Roast Chicken, Passionate Potatoes, and Goat Log

My cousin Hannah turned 18 last week. I took her out for coffee yesterday, and gave her a choice in birthday presents. She could have a quilt for her bed in college OR makeup from whatever counter she wanted at Macy’s. (I know. I am an amazing cousin.) After some deliberation, we went to Tea Time Quilting on Tulane here in the Heights. (Tulane! Roll Wave! PS- Did you know that Hanky Panky came out with a collegiate collection, and that Tulane is part of it!?! What good fortune!)

Jana, the owner, also runs Jana’s flowers on the same corner. Let me tell ya’ll: she is a trip, in a good way. She talks fast, walks fast, and knows her stuff. I think she is awesome, and I try to buy whatever I can from her. They also have a ton of fat quarters there, literally boxes upon boxes, all sorted by color, so if you’re into precuts you have to check this spot out. We walked around for a few minutes and ended up leaving with a pattern which later went out the window when we found fabric Hannah loves online that requires something different.

Free Spirit Fabrics have a TON of great lines. I have Deer Valley (how coincidental) as the shade in my bathroom, and have bought several yards of this and that for different projects. All of it is awesome. Hannah is deliberating over the Cottage Garden line. I happen to think it is amazing. They kind of have a Matisse-Floral-On Acid thing going. Love it.

On the way home from Tea Time, she decided to stay for dinner, and boy was that an excellent decision. First of all, Hannah and I found yet another common bond while hanging at my house: we are both serious Martha Stewart fans. Second of all, we ate roast chicken. I love roast chicken.

Now, if you did not know that Martha Stewart had little blurbs on Comcast OnDemand, I’m sorry you’ve missed out so far. They are wonderful. This month is (of course) all about Halloween. She makes glitter pumpkins, a shrunken head tree, and a scary candy bowl that Nikki told me I was not allowed to make because it would bring me too much pleasure in scaring innocent children. We watched almost all of them while I cooked yesterday.

On to roast chicken. I have something to say to anyone out there who cooks: don’t be afraid of the whole bird. You can’t be. They are so much better than the standard boneless skinless chicken breast. I bought a large organic, free-range, never-been-frozen chicken at Kroger yesterday for about $11. It fed Justin (who counts as two people), myself, and Hannah with enough left over for two lunches or a batch of chicken tetrazzini. Seriously, that was a good deal. It would have been even cheaper if I had gone with a bird with fewer bells and whistles, but that was not available fully thawed. I just rubbed it down with a compound butter and stuffed it with lemon halves and herbs. Easy.

Last week Mom had Bunco at her house. She had to make an appointment day-of, so we worked it out that I could help her cook. She made individual pot pies. While we were at Central Market, she found purple fingerling potatoes. I didn’t know purple potatoes existed, much less that they are incredibly good for you and packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Last night, when Hannah and I spotted baby Purple Passion Potatoes at Kroger, we bought them. 🙂

They were a little sweet, and about the same texture as a sweet potato. And they were bright purple inside. I boiled them in salted water and hit them with some finely chopped parsley, butter, lots of black pepper, some crushed red pepper because we like it hot, and a little cream cheese. I’ve done it with sour cream before (if you do this make sure to get a brand name container because the nicer stuff tends to hold up to heat better), and it would be good with goat cheese. I mean goat log.

The goat log part comes from the salad. Justin LOVES goat cheese. I credit myself with that introduction. I try to get him surprises at the grocery store, like some crazy mango-pineapple-guava juice or the supremely spicy Sabra hummus… or goat cheese. Hannah and I, being juvenile, thought that serving “goat log” would be hilaaarious. I mean, really. Goat log. Makes me giggle now.

I made a spinach salad with cherry tomatoes, the goat log, grated carrots, and a homemade lemony vinaigrette. I think it would have been nice with balsamic, too. Grated carrots, along with caramelized onions, are underrated in my opinion. Carrots are good for your eyes, and are loaded with nutrients. They are also cheap.

In Germany, they serve all kinds of little salads with meals. Karrotensalat, literally translated “carrot salad,” is my favorite. Some varieties utilize vinegar, others use a mayonnaise or sour cream base. I couldn’t get enough of it over there. They also had wonderful potato salads, cucumber salads, tomato salads, and more. If you are heading to Deutschland anytime soon, make sure to order them at lunchtime.

