"I've discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it."
- William Faulkner

Thursday, January 31, 2008

choosy marys choose...

Recent conversations with friends, family and coworkers have spawned a discussion that often elicits strong, passionate reactions - "real" or generic? Brand loyalty is something that companies of all kinds spend millions of dollars in advertising trying to convince you that their product is the best, always has been, always will be. What we ate as children is usually what we want as adults, which is why these companies start advertising aimed at little ones just old enough to ask their mommies for things in the grocery store.

Upon moving out on my own into the wild blue yonder (read: Greenwood) a few years ago, I began to appreciate the savings generic products provide. I learned when generic will do and when cheapness doesn't cut it, and it developed into a amateur "nature vs. nurture" study of my own. Here are a few of my findings; check them out and see if you can find the pattern:

Acceptable penny-pinching products...

1) To me, if you are throwing something away after its use or literally flushing it into oblivion, it is ridiculous to spend big bucks on it. I'll buy the cheapest napkins, toilet paper and paper towels I can find (KK disagrees with me on the paper towels.), and if the State of Mississippi would let me buy whatever they use in the bathrooms, I would in a minute.

2) In an effort to incorporate more veggies into my diet AND be more fiscally conservative, I've started purchasing generic canned vegetables - I mostly only get the green beans and black-eyed peas and occasionally mandarin oranges, but they are just as good as the real stuff.

3) I never hesitate to take medicine if I think it will help me. Got a headache? Take some medicine and feel better. Car sick? Take some medicine and feel better. Stuffy nose? Take some medicine and feel better. Not to sound like a pill popper, but it's a no-brainer. It's cheaper and just as effective to stock your medicine cabinet with Equate.

4) I can remember my Sunday School teacher one Sunday telling me that a sin is a sin is a sin just like bleach is bleach is bleach. Seriously, it's a chemical compound. It's all the same, people.

5) Thanks to MK, I have painted my nails more in the past 6 months or so than I have in 5 years. And, I'm getting better at it, I must say. But, I'm known to occasionally paint my whole finger, and when I do, I use the cheapest nail polish remover I can find to correct my little masterpiece.

Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby...

1) Few products draw such intense emotions as which ketchup to use. I personally don't care for it (unless combined mustard and pickle on a cheeseburger), but those that do are loyal to the point of severity. For most, I've found Heinz reigns supreme here.

2) I grew up eating rice and cream of mushroom soup, so it was natural for me to indulge in this as an adult occasionally. Those of you NOT using Campbell's are doing yourselves a disservice. Seriously, none of that other junk will do.

3) My dear friend Beth Williams showed me the light when she introduced me to Jif peanut butter. I pretty much bought whatever brand was cheapest prior to her intervention. It really is superior.

4) I don't have ice cream a lot in my house - too many points, and I would be inclined to eat a scoop every time I walked past the freezer. But when I do and I want to top with chocolate syrup, I only use Hershey's.

5) Cereal may not pop into everyone's head when one thinks of a "comfort food," but Cheerios is. What are those others trying to prove? Give it up, Brand X - you'll never get it right.

What do YOU think? Let me know what I may have left out...

Monday, January 28, 2008

state of the (colvard) union

Congrats to the Bulldogs for their definitive win over the Rebs this weekend. It's nice to be perfect - in the SEC, that is - which is less than I can say for our North Mississippi rivals. I love that the Hump is such a tough place to play - kind of like where rankings go to die, per se.

While in Starkville, we visited the Union on campus, and it most certainly puts the old one to shame. If you visit Bulldog Country, it's worth a peek. We didn't venture too far past the food court, but even what little of it we saw was like a different place. I felt that familiar pain that strikes me every time I hit MSU's campus - I think about places I wish I had gone more, things I wish I had taken advantage of, and what it was like to be a carefree college student in general. I could almost picture myself walking across the Drill Field. Sorry to be so sentimental, but that's what State does to me.

And here's this week's Delicious Dish: You may be familiar with the recipe, but if you're not, it's probably the easiest and most delicious dessert ever. It's a great one to take to a friend or bring to a party.

