Sunday, November 18, 2012

Catherine Vanderbilt

Side View 
Where do I start?  There is so much to share.  

Key notes...
  • Asheville is Amazing
  • The Biltmore is breathtaking
  • Rental Cars are ALWAYS low points in vacations.  When will I learn my lesson?
  • I love Starbucks more and more each day
  • I'd like to go back to 1895 and marry a Vanderbilt, or simply be a slave to one in their majestic kitchen.
The Story

I met up with two amazing friends from Louisiana in Ashville, NC.  Asheville is a 5 hour drive from Lewisburg, and well worth the trip.  Being that J and I are a one vehicle family, I rented a car to met my friends and bring us all back to Lburg.  I reserved a compact car, and Alamo upgraded me to a 2013 Altima.  Saying I was a nervous wreck driving a car that felt like a Rolls Royce compared to my Corolla would be an sad understatement.  But the saddest part of all is that I felt so chic driving it.  (this only turned into a low point when I returned the car, and got a lovely $175 fee for a crack in the windshield)

I plugged in my John Kerouac On the Road audiobook, day dreamed of becoming Mrs. Vanderbilt of 1895, and cruised in my Rolls Royce for 5 beautiful hours. This trip was starting off on the right foot.

Megan and Brooke made it to Asheville shortly after I did and we grabbed dinner, turned on Jersey Shore (a first for me), and fell asleep in our quiet, cozy hotel room  (Mamma Megan even put pillows at my feet to keep me warm). That is, until the 10 guys in the room adjacent to us commenced in their loud discussion of "their powder stash" at 2 A.M.  

For a while, I thought I was the only unfortunate sleepy soul that could hear them, but when Brooke frantically shot up out of bed, soldier marched to the door, and slung it open.... I knew I wasn't the only one missing valuable shut eye.

We called the front desk to make a complaint, and then had nightmares that our powder friends were going to come shoot our hotel room up.  Asheville is safe, and our hotel room was nice.  Why all three of us thought we were sleeping under a bridge in Detroit is beyond me.

I have a horrible habit of not being able to fall asleep once I wake up in a panic, and after the powder fiasco... I spent a solid hour staring at the ceiling dreaming of becoming a Vanderbilt.  Despite my desperate need for sleep, I decided to cut my losses and be productive.  I snuck out of bed, got dressed in the dark, and made my way out of our room.  My clock said it was 5:30, which meant I was only 30 minutes away from being the first in line at Starbucks.  EXCEPT one little bitty small issue.  The time changed for my Louisiana friends and the clock I was looking at was wrong. 

I made it to the front desk (bird's nest hair, backwards shirt and all), asked where the nearest Starbucks was, and felt my heart drop when he told me the time.  4:30 A.M.

I pulled out a book, browsed facebook for a while, and people watched until it was time to make my way to soy lattes.  

I don't have the best sense of direction, but for some reason... I can find a Starbucks shop even if it's weighted down in a trash bag at the bottom of the Mississippi River.  

This one was only down the street.  

They played Louis Armstrong, and I loved them all the more for it.

Around 8 A.M. I headed back to the room, and we all got dressed and headed for the Biltmore.  I knew the Biltmore would be amazing, but I had no idea of it's vast acreage and beauty.  It's like a grown up Disney World with green houses.

I've always felt so strange, because when I visit museums or antebellum homes I always picture living there in it's prime.  I love the smells, the breeze that sneaks through the small cracks in old windows, and I love dreaming of how life was like centuries ago.  I thought I was alone in this, but Brooke and Megan proved me wrong.  They were mesmerized by it all just like me, and Brooke let it show.  :)

We drank bloody marys at The Stable Cafe, walked the gardens, picked up truffles from The Sweet Shop, went to a wine tasting, and walked in every shop the Biltmore had to offer.

My lovely friend who always comes to visit me in my many random locations!  :)

The most hilarious girl I've ever met!  She kept us laughing the whole trip!  

Megan blending in with the fall scenery!  

