them. Ask questions. And see if there's something worth pursuing.

7. If you're asking whether or not the guy has to pursue, I think the online dating world erases all of that nonsense. Wink at him or pursue getting to know him (match or eharm - whatever your flavor is) - and unless in his profile he says "...and I am ultra-conservative and want to be the one establishing all first communication with the female species," then let him pursue. But do you really want to be with that guy anyway?

8. Men: Bottom line, if a guy's into you, he'll be into you. There's nothing that's going to stop him...I firmly believe that about men. He'll write you, he'll call you, he'll set up a date. he'll want to respond to your emails or however you're communicating. And if he's not into you, then he's not worth it, and you shouldn't be worrying your pretty little head over him anyway! (Read "He's Just Not That Into You" if you haven't already - I liked the book better than the movie, and personally found it SO empowering!)

9. Another thing: as you're communicating with a few or a bunch of different men, chances are he's communicating with a few or a bunch of different women. It might be slow at first (ie: weekly?), but then something will spark, and maybe you'll find yourself writing back and forth every day....and that's a good thing.

10. The story of James: James is a grown 42-year-old man. James knew what he wanted and wasn't scared to go after it (ie: me). Maybe that's the difference between men and boys....so strive for a man. As per us communicating, it started out small and rather sporatic (as I was communicating with a slew of other suitors, I'd like to imagine), but then he just kept coming back...and the emails kept getting better...and he emailed when he said he was going to email, and called when he said he was going to call, and well, also had good grammar skills (because I'd realized that I couldn't be with a guy who used "lets get 2gether" in the context of a sentence. That didn't work for me).

11. So, just be yourself. Be yourself, be yourself, be yourself. And figure out what you like and don't like because that's one of the best things about online dating. You might end up going out on a bunch of different dates this round, or you might not - and that too is okay. :)

Can't WAIT to hear how it goes!

xoxo, c.

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What experiences have YOU had in the online dating world? What do you agree with or disagree with in the above writings? Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

a date most memorable...

Date: January 1, 2010.

James and I had only been dating about three months, but for this most memorable new year's date, he had scored tickets to see one of his favorite singers, Ledisi.



So I had on my sassy sparkly and a little-low-cut dress, and he was dressed to the nines in one of those crisp white shirts that just looks PERFECT on him (...and I digress...) - but of course one must eat dinner beforehand.

Across the street from Yoshi's is a little hole in the wall place that serves this:



(we're generally pretty boring pizza people - a good ol' margarita does it for us...)

And so the conversation ensued, to - what else? - new year's resolutions:

Cara: "I'd like to ...hmmm, go running with Mr. Darcy more this year." (Visions of a super skinny-minnie Cara, completing half-marathons in her spare time are dancing thru my head).

James: "I'd like to ...hmmm, marry you this year!"

Cara: jaw drops.

James: smiles.

Conversation: begins to take a turn for the much, much better.

Though we didn't end up getting engaged for a couple more months, I won't soon forget that night of new year's resolution conversations. His clearly trumped mine - and as for the dog? He gets some good runs in at the dog park just about every day. :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Did you know?


...that in first class they don't serve plastic.

A kind, older gentleman waits on you and calls you ma'am.

They wipe your hands with warm towels if you just can't seem to muster the strength to do it yourself.

They serve you a full meal, with your choice of salmon or ravioli.

Adult beverages are free.

Refills are abundant.

Wine comes not out of a little individual 4 ounce bottle, but out of the real deal big bottle.

You have your choice of ice cream and brownies or cheese and crackers for dessert.

And if your tea isn't hot enough, well then, new tea for you!

The flight attendants walk through every two minutes just to make sure you're comfortable.

And I forgot! They serve you mixed nuts as an appetizer!

And an American Airlines mint just to top off the flight!

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How do I know this? You must think I flew first class to and from Mississippi.

Not quite.

At all.

Nope.

But I was in the first seat of coach and watched EVERY little movement those blessed 20 passengers received, while I drooled and stared and got green-eyed with envy. And then delightedly rejoiced when the kind, older gentleman brought me leftover mixed nuts and threw a mint my way.

"Someday, someday I'm going to fly first class! It's on my list of things to do before I die! So in the meantime, do you think I could have a free upgrade? I'll be your best friend..." (wink, wink, nod nod - james is asleep anyway).

"What? Do you think this is Delta or somethin'?"

I am silenced.

Buh-bye.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

I still declare best friends.

I remember back in the 7th grade a note was passed to me that looked something like this:

Dear Cara,

You're awesome! I've had a lot of fun hanging out and having sleepovers and passing notes. I think you're:

Funny!
Popular!
Nice!
Really, really fun!
A good friend!

So, I think we should be best friends. Would you like to be my bff (best friend forever)? Check:

___Yes
___No
___Maybe so.

LYLAS!

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Today I almost somewhat sort of did the same thing upon meeting my blog hero, Ree Drummond of the Pioneer Woman: "Hi Ree! My name's Cara. We're best friends even though you don't know it yet. So, when do you want to invite me to your lodge?"

I think I wore a nice enough smile that she didn't think I was a creeper.

Then she signed my book and we took a picture together. See? Best friends.

Monday, February 07, 2011

the recents, the upcomings and making lemonade.


...tomorrow night james and jeannie and patty and I get to meet our blog hero, p-dub, aka: the pioneer woman. She really does have a first name, and that name is Ree. We're basically best friends, although she doesn't quite know it yet.

Did you notice that JAMES is excited to meet p-dub? he's a believer in her food, so don't you think that i talked him into going. This is of his own volition.

