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Sunday, September 30, 2007

October 1, 2004: The First Day of the First Month of the Rest of Our Life

I wrote this post for my pregnancy diary on September 30, 2004 - Just a little over two weeks before I went into labor and delivered my sweet Bean. I'll be sharing a few other birth-related posts this month leading up to her THIRD birthday on the 17th, namely my own Two Pink Lines story and Beanie's birth story, along with the letters I've written her on each of her two birthdays so far. Then I'll post her third Birthday Letter on the Big Day. I hope y'all will enjoy reading these posts as much as I know I'll enjoy writing and sharing them with you!

It's October! It's October! This is the month in which, with any luck, our little one will finally get herself out here for us to hug and kiss and hold and feed and dress in all of her adorable clothes and put teeny tiny diapers on and struggle through sleepless nights with! Man oh man did September CREEP by! The 10 days between my birthday and the last day of September have seemed like their own separate trimester. Shew!

I'm still pretty comfortable at almost 38 weeks along. My only physical complaints are the awkwardness of the belly, the breathlessness and the fatigue. Mentally, the waiting's getting tough and I'm very anxious to actually have her here, now that everything's (and I do mean everything) so ready for her. The belly is pretty big to me, but people seem really surprised that I'm so far along when they see me. I guess pretty big for me must be on the small side vs. the norm? My maternity clothes still fit but I am BORED BORED BORED with them and want desperately for the weather to cool off so that I can start wearing the very few fallish outfits I've bought. The hospital bags (one for labor/delivery and one for post partem) are as packed as they can be for now, the cute baby seat is in the car, the stroller is parked near the back door, the nursery's finished and clean, and gets rearranged nearly daily just because I keep going in there to play with everything and end up moving it all around. My feelings about that room and its occupant to be are bordering on obsessive, and I get kindof embarrassed, but then I think, What better to be obsessed with than my own little child? And since she's not here yet, I just go with what I've got and obsess over her room and all of her little cute, sweet-smelling little things!

Food continues to pose quite the challenge. I know I need to be eating, and I WANT to eat, but I just don't feel hungry and not many foods seem appealing to me, so I struggle to choke down much of anything. I don't feel sick at all, I just don't have much of an appetite. But, and this is bizarre for me, I am always PARCHED and can down liquids faster than anything, and I find them sooooooooooo satisfying! Coke is especially yummy, and Cherry Coke sends delighted shivers through my whole body. Un-pregnant, I don't really drink much Coke, so I guess you could call all of this a pregnancy craving? Anyway, I am just a beverage junkie right now - Gatorade, Coke, Shirley Temples, apple juice over crushed ice, lemonade - you name it, I want to guzzle it down. I wake up with my lips stuck to my teeth and my tongue and the rest of my mouth just dusty dry and all I can think about is BEVERAGES!

Something feels different about the location of my little baby, too. Off and on, she creates more and more pressure on my bladder and does things that make my cervix hurt a little, too. Maybe this means she has dropped or is in the process of dropping, but these symptoms seem to come and go from day to day, so maybe she's just gotten so much bigger and so certain positions bring on these feelings. The doctor didn't comment on the whole dropping issue at my appointment Monday, though she did say she could feel the baby's head during my FIRST internal exam since the one I had when we started this journey many months ago. My cervix was still long and closed - *sigh*, but I guess the head being in a position to be felt must be a good sign of progress. Oh yes, I started to have infrequent but noticeable period-like cramps about 8-10 days ago and they continue to come and go. They're mostly in the evenings. The doctor didn't seem at all concerned about those, so I assume they are just my body getting some practice contractions in so it'll know what to do when the moment arrives.


I'm still sleeping pretty well most nights. I only have to get up to go to the bathroom twice a night, even considering the huge quantity of fluids I've been drinking. I've been trying to walk in the mornings as frequently as possible, which hasn't been that frequent since it seems lately there are always hurricane remnants on their way thru Georgia from Florida, so lots of rain and wind!

Al continues to be wonderful to me. I still am doing the housework and shopping and cooking, but when Al gets home, he's always ready to pay attention to me, wash the dinner dishes and clean up the kitchen, and generally make me feel like a princess for the rest of the evening, right down to a very nice backrub every night as I fall asleep. He's a great husband and I think we are going to have so much fun being parents together. I can't see us having the resentment towards one another that I hear about quite a bit, because we have already established a really good system of give and take and a deep appreciation for each other. He just makes me so proud. He's so smart and good and kind and unselfish, and other people recognize and love these things about him, which re-reminds me (not that I really need reminding) of the reasons that I love him and makes me feel like the luckiest woman in the world to be his wife. Plus, I get to see the parts of him that he saves for the people he loves and trusts most, like his silly side and his creative side and his sweet, loving, vulnerable side. So I get the total package! No one is perfect, but he is awfully darn close, in my opinion. I can't wait to watch our little one grow up and find out which of his characteristics she'll have. Hopefully all of them.

We went to a birth class over one whole weekend (Sept. 17 & 18) A Friday night and then all day Saturday. We enjoyed them, laughed a lot, and learned some basic things to help us remain on the same page during labor and delivery. The breastfeeding class I'd planned on attending was cancelled due to one of the hurricanes, so we're just going to do some reading about breastfeeding and then rely on the lactation consultants at the hospital to help us with what we don't or can't learn in books. I still feel pretty confident about the process, I just want to be armed with tons of information so there are fewer things that could happen that would take me by surprise or discourage me.

I think that¡¦s all for now. I hope I remain motivated diary-ward for the next few weeks so I'll have good documentation of these last few weeks prior to our baby's birth!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Get Your Google (Analytics) On.

The #1 Thing I am Thankin' My Lucky Stars for This Very Morning:

That Google Analytics only updates every 24 hours.

Because y'all, if it streamed real-time data, I would never leave my home again.

If you haven't signed your blog up with Google Analytics yet, you must go and do so immediately. And prepare to be a data junkie starting tomorrow morning.

I had visitors from Ireland, India and New Zealand (Hi Leigh!) and even Portugal overnight last night! (Someone Googled "....am I stuck up?" and got here. I am trying not to find that disturbing.)

And OH! OH Y'ALL. I may be a latecomer to the party and you may already be hooting over this daily, but you also need to go look at the kitties at ICANHASCHEEZBURGER. I finally clicked on a link somewhere last night after having stumbled across it a couple of times the past few weeks, and was soon WHEEZING and CRYING from laughing so hard. Al kept looking over at me like I was a couple sandwiches short of a picnic.

(Which, by the way, is patently untrue because I heavy-up on the sandwiches - and everything else - at my picnics. I AM Southern, afterall.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

New Jeans Month Marches On

Oh dear me, I must hurry people!

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I feel it only appropriate to confess I've been feelin' a tad overwhelmed by the number of your helpful and sometimes quite emphatic responses to my little jean challenge a few weeks ago. I am literally having to compile all the suggestions with their respective suggesters and such into a little spreadsheet so I can even keep up with all the different brands, styles, and match them up to all the thoughtful people who recommended 'em! I feel so grateful y'all took it all so seriously and came to me, overflowing with sweet compassion, in my time of need. Yet I am currently becoming mildly concerned I may not get them all tried on by September 30th, much less have made a decision and a purchase! But I'ma endeavor to meet my deadline and award the promised gift-cards by early October, even if it means I have to hop around Chicagoland with each leg in a different pair of pants for the next week.

Nicki (My Boys and Me) and I went last Friday on the spur of the moment, prompted perhaps by how perky Jennifer looked in HER jeans and our strong and prideful desire not to be out-cuted by a... um... NEW RECRUIT to our gender, to WalSmart, where several of the brands of jeans y'all recommended happen to be sold.

Nicki minded the chiddren and the two shopping carts AND played fashion photographer throughout the ordeal while I ferreted out some jeans and modeled them, stepping out of the fitting room each time (except for that time when I couldn't get the one pair up over my hips and nearly broke my own neck in a tragic laughing-fit accident while picturing myself as that lightbulb cartoon kids draw and say is a lady pullin' up her giiiiir-dle. Do y'all remember that? I know my sister and cousin do. And probably Marie, too.) so Nicki could snap away at the blogfodder.

