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31 December 2011

2011 in Review

After being inspired by a friend to create a year-end photo recap, I went through my photo library for this year (all 4,000 photos!) and put together a book. I like how it turned out, and I'm excited to see the final product when it gets here in about a week.

27 December 2011

The land of gorges and waterfalls

Although I complain about the cold here at home (a lot), I do have to admit the I come from beautiful country. The rolling hills, the lakes and rivers, the waterfalls and gorges ... it is truly beautiful. Even in winter. 
The view from Mom and Pop's front porch.
I love how just one field is snow covered. 

Taughannock Falls.
Ithaca really is gorges. :)
Old stairs. 
Tallest falls east of the Mississippi.
Ain't she grand?

And, for a point of reference, here she is six months ago.

Buttermilk Falls

26 December 2011

A new moon

One of my favorite things about Mom and Pops house is that the sky is big and bright and clear at night. All the stars that are usually swallowed up by the city lights back in NC are clearly visible and go on forever. Even the moon is brighter, despite it's crescent condition.

Here is the moon from my view ...

That's a motley crew ...

I didn't grab many shots during the Christmas festivities, but I did manage to get one of my nieces and nephews (save for the two oldest). I love my family. Especially the younger generation who is always so happy to see me. Makes a girl feel wanted and loved. 

25 December 2011

I'm a liar

Earlier this month, I decided to stay in NC for the holidays and do the flying-solo Christmas with my good friends. In my entire life, I've missed Christmas Eve with my family ONCE, and my mom was very unhappy that it was going to happen again. I didn't want to make the drive (9+ hours) twice in such a short time (four days), but, as the holiday got closer, I decided to do it as a surprise to the family. 

I told my dad that I was coming home (I needed a bed to stay in!) and my sister found out later. No one else knew, and I locked down my Facebook statuses so my snooping mother (love you!) wouldn't find out. I packed up the car in the cover of darkness early on Christmas Eve morning and was headed north by 5:20am. If you've never driven on the interstate on Christmas Eve before, I HIGHLY recommend it. Traffic was light, people were courteous, and the driving was easy. I made AMAZING time getting home (9 hours and 20 minutes) and even had time to stop at my favorite bagel shop to get a hot NY treat. 

Yep. This is my life. 
I showed up at Mom and Dad's around 4pm, letting Bailey walk in first, causing just that right amount of chaos. I walked in shortly after, and Mom was totally shocked. She cried, my sister-in-law cried ... it was awesome. The typical Christmas Eve chaos ensued with the nieces and nephews running around and playing and getting into trouble. The brothers and sisters bickering and bantering and enjoying adult beverages. The Beast running around, begging for food from anyone who looks like a sucker. It was a good time. 

Christmas morning came far too soon after Midnight Mass, and I found myself at my sister's house to watch her girls open their presents. Back at Mom and Dad's shortly after for some more Christmas festivities with Mom's family. Surprisingly, Mom's family event was more quiet than the night before. Thankfully. Bailey still begged from everyone and definitely got more handouts today than yesterday. We both are going to be 5lbs. heavier when we leave in a few days. 

The weather yesterday was FREEZING. I left NC at 5:20am and it was 45 degrees. When I got to NY, it was 26 degrees. And it only got colder as the night progressed. When I left for Midnight Mass, it was 18 degrees out. EIGHTEEN DEGREES, people! My body is not used to these temperatures. Today was a little better ... it's currently 35 degrees at 7pm (although in NC right now it's currently 50 degrees). At least the sun was out for the whole day. But it's still damn cold. Much colder than I am comfortable with. I think I'm only a NYer in attitude these days; my blood has certainly thinned out.

I hope you all had a joyous and blessed Christmas wherever you are!

22 December 2011

I'm not a cookie person

And, by that, I mean that I'm not a cookie baking person. I'm DEFINITELY a cookie eating person, but I have no skills when it comes to baking them. They always end up flat or burnt or under-done or just unimpressive. So, when it comes to the holidays and the traditional baking of cookies (Why do we bake so many cookies during the holidays anyway? That's a whole different blog post. I digress ...), I get off easy. 

