An Unabashadly Adorable List of Things I Learned While I Was Home

So this year, I had the luxury of being able to fly across the country to be home for Christmas. The experience was wonderful, warm, and not entirely unlike some yellow-hued romcom starring Kate Hudson and a handsome guy.

Beyond that, it was Home. That idea means something different to each of us, but for me, it is a very specific set of feelings and identity. Growing up, I had the pleasure/misfortune of never having to move — my childhood, adolescence and embarrassing teenage years were simply split between my mom’s and my dad’s. I grew up with the same friends, doing the same things and revisiting the same places year after year, to the point where the paths in my brain are so comfortably worn in, I can travel to them anytime I want, without a plane. Finally getting to be home for the holidays after a year and a half afforded me the kind of contrast Newt Gingrich’s campaign managers can only wish they had. (Also I went to college with the girl who wrote that article. Deep reference.)

So, here they are: the seven things I think are true that I got to learn at home.

    1. Keep your friends close…
      You’re going to need them when your family gets boring. And having a group of people you can lovingly make fun of while they tell you every time you’re being annoying is the kind of closeness you can find only in those who have seen you at your best and — more frequently — at your worst. They will, however, delight in spending more time complaining about ordering the wrong appetizer than they will in filling  you in on exactly how you managed to buy so many drinks last night.
    2. …And your siblings closer.
      If friends are moving with you laterally through time, your siblings are doing so linearly. Middle children, you have the distinct benefit of not only seeing the mistakes you could make play out in front of you, but also, of instructing your younger sibling to not make the same mistakes you did. This goes for everything from saving money to not dating anyone your freshman year of college to not overusing tobacco products. *Ahem.*


      We Three Bs: Bryan, Bret, Brittany (from left)

    3. Family is good. Really good.
      Make time in your life to reconnect with everybody — cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents. They let you step outside of yourself and hold a mirror up to you at the same time.
    4. Be happy for them, because they’re happy for you.
      So, maybe the cousin you got better grades than in middle school is going to make four times the amount of money you make, as soon as he takes his first breath outside of pharmacy school. At least you’re not going bald. It all balances out.
    5. Know when to speak up…
      If a family is supposed to be a group of people who care about one another and look out for their best interests, you have to know when it’s time to open your pie hole and put your foot down. The best thing to do is something we all learned in like, 5th grade: tell the person how his actions are making you feel. With the admonishments out of the way and your feelings on the table, it’s a whole lot easier to find that middle ground and potentially create positive change — if you really do care about each other.
    6. …And when to shut up.
      Maybe you know that one of your neighbors has breast cancer. It’s totally sad and unexpected, and it’s even more of a surprise when you and your brother see her and her husband walking around the neighborhood on Christmas morning. You say it’s great to see them again after such a long time and you ask them how they’re doing. “Good,” they say. “It’s the same old thing around here.” You smile and laugh and wish them a Merry Christmas — and let them enjoy their day.
    7. Love knows no distance.
      Whether it’s a niece who is finally old enough to remember your name, a best friend you haven’t seen in years or a grandmother you might never see again, if the love was there once it’ll be there again. Moreover, it was never gone, you just probably never think about it. I really believe that if you have a solid foundation with someone and haven’t done anything to smash it into tiny concrete bits, you can always go back there. It might take you some time, but you’ll find it again. If anything, I’d say that’s pretty good motivation to at least try. The feeling will be worth it if you do.

What’s weird and hard about all of this, is, like a movie, “Home” now comes to an end for me. It’s not something I can just rewind and watch again — I don’t get to just hop on a plane whenever I want and revisit these wonderful notions, all neatly packed into a visit spanning several days. The places, the people, and the feelings are all so tangible in those visits, but when I’m gone, they exist as shadows, blips on a radar, or that song you can’t get out of your head but don’t quite know all the words to. Groping in the dark, I find them, hold them for a moment and then they’re gone.

So what do we do — we “Homeless” — to keep all of those things alive? For me, it starts with recounting my list of seven. It will end when I see them all again.

Love you guys. Happy 2012.


List of Things I Would Do If I Worked In the Newsroom

  1. Bring in baked goods more than once.
  2. Give people nicknames. (Nickname ideas: The Comeback Queen, Mr. Man, Webster, The Deuce)
  3. Plan Secret Silly Hat Week. Every day during the morning meeting, I’d wear a different silly hat, but not tell anybody. And when somebody said, “Hey, have you been wearing a different silly hat all week?” I’d take the beer-can-hat straw outta my mouth and say, “Huh?” (Silly hat ideas: beer-can-hat, hot dog hat, rally cap, space-person helmet)
  4. Occasionally skip down corridors.
  5. Initiate spontaneous high fives.
  6. Eavesdrop.
  7. Indulge in musings.
  8. Pop up from behind the partitions to scare the Bejeezus outta you.
  9. Give coworkers a hard time.
  10. Eventually isolate single coworker who responds most weakly to being given a hard time in order to build his/her sass quotient (SQ). It’ll seem mean at first, but over time it’s definitely going to pay off. People will see that later.
  11. Distribute random knick-knacks and send notes via paper airplane.
  12. Burn somebody a CD.
  13. Complain about office equipment. Be generally passive-aggressive about actual concerns. This is something I already do, but who’s to say it couldn’t carry over? I make the rules around here, chump.
  14. Keep a Tide pen around. Two summers ago in New York, I spilled like, a quarter of an iced coffee all over a white shirt just before work. I managed to get it all out with just a Tide pen. Tonight, I was eating a chocolate covered pretzel, and got some chocolate stains on my white shirt cuffs. I really wish I had been in the newsroom with that Tide pen.


