Nary A Sunrise, Nary A Sunset, & A Few Other Items Of Note

This year our spring break was later than it’s ever been. It was fine, of course, because it lined up so nicely with Easter weekend and all of that, but I’m here to tell you that I was a little twitchy by the time we actually got out of school on the 27th. I reminded myself that by the time we started back to school after the break we’d be knee-deep in spring activities and the rest of the year will fly, but by the time I wrapped up work and a couple of speaking engagements week before last, I was so excited about the prospect of some time at the beach that I could have collapsed from the joy of it all.

And listen. After I collapsed, it would have taken me every bit of six seconds to fall into a deep, restorative sleep that would span some several hours.

It was late last Sunday afternoon when we finally made it to the beach, and after we unloaded the car and got Hazel squared away, I went to the grocery store and bought everything we could possibly need for the next few days. We were all in agreement that going out to eat didn’t interest us at all (as a general rule, I love cooking at the beach), so I wanted to get the shopping out of the way and then get back to the condo and select my very favorite yoga pants / t-shirt combo for the rest of the evening.

And that is exactly what I did.

I also read. And read. And read. And then I read some more.

It was very delightful.

And here’s what dawned on me Wednesday night: I did not take a single picture of a sunrise or a sunset while we were at the beach. THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED. I don’t have any idea why I was such a slacker in terms of my normal pattern of compulsively documenting the gorgeousness, but I totally neglected my self-appointed duties as a nature photographer. However, I am currently slightly obsessed with the baby leaves on all the trees, so even though I’ve failed with the sun, I will try to redeem myself with an annoying number of Instagram pictures of foliage. Consider it my gift to you.

By the time we packed up and headed home on Thursday morning, we were all pretty much relaxed out of our minds. We barely turned on the TV, we slept like champions, and we had the best time just soaking up the days (but not, in my case, the rays – I stayed in the shade as much as I possibly could). Normally I like to stay at the beach until the last possible minute before I have to be back at work, but I got the biggest kick out of just being at home Thursday through Sunday. Time in my house is such a luxury to me, and I did all sorts of wild and crazy things like stocking the pantry, baking a pound cake, organizing receipts, cooking real-live vegetables for lunch, and finishing a whole day of Bible study homework at one time.

This morning we had to go back to school and work, but I don’t think any of us minded one bit because it was such a good break. We had a really sweet Easter Sunday (and maybe a little sneezy, too – the pollen here has been killer), and I’m excited about finishing up this school year and then hopefully jumping headfirst into some new writing stuff.

Yay for some nerdy goals!

Anyway, there are a few things I definitely want to mention on this fine Tuesday, so here they are in no particular order.

- Nobody’s Cuter Than You

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Melanie’s new book releases today, and you do not want to miss it. It is such a funny, tender tribute to the power and lasting impact of healthy, life-giving friendships. It is also a big ole time warp through the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, and you are going to love every second. Highly recommend. Thumbs up. Five stars.

- Birks Are Back

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I ordered a pair of these over the weekend. It felt like 1996 all over again. But I’ve been debating a new pair of Birkenstocks for the last year or so, and it felt like the time was right. Last summer I opted for really comfortable pair of NAOT sandals that Hazel may or may not have destroyed in a fit of puppy anxiety, so I plan to keep the Birkenstocks inside a locked safe on a very high shelf.

Or, you know, on the table in our foyer. Whatever it takes.

- “Shut Up and Dance”

I mentioned this on Instagram (and Facebook) the other day, but “Shut Up and Dance” is one of our favorite songs right now (it sounds so much like something from the 80’s, but it’s way better than most 80’s music in my opinion), and a very nice commenter (thanks, nesimarie65!) pointed me in the direction of this video. It’s PERFECT.

- Pound Cake

Remember how I made a pound cake a few days ago?

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Y’all, it was REAL pretty.

And the recipe is here if you’re interested. This time, though, I was out of Crisco, so I just used a third stick of butter instead. I am here to testify that I did not mind the results.

