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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Red Bull®, Goals & Dreams, Happy Days & You: I Will Still Post About Possum & Biscuits If I Have to, People.

Oh, your comments from yesterday's post have been a joy to read! I've loved hearing from y'all. So much so I want MORE, please. I'm just needing a little bit of a break from talking about ME for awhile, and what better way to get all rejuvenated and ready to spin a good yarn or humiliate myself with another tale of my complete dunderheadedness than to hear about you?

None better. That's what.

So let's hear from ALL of you. (Ahem, lurkers!)

I'll even give you some thoughts to ponder as you come up with something to tell me about.

As Beanie-girl and I were racing (And she can win now, y'all. Quite easily. Puff, puff, puff.) around the gazebo in my teenytiny town square this morning (we were down there mailing out the books at the Post Office!), I saw a guy blow by behind the wheel of a black BMW, chugging a Red Bull®. And it reminded me that I've always wondered about Red Bull®. What's Red Bull® like? Have you ever had one? Do you like it? What does it DO for you? How does it make you feel? Am I wrong in my assessment that people who regularly drink Red Bull® (or similar beverages of that ilk. Isn't ilk a fun word? Ilk ilk ilk.) like to live fast and perhaps a little loose? Because the only person I've ever actually met who drank Red Bull® regularly is my landscaper, and frankly, although he's a nice enough guy, he scares me a little. HE! TALKS! LIKE! THIS! (only a great deal faster than I just typed that) and he paces around like his drawers are on fire, and his eyes are a little odd. They don't ever look fully focused, to me.

But that man can put in a shrub faster than I can eat a Twix® bar, and that's sayin' sumpm, people.

So, somebody give ol' Mama the 411 on Red Bull®, wouldja?

And then we'll switch gears. It seems like there're a lot of BLAHs going around lately. I hear y'all on that one. I wonder why everybody's BLAH at the same time? Is April National Blah Month? The Mumph of Harumph? I don't know, do you? But we need some cheering up, all of us, so please, tell me about a goal or a dream you have for yourself or your whole family. Doesn't have to be anything huge like building your own 15,000 square foot log cabin from scratch or climbing Mt. Everest or, you know, catching up on the laundry. Just one goal or dream that you have in your mind that you're really working toward right now and sincerely hope to reach or achieve.

I'll throw a couple of mine out there to get you thinking. When I started blogging in July 2007, I set a goal for myself of writing (or whatevering) well enough and being a "good enough" all around blogger to have a certain (hopefully realistic) number of subscribers by the end of my first year at FriedOkra.

I also have a dream of being a much more relaxed and happy mother to Peanut as a newborn than I was to Bean.

And Mom? Yes. One day I even dare hope to replace the $5.99 Post-It® brand stick-on paper blind on the window in my kitchen with an actual fabric treatment of some sort. Which will involve me making a DECISION. Which is not my forte right now. But a girl's gotta have a dream, people.

And lastly - what's the BEST thing that happened to you today? Me? I got Peanut's new little crib bedding in the mail. In a BIG ol' box. And his curtains, too. And it's all seriously cute! And that made me WAY happy.

Hmm. I still seem to be talking about me.

Okay, your turn:

  • Red Bull®?
  • Goal or Dream?
  • Something happy that happened today?
  • All three?

Yes, YOU.










Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Or I Could Just Post My Recipe for 'Possum -n- Biscuits...

Mama gots nothin', y'all.

(But may I please say how totally relieved it makes me feel that so many of y'all have experienced the whole, "I know how many clams you shelled out last time you filled up the Mom-mobile, but I do not know your name" phenomenon? Which is not to say I thrive on your discomfort. Unless your discomfort is caused by the fact that you've given up the last Twix® bar so I can have it, in which case, I say, Bring it.)

(Nah. I don't need your Twix® bar. Okay, yes, I do. Really, rilly, rilly in a bad way. Need it, need it, NEED IT.)

You see how much nothin' Mama gots?

We've been busy around here this morning making up the weekly meal plan (a day late, because yesterday it just wudd'n happnin'), grocery shopping (Bean found one of those little balloon-on-a-sticks with a cluster of jingle bells on it and I kid you not, she skipped and hopped along in front of my cart the whole time, shaking that jingly balloon above her head, looking for all the world like a tiny, curly-haired, miniature court jester. I laughed my bummy off the whole time.) making a huge pot of bisketti sauce and we're fixin' to make oatmeal raisin cookies this afternoon.

