I Blame My Mother

I’m neck deep in the quicksand of a website-conversion-slash-blog-migration-slash-shopping-cart-revamp-slash-Lord-knows-what-else-I’m-going-to-find-needs-doing.

None of which I would ever have attempted had it not been for my mother.

I spent my formative years watching her tackle just about every trade skill or hobby known to man because she just wanted it done. It never mattered what the skill was — upholstering furniture, plumbing, electrical work, website design, nuclear fission — she just rolled up her sleeves and wrestled it into submission.

Such fearsome competence has cast a shadow over my entire adult life. I am constitutionally unable to pay anyone to do something I myself might have a chance of sorting out.

So some people outsource. The women of my family self-source.

It’s an inherited disorder. And I’ve got it baaaaaaaad.

Anyway, should you notice odd blips with the blog, links, my websites or anything else, you know why. I hope to have everything ironed out soon.

In the meantime, hug a competent woman and thank her for raising the bar. (Thanks, Mom.)

Abigail

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Posted in Blogging | 6 Comments

Champagne Tastes & Beer Realities

Everyone has a talent. As for me, I can walk in to any store in the western hemisphere and with no knowledge of prices, pick out, by the simple virtue of what I honestly like best, The Most Expensive Anything in the entire store. I swear, it isn’t intentional.

Now you know what a saint I married.

As we embark on the remodel of our bathroom, I know I will be faced at every turn with my own infallible ability to love what I cannot afford. So I’m trying to take “the essence” of all the elements I love and shoehorn them into one small budget.

An homage, if you will, to a $50,000 bathroom but with a much smaller price tag.

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Posted in Decorating | 1 Comment

Chocolate for a Frugal Friday

Someone gave me a gift box of these Godiva Chocolate Biscuits once. I still haven’t recovered.

For better or worse, they cost $8.50 a box. If I planned to make them a fixture in my life, I’d be forced to take up a more profitable hobby. Like speculating in the international currency markets.

Theological Question: Is it wrong to thank God for Aldi when I pray?

I was doing my grocery shopping a couple of months ago and out of the corner of my eye, as I whizzed past, I caught a glimpse of these:

These are like tablets of Ecstasy for stay-at-home moms. I even had a chocolate-induced hallucination that I might squeeze into a bathing suit this summer.

Did I mention they are $1.29 per box?

It’s been years since I tasted the Godiva version, so I can’t say with any authority how closely these compare. What I can tell you is that I hid them from my husband. For days. I got down to the last one before the guilt set in and I was compelled to share.

Can you blame me?

They have Milk Chocolate, too. But when the choice comes down to milky sweet or dark and subtle, for me, there is no choice.

I ♥ Aldi.

Abigail

Posted in Egocentrism, Frugality | Leave a comment

When It All Began

We were very young. Twenty-two and twenty-three, in actual fact.

Neither of us wore glasses.

I was still paying off a credit card. (Sorry about that…)

We were naive enough to think the carpeting of our cheap apartment was damp because it had been steam-cleaned before we moved in. It was still damp when we moved out 18 months later…

We used dial-up internet.

We had no cell phone.

I was a pretty marginal cook.

We did all our grocery shopping together.

We ate things like macaroni and cheese and English muffin “pizzas.”

Your mother called every day for a week.

Your ex-girlfriend called. Twice.

You set her straight. Very nicely.

We fought about stupid things like where to put the cheese grater and not-so-stupid things like how soon before the due date bills should be paid.

We had no children, no expendable income and no idea we would ever leave Fayetteville.

It amazes me what eleven years can change.

And what they can’t.

You are still the man of my dreams. And I’m still the luckiest girl in the world.

I love you, babe. Your wife,

Abigail

Posted in Egocentrism, Family & Friends | 3 Comments

Chocolate Chip Brownie Pillows

DISCLAIMER: I am not a “chef.” While culinary precision and sophistication are qualities I admire in others, these are not among my gifts. I’m lazy.

But I’m a huge fan of comfort food. And by “huge,” I mean… never mind.

Where my culinary skills tend to shine is in the arena of dessert. To me, dessert is a culinary act of redemption — a chance to send your guests into a state of euphoria that will sponge from their minds the memory of dry chicken and bland veggies.

