Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Visit to Pittsford, The Highlights:

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Seeing Avatar in 3-D.  Wearing 3-D glasses the rest of the week, whenever deemed necessary.

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Cooking together as a family.  Sweet potatoes, which every single person added something to.

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My husband added the marshmallows, of course.

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Watching the men do the dishes.

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Listening to my brother play piano.  He is absurdly gifted.

Example: I fell asleep one night listening to him play the most melodious song I think I’ve ever heard.  I made a note to ask him what it was, because I wanted to download it on itunes.  Turns out he was making it up as he goes along.  Insane.

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Coffee with my mom.  Sitting by the fire with my Daddy-o.  I love my parents.

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Time with my Grandpa.

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Realizing my “little” cousins have become grown up girls. 

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Christmas Morning.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Morning

Even though we celebrated Christmas on the 27th, it felt exactly like Christmas with all our regular traditions: open stockings first, then eat sticky buns, then start it on the presents.  Dad passes out the presents, which means he always ends up with a huge stash left at the end.  Sometime in the midst of present opening, someone starts making Bloody Mary’s or Raspberry Bellini’s.  Immediately after opening presents, my brother falls asleep in the wrappings and my parents fix BLT’s or “special eggs.”  (I don’t know why we call them that, they’re scrambled eggs with mustard.)  Turns out it matters not what the date is, but where you are, who you’re with and what you do.   Merry Christmas, ya’ll.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Rub (Subtitle: Gift Giving for Dad, Part II)

Since my foray into the world of fudge making did not go so well, I was quite glad that I did indeed have a back up plan for my Dad’s Christmas present (besides the photo calendar that we do every single year and neither parents ever seem to tire of. Hooray for Snapfish!) One day, while digging in my pantry for a rub I had made awhile back and wanted to reuse, I got the idea to make a batch of rubs for my Dad, who is the ultimate grill-master.

And what goes better with a meat-theme gift than beer? I decided to put together a gift basket of 5 different homemade rubs and 6 different types of beers, sold as singles at World Market. I got the spice jars at World Market as well, and looked up different rub recipes online and in cookbooks that I had. This also turned out to be a great way to use up spices, since I seem to have some that harken back to my Baltimore days. Five years ago. Woops.

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When compared to my fudge fiasco, this was infinitely easier. It basically involved measuring, funneling and occasionally liking my finger and doing an impromptu taste test. “Too much cayenne? Nahhhh.”

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Fortunately, I had much more success with the rubs and beer than I did with the fudge. This was incredibly simple, and I would encourage anyone with a meat eater on their gift list to give it a whirl. Don’t forget the brewski basket: every good grill-master needs something to wash his steaks down with.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fudge (Subtitle: Gift Giving for Dad, Part I)

The following criteria deem you “Difficult to Shop For.”  If you match at least two of these criteria, you should know that your friends and family are probably talking about you behind your back circa November 25th each year.

1. You say out loud that you want something, and then you go and buy it.

2. You have no poker face when it comes to gifts that do not appeal to you.  You have no qualms about asking for a gift receipt for returns.

3. You give few hints or lists around gift giving time. 

4. You are astoundingly good at giving presents.

The bad news is my Dad matches all four of those criteria.  (Hi Dad.  I love you, but yes, you are usually the big question mark on my Christmas Gift.xls sheet.)  (Yes, I use an Excel sheet.)  (Yes, you can have a template.)  (Yes, I am horrifically dorky.)  (Yes, I am assuming you’re thinking these questions to yourself.)  (Yes, I’ll stop now.)

So here is what my dad DOES like, as far as gift giving goes: gifts that clearly demonstrate your generosity of time and thought.  Gah, I mean, what kind of holiday is this?  My dad has always been a fan of gifts that we have made: whether it is a photo calendar or a CD of music we think he’ll like, if we made it, he likes.  (Although I may have detected a hint of anxiety when I went through my knitting stage that he might be on the receiving end.)  And his absolute all time favorite gift?  Homemade fudge.