"Better than Death by Chocolate" Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert


1 box of ice cream sandwiches (I usually get the 12-pack so Kell can eat the extras)
1 jar of caramel sundae topping
1 tub of Cool Whip, defrosted (I get the fat free kind, but it's sort of a wash in this recipe)
1 bag of Heath topping (these are near the chocolate chips), divided or about 8 Skor bars, divided and crushed (Kell prefers Skor bars, but I can't really tell the difference)

Spray a casserole dish with unflavored cooking spray (the size of the dish will determine how many ice cream sandwiches you'll need). Cover the bottom of the dish with the unwrapped sandwiches. I always cut them to fit exactly, but you sure don't have to. (I like to not be able to see any of the bottom of the dish.) Pour the entire jar of caramel topping over the sandwiches, covering completely. Sprinkle about 3/4 of the Heath topping or crushed Skor bars, reserving the rest to top. Spread the entire tub of Cool Whip over the crushed candy (it helps if the tub is completely softened and thawed in the fridge first). Sprinkle the remaining Heath topping or crushed Skor bar (I sometimes drizzle a little caramel on top, too), and freeze to set. Let thaw slightly so it's easy to serve. YUM!

And check out another great review of Ballast AND the awards the picture won! Nina and her crew never cease to amaze.

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Ballast" buzz

I mentioned in my previous post that "Ballast", filmed entirely in Mississippi and cast with Mississippians, was one of the movies braving the cold in Park City, Utah at Sundance. Well, check out these reviews: one by CNN movie critic Tom Charity and another by Newsweek's David Ansen. Our Mississippi motion picture is listed as one of few stand-outs! Congrats Nina and all others who worked on the film!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

mississippi's own sundance kid

Few things earn an actor, director, screenwriter or producer street cred better than Sundance. This indie film festival was established in 1981 by the original Sundance Kid himself, Robert Redford, to create an environment that would effectively "foster independence discovery and new voices in American film." The Sundance Institute is the end-all, be-all of independent film showcases in the U.S., supporting features, documentaries, film music and theatre, and putting talented go-getters in touch with seasoned professionals in the film industry. Each year in January, the Sundance Film Festival is held in and around Park City Utah as a celebration and platform for these extraordinary individuals and their works of cinematic art.

One such individual is my colleague and WW buddy, Nina Parikh, who is a program manager in the Mississippi Film Office, a division of MDA. As if getting to go to Sundance isn’t cool enough, Nina’s film Ballast was one of 16 out of thousands selected for the festival’s Dramatic Competition. The entire picture was filmed in Mississippi and cast only with Mississippi actors, only one of whom had prior acting experience. Already getting great reviews, Ballast screenings will continue until Saturday’s awards ceremony. Nina and fellow producer Lance Hammer are keeping their fingers crossed that they’ll find distribution to bring their masterpiece to screens all over the nation, especially in their home state of Mississippi!

Woo hoo, Nina!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

heath ledger 1979-2008

Academy Award-winning actor Heath Ledger has died. He was found dead by his housekeeper this afternoon in his Manhattan apartment. Though no cause of death has been determined, there were drugs found near his body.

Heath was best-known for his role in critically-acclaimed Brokeback Mountain, but I first remember him in 10 Things I Hate About You. He was separated from his wife Michelle Williams and leaves behind a 3-year-old daughter, Matilda. Say a little prayer for his family during this difficult time.

another one bites the dust

A moment of silence for all the Fred Thompson for President supporters out there...Ok, he's out; time to move on. I've mentioned this in a previous post, but I wanted to want Fred as my President. I really did. Not sure why, but I am sure it stems from my years of devotion to Law and Order, where Thompson portrayed New York District Attorney Arthur Branch. I think in my mind and probably in the minds of others, Fred Thompson WAS Arthur Branch, the quick-witted Southern lawyer-turned-D.A. on the greatest legal drama of all time. Perhaps that's what the citizens of California were thinking when they elected actor Arnold Schwartzenegger as their Governator.

I'm sure Fred's announcement wasn't even a blip on the radar screen to the other candidates on either side of the aisle - Romney's busy combing his hair, Guiliani is busy smiling, Hillary is busy trying to convince us that she's cooler than Barack Obama and Barack is probably hanging out with Oprah or busting a move with Ellen. I do not, however, think Fred arrived upon this decision lightly - though his numbers were low (single digits in some places) and he'd lost support, don't count him out just yet. I wouldn't be surprised if he wound up on a bumper sticker as someone's VP running mate. Stay tuned...