This recipe is an adaption of “Chocolate Chip Brownie Pillows” from Southern Living Annual Recipes 2009 — tweaked because I like much more brownie than their recipe calls for. And it’s all about me and my needs, of course.

CHOCOLATE CHIP BROWNIE PILLOWS
1 package Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix (for an 8″ x 8″ pan)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 T. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 package semisweet chocolate chips

Bake brownies according to package directions. Cool completely. No cheating on this one.

Cream together butter, shortening and brown sugar. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating after eat addition. Stir in vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually add into creamed mixture and stir until blended. Stir in chocolate morsels. Cover and chill dough 2 hours.

Cut the brownies into narrow slices, 3/4″ wide or so. Lightly grease 12-14 small ramekins1.

Put one large spoonful of chilled cookie dough in each ramekin and spread out until you have a thin layer covering the bottom of the dish. Top the cookie dough with a layer of sliced brownie — I turn the narrow slices on their side for the best coverage — covering as much of the cookie dough as possible. Feel free to break slices apart or fill gaps with crumbs; no one will ever know. Unless they read this blog.

Take another large spoonful of cookie dough into your hands and flatten it into a rough circle. Place the circle of dough over the top of the brownie and spread out to cover the brownie. Make sure the brownie is completely “sealed” by the cookie dough so it doesn’t dry out or burn while baking. Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown.

NOTE: The center of the top layer may still be slightly “doughy” underneath. If you’re a fan of raw cookie dough, you’ll be in heaven. If that freaks you out, just add a few minutes to the baking time and cover the ramekins with aluminum foil for the first few minutes of baking to prevent over-browning.

Serve hot, topped with a scoop of ice cream. Makes 12-14 servings.


1 My ramekins are about 3″ in diameter. If you don’t own any ramekins or other small oven-safe dishes, you can use muffin tins. Just note that the quantity and proportions will probably be different than described above. You should also understand that the use of individual serving dishes such as ramekins is an effective deterrent against Chocolate Chip Brownie Pillow Hoarding (CCBPH), a clinical disorder characterized by the sufferer stealing an entire muffin tin of CCBP, locking him or herself in a closet or vehicle and consuming all 12 servings in one sitting. An outbreak of CCBPH is usually followed by an acute case of Sudden Onset Chocolate Overload. Symptoms include labored-breathing, abdominal distention, rolling eyes and moaning, quickly followed by excessive milk consumption and a four-hour nap.

Posted in Recipes | 1 Comment

Mothers & Sons

I have the best of both.

Although in personality I most resemble my dad, my mama had the unenviable job of tempering the concatenation of quirks, freaks and neuroses that is yours truly into a balanced, moderately normal human being.

And you thought your job was tough.

In all seriousness, my mom has been my steadfast guide through good times and bad. Although I stopped being afraid of her as soon as I became taller than she, I have never stopped respecting her for her graciousness, humor, wisdom and love.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! You are an amazing woman and I am so proud to be your daughter.

And then, five years ago today, I had a child of my own.

Words fail me. That innocent little lamb had no idea — still doesn’t — how he rocked my world with his arrival.

Most people only imagine babies this easy. I actually had one. A sweeter, sunnier baby than our little Griffin couldn’t be had.

Five years later, I am daily reminded of the blessing God gave us in the cherubic form of this little fellow. His tender heart, his helpful spirit, his lively sense of humor, coupled with perpetual motion and photographic memory, all brighten our home. I have never met a boy who takes more delight in just being with his family — wherever we are and whatever we do.

My mama often says that God gave us the children He did because through them, He can transform us into the people He intended us to be. Serving their needs, their personalities, their uniqueness help mold our lives into all that our Heavenly Father longs for us to become.

I’ve learned at least a few things through my sweet son. Such as patience. Having a sweeter spirit. Tempering my sarcasm. The currency of earnest praise. Knowing enough to slow down and savor moments with my family before they pass by.

He’s not a perfect angel. And he hasn’t made me into one, either. But I thank God everyday for the privilege of being his mama.

Happy Birthday, sonny! We love you!

Posted in Family & Friends, Kids | 1 Comment

Variations on a Theme

As you can see, I’m monkeying with the appearance of the blog. WordPress has launched a new theme (“Twenty Ten,” for those who care) that offers much more flexibility than the one I’ve been using and I had to give it a go. So far, so good, but it will take me some time to play with all the new bells and whistles and get ’em singing my song.