Yes, homemade chocolate fudge is all it takes to make my Dad happy.  So when I was home for Christmas, I decided to attempt making it.  The recipe comes from my Grandma (his mom) and looked fairly simple.  Famous last words.

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All was going well through the early stages: scald milk, melt chocolate, add in a few things.  But then there was the boiling, and the soft ball stage and the dropping the pan into a sink of ice water.  First, my pot was too small.

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For the record, it should not be doing this Mount Vesuvius action.  That is very, very bad in the making of fudge.

I was so flustered by the gushing chocolate over the sides of the pan that I underestimated the soft ball stage and switched to the ice bath too early.  It is supposed to go from a very glossy melt-y chocolate look to the matte look of, well, fudge.  This did not happen.  Nonetheless, I prayed for the best and poured it in the waiting pan and stuck it in the fridge.

My mom told me to stick it in the fruit drawer, swearing my Dad would never look in the fruit drawer.  Later that night, my Dad mused out loud that he wished someone would make him fudge and my mom and I traded conspiratorial glances. 

A few minutes later, he was rummaging in the fridge for something when… “WHAT THIS IN HERE?”  The jig was up.  So much for waiting for Christmas.  As my Dad dug the tray out of the fruit drawer, I crossed my fingers and toes that the fudge had set while in the fridge.

For dessert that night, we had vanilla ice cream…. with melty, gooey hot fudge sauce. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cline Christmas

Figuring out how to balance two family Christmases, separated by 700 miles, is a difficult task to begin with, but the addition of a less than traditional emergency room work schedule adds just another wrinkle. I think it's safe to say rare will be the year that we actually celebrate Christmas on the 25th, from this point forward. Fortunately, we were able to work out an early Christmas with Matt’s family traveling up to see us on Sunday – which meant, my first time hosting an official holiday! With the in-laws! Ok, I say that as if the underlying message is “pressure’s on!” but truth be told, my fam-in-law are the sweetest, kindest people ever and even if I burnt the entire meal, they’d probably be all “But your napkins rings look perfect!” (And I’m not just saying that because my dad-in-law reads this. Hi Dad!)

I had fun planning the menu, trying to do a fairly traditional holiday dinner, but not get too in over my head. My favorite thing to make was the homemade yeast rolls. They were super easy, but I felt very Pioneer Woman tossing flour all over the place and pounding rolls into little balls to drop into a big ol’ greasy pan. I won’t go all play by play of the food on you here (holding myself back) but the rest of the meal was quite scrumpty too.

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Okay, wait indulge me one more… for my male readers… I’ll mention the meat. My first time making a prime rib! It was perfect. I got a little nervous when I realized my meat thermometer, which has worked faithfully for four years, broke. TODAY. Of all days. Couldn’t have broken when it was just me and Matt and I might be worried about a little trichinosis from undercooked bbq, ooooh no, thermometer you had to break on my very first Holiday Dinner with The In Laws. (Well... at least my napkin rings were pretty, right?) Without any other choice, I just followed the timing and temperature in my recipe (from Everyday Food) and prayed for the best. I breathed a sigh of a relief when Matt started carving and the meat was not still moo-ing. Not moo-ing, and very very tasty. Success! Thank you oven gods!

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After we ate, we gathered together to exchange presents and even Buddy was able to get in the goods. (Look at that tongue… Micah knows the way to a puppy dog’s heart.)

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I ran into a little snafu handling Matt’s gift. I had gotten him part of one of those heavy duty Craftsmen tool chest, which was very kindly loaded into *his* trunk by the Sears sales guy. I got home and went to get it out to wrap and it, um, well... looks like I need to go back to doing some 30-Day Shred. Couldn’t even move the darn thing. Soooo I wrapped it right in the trunk and prayed that he would have no reason to go into his trunk for the next 2 days. When it came time for unwrapping his gift, I forced my family to tromp out to the garage together. Nothing like the smell of gasoline to get you in a festive mood, right?