Monday, January 21, 2008

i'm it...

Ok, my dear friend Claire, a.k.a. "I was the actress who played Pippi," has recently tagged me in this skeletons-in-the-closet virus effecting blogs everywhere. Evidently I'm supposed to share some little-known facts about myself with you all, the number of which is determined by my favorite number. I think my favorite number in this case will actually be determined by how many little-known facts about myself I can come up with.

1) I can't tell time. In college, I was a slave to my Ironman digital watch, and I gave it up when I entered the work force. I usually consult my computer or cell phone for time checks, so I consider time telling a sort of a lost art like thank you note writing or Latin. However, when I went to Japan where I had no cell phone, I had to purchase a digital watch that looked like a real grown-up one.

2) I am terrified of vomiting, food poisoning and the stomach virus. This fear reached OCD proportions when I moved out and on my own after college, at the pinnacle of my anxiety. When I hear of the SV "going around," I worry about it so much that I make myself sick. I avoid buffets whenever possible, post-game tailgate food, and not a meal goes by that I don't worry about what kind of bacteria I may have just injested. Psychotic and irrational, huh? Ah, but you love me anyway.

3) I used to have the top of my ear pierced - not super-extreme, but whatever. This may surprise some of you, others may not be at all. I did it in Destin after my freshman year in college and kept it until after I graduated. I came this close to getting my nose pierced, too, but chickened out at the last minute.

I tag MK and KK.

It's Monday and MLK day, and I'm off work. YAY! And, as Monday dictates, here's this week's Delicious Dish. I found this one in Rachael Ray's magazine, but it's also online.

Pretzel Turtles


One 14-oz. bag soft caramels
One 10-oz. bag pretzel nuggets (I couldn't find these, so I used the honey pretzel twists and broke them into 3 pieces.)
12 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped (I don't like dark chocolate, so I used a bag of milk chocolate chips.)
2 cups almonds, toasted and finely chopped (I used slivered almonds and chopped them up in smaller pieces myself.)


1) Unwrap the caramels, then, using a rolling pin, roll out each one into a 1/8-inch-thick oval (I found it to be easier to just do this by hand). Wrap a caramel around each pretzel nugget, pinching the ends to seal.
2) In a double boiler over simmering water, melt half the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Add the remaining chocolate, remove the top of the double boiler from the saucepan and stir until smooth (I just put it all in there at once).
3) Place the almonds in a shallow bowl. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Using a fork, dip a caramel-covered pretzel in the chocolate to coat, tapping off any excess chocolate. Transfer the pretzel to the almonds and toss to coat; place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pretzels. Let stand until set, about 3 hours.

* My special advice - this isn't a whip-it-up-in-a-few-minutes type of project. They're delicious, but a little time consuming. I'd get all your pretzels ready for dipping before you even melt the chocolate. It's just as easy to make a bunch as it is just a few, so they'd make great handmade gifts.

On a sad note, Rick Burgess of the Rick & Bubba radio show out of Birmingham lost his youngest son, 2-year-old Bronner this weekend. I don't know the Burgesses personally, but I've been a big fan of their show for many years. When you're saying your prayers tonight, please lift up our brothers and sisters in Christ, The Burgesses, and pray that they'll find the strength to live day to day.

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

Saturday, January 19, 2008

carter conquers gatti town!

While Hartley's recovering in Philadelphia, Carter is hanging out at home in Mississippi. She and Haley came to visit me (really KK), and we had lunch and partied like rock stars at Gatti Town. See how much fun we had!
Click to play carter+conquers+gatti+town!
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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

what's happenin' hot stuff?

I felt very important yesterday. Governor Haley Barbour was inaugurated in front of the State Capitol, and I got to attend. It made me even more proud to be a Mississippian. Not sure why exactly, but I suppose the reverence and formality of the event re-instilled this surge of pride. Now, in my mind (and don't ruin it for me), this was a very exclusive event to which only the most elite members of state government are invited, but in actuality anyone wandering down the street could have joined in as well. The Guv was both nostalgic and hopeful and as well-versed as I've ever heard him, and Marsha looked great. She must have been walkin'.