However, I do have some skill when it comes to making candies and sweets. I've been known to make a mean peppermint bark, but my favorite treat to make are my candied orange peels. They are an old-fashioned goody that just embodies "Christmas" for me. It makes me think of the old days (even before I was born!) when an orange was an exotic and special Christmas present and those who received them made use of every part of them. Hence the candied peels. They are actually quite simple to make, and they taste simply amazing. Which, for me, is a perfect combination. 

I normally make my candied peels with navel oranges, but this year I tried it with little clementines. The results are mixed. They are a more flimsy candy, but they have a sweeter taste (much like a clementine is sweeter than a navel). They also aren't as pretty and uniform as navel peels are. But who cares how pretty they are when they taste so good. 

Interested? Here's the recipe ...

Candied Orange Peels with Dark Chocolate Drizzle
(Chocolate drizzle is optional)


About a dozen navel oranges, peeled (You'll just need the peel, so be sure to use the oranges for another recipe. Or you can just keep them in the fridge in a covered bowl for easy snacking. 
4 c. sugar (plus an additional 1/2 c. for finishing) I prefer turbinado sugar here.
1 c. water
6 oz. dark chocolate (optional)


After peeling your oranges (use a knife for more uniform slices), carefully remove the pith (the bitter white stuff that covers the inside of the peel). The pith will make your peels bitter, so you want to remove as much as possible. Try to get your peels to be just orange with minimal white. I then like to slice them into nice, uniform 1/4" strips. 

(Some recipes recommend blanching your peels in boiling water 2-3 times to remove bitterness, but I've never done that. I've also never thought that the finished peels were bitter. Feel free to do this if you are sensitive to bitter flavors.)

Combine your water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar solution is boiling, reduce the heat to a low simmer and add your orange peels. Keep on a low simmer until the peels start to turn transparent, stirring occasionally (approximately 30 minutes or so).

Once your peels are uniformly transparent, remove from the heat, drain, and rinse.

Roll candied peels in granulated suger and let them dry on a wire rack. They will stiffen and harden to a gel consistency (about 2-4 hours).

Store in an airtight container and eat within 14 days. Of course, I'm sure that part will be the easiest. :)


When peels are dried and complete, melt dark chocolate and dip them. (In all honesty, I prefer them without the chocolate because they are good enough without it!) 

21 December 2011

Becoming selfish

Like so many women in the world today, I was raised to be a nurturer. I feel a deep-seated (or is it deep-seeded?) urge to take care of those around me which is impossible to repress. I put other people's needs and wants before my own, even when it leaves me at a disadvantage. It's who I am and who I have always been. Whenever I try to put myself first, I feel overwhelming pangs of guilt and selfishness. I feel responsible for other people's happiness. And, while I know that this is unrealistic and often irrational (hours in counseling has given me this insight), it is hard (impossible?) to change that feeling. (Although, all that counseling has made me realize that this is why I have such high expectations for those around me. I expect all people to act like I do ... putting others first. And, when they don't, I'm easily disappointed.)

But I need to. I need to stop putting so much pressure on myself. My rational brain knows that I cannot be responsible for anyone else's happiness but my own, but my emotional center feels guilt and devastation whenever I am the cause (or I view myself as the cause) of someone else's unhappiness. Even when things out of my control make others unhappy, I still feel guilt and responsibility. I know that it's not healthy, but I can't seem to get out of this vicious cycle. My heart always equates selfishness with taking care of yourself even though my brain knows that one must be personally happy and complete to even have the potential of making others happy.

But how does one learn to be selfish? And that it's okay to be selfish to some degree? How do I learn to take care of my own needs before others without feeling such overwhelming guilt? I need to learn to compartmentalize my emotions better, but I don't know how to do that. And I need to. It's more of a self-preservation thing at this point.

