Thursday, April 30, 2009

My 2009 Dave Matthews Concert Experience

subtitled: Turn Off Your Effing Cell Phones and Just Enjoy the Show.
also subtitled: Sometimes it's OK to Flirt

As hard as I tried to have a good day on Tuesday, April 28, it just was not happening. I was overwhelmed. It's been a rough couple of months. "Life" caught up with me, and I couldn't get over it. Not even a cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate shake combo from Steak n' Shake helped (but it was tasty and I enjoyed every bite/sip). So somewhere around Knoxville on my drive to Atlanta I made the executive decision that I should just go directly to Alpharetta, scalp a ticket to the DMB show, and forget about my worries. It would mean I'd go to 2 DMB shows this week - a feat I've always wanted to attempt but never had the opportunity.

It was a challenge. First, I had to get myself into a venue parking lot, for which you technically need a pre-purchased pass that I did not have. How did I overcome this obstacle?

17-year-old parking attendant, Lot N: "Ma'am, I need your parking pass?"
Me: "No! What? Oh my gosh, I'm supposed to meet my friends here, I think they're in this lot? They have my ticket to the show! I needed a pass? I had no idea."
17-year-old PA: "Uhhhhh"
Me: **smiles really big and looks cute***
17-year-old PA: "Ok, sure, go ahead and park wherever you want in this lot."

Somehow a few minutes later, I "connected" with a scalper who said he had an orchestra section seat. 5 minutes and $100 later, I was on my way to the ticket-scanning gate. Upon arriving, I said a prayer that I just got in the arena. Even if my ticket wasn't a legitimate seat, I'd at least camp out on the lawn and it'd be worth the effort. After multiple attempts to scan my ticket and gain legal entrance, I realized quickly that I had a fake - and of course said nothing, still hoping it would work. A very nice supervisor came over to assist, and when it still wouldn't scan for him, he took the ticket, and just when I thought I was about to get booted/arrested, he ripped the appropriate end off, and instructed me to go on in and have a great time, with a big smile and pat on the back. I was elated, and think I started jumping up and down.

I had a 13th row seat! Front and center. I was stunned to be so close to the stage. Sitting there eating my hot dog and drinking my overpriced Bud Light, I knew that it wasn't right, and nearly teared up. I was so close to the stage! And didn't want to leave. But how could I, ethically, remedy this situation?

Well. First, I left my seat. I didn't want to draw attention to myself when the real owner of Orchestra 2, Row M, seat 1 came around. Turns out, all I needed was the "Orchestra" designation on my ticket to gain access to the mass chaos that was the Orchestra section. I knew that no one in that section would sit, all night. This worked to my advantage. I waited by the concession stand until the house lights went down and Dave came out on stage (opened with Rapunzel!), then I walked right back to the Orchestra section and implemented phase 2 of my plan: picked a row full of drunk boys, worked my way right in the middle of them, and proceeded to flirt/dance with them so they wouldn't want me to leave.

Surprisingly, it worked! I made friends. The guy beside me was friendly and not creepy, and a huge fan of Tim Reynolds. The guys on the other side of me had the same idea I did, apparently, but got booted when a really nice woman in a super cute Neiman Marcus dress (I asked) took over. We had a great time, the three of us, crammed into the space where only 2 adults should fit. Never fear: I have fully disclosed to my sweet fiance the nature of my actions, and he totally understood. Also, the level of flirtation needed to maintain the seat was minimal, seeing as how a drunk woman was beside me, and the guy to my right was equally as into the music as I was. Hence why I am marrying the most amazing man on the planet.

Was it worth the effort? See for yourself.

I had the most amazing seats I've had since the 1998 show in Birmingham that I attended with Lucas. My stress went away. I sang and danced the whole night. I forgot about everything that bothered me, all semester. They played my favorites! The concert experience was drastically different that close to the stage. I could see Dave's facial expressions without relying on the monitors! A beach ball got thrown over to me! That Dave had touched 5 minutes earlier! No one sat down all night! We all knew all the words! Everyone was as enthusiastic as I was, and it was magical.