All in all, last night was capital. I love nothing better than being with the people I love. Feeding them and giving them presents are a close-second tie. I am so happy I get to make Hannah a quilt that she can take north with her. I know it’s sentimental, but I am honored that I get to be a part of her growing and finding herself as an artist, even if it’s just that I get to help keep her warm at night. I am so happy I have the luxury of making roast chicken on a weeknight. Seriously, Justin’s whole face lit up when I said, “roast chicken.” He smiled even wider at the prospect of S-S-S-Hummus. Hannah ate her weight in passionate potatoes and walked out with the recipe on a 3×5 card. I’m going to have to get mom to make her a cookbook with all the food we ate growing up in it like she did for Elise and I. What a wonderful evening spent in the company of Hannah, Justin, and Martha Stewart. I’m a lucky lady.

 

Side Note: All recipes are under Roast Chicken Dinner on the Recipes page. 🙂 Happy cooking.

Neighbors’ Night Out: Great Success! / Jalapeño Dip Recipe

Last night was the neighbors’ night out party on my block. It was awesome. Everybody who’s anybody was there. Ronda and Vincent threw a great party, complete with burgers, dogs, and a pot luck of accoutrement.

I brought some of my (in)famous jalapeño dip, based on Chuy’s creamy jalapeño ranch dressing. According to Ronda, who worked at Chuy’s back in the day, the “secret” ingredient in theirs is tomatillo! There are no tomatillos in mine (too much work), but it was a total hit anyways. I got a ton of email addresses to send the recipe out, but I decided to direct people to my blog instead in the hopes they might become regular readers. (Hi neighbors.) Check out the recipes page!

I really enjoyed myself last night. I think the interaction between neighbors might actually bump up our property value. Besides: who doesn’t like having friends close enough by that you can just walk over? I hope someone comes and visits us soon… Don’t let our spiderweb lights scare you away!

I’ll be the first to volunteer a wintery neighbors’ night out in January. Everyone can come over to our place for chili and a good laugh. 🙂 Until then, don’t be strangers.

P.S. – Lauren, here is the website of my contractor, Scott. He put up a privacy fence for us to keep Betty from jumping the chain link. He is very easy to work with and worked fast. Did I mention that he beat out the estimates of all the major fencing companies I called by at least $600? Here is a link to his website, and his phone number is 281-667-8140.

Chicken Contest

A few weeks ago Justin and I were talking about where we were going to eat for dinner, and no one wanted to choose. This is a common occurrence with us. The common solution, which Justin suggested then, was rock-paper-scissors. Whoever lost had to decide where we were going AND pay. I “lost.” I chose Popeye’s. I won.

That night, the chicken contest was born. We decided to try all the fried chicken we could find and decide what was best. Before you read on, I should warn you: this contest, if you can even call it that, is completely arbitrary and has no rules. The reliability and validity of our findings are poor, and our methods are questionable. If you decide to go by something we say, you do so at your own peril. 🙂

Since that Saturday, we have been eating fried chicken for lunch or dinner every Saturday. Popeye’s was first, and it was delectable.The biscuits were buttery, the red beans and rice were spicy, and the chicken was juicy, crispy, and good good good! The people who work at the Popeye’s on Shepherd at W 11th are incredibly nice. The whole shebang constitutes a pleasant dining experience. I was truly delighted with my choice and purchase. I won like Charlie Sheen.

I think one of the reasons I like Popeye’s is that it’s the chicken I grew up on. When we were growing up, Elise knew two kinds of chicken: chicken on the grill (which is exactly what it sounds like) and chicken on the bone (FRIED chicken!). That’s still one of my favorite Elise-isms. She has so many good ones. When we ate chicken on the bone we either ate it at home, when Dad made it, or at Popeye’s. Dad does make some tasty fried chicken, for the record. I can eat a LOT of it. Yum. Dad, if you’re reading this, I’m saying nothing more than, “You have not made fried chicken in a long time, and you know we all really like it when you do.” He also makes the world’s best potato pancakes. There’s a good story about those, but I am starting on a tangent.

Back to the chicken contest.

The next week we went to KFC, and it was gross. I mean it. Disgusting. The chicken was soggy! Literally. Soggy. Ew. The gravy (which I had to try, because Cartman on Southpark is sooo obsessed with it) was nasty. The quality of service was poor. I mean, Justin asked for a breast and a thigh (hehehe, I know I’m like an 11 year old but that’s still funny to me!), and they couldn’t even do that! The girl was downright rude! Everything was just gross. I don’t ever think I will go back.