...wednesday morning james and I head to the great state of Mississippi for a visit to see his side of the family. I plan to relax, eat southern food, go to a dancin' gospel church, ask lots of questions, laugh, read, have 3 little girls put make-up on me and do my hair and come back with a greater understanding of my husband and his family.

Did I mention that I'm participating in the Biggest Loser competition right now? Somehow I don't think eating lard-greased, butter-filled, deep-fried Mississippian food really goes along with what we're trying to accomplish.

...last night I watched the superbowl. Kindof. I more so watched the commercials and read p-dub's "From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels," but I think I fooled some people.

We did have a cheese-filled baked pasta to commemorate the cheesehead's win - see, I was watching.

After I finished the book.

...this past weekend we took 40 kids and leaders up to Young Life's Mountain Lodge in Soda Springs, CA - in Tahoe national. What a GREAT weekend. Such an encouragement...such a cool, cool thing to look back on the past 3 1/2 years and see what God's done. I believe it and I receive it.



The above pic was taken during YL's Winter Formal on Saturday night. This is my date, Alan - don't tell the hubs. He might get jealous. [Side note to Winter Formal: we intentioned that it would be a time of appetizers and pictures, but then the lasagna was an hour behind schedule due to a broken oven so a real live Winter Formal dance party ensued. Just makin' lemonade.]

I'd also like to point out that some kids really did think I paid money for that dress.

From Nordstrom.

Now I know you can't see it, but I would never pay money for a light pink anything. Ew.

Magenta? Now that's another story.

....tonite my friend Stephanie and I decided to bond and PAY people money to kick and punch a really heavy thing hanging from the ceiling. Indeed, we went to LA BOXING and attended their Monday night kickboxing class. Almost two hours later, I think my face is still red. And my arms hurt. And my legs. And my abs. But I still want to be her friend, so that's a good sign.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

a dialogue, some haikus and a hot hubs

I'm having a "did I finally get the flu?"/can't get up from the couch/stop yer whining kind of couple of days - BUT instead of moanin' and groanin' about it, I thought I'd highlight some things that just put a smile on my face:

This is my buddy, Keisa - and I LOVE this girl. Now a senior in high school, she's been around YL for a couple of years now, but now our friendship is at the place of mutuality. She's eager to love and to learn and be challenged, and she rises to the occasion every time (which makes me ask...do I do the same? Am I eager to love? Am I open to learning and being challenged? I love that about her, and desire to do and be the same in my own life). Anyhoo, this particular day, she and I had a date to hang out:

"Hey Keisa, what do you want to do?"

"Oh, I don't know, Cara, whatever..." (Oh, she's so polite!)

"Well, do you want to run an errand with me? We could go grocery shopping, or - this is pretty random - we could go register for my friend for her wedding."

"Yeah, whatever, Cara. Whatever you want to do."

"No, choose!"

"Okay, let's go grocery shopping."

"Good choice! But I think I just changed my mind...we're gonna go register!" (Way to go, Cara - way to throw "choices" out there, encouraging her to voice her opinion, and then take it right back. Me, me, me!)

So that we did: we went on over to Macy's and registered for a bride-to-be who didn't quite have the time to register. Since all we had to do was basically get a 100 things on the registry, it didn't matter that Keisa didn't know an ounce about Jenn's style - so we just went to town!

Ba-bam. I love this girl.

Oh, the beloved dog. Today I dedicate some 5-7-5's to you:

Mr. Darcy dog
You sure do like the dog park
And your neighbor Mark.

Short term memory
is what your auntie calls you
Little crazy - you!

You're black and you're white
Just like mama and papa
And Michael Jackson.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

And what picture posting wouldn't be complete without a lovable shot of the hubs and me back in December getting our first Christmas tree? Lovely blue skies. Lovely Mr. Meredith. Lovely life.

dancin' fool.


"Cara, what do you do for a living?"

That's always one of those questions that varies in answer depending on the day, the audience, the season, etc., etc. But one thing is constant: a good chunk of my job is spent hanging out with high school kids, in their world. I volunteer after school at one such high school a couple days a week, and we recently started up a GIRLS ONLY! work-out program on Thursdays. Here follows this past Thursday with white girl Cara + seven lovely Latino ladies:

me: "Hey ladies, what do you want to do for a work out today? We could go for a walk outside-"

Lovely Latina #1: "No, we Mexican - we don't walk, we RUN!"*

me: "Okay....so, I brought this really cool work out video called Insanity, and it's insane! Want to do that?"

Lovely Latina #2: "Does it have Mexican music?"

me: "uh, no, I don't think so-"

Lovely Latina #3: "We want to dance! We want to dance to our music!"

me: "As your work out?"

All the Lovely Latinas: "YEAH! Let's dance! Oooh, girl [that's me] we gonna teach you how to dance."

Hence, we found an open classroom and began dancing.

We spent 45 minutes in a circular conga-line, dancing to latest and greatest in Mexican beats. Sometimes we'd then conga out to the hallway and they'd follow the white lady's Stayin' Alive hand motions, laughing all the while. Then we'd head back into the stuffy classroom and shake it out.

"Girl [that's me], this ain't no salsa music - stop moving your hips so much. just dance!"

me: "Gotcha."

So we'd form a circle again, and we'd laugh and giggle and teach each other how to shake it properly and mariachi it up some more. By the end of what was a very sweaty dance session, they had one accolade for me:

"Girl [you know that's me], for a beginner, you're pretty good at dancing to beaner* music."

Well, thank you.

I love my "job." I love those days, when the littlest thing puts the biggest smile on your face...when you just keep laughing and telling the story, getting giddier all the while. THIS was one of those days.

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*I realize that there are a couple of things that are racially questionable in here, so realize that I'm not making fun of these girls, but simply writing down and echoing their words.