Monday, July 29, 2013

Somethin's Happening Here...

"...What is is ain't exactly clear."

It's raining shoes! See any in a size ten?
Things at Casa Jen have been going eerily well lately. I'm not saying that life usually sucks or anything, because it doesn't. Life has been good to us. But things have been falling into place in a way that has me sort of watching my back, looking up and waiting for the proverbial shoe to come down and leave treadmarks on my face.

I hope it's a Croc. Those things are so light and squashy.

Anyway, I know this all sounds horribly cynical. When faced with the choice between cynicism and unapologetic optimism, I almost always go with cynicism. It's because I hate feeling like I've been taken in, so rather than risk naivety, I choose to be an eyebrow-raising asshole. It is my way.

Anyway. Let me explain what I mean by everything "falling into place". It's mostly been about timing. For example:

1.) Husband was talking to someone at work about our hopes to buy land and build and the guy told him that his family had just put five acres on the market in Indiana, pretty cheap. It's a little farther out than we want, but the price is definitely right and it has a good building site, plus a pole barn on site. That stoked our interest in looking at land again.

2.) The excitement over looking for land got us talking about the process again and we decided to schedule an appointment with our bank to discuss our financing options. An hour later, OUR BANK CALLED US. They called to offer refinancing, but the timing was strange, especially since they never call us.

3.) A few days after that I was looking on Craiglist and various MLS sites, dreaming about the perfect spot to build our life, and starting to feel pretty hopeless. I took a break and hopped over to Facebook. The first thing, right at the top of my feed, was a link to this blog post:

When your dreams come knocking, answer the door.

The main photo in the post is a gorgeous picture of a farm. And here's a quick excerpt:

"Take a step toward it–this day, this week, this month. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s convenient, whether or not it’s easy, or whether or not there’s cereal for dinner one night.

When your dreams come knocking, don’t ignore them. Don’t rationalize them away or make excuses.

When your dreams come knocking, just answer the door."


4.) Husband got a definite graduation date. He'll finish next spring.

5.) Husband got the raise he's been promised repeatedly for about a year. Someone finally got it done for him and it's a raise that will make a big difference for us, as long as we continue to live below our means.

A beautiful piece of land we looked at last week
All of this happened in the span of a single week. It just seems like the universe is telling us to "Go!" We were pretty close to the brink of giving up for a few years, frustrated by setbacks and a sense of being "stuck". But all of these things (and a few other things, too) have re-energized us and even though it's scary, we feel like we'll be able to break ground on our dream home within two years. We have a lot of stuff we're working on right now and nothing set in stone yet, so I'll update about it all again once it's gone from "hope and speculation" to "facts and figures".

But I am DEFINITELY getting excited. With a capital DEFINITELY.

Take a step toward it–this day, this week, this month. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s convenient, whether or not it’s easy, or whether or not there’s cereal for dinner one night.
When your dreams come knocking, don’t ignore them. Don’t rationalize them away or make excuses.
When your dreams come knocking, just answer the door.
- See more at:
Take a step toward it–this day, this week, this month. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s convenient, whether or not it’s easy, or whether or not there’s cereal for dinner one night.
When your dreams come knocking, don’t ignore them. Don’t rationalize them away or make excuses.
When your dreams come knocking, just answer the door.
- See more at:
When your dreams come knocking, answer the door.
When your dreams come knocking, answer the door.
When your dreams come knocking, answer the door.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I Had an Epiphany

This week I did this on my own for the first time ever in my entire life (Um, might not be SFW due to excited language):

Twenty-one years after I fell in love with gymnastics, I did a round-off back handspring on my own. Pretty cool, huh?

The reason I'm posting this is not because I want to show off, although frankly I'm pretty damned proud of myself and everyone should probably applaud me and send flowers or something. Obviously.

No, the reason I'm talking about this is because of what happened after I left the gym. I got in my car and started to cry. Not subtly, either. I'm talking wet, snotty, dripping, body-wracking sobs. Shit was LOUD. And so, so cathartic.

I realized, quite suddenly and without any warning, that I am absolutely emotionally exhausted. I'm pushing my thirty-two year old body to do things that feel unnatural and scary and I LOVE it. But rather than living and reveling in that, I punish, berate, and degrade myself for not being perfect enough. I avoid being in photos because someone might be able to tell from my little belly roll that I've gone through two wonderful, beautiful pregnancies. I've balked at posting many videos and pictures with myself in them because I worry that I look too fat or my skin is too broken out (post-natal hormones, kids!) or my hair looks bad or whatever. And WHY!? Who do I owe this perfection to? Whose eyes, exactly, am I protecting?

No more. I said that out loud to myself a good ten times. No. More. 

On my way home from the gym, I cried because I was overwhelmed by the sense of power I had. I cried all over my steering wheel because no matter how much I thought about it, I could not hate my body. I couldn't muster the energy to care that I have a real woman's body because I had just spent all my energy being fucking awesome. It was the weirdest sense of peace and chaos I have felt since the births of my children. To utilize a cliché, something just clicked. Something in my mind shifted, and I grew.

And I haven't cared about impressing anyone since. I haven't felt the need to let disclaimers about my body or my ability or my anything hang in the air, apologizing for me before anyone has the chance to disapprove. I don't owe anyone a flat stomach or thighs that don't touch or skin that "glows" or perfect teeth or a flawless pedicure.

