Monday, June 30, 2008

Menu Plan Monday!

Wow, is it Monday again already?

I have a confession to make - I'm writing this post ahead, because I'll be out of town most of this weekend. So in an attempt to get myself organized, I'm writing this on Friday over lunch while I've got a moment. I will update on Monday if any changes to the plan occur, but I'm hoping at this point that our plans for next week are pretty well set.

Hope everyone is looking forward to the 4th! We've got some friends coming over, so I'll share the menu for our holiday feast as well. Except for that day, this week will feature a couple of freezer meals that I didn't get to use this past week, as well as some generally lighter dishes (for time and weight-related reasons, LOL!). Without further ado, here's the plan!

Monday: Giada's Chicken Cacciatore, Herbed Noodles

Tuesday: Burgers, Fresh Corn, Fruit

Wednesday: Caribbean Turkey, Baked Sweet/Russet Potatoes, Peas
(based on a request from last week, I'll publish the recipe for the turkey and take some pics for you if I can)

Thursday: Salmon, Spinach and Gouda Quesadillas

Friday: Horseradish Egg Salad Sandwiches, Fruit (night before company)

Saturday: The big feast! Burgers and Grilled Chicken, Baked Potato Salad, Asian Slaw, and PW's beautiful Fourth of July Cake. If I'm really feeling ambitious, I may make some homemade ice cream too :-)

Sunday: HA! Are you kidding me? Leftovers - and cook's day off, LOL!

Everyone have a wonderful week, and a safe and happy July 4th!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Beagle Theology

I know, I know. With a title like that, how can you not read this post? LOL!

As some of you know, we have an 11 year old Beagle girl, Tucker. She and I have a somewhat complicated relationship, mostly because her determination to be the boss of her little world clashes with hubby's and my determination to explain to her that she's not, in fact, running things around here. (Okay, so maybe she does run things sometimes...)

But I am a lifelong dog lover, and even though a Beagle would not have been my first choice, hubby got her before he got me :-) So, here we all are. And most of the time, Tuck and I get along quite well.

Periodically, if hubby is outside and the house is quiet, she will come wandering into my office to see what I'm up to. She's pretty independent, and not at all glued to my side like my beloved Rottie was. But occasionally she wants hugs and love, or I guess just to know she's not in the house alone, so she'll come toddling into the office and sit next to me. I give her big hugs and pats and tell her how much we love her, and she pretty much takes this as her due and then goes on her way. But in those moments, she displays a dependence and vulnerability towards us that she doesn't often show.

So this morning I wandered out of my office and she was milling around in the hall at the foot of the stairs (I promise, I'm going somewhere with this narrative!). Usually when she does that, it means she can't really decide what path to take. Does she come into my office and check on me? Go upstairs to see if hubs is in his office? Go back to her bed? Usually if I hear her wandering in the hall I'll call out to her and she'll come running. She knows my voice and knows I wouldn't call her to go somewhere that's not safe.

So today I went to her, and she gave me tail wags and came to sit by my feet. I gave her hugs, and as she looked up at me I realized that her relationship with us is a good metaphor for the Christian's relationship with Christ. Okay, it's an imperfect reflection, of course, but some of the same principles are there. Tuck sees very dimly (literally, and figuratively) compared to the eyesight and knowledge I have. Her physical eyesight is bad , her perspective is very different as she's only a foot off the ground, and then of course her canine brain isn't really as powerful as my human one (a fact she's not always convinced of, but still ;-) I can see, understand, comprehend, reason, and act on a level far above hers. And in the same, way, Christ can see, understand, comprehend, reason and act on a level far above mine.

Because there are a lot of things she cannot do for herself, like obtain food, shelter, water or other basic necessities of life, she relies on us for those things. And although I'm as likely as anyone else to feel proud of myself, I do know that really, everything I have, and all that I am, comes from God. I would have nothing if He did not provide it so lovingly. It only takes a good thunderstorm and a couple of nearby crashing lightning bolts to remind me of who's really in charge around here.

