Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nothing To Say

It's been about a year. A wonderful, dream-at-least-partially-coming-true year since a friend from college asked me to submit a couple of trial columns to run in my local newspaper. I remember bouncing around the room with excitement after reading her email, squealing the news to my husband at the top of my lungs, galloping across the house and traumatizing my cats in the process as they fled under every available surface seeking cover from the insane, giant cat lady. Then I remember the immediate crash, the paralyzing fear that coursed through my veins when the implications sank in, the implications of submitting something of my own creation from my own crazy brain and for public consumption, nonetheless, to an actual newspaper editor who would actually critique my work. Sending the first column very nearly made me puke.

After about a month of being a "guest columnist," my byline was changed to "columnist." I couldn't believe my good fortune, and the columns were such a pleasure to write! It seemed that I had endless ideas for new articles, and for those first couple of months, I hardly ever struggled with a topic. Then self-doubt came a-calling. I began to fear that I would run out of things to say. How could I possibly maintain new and refreshing topics for a weekly column? How could I, boring nerd-girl from boring-ville with no real story to tell, keep coming up with interesting and thought-provoking things to say? And more importantly, why would anyone want to read what I had to write?

Self-doubt's a bitch.

image source
Thankfully, I haven't run out of things to say yet. Although, I will sit at my computer sometimes on Sunday nights (I send my columns then so they'll be there for the editor on Monday morning) and think "Oh, my God" I have absolutely nothing to say. I'll sit for hours just staring. I'll surf the web, grasping for inspiration. I'll walk around. I'll eat a snack. I'll beg my husband for ideas. I'll do anything and everything just to hatch some inspiration. And somehow, magically we'll say because I don't know how the hell else it works, I always seem to land on something, sometimes just a partially formed thought that I have to hammer out and slave over to transform into a 600-word column befitting for anyone to actually read. No idea where this stuff comes from, but I can always seem to pull something out of my butt at the very last minute....let's hope that continues, because my column is my therapy, my joy, my real-world connection to what I want to do with my life. I would hate for my creativity to run dry and to lose it over something stupid like "writer's block."

Today self-doubt came for another visit, seems she sort of likes it around here...probably because I buy into her tricks so easily. This time she visited the blog. She taunted me, teased me, made me think that I had nothing else to say or share with my readers. She led me to believe that what I wrote wasn't as interesting or as engrossing as other bloggers and had me scrambling for my purpose and footing in bloggyland. Then I decided to draw inspiration from the bitch herself, to write about how I hate her and how I wish I could stamp away feelings of inadequacy and doubt. A little self-doubt is okay I guess; it can even inspire. The trick is to never let that doubt consume or define you. Just so me and self-doubt are clear, I decided I'd write an open letter to her, just letting her know how I feel about her "nothing to say" theory.

Dear Self-Doubt,

You obviously don't know me very well, so allow me to introduce you to me. I'm a talker. I always seem to have something to say, some stray thought running through my brain...having nothing to say doesn't really register on my radar. I even get on people's nerves I talk so much sometimes, but that's okay because that's who I am. 

I'm also an observer. I watch and then I write about what I watched. I find inspiration in the tiniest of places and run with it. I'll write about my observations and experiences, and if ever I find those observations or experiences lacking, I'll let my imagination take over and write a tall tale about origami birds flying in a seer-sucker sky

I won't run out of things to say, and I will continue to write until I die, because it's what I love to do and it's who I spite of everything and in spite of you.

Bite me.


"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." - Sylvia Plath

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Dish Featuring My3littlebirds

Welcome to another edition of The Dish! This week is not brought to you by my dead laptop and is co-sponsored by the letter M, as in Mary Lauren and her magnificently mighty blog My3littlebirds. As I've put together each edition of The Dish, I've noticed one glaring similarity between every blog I've featured so far, and this week's featured blog is no different. These women can write, man! They all do an incredible job of weaving together posts that capture their readers' attention and keep people coming back for more. Mary Lauren of my3littlebirds perfectly embodies this shared characteristic of The Dish bloggers and their blogs.

My3littlebirds doesn't fit into any neat categories. It's not a mommy blog or a recipe blog or a writing blog, because any of those labels wouldn't give it the credit or justice it is due. To describe it best, I would say that M3LB is an addictive blog full of creativity and charisma, and each visit I take there leaves me wanting more of Mary Lauren's wit, insight, and beautifully woven tales of family and the memories that make life so precious and unique.

Delicious Design

What could be cuter than a yellow polka-dotted background? Not much! But three little birds woven into the title art are one thing that give the yellow polka-dots a run for their money. One of the first things that captured my attention about this blog would have to be the title and title artwork. The title itself reminds me of my absolute favorite song EVER "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley. Whenever I see M3LB pop up in the recently updated list on blogger, this song automatically starts playing in my head, and I love it. In actuality, and as I learned just tonight, the blog title is derived partially from the author's three adorable children, as well as from a beautiful and meaningful painting. While my3littlebirds certainly does not focus on the blogger's children solely, the stories she shares of her "three little birds" and her adventures as a mom are likely to keep you laughing your butt off each time you hear one...see The Bad Mom Chronicles. I'm still laughing over Part Two and the "Code Brown."

But back to the design of M3LB. Like so many of the blogs I love, my3littlebird's design is simple and minimalistic. No crazy sidebars full of worthless crap, just a nice, clean look with an adorable banner that allows the blogger's words to shine.

Oh, and I should mention her adorable design comes from Seven Thirty Three Custom Blog Designs, who obviously know what they're doing!

Appetizing Content

As I've already pointed out, my3littlebirds doesn't follow any kind of "typical" blog formula. Mary Lauren isn't bound by the limitations of a specific blog "genre" or topic. She writes about life, in a hilarious and usually thought-provoking way, and she shares her experiences and expertise on everything from stockbroking to Mom Hair. Regardless of the topic, every post she composes seems to either make me laugh or make me cry; I'm always affected in some way by her words...which is the mark of a true writer in my humble estimation.