[To recap: I work in a bureau. It’s a “satellite” station of the main newsroom, wherein three 20-something reporters and two middle-aged sales people with barely overlapping schedules converge. The newsroom is the main hub where tons of people work and magic things happen all the time. Except Secret Silly Hat Week, uncreative hacks.]

“Bist du cool?”

The toilet is the best place to read things. I don’t keep books in there, so I take my literary cues from various sundry items—soaps, tissue boxes, contact solution and the like. As a result of limited resources, I tend to reread a lot of things. BUT NOT TODAY MY FRIENDS.

I picked up the tiny pot of pomade that I still regret spending $18 on (highway robbery, see!?) only to find even TINIER writing on the side. It said this:

“A Funky Gunk That Rocks!: Be a master manipulator. Are you cool?”


My hair gel just asked me if I was cool. Like lightning, I rewound my morning. In my mind’s eye, the horrible reenactment. Oh god. Oh god.

  1. Woke up to someone scratching my back. “Where am I.” It was my friend Jess. Oh! Right! I slept on her futon. She was leaving, but said I could stay. Rolled over. Sudden queasiness. Was I still drunk? Yes.
  2. Jamie called. Or called Jamie? Don’t remember. Told him he could have “danced with sexy ladies” at the bar last night and I wouldn’t have cared. Patted self on back for being cool girlfriend. Stumbled into Jess’ bathroom. Brushed teeth with finger.
  3. Looked at playing cards strewn about kitchen table. Remembered game of Kings with Pakistani college students.
  4. Still on with Jame, stumbled down concrete steps to parking lot, debating existence of organic Hot Pockets. As I reached the sidewalk of the busiest street in town, Jamie found this. Broke out into wheezing laughter, doubled over, next to many passing cars.
  5. Jamie said, “Did you upload pictures of some Pakistani guys to Facebook?”
  6. Wobbled into Maag Pharmacy to purchase a single ticket for the 7 p.m. performance of “The Nutcracker” at ISU.
  7. Called coworker to say I wouldn’t be able to make it to dinner because the matinee time was sold out, and I had purchased a single ticket for the 7 p.m. performance of “The Nutcracker” at ISU.
  8. Drove to a place advertised as having “The Best Biscuits and Gravy in Town!” It is now a barber shop.
  9. Drove to known open diner, Oliver’s. Sat at counter. Alone. Ordered OJ and large plate of biscuits and gravy. Ate all three while telling construction workers things like “I work for the TV channel,” and “I just woke up on somebody’s futon.”
  10. Drove to video rental store. Rented season 1 disc 3 of “Modern Family.”
  11. Drove home listening to science comedy hour on NPR affiliate.
  12. Went to bathroom. Read pomade jar.

Before I put the jar down, I turned it over to read the description translations in other languages, snorting at the German: “Bist du cool?”

Nein, Herr Pomade. Nein.

Welcome to the Thunderdome a.k.a. Kitchen

NEXT DAY DELICIOUS UPDATE: Add a dollop of crema Mexican to the black bean burger. Buzz, your sandwich, woof.


SO earlier this week, I made up a big ole’ pot-o-chili, recipe courtesy of the ever-obnoxious Bobby Flay.

It was a beef and black bean chili with toasted cumin crema and avocado relish. Here’s the recipe for anyone interested; seriously delicious stuff.

And here’s what mine looked like!


I made some adjustments to the recipe, as I didn’t have pasilla or ancho chili powder, but DID have a giant bag of green chili powder straight from the heart of New Mejico. (Thank you Jamie Hale). And that was just dandy. Also, I used an Anchor Steam beer, but feel free to sub in your fave.

So TONIGHT, I invented something equally (if not more) awesomely delicious, simply by playing off of the same ideas from the chili base.

It’s a Black Bean and Spinach Burger with a Mushroom Onion Cream reduction on Sourdough toast. Here’s how it goes:

  • Mash up one can of black beans (I went for the reduced sodium 😉 ) in a large mixing bowl. Chop up a couple handfuls of fresh spinach, and put it in a pan with some water, cover, and keep over low-medium heat until it wilts. Start heating up some olive oil in another pan over low heat.
  • Drain the spinach and then add it to the black bean mash-em-ups. Continue (monster) mash.

Black Bean and Spinach Mash-Em-Ups!