20 December 2011

Epicurean Attempts - UPDATED

We all know I love all things food. I prefer to eat amazing food that other people make, but, occasionally, I attempt to make tasty morsels myself. Tonight was the first time I have created a recipe based solely on a picture (that I found, of course, on Pinterest). I won't know until tomorrow how it tastes (when I share it with my teammates at school. Hopefully it is good, or I'll be terribly embarrassed. It tasted AMAZING, and I will DEFINITELY be making it again.), but it looks pretty amazing. And smells pretty fantastic as well.

Chocolate Strawberry Pie
Chocolate-Covered-Strawberry Pie

This pie has been renamed to reflect it's tastiness. It seriously tastes just like chocolate covered strawberries. I'm already planning a white chocolate version and a cherry version.


1/2 oz. Knox unflavored gelatin (2 packets)
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. water
6 oz. chocolate chips (I prefer 66% dark, but any kind would work. White could be amazing as well.)
Fresh strawberries (I used just over a quart, but it depends on how big your berries are.)
Chocolate pie shell (You can make your own, but that is A LOT of work.)


Stem all of the strawberries. Slice each strawberry in half.

Combine first four ingredients (gelatin, sugar, water, chocolate) in a small saucepan and heat on low until all the chocolate has melted and all ingredients are combined.

Pour chocolate gelatin into the chocolate shell. Let the hot gelatin cool for a few minutes so not to cook or scald the berries. Add strawberries slowly, making sure that the berries peek out of the chocolate. The gelatin mixture will slowly rise, so be careful it doesn't overflow. Add as many berries as the pie shell will hold.

Pop in the refrigerator for about ten minutes. Take it back out once the gelatin has started to set. Add a few more strawberries to finish it off.

Keep in the refrigerator until set.

I'll let you know how it tastes tomorrow! Fingers crossed!
A little slice of YUM!

19 December 2011

I just may be the marrying kind

After my divorce eight years ago (give or take), I swore off marriage. Despite coming from a very happy home with parents who have been married for going on 35 (?) years (Go, Mom and Dad!), I decided that marriage wasn't really for me. My divorce wasn't particularly nasty or difficult, especially since we had no children and no joint assets, but my marriage itself was nothing spectacular. I married my starter husband (insert smile here) in my senior year of college after dating for four or so years. I know now that I married him because it was what I thought I was supposed to do. Everyone kept asking when we were going to get married because we had been dating for so long. I thought it was time, and I knew that everyone in my family loved him and he loved them. Coming from a tight family, that was really important. It seemed like it was the right thing to do at the right time. I know now that I was very mistaken. Hind sight is 20/20, right?

Married life wasn't at all what I expected it or wanted it to be. Most of my marriage, I felt like I had a roommate instead of a husband. We led very separate lives with very different interests. We did the family stuff together and enjoyed that, but, beyond the family stuff, we really didn't have much to connect us. We really were very different people running on different paths. I'm a social person who enjoys going out and socializing. While I also enjoy my quiet, solitary, at-home time, he enjoyed it too much. He never wanted to go out with friends and socialize. (Interestingly, as soon as we split up, that's all he ever did!) He was perfectly content to sit home every night of the week and watch TV. I figured that if that was what marriage was, I didn't want any part of it. So, after splitting up, I swore off marriage.

I honestly didn't see the point of marriage. Why should I need a piece of paper to show my love and devotion to someone else?   Everything seemed so perfect before marriage, and afterwards it all went to pot. I convinced myself that the problem was the marriage rather than the relationship. I thought marriage should be easy and organic, and I didn't realize the amount of work it required. I, honestly, didn't want to work that hard.

But, here I sit, the better part of a decade later, emerging from an epiphany. I've never said this before, but here goes ... I want to get married again someday. Obviously not tomorrow or next week or even next year, but I want to share my life with someone forever. I've realized that it's not just a piece of paper. It's a public declaration of the depth and breadth of a loving attachment to another human being of my choosing. I clearly had the wrong marriage before, but now I recognize that it was the relationship that was the problem, not the institution of marriage. As a real, all-grown-up adult, I recognize that all relationships are work, and marriage is no exception. I do expect it to be more equally balanced between work and ease, but it does take work.

