30 June 2010


Photo'Perfexion Fluid Foundation

Alright, I admit it: I’m capricious when it comes to my makeup. I’ll use something for a day or two, decide that I love it, and then rave about it, only to be proven wrong after about a week and a half. Such is the case, recently, with my foundation. I was using philosophy’s the supernatural makeup, which initially attracted me because it's a hybrid liquid/mineral makeup. After three months with it, I can say that I’ve made the informed decision to dislike it. It’s too thick and just unattractive, not to mention that the only shade that came close to matching my skin tone was WAY yellow. I felt bad about not using it once I’d bought it, though, so I used it all up ‘til it was gone. Such a good girl.

Enter, Givenchy. Yes, I’ve only used it for a day, so yes, you’re likely to be reading about my disdain for it in a month or so, but… Right now, I really like it. The texture is silky and smooth, not so thick that it won’t spread evenly, but not so thin that it doesn’t cover adequately. The coverage, actually, is pretty remarkable, especially given that it doesn’t look mask-like. It’s now 3:50 p.m., and it hasn’t worn off at all since I put it on this morning. The color is a MUCH better match for me, too.

The best part, though, is really unexpected: it smells SO good! I’ve never really noticed what my foundation smelled like before, but this just smells really fresh and…pretty (for lack of a better word).


We got to Memphis and figured out where we were just in time to get to The Peabody for the ducky parade. I cannot adequately describe the cuteness. We even visited Duckingham Palace, where the ducks reside on the roof of the Peabody. Then we rode the streetcar (trolley?) around town before finding our way back to Rendezvous for dinner. All I can say is, YUM.

From there, we went to Muddy’s Bake Shop, where I dove head-first into Heaven, via their grasshopper cupcake. I still haven’t figured out what they do to their cake to make it so moist. By far, the best cupcake I’ve had in my life, hands down. I got to meet the Neeses and their two adorable, sweet little girls, who came all the way to Muddy’s, even though they must have been exhausted after spending their day outside (it was hot, y’all). Lucky me, I got to hold and cuddle the littler gal, while being entertained by her big sister as she thoroughly enjoyed some cupcake icing!

We left shortly thereafter for the long drive back to Alabama, but not before I secured a care package for home: 2 grasshoppers and 2 neapolitans. I arrived back in Butler EXHAUSTED, and celebrated my third night in a row of staying up past 2 a.m. by going to church Sunday morning and then taking about a 4-hour nap Sunday afternoon.


“I miss green.” This is the thought that I had constantly as we drove through Alabama into Mississippi. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally learned to appreciate the beauty of the desert. Finally, I acquiesce: living in a valley cradled by mountains really *is* majestic (even if the valley is brown, and the only green around is a random cactus). Nothing compares, though, to miles and miles of varying shades of green, and the sight of oak trees shading the clover that blooms along the sides of the interstate. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and the conversational catch-up with an old friend.

I have GOT to move to Oxford. I mean, really. I don’t think there’s a more perfect place on the planet for me. Were it not for that whole bar exam situation, I’d be tempted to move tomorrow.

We started off at the visitor’s center. Here’s how the conversation with the little woman there went:
US (smiling): “Hey!”
HER (not smiling): “How can I help you?”
US: (*blink, blink*) “Ummm…we’re visiting Oxford for the day!”
HER: “Oh, you are?”
US: “Yes, ma’am.” (Here, we looked at each other, wondering if we’d stepped not into the visitor’s center, but instead, into this woman’s home, or perhaps the library, where speaking was forbidden.)
HER: “Well, what were you planning on doing?”
US: (*scratching heads and still blinking*) “We were kind of hoping you could help us with that. We thought about going to Ajax Diner for lunch and then to Square Books, and then to Rowan Oak. What would you recommend?”
HER: “Oh, I think you should go to Ajax for lunch, and then Square Books is right over there (*pointing in the opposite direction of where Square Books actually is*). And yes, yes. Rowan Oak is William Faulkner’s house, so you should definitely go there. Oh, and they just remodeled the stadium. I like to watch the light shows there!”
US: “Um, okay. Bye.”

