Are you there AAA, it’s me again

Do you know how to change a tire? I do. 1-800-AAA-Help.
And i can sew a button…by taking it to an alterations place.

These embarrassing revelations–and skills lack thereof–lead me to the question: where the f*** was home economics in high school? Hysterical that the tigres-euphrates river system is deemed more important than lug nuts and jacks. Or, the limit of a function as x approaches minus infinity is more important than hemming a pair of pants.

But, since middle-eastern tributaries and asinine derivatives trump life,  my friends and I are talking about starting a grill-camp for guys (patent-pending). How fun would a weekend of learning how to grill with a bunch of friends be? We can even throw in whiskey tastings. Because, every guy should know how to grill. And every guy should know his whiskey.

As luck would have it, he-who-shall-not-be-named in my house can’t grill. We try to have lessons in, you know, putting meat on and flipping it until it appears done, but we just aren’t there yet. Even so, we teamed up a few nights ago to make the most flavorful, easiest chicken by using Carolina Table Salt. Even a Jack-of-no-home-trades could put the rub on the chicken and plop it on the grill. It’s tasty, easy, local, and it can be used on “‘most anything”–from veggies to meat to chex mix.

Can be found at Southern Gent in Charlotte.
It can be found at Southern Gent among other places in Charlotte.

It must be said though, that what he lacks in grill skills he makes up for in whiskey skills. Our latest discovery is Defiant. It’s one of the best we’ve ever tasted, and just like the Carolina table salt, it’s tasty, (goes down) easy, and local. I can’t describe it more than this, for I would be a fraud making up whiskey terms, but I can tell you to pour it over a few ice cubes and voila! you will taste why its winning so many awards.

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So, even though grill camp is, like, the best.idea.ever, i’m still pissed about getting rid of home-ec classes. really, it’s no problem that i don’t know how to iron because i (used to) know the atomic mass of hydrogen. And while learning to cook together is fun,  nothing will ever make it ok to pay $85 dollars to hem a dress. And nothing will ever be ok about wannabe Susie Homemaker stranded on the side of the street with her husband dialing AAA. Let’s just pray he brought the whiskey.

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peanut butter balls: a secret recipe

really important question, you guys–why are the seasonal Reese’s peanut butter easter eggs (and christmas trees) so much better than the original reese’s peanut butter cups? they have to use the same ingredients, right? but there’s just no way…it’s like saying the dumpy grey burgers topped with white lettuce you are handed at a fast-food restaraunt are the same as the ones on the commercials.

these Reese’s eggs are so coveted in our house that we had many-a-fights about them growing up. for example, one time i had a party in high school, and though i was verbally berated by my parents for weeks, it was nothing compared my sibling’s ire that some idiot at the party ate the last Reese’s easter egg in the freezer. i seriously thought that we might not speak again until the next easter until the damn eggs came out again. i had to slap myself every time i had the sheepish thought of dear God, you did it once. please resurrect these eggs. 

i tell you all that, only to tell you that the reese’s easter eggs have nothing on my family’s peanut butter ball recipe. unlike Bush’s baked beans–where no one wants to know the secret to those pre-canned barf beans, yet the family feels the need to make it more clandestine than our country’s torture methods–you want to be in on this secret.

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for us, peanut butter balls are more synonymous with christmas than say, “santa” or “pass the wine”. when i think back on christmas pasts, the only visions i have are peanut butter balls at my parents’ christmas party and the under-rated Creepy Crawlers that santa brought me one year.

it’s the crisp bite into the chocolate followed by the creamy peanut butter mixture that scream’s All I want for Christmas is You. they make the Reese’s (and the Pillsbury slice and bake christmas cookies) look like amateurs.

i must warn you though, it’s a multi-day, multi-person process. the past few years, it’s been my mom, my dad, and me. how cute. my mom is the batter maker, microwave operator, freezer/fridge runner, and clean-up crew. my dad alternates between fridge running duties and ball-roller. and i am a ball-roller and the master dipper. 

 

Day 1: Make the batter. Refrigerate overnight.
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Day 2: Roll the peanut butter balls. Refrigerate overnight.

Notes: 1) for once, smaller the better 2) they become very, very sticky at room temp.  they need to be super cold, so keep them in the freezer until you are ready. and only take a small amount out at a time. hence, the official fridge/freezer runners. 3) terse words regarding the size and the stickiness will occur every year–i could hit replay from 2004 and it would be the same conversation we had this year.
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Day 3: dip the peanut butter balls. again, only microwave a little bit of chocolate at a time. Henry Ford would not be impressed by the inefficiency of this recipe, but go with it.

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yes, this recipe takes longer than most, but at the end of the day, it’s more than a recipe–it’s Christmas, it’s family, and it’s memories made together. enjoy–all of them–because they are too good to hide in the freezer for an over-served partygoer to steal.