Like our dog, who has a wealth of toys to play with, cushy beds all over the house to sleep on, and healthy, safe food, water and treats to enjoy, we have likewise been lavishly blessed by the Father with all that we enjoy. We put gates and fences up to keep her from wandering where it's not safe, and in the same way, Christ guides us through life based on his principles, ways and directions. They will keep us on the right path, if we'll just stop trying to dig under the fence :0)

Even though there will always be moments in our lives where we just don't understand what's happening to us, or wonder what we did to deserve a particular situation, like Tucker we trust that even though we may not enjoy that moment much, there's a reason and a purpose behind it all. And sometimes God rewards us tangibly for that trust - milkbones for humans, LOL! But always, even if it's not tangible, he blesses us for trusting Him fully.

Anyway, these things occurred to me as our elderly pupper stared trustingly into my eyes and wagged her tail for me. May I have that kind of trust and patience, to wait on my Heavenly Father and trust His hand in every part of my life.

Have a blessed day! And if you have a dog, give them an extra treat or two. Tell them it's from Tucker. :-)

Soulful Sunday

Good morning!

I apologize for being scarce these last couple days. I had planned to go home this weekend but have not been feeling great, so I'm behind on several things.

For today's post, I'm going to refer you over to another blog I really enjoy. Angie over at Sonflower has some great thoughts this morning on the ways we sometimes look for things in the wrong places. And my favorite devotional also ties into this theme today.

Happy Sunday, and hope you enjoy!

Love, Dahrlin'

Friday, June 27, 2008

Foodie Friday!

For this week's foodie post, I'm going to share one of my favorite summertime recipes. It's light in taste and light for your waist, and it's a yummy meal that even my husband likes. This is another Giada recipe, and I've made it several times. It's going on my menu plan for next week, so I thought I'd share it. You could use an indoor grill pan, or do the fish on the outdoor grill. The broth is quick and easy to make. I think you'll enjoy it during these warmer summer days!

Halibut in Artichoke and Tomato Broth
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

4 Halibut (or other whitefish) filets
2 shallots (or 1/4 medium sweet onion), thinly sliced
4 Tbsps Olive Oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 box frozen artichoke hearts
1/2 cup white wine (or equal chicken broth)
1.5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves (or dried)

Heat grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Rub both sides of fish with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Rinse artichokes under water for a moment to thaw. In a medium saucepan or skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium high heat. Add the shallots/onions and cook for a few minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and artichokes, sauteeing for several minutes until lightly browned. Add the wine and stir to remove any browned bits from the pan. Add broth, tomatoes (undrained), and thyme. Salt and pepper to tasted, and simmer until flavors are blended (just a few minutes).

While the broth cooks, grill your fish until done. Partially fill bowls with broth and artichoke sauce, top with grilled fish and serve!

(Sometimes I'll serve buttery garlic toast with this. And sometimes I make it with salmon. Shhhhhhh!!)

Happy Friday, and hope you enjoy!

Love, Dahrlin'

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thankful Thursday!

Woohoo! I've been waiting for this day for what seems like ages. We finally have GRASS again in our backyard! GREEN grass!! It's like seeing the Garden of Eden, compared to the moonscape we had back there for the last two and a half months! Our wonderful yard guys came yesterday and mostly finished the sod. YAY! All that leaves is the landscaping of the flower/shrub beds. Here are a few pics if you're interested. I'm just SO glad to see green out there again!

We also had a gate installed on the deck, so that Tucky can hang out without roaming the neighborhood :-) It just needs paint. So far, she's delighted to be outside, but not so happy that she can't get off the deck.

And happy Almost Friday!

Love, Dahrlin'

Tag, You're It!!

My best friend recently tagged me, and I'm only about six weeks a wee bit late in responding. So here goes!

What was I doing 10 years ago?

Wow... ten years ago, in the summer of 1998, I was a few weeks away from beginning law school. That was an odyssey that would consume the next three years of my life, but for that summer I was blissfully unaware of what awaited me!