Whereupon we walked around the square for a minute, and then went to Ajax Diner for lunch (I had catfish, which was perfect, and sweet tea, which I can’t get enough of whenever I’m home). Then, you guessed it, we went to Square Books (I could spent about eleventy hours there, but alas, I forced myself to leave so we could get some other stuff done). We finished our walk around the square by visiting another bookstore (where I bought the June issues of an adorable little magazine called Garden & Gun, and The Oxford American, which included an article by Elizabeth Wade, my friend from undergrad. How proud am I?) and then getting caught in a little thunderstorm. During the thunderstorm, I realized that I had left my purchases at the bookstore, of course, so we had to walk back over there. Luckily, it wasn’t too far.

Thank goodness Bonnie thought to pick up a copy of the city map at the visitor’s center. Using it, she was able to navigate us to Rowan Oak. The tour costs $5, is self-guided, and takes approximately eight minutes to complete. The grounds are really beautiful, though. Who knew ol’ Bill had stables?

Somehow I got put in charge of the map after that, but in spite of my shortcomings, we somehow made it to the Ole Miss campus just in time to witness a photography session featuring the tackiest wedding party in the history of time. Ole Miss neckties for the boys, and FAKE red and blue flowers, with streamers, for the girls. Yuck.

Ole Miss is pretty, but it’s got nothing on Tuscaloosa. Plus, the stadium is ugly. And the “light shows” endorsed by the visitor’s center lady? Yeah, it’s just the lighted scoreboard that runs around the perimeter of the stadium. Poor woman has no idea what a pretty stadium looks like. She should go visit Bryant-Denny.

After that, we figured we’d seen about all that Oxford had to offer, so we headed to Memphis!

Alabama, Day 1

I arrived in Butler at about 2:30 in the morning on Friday, June 4, despite my plane having landed at 9:something Thursday night. The humidity hit me the second I stepped off the plane, and I will admit to a moment of panic. How was I supposed to BREATHE for the next 12 days? Phoenix heat is one thing…and don’t get me wrong, it’s fairly miserable. But Alabama humidity? That is something else entirely. Mama and Aunt Toni met me at the airport, and I was SO glad to see two such friendly, welcoming faces!

We stopped in Birmingham to visit Uncle Bob and Aunt Thresea, and then we made the drive to Choctaw County. I spent the day (after I woke up) helping Mama get ready for Relay for Life, and then after going to the luminaria ceremony that night, I drove to Livingston to spend the night with my friend Bonnie. We talked until about 3 in the morning, which made me realize just *how old* I am, and then we woke up bright and early (somehow) and set out for Oxford!

15 June 2010

Hello, Dumplin'

It’s become abundantly clear that I’m not in the mood to work today. So, because Amanda commented that she’d like the Chicken and Dumplins (yes, I know there’s supposed to be a “g,” and yes, I refuse to include it) recipe that I promised to send her, I’ll take up a little more of my workday and type it out here.

First, though, an introduction. My Aunt Marcel makes the best chicken and dumplins ever. Aunt Marcel is my grandfather’s sister; her birthday was Friday and she turned 86 (I think…or 85 maybe? Someone help me here.). I’ve only made them once, and she walked me through the process via telephone. I must have called her about 12 times, just to make sure I was doing everything right. All my Arizona friends were suitably impressed; I, however, was suitably exhausted. Apparently, I still need practice if I’m gonna make it look as effortless as she always did.

I’m sure that I wrote the recipe down somewhere way back then, but I have no earthly idea where it might be…probably on a scrap of paper stuck in one of my many cookbooks. So, as I was driving Aunt Marcel home from Mary Allison’s rehearsal dinner on Friday night, I asked her to explain to me again how she makes her dumplins. This time, I was ready! I pulled out the iPhone and took an audio memo! Now, whenever I want, I can pull out my phone and hear my sweet Aunt Marcel’s voice!

Here we go:

Cook your chicken. I *think* that Aunt Marcel boils hers on the stove, but I cook mine in my pressure cooker. Use a fork to shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Aunt Marcel warned me to be sure I get all the bones out of the chicken so that I don’t choke any of the people who come over for dinner; I address this problem by buying frozen, boneless chicken breasts. Aunt Marcel says that these do not make a rich broth, which is why she uses a whole chicken. I address this problem by adding canned broth to my homemade broth…but some of you may not want to do that. If you choose to use a whole chicken, PICK OUT ALL THE BONES. Dinner guests apparently do not enjoy nearly strangling themselves to death on a stray chicken bone.