- Podcast Reviews & Whatnot

Yesterday I checked our podcast on iTunes to see if they’d updated the graphic (they have!), and then I got very tickled because Melanie and I have been podcasting for eight years but only have twelve reviews. This is no doubt due to the fact that we are crackerjack marketers and really strive to get the word out about our podcast by linking to it on our respective blogs and then basically pretending like it doesn’t exist.

SO. If you are a person who happens to enjoy the podcast, would you mind leaving us a rating or a review? It just takes a few seconds, and I know our publisher would appreciate you helping us look slightly more legitimate than we actually are.

And speaking of reviews, a couple of weeks ago I saw a one-star review for A Little Salty… that came complete with a one-word comment: “Silly.” For some reason it didn’t even hurt my feelings, mainly because the reviewer seemed to know exactly what bugged them about my book. They found it silly. I kind of appreciate that level of decisiveness.

(To be clear, I am not encouraging one-star reviews of the podcast.)

(Because while I try to be a good sport, I am not in fact made of Teflon.)

(Also: HORMONES.)

(And I believe I’ve sufficiently over-explained.)

Have a great Tuesday, y’all!

The Big Boo Cast, Episode 45

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Melanie and I never really know what we’re going to talk about when we start to record a podcast, so maybe that will help explain to you why we spend far too many minutes in this particular podcast talking about fruit kabobs.

Yes. I said “fruit kabobs.”

Before we dig in to that riveting topic, though, we talk about the books I read at the beach (I don’t recommend Gone Girl; it is a page-turner for sure, but I kinda wish I hadn’t read it), our expectations about Amy Poehler’s book (I expected something along the lines of Hilarious Hijinks with Tina Fey, and it’s way more reflective than that), and why we feel less patient with book characters as we get older.

I also make Melanie talk about her new book, Nobody’s Cuter than You, which comes out Tuesday, April 7th and will basically make you laugh and cry and then plan a girls’ weekend with all of your closest friends. It’s wonderful.

Then, for some reason, we segue’ into a lengthy conversation about brunch foods, the aforementioned fruit kabobs, foods that make us a little sick when we think about them, the resurgence of cauliflower, and why we’re no longer very interested in lettuce.

It it every bit as compelling as you’d expect.

Finally, of course, we talk about our skin and sunscreen and basically WHY ARE WE OLD.

Shockingly, we do not mention Amy Grant even one time. I have no explanation for this other than pure negligence.

You can click here to listen. Or here. You can even listen right here.

Or, as always, you can subscribe on iTunes if you’re feeling particularly fancy.

Enjoy, y’all!

Nobody’s Cuter Than You – A Giveaway!

So in one week – just one week – y’all are in for such a treat. I cannot even begin to tell you.

Because in one week, my dear friend Melanie’s new book releases, and IT. IS. A. TREASURE.

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(I’m just as sorry as I can be about my poor photography skills.)

(But I’m not at my house tonight and can’t take another picture – so I’m just going with the one on my phone.)

(I do hope I haven’t offended anyone’s photographic sensibilities.)

Melanie’s new book is called Nobody’s Cuter Than You, and it’s a heartfelt, hilarious, tender tribute to the beauty of friendship. There are stories about Melanie and her best friend Gulley, of course, but there are also stories about Melanie’s childhood friends, neighborhood friends, high school friends, and college friends. I feel like it’s the most personal book Melanie has written so far, and since I didn’t know her when she was growing up in Texas, I flat-out SOAKED UP all the stories of her childhood and teenage years.

And then, when Melanie gets to the part where she starts school at Texas A&M and meets Gulley – well, I could have read those chapters forever. Because let me just say this about that friendship: I have talked to Melanie almost every day for the last 8 1/2 years, and I have never – NOT ONE TIME – heard her say anything unkind about Gulley. Those two absolutely adore each other in the most selfless, loyal, unconditional way; their friendship, as many of you know, is deep and real and true. So are the other friendships Melanie writes about in this book. And when you finish reading these stories, you’re going to be encouraged, inspired, and filling up your online bookstore cart with copies of Nobody’s Cuter… for your closest friends.