Five snacks I enjoy:

(1) Peanut butter and graham crackers
(2) Sunflower seeds
(3) Cheese
(4) Ginger ale
(5) Dove Miniatures

Five Things on My To-Do list today:

(1) Pick up my photo reprints, so I can complete my wedding scrapbook (I got married in 2001, so clearly I'm a little behind in this area!)
(2) Shave my legs (it's really bad, but I was so tired this morning I forgot)
(3) Organize next week's menu plan. I have to start these things early (see wedding, above...)
(4) Work out (hm... body would rather blog. I didn't have the energy to argue...)
(5) Cook a nice dinner!

Five Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

(1) Adopt.
(2) Pay my debts, and my family's.
(3) Give to Christian missions.
(4) Adopt.
(5) Adopt.

Five jobs I have had:

(1) Ophthalmology Tech
(2) Receptionist at two vets' offices
(3) Proofreader at an accounting firm
(4) Medical insurance billing manager
(5) Attorney

Five of my bad habits:

(1) Procrastination
(2) Eating that extra bite that always makes me feel stuffed
(3) Always running late
(4) Texting while driving
(5) Did I already say procrastination? (I keep meaning to check but keep putting it off)...

Five places I have lived:

(1) Lookout Mountain, TN
(2) Hixson, TN
(3) Athens, GA
(4) Kennesaw, GA
(5) Smyrna, GA

Five people I would like to get to know better (yes, this means you are tagged!):

(1) Knatolee

Five Random Things:

(1) I need to empty the dishwasher.
Knat and I are having a blast in our own impromptu Scrabulous tournament!
(3) Several of my best friends from high school and I have been
reminiscing about our favorite playlists from those days. I can't tell you how those songs throw me back in time.
(4) I joined "
The Secret is in the Sauce"! Woohoo!
(5) Please keep
Tressa, her husband and her family in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My favorite poolside drink

In keeping with my recent theme of recipes and pool project reports, here's a post that brings the two together.

This is my very favorite fruity drink, and it's one my Dad recommended to me on a trip to Hawaii years ago. I've loved the drink ever since, but tend to only drink it on vacation. Since we haven't taken a beach vacation in a while, and probably won't for a looooonnng time while we're making up this pool budget while we enjoy the new pool, I made a couple of these this weekend while Angie was here. She's even got a great photo of the drinks if you want to see what they look like. Try it, I think you'll like it. Just don't cheat on the fruit juices. Use real lemons and limes; nothing out of a jar or one of those little plastic lemons. I'll give you a break on the oranges, as I use low-acid OJ from a carton myself. :-)


Planter's Punch
(makes two servings)

Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup orange juice
1 small can pineapple juice
4 oz light rum, or equal parts light and dark rum
2 tsp triple sec (just estimate)

Combine all ingredients and shake over ice. Fill two tall glasses with ice, and strain punch into each. Top with a splash of grenadine in each glass for a sunrise effect. Garnish with pineapple chunks or cherries and enjoy!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Monday Morning Makeover

Okay, those who know me are aware that I don't usually find anything happy about Mondays. It's an attitude issue that I know I need to work on! :-) But a couple of people have asked for an update on how the breakfast casserole turned out, and I just want to say this: if I could wake up to this casserole every Monday, I think I might be able to change my attitude toward this day of the week for good!

So here's the verdict: Make this SOON. It's a little piece of heaven, especially on a Monday!

Menu Plan Monday

As most of you know, I've been trying to do better about menu planning lately. And recently I came across OrgJunkie's menu plan link thingy (I'm not blog-savvy enough at this point to recall the proper term, and it's Monday, so "link thingy" will have to do!) :-) It looks like fun, and is a good way to both keep me motivated and to share ideas with others. So here it is - my first published meal plan! For a debut, it's not as exciting as I'd like it to be, but it's been a busy few weeks and this is what I've got on hand (and it's Monday, okay!? LOL! :-)

Monday – Roasted Lemon Chicken, Parmesan Risotto, Salad
Tuesday – Chicken Marsala with Fettucine, Broccoli
Wednesday – Roasted Cod with Lima Beans
Thursday – Grilled Caribbean Turkey, Roasted Potatoes
Friday – Baked Salmon on Spinach, Herbed Noodles, Garlic Toast
Saturday – I’m away; Hubby’s on his own!
Sunday – Polynesian Flank Steak, Buttered Corn, Salad

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Italian Night!

