Saturday, January 30, 2010

Birthday Cookies for My Second Son

When The Writer entered Kindergarten, he made a life-long friend who was a steady fixture in our house over the years.  They were truly opposites.  The Writer being somewhat quiet and introspective and his buddy, Elliott, a virtual whirlwind of activity and mischief.  It ended up being such a special friendship not just for The Writer, but for our whole family. Elliott was just a part of our household and we liked to think of him as our second son.
The Writer and Elliott with their sax teacher, Mr. Wier
circa 1999

When Elliott and The Writer were in middle school, I was the morning carpool driver.  The boys will tell you those were somewhat hellish mornings waiting for our third carpool member, a female, to emerge from her house, always 10-15 minutes late.  It was an exercise in patience and restraint. It was during these years that I started giving Elliott a little bag of homemade peanut butter cookies on his birthday.  A tradition I've sworn to carry on as long as possible.  Since Elliott still lived in O-town, this task has just been a matter of dropping the cookies off at his parent's house as I knew he would drop by there on his special day.  I always got a phone call, or special thank you note from him declaring it was always his best birthday present.  Well, I know my second son, and he is a flatterer, but I appreciated his appreciation nonetheless.

This year, Mr. Elliott is living in Oklahoma!  Awaiting the birth of his baby girl!  The Boston Lady had to think ahead this year.  I extracted Elliott's address from him while he was in Orlando in December.  I marked today as the day I would make THE cookies and Monday for mailing day so they would arrive to Elliott, Birthday Boy, Daddy-to-be, by Feb 3, his day of birth.

Elliott doesn't know the recipe I use.  It's one I've modified over the years, but it is a classic peanut butter cookie recipe that I always use from a cookbook my mother gave me when I married Mr. Tennis in 1981.

The book always falls open to the peanut butter cookie recipe because I've used it so much over the years for school bake sales, Christmas cookies, family get togethers and of course the annual baking of Elliott's Bday cookies.

So here you have it:

My Second Son's Birthday Peanut Butter Cookies:
(From The Joy of Cooking)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup granulated sugar

Beat until soft:
1/2 Cup of butter

Add the sugar gradually to the butter and blend until creamy.

Beat in:
1 egg
1 Cup of peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Sift before measuring:
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

Add flour to batter as well as:
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.

I vary the recipe slightly by adding the vanilla when I blend the sugars and butters.  It just seems to help them blend better.  I also do not sift my flour.  After everything is mixed together (in my Aunt Dot's bowl, using my mother's wooden spoon) I add a bag of Reese's peanut butter chips.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Press a fork into some leftover flour and press down cookies forming the usually seen grid pattern on peanut butter cookies.

Bake 10 minutes, let cool ten minutes and then remove from pan and let cool on some paper towels.

Happy Birthday Elliott!!  Love, Your Other Family

The Writer's lovely GF, Sammy invited me to write this entry as a guest blogger on her fantastic blog which you can find right HERE!  Thanks Sammy!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oh Boy...So, there's a delay

I know my loyal readers are going to be sorely disappointed that Mr. Tennis and I will have to postpone the juggernaut that is our rip-off PB bed foundation.  Unfortunately somebody in this household has to work, besides me, and Mr. T's talents are being called upon this upcoming weekend.

You will be happy to know that I, hard-working Boston Lady that I am, went to two, count them, two, home improvement stores today to see if they would pre-cut wood.  One would not. (boo, hiss, L's).  One will. (cheers, balloons, streamers, HD).  So, we may at least go and get our wood cut this weekend and then strategize about how to proceed from there.

Question for anyone who has worked with raw wood construction.  Do you sand the peices BEFORE putting them together or do you wait and sand the finished structure?  Advice is appreciated.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mission Impossible, Or, We've Finally Lost Our Minds

To:  Mr. Tennis and The Boston Lady
Re:  Your Mission

Your, mission, should you choose to accept it is to build a PB knock-off Stratton King-size bed foundation.  This is a dangerous endeavour involving power tools, many instructions and most perilous of all, a threat to the happy marriage you currently are experiencing.