Recipe

Ingredients:
48 ounces of creamy peanut butter
3 sticks of butter
2 pounds of powered sugar

2 packages of chocolate flavored almond bark

Directions:
1) let butter soften
2) using a mixer, mix peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar
3) refrigerate overnight
4) roll peanut balls
5) refrigerate overnight
6) dip peanut butter balls in the chocolate

Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle

how perfect are these bar towels from raleigh-based Silly Grits? as my one and only black Friday purchase–all $6 (BOGO)–they have become one of my favorite decorating pieces this season.
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 Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle–** disclaimer: i wrote this whole post based on the assumption that “don’t get your tinsel in a tangle” is the festive way to say “don’t get your panties in a wad”. after a few focus groups (g-chats), i’m not sure that’s the case. but i still think i’m right. i mean, what else would it mean?
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Mishaps happen…

  • tape runs out. so does wrapping paper. both usually happen on Christmas Eve.  i can’t count the times my family has gotten gifts wrapped in the Charlotte Observer.
  • lights go out. last year, we had a strand of lights on our tree that constantly went out. when they did, our solution was to hit them in the just the right spot and they would light up for another 30 minutes. we repeated this cycle for a solid 20 days. this year, my mom geniously told me to change the broken bulb on the strand.
  • turkeys get burned. just call the neck and say grace–or the pledge of allegiance–before eating it.

often the best parts of Christmas–at least the memories we hold on to–are the things that go wrong. no one cares what their gift is wrapped in–like we have been taught since kindergarten, it’s what’s on the inside that matters. no one cares if your lights go out, so don’t take yourself so seriously. tinsel in a tangle is like having your panties in a wad- they need to be untangled and un-waded asap.

 one surefire way to do this is to raise a little cane. 
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  • spike the office eggnog: it’s like its the adult version of seeing your teacher in public when you were younger. is there anything greater–or more frightening– than coworkers being drunk together? at least one person does something fire-worthy. just don’t let it be you.
  • eat too many cookies. as far as i’m concerned, santa eats them at every house and still fits down the chimney. all you have to do is wiggle into your elastic pajamas to open presents.
  • have a lotta fun with a little small talk: is there anything worse than small talk? i’d rather try to give myself acupuncture than feel like an awkward wallflower at parties. it’s so miserable. so at least try to make it fun.  at the height of our coolness a few years ago, my friends and i would assign roles when we went out– question girl, easily-offended girl, limps-a-lot girl, stutter girl … awkward holiday parties are a great time to bring this back out.
so, please, use these amazingly chic bar towels as your holiday inspiration: don’t get your tinsel in a tangle, and raise a little cane.

5Church & the Magic of Christmas

dinner downtown followed by the christmas symphony has quickly become one of my favorite christmas traditions. it’s festive, it’s delectable, it’s ear(th)-shattering.

it’s also a chance to eat downtown. though I’ve lived in charlotte my whole life, my knowledge of downtown roads and relative locations is probably on par with a drunk in corn maze. for the life of me, i just can’t figure it out. but it doesn’t stop me from entering addresses into uber. this year, we chose 5Church. and as many times as I said, oh my god, after taking a sip or a bite, it’s quite possible i thought i was in an actual church.

first things first. the viper. it was delicious, cool, and refreshing–like if i ordered ten, i’d be hydrated… which is why i ordered two in about ten minutes.
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rather than an app, we went the “snack” route. split, it was just a bite a piece. but it was the perfect bite. the prime meatball slider (michael’s favorite) and the crisp szechuan pork belly (my favorite) left us wanting more long after the plates were cleared.

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mahi-mahi or trout?

funny story about the entree. i was between the wasabi-crusted salmon and the mahi-mahi with hoppin’ john and greens in a ham broth. somehow though, i must have asked the waiter whether he preferred the salmon or the trout. he said “definitely the trout”. so, when I got my plate, i was like hmmm this is odd. these greens seem like kale. and where is the hoppin’ john? and i don’t taste the ham broth. I justified these thoughts by assuming that my mom probably uses more fatback than regulated establishments are allowed to use, and, since there were some black-eyed pea size things around the edge of the plate,  i was all like, this place is fancy. they must have done hoppin’ john all fancy and dried the black eyed peas. so i kept eating…and eating…until literally the last bite… and it finally hit me that I was eating trout. 

curiosity kills my cat’s nine lives daily, so I just had to know if the trout or the mahi was better. after i explained my dumbassness to our waiter, I asked. I assumed he would answer with the trout, since, you know, it was in front of me and i was about to pay for it. instead, he responds “oh, definitely the mahi.” FML. on the positive side, when you order the wrong dish and still think its one of the best you’ve ever had, that’s a pretty good sign.
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on to the symphony. simply put, the Magic of Christmas is one of the most beautiful sounds i’ve ever heard. it makes you feel good, feel hopeful, and feel thankful. hearing Joy to the World, it almost seems as if the whole world will soon feel joy.

but the night wouldn’t be nearly what it is without conductor Albert-George Schram. i. love. Albert-George Schram. no shame. his jokes are hilarious. his dance moves are top notch. and his enthusiasm and love of music and of life are contagious.

so it is my hope that I continue to celebrate the christmas season with such joy and such love. Because, maybe if we all give a little love, it is possible to bring joy to the joyless.