See, I told you!  :)

I cannot express how much fun I had on the this trip!  Thank you Megan and Brooke for making it so special!  :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Long Time No See

Thanks to Cap for keeping the blog going during the last two weeks. My apologies on being MIA. I decided that Hurricane Sandy was the best excuse yet to forego media of all kinds (blogs, facebook, twitter, internet in general, tv, cable, hulu, etc.). Sandy also knocked out the internet for four days. I spent most of Sandy and the past weekend curled up on the couch with Harry and a heating pad. I wasn't sick or hurt. I just really like laying on a heating pad. And by Harry, I mean the wizarding one. You know, Potter.

Despite all of my curling up and reading, I found myself surprisingly busy as well. For instance, I just spent the last two days in a strategic planning meeting with about 15 other women (wooooo...) for the museum. I then had to attend a Junior League Board Meeting (snooooze... when you're not on the board, its not very interesting) to make my provisional requirements. I sound like I know what I'm talking about, don't I?

I spent all day Monday and Tuesday thinking that it was actually Wednesday. Today, I keep thinking its Friday. I am obviously very confused.

I have also taken on some extra-curricular work that requires hours upon hours of computer work. But at $30/hour, I am NOT complaining. Not one bit.

So needless to say, all of this combined with a water spill on my dear, beloved Mac that found him (yes, personified) resting in a box of rice for two days means that I have sadly been unable to blog! Interestingly, I have hardly contemplated clever ways of murdering W for the past two months. Progress on this whole how-to-not-murder thing!

However, I did want to murder him and his school when I found out that we won't know his days off (positively assuming he will have at least one) for Thanksgiving until the Monday of Thanksgiving week. WHAT. That is ridiculous. I am not happy.

I also wanted to murder him and the federal government when I got another call from collections because our insurance company wouldn't pay for a medical related expense, and none bothered to send us a bill. Where's my affordable healthcare, Mr. President?

Sorry. That's not really a political statement. That's frustration with all of the promises of Obamacare of which this hardworking, tax-paying woman has seen ZILCH. Not that I agreed with it in the first place, but if we are all being "helped" by it, I would like to experience this help. Just saying.

But let's go back to how W is a 3rd year medical student, who is required to have health insurance to be in school, and so has to pay for it out of pocket since his wife (me) is lame and works for a non-profit that doesn't have insurance and pays her pennies. Let's also talk about how expensive this health insurance is each and every month. Then, let's talk about how it pays for NOTHING and then doesn't alert us to not paying for the nothing.

How ironic that my medical student husband and I cannot afford "affordable healthcare".

Off soap box.

So, the issue of days off for Thanksgiving and health insurance have been the only episodes that might have threatened the well being of dear W. Fortunately, I have learned to take out my frustrations in the kitchen.

Here is what I have been dishing up lately with links to recipes:

 (from left to right: jalapeno cheddar, plain, rosemary, lemon zest and gruyere)

I have made 3 loaves of this bread and will be making a loaf to take to my Junior League recipe exchange this weekend. (I know, I hate myself a little for saying that.) I have made cheddar jalapeno and rosemary, lemon zest, and gruyere. The latter is definitely a favorite!

I made this Hoppin' Johns inspired recipe. I wish that I had used smoked sausage or ham instead of chopped up pork. Other than that, it was a hit! I love one pot meals. I used 20 minute rice and frozen black eyed peas that I cooked beforehand.

Then, on the day that Sandy hit and it SNOWED in OCTOBER, I made this homemade tomato soup. All I had in the cupboard was a can of tomato sauce/puree and half and half instead of heavy cream. It was still delicious! Just add more stock/water if you use tomato sauce/puree.

My new breakfast of choice is a smoothie, and its delicious. Ingredients: half of a frozen banana, 8 frozen or fresh strawberries, 1 large handful of spinach, 1/2 - 2/3 cup of skim milk, 1 heaping tbs. of peanut butter, 1 tsp. honey, 1 heaping tbs. of yogurt. Blend and enjoy! I just started adding plain Greek yogurt. I am NOT a yogurt fan but wanted extra protein and the good stuff that yogurt has, so I started adding what I could handle. Yogurt unfortunately triggers my gag reflex. So far though, I don't really notice it in the smoothie.

If you like mustard greens, this recipe with onions and pasta is delicious especially with a side of kielbasa!