The payoff:  bonding time as a couple, a new bed foundation (possibly), the admiration (read ridicule) of your friends and neighbors and most importantly, the satisfaction of PB not getting your hard-earned money.

This, loyal readers, is what Mr. T and I have been reduced to after searching for a suitable bed frame replacement.  Yes, we have aged over the last few weeks and that is the only explanation for what is about to occur within the next two weeks.  Mr. Tennis' resistance to building my dream PB bed has been depleted.  I finally wore him down until he could take no more trips to furniture stores or look at endless platform beds online.  It didn't hurt that the Boston Lady turned into a shell of her former self, as you can see from the above picture.  Seriously, Mr. Tennis has gamely declared (read surrendered) that he is willing to give the DIY version of the PB bed a try.

Game Plan:  Boston Lady will take said plans to home improvement store this week and see if they are willing to cut wood to specifications.  Supposedly they will do such a thing... for a price.

Then, she will come home and cheerfully tell Mr. T that all wood can be cut and all they have to do is put it together with rented screw gun (I'm told they exist), rented nail gun (these I know exist, but have only seen them used in gruesome murder scenes in movies - oh no, is that foreshadowing?) and some wood glue.

What could possibly go wrong?

Guess you will have to tune in to find out as I will document this whole experience in excruciating detail, lest my loyal followers feel cheated.  Mr. Tennis and I will probably use some bad words, thus coming up with an appropriate name for said bed foundation. Nonetheless,  I'm hoping by this time a fortnight from now, we may have an unpainted (see, I'm not being too cocky about this- I did not say, totally finished, but we may surprise everyone) bed foundation that may possibly resemble my PB obsession.

Bostons, your bed domination days are numbered.

If anyone is interested in this really incredible blog here is the link: right here . She's quite a creative individual and if we pull this off, I will be trying some of her other plans. 

Why start small?

Boston Lady, out.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Welcome to Orlando, Jack and Vicky!

Doesn't this handsome gentleman look like Gene Kelly?  This is my favorite picture of Jacques and Vicky Bourgeauc.  I didn't know them when this picture was taken.  I believe they were in the dating phase and were riding a roller coaster.  Grandpa Courtney probably snapped the picture because it was amongst his slides. Anyway, whenever I see this particular picture I always think of Gene Kelly, one of my favorite actor/dancers - have always loved "Singing in the Rain".  Jacques (Uncle Jack to us) are you that talented?

Vicky is the younger sister of Orlando Grandma.  Aunt to Mr. Tennis and his brothers.  I have lots of pictures of her when she used to visit Orlando Grandma and Courtney.  She spent a lot of time with them, especially when Mr. Tennis was a baby and a toddler. Even before he was born as this picture shows.  I guess she was practicing with her sister for life in the wilds of Iowa:

And was right at home at Gramps' lake house:

That's Mr. Tennis in front. L to R:  Orlando G-ma, Grandma Rose, (not sure-Edinella?), Vicky and then Uncle Larry.

Vicky was apparently quite the bathing beauty and that must be what caught the dashing Jacques' eye:

Vicky at the Lake House, circa 1958 right before the birth of the great Mr. Tennis

Vicky and Jack, yes, this is your life!  I even have a couple of wedding pictures!

How pretty and handsome!
I still say Gene Kelly!

Jack, I do think you look a little scared in this one, but you obviously made a great decision when you married this lovely woman.

I didn't get to meet Jack and Vicky until that first visit I took to Panama with Mr. T.  We were all staying at Orlando G-ma's home in the Canal Zone.  They were very welcoming to "the new girl".  I realize now, when reflecting back on that, they were younger than I am now!

Jack and Vicky have been a steady (although sadly distant) fixture in my life since I've known Mr. Tennis.  We see them about once a year when they come down this way in May to soak up some sunshine at Orlando Gma's timeshare in Sebastian.  It's always a yummy visit because Jack, or Jacques, is an excellent chef and he always shares a wonderful meal with us.  And the wine's not bad either!!