I wanted to write a letter to Southpark telling the producers that Cartman has no logical reason to be obsessed with such a terrible place. I mean, remember the episode where the guys get mad at Cartman because he eats all the skin off the bucket of chicken, and he says, “I don’t get what ya’ll are mad at I left you the good part,” after they come back from helping Stan’s mom bring in groceries? Directly after that he leaves. Well, that’s pretty bad. Hilarious yes, but awful. Now imagine that the chicken skin was soggy. THE HORROR!

I wanted to write another letter to Popeye’s, offering my services to their marketing team. If they don’t want to hire me, that’s fine, but they need to hire someone. I mean, how is KFC beating them?! How is it that Popeye’s is that much better, and people still eat at KFC?! Marketing! Everyone knows KFC: the face, the jingle, but of the four people I polled, all of whom are serious Popeye’s fans, no one could sing, “Love that chicken from POPEYE’S!” No one! It’s kind of sad, really. If someone at Popeye’s reads this, I would be happy to work for ya’ll and help turn this thing around.

KFC doesn’t deserve a letter.

Last week was by far the most interesting in the contest yet: Justin likes Church’s the most now. That’s right. Church’s beat out Popeye’s in a national spicy recipe taste test, and Justin agrees with the majority! I liked the chicken. It was about the same as Popeye’s for me. I also liked that they had okra. I love okra. What I was unimpressed with (which Justin liked) were the red beans. I thought they were lacking. Justin really liked them, though, and they weren’t bad, but they weren’t my favorite.

The biscuits at Church’s, however, were really good. They put honey on them as part of the baking process. I am a huge fan. They were some of the yummiest biscuits I’ve ever had. They also looked like homemade biscuits: nice and ugly. Nothing like some good homestyle cooking. I wonder if I can figure out how to duplicate that…

What with both the chicken and biscuits being delectable, I’d say I am also a Church’s fan. I guess the best way to put it is this: if I wanted chicken, I wouldn’t pass up a Church’s to get to a Popeye’s. I would pass up KFC to get to anything else.

On a side note, I had surgery last week, and I was still sort of on pain killers when we ate Church’s, so my opinion is most likely a little skewed. That’s also why I didn’t write on the blog at all. Sorry about that, but everything I wrote was complete nonsense. Think Alice In Wonderland. I actually decided to work on a story, and wrote a good 2500 words on it, but the next day re-read it and had to delete delete delete. I had, in my delerium, decided to add magic to the plot. Nikki got a real kick out of that when I told her. Narrator foul. 🙂

Tomorrow should be good. Justin and I are going to try Hartz Chicken Buffet. Rod and Zsazsa said they have eaten there several times and that it’s pretty good. We’ll see about that! Popeye’s still reigns supreme for me.

Gabby’s BBQ, My Franken-Mug, and Miss Caroline :-)

1. I was supposed to defrost some steaks (cut from one of the beef tenders we got on sale at Rice E.) and fry them up for dinner. Instead, the steaks, green beans, and as-yet-undetermined starch will be waiting for us tomorrow night… Justin took me to the Drive Thru at Gabby’s BBQ. (I am such a cheap date!) I got a meal in a peel. Yum. I highly recommend one. Get extra sauce. You’ll be happy you did.

2. I am a huge fan of good, clean fun. It’s underrated. My new fave spot for GCF is The Mad Potter, a paint your own pottery chain here in H-town. I went there last week with Hannah, my cousin, and painted a Franken-mug. Hannah painted a mustache mug… A ginger mustache mug. I’ll let you in on a little secret: The Mad Potter has excellent people watching on Friday nights. We had so much fun! I can’t wait to pick our pieces up.

If you want to go and try it out, I’d like to send you in with one piece of advice: Don’t get frustrated. I am artistic. I actually almost majored in ceramics. I love making things. And painting the stupid pasta bowl I started out with nearly gave me an apoplexy from frustration. Hannah, an extremely talented painter and drawer, had the same problem. I sympathized with her over our mugs, telling her that the pasta bowl I painted looked like something an 11-year-old had made. Basically we determined that it’s not the same thing. It won’t look perfect, like their little examples they have everywhere. It’s NOT easy. So. When you go in, expect to leave with something it looks like your kid painted, and you’ll be much happier than if you go in feeling like Rembrandt. 