My3littlebirds also hosts a linkup party each Monday called What's For Dinner, where she allows other blogger's to join the fun and linkup to their recent recipe posts. Through this linkup, I've already discovered some other great bloggers, which makes it a rousing success if you ask me! I urge any of you who regularly post recipes to join in on the fun every Monday at M3LB.

Probably my personal favorite of the posts that are shared on my3littlebirds would have to be the ones which showcase the blogger's incredible writing talent. She posts poems and has recently started participating in writing prompts, and I just love her writing style! I could go on all day, but checking her out for yourselves will sell her case better than I ever could.

Scrumptious Survey: Answered by blogger.

What’s your favorite dish/food?
If I'm eating at home, I love a simple roast chicken with vegetables. If I'm eating out, I often order seafood (scallops are a favorite of mine) since my family doesn't really eat it. And for date night at home, my husband and I love to share a bottle of wine and eat crusty bread with cheese (I love Danish Blue and he prefers very sharp cheddar).

What’s your favorite type of cuisine (Italian, French, etc.)?
Well, I love it all. But for me a perfect night out with friends would include a Spanish tapas-style meal with lots of yummy things to try. 

What is unique about the cuisine in your part of the world?
Our area is known for traditional southern style foods. Not the healthiest stuff in the world- that's for sure!

Sweet or salty?
Salty wins by a landslide.

What food are you craving right now?
I am looking for a great recipe for cinnamon raisin bread. My kids love it for breakfast and I can't seem to buy enough! Send me a message if you've got one, pretty please?

Do you like to cook? If so, do you ever share recipes on your blog?
I do like to cook. I do share recipes but they tend to be "this worked for my picky 3 year old" type meals, and not exactly gourmet. 

Where do you get the recipes you use? From cookbooks, blogs, online directories, etc?
Most of the recipes I use these days come from online directories and blogs. I love Simply RecipesOur Best Bites, and of course The Pioneer Woman Cooks. But I also refer to my collection of cookbooks and food magazines.

What food-related word would you use to describe your blog? (i.e. salty, sweet, savory, delicious, yummy…) Get creative!
Sweet. For sure: )

As always, I hope you enjoyed this week's edition of The Dish, and I certainly hope that I was able to introduce you to a new blog to fall in love with. If you haven't already, be sure to visit my3littlebirds; it's sure to capture your heart instantly and make its way onto your must-read list.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Don't Cry Because It's Over...

It's so hard to believe that it's over. As much time as I spent looking forward to it, preparing for it, planning it, and dreaming about it, the actual time spent on my vacation was gone in a flash. I suppose that's true for everyone, and I don't know about y'all, but I get sick of that. Sick of working all the time. And time at work never goes by way, no how. But whatever, that's life as they say.

We had a wonderful time in Blue Ridge, which is where we spent our mini-vacation. Every year my parents rent a cabin and invite me and my husband, along with my sister, her husband, and my precious nephew to join them in the relaxation and beauty of the North Georgia mountains. This trip was another great one. We fished, hiked, read books, and just enjoyed each other's company. My nearly two-year old nephew hunted Easter eggs on Sunday, and on Saturday night, we celebrated my sister's and her husband's birthdays which are coming up in the next couple of weeks. My brother-in-law had complained a few weeks ago that he never gets anything "fun" for gifts, which I supposed is pretty true. We always get him practical things like clothes or socks, so this year I made it a point to fill his birthday bag with "fun stuff." A whoopee cushion, a paddle ball, and a water gun. The whoopee cushion was a huge hit, and for the rest of the trip, we were all victims of it at various times. Nothing seems to make a man happier than farting noises.
Along with happy memories and a couple of cheap souvenirs, we came back from this trip with an unfortunate, deceased victim. Our laptop died. *cue sad music* It lived a good life (although not a very long one), but alas, it has moved on to a better place. All of our pictures, music, and my manuscript were on it, so keep your fingers crossed we can recover the data! And another problem we're facing is that our desktop computer has been on the fritz for years now, so right now I don't have anything I can really work on. Just getting this post up took a lot of work and loading time. We're in the market for a new laptop, so if anyone has any suggestions (or warnings of brands or types to stay away from) let me know.

I'm going to catch up on all my favorite blogs asap. I've missed you guys!

Oh, and happy day! My feature at For the Love of Blogs was just posted. Check it out!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Folklore Friday at My Beautiful Disaster

Hi, y'all! Just checking in from our vacation to the North Georgia mountains. When I get back, I look forward to catching up on all the great posts I sure I'm missing out on from my blogging buddies.

Hope everyone is having a lovely Easter weekend so far. Yesterday over at My Beautiful Disaster (a fun and totally unique blog with awesome content), Erin posted a story for her really interesting feature Folklore Friday that I submitted about a local "legend" in the West Georgia area. Check the story of Mayhayley Lancaster out, and while you're there, be sure to treat yourself to a spin around My Beautiful won't be sorry!

My Beautiful Disaster


Friday, April 22, 2011

The Dish featuring One Mixed Bag

This week's feature on The Dish is one of the first blogs I discovered after joining the For the Love of Blogs Community...which has been about a month ago now. I'm so grateful I joined this amazing community, because without it, I would have never made such great friends with such great blogs. While linking up for my very first Fab Friends Friday, one of the tiny buttons representing the other linked up blogs immediately caught my eye. 

It was such a beautiful image, such a perfect, strikingly gorgeous lady looking back imploringly at me. I couldn't help but was like I was being drawn in by her pink rollers, flowery dress, and truly excellent purse. I couldn't have resisted her if I tried. Just take a look for yourself, at the fabulous button of the truly fabulous One Mixed Bag. I can't tell you how glad I am I was tempted by this siren's song. I now visit One Mixed Bag on a daily basis, and I'm never disappointed, and I can promise you won't be either.