I tried on two pairs of WalSmart's brand, Faded Glory, jeans first.

The Narrow Stretch Boot Cut:

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Which squoze me so tight around my hips and thighs that I could just barely walk out to Nicki's makeshift studio, but STILL had a gap at the waist. Plus, they sat just hair too high on the waist and that belt? Um, no.

and The Stretch Flare:

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Which I actually quite liked, except they were too short for me to wear with heels, which I almost always do. I loved the cut of the legs and the wide hem with visible seaming. You can't see it here but the waist sat a little lower than the first pair and didn't gape. These were nice. I wish they'd been longer. I could have tried a larger pair, but they'd have required tailoring and I'm hoping one out of the million other different brands and styles I'll be trying on over the next week or so will fit me without the added expense of alteration. That'd be quite a cous for me, though, so we'll see.

Nobody specifically recommended the next jean, the Levi Signature Jean:

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I liked it okay except for the fit through the hip/pelvic area, which Nicki described as bumpy. Or bunchy. Either works well, as you can see. Also, there was some of that whiskerin' bidness (which isn't visible in the photo but was noticeable enough to make it into my trusty jean-shopping notebook) which fell right on the widest part of my leg didn't do much to minimize the ol' saddlebags. But these fit nicely in the waist (bit too high, again, for me), and the length was good. I did get several recommendations for Levi jeans, just not these particular ones.

Lainey (Blog In My Eye) and I were supposed to shop last Saturday at the BIG FAINCY MALL cleverly located right between our two little burgs, where we thought we'd likely find the rest of the brands y'all pointed me to, except maybe the Lucky Jeans, but both of us ended up sick (allergies, virus, you name it) by Friday night and we didn't go. I hope you're feeling better, Lainey!

I'll keep y'all posted on my progress!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

But I May Have Saved the Pants, Thanks to My Catlike Reflexes, AKA And This is Certainly Not the First Time I've Done Something Like This

Nor will it be the last, I can GARE-ON-TEE you of that fact.

Today's Wednesday. On Wednesdays, I do my Wednesday chores, which, among the standard list of every-day household drudgery tasks, include doing a mid-week load of laundry or two and emptying all the garbage cans into the outside bin. In the grand scheme of things, for a normal human being able to walk upright and oh, I don't know, BLINK, this would be a light and simple workload that could be completed within an hour or two without major incidents.

But people, need I remind you who you're dealin' with here?

I have to take you back to earlier in the day to explain how this all came down though, so follow me back to 8:45 AM as I am clearing away the breakfast dishes and Bean is sitting in the dining room draween a pitcher fer Daddeee. I'm scraping ketchup and sausage off a lovely IKEA® plastic flower-plate, looking out the window of my kitchen sink, enjoying the lovely sunlight filtering through the leaves and thanking the Lord for the cooler weather that trundled in overnight, when Bean appears behind me and says, softly, and with much trepidation, Mama, I haffa go poo poo.

WELL SAINTS PRESERVE US! What a big girl, telling me that! Yay, Bean! Hurry to the potty now and go. Do you need help or do you want to do it all by yourself?

She doesn't budge. Her face has NOT registered the happy smile of pride she usually sports after getting the verbal high five from Mama. In fact, it looks SAD. Or... OH NO. Guilty.

You already went poo poo didn't you?

-Nods.-

I retreat to the backside of the toddler to assess the damage.

Oh yes. The tell-tale poo-poo duck-butt. You've seen this one, right? The cute little rounded underpants-clad bummy cheeks completely obscured by a pointy little pocket of poo. Pleasant!

Now people? I am not a yeller. It is not my WAY. (My way is normally to get right into the child's face and talk very softly through my teeth as if I am throttling my desire to BITE HER, which I am not saying is better than yelling, but is generally quite effective in illiciting a quick return to appropriate behavior). But today, the poo poo duckbutt absolutely SET. ME. FREE. Because WE have been potty traineding since February, and WE CAN AND DO POOP ON THE POTTY. I have seen it with mine own eyes and I will be good and gall-durned if I can understand why anyone as cute and sweet and utterly BRILLIANT as Bean would EVER choose to poop in her underpants while standing NO MORE THAN FOUR FEET from the potty unless, as is my very strong suspicion, it is to purposely and very stubbornly reduce her mother to pool of hot, ferociously angry, molten Mama-Lava. WHICH IT DID.

I ranted at that child, as I shucked off the duck-butt underpants and flipped out the offending clod with a resounding ker-thud-splash into the potty, as I threw the pink undies into the sink and turned on the hot water as HIGH as it would go, as I stormed to the laundry room to grab the Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes and thunder back quickly, ripping sheet after sheet after sheet out of the plastic tub and furiously scrubbing every surface within 10 feet of the offending "accident," as I then whisked her around and began not-all-that-gently cleaning HER with her own wipes, and as I then commanded her to MARCH UPSTAIRS AND GET INTO THE SHOWER AND DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING AND DO NOT MOVE FROM THAT SPOT UNTIL I TELL YOU TO.

Her eyes got so big I swear she could have seen her own shoulderblades without so much as a slight upward tilt of her chin.

We went upstairs and I blasted all cracks and crevaces with my hand-held shower head until the water ran clear and Bean was giggling (CURSES!) that it tickled. Then I lathered, rinse, repeated, dried, put her in clean underpants and carted her to her room for a time-OUT.

I returned to the scene of the crime to discover that I had accidently dumped one of the USED wipes into the garbage can instead of the potty. GLAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! Alas it was time to go for our morning walk, so I flushed the wipe and moved the defiled can to the top of the washer to remind me to disinfect it.

When it was time to do the laundry, the Poopcan greeted me with a Hidy Ho! Mr. Stinkbucket here! and I immediately doused it with 2 tablespoons of undiluted bleach and moved it to the top of the dryer whilst I loaded the Wednesday Wash into the machine and fired it up, all the while, because I am me, and I am a complete airhead, I'm mantra-izin' to myself, don'tgetanyonyou don'tgetanyonyou, don'tgetanyonyou, BECAUSE... I'd showered and dressed already, and thanks to the new leaf I've been trying to push/pull/strain/tug/force over lately, to please, for the sake of the neighbors, try to look DECENT during the day instead of moping around in faded, holey jeans and a beat-up, too short t-shirt and scraping my hair back into a lumpy, prickly little stub of a ponytail, I was wearing a brand new pair of Ann Taylor pants fresh from the tailor and my favorite black tie-front babydoll shirt, and I didn't want any little dots of bleach to get on my lovely fresh ensemble.

Got the laundry laundering and rushed up to gather the remaining garbage from upstairs before Bean fell asleep for her nap, and returned to the laundry room to bag everything up for the trip out to the Big Bin. On the way through, I stopped at the kitchen sink to turn on the water, so it could get nice and hot, so I could then fill up Mr. StinkBucket with super hot water, to dilute the bleach and complete the disinfecting process. Took the garbage out, caught a glimpse of myself in the side of my car on the way back and noticed that HEY, THESE PANTS MAKE MY BUMMY LOOK KINDA SMALLER! became distracted by that notion (and may have begun to prance, but I'm not committing to that in writing). Came back inside through the laundry room where, with a flourish, I grabbed the Poopcan and lifted it HIGH ABOVE my head in small-butted triumph and happily leapt into the kitchen toward the running hot water, WHEN... I remembered the bleach in the can.

Which was now raining down now upon the rear passenger side of my head, coating the shoulder of my precious black shirt, and skittering down the right leg of my amazingly de-bootifying new Ann Taylor khakis.

FFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDGE!

The shirt is RURNT. In my fully-2/3rds-windows-and-not-a-curtain-in-sight-kitchen, in broad daylight, I whipped off all my clothes with no less alacrity than I'd have employed should said garments have been completely ablaze, to discover that already, these .37 seconds later, I now owned a black tie-front shirt with ONE ORANGE SLEEVE and a pair of khakis that were quickly becoming leopard-skin pants. So, I tossed the shirt into the garbage and shoved the pants under the still-running-with-considerable-zeal kitchen faucet to rinse them.

