Saturday, January 28, 2012

I wish I had a cool name like Sheridan French.

Alas, I do not. My name is Megan, plain and simple. Not even an "h" to fancify it.

The thing is, though, I do not wish to have Sheridan French's life. I don't know if it was Pinterest, Facebook, or simply blogs in general, but there seems to be a celebri-storm brewing and it is kicking up many Bloggers and thrusting them into some sort of spotlight.

If a piece of footwear/hoisery were to represent my life, this is it.
 Big and cozy, practical,cute and sweet but not especially sexy.
 I'm an enormous pair of wool socks and dammit, that's good enough!
Magazine features. Guest spots on HGTV and The Today Show segments.

They all have blowouts. Immacuately manicured nails. And perfect, fairytale lives full of carb-free diets, shamrock-green lawns rimmed with diamond-topped white picket fences, and CrossFit workouts. Their children never fuss, nap for five hours a day, and they are budding entrepreneuers with Hedge Fund manager husbands of New England bloodlines.

Who are these people?!

I wonder if these are their real lives or their For Show lives. The Internet does make it terribly convenient, if not inviting, to portray one's self in an exaggerated version. Be it towards the OH, God and the Universe Piss on me Everyday direction or the I Poop Daisies and When I Roll Over at 7am to Kiss My Studmuffin Husband, My Breath Smells like Candycanes direction.

Life as a professional ass kisser nanny tells me that, most likely, these are their For Show lives. These are the lives that mask the reality, but the reality is no fun to read about. Piles of dirty laundry, minivans with 119,632 miles on them, and once-a-month sex lives do not celebri-bloggers make.

The Sheridan French Shoe.
It does not stop us real people from longing after imaginary lives. I see these women and so badly want to live their life for a day. Partly because their jewelry sparkles a whole lot more than mine, but mostly because I know that I'm well-equipped to tackle the REAL dirt beneath the glitz. Thereby making the glossy surface that much more enjoyable.

That's God's sense of humor for ya! Just as.... less attractive and sometimes heavier than most.. girls often have to fall back on being abnormally funny, there is always a rub. There is always a tradeoff. We must not have it all.

My comfort will have to be found in knowing that even the Sheridan French's do not have it all. To be me-- Megan, simpleton from Iowa-- will have to do.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bzz, bzz; Out of the Beehive!

Whatever did happen to people taking care of their own business before digging in other's anyway?

It probably happened somewhere around the time of Facebook and The Real World that we all started to feel compelled to share our personal dilemmas and dysfunction in public ways.

I know, and yes, that is the sound of the kettle calling the pot black in the hypocritical distance.

While I really appreciate the people that take the time to read and respond, there are times it feels safe to share here and times that it feels quite invasive. I'm volunteering the information and I understand that. But people also need to recognize what's an appropriate comment and when is a good time to shut their pie hole, if you will.

Which brings me to a reader email from yesterday inquiring about my personal finances and the monetary agreement between Chris and myself.
You wouldn't ask a husband and wife who pays for what I don't imagine, but I suppose the lack of a martial title makes certain individuals feel it acceptable to wonder.

Chris and Chris's income are of no ones concern. He doesn't write here because, unlike my big mouth and hot headed self, he is very quiet with his life. Call it Ying and yang or opposites attracting or whatever you please.

As far as myself, I would never talk numbers. A molecular physicist I am not, but I also know a hot pink cheetah in an antiques shop when it runs by. To respond to the passive aggressive inquiry: I am not a babysitter and I do not make twelve dolla an hour. Chris does not pay for me, nor do my parents.

I also do not whore myself out for side monies to husbands whose wives are frigid and away at Core Power more often than not.

Enough said.

More importantly, I work hard always and work extra when necessary. I clip coupons, save when I want something major and sacrifice in other areas to snag things like new appliances or another month with my longtime personal trainer.

The female friendly LearnVest is a daily read. I also watch my Pennies on Mint and sink extras into investments with a low minimum requirement.

My parents are also financial wizards.

Most importantly, I live with zero debt.

After blowing myself out of the water with a five figure balance on my first credit card six years ago, I paid it off, shut it down and have somehow lived to tell about it. It's a humble principal that evades  many: if I can't pay for it in full, up front, I don't buy it. Mostly because I don't but also because I can't. My purse contains a checkbook and a wallet comprised of cash, a check card, a Dunn Bros gift card, a library card and my Barnes and Noble membership. Plus thirteen shades of lipgloss, a few diapers and a rogue Cheerio or ten.

