For the past three years, February Vacation has been the one break from school during which we don't travel, which means that I have a full nine days to do whatever whim strikes me. As always, I made an overly optimistic to-do list that had no hope of being completed, but the things I did manage to squeeze in made for a relaxing (although frozen) break.
We finished watching The Office, a show that I originally refused to get into, partly because I am an anti-bandwagon person and partly because I just didn't get the few episodes that I had seen playing on TV. Boy am I glad I changed my mind. The writers have a brilliant knack for pushing you so far over the edge of uncomfortable that your heart starts racing and a huge gulp of air is trapped in your throat and you are physically writhing in your seat, begging the person with the remote to "please, make it stop." And then they pull back, and in the next scene you might just find yourself tearing up a bit because that horribly awkward and even offensive character from the previous scene has stolen your heart. I loved it.
Then, I made up for our Office marathon by reading a book. And by that I mean that I spent another 36 hours on the couch because I just couldn't put The Secret Life of Bees down--I would finish a chapter, look up at the laundry that needed folding, the floor that needed vacuuming, and the list of groceries that needed purchasing, and then I started the next chapter. I'm not even sure that I could tell you why I was so enthralled: there isn't a murder to be solved or treasure to be found, and it's pretty clear after the first third of the book that the evil father is going to make a return at some point. What Sue Monk Kidd does is weave together several small but significant stories of the people, places, and things that work together to build up the main character, Lily's, strength so that she can ultimately determine her future. The truths that Lily discovers about herself and the world around her are worth pondering. This is one of my favorites:
"T. Ray did not think colored women were smart. Since I want to tell the whole truth, which means the worst parts, I thought they could be smart, but not as smart as me, me being white. Lying on the cot in the honey house, though, all I could think was August is so intelligent, so cultured, and I was surprised by this. That's what let me know I had some prejudice buried inside me."
My sister came to visit, and we had a wonderful time eating and chatting about her upcoming wedding, our plans for the next two years while Amar is in business school, and the goings-on with everyone in Georgia. Per my dad's request, we did our best to recreate our picture from "The Blizzard of '93." Unfortunately, the snow was still too powdery to attempt a snowman--and we don't exactly have anywhere to put one if we could make it.
4 & 5
Months ago, I made a list of foods that I want to master cooking--meaning I want a go-to recipe that I can follow without burning the rice, over- or under-seasoning the sauce, or having to search through a dozen online articles to get the right cooking temperature and time. Over the break, I tackled roll-out sugar cookies with frosting, and roasted chicken, both of which I had tried before with disastrous results. My first solo attempt at homemade frosting was in college, when I tried to make a cake for a friend's baby shower. I failed to realize that, when trying to adjust the consistency of the frosting, you have to add more butter as well as sugar, or else you end up with a mighty thick glaze that oozes down the sides of the cake in massive drips. Her cake looked like the inside of a cave. Last year, for Amar's birthday, I decided that I had learned the "more butter" lesson well enough. Too well enough. I didn't need sprinkles because the frosting was speckled with flecks of pure, unsalted, golden butter. Like Funfetti for Paula Deen. This time, I watched my sister make the first batch, and paid close attention to the ratios, and ended up with a nice (intentional) glaze for the cookies.
For the roasted chicken, I went straight to my Cooks Illustrated magazine and ended up with perfectly juicy chicken and a savory sauce. Those carrots, they're still 60% raw. Baby steps.