I was fortunate to share some extended one-on-one time with Vicky several years ago when she was in town to help her sister recover from some surgery.  Vicky, I always felt like that was the time I really got to know what a wonderful person, and sister, you are! Looking back all these pictures, I realize how much you were involved with Mr. Tennis' early years and the newlywed  phase of Orlando Grandma and Grandpa Courtney!
Vicky and Orlando Grandma, circa 2003

The Writer, Aunt Vicky, Orlando G-ma, The Maven at Lake Eola Park in Orlando, Circa 2003

I initally said that the picture of Jack and Vicky on the roller coaster was a favorite of mine, but I've always treasured this one of Vicky dancing with Gramps on one of the best days of my life.  My wedding.  This picture is priceless:

Vicky and Gramps, March 28, 1981

Thanks for being here Jack and Vicky! And enjoy the Florida sunshine.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Athena! Come Back!

This picture doesn't do her justice, but she's the cutest hamster in the world.  I thought I was all done with hamsters after The Maven and The Writer went through several in their younger years.  But then Athena came into the Boston household this year.  I resisted falling for her, but after I saw how sweet-tempered and smart she was I couldn't help but develop a hamster-crush.

Athena stayed here through The Maven's Christmas break and a couple of weeks beyond.  Until... today.  Athena rode off with her mom and I lost my little veggie-loving buddy. 

On the bright side, The Bostons and cats are happy to have my undivided attention once again.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Taking a Moment....

A friend sent this very timely and touching written piece.  With all the trivial things I write about in this silly blog, I wanted to take a moment to reflect and be grateful for the family and friends I have.  My life is such a blessed one and I don't always take time to appreciate that.  We have to look no further than the people in Haiti to realize how lucky we are and sometimes we don't even have to look that far away.

I hope this strikes the same cord in some of you that it did in me.  Thanks KarenSue for passing this along to me.

I Believe…

A Birth Certificate shows that we were born.

A Death Certificate shows that we died.

Pictures show that we lived!

Have a seat .. . . Relax .. . . And read this slowly.......


I Believe...

That just because two people argue, that

doesn't mean they don't love each other.

And just because they don't argue, that

doesn't mean they do love each other.

I Believe....

That sometimes when I'm angry I have the right to be angry,

but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel.

I Believe...

That we don't have to change friends if

we understand that friends change.

I Believe....

That no matter how good a friend is, they're going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.

I Believe.....

That true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance.

Same goes for true love..

I Believe...

That you can do something in an instant

that will give you heartache for life.

I Believe....

That it's taking me a long time

to become the person I want to be.

I Believe...

That you should always leave loved ones with

loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

I Believe...

That you can keep going long after you think you can't.

I Believe....

That we are responsible for what

we do, no matter how we feel.


That either you control your attitude or it controls you.

I Believe...

That heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I Believe...

That money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I Believe...

That my best friend and I can do anything, or nothing, and have the best time.

I Believe...

That sometimes the people you expect to kick you

When you're down will be the ones to help you get back up..

I Believe...

That maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you've had,

and what you've learned from them.....and less to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated.

I Believe....

That it isn't always enough to be forgiven by others.

Sometimes, you have to learn to forgive yourself..

I Believe...

That no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn't stop for your grief.

I Believe...

That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are,

but we are responsible for who we become.

I Believe...

That you shouldn't be so eager to find

out a secret. It could change your life Forever.

I Believe...

Two people can look at the exact same

thing and see something totally different.

I Believe...

That your life can be changed in a matter of

hours by people who don't even know you.

I Believe...

That even when you think you have no more to give, if

a friend cries out to will find the strength to help.

I Believe...

That credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.

I Believe...

That the people you care about most in life are taken from you too soon.

I Believe.....

That you should send this to all of the people that you believe in. I just did..

The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything;

They just make the most of everything.

Thank you God for all the wonderful people who help us throughout the journey of life……

God Bless You!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Still on the Floor

I know most of you are just riveted by our little bed drama here in Orlando.  We had a really cranky weekend searching endlessly for beds, preferrably platform beds to accomodate our "Select-Comfort" mattress which is finicky, but wonderful.