Good morning!

Our foodie weekend continued last night, this time with an Italian theme. Angie wanted to learn how to roast a whole chicken, and I am always happy to have an excuse to make my new favorite roast chicken recipe. So after a couple of hours in the sun and some yummy planter's punch, we headed back into the kitchen to cook!

We also decided to make Pioneer Woman's perfect risotto, which is another of my new favorites. I have always loved risotto, but having someone give me the excuse to put heavy cream in it totally transforms the dish I thought I knew how to make :-) After all, the recipe calls for it - we've got to follow the rules, LOL!

So as promised, we photographed the chicken recipe to share with you. But I will only show you these pics if you promise not to laugh at how pale I am. I know, I know. I need a tan!!

Anyway, I think a lot of people are intimidated by roasting a whole chicken, but it really is very simple. And almost nothing smells better when cooking. So don't be afraid to try. I promise, you'll love it!

My new favorite way to roast chicken is with some citrus fruit and garlic. You could use oranges, grapefruit or, as in this recipe, lemon. I also make a pan gravy to go with it, since it makes delicious pan juices. I'll show the details as we go, but meanwhile, let's gather the ingredients we'll need. Don't worry too much about exact quantities right now; I'll give you the details before we're done:

You'll need a whole chicken (about 4 pounds), a whole head of garlic, plus about 2 cloves, 1 lemon, some olive oil, 3 Tbsp butter (cut into six pats), dried rosemary, paprika, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, a couple cups of chicken broth, a splash of white wine, some flour, and some kitchen string (get this at the grocery store), and the confidence to know you can do this. I promise!

Okay, the first step is the hardest for some people. You're going to (brace yourself!) have to handle a raw chicken. I know, I know... but take a deep breath and trust me on this... it's a little icky, but it's completely worth it! After a couple tries, you won't even bat an eyelash. And if you've ever handled a Thanksgiving turkey, this will be a walk in the park!

Go ahead and remove the giblets and other unmentionable parts from the cavity of the chicken. If you're going to make gravy (or make chicken stock later), don't throw them away. Take 'em out of the little bag they come in, put in a small saucepan and cover with water (or freeze for later use in stock). Cover loosely and simmer while your chicken is cooking. I promise, the gravy will be out of this world!

Now, rinse the chicken thoroughly:

And pat dry. You want to dry the chicken pretty well, so the marinade won't slide right off.

Then you'll make a quick marinade. I happen to have a magic bullet, which is perfect for making this kind of thing. So I will give directions as though you're going to blend the marinade. But if you don't happen to have one of these small miracles, you could just dice everything very finely, or use an immersion or regular blender.

Take a whole head of garlic and cut it roughly in half. You can remove any loose papery skin, but there's no need to peel. Reserve the halves, which will go into the chicken cavity.

Now peel two cloves of garlic, chop roughly and toss in blender with 1 tsp. kosher salt. It'll look something like this:

Cut a lemon in half,

Juice one lemon and reserve the halves. They'll also go into the chicken cavity.

Add the lemon juice to the garlic paste. Now add 1 tsp. paprika:

And add 1 tsp. rosemary to the mix:

Add in freshly ground pepper to taste, and blend in a little more olive oil than you have lemon juice. The finished product will look something like this:

Now you're going to put the marinade mixture under the chicken skin, where it will keep the meat moist as it roasts (and give it great flavor). But first you want to gently loosen the chicken skin from the meat. Now don't panic; it's a little gross, but you can do it!! So just use your fingers to do this and try not to tear the skin. You're just creating a place for the marinade to hang out.

Then pour a little of the marinade under the skin, all around the chicken.

