Archives for December 2011

That Was A Bit Of A Hiatus, Wasn’t It?

Well, my word. I had no intention of being gone for so long. But even though it wasn’t planned, it’s been good. We’ve had three (THREE!) unexpected visits from friends who popped into town for one reason or another, plus a few days with my parents, sister and brother-in-law, and I have had the best time hanging out and catching up and drinking way too many Peppermint Mochas.

Do you know what the Peppermint Mocha is, by the way?

IT IS A BLESSING.

I don’t know that there’s any merit at this point to a recap of the past week (we’ve done a lot of talking! we’ve done some unwrapping! there has also been a great deal of cooking!), but there are a few specific highlights that I would like to share with you at this juncture. Keep in mind that these things are very trivial and unimportant in the grand scheme of life, but that’s sort of been my ongoing bloggy theme for the last six years.

Why stop now?

1. I watched two movies.

There was a time in my life (see: late teens to mid-20s) when I could rattle off a list of what movies were playing in theatres without even consulting the Internet.

Wait. Rewind.

From my late teens to mid-20s the Internet pretty much consisted of an AOL home page and the occasional message board. So there actually wouldn’t have been a whole lot of “consulting the Internet” during that phase of my life. However, there would have been a great deal of consulting the newspaper as well as Entertainment Weekly.

So there. I feel better now that we’ve cleared up our movie consultation terms.

ANYWAY, I used to be pretty obsessed with movies / aware of everything in theatres / likely to see just about anything that caught my fancy. But then I turned 30 and became increasingly annoyed by people who talked throughout movies. And I also realized that there were fewer and fewer movies that I actually enjoyed. Combine those things with the fact that there was a whole lot of cleaning / furniture rearranging / decorating that I could accomplish over the course of 2 1/2 hours on a Saturday afternoon, and, well, the movies and I sort of had a parting of the ways.

That was such an endless overexplanation, by the way.

I do apologize.

The bottom line is that these days I rarely know what’s showing at the movies. I don’t know what gets good reviews or bad reviews, mainly because I don’t, you know, read reviews. And that is precisely why I had no idea what I was getting into when I recorded You Again and How Do You Know when they were on the Starz free preview a couple of days ago.

(I mean, that Kristen Bell was just adorable in Veronica Mars.)

(And who doesn’t love a Reese Witherspoon movie? She is DARLIN’ PLUS.)

So I recorded both movies and I watched both movies and I was underwhelmed by both movies and HERE’S THE TAKEAWAY: it would serve me well to READ SOME REVIEWS every once in awhile.

I feel that I’ve learned a valuable lesson.

2. I changed my skin care regimen.

It was back in the early fall, I think, when I looked in the mirror one morning and wondered why there was a middle-aged woman with dull skin staring back at me. And also: why did the skin under her eyes look so puckered? And why was there a place on her forehead that wasn’t so much a wrinkle as it was an indentation?

I gave myself a short motivational speech about drastic times, drastic measures, etc. and so on and so forth, and I promptly started to investigate some new skin care options. I narrowed down my list to a few products I wanted to try, and then lo and behold a friend of mine who is walking through a similar skin care season surprised me with several of those products. I practically hitch-kicked in our foyer on the day the unexpected package-o-potions arrived, and I thanked the Lord for sweet friends who spur us on to exfoliation and wrinkle prevention when it comes our skin care goals.

I also thanked him for Retinol.

The new products have been resting comfortably on my bathroom counter for a month now (I was totally intimidated by the multi-step process), but a couple of nights ago I finally started using them. I would love it if this could be like an infomercial and I could now tell you how my skin has never looked better! I’ve stopped wearing foundation! My pores are practically invisible! – but right now my skin is in that adjusting-to-new-products phase. At this very moment, in fact, I’m soldiering through a bit of a break out, but I’m hopeful it will be short-lived.

Stay tuned for more riveting skin care updates as the situation progresses.

3. We had homemade banana pudding for Christmas dinner dessert.

I forget about homemade banana pudding. It often gets lost in the shuffle of All Things Chocolate.