Except for one little thing: no one would put down their cell phones! OMG people. Could you try not touching your iPhone for 2 hours? I think it's totally rude when students text in my class - I was ashamed to be surrounded by people who were disrespecting the band (and all of us around) by ignoring their music and texting people, Tweeting, Facebooking, etc. My fiance fell victim to this at the following night's show. It was so entirely disrespectful. I know, I follow the instant setlists on Twitter, and enjoy them - but there really is no need. How about let's start a trend, where we leave our cell phones in our cars while we're at the concert? Know how you can't text or call during the movies? I think the same rule should apply for concerts. It was so distracting to look over to my new friend and see him carrying on a text message conversation. My suggestion to future concert-goers: put down your effing cell phones and just enjoy the show.

I would tell you about the second night's show, when I had legitimate seats and went with Dave, and how we tailgated before with Mellow Mushroom and cheaper beer, and really enjoyed ourselves, but that story isn't nearly as exciting. We were so, legal.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Random Chatter from A-50

Friday, April 24, 2009. approx. 7:15 p.m. A-50. Watching the movie Penelope after our favorite happy our at Merrick Inn.

Rose: Oh my gosh! Chess is not a feminist game!
LBD: How so?
Rose: You have to kill the queen to win! The King kills the Queen!
LBD: Well if that ain't patriarchal, I just don't know what is.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fanatic Behavior

Today, in class, we talked about fan cultures. When I get tired of researching gender and weddings, I'm going to start writing about fanatic behavior, so I was really pumped up about the lesson today. One of my students made my point brilliantly for me today - and it was even more brilliant because the students are way more likely to listen to each other than me.

We watched a scene from Trekkies, as well as a video clip from a recent Las Vegas Star Trek convention. Everyone laughed at this guy. But as we discussed just how strange some people can behave when they're huge fans of various things, one student (Katie) chimed in with a very bright analysis: we do the same thing for football and basketball games, yet no one thinks it's weird. A-ha! Welcome to an impromptu discussion on subcultures (also brought up by Matt - thanks guys!). We paint our faces for UK games, we can spout of a list of stats about the individuals and the team, we cheer wildly, we bond over our love of the team, and no one thinks anything of it. It's "normal." Just like it's "normal" for those who maybe aren't part of the dominant group but are equally as passionate about something. Who cares that it's Star Trek?

What matters is that fandom can bring us together, provides a sense of community (see Baym, 2000 and anything by Hebdige), and a sense of belonging. As long as it doesn't involve harming any other person (Shawn Johsnon case, for example), I think fan behavior is perfectly acceptable, and really cool to analyze from a critical perspective. As one Trekkie put it on the video today: at Star Trek conventions, you belong. You're family. Everyone is equal. No one is judged. It's normal to walk around dressed like a member of the crew. Same thing happens on any given Saturday at Auburn. And Kentucky. And anywhere else you see people dressed like you, with smiles on their faces, showing up to support a cause or team or event that has meaning, for whatever reason.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Simple Roasted Chicken

We'll start with the recipe first. I'm addicted to roasting large chunks of meat. It's relatively easy, and the couple of hours I put towards the roasting process always result in at least 3 days' worth of food. Besides that, today I bought a 4 pound chicken at Kroger for $4, which is a great deal. The one thing that still baffles me is how exactly to carve the bird once it's cooked. If it was just me, I'd stand over it and pick of what I wanted to eat while gnawing on a Sister Schubert's roll, never really worrying about slicing a perfect piece of breast meat, or correctly removing the leg, just barbarically enjoying a big, roasted, bird. But, it's not just me, so I always let either Dave or Rose get their meat first and then I go back and carve out some meat the best I can, which inevitably results in a pretty pitiful, destroyed looking bird. I certainly don't care, as it tastes yummy regardless.

Still. Roast chicken is tasty and versatile, and I'd serve it to company if I knew how to slice it correctly. Here's what I do:

Before beginning with the raw chicken, take a moment to do some prep work that will save you from contaminating your kitchen with raw chicken germs. Prepare a few prep bowls/small measuring cups with the following: (1) extra virgin olive oil, (2) salt (3) black pepper (4) some sort of dried herb; my favorite is Italian, (5) whole cloves of garlic, 4-5, (6) 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped, and (7) one coarsely chopped carrot. Also set out your roasting pan (don't have a shiny, pretty roasting pan? Find any baking dish that has some sides, like a 9 x 13 pan), that's been sprayed down with a good coating of nonstick cooking spray. Also set out a plastic cutting board large enough to hold your chicken. Finally, preheat the oven to 400.