This is one of my favorite pork loin recipes. I make variations of it all the time. The most recent was this Sunday, when I made a pork roast in my dutch oven with carrots and potatoes. I didn't have white wine, so I used chicken stock instead. I LOVE lemon with roasted veg and meat. Yum.

So, who's coming for dinner????


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Religion, Man.

This is a difficult blog to write, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately.  It’s also taking up a lot of my quality mind rest… we’re talking HOURS in bed staring at the ceiling contemplating. 

Contemplating what you may ask? 



Now that that’s out of the way, I will preface this post with a very subtle assuring message for my dear family and friends.


Whew.  I bet you’re all happy to know I’m going to heaven.

Now, let’s get to the hard stuff.

I grew up Pentecostal.  I grew up sneaking in our downstairs bathroom with my mom, sister, and a nice pair of kitchen scissors, to do what every normal family does with mother-daughter time... attempt to trim the dead ends off of our hair while still keeping it in a natural “V” shape.  I was seven.  That’s hard to do with kitchen shears.  Maybe that’s why I’m a hair stylist now. 

I remember being afraid of wearing pants in public in fear of someone from our church seeing us out.  On one occasion, I did run into someone from church.  I remember squeezing my legs together as tight as I possible could, and praying that they would think my jeans were a long skirt.  I also spoke in tongues, and was often found laid out in the front of the pulpit (via the holy ghost) with the other kids from Sunday School.

Can someone say Jesus Camp?


If this is what believing in Jesus requires, you might have to count me out.

Religion has become a controlling, monitored, gossiping, judgmental way of living, and frankly, that’s not what I think believing in Jesus is all about.

I’ve struggled with religions ever since my mother and father got a divorce, and I was suddenly allowed to start cutting my hair, wearing lip-gloss, and heaven forbid… painting my fingernails.  This was a hard change for a nine year old.  I would go to my grandparent’s house and hear, “Tessa’s got them girls in shorts again”, and wonder why in the hell my mother would not warn me about this inevitable persecution before hand.   Geez.  THE SHORTS AREN’T WORTH IT!

Quick shout out to my mom…
One Thanksgiving, I didn’t want to go to my grandparent’s house, because I’d forgotten to pack a skirt to change into, and I didn’t want to upset my grandfather.  My mother, being the smart woman she is, said to me…

“Catherine, do you want to wear skirts everyday?”

“No.”  “Should I want to?”

“You should do whatever feels right in your heart, and when you make that decision, you don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.  Not even family.”


Cut to present. 

Once the strange phase of getting my first real haircut at nine years old was over, I started wondering why all of these churchgoers still wanted to save me.  I didn’t need saving.  I was going to church. I just wasn’t going to their church.

Religion, man.  It’s a crazy thing.

Religion tends to have a way of making everyone in their specific group think that their way is the right way.  Maybe that is just us being humans.  We are of course.. always right.  There are HUNDREDS of different religions out there.  What makes ONE right and another wrong? 

Just take a second, roll your computer chair away from the screen, gaze into the abyss, and think….

What is my normal?

My own personal normal, at seven years old, was being a Pentecostal.  It wasn’t a bad normal.  It didn’t seem strange.  I didn’t know all of the kids at my school weren’t doing the same things at church.  It was my normal.

Now, think about someone in China, India, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and anywhere else in the world. 

What’s their normal?  Buddha? Reincarnation? Muhammad? Allah? Head covers?

Have a mental picture yet?

Great, but we’ve got miles to go…   That was just in THIS time era.

Now, think about the Greeks circa 1675 BCE.

Agamenmon sacrificed his OWN DAUGHTER to Zeus for favorable winds.

Think of Iceland 1000 years ago.  People there believed in Thor.

That was their normal.  Jesus wasn’t even a thought in their mind, much less, a sub religion of Jesus (i.e.: Baptist, Pentecost, Catholic, or Methodists).

Or, keep it real simple and just think about little Suri Cruise.


Her normal is Scientology. 

L. Ron Hubbard, the man who started scientology, was once a science fiction writer who said, 

You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.” 

Normal is relative, people.  And so is religion.

Let's start trying to understand each other's background, struggles, and beliefs instead of creating more adversities between one another? What do you say? 

Changing the subject to something even more debatable... :)

I voted for the first time in my life today.  Talk about empowering!  I should have been doing this years ago.