Monday, October 4, 2010

Money-Free Weekend #9

"I'm a pack rat of sorts myself. Of emotions. Not so much with actual things." - Pushing Daisies

South Carolina has succumbed to autumn. The days are mild and the evenings are distinctly chilly; the vivid blue sky is turning grey, and the silky green trees are edged with red. I have traded in my sundresses for wool slacks, and I’ve tucked away my polo shirts and unfolded my sweaters to hang in the closet. Fall is upon us and Hawaii is only a month away!

Saturday morning began with a sharp dose of reality. Matt had to work, so I got up with him and helped him gather up all his stuff and kiss him goodbye. When I opened the garage door, I was abruptly reminded of our community garage sale. There were a dozen people standing at the end of our short (very short) driveway staring at me as I stood there in my ratty sweatpants and sweat shirt, my greasy hair piled on my head haphazardly. There should be some kind of law preventing strangers from being in front of your house at 8:00 am on a Saturday. If I wanted people to know what I really looked like I wouldn’t spend so much money at Sephora. After slipping Matt a discrete goodbye kiss, I slipped back inside where I debated between going back to bed or snuggling on the couch with Henry and watching Pushing Daisies. Henry and Pushing Daisies won, so we settled down on the couch and watched the Piemaker and the girl he calls Chuck solve the mysteries of life and death.

At 10:00, I packed Henry in the back of the car and headed out to pick up Lucy. Lucy is the two-year old daughter our friends Nathan and Holly. Nathan is Matt's best friend, and Holly and I are fortunate enough to get along as well. Lucy is delightful, and I'd been wanting to have a play date with her for a while. It finally worked out that Holly needed someone to watch her at the same time that I was free to do so! Lucy came out dressed in a green sweater, blue and green flowered pants and matching green and blue striped glasses. I generally have a rule that children in my presence can not be better dressed than I am, but I made an exception for Lucy. We stopped at Liquid Highway to get some lattes for the adults, and then met Beth at the dog park downtown. As we made our way from the parking lot to the dog park (all the while trying to juggle two lattes, a pug, a dauschund, and a two year old), we passed some volunteers planting. One of them called out to Lucy, "I like your sunglasses," so she stopped and twirled for them and announced, "I have a 'pack-pack' too!"

At the dog park, Henry ran all over. Watching him makes me want to be a pug. He looks so happy when he runs and so contented when he's flopped over asleep on his bed. Lucy played tirelessly. She would scoop up handfuls of mulch from the ground of the dog park and walk over to strangers and hold it out to them. The pristinely dressed women would solomnly accept the mulch and ask Lucy what it was. When she informed them that it was cookies or chips they would pretend to eat it and then exclaim how good it was. Then they'd tell Beth how cute her daughter was. I wanted to pipe up and say, "Actually, she's with me!" When Henry and I were finally worn out, we all made our way home where we made chocolate chip cookies and ate lunch with "my Matt" (as Lucy calls him). After lunch Henry and Lucy tried to work out that confusing matter of toys. Lucy is good at sharing, but Henry is accustomed to every stuffed, plastic and primary colored thing belonging to him. When Holly came to pick Lucy up, Lucy began to cry. Apparantly this means she had a good time. I sent her home with mulch on her shoes, Polynesian sauce on her shirt, and melted chocolate on her pants.

After I reluctantly handed Lucy back to her real mother (not Beth), Matt asked me if I'd like to play Halo with him on the Xbox. Since I used to throw tantrum every time I inevitably lost, Matt had stopped asking me to play, so I jumped at the opportunity to redeem myself. Matt had eight out of ten kills. I smiled and congratulated him. I had planned an afternoon of outdoor activities, but Matt said he was tired and suggested an Office marathon instead. We just got season 6, so we lounged around and watched the antics of the workers of the fictional Dunder-Mifflin. We ate my chocolate chip cookies which were pefectly crispy on the outside and chocolately and chewy in the middle, and drank hot coffee rich with half and half. It was a nice change of pace from our usual activity packed weekends.