Once your prep work is done, then take a whole chicken (defrosted if you're starting with frozen), and remove from plastic in the sink. (It's best if you start with a clean sink, I should add.) Pull out the neck/giblets/guts that are leftover. Allow yourself a moment to be thoroughly grossed out by what you just did, but be thankful you didn't also have to pick out a chicken from your brood out in the backyard to personally sacrifice for the meal, snap its neck and remove its feathers/drain its blood like our grandmothers did. Proceed, after saying a quick prayer to bless your ancestors for living through such a difficult life. Rinse the cavity and outside with cold running water. Place on a plastic cutting board, and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the interior cavity with salt, pepper and herbs. Then stuff it full with the garlic, celery and carrots. Lemons and oranges also work really well as aromatics, if you don't have celery/carrots on hand. Then, rub the outer cavity with olive oil, and salt, pepper, and any leftover herbage. Place the bird on a rack if you're using a pan with such, or just place it in the bottom of the pan if you don't have a rack that fits. Wash your hands really well.

Before placing the roasting pan in the oven, pour some chicken stock and white wine, if you have any, in the bottom of the pan, maybe about 1 cup total. This will help prevent the yummy drippings (think: future gravy) from sticking to the pan and burning. Roast the chicken at 400 for about 25 minutes, then without opening the oven, reduce heat to 375 and roast for 30 more minutes. If you haven't already, pour yourself some of that leftover white wine to keep you entertained until the bird is done. After it has roasted for about an hour, check it - pour more liquid in the pan if it's drying up/burning, and cover with tin foil if the skin is becoming too burnt/crispy. Also wouldn't hurt at this point to use your meat thermometer to check the temperature. Continue cooking until the internal temperature of the breast (read with a meat thermometer) reads 165, which usually takes me anywhere from 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes, depending on the oven.

After the bird is cooked, remove from the pan and allow to sit on the counter, covered with tin foil, for at least 5 minutes before digging in. Trust me; helps the juices redistribute and results in a yummy chicken. Besides, 5 minutes is all you need to make up a quick pan sauce, using the leftover chicken drippings that have been poured into a small saucepan and cooked down with the addition of a "slurry" - which is about 2 Tablespoons softened butter combined with 2-3 Tablespoons flour. Whisk together rapidly, cooking over medium high heat. This pan sauce/gravy is best served on top of the sliced chicken, and as a dunking sauce for the aforementioned Sister Schubert's rolls.

I had some ideas for what I might blog about in addition to the roast chicken recipe, but I forgot what I was going to say. And, I'm tired. And, I need to start on Chapter 7 - Discussion & Conclusion. I am elated to have a "Chapter 7" file on my trusty flash drive. And elated to have chowed down on a roast chicken with Rice-a-Roni and frozen green beans for dinner.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Limoncello Cheesecake Squares

I can't bring myself to edit these last 2 pages of chapter 6. Why? It means I'll have to start editing chapter 5 again, and I can't remember if I left it in decent or horrible shape. So, I think I'll post one of my favorite recipes of all time, something I could eat by the pan, and the thing I told Giada "thank you" for when I met her at the SoBe Wine/Food Festival: Limoncello Cheesecake Squares (Giada de Laurentiis).

I made this recipe yesterday and ended up drinking about 1/4 cup of the batter, raw eggs & all. Mmmmmm. Honestly, it's my favorite part about making anything dessert-like - eating the batter. Anyway, this dessert is perfect for spring and summer; they're rich, but light at the same time. I have been known to spice them up with a homemade blueberry compote (combine blueberries, some water, and sugar and citrus zest over medium heat; cook until blueberries have burst and it turns into a gelatinous mixture, cool and serve). However, these are perfect all by themselves. Make them exactly according to her directions. It's perfect the way it is. I don't use "fresh" ricotta, but I do drain the regular kind using a cheesecloth. It makes a huge, huge, ginormous difference. Wring the ricotta out using a cloth towel over a bowl; be amazed at the amount of liquid that comes out of it. I ran out of biscotti yesterday, so I changed my crust to part biscotti/part graham crackers, and it worked like a charm. Also, difficult as it will be not to eat the cheesecake as soon as it's remotely cooled down, you absolutely must let it chill for 8 hours in the fridge before eating. Trust me. I tried eating it yesterday after only about 4 hours, and it wasn't the same.