I am not wealthy but my life is rich. If all else fails, I try to remember the advice of some of the smartest and most successful financial minds I've ever known or worked for: if you make ten million dollars but your spending is  comparable, you're still broke.

The fastest way to get rich is to live like you're not.

Ah, common sense. Such a lost art.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Its hard to believe that we started the kitchen facelift a mere month ago. Perhaps even four score and seven days. Whatever that means.
Minus the luscious Hale Navy paint, we started with this monstrosity only because the living room paint choice was failing on a painful level. We figured change the appliances, toss some paint up and call it done.
Then came the discovery that 1950's cabinet construction is a wee different than today's; there would be no new frig without sawing down an upper cabinet and repairing the leftovers.
We are still working on that portion of the program. Call it a demolition intermission of sorts.
But half of the shiny new appliances are in and boy, does a little paint and a hunk of stainless transform things in a hurry.
An electrician friend has become the fourth member of our family this week: hanging out late, rewiring, reworking, and redoing the icky boob lights and homemade electrical circuits that threatened the safety of our shelter.
Twas an unexpected expense to say the least.
Thank God all those HGTV and DIY network episodes prepared me to leave a separate budget for those special monetary surprises.
It's a work in progress of course, but I'm reveling in the joy of our blossoming home. And life. I feel really, really good things coming our way. The house is booming with good spirit and enthusiasm: after a very tough year and a half, it feels good to feel good and to feel good about feeling good.
We are thankful, grateful, and oh so giddy about what's to come. The energy is so bountiful that we are sending good vibes and air kisses to you all as well.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Outside the Tollhouse

It's no secret that I cannot bake. A five course tasting menu for thirty I could prepare- with one hand tied behind my back, eyes blurred over with searing smoke, and recipe printed in Swedish.

I would kill that shit.

But a chocolate chip cookie I cannot bake. I have tried half a dozen recipes over the past year: I have tried chilling the dough prior to cooking, preheating the oven more adequately, using new soda or powder, mixing less, using a wooden spoon rather than the mixer etc etc. There have been recipes that came out too thin, too caramelized (I couldn't remember if I had added white sugar or not, so I added more. Turns out, sugar had been put in the bowl to begin with), too crunchy, and just plain bad.

No one knows why. I mostly think it is God slapping my wrist away from the cookie jar and saying NO, MEGAN, AWAY FROM THE BAKED GOODS.

My heart so longs to bake though and Chris' sweet tooth is about one "I f*cked it up" recipe away from losing all faith in me. So I'm moving away from cookies because a TART, my friends, I can do.

Chocolate Trufle Tarts

Thank you, Tartlette, for the blogging deliciousness you provide.

Chocolate Truffle Tarts:
Makes eight 4-inch tarts

Note: There are many gluten free flours out there that would work with this crust and I just used what I had available in the pantry. Here is a list of gluten free flours from which you can get inspired to try your own concoctions. For a non gf crust, use 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour instead of the 3 gf flours

For the chocolate crust: (adapted from Shauna's pie crust recipe)
1 stick (113gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (60gr) unsifted powdered sugar
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 cup (160gr) white rice flour
1/4 cup (30gr) amaranth flour (you could use sorghum flour)
1/4 (40gr) potato starch
1/4 cup (20gr) unsweetened cocoa powder

For the chocolate truffle filling:
8 ounces (240gr) bittersweet chocolate
12 tablespoons (170gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 (50gr)cup sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) strong brewed coffee
4 large eggs

For the chocolate ganache:
4 ounces (120gr) bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip together the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and pinch of salt and mix until incorporated. Add the three different flours and cocoa pwder and mix briefly. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen it up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. Place eight tart rings on a parchment lined baking sheet and set aside.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic. Cut out eight 6-inch-rounds into the dough and fit them into eight 4-inch tart rings. If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the rings, just patch it with your fingertips. Line the dough with pieces of parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dy beans and par bake for 10 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment paper. Keep the oven at 350F.

Prepare the filling:
Place the chocolate in a medium bowland set aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the butter, sugar, and coffee together to a boil over medium. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and leave it undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Gently whisk until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time whisking quickly until the mixture is smooth. Divide the batter evenly among the tart shells and bake for 10 minutes.
Let cool completely.

Prepare the chocolate ganache:
Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a gentle boil. Pour it over the chocolate and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Whisk until smooth and incorporate the butter at the same time until the ganache is completely smooth. Divide evenly on top of the tarts and smooth out with an offset spatula. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

I will take two. And probably not share with anyone, either. Anything with ganache and you can count me IN! Bon appetite, tart lovers and peace out, pain in the ass chocolate chip cookies!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pining for a Pinning Freeze

While I quickly grew to love Pinterest almost a year ago, I am quickly finding myself signing in, flipping through, and giving the site a big ole "X" to close in a matter of minutes.