Aunt Marcel also tells me that if I want to make sure I get all the fat out of the broth, I should remove the chicken, then pour the broth into a Tupperware container, and stick it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, all the fat will have congealed on the top, and I can just pick it off. She further tells me that she does not recommend doing this because the dumplins won’t be as good.

Her recipe for the actual dumplins is more of a ratio. You can double or triple or quadruple it, depending on the number of people you’re feeding. A triple recipe, I am told, makes about enough for 6-8 people, “depending on how hungry they are.”

To one cup of self-rising flour, add one tablespoon of oleo (for those of us who are not 86 years old, that means margarine), and some ice water. The exact amount of ice water is uncertain, but Aunt Marcel and Granny Joyce (Amanda, Rob, and Rebecca’s grandmother…and really, for all intents and purposes, mine too) estimate that it’s about two tablespoons. The ICE part of the ICE WATER is very important. Your dumplins will not hold together right if you use water that is just cold or room temperature.

Mash this mixture together; you can use a spoon if you want, but Aunt Marcel recommends that you do this part with your hands. Once it’s mixed together, form it into a ball, and then roll it out “pretty thin”. I will leave in your discretion what the definition of “pretty thin” is, but I imagine it’s basically a matter of taste. Cut the dough into dumpling-shaped pieces, and drop them into BOILING broth.

It only takes a few minutes for the dumplins to cook (8-10 minutes, actually), so after about that long, add in all your chicken and let it boil for a few more minutes. Then make some cornbread and EAT.

Speaking of Blake...

Because I'm never home, and I never get to see him, I feel the need to memorialize a conversation I recently had with Blake Benson. For those of you not lucky enough to be acquainted with him, he is perfectly adorable, and will turn four years old in August.

Setting: Amanda and Lee's car, on the drive from Butler to Birmingham. Amanda told Blake that my house was far away, and that you had to get on an airplane to get there.

BLAKE: Lane, why is your house so far away?
ME: I don't know, Blake. That's just where I moved to, but I wish I didn't live so far.
AMANDA: Blake, where do you want Lane's house to be?
BLAKE: Close to MY house!

Yes, my heart melted. Sweetest. Thing. Ever.


Well, not really. CATCH-UP is more like it.

I spent the last week and a half at home – and when I say “home,” I don’t mean my house in Arizona. I mean Butler, Alabama, the itsy-bitsy town where I was raised. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’ve lived in Arizona for FOUR years; whenever I’m getting ready to head back to Alabama, my subconscious takes over, and in my mind, I’m going home. My mama still lives in the house where I grew up, across the street from the house where Grandmamma and Papa lived (doesn’t matter than other people live there now; it’s still my grandparents’ house to me), and across the street from my Aunt Enone.

I went home because my sweet cousin, Mary Allison, got married. Of course, on the big day, I forgot my camera in the car, and in any event, I was too busy at the reception to take any photos (in case you’re wondering, I was taking care of Mattie Grace, who went and got sick with the pink eye and some God-awful sinus infection right before the wedding. Bless her heart, poor baby. I hear she’s all better now, though.). Lucky for you, BooMama’s blog covers all the prettiest parts, and whatever she didn’t cover, I’m sure Amanda will (once she posts about the wedding…right now, you can look at some stupendously cute pictures of Blake at Disney World and at the lake, where he recently learned to fish).

Suffice it to say, MA’s was one GORGEOUS wedding! John, my cousin Rebecca’s husband, remarked that it was the single most Southern event he’d ever attended. I believe he’s right, and I couldn’t have loved it more. I’m so thankful I got to be there and be a part of it!

I have lots of things I need to post about, and I promise that I will…soon. I went to Oxford and Memphis while I was home, and I got (*whisper*) Botox, which will be an entire post of its own, because I didn’t get Botox by myself. Oh, no. We had a Botox party, y’all, and Aunt Toni was invited! I did some cooking, too, and then spent my last night in Birmingham, where I got to be present for John and Rebecca’s first dinner party at their pretty, pretty new house.

I had a fantastic trip and arrived safely back in Arizona yesterday evening…and I should definitely be working instead of blogging right now. So I’ll go…