No feminist theory today. It is Friday, after all. Just go make a cheesecake and enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

About the Wedding, Part 2: Media and Hegemony (and a chicken recipe at the end)

Today, I hope to explain one of the connections between weddings and the media (see Otnes & Pleck, 2003 for a great read on this topic). Wedding ceremonies have a great deal of cultural significance, correct? They're big days. Even I, with my strange views on weddings, would agree that they're important days, they carry meaning, are a way to express thankfulness to family and friends, and celebrate family traditions. Don't get me wrong, I cry with the best of them at just about every wedding I attend. However, I believe that we focus entirely too much on the wedding ceremony - centerpieces, colors, bridesmaids, tuxedos, flowers, wedding party gifts, dresses, hairstyles, DJs, locations, food, alcohol, monograms, programs, invitations, save the dates, engagement/bachelor/bachelorette parties, bridal showers, bridesmaid luncheons, and makeup - and not nearly enough on the institution of marriage. Media messages serve a particularly strong role in not only validating the wedding as normal/good/desirable but also reminding us that it's ok to participate in some major spending to accomplish the "perfect day." Off the top of my head, I can list a number of tv shows that feature weddings - not marriages - as a central focus. They are, "A Wedding Story," "Say Yes To the Dress," "Whose Wedding is it Anyway," "Platinum Weddings," "Rich Bride/Poor Bride," "My Big Redneck Wedding," "Bridezillas" or pretty much anything that's on the Style Network on Saturdays. Now think about all the movies that detail wedding planning or have weddings as a central plot. And now think about how many media messages tell us anything about the marriage - except for when to call it quits, or how to recognize when things are going horribly wrong.

Yes, pre-marital counseling helps direct some of our attention on life after the "I Do's." But, many couples never go to pre-marital counseling, nor do they question or anticipate what might happen in the years following the wedding ceremony. We somehow know exactly how to plan weddings when our time comes, but how are we to know what's "normal" in a marriage re: conflict, decision-making, loss of independence, feelings of entrapment, or general free-floating anxiety that comes from the realization that you're together "forever?" We know how to plan a wedding, somehow, and we know what it *should* look like. The dress. The tribe of female friends happily standing by in support, with matching dresses and springtime flowers. A smoking-hot, sensitive-yet-masculine man waiting at the end of the aisle, with tears in his eyes. But what have media told us about how we *should* live as a married person? Who takes out the trash? Who does the dishes? Who carries out the wide variety of emotional labor involved in maintaining a relationship, like remembering birthdays? Social calendar planning? Band-aids and neosporin on cuts? Just how exactly does one go about making sure that you change together as a couple, while hanging on to at least part of who you are as an individual? Here's a crazy thought: what if marriage isn't a good idea for everyone? And all the laws, religious teachings, and normalized cultural discourse are really just our way of convincing ourselves that it's a good idea? Enter hegemony (Gramsci, 1984), which is a way of creating, perpetuating and maintain dominant beliefs/worldviews. Media messages serve hegemonic functions in normalizing a range of activities - like weddings and marriages.

Why aren't there media messages focused on the marriage (Wife Swap doesn't count, yo)? Several reasons. One, media are businesses, and they have to make money, and they do so in any way possible - but generally by reminding us that "they're just giving us what we want to watch." We've either started believing we enjoy "reality" television, like shows focusing on weddings, or we're just not speaking up enough about how we're getting sick of seeing horribly inaccurate representations of real life on the tube. Two, media messages are powerful, and they have the ability to shape our perceptions of reality - in this case, continued emphasis on weddings - as several things (a) taking place between a man and woman (b) involving lavishness (c) special days that define "who we are" and (d) as the "normal" and "right" thing to do in any relationship.

So what am I doing about it? Talking to my sweetie every night about this stuff, instead of the wedding. And talking about how we are going to overcome the conflict, stress and struggles we'll go through in our long and happy marriage. And purposely trying not talking about my wedding, ever, unless asked, so as to give the marriage more significance. And drinking a lot of tequila when none of the above helps. :) Kidding about that last part.