I enjoyed the program and all, but I was most impressed by the snipers hiding on the roofs of surrounding buildings and the Secret Service agents dispersed in the crowd of onlookers. I also found myself distracted by the sign language interpreter - I liked watching him spell out the names of the dignitaries as they were announced and I equally enjoyed his Happy Hands Club-style interpretation of the National Anthem. I did sadly miss out on the party favors - a small magnolia tree. I'll be sure to be first in line in 2012.

And while we're welcoming people into new roles, Mary-Kathryn is joining the blogging world! The budding journalist and Oxford tourism extraordinaire finally succumbed to my nagging and has launched herself into the world of cyberspace. Check her out for great articles and general. Another one bites the dust.

Attention Prayer Warriors: Dear friends Beth (Starkvillians might know her as Beth Kimbrell) and Hart Kittle's son (and Kristen's nephew) Hartley is scheduled for heart surgery on Thursday. Pre-op stuff is on the schedule today, surgery tomorrow and a fast and furious recovery soon to come! Please keep Hartley and his family in your thoughts and prayers - he'll be back toddling around soon, so look out!

Monday, January 14, 2008

what a weekend

Greetings, readers. Contrary to so many weekends, this one was actually pretty eventful. Well, 2 big things happened, so if that constitutes "eventful," then I'm in business.

1) I finally got text messaging. As Harris says, it has opened up a whole new world for me. So, from this point forward, when you text me, I can reply. Welcome to the 21st century, right?

2) Kell and I went to see little Parker Hill. He is so beautiful and so tiny! (I borrowed this sweet picture of the little man from their blog.) I think he is by far the teeniest baby I have ever held (out of the 3). I got to see his adorable nursery, and it's even cuter in person. I thought it would be surreal seeing Lee and Jess as parents, but it wasn't strange at all - kind of like they were born to be parents to the little guy. Congrats, Hills!

And, continuing with my Delicious Dish commitment, here's this week's recipe. I can't remember what cookbook it comes from, I just know they sell it at Everyday Gourmet. Enjoy!

Chicken Tortellini Casserole


2 – 9 oz. pkgs fresh cheese tortellini
4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, sliced (I’ve used mozzarella, and it’s good, too)
4 to 5 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 stick margarine
1 onion, chopped
1 can chicken broth
1 can mushrooms, drained
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon sugar
4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded or cubed
½ c. sour cream (I used light)


Place the tortellini in a 9x11-inch baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Layer with the sliced cheese. Coat the chicken on all sides with flour. Saute’ the chicken in the margarine in a skillet (non-stick works best) until light brown (to cut calories, you could probably just saute' the chicken unbreaded in some olive oil, salt and pepper; I've never done it that way, but it might be worth a try). Spoon the chicken over the prepared layers using a slotted spoon, reserving the pan drippings.

Saute’ the onion in reserved pan drippings until tender (if you need to de-glaze the pan a little, use a bit of the chicken broth). Add broth, mushrooms, bouillon cubes and sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shredded cheese and stir until melted. Stir in sour cream. Pour mushroom mixture over prepared layers. Bake, covered with foil, at 275 degrees for 45 minutes. You may prepare up to 2 days in advance and store, covered, in refrigerator. Bake at 300degrees for 45 minutes.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

'08 is great

Who says January pales in comparison with the excitement of Christmas? Maybe no one, but I've always thought so. This January has already brought several things that cut through the clutter and landed in the forefront of my ever-expanding mind.

First, and this may elicit some disgust from many of you, Dr Pepper now comes in Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr Pepper! I couldn't be more excited as I have always enjoyed sodas with weird flavor additives - Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper, Cherry 7Up and my personal, yet hard-to-find favorite, Schweppes Raspberry Ginger Ale. (Recently I enjoyed a Clearly Canadian at the Fondren Beverage Emporium - a must-stop for anyone in the Jackson area.) I don't recall ever tasting a chocolate-laced cola before, but I am looking forward to this for sure. Keep all groans and barf noises to yourself, please, and let me enjoy this one.