3. Caroline is Justin’s 5-year-old daughter. I adore her. She is a fabulous human being. She calls mermaids “Mee-murs,” and her favorite chips are Doritos. I love her. Today I got to video chat with her. Thanks to modern technology, it took us five minutes to talk Justin’s mom through Google chat’s video app setup, and we actually got to see the little rascal. What a cutie pie! She was wearing one of the shirts I had gotten her for school. I got her a bunch of Gap, Children’s Collection, and Hanna Andersson… Mom and I had to pry ourselves out of the Hanna Andersson catalog today. We love their clothes. They are this thick, indestructible cotton. They are bright. They are awesome. AND… They have a store in the Galleria.

Caroline is going to be a ballerina for Halloween. I am going to get her a ballerina bow from Bubbly Bows. These bows are on another level, people. They are little alligator clips with works of grosgrain art on them. They also had a witch’s hat and a panda bear. Caroline showed us her drawing of the Liberty Bell, complete with large black crack. She said school was going really well. 🙂 She also showed us the book she is reading. Something about the Berstein Bears and “Spooky.”

I can’t wait for her to come and visit again. I am really hoping we get to take her to the Renaissance Festival with us. I think she would love it. Elise and I always did, and every kid I have ever seen there looks to be having a marvelous time. Once we get our plans finalized with that, I’m going to try to make her a costume! That way she can get her face painted, and have the Twisted Sisters braid her hair, and get sprinkled in fairy dust, and eat a turkey leg in high style. I’ll have to consult The Master (Mom) on her costume. I had my birthday party at RenFest one year, and she made all my friends these really pretty purple dresses… Mom also made all of my friends poodle skirts for my sock hop birthday party when I turned 5. Then the Elvis impersonator made me cry (at least I think that’s what happened… it was a long time ago) and we ate cake and everyone went home. What an awesome party! I wonder if she would throw a party like that for me this year…

My Mom pretty much always has the best ideas EVER. When Caroline visited her house in Florida this summer, Mom had all these awesome projects for her to do. They made a tshirt with crayons and sand paper, Mom showed her what seashells to look for, we all went on the beach at night with a flashlight and looked for crabs… Caroline had a stupendous time. Mom knows what’s up. That’s why, tonight when we were talking to Caroline and I told her, “Kelley says hello, and she misses you. She told me that today,” (which she had, while we looked through the Hanna A. catalog) Caro replied, “I miss her too. She is nice and always does fun things. I love her.

I love her too. All moms are awesome, but my Mom is the best. 🙂 She will know exactly what costume to make for the most adorable, pretty, and smart little girl I know for her first foray into the magic that is the Renaissance Festival. Then, when I mess up while making said costume, she will know exactly how to fix whatever it is I did. I’m so lucky to have her on speed dial. I love you, Mom!!!

What’s for dinner? : The answer in 11 EASY steps!

Last night it was American food. Good old-fashioned Gulf Coast grub. We had baked chicken, macaroni and cheese, and greens.

It was EASY. You know those people who talk about burning water? Here is a weeknight dinner even they can cook! Here it is in easy steps…

(Don’t be scuured. Most of the longer steps are filled with parenthetical notes. I promise they’re easy.)

1. Defrost the chicken. If your chicken is not frozen, skip ahead to 2.

2. Marinate the chicken in Allegro’s Hot and Spicy Marinade. This stuff is the bomb. It works great with everything. Venison is a particular fave of Justin and mine. Most stores carry it or its less spicy cousin. The spicy one is not that spicy though. Let it soak this up for 15 or 20 minutes. (You can do this for up to 4 hours. If you want to do it all day I would recommend diluting the marinade 1:1 with water, or else it can get a little salty.) While it’s soaking, preheat the oven to 350°F.

3. Use two paper plates. Crack an egg on one and scramble it around. Pour about a handful of breadcrumbs per piece of chicken on the other, and season them up. I like lemon pepper, plain pepper, cayenne, oregano… Basically this is your chance to go to town with any herbs or spices you like. Garlic powder, anyone?

4. Now, there is a proper way to do this and the way I do this, which requires substantially less time, resources, and dirtying of dishes (or paper plates). If you feel like being fancy (or culinarily correct), this is where you would dump some flour out onto a third paper plate and dredge the chicken in that first. I don’t think it matters enough to bother so I just go straight into the egg and straight into the crumbs. (Note: Make sure you mix the spices in. I had a lot of cayenne sitting right on top once and surprised a guest because all the spice ended up on their piece. Oops.) Then put the chicken smooth side up on a sprayed pan. Lather. Rinse. Repeat as needed. Pop it in the oven.