I'm going to stop there because the rest of the story is just too pitiful for public consumption, but I will ask you this question: Do you have ANY idea how slippery bleach is when dribbled onto a smooth kitchen floor and stepped in on the fly? With bare feet?

The good news is, the pants actually look okay after their hasty trip through the washer. I'll be needing those to cover up the large black and blue bruises on my tiny little bummy.

Sigh.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Interview by SAHMmy!

A few weeks ago, I asked Carissa of SAHMmy Says to interview me. It's taken me awhile to answer the five questions she promptly and imaginatively shot back at me, but I'm ready now. She gives good interview, that one does.

1. You refer to a nefarious Firm and a mismatched career in financial services. When and why did you choose to stay home with Bean?

Oh, I guess nefarious may be a bit strong for The Firm (although it is a million dollar word, Carissa, and I wish I'd thought of it first!). I had a really quick, educational and rewarding career up until the last 18 months or so, even though yes, it wasn't exactly what I'd been cut out to do, or at least I don't think so. Bad corporate decisions in the wake of the bursting of the tech bubble and the market slump after 9/11 led to a lousy couple of years. I think things look better now for The Firm, honestly. Many of the notoriously bad decision-makers have been ousted since Al and I left, so to a degree my faith has been restored. Not completely, ever, but somewhat.

I've pretty much known my whole life that if I were ever so blessed as to become a Mama, I would do it full time (plus, apparently!). When Al and I got married and subsequently pregnant a month later, I knew it was only a matter of months before I left The Firm. I really wanted to keep working until Bee was born, really, but the stress-o-meter just kep' gettin' dialed up and up and UP, and I felt like my first and probably only pregnancy was slipping by in a haze of negativity and backstabbing and angst over a job that I didn't even plan on doing too much longer anyway. I'd been there 11 years and I wanted to go out on my own terms, happily, confidently and with as little bitterness as possible. So I left in June, about 4 months before the Baby Beanie was due to arrive upon the scene. And I haven't looked back a single time, although I confess I do miss earning a paycheck of my own. It's extremely difficult for me to feel like a full partner in this marriage when I'm not contributing financially (directly, I mean), (as I knew it would be and as Al and listened to me stew and fret and vascillate over ad nauseum many long months before I retired, the poor man) but I'm trying (still... sigh) to readjust my thinking in that area.

2. Best Southern comfort you've found in the Midwest?

Hmmm. Does my own cooking count? But not because I'm such a terrific cook, although I'm not terrible, either. Simply because well... This ain't the South, folks, and they don't much DO Southern up here. But comfort food? Oh my granny, yes. If you consider some of the most mouthwateringly fantastic REAL pizza you've ever sunk your teeth into comforting. Which hoooooooooo-doggies, I sure do. We had pizza in the South, but y'all? It was just plain ol' chain store cardboard. That pizza down there isn't fit to lick the boots of Chicago pizza. That's no exaggeration, and there's simply no comparison. Crust to sauce to cheese, sheer perfection, and total superiority to any other pizza I've ever had, including in Italy, which... Plah! You call this pizza? And there are a couple other comfort items up here you don't see much of down South, too. Amazing crispy golden potato pancakes served with applesauce and sour cream, Wisconson Beer Cheese soup (Heaven in a bowl, I tell you!), Italian beef sandwiches (not a huge favorite of mine, but only because I'm kinda off meat these days), Italian sausages and brats, fresh sweet corn, and Friday night fish fries all come to mind when I think comfort food up here. I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin just out of college and then moved back home to Georgia, and would you believe I actually felt homesick for some of the Midwestern diner comfort food faves after I'd left? I surely did. In fact, when I made the trek up here from Atlanta to look at homes with Al in December of 2005, we found a rustic little diner in the converted jail house of one of the neighboring villages (the one I still go to almost every summer Tuesday for the farmers' market) and had potato pancakes and beer cheese soup for lunch, and they truly WERE comfort food. That simple, delicious lunch with Al, just the two of us looking out over the quaint little village square that was buried under about 10 inches of fresh white snow, settled my heart for the move. You might say I fell in love with this prairie the first time that day, as I savored the familiar tastes of those two Midwestern comfort foods. And I still fall in love again with this place just about daily.


3. "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!"--Dante Alighieri. Where's here?
This question stops me dead in my tracks every time I read it. I've been pondering an answer since Carissa sent me the original email two weeks ago. The only place I've ever been that feels hopeless to me is Priscilla Maude Sybil's brain. That chick is pathetic.

But there was also this "salon" (ahem) in my home town... Norma's, I believe it was called, and isn't that the perfect name for a small-town salon? Anyway. Girl, you got your hair cut there ONE time and you never went back. My mom took my sister Jackie there one time right after we'd moved to town (hadn't been warned yet, I guess) and it turned out so bad she wore an orange and white striped old-man golf hat for 2 or months afterwards until it'd grown out some. You know my mom has lived in that town for thirty years now and she STILL complains there's no one in the city limits who knows a thing about cutting hair. Abandon hope, all ye who enter hair, I guess.

4. Elijah has come down from heaven in his chariot of fire. You've been a good girl, so he lets you choose 3 celebrities to take back with him, never again to bother us mortals. Whom do you send?

Heavens. I don't know much about celebrities these days. Lemme think. Nope, I can't do it that way. BUT, I would ask Elijah to please BRING BACK with him in his chariot (since he's comin' back anyway, see?) Audrey Hepburn, because... oh, the class and elegance. And Lucille Ball, because oh, the laughter and the beauty. And... Martin Luther King, Jr., because, well. I don't think he was done yet. And I think he'd have some great thoughts on the political/religious/racial issues of our time. Strange mix. Audrey, Lucy and MLK. But that's how my little brain works and it's my interview, right?

5. What's the perfectionistic habit you'd be most embarrassed about were your friends to catch you in the act?

I don't know if you'd count this as a perfectionist habit but I am addicted to weighing myself. BUT. In order for it to "count," I have to be stark naked, with no jewelry, bone dry hair, no makeup, and most importantly, I have to wait until I'm sure that the bod is as empty as it can be, if you know what I mean. Which means that I have some interesting, um... scheduling techniques... when it comes to my daily scale-time.

Now it's my turn to interview some of YOU. The first 3 people who comment and request it will get five interview questions from me for your own blogging fun!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dibs!

Neighbor Nicki and I our assorted wart-hoglets from you-know-where (and you know I mean that in the nicest way possible, kids) ventured outta the subdivision again this Friday for lunch at the local Tex-Mex jernt that rhymes with Frili's. Nicki arrived first and had settled into a booth with her two strapping young men and placed her beverage order with Jennifer, our server, by the time Bean and I trotted in, our usual 3 min. 22 sec. late, as we do for Every. Thing. because I was always a precisely punctual person when on my own but have yet to be able to figure out down to the minutes and seconds exactly how much time I need to add to my perfectly-honed getting-ready and getting-there schedule to accommodate Madame Lollygag's personal twah-lette and transport. Which is why when our server approached me for my own drink order, Nicki's eyes were glued to my face and she wore that tell-tale OH WAIT'LL YOU GET A LOAD OF THIS! smirk.

And Land-A'mighty people, one look at Jennifer and I was instantly placed in touch with the undisputable justification of that smirk.

'Cause Jennifer was a man. Or had been one up 'til veeeeeery recently.

But she was the spittin' image of a woman I worked with years ago, until she opened her mouth to speak, at which point, a GINORMOUS Adam's Apple shot up her goozle and the voice of Brad Garrett rumbled out of her perfectly painted cherry red lips.

Now y'all. Transvestites happen. And really? I'm not one to decide who can wear what and why and all that. I lived the single life and worked downtown in one of the most er... orientationally diverse cities in the country, and I've pretty much seen it ALL. But out here on the prairie, Al and I are about as diverse as things get, (imagine THAT! Can I get a ho-hum?), so peering up over my menu, I naturally bore some pre-set expectations as to whom I'd see peering back at me, notepad in hand, and lemme tell you, Jennifer blew those expectations clean out of the water. To me, she did look mostly like a woman. After the initial shock wore off, I offhandedly wondered what the kids would make of her.