Save a little for the outside of the chicken when you're done.

Now, take your six pats of butter, and stuff them under the skin with the marinade.

Don't be afraid. Most of the calories will evaporate while it cooks. Or something like that ;-) And I promise the flavor will be totally worth it.

Seriously. Trust me on this!

Pour the remaining marinade mixture over the top, and gently rub into the chicken. Don't be afraid! The yucky part is almost over!

Go ahead and preheat your oven to 350. I don't do this too early, because I don't like to rush through cooking and an empty oven just wastes energy. And who's got extra money for that these days? ;-)

Now, stuff the lemon halves and garlic halves into the cavity of the chicken.

And here's the fun part: take some kitchen string, which you can find at the grocery store. [I buy the unbleached kind, because I'm silly like that. I buy unbleached string and unbleached flour because it's better than bleached, right? Then I eat something like cheetos, which are loaded with yellow dye #5... I figure it all balances out... You have to pick your battles...]

Now, make a slip knot in the string, and hold onto your hats: It's high noon, and we're going to hang us a chicken!

[Just kidding. I have a sick sense of humor!]

Nah, actually we're just going to tie the legs together, so the lemon and garlic stays inside the cavity and flavors the meat well. So just slip the knot over the chicken legs,

Pull it tight, and

Tie it off. And there you go!

And now, we're all ready for the chicken to go in the oven! Wash your hands, and breathe a sigh of relief. The yucky part is over and your kitchen is going to smell divine for the next two hours!

Pop the chicken into the oven (uncovered). You'll want to baste it every 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on the pan drippings too, and make sure they aren't burning. If they start to evaporate or burn, you can add a little chicken broth mixed with water to thin them. It will need to cook between 1.5-2 hours or so. It's done when it's golden brown and the meat starts to pull away from the bones slightly. Make sure the juices from the cavity also run clear. Remove the chicken to a plate, and cover loosely while you make gravy (or finish the remainder of your dinner prep.)

If you want to make gravy, pour the broth (from the giblets, but strain it first) into your roasting pan (or use a saucepan, if your roaster can't go stovetop). Bring to a boil and add a splash of white wine, stirring and scraping to deglaze the pan. That's where all those yummy brown bits get into the sauce and add flavor! Now take a little of the sauce out of the pan and whisk it together with about 2 Tbsp flour. Get all the lumps out, and then whisk it back into the pan juices. Continue to simmer the gravy a few minutes until thickened, seasoning to taste. If you like, you can carve your yummy roast chicken while you wait for the gravy! And now you know how to make a GREAT roasted chicken recipe!

Lots of things go great with roasted chicken, but for this meal, we also made risotto. Oh, yummmmmmmmmm...risotto. (No really, that's what you'll call it). Pioneer Woman's recipe rocks (like all her recipes)! I'll post it as a separate recipe soon!

In the meantime, enjoy some roast chicken. And don't be afraid to try it!

Citrus and Garlic Roast Chicken

2 cloves garlic, plus 1 whole bulb cut in half
kosher salt
1 lemon, halved and juiced, halves reserved
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or equal parts to lemon juice)
1 (4 lb) whole chicken
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pats

You can prepare the chicken up to the point of baking, and let marinate a couple of hours ahead in fridge if desired. Bring to room temp for half an hour if so before baking.

Yum, yum yum!!

Hi there! We're about halfway through our cookfest weekend, and I'm happy to report that all dishes so far are a great success! Our afternoon tanning was interrupted by a little rain, so I thought I would take this opportunity to update.

We started off our weekend with some wonderful pomegranate cosmos. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it!

Last night, we made Pioneer Woman's Tiramisu. As promised, it really is super yummy - and super easy! Angie, Daniel and I all agree, it's fabulous! If you like tiramisu, do make it. Here's some photographic evidence to tempt you!

Then this morning, we got started with breakfast. The breakfast casserole we want to try needs to be refrigerated overnight before baking, so Angie took these ingredients:

And turned them into this:

Ohhhhh, the anticipation! I believe a fantastic breakfast awaits tomorrow morning!