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We so enjoyed hosting our family… although I must say, I have a whole new appreciation for all that my grandmothers, aunts and mother who have hosted many a holiday (or other family gathering) have gone through before me. The time it takes to get the meal ready, your house all spiffy and smelling nice, and the insane timing of cooking everything…good grief. It's enough to make a girl put Papa J's on her speed dial. So if I haven’t said it before, here’s another resounding thank you to all the “been there, done that” women in my families. But I understand why we do it – it is so worth it to have your family gathered around a meal you made, relaxing in your home that you take care of, and appreciating their time together. Maybe the novelty of this will wear off after I’ve done it year after year, but as for now, as 1950s as this might sound, I truly do enjoy homemaking. (Though I hesitate to put this in print…I have a feeling someone might reference this post when I complain the next time I have to vacuum up dog hair tumbleweeds.)

On that lovely note, I leave you with this… Merry Christmas, from the Cline family. May your meat be cooked, your presents clock in at less than 75 pounds and your family be together this holiday season!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow Day. For Real This Time.

Last night, I rolled my eyes at more than a dozen facebook statuses about getting snow today. “We’re supposed to get 10 inches!” “Snow day tomorrow!” “Mmkay”, I thought, as I went to bed… “We’ll see about that.”

I’ve lived in the South long enough to know that the promise of snow is usually much more potent than the actual delivery of snow. I’ve had days off from work that ended up demonstrating not even a hint of precipitation, and I’ve accidentally gone to Harris Teeter because I very genuinely needed a few supplies, like a box of wine,, only to be confused and then appalled at the mile deep line of people buying bread and milk. And being a New Yorker by birth, I scoffed at the panic and delight that my friends and neighbors show at “snow” here – ya'll, if you can see grass still, it doesn't count.

But this? This is snow.

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12 18 09 Snow Day 040 Someone just threw a snowball at him. Hint: It was not me.

This is the kind of snow that makes me homesick for Rochester and nervous to take the car anywhere but from the driveway to the garage. Unfortunately, my dear husband is headed into work right now in this mess. There is no way our neighborhood / the road leading up to our neighborhood / the road leading to the road leading up to our neighborhood will be clear. It seems they should call a snow day for the ER … half the people who come there aren’t real emergencies anyways. If you’re reading in real time, give a little prayer for safe driving for DeacDoc, please.

Meanwhile, I am guiltily sitting on the couch with a snoring pup, a blazing fire and a seriously scrumptious glass of Gewurztraminer. (Can someone give me a phonetic pronunciation of this? Or can we all just agree to call it Gertzie?) This is the view from our second floor, down to our living room… I love how it’s practically white-out through our living room windows. It feels cozy and lovely. Yet I won't totally enjoy this vista until I get the phone call from a certain someone that they are safe and sound in the hospital parking lot. Welp.

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Update: Matt has called and is at the hospital, but none of the roads were cleared (including Highway 52 and I-40.) If you don't have anywhere you need to be, stay home!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thankful Sunday

Ok, it doesn’t have quite the same appeal as the usual alliteration, but better late than never, right?

Happy Things, Today: (This Week/etc):