And, to be honest, I want to be married in the Catholic Church. When I joined the Church years ago (it's weird to say that!), I decided to get an annulment from my first marriage. I never went through with the paperwork, but I'm going to now. I don't want a big fancy wedding because, honestly, money is better spent in other ways. But I would like to walk down the aisle and meet the love of my life at the altar. And when that happens, it'll be the last time it happens. If and when I get married again, it'll be the last time it happens for me.

Better late than never ...

I was a little late to jump on board the Hunger Games train, but I'm finally there. I'm through the first two books and am eager to start (and finish!) the third. And I'm super excited for the new movie to come out in March! The best part? Woody Harrelson plays Haymitch Abernathy, the curmudgeon-drunk trainer/mentor. The cast is all-over pretty great as well. Perhaps I'll have to take a group of kiddos to see it when it finally comes out on March 23rd!

15 December 2011

What I learned today ...

Complaining gets you  EVERYWHERE.

Let me rewind just a bit ...

I've always had a love/hate relationship with TV cable companies. I LOVE having cable and being able to watch TV whenever I want, but I HATE the complete racket that they have going on. They are, for all intents and purposes, a monopoly. Consumers have so few choices, and we are at the mercy of their price gouging. I've gone without cable before, but, sadly, cable and internet often go together. And there is NO WAY I can go without internet. So it becomes a vicious cycle of fighting with the cable company over prices every few months when they raise their prices again and again.

Since I've moved into this apartment three years ago, Time Warner Cable has raised my prices four times. Currently, I'm paying over $80 for cable and internet. I know that doesn't seem like a lot but I get 75 channels and broadband. For a single person in a small household, that's too much money for not enough service. When I got letters in the mail saying that it would go up another $15 at the end of this billing cycle, I had enough. I called up customer service, requested to be connected to Retention immediately, and told them that this price increase was unacceptable and I would not pay any more than I already was paying. Their solution was to offer my digital cable (I currently have basic), internet, and Showtime for $96. Um. No. By my math (and I'm no math wiz), that's more that what I'm currently paying. I told them to set me up for disconnection at the end of my billing cycle because I had had enough. The rep put me on hold to set up the disconnect.

Thirty minutes later I hung up. THIRTY MINUTES of being on HOLD for a disconnect? Not acceptable.

I immediately called back and connected with a supervisor. I explained the situation, and she offered to try to find me a better I deal. I told her that unless she worked a miracle, I was done. She clearly couldn't work me a miracle, and we set up disconnect for January 10th.

This evening, as I'm pulling into the parking lot, Time Warner calls. They want to know why I set up my service for disconnect. I explained that I was unhappy with paying more as well as their miserable customer service. He then offered me digital cable (the step up from what I am now) and internet for $56 a month, locked in for two years. Seriously? you couldn't offer me that yesterday and save all this hassle? Anyway, I agreed and hung up.

Five minutes later, they called back. A different rep tells me that the offer made before was only for people with a DVR box which I don't have. Here is comes. The bait and switch. I told her I wasn't interested in paying for a DVR box. She told me that I wouldn't be paying for anything and that a serviceman would be out to install the new box. So now I'll get cheaper cable and internet AND a DVR for two years. And they are coming on Sunday afternoon when I'm actually home.

All of this teaches me that being bitchy and complainy gets things done. Sweet and kind and courteous gets us no where these days. Which is sad and very unfortunate. What does that say about the world in which we live?

But at least I still have my beloved cable. :)

13 December 2011

Why I do what I do ... and LOVE it

I've said it before, and it is worth saying again...

I LOVE my job. 

I work with great kids and great people and have the opportunity to really participate in young lives in a fun and worthwhile way. 

About a week ago, I received the following email: 

"Dearest Ms. Short,
I would be honored and the happiest girl in the world if you would be my twin on twin day. We could dress up and be all matchy!" 