Speaking of tequila, last night I rather enjoyed a (yes, just one, promise, gotta run today) fruit-juice margarita. Sra. Cooksey introduced me to the beauty of:

Guava-Mango Margarita
1 part tequila, pref. Cabo Wabo Reposado
4-5 parts Guava-Mango juice (by Welch's in the fridge section)
salt rimmed glass

It went magically well with my random "Jerkish Chicken" that I shredded after cooked and threw into flour tortillas.
Jerkish Marinade
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
some chili powder
some cumin
some allspice
dash of cloves
about 1/2 cup brown sugar
about a teaspoon of honey
about 1/4 cup EVOO
some chicken broth (cause mine ended up too spicy and it needed calming down)
couple cloves of garlic
about 1 tsp of dijon mustard
couple dashes of red wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients together in a food processor or blender, pour over 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, marinade for at least 1 hour in fridge. Grill (or bake, but grilling is awesome) until cooked through. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

About the Wedding, Part 1: The Dress

I have recently referred to myself on Twitter as a "feminist bridezilla." It's probably time for me to start explaining what I mean. Last night, I wrote some pretty harsh words about weddings, spawned from a weekend-long binge of writing my analysis section. I'm guessing my brilliant advisor won't appreciate 30 pages of a rant, so guess what? The readers of LBDelicious get the rant that can't go in the analysis, for which I have to show some degree of restraint. Instead of turning my readers off with a really long, angry post, I'm going to break it down into sections, and tame it down a little.

Let me begin by saying that I don't think that weddings, or marriages, are anti-feminist or bad. However, they can be, if we're not careful. Hence the reason I consider myself a "feminist bridezilla." I reject the traditional notions of what it means to be a bride, yet I DO NOT JUDGE those of you who identify with that notion. If you want a big white pouffy dress, and if you want to spend $45,000 on a party for 200 of your closest friends, more power to you. But, to quote several of the non-traditional brides in my study, "it's just not me." Sure, it'd be great to waltz into an expensive bridal boutique with a brothel of important women in my life, pick out - with their help- a romantic, lacy, vintage-looking Claire Pettibone gown, shed a few tears over just how beautiful I am and how exciting it is to "go bridal," and drop a few grand on it with no remorse. But. That's. Not. How. I. Roll. Let's be honest, my mother and I can't even plan a trip to go out to eat in Huntsville without some degree of stress and anxiety; why would I want to bring these feelings into the bridal gown search?

Instead, I chose not to purchase a traditional bridal gown, and I chose not to shop for wedding dresses. It was a tough decision. It meant rejecting every single media message, and every other narrative from girlfriends and family members who've enjoyed their wedding dress shopping, that said I *should* want to hunt for and purchase such a dress. Some days, I feel like maybe my girl card is going to be revoked for not flipping through 20 bridal magazines, going into bridal salons with my mom or maid of honor, and not finding that "perfect" expensive dress that makes me look like a princess. But, I finally reached the conclusion that if a wedding really was supposed to be "about me" (honestly, they're not about the couple. trust me. I'm an expert on this), then who was I, really, and how do I represent that? You know who I think I am? I am a cute, white, cotton, $98 J. Crew sundress and Rainbow flip flops, hanging out at the bar on Saturday night with my friends. So that's what you'll get by coming to my wedding. It's as honest as I can be. I'm not a beautiful couture gown (can't afford it, and if I could, I'd probably spend that money on something else, like a kitchen with an island, tile backsplash and granite countertops). I'm not a mass-market "wedding gown" that looks expensive but really is overpriced and made overseas in a sweatshop where their employees make so little money that they couldn't purchase the dresses they toil over. I am a simple, plain, woman, not extra-ordinary or more special than anyone else I know, except that I have the most freaking awesome friends, family and life that I'll celebrate on June 6.

Besides that, there is a huge time investment and great deal of cultural pressure on women to have that perfect wedding/perfect dress. Can we talk about time for a little while? How exactly do I spend my time these days? My time is spent writing a dissertation. Making lesson plans. Teaching. Working with students. Helping them outline/write their papers. Seeing my friends, not nearly as much as I'd like. Training for a triathlon. Eating. Cooking. Applying for jobs that are non-existent right now. Frequent trips to Starbucks. Watching American Idol and Lost. And seeing my fiance, which includes 12 hours on I-75. And I'm supposed to give up part of those activities, which I absolutely love and are fulfilling in and of themselves, to find an expensive dress I'll wear for 4 hours? No ma'am. I am so, so thankful that I have a man who understands and respects the fact that I have a life I wish not to devote to planning a wedding, and thus has planned/done a considerable amount on his own to see the day happen. I quite simply don't have time to spend several Saturdays out of my life to search for a wedding gown. And if you've ever been clothing shopping with me (mom), you understand just how irritated and miserable I become after shopping, even for regular, everyday clothes - amplify that, and I'd turn into - yep - feminist bridezilla.