I managed to smooth down my scrunched-up eyebrows and gather my wits about me enough to order beverages for Bean and myself. Jennifer departed in a flourish and left Nicki and I and our hooligans to sort through the elbow-deep heap of crayons, napkins and kiddie placemats on the table, locate the menus and begin the arduous task of banging out a peaceable lunch plan for three absolutely adorable (I believe Jennifer inquired if they were not all three child-models or actors?) and very enthusiastic kids and two frazzled Mamas who JUST WANT TO GET A COUPLE SIPS OF DIET COKE DOWN OUR GULLETS IN PEACE BEFORE OUR EYES FALL SLEEPILY OUT OF THEIR SOCKETS AND ROLL UNDER THE WAIT STAND FOR CRYIN' OUTLOUD.

No words were exchanged about Jennifer. Yet.

She returned for our lunch orders and we duly rattled them off over the cacophony of chiddren's squeals, snorts and gruffles. Once Jennifer rounded the corner out of earshot, though, Nicki and I shared one of those OH MY WORD! glances and Nicki quietly mouthed, Oh I could say something but it'd be inappropriate subject matter for the kids. Then she said, Her name is JENNIFER.

I gave her my very best Aaaaaaaaaaaah. look, and then we both resumed our quest to keep all three children seated, all five beverages upright, and all six crayons out of Bubba's mouth. Lunch arrived and we wrestled it down in a smudgy, surreal haze of ketchup, corn kernels and about 17 dozen paper napkins, until Jennifer returned to clear away the plates, baskets, silverware, corn cobs and crayon-stubs (Bubba managed to consume about half of a couple blues). We sat back in our seats with the relief only a parent of a toddler can experience after a meal out. The, aaaaaaaaaah... another one down without aid of the modified Heimlich maneuver or a straight-jacket or a stinkly ol' string mop! sigh of success. Plus, we'd interacted with Jennifer with no difficulties, and the kids hadn't seemed to notice a thing at all different about her! She cleared the table quickly, complimenting us on the kids' behavior and then walked away slowly, balancing a teetering load of dishes and table scraps on her arms. There was an odd pause in the chaos, and out of the silence erupted my daughter's crystal clear outdoor voice.

Mama where's dat MA-AN going? Where he's taking our din-ner?

I turned to her in slow motion, my brain attempting to shake itself loose from the paralysis of sudden trauma. I could not respond to her. I'd been struck mute, apparently, by Bean's guttural outburst.

MAMAAAAAAAAA? WHERE DAT MAN... DAT MA-AN WIF DA CLIP IN HIS HAIR... GOING WIF OUR DIN-NER?

As Jennifer rounded the corner to the kitchen and was out of sight, Nicki and I once again locked eyes and I'll be daggummed if that girl's bloggy mental wheels weren't already spinning. A wicked grin spread across her lips, and before she could utter a word, I spat out, OH NO YOU DON'T! I'M BLOGGING ABOUT THIS! SHE'S MY KID! I'VE GOT DIBS!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

His Side of the Bed Might Be Moving to the Basement

Today's Al's birthday! He's 44. Happy Birthday, Honey Bunny! If you're reading this from the office, (and I know there's no way that you are but I feel it necessary to cover this base anyway before I continue on with my birthday-related drivel post) then get back to work before you ruin the surprise!

I'm at my kitchen counter right now, where I always sit to blog. Behind me, in the family room, shoved behind the post between two archways, sits Al's birthday present. My nemesis. The New Bedroom TV. I shoved it behind that archway because I am loathe to even gaze upon it. I waited until today to buy it, even, and kept hoping something would happen to prevent my having to Do the Deed, pull the trigger on a big-ticket item we've lived without for this long, me very very blissfully, but him somewhat grudgingly, I'll admit.

We have gone round and round, in a friendly, loving, joking manner, of course, ahem, about having a television in the bedroom since we were married. And my stance has always been anti-bedroom TV from the git-go, even though when pressed I've never been 100% sure where my strong opposition found its genesis. And Al has always been pro-bedroom television, because he finds the sleepy bedtime climb up the stairs to our bedchamber to be nearly fatal and is tired of facing a near-death experience on a nightly basis. He envisions us putting the Bean to bed, spending an hour or so in the kitchen side by side at our computers, him studying and writing another stinkin' term paper and me bloggin' and menu-plannin' and family-calendarin' and bill payin' and what have you (shopping on e-Bay, but don't tell him that, okay?) and then retiring to our room to suit up, brush up, and hop in the sack for an hour or so of mind-numbing, pillow-snugging, snooze-inducing viewage of the boob tube.

Which, in theory, would work for me, as the trek up the stairs around tennish is, for me, a stark interruption of the night's deep sleep which begins involuntarily, no matter where I am or what I'm doing, which has proven dangerous and embarrassing at times, yes!, promptly at 8:59 PM on the dot.

However.

There is the little matter of Mama's peaceful and absolutely requisite slumber being interrupted throughout the evening by said television, which will inevitably be of comfort and entertainment to my bedmate for many long hours beyond which I find it so, and which will evenutally lull him to sleep mid-History Channel® expose, Napoleon: The Real Reason He Always Looked So Cranky and Uncomfortable, (though I can't imagine why!) and continue to drone on and on deep into the night, showering both of our sleeping, receptive minds with heaven-only-knows-what subliminal messages until it finally wakes me, at which time I will be forced to rouse myself fully and either stump over to the TV, or prod and otherwise perpetrate fearful retaliation against disturb Al for the remote so I can turn the infernal thing OFF.

And there's the matter of the few paltry weekend mornings we have two or three cozy minutes in bed together before Hurricane Bean alights from her boudoir to scurry into our room and demand that we duly alight alongside her and commence with the parenting and such, which have heretofore been spent in perfect, blissful, refreshing silence but will now, no doubt, give way to the scores on SportsCenter® and what have you. In my BEDROOM. On Saturday mornings.

Oh.. what have I done?

I bought the television because I love Al. And I appreciate him. And this is something he really, REALLY wants. And he works hard, he's completely selfless and adorably eager to give ME what I really want, so I want to do something special that's just for him, regardless of my own preferences, wishes, or paranoid projections of the certain doom we face if we break MY rule and try it his way this time. But it ain't gonna be easy. I'll try not to grimace when he does his Happy Dance, boosting the big, fancy Look--It's-A-New-Fancy-Expensive-Electronic-Man-Gadget above his head, all the way up the stairs to the bedroom. I'll try not to sigh when, as the clock rolls over to 10:03, the new television's still on, and my husband is lying by my side watching it, tears of joy and thanksgiving rolling down his grateful, victorious, albeit drowsy little cheeks.

Happy Birthday, Honey. I love you. Now hand me that stinkin' remote.

*click*

What about y'all? Do you have a TV in your bedroom? And why/why not?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

September Sun

Jennifer at Gathering Grace remembers her Papa and his sweet Georgia muscadines today:

My Papa stayed outside most of the time, he'd walk all around, puttering and this and that. He had quite a stand of muscadine vines growing in early fall, 2 different varieties, either of which I was content to eat until I was sick. He also had apple trees, pear trees, pecan trees, and a fig bush. I don't think I thought about it much at the time, but now my mouth waters just thinking about it now!


I sat here in tears reading her post.

My own Grandaddy puttered outdoors professionally and recreationally, and he grew and meticulously tended grapevines in his beautiful sloping backyard, too. I so clearly remember those gentle early days of Southern autumn, right about now, the week of my birthday, when we'd all be at Grandaddy and Grandmama's house for the weekend, my big sister and me, my parents, my Aunt and Uncle and two cousins. The late afternoons would find us four girls on that slope leading down to the water's edge, under the deep shade of Grandaddy's scuppernong vines, picking the grapes and eating them, or shooting the fruit out the peels at one another, squealing and laughing.

Scuppernongs are a soft, golden-ripe grape with a dusky-honey flavor and a sweet floral aroma completely incomparable to any other. We'd stand beneath the cover of those vines, dodging humming yellow-jackets who shared the harvest every year. In the distance we could make out the roar of the crowd at the Clemson game, and the muffled THWOMP! of the cannon each time the Tigers scored.