Delicious Design

The design of One Mixed Bag matches its content perfectly: light-hearted and cute. And of course, when you first arrive, the beautiful lady with her beautiful bag is there to greet you. Bernie, the author of One Mixed Bag, has a love affair with purses, hence the name of her blog and all the cute purse details on her site. Even her cute little buttons are cute little purses. I love it!

Bernie's another one of those bloggers who doesn't busy-up her blog with lots on unnecessary stuff. She's got a clean, simple layout that lets you focus on her content and doesn't take forever to load. The blue and white colors compliment her banner and buttons well and just look dang pretty. I feel happy when I visit One Mixed Bag, but only part of that is because of her cute design.

Appetizing Content

Bernie's blog title says it all. You never really know what you're going to get with a visit to One Mixed Bag. Well, sometimes you'll know because she's got some regularly scheduled events. Like a hilarious and informative Wordless Wednesday feature with fun (and surprisingly personal and revealing!) vintage ads. My favorite so far has been one from Scott Tissues, which focuses on the "troubles caused by harsh toilet tissue." Umm...yeah. The vintage ads are always worthy of a good laugh.

One Mixed Bag also features some cute and crafty content, which I always love to admire from afar. Crafting is most definitely not my thing. I think I'm too uncoordinated for that. If I can't dance, how can I be expected to work scissors and cut actual paper at the same time? But Bernie makes crafting look fun and easy, especially with her cards. I absolutely adore the cards she made for her mom's birthday a couple of weeks ago. Her craftiness is due in part to a goal she set for herself for 2011, and she posts updates every Thursday relaying her progress towards her goal. I'd say she's already made it!

Even better than the awesome regular features on One Mixed Bag are the spontaneous and uncategorized posts. The first entry I read on this blog is probably one of the most memorable blog posts I've ever encountered. It definitely is one of my top three favorite blog posts, if its not number one. If you don't read any of the other posts I recommend to you today, please at least read "He Went For a Hair Cut and Came Home With a Note." I kid you not when I say this is probably one of the funniest things I've ever encountered, and this little story serves as a perfect example of Bernie's writing style. She's got the most conversational and friendly voice. As soon as you start reading, you feel included, as if you're one of her oldest and dearest friends, and she's just sharing another one of her quirky and humorous tales.

Oh, and how could I possibly forget Mr. Bernie? Mr. Bernie, who is Ms. Bernie's devoted, loving hubby and who often co-stars in One Mixed Bag. The posts co-starring Mr. Bernie usually keep me in stitches!

Scrumptious Survey: Questions answered by blog author, links added by me :). 

What’s your favorite dish/food? Pizza. I would assume that is everyone' favorite dish. If its not, it should be. My husbands pink and chocolate chip pancakes come in a close second.

What’s your favorite type of cuisine (Italian, French, etc.)? Chinese. I love a good Chinese buffet. The array of dishes are amazing. Chicken Lo Mein, rice, Sesame Chicken, Pot Stickers. I could go on, but I'm starting to drool on my keyboard just thinking about those dishes.

What is unique about the cuisine in your part of the world? In Montana they do quite a bit of Mexican cooking. That surprise me. Montana is not the Hispanic capital of the U.S. They like to use a lot of chili's and spices. I'm from Minnesota and we don't spice our food. Its rare to use salt or pepper!

Sweet or salty? Both. I enjoy butter salted popcorn with M and M's thrown in for good measure. Don't knock it until you have tired it. Lately, I have been trending towards salty pretzels. I'm sure by the middle of the month my chocoholic side will rear her ugly head.

What food are you craving right now? Other than pizza, Chinese and chocolate? *lol*

Do you like to cook? If so, do you ever share recipes on your blog? I do like to cook. My husband Mr. Bernie likes to be a "helper bee" when I'm cooking. It makes me nervous. I love to make hot-dishes, (that is a casserole for those of you anywhere else in the world) Wild Rice Hot-dish is my specialty. My folks bring us bags when they come to Montana to visit. I have more creamed soups and wild rice than most folks in Minnesota. I didn't really start cooking until I moved to Montana 7 years ago. I used to live on Ramen, popcorn and Mac and Cheese. Those were my three food groups. I make some mean bars, ones that will make you want to slap someone. (Most bars are like brownies.)

Where do you get the recipes you use? From cookbooks, blogs, online directories, etc? Cookbooks are my main source. My brother and his wife put together a cookbook for my wedding with all of their recipes. A church cookbook from my home church that has recipes from my Great Aunties and Grandma. I read Taste of Home Magazine. A Serbian cookbook is another one of my favorites. I'm famous for printing something off the internet and never being able to find it. My new pride and joy is a cookbook from my husband, "The Essential New York Times Cookbook". It covers recipes from the start of the Times recipe section. It offers suggestions for pairing different eras for meals. It might suggest a 1910 appetizer, a 1940 main course and a 1950 drink recipe. Have a I made anything out of it yet? Nope. Have I read it quite a bit. Yup.

What food-related word would you use to describe your blog? (i.e. salty, sweet, savory, delicious, yummy…) Get creative! My blog is salty if I'm feeling feisty. A bit cracked like crackle candy. Bitter if I get on a roll or something makes me mad. Add in a sprinkling of sweet when Mr. Bernie is being particularly sweet and adorable. My blog readers add the savory with all their wonderful comments.

Bernie at One Mixed Bag is one of those rare people you'll "meet," who has true wit and wisdom. She'll make you laugh guaranteed, and if she doesn't, then you just don't have any kind of sense of humor at all, ha! Seriously, pay Ms. Bernie a visit and treat yourself to some fun and a few (more like a lot of) laughs. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Inside Looking In: Landscaping in a Target-Rich Environment

Kudzu. When I moved here, I was disturbed at the sight of roadside trees taken over by the stuff. It's simply everywhere, and once it gets a foothold it can't be stopped. Supposedly, it's edible - but if demon flesh were edible, I wouldn't want to eat that either, for many of the same reasons.