Around 7, Matt got hungry for a snack, so we met Beth downtown for some sushi. Then we went home to watch the epsidoe of the Office where Pam and Jim get married, and I cried. Matt laughed then held me close and let me dry my eyes on the sleeve of his sweater.

Sunday morning I taught the five year olds about Noah and the flood. I had asked Matt for some ideas in presenting it, and he suggested taking his fossil collection. One of the reason's I love teaching the five year olds so much is because they are cognitively developed enough to understand so many things, but they also see everything as new and exciting. We studied and discussed petrified wood and other fossils and then drew our own. Well, most of the children drew fossils; one chid drew an excavator.

After church Matt and I drove up to Charlotte. We needed mice for our snakes, and could only get them on Sunday. We used the time in the car to seriously begin planning our Hawaii trip. Matt said he wants to go on a helicopter, see a volcano, whale watch, go to a luau, eat pineapple, and see Mark and Cherie. We'll probably get to do the last two on that list. I got to talk to Cherie on the phone, and I'm started to really anticipate this trip. I have no idea what to even expect, so I'm just focusing on the fact that we will see our dear friend again for the first time in a year and a half. That in itself is exciting!

While Matt was in the reptile show, I sat in the car soaking up the sunshine and reading Mockingjay. Sunshine is so much more than warm. It feels happy and healthy and restful. People were staring at my bare feet resting on the dash, but I didn't care. Matt came out loaded up with frozen mice, and we headed over to the South Park Mall for some window shopping. Some people say that window shopping is dangerous because it can lead to covetousness. I disagree. I prefer to think of it as navigating your way through a living museum of American culture. We went to Tiffany and Co. and admired the rows of gleaming silver and diamonds; we went to Burberry where I ran my hands over impossibly soft cashmere scarves; and we went to Sephora where we tried on extravagant scents, veiling ourselves in unfamiliar fragrances.

We concluded our American experience by spending the rest of our weekend money at the Cheesecake Factory. Matt ordered the red velvet cheesecake and I ordered the pumpkin cheesecake. Somehow, the Cheesecake Factory has managed to take ordinary desserts and improve them by adding them to cream cheese and a crust. I've never been a red velvet cake enthusiast like Matt. To me there is nothing red about red velvet cake except the dye. Red food should be things like firey salsa full of fresh vegetables and spices, or strawberries bursting with the sweet taste of sunshine and summer. However, when I accepted a bite of Matt's cake, I realized I'd never fully understood the significance of the red in the base of an oil lamp casting a rosy glow, or the red in a chenille blanket. That is the same red that is in red velvet cake. It was subtly sweet and oh so comforting. My pumpkin cheesecake was light and airy and had all the pumpkin flavor of it's rustic country cousin Pumpkin Pie.

We drove home watching the sky and landscape slowly lose it's color. My friend Nicole came over and we watched Elf, and I made peanut butter cookies. It was a satisfying conclusion to a satisfying weekend.

And now, since you have bourne with me for the description of an entire weekend, I will reward you with the peanut butter cookie recipe. These are the best peanut butter cookies you'll ever eat. They are perfectly moist and soft and sweet and salty. I'll even let you (dear readers) in on my secret ingredient - kosher salt. It bring out the perfect saltiness and just a touch of unexpected crunch. You can, however, use table salt and still have a undeniably good cookie. I got the recipe from our friend Josh, and he has given me permission to share it. I hope you enjoy it!

The Perfect Peanut Butter Cookie

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix ¾ cup peanut butter mounded with ½ cup butter, softened.
Mix 1 ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar.
Then add 3 Tablespoons of milk.
Then add 1 teaspoon of vanilla
Then add 1 egg and mix until just blended.
Mix together 1 ¾ cup flour, ¾ tsp baking soda and ¾ tsp salt.
Add dry mixture to butter mixture and mix until just blended.
Mound and put on tray. Bake for 8 minutes. Cut mini Reese’s peanut butter cups in half and press into tops of cookies immediately after cooking.

They will be soft. They’ll harden as they cool, but it’s important not to overcook them or they’ll be too dry.


  1. What kind of flowers are we supposed to use in the cookie recipe?

  2. Thank goodness for the edit option. Flowers would be more poetic, but I just use flour.


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