Of course, completely honored, I agreed. And this is what resulted: 

Where else can I dress up like a Christmas tree with a student for Twin Day and act like a big goof? And get paid for it?! 

I am so very blessed to have such an amazing job in such a wonderful place surrounded by so many wonderful people. And 'tis the season for recognizing and giving thanks for the blessings we enjoy. 

11 December 2011

My minimalist Christmas

This is the first Christmas of my life that I will celebrate alone. I'll be here in NC (with all of my wonderful friends, of course!), and all of my family will be in NY. It'll be a good growth experience for me, and I hope to get a lot of work done during the week off. I've finally gotten around to decorating the house, and, in the leftover feelings of downsizing, I have sorted through my decorations and am getting rid of A LOT. 

So this Christmas, I'm taking a rather minimalist approach to decorating. I've got my tree up and some other small things here and there, but it's not overwhelming or crazy. I'm also not doing much in terms of gift giving either, so, in reality, my entire Christmas is quite minimalist in general. 

My tree is the same tree I've had for years, and she is growing way too tall. I don't think she'll fit in the house next Christmas, but we'll see when we get there. 

I decided to add some sparkle to my glass cabinet by adding some ornaments of various sizes in different glasses.

Sparkle in a Marie Antoinette champagne glass.

Guinness glasses sparkle, too.

And there's gotta be a martini glass as well!

My favorite decoration. 
And the stockings are hung by the chimney with care. And it looks a little tropical with the orchid as a centerpiece (and I'm just noticing my manatee sculpture. That adds a special effect...).

Steal of the day!

I didn't actually steal this jacket, but I might as well have! I paid only $26.99 for it, and it rocks. I went to Old Navy today for the first time in AGES. I went in looking for a specific t-shirt (a student and I are going to be "twins" on Tuesday as a part of Homecoming Spirit Week, and I needed to pick up the shirt that we had agreed upon), but they are having some massive sales so I figured I'd look around a bit. It's hard for this girl to resist a good sale. I found a few 3/4 sleeve Ts for $5 and then I stumbled upon this little gem. A white cropped peacoat with cuffed sleeves for $26.99!! 

I've been needing a new coat, but it is so hard for me to find one that fits right because the sleeves are always too short. I have rather long arms, and I've ALWAYS struggled with sleeve length. But, I assure you, my arm length is completely proportional to the rest of my long body! :) This coat was perfect because 1.) it fit, 2.) it's cute and 3.) the cuffs were only tacked in place. As is, the sleeves were too short. But it took all of ten minutes for me to cut out the original tack and retack them longer. And now they are perfect! And I love it! 

09 December 2011

Coining a new phrase ...

I'm not a picky eater, but it can appear as such. I absolutely LOVE food. I love it so much that I need to workout regularly to burn it all off. But I am picky ... no, selective ... about the food I eat. Let me start at the beginning...

In the 8th grade, it was the "cool" thing to go vegetarian. Since I'd never been a huge red meat fan (save for veal, which, I know, is the absolute worst of the red meat category!), I figured I'd jump on the bandwagon. Hey, it was 8th grade and everyone was doing it. My mom quickly vetoed my new-found vegetarianism, worried that I wouldn't get enough protein and nutrients that I needed to grow. We compromised, and I only ate white meat (chicken and turkey) instead.

Soon (I think it was my freshman year in college or so) my only-white-meat-eterianism moved from being the "cool" thing to being a bleeding-heart-animal-lover thing. I'd seen the horrible videos and whatnot of the horrible animal abuses in slaughter houses, and, if you know anything about me, you know I prefer the company of animals to most people.

In my "freshman" year of the PhD program, my bleeding-heart-animal-lover thing morphed into an environmentally-conscious approach to eating. I was working for a family who had an autistic child and they were focusing on a mainly organic and natural diet in an attempt to keep him free from environmental toxins (because some research has linked autism and environmental toxins. But, when you have a kid who needs help, you will try anything to make things better. It was worth a shot.). I began investigating food production practices and science and learned a lot of things that made me think twice about the kinds of food I put into my body. My dietary preferences were (and are) more focused on both the treatment of the food (animal, vegetable, and fruit) that I consume as well as the environmental impact of said food.