Secondly, every good Mississippi girl awaits the January issue of Mississippi Magazine, a.k.a. the annual Wedding Register. For those of you poor souls that are unfamiliar with this jewel of an issue, I'll explain: brides from all over the state (and sometimes grooms that are Mississippi boys) purchase a page (or two for the really sassy) in Mississippi Magazine to publicize their Big Day. Each bride provides pictures and a few hundred words of text describing her wedding. And it's all fine and good until you run across a treasure where the bride's dog was her maid of honor or the groomsmen wore camouflage tuxedos. There's quite a system for perusing this publication - first, scan for people you know, photos both attractive (Maggie, yours were gorgeous of course!) and abhorrent, etc. Next, settle in for a long winter's read - this is when the real entertainment begins. Some people devour the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, Mississippi ladies devour the Wedding Register.

Finally, unless you've been living under a rock for the past year or so, you've been feeling the ever-increasing burn of election season. Claire and Yaya this topic with a certain flair, and I figured I'd take my turn on mic. (Didn't we just have a presidential election, by the way?) Stations like CNN and Fox News inundate us with campaign coverage, poll numbers, candidate bios and any skeleton that can be unearthed from years and years of public service (or lack thereof). Each face has a message, and everyone who fancies himself a political brainiac forces his two cents into the living rooms of the American public.

I think I've been very clear in my support of this perhaps most important civic duty, but I don't think I'm alone in feeling the loss of idealism in our political process. CNN has to-the-second polling numbers, and RealClearPolitics.com claims to have a happy medium - the averages of all the polls out there. Doesn't anyone just want to be a public servant and do what's best for the USA instead of practicing partisan politics and under-the-table arrangements with lobbyists and the like? Between the mudslinging, the schmoozing and the baby-kissing, how does one voter like myself step back and take an objective look at all the Prez wannabes? Will we be able to vote FOR a candidate this year instead of voting AGAINST one?

I've lined out below some basic info on who seems like the frontrunners in each party along with a little comment of my own (you didn't think I'd leave that out, did you? I tried to be objective) and what I've dubbed their theme song. I am no political phenom, and I may be eating my words in the future, but here it is...

Red Elephants (Republicans)

We all know Rudy Giuliani, and this may be a double-edged sword for him. Every candidate should expect some scrutiny, but the two-term mayor of NYC and supreme leader of the city during 9/11 is under a mega-microscope. Probably the most left of the rights, his stance on abortion and same-sex unions has stirred up some controversy among his party. He's a great wordsmith and has a strong emotional tie to many Americans. My impression: His third wife Judith may come to be a liability. Once perhaps considered a shoe-in, he's got a ways to go if he wants to land the nom. "Frasier" likes him. Theme song: "Hero" by Enrique Iglesias.

Mike Huckabee hails from Arkansas (remember Slick Willie Clinton?), where he was a Baptist preacher before Governor of The Natural State. Sort of the grass roots dark horse and the comedian of the campaign, he's garnered support from the Tyson Foods guy and none other than Mr. Walker-Texas Ranger himself, Chuck Norris. My impression: He did win Iowa, but he may still be a little too George W. Bush-y for a lot of people. Those of you wanting change may not find it here. Just a thought. Theme song: "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" by John Denver.

Arizona Senator John McCain is a true war hero and was very much a hunk in his younger years. This super-conservative has run before and even beat out the W for a couple of states in 2000 before winning New Hampshire this year. He's intense and clearly bleeds red, white and blue. My impression: I think he'd really like to disintegrate parts of the Middle East and start over. He'd take good care of the country where terrorism is concerned, but keep his finger away from the nuke button. Theme song: "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Mitt Romney looks like a President - tall, good hair, well-dressed. He's been the governor of Massachusetts and has about a billion kids and grandkids. I heard on the radio yesterday that he's been CEO of a bunch of companies and would be a qualified face for foreign relations, but he represents everything that is establishment. He's raised a lot and spent a lot, but he's also got tons of his own money. My impression: His Mormon faith has hurt him. Americans just don't know or understand the religion and are concerned it could creep into his policy. Theme song: "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt.

Fred Thompson, you know I love you. You are the only pretend New York District Attorney I've ever loved, but I'm not buying you as President. I want to. Please change my mind. Fred's been skipping states here and there, losing support left and right, and didn't even enter the race until months after other candidates. His wife is the hottest spouse out of all the candidates. My impression: I don't know if his heart's just not in it or if he just assumed he'd get the support he wanted. I'm disappointed. Theme song: "The Thrill is Gone" by BB King.