This is Jeremy again, guest-posting and giving a little perspective. Kudzu seems so ubiquitous that I think you all need an outsider's point of view to really understand the thing you all seem happy enough to live with. When I tell people that I'm trying to get rid of the kudzu patch next to our house, they tell me with all the saged wisdom of the Oracle of Delphi that it simply can't be done. And I tend to agree, in the end: it grows by about a foot and a half hourly, so any progress you make is, ultimately, temporary at best.

Target-rich environment (n): when you can't swing a cat without hitting something that needs to die
Kudzu. It's mentioned several times as a force of unstoppable evil in the book Monster Hunter International (which I just finished, and recommend to anyone not put-off by the title). The author equates it with zombies and ghouls, except that the zombies and ghouls can be killed.

It's an incredible vine, from a neutral perspective. It grows aggressively, and its vines are strong. You can dry them and weave it into wicker baskets. Let it grow a week and you can weave an entire house, and all the furniture to go inside it. Not for nothing is it called "the vine that ate the South". To locals, it's a force of nature, just like ice in winter and storms in spring. Kudzu rules the summer, and to most people, you're better off just accepting that.

I haven't lived here long enough to give up, though. Ever since we bought our house two summers ago, I've been waging holy war against the unholy vine. The first front of attack was the lawnmower: over a couple months that first summer, I reclaimed about 30 square feet of yard space. No small accomplishment, if you ask me. I celebrated a little bit the first time I located the home root of a large vine complex (the cursed thing sprouts new roots along its length, but there's surely benefit to uprooting the original). Digging the root up was almost enough to make me give up entirely. The root is ten times stronger than the vine, and it went at least three feet deep into the ground.

Over the winter I went a little farther, pulling trailing vines out of the trees, but in the end that made no discernible difference at all. Still, by spring I had pushed it back far enough that Katie was able to spy the blossoms of a pear tree somewhere in the interior. I had my goal.

All last summer I worked my way to that tree, and by August I had it mostly uncovered. Unfortunately, there were living vines in the treetop itself; I despaired of ever rescuing it. By autumn, though, I had the nearby ground mostly cleared of kudzu. This spring, my goal has been to (1) kill and cut down any vines reaching the tree from the ground or other plants; and (2) kill and cut down the nearby growth so as to better display the lovely pear tree to our neighbors and prevent any new vines from making the leap across the gap.

To this end, I bought some nicer gardening tools this spring. The chief among these was a hedge trimmer, quite handy for snipping overhead vines and, as I found out, very useful for making my way through the curtains of kudzu between myself and the trunks of the bush/tree things I need to cut down. That's how I spent most of this afternoon: cutting away small growth with the hedge trimmers, then taking out the source with a fireman's axe (which was a gift not for gardening but zombie preparedness - but it's doing double-duty).

Today, the kudzu patch is smaller than ever, but it hasn't yet begun its true summer growth. Just a few early explorers, to see if the coast is clear (it isn't). But this victory has not been without cost: my nice hedge trimmers broke an important rivet on their way through the thick kudzu, and now they no longer work (and I can't seem to replace it with a bolt, it needs a very low-profile head). If I don't manage to fix it or find a replacement soon, there's no telling what kind of progress the Kudzu will make. 

I don't doubt for a minute that this is the very chance it's been waiting for: tonight, the invasion will begin in earnest. I am not dismayed. Tomorrow, I spray the whole area down with a strong dose of herbicide. Even if all I have left is a handheld shovel and a dull knife to hold dramatically in my teeth, I'll never stop hating and trying to kill kudzu. Unfortunately, even if I had a flamethrower and an industrual chainsaw, I'd never be able to stop kudzu from hating and trying to kill me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Little Tree That Could - 4.17

Jeremy and I planted a Japanese Maple seedling in the yard this past weekend. I'm really rooting (freakin' hilarious pun intended) for this little guy. I bought him at a local plant sale for two bucks, a fact which I'm very proud of. We've been wanting a Japanese Maple for awhile now, and this little seedling rooted its way right into my heart (freakin' hilarious pun intended...again). And after a little inspiration from Dweej over at House Unseen, Life Unscripted (check her out...not only does she have an amazing story, but she also has a fabulous sense of humor and great writing style), I decided to record the short but exciting life of J.M.through my blog. Dweej took some pictures of a as yet unidentified plant growing in her new yard, and she plans to post more pictures when the plant blooms, so I thought HEY! Great idea! I'll take a picture of little J.M. daily weekly monthly whenever I feel like it, and post it here for our enjoyment. We can watch him grow and become the tree he is destined to be!

J.M.: The Little Tree That Could

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Southern Storm

I’ve always counted myself as pretty brave when it comes to spring thunderstorms and Mother Nature’s fury. After all, I’ve lived in Georgia my entire life, and if you aren’t used to thunderstorms after living in Georgia for 28 years, then you’re not going to get used to them. When Jeremy first moved here from California, he’d get extremely incredibly pretty damn nervous when it would storm (although he probably wouldn’t appreciate me telling you so). Up in Jefferson State, where he’s from, thunderstorms were something of a rarity, and I suppose even when they did occur, they weren’t quite as volatile as a Southern storm can be.

During our first year together, his mother and sisters would call often after hearing about “bad weather” down South. I think they got more or less used to it after a while, but they still worried over him being swept up and blown away in a tornado for some time. Jeremy seems to have gotten used to Southern weather as well, although he still hates the humidity (it’s not the heat; it’s the humidity…truer words). Now me, well, I’ve gone and regressed a little since getting married. Take last night for example. All day long last Friday the weather people, including Glenn Burns aka minor weather god, were predicting bad storms to start sometime past midnight. Per usual, their predictions were dead on, and the storms started as scheduled around 6:00pm.