Meanwhile, so as not to starve while we wait, we also made my favorite lemon-blueberry muffins. I was going to take pics along the way and do another recipe demo for you, but we were too hungry. Sorry!! I promise, we'll document the chicken and risotto this evening :-) Here's the finished muffin recipe - I just love blueberries!

And here's my plate, about thirteen seconds before this muffin disappeared!

Happy Saturday! We're headed back poolside for a while!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Foodie Friday!

Woohoo! So I'm sitting here enjoying every second of this morning off. I'm plotting and planning the food for our great girls' weekend, and here's what we have settled on as our menu. We're going to be trying several new recipes, and making a couple of my new favorites, too. As we go along, we'll take pics of the recipes for you and post back with reviews, so stay tuned! And as you can see, we've got a running theme here, closely tied to recipes that Pioneer Woman (my new kitchen hero) has sold me on!

Lemon Roasted Chicken (a new favorite)
PW's Risotto (another new favorite)
Salad with PW's homemade ranch
(I'm just dying to try this dressing, even though it doesn't really go with the Italian theme)
PW's Tiramisu (first try)

PW's Breakfast Casserole (first try)
My favorite Lemon Blueberry Muffins

And of course, lots of champagne and pomegranate 'tinis for poolside (and thirsty cooks!)

Everyone enjoy the weekend, and I'll be sure to take lots of pics to share. I'm going to need the exercise after eating all this food.

(Wonder how many calories are burned in one hour of blogging? LOL!)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Girls' Weekend! Wahoo!!!

I'm starting another mini-vacation today. (Actually, it's a long weekend... but I prefer to work the term "vacation" in whenever I can). I've got Cyndi Lauper playing in the background to reinforce this concept... My best friend is coming down for a long weekend of fun in the sun! We're going to try to tan our pasty pale, winter-white bodies (well, mine is anyway - I don't mean to speak for her!) by the new pool, and we're going to cook a whole lot of yummy, fattening food. Hang the calories!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! We'll be sure to take lots of pics to share as we go along! (well, not of any pasty-pale bodies, but you know what I mean!)

Love, Dahrlin'

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Language Barrier

Okay, this is too funny not to share. And since I am able to laugh at myself, I will invite y'all to do the same. I went digging through some old files, in search of the calendars I used to keep as diaries. This was during my high school days, when I still had too much time on my hands to record insignificant but then earthshattering events to worry about my Mom finding things in my room (she's probably laughing, too - she knows she totally would have looked if she could have found them!).

So apparently I made a lot of notations during those days in code. A code that even I can't decipher now, assuming it made sense in the first place (and that's a big leap, all things considered). So here I sit, glass of champagne in hand, trying to figure out what in the h*ll I must have meant. Or been thinking. Or DONE. Sheesh. It's scary when you can't even understand yourself, LOL!

Wish me luck. If I can figure half of this stuff out, I'll post it here for your enjoyment!

My Life, In Stereo: The Music Chronicles

While I'm sitting around this weekend listening to really old music favorites, I've got a story for you. Actually, I'll be beginning a new series of blog posts. My Best Friend has inspired me to dig up some of these old memories to share. And I want to share some of my favorite musical memories with you. I think she and I have also been inspired by another of our friends luring us into Facebook Land. WAY too much nostalgia and old memories living there! But anyway, you'll get to enjoy reliving my awkward high school moments right along with me (and believe me, they won't be any less awkward in review!) And if any of my high school friends (or boyfriends) are reading this, you'd better stay tuned, because you may be featured! :-)

There's also a bonus feature to this new series. I'll be sharing some of my favorite music mixes from various points in my life. If the high school stories aren't humiliating enough, you'll get to see what insanely bizarre wide-ranging musical taste I've got! :-)

So first up is a specific song that I strongly associate with one particular person and time in my life. I expect today's song will remind some of you of years ago, as well. But first, a little background.