So. Because I love this book, and because I love my honest, trustworthy, hilarious friend Melanie, and because friendship is worth celebrating, I’m giving away five (5) copies of Nobody’s Cuter Than You. Winners will be able to select either a paperback or an eBook, and I’ll order copies just as soon as winners supply me with shipping or eBook delivery info.

This giveaway is open until Wednesday, April 1, at noon central time. I’ll notify winners via email.

If you’d like to enter to win, just leave a comment on this post.

And if you’d like an extra entry, just mention Melanie’s book on one of your social media platforms (FB, Twitter, Instagram, blog, etc.) and then come back here and leave an additional comment that says “social media entry.”

Happy Giveaway, everybody!

(Nobody’s cuter than you.)

(I mean it.)

Comments are now closed and winners have been notified. Thanks so much for participating, y’all!

Stop, Collaborate, & Listen

Tonight I spoke at Oak Mountain Presbyterian here in Birmingham. I had the best time and was reminded all over again why I love the local church. I really can’t explain what it does for my heart when I go into churches and see women talking and laughing and loving one another so well (honestly, seeing women who KNOW one another is no small thing – it makes me teary-eyed every single time). So all that to say: I was so honored to spend a few hours with the OMPC women tonight.

And while this may seem like a very small and meaningless detail about OMPC, I need to share it: they have a crushed ice machine there.

No kidding. That ice was such a big deal to me that for about five minutes after I enjoyed my first cup of ice water, I wondered how I was going to share the news about the ice with David and tell him that we might want to consider moving our membership.

I mean, good theology is one thing. But good ice in a church? It is a ministry in and of itself.

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My love affair with certain kinds of ice is nothing new. After all, I’ve mentioned one or 98 times that I have a real thing for pellet ice. My favorite ice in the world is probably from Zaxby’s – it is a little larger than Sonic ice and all manner of glorious – but then last week I went to the new Chick fil A that’s close to my work and discovered that they also have pellet ice, albeit in a slightly larger size.

I’m not gonna lie. This was a Chick fil A game changer for me. I have always enjoyed their lemonade and their unsweetened tea (and occasionally a combination of the two), but their ice is typically so large that I feel like a straw has to fight it every step of the way. The pellet ice, however? Well, it ensures that the ice won’t melt as quickly (pellet ice is so good about staying icy cold) AND there is increased straw movement inside the cup.

Not that I overthink this particular topic or anything.

So, if I had to currently rate my cold-drink-over-ice options, here’s where I’d land.

1. Zaxby’s unsweetened iced tea with two lemon wedges
2. Chick fil A Diet Dr. Pepper (but only at the new CFA with the larger pellet ice)
3. Zaxby’s Diet Dr. Pepper
4. McAllister’s unsweetened iced tea with one lemon wedge (their lemon wedges are bigger than most, and though their ice is subpar, the deliciousness of the tea covers a multitude of ice woes)
5. Urban Cookhouse unsweetened iced tea with two lemon wedges

Honorable mention goes to Crystal Light Strawberry Orange Banana over crushed ice from my refrigerator.

If you are equally high maintenance with your drink options, please feel free to share your favorites.

And if you just happen to prefer some room temperature tap water, please know that we won’t judge you for your ice-free preference.

We might not understand you.

But we will most definitely love you anyway.

Happy Friday, y’all.

Feeling Scrappy

One big reason why I started this blog is because the thought of scrapbooking totally overwhelmed me. It seemed like a mysterious world filled with adhesive letters and specialty scissors and decorative papers, a world that demanded countless hours of cropping photos and executing themes and writing captions. In bubble letters, no less.

So in order to escape the feeling that I was failing Alex miserably in terms of documenting his childhood, I decided that a blog was a fine idea. And listen – I took to blogging like a Southern girl takes to fried catfish. I wrote about our days, I kept a record of funny things the then-toddler was saying, and I even had pictures (that I could crop in seconds, mind you) to accompany the posts. The blog became – and has remained – my handy little digital scrapbook, and that suited me just fine. I’ve never once regretted my inexperience with paper trimmers and punch boards.

Well.