Up until then, the wind had been blowing like crazy, and I was scrambling around trying to put up the two oak leaf hydrangea and the tiny Japanese maple that I’d bought at a plant sale earlier in the week and had still not planted, as well as making sure anything that could get ruined by wind or rain was safely tucked away inside the garage. Basically, I was battening down the hatches. The wind felt so good as I darted here and there trying to get everything done before the storm, which was obviously arriving earlier than predicted. Frankly, I think that all my chicken-with-my-head-cut-off energy was coming from a little bit of nervousness and, dare I say, fear of the encroaching storm. Jeremy hadn’t gotten home at this point, and I honestly was feeling a little scared in anticipation of facing a wicked storm while home alone.

I’m embarrassed to even admit that. I’ve always loved storms. Thunder and lightning, the sound of the wind blowing and the rain falling. But in my old age, I’ve apparently become a bit of a wimp, a scaredy-cat who literally cowered behind my husband that night when a huge clap of thunder alarmed me. Great, another fabulous thing about getting older. What happened to the fearlessness of youth? I remember my sister and I hiding in the laundry room of my parent’s house when I was a child, a tornado raged outside the door and all I remember feeling was excitement.

But I’m rambling. The storms last week turned out to be not so bad. And Jeremy got home just in time, so he could protect me as a man is wont to do. We were bad and ordered hot wings from our favorite wings’ joint…right in the middle of the storm. Don’t worry we tipped the delivery guy really well. So, we ate our hot wings and watched the DirectTV screen saver flash across our tv screen while we ate. The satellite eventually came back on, but it didn’t really need to. Sadly, I was probably too distracted by my new found fear of thunderstorms to even notice what was on, and hey, this is Georgia; it won’t be long before another thunderstorm rolls around, and when it does, you’ll almost certainly find me, battening down any hatches, cowering behind my strong, fearless husband, and hiding under the bed with my three cats.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Melodrama Mondays - Que Sera Sera

Days like today remind me of one of my favorite songs: Que Sera Sera. I first heard the song when I watched Doris Day sing it in Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much. See I'm a pretty huge Hitchcock fan, and even though The Man Who Knew Too Much is not my favorite of his movies (even though it has my all-time favorite actor Jimmy Stewart in it), it stands out because of this song. I think it's the message behind the song that makes me love it so much. Well, that and the fact that Doris Day sings it so perfectly...there's just something fabulous about Doris Day.

But I digress. As a champion worrier, the thought that "whatever will be, will be" is a beautiful and calming one. For real I could win a gold medal in worrying, and today something came up that would normally make me worry like crazy. But I've decided I'm not going to fall into the old pattern today. I'm going to let things happen however they are going to happen and live with it. Worrying doesn't get me anywhere. It doesn't do anything for me, except give me gray hairs and stomach ulcers. I have to have faith that things work out how they are meant to and stop the worrying insanity. Because whatever will be, will be, and as long as I know I'm living my life right and doing the best I can, I have to trust that it'll all work out in the end.

Que Sera Sera
by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here's what she said to me.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

When I was young, I fell in love
I asked my sweetheart what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows, day after day
Here's what my sweetheart said.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother, what will I be
Will I be handsome, will I be rich
I tell them tenderly.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Biscuit Chronicles: Attempt 4 aka Biscuit Fail

Well, it was bound to happen at some point. And yesterday morning was as good a morning for it than any. I buckled under the tremendous pressure of the biscuit. I buckled, and I pulled out the Bisquick. Yes, sad but true. Bisquick's the go-to, get 'er done baking mix for complicated things like pancakes and dumplings, and I have used it several times before for making biscuits. I'd throw some milk in with the mix and shazam! Instant biscuit. But this was all before I changed my ways...long before the biscuit chronicles and back in the Age of the Canned Biscuit.

The title says it all. Literally.
But the saddest thing about this, Attempt 4 of the Biscuit Chronicles, was the fact that I couldn't even seem to make Bisquick biscuit right. I read on the box that I was supposed to roll out the dough to a 1/2 inch thick, and to me a 1/2 inch is apparently more like a 1/4 inch....and the resulting biscuit was very hard and flat. But hey, with cooking there are successes and failures and cop-outs. And this was definitely those last two. 

In other news, I had a pretty nice Saturday. Mama, me, and my husband went shopping for an upcoming trip to the North Georgia mountains next weekend. We stocked up on all of the "essentials," which mainly consisted of food; we're food-centric people. After the shopping expedition, we came back to my house where I prepared Baked Ziti for dinner. It's really rare that I get to cook for Mama (she usually does the cooking for get-togethers and such), and it was a nice treat to cook her dinner...a little payback I'd say for all the years she's spent cooking for me. And the best part? She seemed to enjoy the meal. I guess all daughters seek approval and validation from their mothers, but her enjoyment of the meal felt especially wonderful considering what a great cook she is. Every "yum" and "Katie, this is really good" was a feather in my cooking cap...definitely needed after the Bisquick Fail from the morning. 

Baked Ziti in my new Rachel Ray cookware. Can I get a "yum-o"?
It occurs to me that I'm always looking to my mother for reassurance and praise, and she's usually there to give it to me along with a hug and a "Go get 'em!", or otherwise to say something like, "Katie, don't you need to wax your eyebrows?! There's supposed to be two of them." Which is also very helpful. As much as we might fight against it growing up, most girls (women) eventually aspire to be their mothers. We aspire to be strong and loving and unselfish and kind. I hope that one day I'm even half the mother mine is, even if I am one who makes biscuits out of a box or a can every now and then. Heck, even Mama did it, too. 

What about you guys? Any pearls of wisdom you can share that your mothers used to share with you? Or the better question may be, have you become your mother?

PS - Can't leave my Daddy out. I'm a Daddy's girl to the bone. I was lucky to be blessed with two awesome parents.