The only happy ones in the house this weekend were the four legged creatures who are enjoying the easy access to "their" bed.  They are absolutely shameless in their lack of courtesy when claiming the bed.  In fact, Susie, the black cat, actually complains when I get into my spot and she must shift slightly.  This is not good.

Anyway, I have found the design I would like and I found it at PB. Hey.... I heard the inward gasp of fear from all of you.  That's exactly what I did in the store, except it was not inward, I'm afraid - when the price was quoted to me.  I had to ask the salesperson to repeat and point to the figure again because I was sure I hadn't heard her correctly.  I'm usually pretty good at masking my surprise in these situations, but, hey, my mattress is on the floor.  I don't do "pretend" anymore.

When Mr. Tennis and I slunk (slinked?) back home after TWO days of looking at beds (and yes, we did return to THAT place where the failed bed had come from just in case they had a sensible alternative - nope) I got on the internet.  I discovered they there are a lot of people on the web who are ticked at PB and their prices.  Even going as far as to call them "Rip-off Barn".

Well, while soothing my seething brain by commisserating with fellow PB Haters I found many websites that sell platform beds.  Nice ones too!  But I just couldn't get that PB Stratton bed out of my head.  I REALLY like it.  I haven't named it yet, but I'm close.

I stumbled upon a website run by a woman who was frustrated with these big name furniture stores and their pricey items.  She has figured out the configurations and built many pieces, including my beloved Stratton bed.  She claims, and she's correct, that it is basically not a bed but three benches put together to form a bed.  My sentiments exactly when I was examing the bed in the showroom.

So..... do I do it?  Do I attempt to build this myself?  Do I bribe Mr. Tennis into helping me?  Or do I bribe my good friend, who is still my good friend, after the chair upholstery project, into helping me?  We do not own a lot of power tools.  We have one electric saw that my brother gave Mr. T 20 years ago.  We are not good at measuring.  I'm good at painting and directing.  Mr. T is good at many things, but he doesn't like me to direct.  This is a dilema.  I may call in re-inforcements.  We may tackle it ourselves.  This is a drama to rival the Jay Leno/NBC/Conan O'Brien debacle.

Stay tuned if you dare. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Burning Bed

We have a term in The Boston Household that refers to an actor or actress's performance, or rather the vehicle (movie) in which their performance appears. It's a phrase we use to measure the depth, seriousness and credibility of a particular role an actor/actress performs.  I guess I'm really being too inclusive when I say "we".  "I" am actually the one who uses this term the most, but the rest of the family knows exactly what I mean when I say it.

I coined this phrase in the 1980s after I watched a performance by, of all people, Farrah Fawcett.  She, of course was known for her pretty smile, killer bod and somewhat lackluster acting ability in "Charlie's Angels".  After she left the Angels she decided she wanted to be taken seriously as an actress and show the depth of her acting ability by doing a 1984 made-for-TV movie called "The Burning Bed".  It was indeed a departure from her frivilous Angel days.  She played an abused wife who sought revenge on her husband by burning him in his bed.  Farrah proved her acting chops in this movie and went on to tackle other challenging roles in her career and of course, her most challenging was her real-life fight with cancer. 
So it has come to be that when I see a particularily intense performance in a movie, I will say it is that person's "burning bed".  And this term especially applies to actors/actresses who many would not expect such a performance from.  For instance, Mo'nique's performance in this year's "Precious" would definitely be considered her "burning bed".  Meryl Streep's performances are not really considered "burning beds" because we all expect greatness from her.  Although we have come to appreciate Robert Downey Jr.'s fine acting ability, he was mainly a "teen film" actor early on until he tackled "Chaplin" and gave people an idea of his true range.

Cher - Silkwood
Tom Hanks - Philadelphia
Katie Holmes - Pieces of April
Charlize Theron - Monster
Owen Wilson - Behind Enemy Lines
Sally Field - Norma Rae

These are just a handful that come to mind off the top of my head.  Perhaps some of you have some suggestions.

As for me, my "burning bed", was last night in the backyard.  It was cold, there was broken wood from the bed debacle and there was an outdoor fire place begging to be used.  So this was my burning bed:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Don't Bugg Me!