I just don't care. My body and my mind are strong, and healthy, and powerful. They are perfect for me.

I feel really raw and uncomfortable here, but my poetry teacher in college always said to, "Write the poem that scares you." Talking about my personal insecurities is the poem that terrifies me. Taking chances on success is the poem that keeps me awake at night. So I'm writing it, for all three of you to read. I want my entire life to be the composition of the poem that scares me.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pinterest in Real Life: Patriotic Cupcakes

About six hundred years ago or some shit, I saw these awesome looking camo cupcakes on Pinterest. I definitely wanted to make them at some point and the tutorial seemed simple enough. Well, I decided that I'd give them a shot for Husband's and FIL's birthday party this past weekend and went with a red, white, and blue theme instead of the camo.

They turned out pretty well, surprisingly. I used a red velvet cake mix and a white cake mix, half of which I dyed blue.

The colors didn't blend together, which was my primary concern, so I was pretty pleased. However, this was not a process without its setbacks. There were abundant, "Oh, shit!"s and "I mean, F$%&!"s. Abundant.

I used disposable piping bags for the batter, but I should have listened to my gut and bought some batter tips at Michael's the other day. Instead I used small decorative tips and couplers, just to get the batter out in small blobs. Poor life decision. My kitchen legit looked like a crime scene. If a friendly neighborhood cop had been patrolling my fenced-in back yard during this time, I imagine he would have drawn his gun and called for backup. That red velvet batter is the real deal, kids.

So the cupcakes turned out pretty cute, and all was good. But I had also seen a cool tutorial on—wait for it—Pinterest for inserting a white chocolate truffle into the center of a cupcake. Lindor White Chocolate Truffles are one of Husband's favorite candies, so I thought, Why not? I snipped a little 'X' into each hot cupcake and popped a truffle down in there. It worked great, easy peasy, no issues.

Anyway. I had pre-made my frosting a few days before to save myself some day-of work, but I didn't let it thaw long enough and kept testing it out only to find it was still too hard and my lovely roses looked more like tangled yarn. Even once the frosting reached the desired temperature, the presence of the truffles created a bit of a sinkhole, which is NOT ideal for roses, as they begin in the center. So I ended up doing some regular swirls and popping some cupcake gems on them. Not my best work.

Speaking of the frosting—I was going for red and blue, but man, no matter how much red dye I dripped in there, I could not get past pink. My base frosting did have a slight yellow cast from the butter (and I cannot use lard. Ew.), which I tried to counter with a single drop of purple, but I couldn't get a true white base. I've heard you can use European butter for a true white, but I don't think I care that much. I'll keep experimenting, I guess. My neighbors love when I try to figure out how to do shit because they end up with the possibly-ugly-but-always-tasty end product.

Final thoughts? These were...okay. But:
  • I should have use white frosting with the red and blue, or not done multi-colored frosting at all. It would have looked better. 
  • I should have baked these day-of instead of the night before, because the truffles hardened back up in the fridge and did not work at ALL. 
  • I should have let my frosting thaw MUCH longer than I did. 
  • I should have used batter tips or just spooned in the batter. 
  • And I should have done swirls instead of "roses". 
It wasn't a total bust, but if I do these again I'll leave out the truffles and go with just white frosting and maybe some red and blue sanding sugar. I think the effect would be much less busy. Or I'll stick with a traditional filling.

On another note, a quick tip for freezing frosting ahead of time: wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it like that in a baggie. You can take it straight from the bag to your piping bag, no scooping, spooning, or cleanup necessary. Every once in awhile my brain works in a logical way.

Frozen in the plastic wrap and tucked in a bag. MUCH tidier.

Monday, July 1, 2013

No Spend Month: How Did We Do?


Not great.

I mean, not terrible...but definitely not great. It all began when I went to Old Navy to return some dresses. Bear was at day camp and had only one pair of shorts she could wear, so I decided it was okay to buy her a pair of shorts, because she cannot wear the same pair all week. So I picked up some shorts for her. And a camisole. And a tank top. Also, I may or may not have perused the women's clearance and found a pair of shorts for myself. Nothing expensive, but that's not the point. I should not have been perusing any women's clothing, anyway.

However. I now own one pair of shorts. So I don't regret buying them, but it was definitely a no-spend fail.

Bear's tie dye roses
Then there were the flowers Husband and I bought for Bear to congratulate her before her performance at drama camp. Again, I do not regret buying them, as she felt so special and loved when they were brought to her before the show.

We may have had Arby's for dinner one night. I can neither confirm nor deny this possibility. But I will say that we did, and it is true.

Then a friend of mine got me a job doing some occasional work for a caterer and we decided that we'd use just that first night's pay to go out to dinner. Ahem. I got three meals out of my Olive Garden dinner. The dinner we bought. With money. Money we were not supposed to spend.

And because my brother is getting married this summer and I had to get new dresses (I bought them in May!), I obviously had to have an appropriately cut shaper to go underneath. I got the exact one I wanted on Ebay for a great price. With money. Money I was not supposed to spend.

Shorts, flowers, two meals, and some Spanx. Not a perfect record, but not as badly as I feared we'd do. I think we may try again in September. Anyone else planning to do a no-spend month?