Recalling the smell and taste of those grapes is almost too sweetly nostalgic for me to bear, yet what a perfect memory for this week. This week I turn forty. FORTY. I am a mother and a wife, a full-fledged adult now, there is simply no denying it, try as I may. But inside, I am still that innocent, tiny, tow-headed girl under the grapevines with her three best friends and favorite playmates in the whole world.

Inside I am still just me, barefoot and sticky to my elbows with scuppernong juice, enjoying now and anticipating tomorrow in the burnished light of the late September sun.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Happy Bloggymoon, Bloggymonster!

Neighbor Nicki and I took all our chiddren to the local purveyor of all things McTasty and McQuick last Friday for lunch. You'll recall that Neighbor Nicki's a recent immigrant to the Land of Blog. Yeah, she's still in the writin'-posts-in-the-shower, can't-sleep-at-night, gettin'-up-at-three-in-the-morning-because-I-have-to-get-this-down-before-I-forget-it phase. As for me, the seasoned two-month veteran of offical bloggery, I have to admit: I have serious case of Bloggymoon Envy.

Across the street, Nicki's feverishly struggling to keep up with a torrent of ideas for new posts, and has a couple already in the hopper for the upcoming week. On Friday I even caught her staging photos in her head for special pictorial issues. Nicki's been our most constant, faithful companion for our Friday night bonfires all summer long, but when I asked her over our McLunch what she planned to do last Friday evening, she said, with a happy, fulfilled, ethereal smile, Oh, I have to BLOG... I have two ideas I need to work on for next week!

AGH...I've created a monster! I lamented.

YEAH! A Bloggymonster! she growled, laughing.

Meanwhile back over at my kitchen counter, I've opened up the Big White Blogger Box countless times and started tens of posts, but at some point in each of them I just get stymied. Struck mute by my own little bloggy neuroses, so complex and reclusive in their natures I can't even coax them out so I can see them to describe them to you. And the longer I go without posting, the more panicked I feel about not posting and the more pressure I feel to hurry up and JUST! POST! SOMETHING! ALREADY! which leads to more stymiedness and more neurosis. It's not pretty, people.

I've come to the conclusion though, that maybe Nicki's sucking all of the creative juices over to her side of the street, leaving my side all drab and mute and panicky. I allowed as much to her this afternoon when I walked out to get my mail and saw her, Munch and Bubba out on her driveway. She HAD HER LAPTOP OUT THERE AND WAS BLOGGING AWAY as the boys played ball. We call that showin' out where I come from, by the way. Anyway, she didn't hear my theory about the whole creavity-suck she'd perpetrated agin' me, because she had her head stuck so far up into that laptop all I could see were the soles of her new gym shoes and two pointy little elbows justa bobbin' away as she tapped out another post. However I did get her attention the couple times I slammed the lid down on that laptop while she'd stepped away to attend to the antics of her two little sluggers.

What? I was protecting her computer, people! The kids were all over the place and I didn't want one of them to trip over or jump on or otherwise fold, spindle or mutilate her laptop! (Or did I?) And how was I to know Mark had set her laptop to shut down when closed?

Shhhhhhh... It worked though, didn't it?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Curses, Foiled Again!

Pricilla Maude Sybil here, and I've been doing my darnedest to have a terrible horrible no good very bad weekend, but do you SEE what I'm UP AGAINST here, people?

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Hey, YOU try to maintain an appropriate level of grumpiness in the company of these two knuckleheads!

'Nuf said.

Have a grouchy day. Well, somebody's gotta do it!

Sincerely,

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oh Well, He's Gonna Think All the Men in Her Life Are Dogs, Anyway

Every evening around dinnertime, we hear the tell-tale grind of the garage door opening and Bean squeals with delight Daddeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Daddy's home!, flings whatever she has in her hands to the floor and charges with wild abandon to the back door to flap it wide open and rush out to help Daddy get out of the car and into the house. He hands her his travel mug from the morning commute so she can bring it inside to me to put in the dishwasher, gets all his gritty gradoo out of the trunk and they walk inside together, sometimes holding hands and sometimes with Bean in Daddy's arms. Bean then announces with glee, Mama! Wook who I foun'! It's Daddeeeeeeeee! and I then feign dramatic surprise and swoon as he pops his head around the corner like a Jack-in-the-Box. After that, Bean and I tussle for the First Kiss from Daddy, and somehow, she's victorious EVERY TIME. We've been enacting some variation of this routine every week night since we moved here nearly 18 months ago. It's how we DO Daddy's homecoming.

Two days ago, though, I'd stumbled upon an episode of a new-to-us show, Kipper on Sprout® (Oh he is so CUTE! Have you seen this puppy? I don't think I'd even mind cleaning up all the little cartoon poopies if I could have a sweet little lovey-eyed puppy with a British accent!) and fired it up for Bean to divert her from her determination to help me cut up fresh tomatoes for the StewedDamatersCornandOkra because? Have you ever had a toddler with a serrated plastic knife stand beside you and help cut up fresh ripe tomatoes had your entire body from the waist down completely slathered in fresh tomato guts, seeds and juice? NO? Why on earth not?

So Tuesday evening Miss Bean, coaxed from her position as sous-chef by Kipper-the-dog and a handful of Snyders of Hanover Butter Snaps®, lay snuggled on the sofa, completely engrossed in and cooing over the clever and polite exploits of her new canine hero when I heard the familiar garage-door hum and moved out of the way to wait expectantly for first notes of the Customary Greeting Ceremony to sound.

But there was only silence.

Bean? I hear the garage door!! Guess who's home?!

Silence.

Bean?

Pause.

Don't werry, iss jus' Daddy, Mama. He knows howda get inside all by his little self now. We can jus' see him when he comes inside. I'm watchin' dis puppy.

Poor Daddy. If I hadn't gone out to get him, I think he'd still be sitting in that car waiting for his little welcoming committee.

Hey, at least this time I got the First Kiss!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I No Longer Wince When I Go Potty

AKA: The State of the Bladder Address.

Because you really, REALLY needed to have that information in order for your day to start off right. Or end up right, as the case may be.

But several sweet people inquired after my well-being yesterday (thank you kindly for your concern!) so there's the update. The anti-biotics are, as usual, kicking my derriere with the requisite Parade O' Addin'-Insult-to-Injury Side Effects®, but I only have another 36 hours left of that nonsense and then I'll be all back to my haggard and dilapidated but functional old self again.

But guess what I did last night? I went out for CAWFEE with my sweet longtime pal Lainey (BloginMyEye) and our new friend Jeanne from At A Hen's Pace! Not a one of us remembered her camera, so you'll just have to imagine the scene of three bloggin' Mamas sitting in a booth at a nearly deserted cafe after dark, drinking coffee and tea and eating 'zurts (desserts, according to Bean), talking and laughing about blogging and kids and husbands and cars and what have you. A good time was had by all. Jeanne doesn't look the least little bit like a hen, though. More like a pretty little dove, I think. Had she not been one of the only 2 people in the restaurant, the other being Lainey, I may have quite overlooked her lovely young self in search of a much older, much less hip-lookin' Mama-type. Don't you think, so, Lainey?

Incidentally, did you know Jeanne and Summer(inFL) are sisters-in-law? Wonders that never cease!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Unwrappin' the Mystery of the Package Store

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

A liquor store is the American and Canadian name for a type of convenience store which specializes in the sale of alcoholic beverages in the countries where its consumption is strongly regulated. In some parts of the US a liquor store is called a package store or "packie" for short. In alcoholic beverage control (ABC) states, package stores often sell only distilled spirits or sometimes sell distilled spirits and wine but not beer. ABC-run package stores may be called ABC stores. The term "package" derives from the fact that following the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, a political compromise was reached with leaders of the temperance movement whereby containers of alcoholic beverages could not legally be carried in public uncovered from view. Thus, stores that sold alcohol for consumption elsewhere wrapped or "packaged" them for their customers' convenience.

In the UK and Ireland the corresponding term is Off-licence, which may refer to a shop selling mostly alcohol, or to part of larger shop.


Okay my pretties! Several lovely non-Southerners responded with the correct answer (some after a bit of research. Y'all used your resources and edu-macated yourselves. Can't fault or disqualify you for that, can I?) to the package store conundrum. I'm pleased as (rum-spiked, in this case) punch!