I received many unique gifts this past Christmas as some of you may remember from one of my posts, but this year I got something I've wanted for awhile.

I'm a huge reality-tv fan, although I am trying to limit myself somewhat. (No Dancing With the Stars for me this year! Way to take a stand!) But one show I can't resist is The Bigget Loser. I would love to have Jillian come in and train my, excuse me, behind.  Last Christmas Mr. Tennis, at my request got me a Jillian Wii program, but it was just not motivating.  Digital Jillian was a poor substitute. Although I liked hearing her yell at me. JK

Besides, I have my own "Jillian".  I have a good friend, Maria, who has helped me get in shape the last 4-5 years.  She looks better than Jillian, is more "mature" and doesn't yell except when she's teaching a class.  She has helped me shed about 60 lbs overall and get in the best shape of my adult life.  If Maria lived with me 24/7 I would look absolutely stunning, but, hey, I like to eat real food and I just don't have her willpower when it comes to food and wine.

Mr. Tennis and I joined a new gym last summer and it just happens to be the one featured in the Biggest Loser shows.  I swear it was a coincidence!  But meeting Shaq while we took the tour kinda sealed the deal for Mr. T.  Besides we pay half of what we paid at our old gym and this one is cleaner, has better classes, and, okay, this was a big selling point, my personal Jillian, Maria, is an instructor there. 

I take water aerobics, body sculpting, kickboxing and boot camp with Maria. She manages to get me to do things I never thought I was capable of doing - ever!  I should be a physical specimen, but alas, I have my weaknesses and so I had to call in some extra support.  I asked Mr. Tennis for something for Christmas that I hope will help me go that last leg of my "get in shape" journey.  And he and Santa delivered!

I'm excited to say, I have a BodyBugg.  No, not the flu, but a little device that I wear on my arm and it measures the amount of calories I burn.  It even calculates how many I burn just sleeping at night (over 600, apparently).  I'm not quite sure how this little bugg works exactly, but I connect it to my computer to download the info it has recorded while I'm wearing it.  The computer has my height, weight (no I will not reveal that) and resting pulse rate.  You can also add body mass index (BMI) and fat %, but I don't have that info.  So I imagine it takes all of those into consideration to make it's calculations.

I took Maria's body sculpting class last week and my bodybugg said I burned about 950 calories during that.  Then I took her kickboxing class on Saturday and it said I burned 750 calories.  Her kickboxing class is much more challenging for me, but the sculpting class involves weights, but less cardio.  I thought my calorie expenditure would be the reverse between the two of those. Hmmmm.

Anyway, the idea is to monitor how many calories you burn throughout a day and then tailor your caloric intake so you lose weight.  So, that is what I intend to do.  Now, how do I convince Maria, or Jillian, to move in with me, prepare my food and tell what to eat and not to eat?

Friday, January 8, 2010

What is Wrong with this Picture? I Mean, Really!

Well, we had an interesting night last night.  Can you tell what happened?  No, there was not a coup staged by  the animals to gain control of our bed.  That happened years ago.  The bed that we searched weeks for. In dozens of stores.  On craigslist. At Pottery Barn online sales, but ended up getting from a huge store that I normally love where you take home your furniture in boxes and then spend hours assembling said furniture. The bed I really, really liked and almost named. (No, not one of the names we called it during assembly time).  That bed collapsed at 10:30pm last night. 

No shenanigans were involved.  Don't even go there. No, we simply lay down to watch "Modern Family" on the DVR and during the opening credits Mr. Tennis, The Bostons and one cat (and I) plunged to the floor.  Fortunately second cat was not under bed where she usually likes to hang.

This is what the bed looks like now:

Oh, and we finally named it.  We ended up with one of the ones we were considering during that wonderful assembly process.  It wouldn't be polite to print it here.

Let the bedframe hunt commence again.  And there will be no particle board involved this time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year, Sorta New Projects!

Well, I have lots of ideas of what I'd like to do to improve the environment in which Mr. Tennis, The Bostons, the Cats and I live in, but it's hard to know where to start.  When you live in a house that's almost 50 years old there's always something that needs improvement.  Just like my 50ish self!