I am fully aware that I'm rejecting tradition, with most parts of my wedding. It's called "transforming" and both Carey (1989) and Kuhn (1962) have explained that concept pretty well. Perfection? It's a myth. I argue it's not really attainable in terms of a wedding ceremony. Isn't the beauty of life in the imperfections? When things don't quite go our way but work out better than what we expected or hoped for in the first place? Originality? It's what I'm going for, with Team Dawmilam Beerfest.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

On Family, and Fruit Dip

I had the good fortune of being raised not just by my momma & daddy, but also by aunts, cousins, and grandparents. It, in fact, did take a village to raise me and my brother, and from all accounts I've heard (and the clips of VHS home movies I've witnessed) I was just about too much for one person to handle for any extended period of time. I was a good kid, but I tend to think that once my little personality started to develop, my family stood back and thought, "where'd she come from? And just what exactly are we supposed to do with her?" as I literally ran in circles in the backyard (probably wearing a Mary Lou Retton leotard) having *serious* conversations with my imaginary friends. Let's face it - I've always been kind of weird. Either way, my family has for the most part accepted me for who I was - even if they disagreed with my decisions or wanted (or even prayed, don't get me started) for me to take different turns as the roads of life started to fork off in all kinds of different directions.

I've realized, however, that the process of "being raised" certainly doesn't end when you turn 18. After I moved away, my friends took over responsibility for that process, and at every new city, new school, or new adventure, my friends have become my family. How very blessed and lucky I am to have somehow managed to meet and befriend the absolute coolest people on the planet. Unfortunately, it's also what makes moving on and changing so difficult. While I know that my family will pretty much always live within a 10 mile radius of each other, somewhere in the western/central corner of Limestone County, Alabama, and it'll be relatively easy to go back and see them whenever I want, my friend-family continues to spread out, grow, and change. Friend-families are special because they are very time and location sensitive. For example. I can easily go back to Florence or Auburn, two places I've lived that are very close to my heart. I know how to get there. But it's not the same as it used to be, because Allison, Nisey, KiKi and KB won't be sitting at the picnic table outside Powers Hall to distract me from working and convince me to go to the Kappa Sig house instead. And even if I do go back to the Supper Club, and even if I was with Loren, Lindsey, Lex, and Anne, and it was in the middle of the night after we'd gotten tired of Bodega, the chance that we'd run into the boys we chased or students we tried to avoid is slim to none. Some of us are no longer interested in chasing boys anyway. But we'd certainly be excellent wing-women for those in the group who are... Sorry, Bon Jovi, but I say it's nearly impossible to go home.

I'm sentimental about leaving Kentucky. Can you tell? It happens. I've been through this before. And it never really gets any easier. I am fully aware that I have attachment issues, with both people and places. It's really strange this time because I've spent *so* little time here, really. I'm transient. I've lived my life in A-50, and on I-75. I'm rarely here on the weekends, and haven't fully adopted a life here. But then again I have, and that life is the collective group of friends I've made. It'd probably be less emotionally draining if I'd just stayed in one place my entire life. But then, I think about the people that I love, that I call family, that have made me a better person, that I never, ever in a million years would have met otherwise, and I know that it's worth the emotion. I know that I'll remember days like today, Easter, when we had a potluck lunch after church. It felt just like being home at my grandmother's house - just without the porch and same people. That feeling of love, belonging, and support was definitely there, as it always is when I'm with anyone I consider family. We have a shared history - both my friend-family and real family - and both families have been instrumental in helping me figure out who I am. That's what a family is all about - no blood bond necessary.

Family is also about sharing recipes. This one is my mom's fruit dip, that I love. It's simple and delicious. I made it last night, and Bob, Mitch and I devoured it and the fruit I had so cutely placed on a little Auburn platter. For some reason Mitch kept making fun of Bob using toothpicks to eat the fruit... maybe it was just the beer. Here is:

Best Fruit Dip Ever
1 jar marshmallow cream
1 8-oz package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
splash of lemon juice or pineapple juice

Combine all ingredients together with a hand-held mixer, fork, or food processor. Chill for one hour, and serve with strawberries, grapes, pineapples, or apples.

Trust me, it's way better than any of the pre-made fruit dip out there, and it makes a ton. Great for your summer gatherings with friends, families, and friend-families.