Pinterest has become the new Facebook: cool en utero, a snooze-fest-a-palooza in global inclusion.

The pins are no longer fresh: everyone is repinning everyone's pins. How many candybars can we jam into one dessert? Or just exactly how many WHITE ON WHITE PLUS STAINLESS kitchens can we stomach? Everyone is copying everyone that's copying everyone else.

Ya dig?

That's not new though- I started to feel the redundant nature of Pinterest settling into my swollen Carpal Tunnel Knuckles weeks ago. What has really tipped me off is finding that almost HALF of the nine-or-so blogs that I regularly read are now featuring pins. IE: find a pin that everyone has pinned, perform a quickie right click, and paste it on a New Post page; write a quick blurb and call it a blog.

Kill me, okay. JUST KILL ME if this is how lazy we have all become. Our Express Yourself domains and Free Speech platforms have become another Originality Bypass strait towards Genericville. Population: Most of Everyone These Days.

Color me annoyed. Actually, don't. Because everyone likes to act indignite and annoyed and perturbed by privilege and life these days. Better yet, color me Refusing to Participate in The Lazy, Pajamification of the American Mindset.

Friday, January 20, 2012

While you're away

Check out this recipe I found on BigOven!

I love the little headlines websites attach to their links. So clever.

Neither Chris not myself adores chili, but I've been trying to make life easier on myself lately by doing some slow cooker recipes and having a cook a thon on Sunday afternoons. I failed miserably this week, buy I'm blaming that on an underconstruction kitchen with no dishwasher until Monday.

This was very tasty though and easily adjustable: I don't generally easy pork or beef, but recognize its place in the recipe. So, rather than 1lb of each, I used 1lb of ground turkey and s half pound of each beef and pork. I then reduced the beans by a third.

Even after modifications, it still yielded 6-7 very generous adult portions.

I'll skip over the part wherein I admit to forgetting to turn on the crockpot before leaving for work, but goll darn it was easy once I did so.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


With gorgeousness!

See what I just did there? I made a decorating pun.

Like I'm killin em but kilim. Get it? I've been sitting on that one all morning.

All of this SOPA blackout business.. Tough stuff, man. I get it, free speech and all of that, I hear you! Now give me back my coupon app and WordPress!

As a fan of  freedom to publish, I rather fancy the internet. Got it is this lovely intraweb which allotted me to piss away endless hours of previous life and countless flats of hard earned income.

Enter: kilim!! The fabulously patterned and colorful Turkish tradition holds a special place in my heart. Its not quite Navajo and it is certainly not your grandmothers paisley. Its bright, playful, and in my eyes, it should practically be considered a neutral.

I picked up a fab area rug for the kitchen at a favorite local antiques gem last  weekend and negotiated my way to a sweet steal at $68. Now I find myself craving more. Pillows. Runners.


The real stuff is super pricey and let's be real, kind of scratchy. Paying two hundo for a throw pillow makes about as much sense as a penguin on a bicycle, but that doesn't stop me from wanting.

More kilim, please!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Deconstruct, Reconstruct

As an aside, I'm writing from my phone today. Which was annoying from Go anyhow, and now I'm seeing, quite clearly mind you, my complexion in the screen protector cover.
Can we say frown lines and brow furrow wrinkles?
Another tally on the CON side for you, 2011, another tally on the con side indeed.
Anywhoozle. The bees have been buzzing at Casa Plumage lately and most of the work has involved undoing the work of the prior owners.
Enter: Demolition.
When we moved in, it was a well known fact that the kitchen would need a little botox now and eventually, an entire facelift and boob job. Probably a tummy tick got good measure, too. 1973 was probably a great year for the old Plumage Kitchen. Hell, even the back of our BEAST of a GE frig boasts of "1979 Energy Standard" compliance. Oh yeah baby, that's it, that's the stuff of every energy bill paying homeowner's fantasies.


The kitchen reno began a couple weeks ago when the living room painting failed on an epic level. Rather than sort out the frustrating choice of color in there, we wandered next door to the kitchen. You know, the bigger, more complicated, wayfrickenmore expensive project.
Ah, old appliances, crappy boob light fixtures and faux brick. Where to even begin the fun!
We soon found out from an electrician that one of the stove's burners wasn't working because the previous owner had jerryrigged some sort of home made circuit board beneath it. We then found illegal wiring and flammable insulation shoved over an electrical outlet all within a 12" space.