  • Safety. That the only consequence of Tuesday’s car wreck is the inconvenience of having to get my car repaired. I’m fine, the guy who hit me is fine, Buddy’s fine (he was wearing his seatbelt!), my insurance company has been a peach (Traveler’s, FYI) and his insurance company hasn’t given me any hassle for repairs. I keep breathing sighs of relief/gratitude that it wasn’t any worse than that.
  • My hard-working hubby, who is in fact, at the hospital this very moment. In fact, I don't know what to do without NFL as the backdrop to my usual Sunday routine. Weird.
  • Lovefeast
  • Being almost done with Christmas shopping. Anyone have a good idea for my dad?
  • Coffee date with Heather on Wednesday. I need this weekly. (Move to Winston?)
  • One of my clients on the *brink* of a break-through this week. Excited for what’s around the corner for her.
  • Health, health, health. Last week of prednisone!!! (Good-bye, puffy cheeks!!!)
  • Black velvet starry winter skies on early morning walks
  • Receiving my FITBIT! After a year of waiting! Yesterday, according to my Fitbit, I was very active for 4 minutes. Oye. Good timing, I need some motivation.
  • Something very good going on in my sister-in-law’s life. Tickled for her.
  • My camera and signing up for another photog class at Sawtooth starting in Jan.
  • Seeing photos of my middle-school best friend’s 14 month old on Facebook. He looks like her, she looks happy and both of those things bring me joy.
  • Winos – honesty, loyalty, support, truthfulness, forgiveness, love.
  • My intern from 5 years ago (then a HS junior, now a college senior) just messaged me. As we finished up she said “don’t you wish you were still in college?” Answer: nope. I loved college – and I wouldn’t mind having all my favorite people in a 5-minute-walk radius again – but I love where I am right now in life.
  • Coconut Chai Tea from YogicChai
  • Ingrid Michaelson, A Fine Frenzy. They have been my soundtrack this week.
  • Having four healthy, loving, and supportive parents.
  • A job I love that is rewarding, flexible, creative and has health benefits.
  • Faith
  • A dinner date on Friday with two of my favorite couples, the Forseys and the Johnsons (we missed you, J-boo) at one of my favorite restaurants (Xia’s.) Yay and yum.
  • One more work week until 2 weeks of vacation starts.
  • Libraries
  • My intern, who might be the sole reason my December newsletter gets done on time.
  • That the rain has stopped right at the exact moment I am finishing this and my little doglet is ready for his walk! Perfect timing.

12 13 09 December Pics 121Thankful that this is pretty much just a major inconvenience in my life, and nothing more.

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Thankful for the beauty that is Christmas.

Thankful for this little face.

Monday, December 7, 2009


The smell of beeswax lingering on your hands. The overly sweet coffee. The hush of a crowded chapel waiting in anticipation for the opening chords of “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

This is my favorite way to start the Christmas season. Lovefeast provided a welcome respite from studying for finals during college, and it has been a Christmas tradition for Matt and I since the year we got engaged the day before the ceremony. (I confess that that year I sat through the traditional Christmas hymns ogling the sparkly thing on my left hand. Have you ever seen what chapel lights can do to a diamond?!) It’s easy, ahem, to get caught up in the more consumerist side of the holidays. The focus on Black Friday sales, on trying to avoid mall crowds, and finding just the right blow-up holiday decoration have become entrenched in our holiday season.

What I usually get most excited about at Christmas is spending time with my families, our Christmas morning tradition of sticky buns and Bloody Mary’s, evenings sipping hot cocoa by the twinkly lights on our mantel and finding just the right gift for my Dad, who hasn’t gotten overly excited about any of our gift since the late '90s when we all just burned him mixed CDs.

These are all wonderful things about Christmas, and things that many people hold dear – family, food, giving of gifts. But I often forget that while those are very special traditions to me, that's not the whole picture of Christmas.

There’s a moment in the service when the lights go dim and the ushers arrive at the end of each aisle with a lit candle. Person to person, candle to the candle, the chapel becomes full of a warm, hushed glow in a matter of minutes. It gives me goose bump.

My mind always goes back to my favorite quote at this moment, by Marianne Williamson.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

As we touch our candles from right to left, I always think of the end of that quote - “as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” I think about how our dark world would be so vividly light up if each one of us just shared a little bit more of their light with every they came into contact with.

Easy to remember in the warm glowing chapel as “Joy to the World” swirls around you. Difficult to remember in the day to day of life that involves work stress, cranky customer service reps, bad traffic, late fees, tense relationships and shouting heads on every major station.

Letting your light shine so that others might do the same – this is what Christ was born to do. Celebrating Christmas is a remembrance of the birth of the greatest life that walked among us, that made a point to gently touch touch his light to everyone he came in contact with.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” - John 12:46

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Merry Christmas. Let your light shine brightly and boldly.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Goodwill Had An Unexplained Boost in Revenue This Week…

Recipe for a successful party:

  • Request that your friends wear silly attire.
  • Add vodka.
  • Mix well.
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Monday, November 30, 2009


What are the holidays for if not shaking the dust off the favorite family traditions? In our family, for instance, a favorite tradition of ours is that someone (Katie*) will always get mad while we’re playing card games and storm off crying. See? Now that’s what family is all about.