But oh, it is an underrated wonder, isn’t it?

*****

Okay. Enough of my nonsense. HOW ARE Y’ALL? How was your Christmas? Have you recovered? What was your favorite gift that you gave someone?

I have so many questions.

So I’ll let y’all talk now.

The Christmas Poncho And Other Holiday Tales

Well.

Saturday morning our crew of three woke up and headed to Mississippi so that we could celebrate Christmas with D’s side of the family. I was sort of annoyingly excited about it because over the last couple of years I have discovered that I am a person who enjoys having Plans At Christmas. I used to think I was a person who just wanted to roll with it and be all devil-may-care-ish at Christmas, but then there was The Unfortunate Holiday Season of 2009 where we didn’t get to see any of our family on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day or New Year’s.

Needless to say, The Unfortunate Holiday Season of 2009 TAUGHT ME SOME LESSONS. And now? I make a point to map out a Christmas plan. We don’t need a calendar filled with mindless activity, mind you, but I have discovered that it’s good (for me, at least) to have a reason to fix my hair and put on a little make-up and interact with other humans. Cold, gray weather tends to put me in a funk, and I do a better job of fighting the funk when I’m surrounded by happy people and good times and the occasional cream cheese-laden appetizer.

Apparently my emotional needs tend to err on the side of simple.

Our first Mississippi stop was Martha’s house. You will not be at all surprised to learn that she greeted us wearing one of her favorite jackets, only this time it was a cute gray one (but not as cute as the one she found at Hudson’s Treasure Hunt! because it’s just the cutest! and it looks like ostrich! and it’s just so cute can you even believe how cute JUST LOOK HOW CUTE IT IS!). Martha hosted three dessert parties last week – each for a different group of friends – and so she regaled us with tales of the dessert parties and who was there and what they wore and how much fun they all had.

Listen. I don’t know what the 70- and 80-something set is up to in your hometown, but in my hometown, they are DECKIN’ SOME HALLS.

After we visited for a little bit we went out to lunch with Martha and David’s brother’s family. We had a great time, then went back to Martha’s to exchange presents. We knew that Scott and Rose were giving Martha a Kindle, so one of her presents from us was a gift card from Amazon. Her other present from us was a little something I picked up in Steinmart because I thought it might be a fun alternative to Martha’s beloved jackets.

Yes indeed. We got Martha a poncho. And considering that she put it on as soon as she took it out of the box and continued wearing it for the duration of our visit, I think she was a fan.

She was also a fan of her Kindle, but I think it’s going to take a little practice before she’s completely comfortable with it. I say that because when we left her house late Saturday afternoon, Martha was tapping the screen to turn the pages with such vigor that I feared for the Kindle’s well-being. It reminded me of when D and I were first married and the cashier at the Walgreens near our house poked the keys on the cash register so hard that I worried she was going to knock the keyboard off of its pedestal. She’d look over her reading glasses, dart her eyes this way and that as she tried to find a 7 or a 3 or a 9, and when she finally found it, she’d practically punch whatever number she was looking for. It was almost like she thought she was playing Whack-a-Mole and needed to smack the number before it got away from her.

So that? Is pretty much Martha with a Kindle.

It really was such a fun visit, and on the way home we decided to stop for supper in Livingston, Alabama. Scott told us that we needed to try a restaurant there, and he raved so much about it that our curiosity wouldn’t let us pass by the exit without giving it a try.

Y’all.

I’m gonna tell you what.

If you are ever on I-20 and wondering if there is anywhere to get a good steak near Livingston, Alabama, I am here to tell you that the answer is YES, A MILLION TIMES YES. I should’ve known that any place called Diamond Jim’s & Mrs. Donna’s was bound to be good, but I was not prepared for how out-of-this-world delicious their steaks would be. However, I suspected that I was in for a treat when I first sat down at our table.

I haven’t done any sort of scientific poll, but restaurants that leave crackers on the table almost always have the best food. It’s as sure as the sun.

And as an added bonus, Diamond Jim’s also served some mighty fine fried dill pickles.