PPS - Just in case you were wondering, a picture of the Bisquick Fail:

The one in the back corner is the giant biscuit from Hell. It tried to eat all the smaller biscuits. I saved them.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pimena Cheese

There are a lot of wonderful things about living in the South. Great, if not horribly humid, weather, super friendly folks, and, my personal favorite, the to-die-for food. I can't imagine living and eating anywhere else, and although I know I'll probably die young from all the deep-fried, artery-clogging, butter-dripping fare, I also know that I'll die full and happy.

Behold. A strike of pure technological and culinary genius. The Fry Daddy.
One of the Dixieland food items I love the most? Pimento cheese, or pimena cheese, as I've always heard it called down South. Now when I was a little girl, I turned my nose up a mile at the mere thought of pimena cheese. I can vividly remember my parents fixing pimena cheese sandwiches and how completely grossed out I'd be by them and their nasty eating habits. Keep in mind I was a girl who would eat popcorn for breakfast, so my tastes couldn't exactly be trusted. And even I soon enough learned this fact.

The day I tried pimena cheese for the first time was a glorious day indeed. Since then, I've experienced many different variations of this cheesy, yummy treat. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with even what the heck pimena (or pimento) cheese is, here's a quick explanation: it's cheese with pimentos in it.

Seriously, that's pretty much what it is. It makes a yummy spread that you can put on sandwiches and crackers, or just eat by the spoonful. You can buy the spread (in mild and hot versions) or make your own with an easy recipe like this:

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons diced pimentos
salt and pepper

And you basically just throw it all in a bowl and mix it together, then serve or chill. I always add cayenne pepper to mine, too. If you can get it nice and spicy, it's even better.

A recent variation I've had of the simple pimena cheese sandwich on white bread has been a pimena cheeseburger, which used to be available at Ruby Tuesday and isn't any more (boo, Ruby Tuesday, boo), but is more awesomely and yummy-ly available at a local restaurant in Rome, Georgia (a town about an hour from mine) called The Harvest Moon Cafe. The Harvest Moon calls their version of the burger the Pimp Burger, and I kid you not it's easily the best burger I've ever had. The meat was phenomenal, but the house-made pimena cheese smothered on the top was really what took the cake: Wicked Pimena Cheese.

Jeez, even talking about this burger and cheese spread makes me drool. Much to my dismay, you can't buy Wicked Pimena Cheese online, but you can always try to make your own version of plain ol' pimena cheese. I recommend that you at least try Southern Caviare, aka pimento cheese, at least once. It's a great taste of the South and is an easy, yummy way to dress up a plain, white bread sandwich.  

Hop, hopping with:

The Blog Entourage

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Dish featuring The Fancy Flea

Sometimes an image comes along that is so perfect and moving that you feel like you could reach inside and become a part of it. With this week's featured blog, this kind of image comes along often. Visiting daily will make you feel like you've blessed with a fabulous gift, the gift of being able to gush, drool, and dream over the lovely photographs of Lauren, author of The Fancy Flea

But The Fancy Flea, and Lauren, are both much more than just a pretty face (or pretty pictures). This is a wonderfully diverse blog with wonderfully diverse posts and an obviously kind-hearted and passionate author. When I visit, I never know what's going to be in store, but I always know it's going to be superb and probably make me either smile or drift off into dream-land or both.

Delicious Design

Soft, feminine, and simple: three words that come to mind when you visit The Fancy Flea. Lauren's kept the design of her blog very minimalistic and...well, there's no other word for it but pretty. The layout and background are both perfect to showcase the beautiful photography she posts.

I always feel so relaxed and happy after I check out The Fancy Flea. I just can't help but love the look and the feel of the blog. There's something about it that makes it stand out from other blogs (and not just because it's WordPress hosted and so many blogs are blogger hosted); it's just different and nice. Never the same ol', same ol'. But don't take my word for it, check it out yourself and see what I mean!

Appetizing Content
So there's probably no way I can ever say enough about the photography of The Fancy Flea. No possible way. These aren't typical photos; they're unique and different and usually make you think. They're art, and yet, they're not high-brow, over-your-head art. They're realistic, familiar, everyday images that are anything but ordinary. But again, I could never really say enough about the photography of The Fancy Flea, so I'll share some links to some of my favorite posts/images:

For Katie  (of course this would be one of my favorite posts, beautiful images of a darling edition of Black Beauty)

'Neath the Orange Tree (one of the first posts I read/viewed at The Fancy Flea...breathtaking photos of a picnic beneath an orange tree)

56/365 (the photographer calls this "the quickest photo" she's ever taken. Sometimes it only takes a moment to create something beautiful)

Honestly, there's so many more it isn't funny. Go through The Fancy Flea older entries's like a gold mine of prettiness!

Oh, and The Fancy Flea isn't just about photography. Lauren also shares great recipes, funny and sweet stories, and this girl and her hubby have the most beautiful and fabulous picnics ever. One thing I look for in a great blog is how varied and versatile the blogger is. I don't like one trick ponies, and The Fancy Flea is most definitely NOT a one trick pony. 

Scrumptious Survey : Filled out by Blog Author

What’s your favorite dish/food?
I am a huge fan of stirfries and curry.

What’s your favorite type of cuisine (Italian, French, etc.)?
I have two - my favourite type of food from a specific region would have to be Asia. The aromatic herbs and spices get me every time! My other favourite "type" of cuisine at the moment is Vegetarian - discovering new ways of cooking is so much fun.

What is unique about the cuisine in your part of the world?
I live in Australia, and as most people know we're a young country of migrants and settlers. There is such a diverse range of food, and such different cultural influences combining together to make a very colourful cuisine!

Sweet or salty?
Sweet! I have an insatiable sweet tooth!

What food are you craving right now?
My Mum's spicy pumpkin and lentil hotpot. I could make it but it wouldn't be the same as her making it for me!" :P

Do you like to cook? If so, do you ever share recipes on your blog?
I love to cook. I inherited it from my Mum. And yes, i share recipes on The Fancy Flea!