A couple of weeks ago Alex went with his class to Washington, DC. I have known since he was in about 2nd grade that he’d have to complete a gigantic scrapbook after the trip. And since David actually went to DC and chaperoned and helped get all the necessary pictures and walked who knows how many miles across our nation’s capital and etc., I have known for some time that any scrapbook supervision was going to be my responsibility. I think that’s oh-so-fair.

But none of that changes my my personal challenges with craftiness – and those challenges are precisely why the prospect of helping with this scrapbook has filled me with some small degree of fear and trembling.

Honestly, I’ve felt flat-out intimidated. Because do you know what crafty people have that I do not? SKILLS.

This past Friday, however, I decided that it was time to face the music (or the memories, as it were) and make a trip to Hobby Lobby for our supplies. I mentioned to my friend Heather that I could no longer put off purchasing all the much-needed papers and stickers and whatnot, and since Heather is a bit of a scrapbooking mastermind and dare I say enthusiast, she offered to accompany us on our trip to the HL. I was so thankful for her kindness that I may have cried.

No kidding. When Alex and I pulled into the HL parking lot right behind Heather and her daughter, I thought of that verse from Proverbs that says “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” Granted, if we were getting all technical I’d need the verse to say “sister,” but that is sort of missing the point because GRATEFUL.

Now here is where I want to be clear. I am all for helping a kid with his or her homework, but doing a kid’s project is nowhere on my parental priority list. So while yes, I am absolutely going to supervise and help with the scrapbook, I am also super aware that I completed 5th grade and all of its assignments back when Ronald Reagan was president. That is why I have tried to be exceedingly clear with Alex that he is the person in charge of writing recaps, selecting pictures, and assembling scrapbook pages. I’m mainly along for the ride to supervise the process, assist with organization, and make sure he meets his deadline.

All that to say: I know full well that the pressure isn’t on me. Even still, I walked in that Hobby Lobby and almost instantly felt like I was starting to sweat. Like, starting to sweat out of the top of my head. Hobby Lobby is a lot of seasonal merchandise and crafting supplies for a person who typically doesn’t dabble in either, so after grabbing a shopping cart and then stopping in my tracks right next to some Easter baskets, I sheepishly looked over at Heather and said, “Um. You want to tell us where to go?”

“Back there,” she pointed. “Just follow us.”

You know those times in your life when you really need for someone to take control and boss you around a little bit? THAT.

We walked to the back of the store as Heather and C talked about some craft they wanted to try (this is a discussion that I have had approximately zero multiplied by never times in my life), and when we finally arrived at the back of the store, I know for certain that my jaw dropped when I saw the TWO AISLES full of stickers that were waiting on us.

Seriously. I didn’t even know that many sticker themes were possible.

The first thing we did was get Alex to pick out a scrapbook. Heather advised that I buy an extra set of scrapbook inserts (is that even the correct term? the words have lost all meaning), so I threw those on top of the navy blue scrapbook like a wide receiver spiking a football in the end zone. Giddy with productivity, I was. But then we wheeled over to the paper aisle, and after a quick look-around, I promptly waved a white flag of surrender.

I was somewhat overwhelmed.

Eventually Alex picked out a big book of patriotic-type scrapbook papers (WHO KNEW such a thing existed? I for one did not.), and Heather and C suggested a few of the individual papers that might come in handy. By the time we got to the end of the aisle, I felt like the worst part was probably over.

But then I remembered that we still had to pick out stickers, and the top of my head started to sweat again.

(Listen, all you cute 20- and 30-somethings. I just want you to know that SWEATING OUT OF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD is totally a thing. AND IT IS YOUR FUTURE.)

(Also, be really good to your eyelids.)

(One day you will wake up and realize that they have betrayed you, and try though you may, you cannot convince them to be loyal again.)

(Insert perfunctory platitudes about the good part of the 40s being wisdom, perspective, blah blah blah blahblahtedy blah.)

When we first turned down the sticker aisle, my first reaction was to flee (lo, and quickly) because there were quite literally thousands of options and I can barely make a decision when confronted with two kinds of salad dressing. So once again I let Heather lead the way. “The Stickabilities brand is really good,” she began, “and you’ll probably…”

“WAIT A MINUTE,” I said. “DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT YOU KNOW THE BRANDS? AND HAVE PREFERENCES?”