  • You’ll need to add some kind of flour or bread crumbs or oats or a combination of them all to the mixture to get it to all stick together. I didn’t have anything practical, so I used Panko bread crumbs, and they actually worked really well. Anyhow, stick enough of whatever-you-choose in there to suck up a lot of the moisture. If you really want them to hold, consider adding an egg in (ala meatballs) but I didn’t do that.
  • Chop up some red onion and stick it in the olive oil pan until the onions are clear. Then take a dark beer (Anchor Steam again!) and pour in enough to cover the onions. Bring it up to medium heat if you weren’t already. You can be generous with the beer because you’re going to let it reduce, and if you want more sauce, add more beer. Drink the rest.
  • Once the beer has reduced, add in some green chili powder, and about the same amount of beef base or beef bouillon. Mix it on in. Reduce your heat to low, and after things simma’, stir in some heavy cream. I added it until it got to the color that I like my coffee.

    You will be tempted, but don’t drink the sauce. Yet.

  • Rinse out your spinach pan, splash some olive oil in it, and stick it back on low-medium heat. Make a healthy-sized patty out of your Black Bean and Spinach Mash-Em-Ups, and slap that baby down. Let it get brown on both sides. Mine were kinda mushy, but I got too excited to keep waiting.
  • Slice up three regular white mushrooms, caps and all, and wait until your sauce has really gotten nice and thick looking, simmering on low heat all the way. Then dump the shrooms in and mix them around until they’re coated. Let ’em soak til they’re weak in the knees.

  • Cut two thick slices of sourdough bakery bread and plunge them into the toaster.
  • Once toasted, pile patty on bread and cover with so much sauce.

Hats Off for a "How do ya do?"

  • Cover, slice, ENJOY!

Hello Gorgeous

The sauce was so tasty that I had to go back for more. And the bread just soaked it up and the whole thing got messy. This, I believe, only adds to the flavor.

It’s a fairly simple, fairly healthy sandwich that feels like a comfort meal. Who can say no to beer and cream? I can hardly wait to eat it again. Which will be at lunch time.

Let me know if you ever try it out!

(P.S. Enough with the bizarro picture formatting already, right???)

Uncouth Rap I Made Up On the Drive Home Today

I work in a BUREAU
My cov’rage is THOROUGH
I report like a SQUIRREL
When news breaks I go NUTS

I don’t make much MONEY
I find accidents FUNNY
I make all my scripts PUNNY
Like “Cigarette BUTTS” (at this time in the video you would see a close up of the words “Cigarettes Butts” on a computer screen underneath footage of people butts. Then I would turn to the camera and snicker)

When they see me on the street, local people say HEY
I get lotsa-attention when I drive the wrong WAY
Gotta keep up my cred so morals I OBEY
Local reporters, you love us, no if-ands-or-BUTS
But we’d prob’ly make more money just actin’ like SLUTS

Lil’ Thoughts

  • Halloween costume idea: owl dressed as Hooters girl.
  • For those who find Beardtober and Novembeard exclusionary, may I present: No Leg Shave November. Because an unruly neckbeard is just as offensive and gag-inducing as a stubbly-legged lady.
  • Message for Dove Heat Damage Conditioner: uh, work? My hair looks like the kind of hay that goes up in flame around here when someone sneezes. I don’t want to get arrested for arson the next time I feel the urge to enjoy a cigarette.
  • Dogs make great blankets.
  • Two years seems like a really long time. Waiting for the end, you feel the ebb and flow of the speed of every moment, even when you’re “in it.” But sometimes you drive home late at night, and the swirling clouds spinning over the navy sky seem to make it stretch forever. And you say, “Cool. It’s not so bad.”
  • I can’t help but think, every time I see this, that it’s gonna come back to bite us in the ass.
  • Making your bed isn’t that overrated. Sorry mom.
  • A two-hour time difference coupled with waking up at noon means I have like zero time to get anything done or talk to my parents. Awesome.
  • I wish houses came with white boards, like dorm rooms do. Someone frantically rang my door bell at 10:30 this morning, and I was not about to get up for that. But out of curiosity, I did—but just a little too late. Now I’ll never know who it was. Or what they wanted. Will they come back? What if they had a gift for me? The tension of mystery the world must have felt before telephones seems all too overwhelming. Thank you, Bell Atlantic.
  • Note to self: lunch meat does not fall victim to the Pumpkin Rule. Just because you buy a pound of salami in one day doesn’t mean you have to eat it all before the stroke of midnight.
  • Note to self: get heart exam.
  • I don’t mind saying that I thrive on compliments. Ahem.
  • I hope “30 Rock” means that more girls will grow up to be like Liz Lemon instead of Heidi Montag. This will give me significantly better odds at having more lady friends.
  • Above bullet mostly a dream. Every girl is just growing up to be Miley Cyrus. I blame the hair straightener. (See: “Message for Dove Heat Damage Conditioner”)
  • No concise message about life to end this post. In retrospect, could have reorganized to make that happen. I like it better this way.