Where do you get the recipes you use? From cookbooks, blogs, online directories, etc?
I have an ever-growing collection of recipe books, but also gather inspiration from magazines, other blogs and

What food-related word would you use to describe your blog? (i.e. salty, sweet, savory, delicious, yummy…) Get creative
Experimental! Life is too short to not try new things :)

I'm a gusher; it's true. But I only gush about things that I'm totally passionate about. I hope you'll wander over to The Fancy Flea to see what all the GUSH is about. 

Linking up with:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Beauty of a Sno-Cone Stand - Parts V - End

Wait! Start at the beginning with Parts I - IV here.

The Beauty of a Sno-Cone Stand

My step-father hated me, but he believed me about the end of the world thing. He said so one morning over breakfast.
I was surprised at his admission and said so, to which he replied, “I always take apocalyptic threats seriously.” Over this, we shared a laugh.
I looked up apocalyptic later that day and learned that it was something related to the Bible and what was called the Apocalypse, which was really just a fancy way of saying the end of the world. This made me proud, because I figured that God was on my side and believed me, too.
I took my new knowledge and showed it off to Zacariah along with my new pair of red patent leather shoes, which really weren’t patent leather at all but cheap red plastic. They matched the end of the world x’s. Zacariah was impressed with neither my knowledge nor my shoes.
“Everybody knows what apocalyptic means, stupid.” He was sitting by Nick Harris, who was trying his best to sneer me into oblivion.
I squinted head-doctor style. “I thought you were my friend, Zacariah. Don’t you like my new shoes?” I tried for a modeling stance but only managed to trip over my too-big feet. Zacariah and Nick Harris shared a laughed, which was when I realized that the home room crew had gotten to Zacariah. They’d offered him the safety, security, notice of being one of them. In exchange, he’d offered them up the end of our friendship.
The world would end in six days, and suddenly, kissing Nick Harris didn’t seem so important. And after I put my calendar back on the wall, I found that my focus was back on track.
Three days before the world would end, my stepfather took me to church with him. He slicked down his greasy black hair and made me wear a dress and brush my teeth and off we went to The Assembly of God. It was the first time he’d ever invited me to go with him, and I felt strangely privileged.
I found that I was very impressed with the members of my stepfather’s church; they seemed to believe what I was saying about the world ending. I said so to a lady with hair as white as the marshmallows Mom puts on top of her pink salad. The lady just laughed. “No, honey, we just believe that you have the spirit of the Lord inside you.”
That sounded nice, so I tucked it away in my mind for later. Maybe that would be one of the things I would write about for the future. Plus, I liked to think about the spirit of the Lord being inside me; it made me feel not so alone.
On the way home from The Assembly of God, my stepfather smiled at me. This was quite an event, because I could not remember an occasion when he’d ever smiled at me before. I quickly realized, though, that all smiles weren’t all about kindness and laughter.          
I should’ve known better.
My stepfather’s smile seemed to be immediately swallowed up by his familiar nastiness. I guess some people like my stepfather, my homeroom class, and now Zacariah just couldn’t help but be mean. Maybe if they had the spirit of the Lord in them that meanness would just go away. I reasoned that when the world ended all the meanness would disappear like a giant magic trick.
I focused in on the scar just above my stepfather’s lip and listened carefully to the words that began coming out of his mouth, and though he kept his eyes trained on the road, I could still feel their force pushing down on me. “Did you hear them back there?” He asked me, sarcasm dripping from his voice and burning me like the hot wax from a candle, which was so pretty and shiny and easy to reach out and touch. “They said you had the Spirit inside you. You fooled them real good, didn’t you? Been fooling everyone with your talk of the end of the world. Even me, I’ll admit it. But when I really thought about it, I decided you were just out for a little attention. Well, you got it this morning, so I don’t want to hear anything else about the end of the world from you, okay?”    
“Okay.” Sometimes it’s easier to tell people what they want to hear.
January 11th was a sunny, surprisingly warm day, which I thought was very fitting for the day before the day the world would end. I didn’t dare mention this to anyone, but I wrote it down in the journal I’d begun keeping for the people that might still be around when the world ended.
Even though no one talked about the end of the world, I could tell they were starting to get nervous. Mom kept looking at me anxiously all morning over breakfast, and the kids at school were more standoffish than usual.
I didn’t let any of this bother me; when the world ended, none of it would matter anyway.
On the day that world was supposed to end, it didn’t. I waited around all day, knowing that at any moment everything would just be gone, and we could all start over someplace new. But it never happened.
For a twelve-year old girl who didn’t have much to look forward to, I was brutally disappointed.
Before I went to bed on the day the world didn’t end, I took down my calendar with it’s bleeding x’s and tiny red circle and stuffed it into the small pink trash can that stood beside my bedroom door.
My Mom came into the room a few minutes after that. I was sitting on my bed, studying the picture of the Sno-Cone stand. She said, “Well, I guess the world didn’t end.”
“I guess.”
She stepped closer to my bed, but I kept my eyes trained on the picture; if I squinted, I could make out the colorful bottles of syrup-flavoring lining the shelves behind the counter of the Sno-Cone stand. And my Mom asked, “Are you disappointed?” 
I shrugged, zeroed in on a bottle of what I thought was grape syrup, and said, “A little, I guess, but I figure there’s always next year.”
When I was twelve-years old, I still believed in Santa Claus. I even believed that I had seen him once on a cloudy October morning walking through the aisles of the local Super Mart with a forlorn expression and two six-packs of light beer. I smiled at him, but he ignored me and just kept right on going down the aisle, one six-pack tucked under each flabby arm.
I tell you this so that you understand the level of optimism and idealism that I’d maintained into my twelfth year. The world not ending didn’t deplete that optimism and idealism, and so on the day after the day the world was supposed to end, I decided that the new end of the world would be on a Friday in July. I even bought a new calendar; this one had colorful abstract photographs with faux-inspirational quotations by people like Winston Churchill and Ben Franklin, people who’d been dead so long that their formerly aesthetic and insightful language had taken on a decidedly unaesthetic and un-insightful gleam, but quite honestly, I wasn’t looking for inspiration from my new calendar. I was just looking for a place to record my hope with a red permanent marker, crossing off the uneventful days of my youth and anticipating a chance to start over.