Cori, you hit the nail on the head. Package store, because of the brown paper bags you sneak your purchase out in, originally because such was required by many states' laws, and today still because it would be indelicate to come trouncing out of the store into the daylight brandishing a bottle of far-water for all the world (or worse, the next door neighbor - GASP!) to see. Even if you are just buying the tiniest, most innocent little fifth of bourbon to soak the cheesecloth you're gonna wrap around the Christmas fruitcake, like my Mom used to do every year before she finally got sick of still eating fruitcake in May and all those Yuletide "booze-soaked doorstop" jokes my Dad thought were so funny. Okay, they were a little funny.

My Mom, however, would NOT actually set foot in the package store. EVER. She sent my father, under the cloak of darkness. "ROY! I need bourbon for the fruitcake. Wait'll after the sun sets and then sneak downda th' package store and get some and MAKE SURE NOBODY SEES YOU." This from the woman who has her own "Cold Duck" face - she loves her ONE TINY GLASS of Cold Duck on a special occasion (do they make Cold Duck anymore?) and sips it delicately, savoring the rich fizzy fruity goodness. Her lips poke out flatly. Sorta LIKE a duckbill, actually. Aaah... that's good stuff. Urp. QUACK!

One day the summer after Bean was born, we were up viz'tin Nana and Poppa and had the grandparents and Aunt and Uncle and cousins over for fresh hand-churned ice cream and poundcake on the back porch. After we'd churned the ice cream (starting with the womenfolk while the cream was still liquid and ending with the menfolk as it froze and got harder to turn, as time-honored family tradition dictates) and each indulged our sweet-teeth with a heapin' helpin', we sat ruminating in the shady heat of late afternoon and the subject of package stores came up. I can't recall how or why, I just recall the moment my Uncle, who, like all the other men on my Dad's side of the family (who would hasten to point out it's because the women on the other side of the family, to whom they're married, could talk the skin right off a half-ripened Gaffney peach), is a man of few words, spoke up.

Now, as Marie pointed out in the comments of the original Package Store Post, sometimes package stores go by the nickname Red Dot Stores. Purveyors of adult beverages in some alcoholic beverage control states (which are mostly located in the South) bore a large red circle on one or more exterior wall to indicate their contents. I couldn't find in my research exactly what the purpose of the red dot was, but I will give you my two theories: One - It showed the store was licensed and approved by the governing state's alcohol control board. Two - Mebbe 'cause Bubba and Skeeter love 'em a cocktail, but they cain't exac'ly read. Y'all be the judge.

Whatever the REAL reson, the red dot, sometimes more of a um... red amoeba or a mere faded cluster of assorted red jigsaw pieces, thanks to impingement of the infernal kudzu creeping up and over these buildings and well, everything else in its path from May to December, at an alarming rate, I might add, like faster than root growth after an expensive dye job er, "highlights," mean to us Southerners "they's booze in thar, y'all." And my Uncle Butch, as reputation would have it, is speculated to have frequented a red dot store with his boys ever' now and again back in the day, and he says, on that warm afternoon, with a barely audible chuckle that sounds EXACTLY like my Grandaddy's (his Dad) laugh, "When I was a kid, we used to call 'em The Japanese Embassy."

I don't want y'all to feel too bad about not knowing (those of you who didn't) what a package store is. Back in my wild single days (ha ha HA) my dear Midwestern friend Kim came down from Milwaukee to stay with me for a weekend shortly after I'd bought my first house. I picked her up at the airport and we sped through the city and out to the 'burbs, where we stopped to stow her things at my house and allow her to freshen up, and then we jumped back in the car to go, I explained, to the package store. Kim happily rode along with me, and we chattered and laughed as I drove, catching up on life. We arrived at the store and made our purchases and brought them out in their customary paper sacks. As we walked out to the car, Kim said, "Okay so now we just have to go mail off the packages and the we can go back to your place, mix up a few cocktails and sit outside and enjoy the weather and talk, right? Who are we mailing something to?" (I may be paraphrasing or I may be making the whole thing up, I can't be sure, it was about 5 years ago, see?)

"Huh? Mail off what packages?"

"You said we were going to UPS or Mailboxes Etc. or somewhere, I think, didn't you?"

"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH! No, PACKAGE STORE."

"Yeah! The package store!"

"We just did."

"Huh?"

"A package store is a (whispers) liquor store. That's we call 'em down here. Package stores."

Menu Plan Monday

First off, Hope's Creamed Seafood and Vegetables, which I made last Thursday, was EXCELLENT. I mean seriously delish, y'all, so I'm posting the recipe, originally published in Penzey's One Magazine. I hadda make one minor modification to the recipe below seein's how I couldn't locate any Seafood Soup Base in my tiny lil prairie town (seafood? Naw, we don't DO seafood 'round these parts, lady). I may order some from Penzey's for next time, but my modification worked out tastily enough, so maybe not. I'm just not ready to commit to a Soup Base decision at this point! The modification I made was to add the liquid from the can of crabmeat to the sauce right after I'd stirred in the milk. Gave the sauce a nice oceanic richness, it did!


Hope's Creamed Seafood and Vegetables
1 lb thawed cooked shrimp
1 8 oz can crabmeat, drained
3 TB butter
1 small onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 TB flour
2 cups milk
1 tsp seafood soup base
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
4 oz grated fresh Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste

In a large skillet, melt the buter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until a light golden brown, about 1 minute. (This makes a roux). Slowly add the milk and whisk until thick and smooth. Add the soupbased and mix in well. Add the red pepperand simmer gently until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp, crab, mushrooms spinach and cheese, stir and simmer until everything is just tender. Don't overcook or the shrimp will be rubbery. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. This is very good served over pasta, rice or even toast or biscuits. Top with extra cheese if desired and serve with hot sauce on the side. Serves 6.

From Penzey's One World of Flavor Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 4, 2007 (page 64)


Now, on to this week's menus:

Monday
Brown Rice Broccoli Cheese and Walnut Surprise (I know, the "surprise" part made me a little leary too, but this one's safe, I checked it out.)
Fresh Sweet Corn (get it while it lasts, people, there's a telltale nip in the air lately!)

Tuesday
StewedDamatersCornandOkra (it's all one word in my family, right Mom?)
Zucchini Cakes

Wednesday
Turkey Cutlets
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cranberry (BLARGH to the cranberries... I'm SICK of cranberries!) Dressing
Green Beans

Thursday
Hummus and Whole Wheat Pita
Greek Salad

And that about sums'er up for this week. A neighbor surprised us with a basket full of fresh cucumbers last night, so I'll work in a marinated cuke salad one night, as well. Nummy!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Dog Ate It. Yeah, That's It! The Dog!

Dear Mrs. Blogreader,

Megan was unfortunately unable to complete her homework assignment to turn in today.

Actually she has it about halfway done, but is just too tard and ee-yull to finish and post it, on accounta this styupid bladder infection which has returned with a vengeance. I'm telling you this not as a bid for your sympathy but to explain why Megan won't be regaling you with funny package store stories tonight as she promised she would on Friday. And yes, she is well aware of how crushed you and the rest of the class must certainly be feeling about this failure on her part to live up to the expectations she herself set forth here publicly on the blog and for that she is truly and deeply and emphatically sorry.

Megan has, however, prepared some extra-credit work. She wanted you all to read a real beverage-snorter... a pee-in-your-pants funny post written by her wise and witty pal JulieMom. If you love What NOT to Wear and/or the Food Network, you are going to be rolling on your floor just seconds after you click. right.
.
.
.

HERE!

Megan will be back in class soon (hopefully she can get in to see a doctor tomorrow or at the very least early in the day on Tuesday) to close the loop on the package store post. I will tell you now though that serendipitously enough, the randomly-selected winner of the personalized token of my esteem was none other than JulieMom herself. Megan be sending her something special this week. Something small and light and good for travel, I expect!

Thank you for your kind understanding in this matter,

Megan's Mother

Saturday, September 8, 2007

It's Enough to Get ME Outta Bed Early on Saturday!