5. Put water in the mac pan and get the bowl with the milk, “cheese,” and butter ready. (I feel bad for all ya’ll who thought this would be fancy macaroni and cheese. This is the blue box kind. At Foodarama, the off brand is on sale every third week for 35¢ per box. There is a little less in there, but seeing as it’s a side dish, that doesn’t matter so much. I’m all for generic.) Open the can of greens (yes, the can… preferably a big can at that. You don’t want to run out of greens. Substitute green beans, peas, or whatever vegetable blows your skirt up. If you’re worried about sodium, rinse the canned veggies in a colander or use frozen ones. Frozen cut okra goes especially well in a pan with a can of diced tomatoes or RoTel. More on that some other time.) and toss it in a pan. Don’t turn that on. Walk away.

6. Go relax for ten minutes. 😉

7. Check the chicken. Turn it around in the oven if you need to. (I need to. My oven is vintage. It’s got little triangles on it, and the 1960’s equivalent of a popcorn button.) Turn on the mac water. Go relax for another 5.

8. Put the mac in the water and turn the greens on medium low heat. (Medium high if you’re using my favorite frozen okra!) Set the table, complete with trivets. * Check the noodles. If they’re done continue. If not, go give boo a kiss (you can give him more kisses, but don’t get too involved because you might be in danger of forgetting the noodles on the stove.) and repeat from * until you can move on. Boo will like this step, especially if you’re quick with setting the table.

9. Drain the noodles. Mix them with the sauce stuff. On the table it goes. Put the greens on a trivet on the table. Get the chicken out (total cooking time should have been around thirty minutes; cut in and make sure the pink is gone) and put it on the other trivet.

10. Ring the dinner bell. Stand at the stairs and yell. Do whatever it is you do, girl, cause I know you do it well.

11. Bon Appetit. Other things you can put on the table are hot sauce and ranch dressing for the greens and chicken. If that’s really not enough food for your family make a salad. Cut up a head of lettuce and throw in some cherry tomatoes… add some grated carrots if you’re feeling really fancy. See? Easy pesy.

Ta-da! Dinner in about thirty-two minutes, if you don’t count marinating time. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed my dinner tutorial. Let me know! I can start doing them once a week or something. Dinner in eleven steps or less type thing.

Missoni for Target Recap, GF Goodness, and Cautionary Tales from Bulk Foods

1. I went to Target yesterday for Missoni. There was so little Missoni I felt like weeping. They done been cleaned OUT. Mom said people at the Target on Main had been taking things out of each other’s carts. Party foul, Target shoppers. Apparently one lady even got all in Mom’s business, asking, “Are you talking to someone at the San Felipe store?!?!?” Mom was talking to Aunt Stacie in Atlanta. Wow. Just… Wow. A woman at my cheap Target on 290 insisted to me that she knows the Chronicle’s fashion editor, and that she said Target would be re-stocking through October. My take? Target only buys the Missoni name for a certain number of items for a certain amount of time. If the website is sold out, then I doubt there will be more Missoni on Target shelves in Houston, Texas. I know, Doomsday. Sorry, loves. eBay has a fabulous selection, though.

2. I love Rice Epicurean Markets. First of all, they have amazing specials on meat every weekend. Beef tenderloins are ridiculously cheap. The guys at the butcher counter will even cut the one you want into roasts and steaks and freezer pack it all for you. Second, it can get crowded, but not in the way Central Market or the gigantic Kroger near my house can. You can pretty much always be in and out of there in less than thirty minutes, even if you’re getting a fair amount of stuff. Thirdly, and most importantly, Rice carries a ton of Gluten-Free options. This is important because Nikki and Hannah (my BFF and Fave Lil’ Cuz-lette, respectively) are both celiac. I have found all kinds of gluten-free temptations on their aisles. GF chocolate chip pancakes, anyone? Yes, please! They are frozen and delicious and perfect for school mornings. Also frozen are GF lemon streusel muffins, blueberry waffles, chocolate-coated donuts, and cinnamon raisin bread. They have tons of different flours, flavored crackers and pretzels, and they even have GF breadcrumbs! It’s so nice to be able to cut that step out of cooking. Trustworthy GF shortcuts are not always easy to find. I got Hannah a bunch of gluten-free booty (arg!) the other day before our girls’ night out, and when I was leaving the parking lot I actually called Rice’s corporate headquarters to thank them for making Hannah and Nicole a priority. How nerdy am I?? While Fiesta is still my usual destination (they also have a lot of GF items in stock), Rice is by far the best place to go for celiac snacks.