One of my favorite summers during high school was the one between junior and senior year. It was great for a number of reasons, not the least of which was we all had cars by then (and enough experience driving them that at least most of us stayed on the road in one piece that year!) So this particular summer, a group of us spent a lot of time at our local gym. We showed up almost every day, and worked very diligently on our tans. In addition to our diligent slacking work, the gym had hired a few actual employees who did real work there that summer. One in particular, a very cute bartender whom we'll call Paul (not his real name), was home for the summer from a nearby university. We all though Paul was to die for, and to my amazement, he took a return interest in me. He was about four years older than me, though, a galactic age difference at 17 & 21. But I wasn't about to let that stop me, and it seemed neither was he.

We quickly struck up an informal routine, which consisted mostly of him doing his bartender thing, occasionally bringing us girls pretzels and yummy but (mostly) non-alcoholic drinks (my mother would be so proud) by the pool, and me watching (covertly, of course) with stars in my eyes. This was the era of the movie Cocktail, and this guy really did bear a resemblance to Tom Cruise. Tall, dark and handsome, with velvety brown eyes and a clean cut appearance that would have qualified him for GQ. He was just plain adorable.

So for a couple of weeks Paul and I flirted and I spent a lot of time pretending to be much cooler than I actually was. He finally asked me out, in one of those annoyingly vague guy ways where they leave themselves an opening to make it seem like they weren't really asking you on a date, just in case you say no. My hometown holds an annual music festival each year, which is loyally attended by every redneck in a three-county radius. It's also loyally attended by every high school kid in a six-county radius, hopefully toting fake id's and dreams of finding the next love of their lives. Or at least dreams of getting through the gate with an over-21 wristband, and finding enough wine coolers and Jack Daniel's Lynchburg Lemonades so that they don't care anymore whom they date... But that certainly wasn't why we were there (LOL!). We only went because there was, literally, nothing else to do for that two weeks. At least, that's the story we all agreed to tell later in life.

So Paul and I survived our slightly rocky first date pretty well. He had asked me to meet him at a designated spot at the festival (see what I mean? not an actual date-date), because he would not get off work until about 9 (and we'd be attending Redneckfest way earlier than that). However, it turns out that it's not quite as easy as one might think to find another person in a large, swirling and noisy crowd, even at a previously-agreed spot, even if you know what they're wearing. But forward...we did eventually find each other and the night went well after that.

Paul and I hung out for pretty much the rest of that summer, but things fizzled when fall (and school) came back around. I think it was the highschool/college thing. But anyway, the larger point of this series is going to be the music. The trip into my totally humiliating high school memories is just a bonus.

So for today's post, you need to know that Paul loved music as much as I do. But what was extra-cool about Paul was he had this kickin' stereo that could do all kinds of neat stuff. In addition to making your garden-variety mixed tape, it also had the ability to add sound bites. So all of a sudden, I could make a tape that included, say, a voice over from the movie Top Gun, just before Take My Breath Away played on the tape. Waaaayyy cool for its time, at least based on MY stereo at the time, and by this point I was off my rocker for this guy anyway. That he could work this kind of musical magic was just gravy (and yes, to this day I am still easily amused, LOL!) So Paul's stereo had the ability to produce that most coveted holy grail of high school: a really good sounding, next generation, clear-as-a-bell mixed tape. It even sounded good on my crummy car stereo!

Which brings me to the Song of the Day. Do you remember a song called 99 Luftballoons, by Nena? Ha! Thought so! That song is, for me, probably the central theme song of that summer. For a number of reasons, it reminds me of him like nothing else. But here's the thing. Paul had the German language version. I have it to this day, on Itunes.

So, one of the lasting highlights of my time with Paul was a great mixed tape that we made together. Actually, we made half of a tape together, on one of our date nights. I know, it sounds like a crazy way to spend an evening, but we really had a great time with it. And even better - Paul's stereo had the capability to tape music off cd's - something reasonably new at the time that Paul (but few other guys I dated) had many of.