The fried pickle spear is a little bit of a step-out in this part of the country; we usually favor fried pickle chips. But OH. The fried pickle spears at Diamond Jim’s were delicious, and I’m pretty sure that at least part of the batter was bread crumbs. Delightful, they were.

After supper we rolled back to the car and finished the last leg of our trip. I figured that we had probably exhausted most of our weekend fun, but Sunday after church some old friends who were in town came over for lunch. It did our hearts good to get to spend the day with them, and it was so pretty outside that the kids ran and played in the backyard for, no kidding, about four hours straight. It was a ’bout-near-perfect afternoon.

So that’s what’s going on in our neck of the woods. I’m about to make a big batch of these super-addictive crackers, and then I may play a little bit of a new hidden object game that I downloaded last night. So far it hasn’t sent me into a spiral of obsession quite like my beloved Dire Grove did, but I’m optimistic that it’s going to be a good ‘un.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted. Between my new game, Martha’s new poncho, and my new favorite Alabama steakhouse, I have to say that the week is shaping up nicely.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

Because I Don’t Want To Miss The Fun

Nester and Kelly are each hosting a Christmas Tour of Homes right now, and even though I wasn’t planning to participate because I didn’t think I’d have time to pull a post together, yesterday I thought, Hey! I like Christmas! I like decorations! – and even though my decorations are nothing spectacular, they feel like home to our little family. So I thought I’d share.


This is the tree in our little boy’s room. I can take absolutely no credit for it because my mama decorated it when I was in Ecuador last month. But the little man is crazy about it, and I love walking down the hall and getting a glimpse of those lights.


Our tree looks a lot like it always does. For the last couple of years we’ve had colored lights instead of white lights, and I am a fan. I think white lights are so elegant, but Mama used to put colored lights on our tree when I was a little girl, so I have continued that tradition. Of course, Mama uses white lights on her tree now, but I’m going to stick with the colored lights. It’s A MATTER OF CHRISTMASTIME PRINCIPLE, PEOPLE.

Also, I should probably point out that Mama also decorated our main tree while I was in Ecuador. It makes me feel just the tiniest bit like a slacker, but more than anything it makes me resolved to plan a mid-November trip EVERY SINGLE YEAR FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

All I’m sayin’ is that it was delightful to walk in the house after a week away and find two beautifully decorated trees. THANKS, MAMA!

(Mama doesn’t actually read my blog.)

(She’s fond of saying that she certainly can’t get on the Internet considering that she’s not even sure how to “turn on the email.”)


I don’t know if this plant actually falls into the Christmas category or not, but I saw it at a local nursery a couple of weeks ago and decided that it needed to live with us. It was in the middle of all the poinsettias and miniature Christmas trees and rosemary shrubs and whathaveyou, so I told myself that it’s a Christmas plant and brought it home and the end.


We don’t have a mantel over our fireplace (note to self: after five years in this house, it might be time to remedy that situation), so I hang our stockings on the circa-1974 bar that sits in a corner of our living room. It’s one of those unique-to-this-house traditions that makes me smile, mainly because it’s not really the most typical place to put some stockings (“Their stockings were hung by the wet bar with care / In the hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there but resist the temptation to rifle through the cabinets and fix himself a hot toddy”).

We don’t actually have any alcohol in or around the wet bar, mind you, but still: I am tickled by the notion of stockings hanging on a bar. WACKY BAPTIST, I AM.


Last year Alex’s teacher asked us to send in 350 strips of fabric, and after I finished breathing into my favorite paper bag that I keep on hand specifically for craft-related meltdowns, I went to the fabric store and waved the instruction sheet in the general direction of a couple of sales clerks while I tried not to panic in the presence of all those notions and needles and specialty scissors. After I bought the fabric, my sister had mercy on me and cut every single one of those fabric strips in approximately seven minutes.

You may be picking up on the fact that my family members tend to stand in the gap for me where Things Crafty are concerned. They understand that, if I’m left to my own devices, any task requiring scissors and/or thread is going to turn real ugly real fast.

ANYWAY (WAS THERE EVEN A POINT TO THIS STORY?), I think the fabric wreath is as cute as it can be, and I hung it on our back door as a reminder that the Lord always sends people to walk with us through difficult craft-related times.