3. I made Gluten-Free French Bread for Nikki on our Friend-iversary. It was very tasty, and  it was admittedly difficult for Justin and I to stop quality-controlling her gift. The recipe is posted in PDF on the Recipes page, and linked to the original website here. Thank you, Sonja Stewart, for coming up with this excellent recipe! I will definitely be making it again.

4. A note about the bulk food department: BEWARE. The bulk food section is chock full of cross-contamination. I know, I sound like Alton Brown. It’s the truth, though! There is no way to keep people from using the wrong scoops in bins, spilling items between bins, or (yuck) sticking their grubby hands into bins. I just spoke to an associate in bulk at Central Market on the phone, and he said, “It’s frustrating to watch people just reach on in for almonds with their hands in front of everyone on a Saturday.” NARSTY!!! Apparently their time is more valuable than others’ health. CM, Whole Foods, and Fiesta all had similar stellar sterilization methods for cleaning bins between uses, but unfortunately no one can control that human factor. Fiesta and Whole Foods mentioned routinely cleaning the bulk area, washing the scoops regularly, vacuuming and wiping down the bins throughout the day, and tossing merchandise known to be contaminated with potential allergens. WF goes so far as to set up it’s organic goods above its conventional ones, and non-allergen products above allergens to prevent cross-contamination as much as possible. Good work, Whole Foods! ¡Buen trabajo, Fiesta! (Note: I’m not saying Kroger and CM don’t, but I did inquire about the general regimen and neither of their employees mentioned these things.) So. If you’re cooking for someone with an allergy, say a Nikki, and you want to get some soy powder, it’s probably not the best to buy it from CM bulk where it sits between a wheat product and a milk product, and there is indeterminate white stuff everywhere. I asked the lady to please get me some from the back. Just something to keep in mind. 🙂

Halloween Rap!

Here is my family in our sweet JibJab Halloween Rap. 🙂 I think SoCo is my favorite. Or Rico. Or Justin as a ten foot avocado. Hope you enjoy it enough to MWAHAHAHAHA out loud.

Halloween Rap

I really like JibJab. I think it is one of the best subscriptions I have, up there with the Economist and XM.

Once Jessica finally emails me a photo of herself, I will post the Frankenstein in a Minute. It is HILARIOUS.

Halloween is Coming! / Target Missoni Collection

Halloween is on its way. I got a really awesome sign at C&D Hardware today. It is sparkly, orange, and says “Spooky.” It’s awesome. There is a man who works there, a bigger guy with red hair. He is very nice, and I learned today that his favorite holiday is Halloween, too! Apart, he said, from May 3… I guess that I can’t blame him, seeing as November 21 is my favorite favorite holiday. He liked my spooky sign, and the koozie I got that says, “Elixer of Doom.” The people in there are always SO HELPFUL.

I am a huge fan of buying from independent stores. The feel of them is completely different. I can walk into C&D and ask any member of the staff where they keep metric sockets or which brush I should use with oil paint for trim and they will say, “Follow me.” This is a far cry from the Home Depot, who tried to cheat Mom out of hundreds of dollars on a washer dryer set and ruined a key I was trying to copy. I’m still not sure how they did that, by the way. Those little machines they use now are fool-proof! Anyways, the staff knows their stuff. On another positive note, they have a surprising lot of items. If they don’t have what you need, options are to order and ship it for pick up or straight to your house, or request they stock it.

Also, like it’s bigger, higher-end buddy Bering’s, C&D carries a ton of crute gifts. They have a nice selection of Tervis Tumblers, seasonal merchandise, and kitchenware.  They had my Spooky sign. They have fun things to hang on the wall, and hilarious aprons. It’s wonderful. Unlike Bering’s, I can actually afford to shop there. I recommend C&D highly. They’ll hook you up. Fa sho.