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Look at this delightful and charming little bag by XS Baggage! One of us needs to have this bag, y'all. If you win, may I please borrow it? Go enter the drawing at Michelle's lovely blog, Scribbit. Did you know she does a giveaway drawing almost EVERY week? I wanna BE her, y'all.

Enjoy your day and don't forget to enter the two little contests/drawings I have going on this week:

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Friday, September 7, 2007

AW, MAN! Homework Over the Weekend?!

So as I was throwing together the pot of blackeyed peas for dinner Wednesday night, I used up one ingredient I simply must have to cook them to delicious perfection.

Mental note: Run by package store and pick up more (ingredient). At earliest convenience.

Easy enough!

And then I got to thinkin'. 'Bout my treasured Midwestern friend Kim, mostly, but also about my neighbors out here on the prairie, and my Uncle Butch, and a few others who always come to mind when I hear the words package store. For some, the concept of a package store is anything but easy.

Okay all you Southerners hush now and let's ask the non-Southerners.

Do y'all know what a package store is?

Feel free to invite other non-Southerners to participate in this discussion. A winner, selected at random from all correct responders, will receive a small token of my esteem, specifically chosen for you by little old me.

Answer up in the comments, non-Southerners, and this weekend I'll come back and tell you all about package stores and why they're funny, at least to me.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Every Time a Doorbell Rings, A Neighbor Gets Her Blog

Well Di-i-ing Dong!

My sweet neighbor Nicki just started her own blog, y'all! And I can tell you from many many happy hours spent in her company and that of her Four Boys that she's going to have some hilARious stories to tell on said blog. So go ahead on over and say hello and then get her set up in your Google Reader or your bloggy feeds or whatever and sit back and watch her crazy busy but supremely organized and tidy life unfold before you. You're going to love her and her family as much as I do! Oh! And I would be completely remiss should I neglect to tell you that although Nicki's not the least little bit Southern, she's still one of the very most hospitable people I've ever known. And (conspiratorially) I caught her saying y'all yesterday. If two and two still = four, then just those two facts alone should tell you that Neighbor Nicki = Good People.

Meanwhile across the street, evil illness has taken aholt' of the two female residents of FriedOkra Manor. Bean's got a little cold (her first in probably 5 months, though, so she was maybe overdue by a little) and I woke up last night feeling that tell-tale ache of a brewing bladder infection. Fun times. We summoned the energy this morning to get out the house for a little fun (tell you about that later), but now we're holed up inside for the afternoon watching a Pooh movie, eatin' popcorn, and drinking our juices of choice - hers orange and mine cranberry (blargh!). Hopefully we'll have nipped all this viral/bacterial ickiness in the bud and be back tomorrow on HIGH.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

And [Every]one Knows What Goes On Behind Closed Doo-oors...

Y'all probably aren't even old enough to recognize those lyrics, are you? Well, most of you, anyway. Mom, are you singing?

I must say that I am absolutely Pickled. Tink. about the responses from ya'll to my last post declaring September New Jeans Month. I knew y'all would have some good ideas! Maybe one of you be able will save my derriere from certain frostbite this winter! I hope you will also go take a look at everyone else's suggestions, too, so we can all look smart and fabulous together!

Now that we're well on our way to resolving the issue of junk in my trunk, it follows we'll move on to the junk in my kitchen cabinets. What, you don't see how that follows?

Okay it doesn't really follow, but my beautiful new friend Jennifer from Gathering Grace showed us her cabinets this morning and she innocently asked her readers to show theirs. ApPARently, a lot of Jennifer's readers, bless their sweet hearts, have something to hide, because they all flatly refused the invitation! But here at Fried Okra Manor? Our cabinets are an open book! Take a look:

Here's the hot beverage station in the cabinet directly to the right of the stove top, where the teapot hangs out. Directly under this cabinet you'll find the coffee-maker and the espresso machine which hasn't been used since we un-dink-ified ourselves back in October of '04.

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Next are the plates and serving pieces (minus the trays that are in a bottom cabinet I'm not showing today because you're already going to be bored to tears looking at the top cabinets and you really haven't done a thing to deserve such a punishment anyway) and the crockpots on the top shelf which need to be moved somewhere because Al has a duck fit every time I climb up on the counter to get them down. I think he must be completely mystified that I was able to survive life before him... since I'm apparently the Evel Knievel of Huswifery, Without A Helmet and all.

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Next door to the plates live the bowls. I think you've gathered that we here at Fried Okra Manor promote integration where ever possible, but when The Plates and The Bowls started getting tattoos and sporting red and blue bandannas, we thought it best to separate them. The graffiti remains a problem however.

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Next come the drinking glasses and our ever-growing assortment of vitamins and dietary supplements. And the requisite cache of sippy cups. We have forty-leven sippy cups because it has taken us 2 years of constant experimentation to find a brand and style that work and don't require you to have an engineering degree to take them apart and put them back together.

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Follwed by the barware. Such as it is. We don't drink all that much but we have an occasional glass of wine or snifter of something. Mostly because we love the word snifter. And we feel very cultured when we sip from our snifters. Makes us want to buy a couple of wing back chairs and watch Mah-stah-piece Thay-ah-tah from them. Daaaaaaaahling.

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And this photo is JUST for Jennifer, because my love, I feel your pain when it comes to the Tupperware® conundrum. Many years have I struggled to keep my storage containers all sorted and balanced and organized. Many long and painful years. But now. I have made peace with my plastic. Our new house has a cabinet unit that is one shallow drawer and two very deep, very wide drawers. The bottom drawer? Tupperware® Territory:

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And as a bonus. BONUS BONUS BONUS! The shallow drawer. Spices galore, all visible and confined and cozy. In my previous assorted abodes I'd always succumbed to my mother's promptings to display my seasonings on two Lazy Susans side by side in a high cabinet (But 'lazy' is a four letter word in my family so we always called 'em go 'rounds). This really never seemed quite right for me, location or organization-wise. (I hasten to add that I am not casting aspersions on the go 'round at all, Mom!) so when we moved into this house I was determined to bring the herbs and spices down to my level so I could get to them without untucking my shirt and going cross-eyed. (It's the little things, people.) And here's what I was able to perpetrate:

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Yes! Angels DO sing whenever I open that drawer. How did you know? Tee hee.

So there you are Jennifer, dear. My kitchen cabinets out there in front of God and everybody! Who loves you, baby?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

September is New Jeans Month.

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Y'all.

I haven't bought a new pair of jeans since the spring before Al and I got married. That was four and a half years ago. I did own another pair at the time and they were easily 2 years old then, which would make them six and a half years old today, if my math is correct. Do you REMEMBER what jeans were like six and a half years ago? Well, I do. That was back when the rise of a jean still came up to and/or over your bellybutton! And lemme tell you, I am never getting the post-baby innertube of flesh and flab around my middle tucked under the vice-like girdle-grip of any Mom jeans again without a tub of Crisco® and a drill press.

Fortunately the new jeans I bought that spring had a lower rise. A rise with dignity AND hipness - not too high, not too low. They're the perfect wash, too. For color and texture they're sheer perfection. No embellishments anywhere - just a simple, straightforward 5 pocket jean. Dress 'em up, dress 'em down, you're good to go. In them I've always felt cute, comfortable and confident. And that's sayin' something. Am I right?

You know what happens to the favorite jeans, though, don't you? Velveteen. Rabbit. City. The knees of my beloved fivepockets started wearing thin in the winter months last year and as soon as I noticed that, I started machine-washing them ONLY WHEN THE SITUATION DESPERATELY CALLED FOR THOROUGH CLEANSING. I confess: I spot-cleaned them whenever I thought I could get away with it. (Hangs head in shame.) I also started hanging them to dry on the rare occasions that I submitted them to the cruel brutality of machine washine, so as to avoid losing additional precious denim fibers to the lint filter. Such are the drastic lengths to which a woman in desperation will go to preserve the integrity of her favorite dungarees. Alas, those measures only served to prolong the agony of standing by helplessly as the best pair of jeans I've ever owned developed a hand-sized gash across one knee and a threatening weak spot right at the bottom of the zipper. (Muffled sob.)

Sigh. I must find myself some new jeans or be forced, come October, to go about my life dressed like Porky Pig.