Hallelujah.


I hung some ornaments on the chandelier in our dining room, and this is a picture of that and also sort of a picture of one of my feather trees. And I don’t really know what else to say about that.

HI. WELCOME TO MY CHRISTMAS TOUR. I TOOK SOME PICTURES OF SOME STUFF AND SOME THINGS.


And listen. This is what you call DECORATIONS GONE AWRY. I found that orange bird at a flea market in my hometown, and I wanted to put it in the center of the main wreath in our dining room. But then I realized that attaching the bird to the wreath would require some sort of wire or fishing line or whatever, and I was all, NO THANK YOU, MA’AM, I BELIEVE THE BIRD WOULD JUST LIKE TO REST ON THE WINDOW SILL.

Really, I’m just here to inspire you to reach for the decorative stars. I feel that it’s my mission and purpose in life. Go big or, well, just give up and fix yourself a Diet Coke and watch that Selling Spelling Manor show on HGTV because she has ONE HUNDRED FIFTY NINE toy soldiers that she bought at Los Angeles-area Costcos.

FASCINATING.


This is one of our Nativity sets. Normally it’s spread out a little bit more, but Alex set it up and I just left it alone. I can’t decide if the cow and the donkey are feeling anti-social or if they’re standing guard over baby Jesus, but either way: DELIGHTFUL.


I have a child who enjoys a Christmas countdown, so we have several different countdown items in our breakfast room. One is the chalkboard – a gift from A.’s sweet kindergarten teacher.


I found this countdown placemat at Target right after Thanksgiving, and it’s been a huge hit what with the spinny wheel that you use to change the date and all.


This Advent wreath makes my heart melt a little every time I look at it. I ordered it from Ann’s son Caleb, and all the profits go to Compassion International. We’ve been using one candle throughout Advent, but on Christmas Eve, we’re going to light ‘er up with 24. For me this wreath has been a great visual reminder that with every day of Advent we inch a little bit closer to the birth of Jesus; with every day of Advent we move a little bit closer to the manger.

Somebody really needs to sing “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” right now.

Seriously. I’ll start. Y’all chime in with some harmony.


Finally (FINALLY!), this is our Christmas card tree. I started putting a Christmas card tree in our playroom about five years ago when we got a free tree from Home Depot (it was a Thanksgiving sale promotion). This year the Christmas card tree looks a little sad because we haven’t gotten a whole lot of cards yet, but I’m holding out hope that the tree will be filled to overflowing by the end of next week. Since most of our friends have kids who are 10 and up, the cards don’t roll in quite as fast as furious as they did when everybody had toddlers and couldn’t wait to share a picture of their young’uns wearing various and sundry smocked clothing items on the beach.

Those were good Christmas card times.

So. There you have it. My (endless) (non-crafty) Christmas tour. I hope I didn’t put you to sleep, but if I did, I certainly hope you enjoy your nap.

Be Merry, y’all.

Attention, Gift Givers Of The Universe

Some of y’all may remember a few years ago when I first told you about a sassy little jewelry case my sister-in-law Janie invented. It’s called the JJ, and it’s the perfect way to store your jewelry when you travel. Nothing gets tangled or knotted, and everything stays in its place once you’ve wrapped up the JJ and put it in your suitcase.

Here’s a little sampling of patterns – there are lots of cute ones!

Janie emailed me earlier today to tell me that she’s ready to close out this round of patterns – and as a result she’s having a big ole sale. The full-size JJ is only $25, and the JJ Junior is $15. The Junior is perfect for a weekend trip OR for a young girl who’s just started to get interested in jewelry. The full-size JJ will hold a TON (okay. not literally.) of jewelry and is my personal favorite when I travel because, well, I like lots of earring options.

SO, if you need a fab Christmas gift – or just a little happy for yourself – click on over and check out all the cute (and affordable!) designs. I have full confidence that Janie will ship out your order right away because she’s a total list-maker and doesn’t like stuff hanging over her head. Her calendar is color-coded, people. She doesn’t mess around in matters of efficiency.