My main priority besides my "Don Draper" chairs are my "Harry Potter" dining room chairs:

I call them this for obvious reasons.  I bought the dining room set from a garage sale.  Six chairs, a great table and a really nice china cabinet, all for $500 several years ago.  I have never liked the chairs and always envisioned replacing them.  I would like to buy second-hand chairs and am not against painting them a color.  My latest brainstorm re Operation Harry Potter are two rattan or wicker end chairs and four other chairs.  Before I had this vision, I had the opportunity to purchase four decent side chairs for $5 each at the thrift store, but I couldn't get the number six out of my head at that time.  Now, I have a clearer view (depending on who you talk to) of what I'm aiming for.  As I know many of you won't sleep until I have resolved this dilema, please sleep.  I move very slowly as any of my friends will tell you.  Perhaps this time next year I will have an update on my "Harry" drama.

I actually got a bit of a start before Christmas with an area that I have always, well, yes, hated.  It's been improved, not redone and now I feel kind of good when I walk into it.  It's my so-called master bathroom.  I don't have any before pictures because I just never took any.  It's a small room, about 6 x 8. (My, that sounds like a jail cell!).  Although it is in our massive master suite (again, I am being sacastic), it is a one person, or one cat bathroom.  Yes, it is where the litter box has resided for the last 20 years.

It is a shower only bathroom.  We replaced the once beautiful 1960s era blue sink and toilet a few years ago.  I ripped down the wallpaper that hung there when we first moved in, painted it white and then did a hideous stencil.  At the time it looked better, but over the years I began to hate it - both the stencil, the bathroom as a whole, and in particular the very hard to clean, it-never-looks-clean tile in the shower area.

I woke up one morning in November and decided that would be the day.  I would scrub the infernal stall until my hands bled, I would march into Lowes, not fret over colors and pick one I liked by instinct, and then.... Yes, then, I would tackle my old enemy.

I scrubbed, bleached and cursed.  While the room aired out I took off for Lowes, looking quite wonderful I would guess.  For years I had envisioned that bathroom in a mossy green.  The tile is white and it needed some color.  I love green, so I boldly selected what I thought would look totally wonderful in that room.

Came home, kicked the cats out of their litter box. Told the Bostons to take a hike and began painting.

I panicked when the color first went on.  I panicked after it dried.  I panicked the next day.  But then I started getting a few accessories to "jazz" up the joint and now I smile when I walk into my "bathroom suite".  The shower tile is still hideous, the litter box is still there, but the rest of it makes me feel pretty good.

I'm not the best photographer, but you get the idea.  The blue towel bars remain and I think they kind of blend in with the look of the room.  I covered the ugly window with dish towel curtains and added a nice hook to hold the plastic bags (yes, for THAT) and put an inspirational sign above the window.

Close up of "curtains" and sweet sign.

Mr. Tennis and I have always been big fans of the "Life is Good" line of clothing and accessories so I was happy to find this... hang over our mirror and get our days off to a good start.

On our one final wall I hung these two cute pictures I found at Marshall's.  My other wall hangings I found at TJ Maxx and Home Goods.  All were on sale and I estimate my entire "makeover" budget was about $100. Oh, and a basket on the commode to hold hairbrushes, etc..

Finally, I found a "green" shower curtain with a leaf motif on it at Bed Bath and Beyond (coupon used) and a pretty soap dispenser from Target.

My big problem area is the, ahem, feline lavatory area.  If any of my loyal followers have any suggestions.  And I don't mean things such as giving the cats away.  I would appreciate it.
I leave you with a little clipping that I cut out of the paper when Bill Clinton was first elected and brought the family cat, Socks, to the White House.  I realize it is scandalous that I still have that cartoon taped to the door above where the "girls" hang out, but I have come to my senses and will frame it.  Little, by little, I am becoming a cultured human being.

I promise, I will frame it and make it "pretty".  When was he elected, 1992? Okay, so I've only had it taped up there for almost 18 years.  Oh my...