This year for Thanksgiving we had some new family traditions brought into the mix, as well as revisiting some old ones. For the first time ever, we didn’t celebrate the holidays at home; my parents and brother actually flew to NC for a below-the-mason-dixon line Thanksgiving. Much to my father’s chagrin, there were no coon skin hats or sawed off shotguns involved.

But despite the new locale, many traditions were kept in place. For instance, Michael turned everyone out and played video games for 12 hours straight and Katie sat on the couch and read. No one said family togetherness had to involve interacting with each other, did they?

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My Fam: Social Butterflies.

On Thursday, the family had their “traditional” turkey meal down at Katie’s house in Charlotte while Matt and I spent Thanksgiving with his family in High Point. On Friday, my family descended upon our house for extravagant meal #2. (#3 for Matt + I, if you were counting. My skinny jeans certainly were.) Dad and I went and picked out a tenderloin together, which he and Matt did on the grill. I made a yummy warm spinach salad from Ellie Krieger’s cookbook and stovetop green beans with glazed pecans. Not sure whether those count as Yankee beans or not… stovetop = Yankee, but the involvement of butter + pecans = southern. Could it be that I finally found the green beans that please everyone? We’ll just have to call them Yankee Belle beans. After a near miss when we thought Teeter had run out of canned pumpkins, Dad made his traditional pumpkin pie which coincidentally I am having for breakfast today. Highly nutritious.

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Saturday my mom and I got our hands messy making our family’s traditional cut out Christmas cookies. This is my Grandma Claffey’s recipe that my mom has been making ever since I can remember. However, this year I implemented a new change: I made Mom switch from margarine to butter. I think she was a little nervous, since she’s probably been making them exactly as Grandma’s recipe calls for, oh, 31 years and hey, it would kinda suck to mess up 4 dozen cookies just because I’m a little bit afraid of trans fat. (Ok, a lot bit afraid.) Fortunately, for me and everyone else’s arteries, they were delicious with butter.

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I mean, it’s butter. You can’t go wrong, right?

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My mom would probably like me to point out that after cutting out the first two dozen, I went and took a nap on the couch while she finished up the last two and then frosted all of them.

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Moms are champs, aren’t they?

My brother, Mom and I went to see Precious on Saturday night. (Katie had taken Dad back down to Charlotte for a flight to Florida for a golf trip and Matt was on call.) Precious was INCREDIBLE. I don’t think I can do it justice to describe it, so I’ll just leave at this: go see it. Don’t expect to feel warm n’ fuzzy after leaving it, but expect to be powerfully moved. Maybe the best film I’ve seen in 2009. Don’t tell Edward and Bella.

On Sunday I took the remainder of the fam back down to Charlotte, and Mom, Katie and I went shopping at Trader Joe’s. Not having a Trader Joe’s is one of two faults I consider Winston-Salem to have. (The other is Willard’s cabs.) I loaded up on Prosecco (duh), dried every-kinda-fruit-imaginable, tons of fish, tubs of hummus and the best roasted balsamic butter veggies in. the. world. Not kidding. (PS, I like food. Did you notice?) The rest of Sunday I spent sitting in traffic on I-85 and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

It was SUCH a great weekend having time to spend with both of our families. My favorite parts of the weekend were having Matt’s family over before we went to the big lunch and just having some quieter time with them, waking up every morning to have coffee with my momma and dragging my sister out to the field behind our house to do a photo shoot so I could practice using different camera settings. (She won’t let me post the pictures, but I might anyways. I’ll wait a day or two to see if she reads this.) The weekend went by so fast, but I have a feeling December is going to slip right on past us and we’ll be packing for Rochester before I know it! The holidays seem to do that to ya – take forever to get here, then just whoosh right on by. What’s with that?

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The Holidays: Party Naps Recommended.