Just wanted to pass along the good word about a great gift – let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer!

Practically Pointless

At some point I assume that I’ll have something relatively exciting to blog about, but unfortunately this is not the day for that. This is the day when I can tell you how yesterday I bought a cute vinyl table cloth at the Walmarts for $4.88 and am now using it as a fun little Christmas topper on our breakfast room table.

See?

RIVETING, I TELL YOU.

But for better or worse, the ordinary has just been the lay of the land around here. For the last couple of days I’ve worked for a little while, met friends for lunch, crossed some stuff off my to-do list, solved several of the world’s problems with Melanie and then watched a fairly impressive amount of reality television programming.

Oh! But wait! I ALSO WATCHED BASKETBALL.

Last night’s game wasn’t on UVerse, so I had to watch it on the computer, and SWEET MERCY WHY IN THE WORLD DOES THE INTERNET LET ME HAVE A BLOG? The next thing you know I’ll be talking about how I have a lime green rug in the playroom, followed up by an exciting update on Martha’s Latest Jackets.

All I can figure is that I’m pushing my way through a pesky bout of writer’s block, and at some point the mental fog will lift and I’ll have some thoughts about some things – and those thoughts MIGHT EVEN BE CONNECTED.

As it stands, though, disconnected is the best I can do, so I will share All The Disconnectedness with you at this juncture.

(Well, maybe not ALL of it. Just some of it.)

(If I shared ALL of it, you would be concerned for me.)

(And maybe wonder if you should try to contact my loved ones about the fact that MAMA’S SLIGHTLY OFF THE RAILS.)

1) I feel that Top Chef contestants are too dependent on the scallop. I get that scallops cook quickly and therefore lend themselves to challenges, but I don’t think there’s been a single episode where the scallop hasn’t been featured in some way. WHAT ABOUT SHRIMP?

2) Tonight’s episode of Survivor was weird. Lots of drama and icky emotional manipulation. IN MY OPINION.

3) Today I was trying to figure out my menu for Christmas. Do y’all happen to have any fun food traditions for Christmas that are slightly non-traditional?

4) Speaking of Christmas: The Nester’s Christmas Tour of Homes is tomorrow – be sure to stop by and check out (and join in) all the pretty. Kelly is hosting another Christmas Tour on Friday.

5) I’m thinking about having a Miss America pageant viewing party here on the blog. It’s January 14th. Anybody game?

Okay. I think I’ve hit the point where I need to wrap it up and put an end to the misery that is this post. But at least I have my pajamas. And my DVR. Not to mention my sassy Walmart tablecloth.

I mean, if I have to have writer’s block, at least I get to wear flannel and watch strangers pick out houses overseas while I gaze at a tabletop covered with lime green and hot pink Christmas trees.

The end.

Random Things That Made Me Happy Today

1. An early-morning catch-up conversation with Emma Kate
2. A mid-morning catch-up conversation with Melanie
3. Listening to the little man’s class sing Christmas songs
4. Knowing that there’s a little breathing room schedule-wise this week, OH PRAISE THE LORD
5. A very fun lunch with a very fun friend
6. The softest, coziest scarf ever – I have decided that it’s going to be my grown-up version of a blankie
7. Putting stamps on all our Christmas cards while I sat in the waiting room at the dentist’s office
8. Laughing with Sister about some funny Mississippi expressions
9. A husband who sat down in the middle of the bedroom floor to listen to me talk about my day
10. Beautiful branches with berries (thanks, Alison)

11. A blog post by someone I’ve never read before – and who I’ll definitely read again
12. Talking to my friend Elise on the phone and laughing so hard that I had to stomp my feet
13. Remembering Proverbs 29:25: “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.”
14. Watching last night’s episode of The Next Iron Chef
15. This room on Pinterest
16. Strawberry Orange Banana Crystal Light – it is deeeeeee-licious
17. Realizing that when some days feel a little more gray than others, God sometimes uses sweet friends to be the sunshine.

I’ve been so grateful for that sunshine today.

What are some happy moments from your day?