I also stopped at Ross on my way home. For less than $40 I got a rug for in front of the kitchen sink, an adorable Halloween tablecloth that looks and feels like it will stand up to many washes, some Halloween dish towels, a Happy Halloween potholder, a mug with a scary skull on it, two airtight canisters for the gluten-free flours I used to make Nikki’s french bread this weekend, an extra-large box of Sunkist fruit gems, some scrunchies, and two pairs of those cleaning gloves that are adori-fied. One pair has a spider ring, for Halloween-time… Or any time. 🙂 That place is so cheap, and I can usually find really cute stuff. I am for sure going back at Christmas to buy presents. They had all these really nice lavender soap gift sets that would be cute with a hand-knitted washcloth. Plus I will be able to say, “Do you love it? I love it. I got it at ROSS!” Let’s be real: I’ll probably sing it, not say it. Just saying. Now I’m excited for Christmas, too. Who knew Ross Dress for Less could have that effect on a body?

Now, on to more shopping excitement…

Target has their Halloween stuff out. I am very much looking forward to finding some fun monster picture frames and hopefully a birthday gift for Jessica. I am going tomorrow morning, though, because tomorrow morning is the introduction of Target’s MISSONI line. I am so excited. The commercials are adorable! I plan to get there early to snag the crutest stuff. Mom and Elise are going to be so jealous of my adorable cheap Missoni loot. I can’t wait!

Quick aside: When I told Justin how excited I was about the Missoni line at Target, he replied, “Don’t we already have a ton of that stuff? I mean, almost all the clothes we get from there are Missoni.” It took me a second to figure out he meant Mossimo. Ha. Men.

I am hoping that they have some things that go well in my house… And even if they don’t, I am sure I will find a way to make it work. I really think this is the final chapter in the “I don’t like Target very much right now” book that has documented the months since I went to Target late one night for retail therapy and found that they had ceased to carry both the brand of tampons I like AND my bra size. I was so upset. I wrote a letter. I don’t know how much that had to do with it, but Target started carrying both again, and I feel that after I score some sweet gear tomorrow morning in clothing, housewares, and seasonal, I will finally be able to forgive. Wish me luck on my quest. 🙂

Nikki and Kaia Turn 10!

Nikki Crocker and I will be celebrating our ten year friend anniversary tomorrow. It’s kind of a big deal. Of course, we didn’t become close friends until about 8 months later when we were able to bond over having two of the three worst numbers in the school-wide housing lottery, landing us both in the highly undesirable Clement House. As it turns out, Clement House was one of the biggest blessings Andover offered. More on that some other time, though.

Our BFF status was not secured until lower (sophomore) year. Over the course of the fall trimester, several traumatic events brought us closer to the thick-as-thieves mark. Most are funny now, others not so much. I would say the most notable event was the first night Nikki and Mark Margiotta broke up, and I walked into her room with no advance warning of this event. Nikki had this telemarketer phone, which I greatly envy now but made merciless fun of then despite her insistence (and rightly so) of its practicality. She was talking on the T-phone, instant messaging 6 or 7 people, drinking out of a 2-liter bottle of orange soda, and shoveling KIX into her mouth by the handful.

She was pissed. I was petrified.

I said something along the lines of, “I’ll just come back later,” to which she replied, “NO. Stay.” I sat on her bed for about 10 minutes, then finally excused myself by promising I would be back in 5 minutes.

I ran up the stairs and called my mother, panicking. “I think Nikki needs to go to Isham.” Isham is the health center. My mom laughed. I was so upset and worried about Nikki, and I distinctly remember telling mom, “It’s NOT funny!” Mom told me Nikki would be alright, she just needed a friend, and it would not be a bad idea to replace the orange soda with water because that seemed like an awful lot of sugar.

I tromped back down to Nikki’s room with a stack of homework, a clean cup full of ice water, and the words, “She will be fine, sweetie,” echoing through my head. She was.

Since then Nikki has been there for me through everything. She is my rock when my life gets bowled over by hurricanes, and the one who laughs my pain away when I am sad. She is one of the first people I call to tell good news. I am so lucky to have her as my friend.

I am making her a surprise tomorrow. I will have to start early in the morning, but it is totally worth it. It’s small change in comparison to all the wonderful things she does for me every day… Yesterday, she gave me the dress off her back. What a friend! It’s things like that that got us the most write-ins for best friends senior superlative. We lost by less than ten votes, and we weren’t even on the ballot. I hope she likes her special gift.

Nik- Thanks, girl, for ten years of fun and fabulosity. I’m looking forward to several decades more. Love you tons!