Thanks so much for reading my attempt at fiction. I appreciate your kind comments and encouragement on the first half of the story :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Beauty of a Sno-Cone Stand - Parts I - IV

Author's Note: This is the first  four parts of a short story that was published in a local magazine called West Georgia Living. Thought I'd share it with those of you who may not have seen it. I'm weird about sharing my fiction and poetry, so this is making me incredibly nervous. Didn't want to post the entire thing in one post lest I bore you. :) Thanks for reading! 

The Beauty of a Sno-Cone Stand
When I was twelve-years old, I read about the end of the world and hoped I’d be there. It seemed like as good a place as any to be to a twelve-year old girl who didn’t have much to look forward to. So I looked forward, ignoring the stark and pale-under-florescent-light reality of my present, and began to plan.
I spent that first week making key decisions.
With the entire store of logic in my underdeveloped, underutilized, adolescent brain, I reasoned that the end of the world might as well be on a Wednesday afternoon, so I decided on one in January. When I informed my best friend Zacariah of this first decision, he approved and agreed that January was the worst month of the year because of all the snow and the fact that people broke a lot of promises because of the whole resolution thing.
I resolved that the end of the world would happen before people could break those resolutions. My last gift to everyone.
I started marking the days off my calendar in anticipation.
When my Mom would come into my room late at night to turn off my light, remove the book from my faux-sleeping chest, which I’d learned to make rise and fall in a perfect mimicry of real sleep, I’d watch her out of the miniscule slit in my eyes as she would look and sigh over the calendar on my wall with its red x’s counting down the days.
The first time she did this was on October 22; at first she only gave the calendar a cursory glance, but I guess she noticed the bleeding x’s, because she stepped closer to it and then began flipping ahead through the months. She’d always told me that looking towards the future on a calendar was bad luck, but I didn’t say anything in my pretend-sleep state.
When she made it to December, she stopped and puzzled over what I’d always called the baby calendar at the bottom of the page. In the same red ink as the x’s, she saw the tiny circle around the 12th day of January.
            The next day at the breakfast table, as I pushed around the little o’s of cereal that I thought matched the x’s on my calendar perfectly, she asked me what was supposed to happen on the 12th of January. I calmly informed her that it was the day the world would end. She just laughed, and then turned from her dishwashing at the sink to study me. She said, “the end of the world, huh?” 
And I nodded sagely and shoveled in more sugar-coated black holes.
When November rolled around, I began making a list of the things I would do on the day the world would end.
I’d tell my step-father just how I really felt about him. I’d tell him how his beer gut was the grossest thing on the planet as far as I was concerned and that I’d rather touch a slug than have to look at it all the time, so to please put on a shirt at least sometimes.
I’d announce to my entire homeroom class how I hated the way they avoided me every morning, like I smelled bad or something. I’d inform them, with just a hint of superiority, that I did not smell bad and that I knew that for a fact because I took a shower every day. And if they were avoiding me for a different reason, then they’d just have to tell me because the world was going to end anyway.
I’d take a picture of that Sno-Cone stand out by the new Wal-Mart that was closed for the winter. I thought that’d comfort me through all the horror and death and all, and people just don’t appreciate the beauty of a Sno-Cone stand.
I’d write a few things down of interest just in case anyone’s left or in case anyone ever returns, so they’ll have reading material and maybe won’t get too bored. Whatever I wrote would include the word segue, just because I found that I liked it.
I’d finally get up the nerve to kiss Nick Harris, full on the mouth. It would be my first kiss and his last.
The kiss with Nick became the only thing that mattered to me on my list. I even began to look forward to that kiss more than I was looking forward to the end of the world. That happens sometimes. We lose sight of what we really want in favor of the things we think we want. I thought I wanted that kiss from Nick more than I wanted anything in the world or, what would be, the un-world.
On December 14, as we pushed our loaded cart throught the Wal-Mart parking lot, Mom caught me taking a picture of the Sno-Cone stand with my step-father’s old Polaroid camera. She paled under the sickly glow of the winter sky and announced that it was time that I visited what she called a head-doctor. The appointment was made with a head-doctor by the name of Earnest Jones for December 23, Christmas-Eve-Eve, at 4:15 pm. That day I pouted all the way to his office and continued pouting during the session, though I don’t think I did a very good job of it because neither Mom nor Dr. Earnest Jones, head-doctor PhD, seemed to notice.
Like faux-sleeping, I was really good at faux-speaking. It was easier than you could imagine telling Dr. Earnest Jones, head-doctor PhD, just what he wanted to hear. He pretty much fed my lines to me.
I gobbled up words like depressed, lonely, purposeless, hormonal, neglected, adolescence, notice, and vacant, chewed thoughtfully, and spat them back out in an advanced form of faux-speak that even I hadn’t been aware I could produce.
The head-doctor seemed to be impressed with my faux-speak, too, because he kept nodding and grunting, squinting his dark-circled eyes in a way that was intended to make me believe he was really listening. On the day the world would end, Dr. Earnest Jones, head-doctor PhD, would regret never listening to the truth behind his patients’ faux-speak.
Before we left his office, the three of us mutually decided that I was just a lonely kid looking for a little attention in the wrong place. When we got home, Mom took down my calendar and, with that same squinty look the head-doctor used, sternly said to me, “the world will not end on January 12.”
As if saying it aloud would make it true.

To be continued...Read the ending here

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