This is why you don't open Pandora's box, kids. Leave well enough alone and live gleefully in the bliss of ignorance.

So we figured what the frack and went on ahead and took the saw to the cabinets, the sledgehammer to the gingerbreading and schmeared it all with the most heavy handed layer of luscious navy blue paint you ever did imagine.
It will all be encrusted in a shiny coat of brand new stainless this weekend. I had jokingly told Chris that I would accept a new kitchen in place of an engagement ring, but I did that thinking a reno was more of a 2020 -something project.

There's that foot in my mouth again!
But I guess when a professional cries Fire Hazard, things expedite a bit.  The new frig is too tall for the previous opening, thus the jigsawing apart of the upper cabinets. We look forward-slash-dread the day that we decide what to do with the current 40" range and hood opening. And we most certainly look forward to taking the washer and dryer OUT of the kitchen and jamming it back DOWN in the basement where it belongs. I have beautiful, seed-glass-front dreams of a built in sideboard for my Grandma's Blue Meisen, all of my serving pieces, and of course a wine cooler.

Who knew that The House Before the House had the potential to potentially become The House.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Paint yourself silly

Who else remembers childhood birthday parties at shops filled to the brim with pointless plaster figurines and ceramic dishes perfect for Mothers Day?

Well, we've been up to the adult version lately. Of the 11 rooms Chris and I have painted together, only once have we not hit the nail on the painted hammerhead when it comes to color selection. But that was then and this is now and I'll be danged, this old house and its plaster walls are a totally different design puzzle. The living/dining room space is fantastic, but it is also totally lacking in lighting.

We currently have no less than eight colors on the wall; none of which remotely resemble the swatch and none of which remotely resemble one another from wall to wall.

I'm hearing Lil Jon singing "from the window to the waaaall" with each new color I put up. Our walls look like a slice of swiss cheese run through a Rainbow Bright carwash. Surely there is humor in the ridiculousness, but mostly, it has simply become frustrating.

The first the were too cool- not fat like phat, but cool like icy cold in tone.  And I have had enough contemporary design to last me till Kingdom come! So once I was done pleading my case for a more traditional direction, and once I was climbed down from my Modern is A Time Period, Contemporary is a Style pulpit, up went several more colors.

Its a real dilemma, alright. The front runner is Elemental from Benjamin Moore. The only problem with it? Its sage green.

The only thing I hate more than sage green is butter yellow. Which, ironically, bore its ugly face in the kitchen during another Reno fiasco. That's a whole nutha mutha if you know what I'm sayin though.

The sampling continues.

Meanwhile, you're all getting Benjamin Moore Natura samples in a sparkling Eggshell finish for Christmas next year. Get excited!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cleaning Up My Act

I'm a tree hugger. An organic food eating, No VOC paint using, sprinkles flax seeds in my cereal tree hugger.

I live with both asthma and environmental allergies. If you're not an asthmatic, you don't get it. But if you are, you know. Going through life with something that impairs your simple ability to breathe makes a girl quickly realize the value of having toxin-free surroundings.

While I have transformed many aspects of our home to reflect a cleaner, greener life, the household cleaners have yet to give in to the movement. I have tried many: most fail to perform well enough to convince me to convert.

When I began my new job a few weeks ago, I was pleased to learn that the Mrs. is also earthy. And extremely particular about her home. In her cupboards were rows of cleaning products from Melaleuca. Much to my surprise, they all smell lovely and keep things looking sparkling clean.

Pin This

I'm partial to Tough & Tender and LemonBrite. The entire product line is affordable and, if you drink the company's Kool Aid, then it's also fair to believe that over time, it will actually save you money compared to more conventional cleaning products. Be scared, Johnson & Johnson, be scared!

A second Scary Chemicals Source I have long avoided: DRYCLEANING! Aka, burns my eyes when I walk into the door, rots my liver and poisons our water with carcinogens cleaning. While you'd have to be a Minneapolis-Metro-Local to sign up for my particular favorite- Skylark in Chanhassen- you can find a more earth-friendly service in your area here.

Skylark picks up and delivers for no additional fee on a regular schedule or with an on-demand service. Green, convenient, and gentle on my favorite sweaters: I'M SOLD!

Rearview Mirror

WELL HELLO THERE! I bet you're all a little shocked to see me here, eh?

I know, I know! Life has been ridiculous, what can I say?