This was more than I could comprehend.

“Oh, yes ma’am,” Heather replied. “And I’m telling you. The Stickabilities are good.”

Needless to say, I loaded up our cart with every Stickabilities flag and eagle and USA-emblazoned medal I could find. I’m not exactly sure how many stickers I bought, but I can say without hesitation that WE HAVE US SOME STICKER OPTIONS.

At that point I assumed we were finished, but Heather said, “Hold on. You’ve got to have tape.”

“Oh, I have tape at home,” I answered.

“No – you need this tape,” Heather replied, and then she held up a package of some plastic containers that apparently dispense tape in dots. Apparently this is better for securing pictures to scrapbook pages. And suffice it to say that I was incredulous to find so many tape-dispensing options. All this time – all these years – and I’ve actually been using my hands to tear off tape strips of varying lengths. LIKE A SAVAGE.

But once the tape dots were in the cart, we were done. All finished. Fully outfitted and supplied.

By the time we made it to the cash registers, I had mentally thanked Heather and C approximately 37 times before I thanked them for real and they set off in search of other crafty items. There’s not a doubt in my mind that without their help I would have walked out of Hobby Lobby with a scrapbook, some construction paper, and about four bottles of Elmer’s glue. Their assistance really was huge. And if that weren’t enough, the scrapbook and the scrapbook paper were 50% off. I KNOW. Stickers were 50% off, too – but only the Stickabilities brand. I’m so glad we picked those. I hear they’re the best.

A few days have passed since our Hobby Lobby excursion, and while I don’t want to speak too soon, I think we’re making progress. Friday night Alex sorted all of his pictures. Saturday he wrote all of his reactions and opinions and whatnot. And Sunday he started putting everything together, which is why I looked at this pile for a very long time before it dawned on me that maybe he should pick out scrapbook paper for each page.

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I believe the phrase you’re looking for is “outside of her comfort zone.”

But Alex? He is a trooper. He has really worked hard the last couple of days, and while there’s still a ways to go, by diggity we’re organized. Not to mention that we have more patriotic-themed scrapbook supplies than I even knew existed this time last week.

We’re broadening our creative horizons, y’all.

And my nerves may just live to tell the tale.

We Can Pretend There Are Paragraphs

1. I’ve decided that going to the cleaners is my favorite errand. Doesn’t matter if I’m dropping off or picking up. It gives me such a feeling of accomplishment even though all I’m essentially doing is driving my car and then rolling down a window. The whole experience smells like productivity to me.

2. The area underneath my eyes is the bane of my existence right now. We are in a battle that I know I will not win. My 40s tell me so.

3. Melanie’s book trailer made its debut yesterday. Y’all are going to love this book so much. Because yes, it’s hilarious just like all of Mel’s books are, but it is also oh-so-tender. You’ll treasure your friends more than ever after you read it. Promise.

4. This season of Survivor has my undivided attention. And the fact that last night’s episode was two hours? GLORIOUS.

5. Typically we do a BooMama group bracket for March Madness, but I just didn’t get my act together this year. However, I’ve decided that UAB is going to be my tournament team – along with LSU, but that probably goes without saying (update: NC State just beat LSU, so there’s that). Kentucky seems pretty close to unbeatable to me, but it’ll still be fun to watch what happens.

6. Tonight we grilled hamburgers for the first time in a while. For my whole life I’ve eaten ketchup and mayonnaise on my hamburgers – no mustard – and I’m still deeply loyal to the ketchup and mayonnaise combo. However, as I’ve gotten older, dill pickles have become increasingly important to hamburger success. I am partial to the Vlasic Ovals. Super crunchy for a hamburger dill.

7. You’re welcome for all of this riveting information about condiments.

8. Last weekend I took Alex and a friend to see the Sponge Bob movie. I feel like I don’t even need to say anything else because a bunch of y’all said, “Oh, bless her heart” as soon as you read that, and I already feel better about those two hours that I will never, ever get back.

9. To be clear, though, I do still savor any opportunity to sit beside a certain fifth grader in a public setting.

10. I got very tickled when I watched this.

11. Hope y’all have a great weekend!