Paul would periodically fade in and out of my life over the next four or so years, but the most lasting legacy of my summer with Paul was (what I consider to be) that great mix tape. I'll share it here with you. Side A was the collaborative effort; Side B was added later by me to complete the tape. It included other songs that reminded me of him - and that magical summer. Hope you enjoy! And be sure to let me know if any of these songs take you back, as well!

Summer of '92 Mix - "Forever Young"

Side A

American Pie - Don McClean
Uptown Girl - Billy Joel
Hold Me Now - Thompson Twins
Who Can It Be Now - Men at Work
Crazy for You - Madonna
(are you seeing a theme here?)
Don't Let the Sun Go Down - Elton John
Hungry Like the Wolf - Duran Duran
Forever Young - Alphaville
End of the World - REM
What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong

Side B -

King and Queen of America - Eurythmics
Loved by the Sun - Tangerine Dream
Is Your Love Strong Enough - Bryan Ferry
Guilty Partner - New Order
Rough Boy - ZZ Top
Shine Like it Does - INXS
Another Brick in the Wall - Pink Floyd
For What it's Worth - Buffalo Springfield

Love, Dahrlin'

Music and Memory Lane

And now for a completely different subject (I can hear you all breathing a collective sigh of relief, all the way from here!)

My best friend's recent trips down memory lane have caused me to break out some old favorites on iTunes. When I say "old," I'm going to date myself here. But one song I tripped over this week brought back an absolute wealth of memories. I think it was triggered by my friend's mentions of the camp we went to the summer between 8th and 9th grade. It was our church's camp, and we had a blast that summer. But for some reason, the anthem of that summer (more than any other song) was, for me anyway, an old favorite by the Dream Academy: Life in a Northern Town. It's always been a favorite of mine, but it recalls that summer like no other single song. I just finished replaying it about six times and MAN, does that throw me back into 8th grade! It's truly amazing how a certain song can just immediately transport you. Coupled with my friend's recent reminiscences, I'm living in a veritable 1989 time warp here!

But anyway, this is going to be an interactive post :-) What about you? I'd love to hear your stories. What song, no matter where you are or what you're doing when you hear it, just throws you back in time whenever you hear it? Reminds you of a certain person, place or time in your life? Doesn't have to be high school. Let's hear 'em! If we get some good responses, I'll try to compile them into a playlist for you.

(and yes, I can still hear the water running outside, over the sound of all these great songs!)

LOL! Have fun with it!

Water, Water Everywhere!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We've got water in the pool! Woohooooo!! I can't tell you how exciting it is to actually see it finished. Well, more or less finished. There's a lot of landscaping left yet, and we've still got to put chemicals in and start the pumps running (Monday or Tuesday). But for now, it's filling up!!

Here are a few pics for your Saturday morning enjoyment. I promise, very soon I will be posting again on other subjects. I miss blogging! It's just been a busy week around here. But for good reasons, so that's okay!

The only snafu we had during the Pebbletec application was that they covered over one of the spa jets. Don't ask me how. We've all been beating our heads against the wall, asking exactly that. It really took some deliberate work to cover it so completely that they had trouble finding it, so I'm really not sure how something like that happened. But anyway, here's what it looked like after they tore through it and repaired it:

And for those who are unfamiliar with Pebbletec (like I was, LOL!), here's what it looks like close up. It's a very smooth surface, but it's very durable. And it just looks cool!

So here's the scene yesterday about 3 pm, when hubby started filling it. Wheeee!!!

And here is the depth about 6 pm:

We adjourned for a lovely Father's Day dinner at our favorite steak house, and returned to find this (it's not a cesspool, I promise. It just looks really weird in the dark, LOL!). And here I am, checking it out up close!

We continued to check it for the next couple hours, while watching a movie. Then we went to bed. Dad stays up really late these days, and he checked it out about 3 am. Then hubby bounded out of bed at 6 am to stand staring at it for a while. They're like kids! I, however, have my priorities firmly in order :-) I slept in, and woke up to find this happy sight. We're almost there!

Happy Happy Saturday!

Love, Dahrlin'
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