And frankly, I don't have the tail for such shenanigans.

Which is why I hereby declare September to be New Jeans Month.

And this is where YOU come in.

'Cause you shop. And you wear jeans. And you've watched an episode or two of TLC's What Not to Wear. And you're smart. And cute. And fashionable. (Can you believe the level of detail my stats tracker can provide? ZOWIE!) But you are not emotionally (or otherwise) attached to my perfect old DKNY jeans and therefore you've an ability to be objective that has thus far eluded me in dressing rooms all over Chicagoland.

So.

Utilizing your knowledge of fashion, your accumen for shopping, and your understanding of what makes a perfect jean perfect, you tell me where to find my next pair of perfect jeans. Be as specific as possible about the brand (for brand loyalty runs mighty deep where denim is concerned, doesn't it?), the location (a retail store, catalog or website) and the style, in your suggestion. You don't need to suggest the size... I can figure that part out myself and I'd like us all to remain friends after all is said and done. Ahem.

  1. I will dutifully shop for or order and try on any of the brands and styles of jeans you love and think I would love too (those that I can find with relative ease).
  2. If I select your favorite jean for purchase (which would mean it fit well and I loved it in the way a woman loves a pair of good jeans), YOU will get a $25 gift card to Macy's, Kohl's, GAP, or any other major retail purveyor of fashion you choose as long as I can order the card online.
  3. A second winner, selected at random, will win a $15 gift card.
  4. Have fun with this. You can write a post in your own blog and share your Mad Jeany-ology Skillz, or just leave your suggestion in my comments. To qualify for the gift card, please link to this post in your blog, if you have one. Grab the button up there or get me to email it to you, if you like.
  5. I'll be shopping all month long, but the deadline for suggestions will be Friday, September 14th.

    I'm not a large woman. I'm about average or slightly smaller than average, I'd guess. If I were a fruit, I'd be a pear. Little bit of junk in the trunk.

    I think I need a slightly flared leg that goes straight down and isn't snug on the thigh.

    I like BLUE jeans. What is with that new weird brown wash that makes denim look muddy/dirty? EW!

Also feel free to play along and find some new jeans for you, too! Check back here often to find out which jeans other women love. If you can't count on bloggy friends to tell you what makes your bottom look big, who CAN you count on, know-what-I'm-sayin'?

As Goethe As It Gets

Can you rewrite this famous quote to reflect your own take on each day? If nothing else, it may help you set your priorities tomorrow!

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.
~ Goethe

Hmm...

One ought, every day at least, to laugh a big ol' belly-laugh, reflect on her blessings and allow herself to well up with love, joy, and gratitude, admit her blunders, and if it were possible, to listen carefully to those around her with her ears and heart. ~ Megan

My lovely lovely Lainey-kins got this idea from Toni who got this idea from Ann Kroeker who is also collecting the responses.

Let me know if you play along, too.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Ack, it's almost Tuesday! But ah, the joys of things getting back to normal around the homestead after weeks of comp'ny and holidays. Last week we cleaned up the leftovers from my parents' visit so I didn't really need to cook. That worked nicely until about Wednesday and then I started feeling a distinct yearning to dice and sautee again. I believe I may be addicted to culinary production, y'all.

Which leads me to Tuesday's menu.

OH, how I do love me a nice, warm, bubbly pan of cheese manicotti. You know, cute little pasta tubes all stuffed up good with rich, gooey, fragrant cheese, smothered in savory-with-a-hint-of-sweet tomato sauce and then topped off with a layer of melted mozzarella lightly browned up and toasty? MMMMMAMA MIA! Slurp.

BUT. I've never found a recipe that QUITE lived up to my expectations taste- and consistency-wise, although I've been testing out recipe after recipe since my college days. And that's a long time. And a lot of recipes. Recently I decided to scrap my search and try my hand at creating my OWN recipe for manicotti.

Here's what I came up with:

Manicotti
1 8 oz. pkg manicotti pasta boiled 5 minutes in salted water

Filling
1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 cup grated 5 Italian cheese blend
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
12/ t. salt

Sauce
1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes drained of about half their juice
1/3 cup diced red pepper
1 medium onion, diced
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced then smoothed into a paste with about 1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup white wine
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. dried basil or 2 T. fresh basil, chopped

1 cup grated mozzarella (or the 5 cheese blend from above)

Oven 350°.

In a skillet or sautee pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until you begin to smell it. Add onions and reduce heat to medium low so the onions cook slowly without browning. Allow onions and pepper to cook until onions transparent and both are tender. Add white wine and stir to free bits of pepper and onion from bottom and sides of pan. Turn heat to med-high. Bring to a boil and then lower heat slightly so the wine can reduce for about 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes with remaining juice and stir in the garlic/salt paste, honey and basil. Allow to boil then reduce heat and cover. Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally as you complete the next steps - about 30 minutes or so.

Cook pasta, drain and set aside to cool where they can be separate and not touching one another (trust me). Pasta won't be DONE-done, but that's what you want.

Mix together the ricotta, egg, grated cheeses, salt, garlic powder and nutmeg and place inside a one gallon storage bag. Cut across one bottom corner of the bag to create about a 1/2 inch opening. Gently pick up one manicotti tubes and squeeze the cheese mixture into it until it's nearly full but not overflowing with cheese. Repeat with all pasta until cheese mixture is gone. You may have a FEW tubes left unfilled. Feed them to the dog, or to the toddler cut into rings and then stirred up with butter and grated parmesan. Toddler Chow!

Line bottom of a casserole dish with one half of the tomato/pepper sauce. Place manicotti on top of the sauce, layering if necessary. Top with remaining sauce and then sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake uncovered at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until everything's bubbly and gooey and luscious-looking. (Hey, cooking ain't a science with me. It's an art.)

Tuesday
Manicotti with Tomato/Pepper Sauce
Salad

Wednesday
Blackeyed Peas
Collard Greens
Corn Bread

Thursday
Hope's Creamed Seafood and Vegetables (From the brand new Penzey's One magazine. Unfortunately, the recipe in question isn't available at that link. If you want it, email me and I'll gladly send it to you. It looks really good.)
Rice

Friday
Greek Pasta, (Also from Penzey's One magazine, also not available on-line. PHOOEY!)

Menu Plan Monday is hosted by the lovely and organized Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Go visit her now and just see how many hundreds of people out there have it together in the kitchen this week!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Got To Get You Some...

I found a couple lovely and fun giveaways this weekend. Y'all go sign up and get you some.


#1 - Shoes.

Yes, I said shoes. Of the FREE variety.

Would one of you ladies please catch Kristen? She's swooning.

Hello? Yeah, I figured that'd be all it took. You're gone already aren't you? Signing up for the FREE SHOES and all.

Blink.

You back yet?

Tappity tap tap. Hum hum hum...

Hello? Man. How long does it TAKE?

OKAY, you're back. Now.

#2 Cookbooks.

Now I don't need to tell you that there's more'n just good tater salad in a church cookbook, do I? When was the last time you went to a church potluck and didn't come home with a new recipe? AHA! That-is-what-I-thought!

Enjoy... and I hope y'all win!

Happy Birthday, Nana!

She's a little bit of a rag-a-muffin this morning, but her heart's in the right place...



Nana, we hope you have a great day today! Your gift is in the mail, but it'll be late. You know, 'cause it's from me.

We Love You,

Al, Alex and Megan

And Be Thankful.

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I awoke this morning to a throat-lump-inducing, crisp-like-a-perfect-fall-apple dawn and a red mug of morning nectar the perfect shade of deep khaki served up just for me by my gorgeous, loving, sweet, funny husband. The sun filters through our back window over diamond-studded grass, sparkling with promise as we loll in our warm, cozy kitchen. Five fresh tomatoes I picked from my vines in the back yard last night wait on the windowsill in single file. This afternoon I'll peel and dice them then gather verdant handfuls of fresh basil from patio pots and stir the fruits of my labor and God's elements together into fresh bruschetta topping for a neighborhood party celebrating the waning days of our second summer on the prairie.

Colossians 3:15

Let the peace that Christ gives rule in your hearts. As parts of one body, you were appointed to live in peace. And be thankful.