So now, I will eat pork, chicken, turkey ... ONLY if I have relatively sure that the animal was raised in a humane fashion and that the farming practices are sustainable. I still do not eat red meat because, like I said before, I never real had a taste for red meat. I choose organic and sustainable vegetables and fruits whenever possible. I make a conscious effort to consume food which is humane and sustainable. It doesn't happen 100% of the time, but I try to make it happen MOST of the time. (Granted, this is totally a 1st world concern, and I recognize the privilege and elitism that influences my decision. I do wish that all peoples of the world had access to adequate and sustainable foods. I'm thankfully I have the means to make such dietary decisions.)

No the problem lies in explaining this when I go out to eat with friends. I'm not a vegetarian per se because I do eat meat under certain conditions. So, I need a new term to describe my dietary lifestyle. And I think I've come up with it: Enviraterian. It sounds like I eat the environment (which makes me laugh. I feel like a monster consuming all I see ...), but I think it makes sense with my purpose in dietary decisions.   Of course, this term itself will need explaining in it's own right, but it will take less backpedaling and clarification than saying I'm a vegetarian but ...

We'll see how it goes ...

06 December 2011

Re "decorating"

I've been living in the same apartment for going on three years now (which happens to be an adulthood record for me! Normally I don't last more than two years in a given space.), and I've gotten tired of looking at the same furniture in the same spots. Since I can't paint (or  I'll just have to repaint again when I move ... in May?) and I can't afford massive amounts of furniture, I resorted to what I used to do in high school ... rearrange the furniture!

And, boy, did I!

I completely rearranged the living room, the kitchen/dining area, and my bedroom. And I already love the change. (To see the place before the changes, check out this post.)

The bar (still stocked) is now where the dining table used to be.

And the baker's rack with some soft lighting (because the lighting in this room sucks!).

My new "spacious" living room. Although Cecilia the Fur still dominates the space.
Thankfully she is only indoors until it warms up. I can't believe how much she has grown in five years!

The dining area is now outside of the kitchen.
 I've also decided to make a more conscious effort to keep my bedroom a "sanctuary" space. Someplace I can go that's comfortable and easy and "me." It's not totally there yet (I need some art on the walls and a bit of tweaking with the lighting), but she's getting there.

Because I have no bedside tables anymore (you'll see in a later pic), I need one of my serving trays in the bedroom.
Which I kind of love the feel of. Adds to the "relaxation" vibe I'm trying to build. 

The old church pew my parents gave me works perfectly here.
Hopefully I can prevent it from being a "catch-all" (which it has already started to be but only because I'm not done yet!

I love it. Ahhh .....
No bedside tables means no place to stash my books and my glasses.
Thankfully, the church pew has a hymnal rack on the back which holds my books and glasses PERFECTLY. 

I want my bedroom to be like that last picture all the time. Candles lit, cozy blankets, a good cocktail (my special blend, of course), good books ready for reading ... Maybe if I can make this happen on a regular basis, I'll stay level and stress-free. Right?

The whole house needs some new artwork added, and I've got a ton of my own photographs to put up. I just need to decide what and where and all that jazz. But, for now, I'm happy with my "new" space.

My new most favoritest kitchen accessory ...

The Slate Plate!

Isn't she pretty? 

She's solid rock and can be cooled, warmed, served on, and/or eaten from. I've used her a handful of times already, and I've only had her for three days! I can write on her and label the food items on display so my guests can make informed decisions about what they are eating. :)

As you can see, she goes GREAT with cheese. Which is a good thing since cheese is one of my most favoritest things. :)

If you, too, would like a Slate Plate, check out the website. It's a local (Raleigh) start-up making some pretty sweet stuff.


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