Blue Donkeys (Democrats)

Does Hillary Clinton even need her last name? Brilliant, methodical and tough-as-nails, she's been running for President since the early 90's when it was her husband that was officially on the ticket. Experience is her strong suit; likeability is not. Probably the most "love her or hate her" candidate out there. My impression: If any woman can handle being President, it's this one, but I'm not sold that even she could. If she lands in the White House again, she better have 24-hour detail on Bill. There's a new crop of interns in town. Theme song: "Im Just a Girl" by No Doubt.

John Edwards certainly has campaign experience - you remember him as Swiftboat Vet target John Kerry's running mate in '04 - but he seems to lack the charisma he had then. He, too, has tons of his own money at his disposal, but it looks like he won't even carry his own home state of South Carolina. My impression: When his wife announced she had cancer, he should have graciously stepped out of the race. However, he's clearly not happy as just a running mate and wants to be the Big Cheese. Theme song: "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story.

New kid on the block Barack Obama has ignited the flames of change like no other candidate out there. He's well-spoken, attractive, clean-cut and sharp as a tack - perhaps dangerously so. He's peaked the interest of young voters, Hollywood and now has the O Factor on his side. If Oprah can do for Obama what her Book Club does for authors, her Midas touch knows no bounds. However, I heard a commentator say that he's a great campaigner but would make a lousy President. My impression: If he doesn't get the nomination this time, it's because of his lack of experience. He'd probably make someone a good running mate, and he won't be giving up any time soon. Theme song: "Take a Chance on Me" by ABBA.

(Photos courtesy of CNN.com)

So, there they are - the red, the blue, the good, the bad, the ugly and the pretty. Still confused? Take this quiz that Kristen sent me today. You may be surprised - I was...

Monday, January 7, 2008

delicious dish

One of my goals for 2008 is to blog more. Silly goal, I know, but I think that if I had a weekly or so "special edition," I'd be more apt to post at least once per week. As noted by the picture many of you may recognize, this week I'll begin my Delicious Dish series - each week I'm planning to post a recipe that I've tasted and given my stamp of approval. Some will be low fat/low cal and others will be sinful, but all will be yummy to me. For those that I've borrowed from a recipe book or magazine or website, I'll give you that, too. I make no guarantees on how long this series will last, but enjoy it while you can.

I had this dessert on Christmas Eve at kind-of-cousin-in-law Peggy Alexander's house. I'm a huge fan of the squishy sweet, and this recipe is killer. Kell loved it so much that he asked his mom to get the recipe from Peggy and we made it this weekend. It's not nearly as hard as it looks and is really impressive - great for dinner parties or a special night in. Plus, most of the ingredients you probably have in your kitchen already. Give it a try!

Peggy's White Chocolate Blueberry Bread Pudding


1 loaf French bread (Don’t buy the sliced bread – just get the bread in the grocery store deli. I ended up not even using a whole loaf)
2 eggs (I actually used Egg Beaters egg substitute, and it worked really well)
2 and ½ cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
5 oz. white chocolate chips
1 cup fresh blueberries (I used fresh, and this time of year, they were really expensive. Peggy said canned ones work, too.)
1 oz. Amaretto (optional)
1 cup sugar
1 and ½ teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup whipping cream
¼ cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup whiskey (I just used about 1/2 oz.; it's optional, too)


Tear French bread (including crust) into 1 and ½ inch pieces until you get 4 or 5 cups of bread cubes. Combine above remaining ingredients and pour over bread. Soak overnight. This step could also be done in the morning if you want to serve at night.

Next day:
Butter a casserole dish. Peggy said it is better to use a shallow dish rather than a deep dish. Pour French bread mixture into this dish and add the chocolate chips, blueberries, and Amaretto. Slightly stir. Place this dish into a pan that has 1 or 2 inches of water. Bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. It's done when the top is slightly browned.

Place sugar and cornstarch into a double boiler. Add cream gradually and heat slowly until dry ingredients are completely dissolved. Add butter and cook until thick (don't hurry this step - it may take a while). Add vanilla (and whiskey if desired). Pour over baked pudding. I like to eat it when it's right out of the oven.

This would also be great with vanilla ice cream. If you do try this, please let me know what you think! I'd love to know if you liked it as much as Kell and I did. Oooo, and it would be GREAT if you're cooking on Valentine's Day for your sweetie!


Saturday, January 5, 2008

every who down in who-ville liked christmas a lot (and the liberty bowl...and new year's...)