As usual, I am kicking off the New Year with absolute resolve to not make false resolutions. It only sets us all up to fall short or fail entirely anyway. This year, as I laid in the bathtub with my hangover and my gratitude this afternoon, I decided I'd compile a Peaks & Pits reflection of 2011.
2011 was sort of a brutal year. Those sentiments were echoed by many of my friends as we celebrated New Year's Eve last night. It must be the impending implosion of the Universe that allowed for the past twelve months to take a giant dump on top of many of us.

Chris and I both had to say goodbye to a grandfather last year. We experienced-- and addressed-- the tumble of the housing market during the sale of Chris' PRE-Megan House. The stress of selling a house and also buying our first house together soaked up much of our summer. Our dog decided to throw in a sassy kick early last winter by having a great big corneal ulcer while we had the nerve to go away on a mini ski vacation. After years of being used, abused, and taken advantage of, I finally told my previous employers to take their nanny position and shove it: I fell in love with a new family but was caught off guard at Thanksgiving-time when they announced that they would be relocating to Florida. Two job changes in 11 months was trying if not exhaustive. During the job search, we also learned that a previous employer had been bad mouthing me around town with some pretty lofty lies. I bid adieu to a few friendships that I long ago had outgrown and finally had the guts to cleanse myself of. And there was, of course, the everyday Life is Tough squabbles with one another and with family; the everyday Life is Tough stresses that we all deal with in our own unique circumstances.

It took a few minutes to mull over the list of That Sucked 2011 moments and I found myself choked up thinking of how taxing it has been not only for myself and Chris, but thinking of all the tough stuff our friends and families have also endured.

That being said, the solemn moment passed quickly and gave way to a very long list of things for which I am infinitely grateful and proud of.

When Chris and I met, I was midway through a summer in which I completed three triathlons, one long-distance bike race, and a duathon. My life consisted of working and working out. Then came Chris and workouts took a backseat to nights eating ice cream on the kitchen counter and enjoying a new relationship. This summer, the fallout of that came to a head and I had to stare down the Holy @)%&!(, Whose Body Is THIS barrel. While I haven't come full circle back to where I was, I did shave off a chunk of the weight I gained and, more importantly, grabbed fitness by the (Kettle)balls and put myself back on track for racing this summer.

The real estate transactions of 2011 have been complicated, extensive, and frustrating. While I must respect Chris' requests for privacy on the matter, what I can say is this.... All of those headlines about the housing market crashing and people losing their homes and people whose mortgages are totally underwater became very personal for us this year. There were some very dark moments but we stuck it out together and found a way to get to the finish line.

At Thanksgiving, when I was delivered the SURPRISE, YOU DON'T HAVE A JOB news, it was quickly followed up with an invitation to move with the family. Previously, I have done just that; packed up my crap and followed my work. Previously, my work had been my entire life. I can't even count the number of times I sobbed to my Mom that I was sick of taking care of someone else's house/kids/life and so badly longed for my own. Chris was so supportive-- even finding an in company transfer in Florida. But ultimately and without hesitation, I declined to go. Because finally, after what felt like an eternity, I have my own house/family/life. It was hard-earned, long-deserved and OH SO WORTH THE WAIT.

This year, in spite of two job changes, I managed to slide by without having to tap into savings or spend more than a couple of days between jobs without work. In a time in which so many don't have a job, I'm proud of the fact that I am good enough at what I do that there was always a new offer hot on the heels of a departure.

It is safe to say that neither Chris nor myself even flirts with the idea of perfection. We are flawed and human. This year, while dealing with this massive downpour of Tough Stuff, we learned not only about ourselves as individuals, but we learned about how our individual selves behave (and misbehave) within the context of our relationship. We have squabbled. Often in some cases. But that's what happenes in life, isn't it? We sometimes lash out at those closest to us for LIFE stress that frequently has nothing to do with who it is we're barking at. What we have learned is how to identify what the real source of tension is, to discuss the problem and not attack the person, and to work together towards a solution. It is easier in concept than in practice and I am quick to confess to that. But we have done it and for all of the grief, his is still the hand I wish to hold when I'm sad or mad or happy or in distress. 2011 has brought me a greater appreciation, understanding, and far deeper connection to Chris than ever before.
I'm thankful for the friendships that have proven themselves to be healthy and strong-- for the friends that listened to me cry and vent a hundred billion times over the past year. It's great to get older and recognize true friends and the value of their role in life. I'm thankful for parents who celebrated a 35th wedding anniversary this December and have taught us all that you can want to kick the crap out of each other but no matter the fight or the frustrations, family sticks together.

It was a trying kind of year. A real mother fucker, you could say.

Yet here we are all-- we made it. We survived and now we must move forward and not let it all have been in vain. 2012 is going to be epic. I just know it.
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