Is that enough of mixed idioms for you?

Changes will continue to be made throughout today — or for the next 90 days, if it takes me that long.

If you’re like me and despise change, my apologies. Should you need to hide under the covers and suck your thumb for awhile, I understand.

Ciao.

Abigail

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I Do Own A Calendar

But you can’t really tell by my front door.

Being that I’m expecting company on Monday, I thought it time to take down the St. Patrick’s Day wreath and switch it out with something a bit more seasonal.

(Eventually, I hope to have 12-month back-stock of door decor and thus avoid the I’ll-leave-it-up-because-I-have-nothing-to-hang-in-its-place-yet postponement that has become almost ritual around here.)

Naturally, finding something to hang on the front door is the perfect excuse to avoid the things I really need to do in preparation for my guests — like cleaning my house. Which is, of course, why I did it.

I know most people cover grapevine wreaths with flowers, feathers and whatnot. But I’m just perverse enough to like the twiggy goodness of the vines for their own charming selves. I just cobbled a swag out of a pussy-willow-like selection from Hobby Lobby with a little burlap bow.

That’s really all it takes to make me happy.

Although one of these couldn’t hurt, either.

Posted in Crafting, Decorating | Leave a comment

Where Good Franchises Go to Die

The cable guide actually labeled it Iron Man. Imagine my surprise when we started the DVR and found this instead. I can only surmise that we were fated to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Nobody Really Cares About Making Good Movies Anymore.

This kind of thing only happens by accident.

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Posted in Movies, Writing | Leave a comment

Scenic 30-A: Cottage Charm Giveaway

While I was in college, I was very fortunate to spend two summers working in Destin, Florida.

These were very formative summers for me, not the least because they served as a proving ground for a budding romance with the man who eventually became my husband.

I worked at the Customer Service counter of a grocery store — which is quite the place to be in the middle of tourist season, I can tell you. Among some of my more momentous life lessons and experiences:

  • I met Amy Grant.
  • I learned to distinguish at least three distinct variations of Mississippi Southern accent.
  • I rode out two major tropical storms.
  • I had a pregnant woman go into labor while I was ringing up her groceries — and then refuse my offer of help to load her car.
  • I learned to intuit with astonishing accuracy the type of cigarettes preferred by almost any given customer. It’s amazing how certain types of people gravitate to certain brands.
  • I sold liquor illegally. (I had to relieve the liquor store clerk for her break one day. The store manager apparently didn’t realize I wasn’t 21 at the time.)
  • I learned that the thrill of a four-hour, deep sea fishing cruise is greatly diminished by the sensation — not to mention odor — of baiting your hook with squid. Like neoprene rubber covered in snot. Gross.
  • It was the general consensus of the locals that Roy Scheider is a creep. I’m just telling you what I heard.

Nevertheless, I have a very soft place in my heart for the Redneck Riviera.

If you share my admiration for white, sugar sand beaches and blue waters, I hope you’ll enjoy this contribution to  Kim’s Fourth Annual Cottage Charm Giveaway.

Included in this giveaway is “Beaches of Scenic 30-A,” an original, destination blind-style painting featuring twelve of South Walton’s most beautiful beaches, painted on 12″ x 24″ canvas in a beautiful gray-green acrylic and then distressed for that beachy appeal.

(Sorry about the crummy photos. This is the best I could do on a rainy day…)

Villages listed include: Dune Allen, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, WaterColor, Seaside, Seagrove Beach, WaterSound, Seacrest, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach and Inlet Beach.

TO ENTER:

Leave a comment to this post, including your email AND answering the following question:

“If you could have a destination blind from any city/area in the world, what city/area would you choose?”

TO ENTER A SECOND TIME:

Click here and become a Facebook Fan — or “Liker,” or whatever they’re calling it these days.  Every Facebook Fan/Liker will receive an additional entry in the giveaway.

Winner will be announced on May 29th. Don’t forget to include a way to contact you in case you win!

RULES:

  1. I will ship within the contiguous United States only.
  2. Ummmmm … can’t think of any other rules at the moment. But I reserve the right to add or amend them at any time if it suits me.

Thanks and good luck!

Posted in Crafting, Decorating, Giveaway | 101 Comments