2007 is behind us, and 2008 is officially in charge. A lot happens in the weeks prior to the excitement and idealism of a new year, and my December was no exception. Kell and I put nearly 1000 miles on my little Honda in about a week and ½ (not as many as Heather, but lengthy nonetheless). Contrary to the inactivity on my blog, I am alive, and I do get out. And here’s proof:

I am so fortunate to have friends that live near me. Although I don’t see them as much as I’d like, it’s always so easy to catch up. HOWEVER, Dirty Santa always slithers into the picture, and I like it no more than I did last year. It makes me nervous, I always end up with a gift way less cool than the one I brought, and as Mandy “Dr. McHottie” Armstrong so put it, “it does not foster feelings of friendship.” The key is to get involved with a cute group of people so you’re pretty much guaranteed a good gift. Work parties are a toss-up – my advice is to scope out the cool people in your office, make note of the gifts they bring in, and go for those. Fortunately, this year I got great ones (thanks, SB and KK!). I still don’t like Dirty Santa, though.

Mile 118, December 22-24: Starkville
We loaded up the holidaymoblie with gifts, clothes, food and pet supplies and embarked on the first leg of our journey. I suppose Christmas at the Karatassos house is like any other, but it’s true – there really is no place like home for the holidays. We ate one of four Honey Baked Hams my parents got as gifts and devoured cookies, fudge, cake and other treats…that my parents got as gifts. Christmas supper at my house means breakfast food, and Santa came early so Kell and I could open presents in front of my family. I racked up this year. As far as the twins were concerned, you can see below how much they enjoyed Starkville’s new dog park – the only one in the state!

Mile 279, December 24-25: Greenville
On Christmas Eve, we were Delta-bound to enjoy even more of the holidays with the Smiths. This was my first Christmas to not be in Starkville, but I still had a great holiday. I am so fortunate to have a second family that is really fun and welcoming and likes to eat good food just like I do. We attended the candlelight Christmas Eve service at FBC Greenville and had dinner with Peggy, Laura Merrill and Jessica Alexander (LOVE these girls!) before heading back home to await Santa's arrival. Much to Peyton’s dismay, we opened gifts on the actual Christmas Day, and we were off yet again. (I don’t have a picture of Christmas with the Smiths, but Peyton’s Christmas card from 2006 will have to do.)

Mile 403, December 25: Utica
“Where is Utica?” you might ask? It’s about 40 or so miles from Jackson, sort of between the City with Soul and Vicksburg – the southwest corner of Hinds county, actually. Mom-in-law extraordinaire Lisa described growing up there as “Mayberry.” Now, who doesn’t want to live in Mayberry? Due to various issues caused by the twins, packing, etc., Kell and I arrived just before lunch – perfect timing. We enjoyed visiting with family, and the twins were even allowed to make an appearance. Again, no pictures of this day on my camera, but trust me, I was there.

Mile 448, December 25-29: Ridgeland
Home sweet home! Tree status: still up, decorated and lit.

Mile 674, December 29-30: Memphis, TN
Finally! It’s been 7 years since the Bulldogs had been to a bowl game, and the Liberty Bowl in Memphis did not disappoint. Kell and I got to stay at The Peabody (I saw the ducks for the very first time in my life), ride the team bus to the game, and successfully endured one of the more boring games I've ever watched. It was eventually worth all the suffering from boredom and low, low temps when the Bulldogs put the hurtin' on Central Florida in the fourth quarter. Give me Liberty or give me death. Tree status: still up, decorated and lit.

Mile 876, December 30: Ridgeland

Mile 906, December 31: Jackson
I've officially given up on the fancy New Year's Eve galas, minus the big annual bash at The Alluvian. I always find myself having more fun at casual get-togethers in the homes of hospitable friends. This year, Cliff and Katy (and Mo, of course) were kind enough (or crazy enough) to host a fun, eclectic group of college partiers-turned reluctant semi/pseudo-grown-ups. Even though we missed midnight once, through the magic of DVR, we were able to celebrate '08 in style. A good time was had by all, even if we didn't make it too long past midnight. Tree status: still up, decorated and lit.

Pour on the cheese: some of my fave events of 2007:

my first anniversary

exciting overseas travel

Welcome, Olive and Charlie!

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