And what are y'all up to? 'Cause I'd be interested to know. What are you and the kids doing today? How are you feeling? What's on your mind (besides Miley Cyrus, okay, because my Mom called me today and started talking about her. Yesterday neither of us woulda known who Miley Cyrus was if she'da come knocking at our doors selling Twix® bars - ahem - and today we're chatting about her like she lives down the street. You know what I think? I think if a 66-year-old retired nurse in Smallmilltown, South Carolina and a 40-year-old mother of a three-year-old, a mother who's been in cultural literacy lock-down for at least the past six months, are caught DEAD chattin' it up over Miley Cyrus, then the Cyrus family and their agents can sit back and say Mission Accomplished.)

But seriously. I want to hear from all of y'all. What's going on with you and yours? What's making you laugh, cry, smile, worry, hope, tune-in, turn-on, break-out, or just sit down and think?

Leave me a little insight into the pulse of your world in the comments. I'd love to hear just about anything, as long as it comes from YOU.

Monday, April 28, 2008

"Um, Maddy's Mom," she said awkwardly, "Would you be so kind as to pass me the deviled eggs?"

It's the reason I want Mama cards. Well, the main reason.

(The other reason I want Mama cards is so I don't have to actually form and speak aloud the words, "Ihaveablog.Amommyblog.Sometimesit'sfunny.Mebbeyoumightlikeitonagoodishday?Doyouwannareadit?Doya?Doya?Please?Noseriously,Imeanit,PLEASE?" I cannot get over feeling like a complete dork saying stuff like that. But I'm a people. A people who needs people. So sometimes I make myself do it anyway. I know. Dork.)

(Why yes. I DO get a lot of blank stares.)

But the big reason I want Mommy cards? Well.

Has this ever happened to you?

Every week I take Bean to her little music and imagination class at the local rec department. And every week I sit outside the class, which is held in the rec center's cafeteria, on this long bench, my purse on my lap, with the other Mamas and sometimes a baby sibling or two, and we all wait for our little sweetpeas to get finished with their class and come barreling out of the cafeteria, their faces all aglow with joy because they got to jump like bunnies and collect acorns and twigs like squirrels and LOOKY MAMA! They all got frog stamps on their hands! FROGGY STAMPS, MAMA! THIS HERE IS THE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME IN MY WHOLE LONG THREE POINT FIVE SEVEN FIVE YEARS OF LIFE. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?

And while we're sitting there for nearly an hour, because we are women, we "share." Oh yes. I generally sit with the same two women each week. We've been sitting together every Monday, barring a few holiday weeks, since the beginning of this year. And I know purty much everything there is to know about these two other Mamas. I know their girls' names (Bean's contemporaries in class), I know the names and ages of their other children. I know where they get their hair done, what they did this past weekend, what they like to eat for breakfast, what they feel most guilty about as parents, how they feel about delayed vaccination schedules, that their husbands are not "handy" around the house so they get their fathers to come do stuff on the sly, I know which of their kids was the toughest baby, which had the worst diaper rash and what they used to finally get it to go away (corn starch, Jackie!), I learned today exactly how one lady's nurse told her to treat her son's circumcision boo boo just before she took him home from the hospital.

(Make it into a Vaseline® Petroleum Jelly ice cream cone. Oh, how that made me laugh. I know. Grossandtacky.)

I know where these women live, I know how much each of their kids weighed at birth, how long their labors were, and whether or not they had an episiotomy or just WISHED like heck they had. I know all about one lady's C-sections and I know she doesn't regret having them or wish she could have delivered them vah-jay-jaynally. I know where all their kids go to school, how the kids and the moms like their teachers this year, where they shop for their clothes and how often they change their bed linens. I know of one mom's on-going struggle with both of her children's chronic constipation, and I have actually cheered, in person, as her baby boy struggled to relieve himself of said problem one morning while we were all bench-sitting together. I know it all, people. We have BONDED on that bench, and I look forward to seeing these ladies every week. Isn't it amazing and wonderful that God has made women to be so very relational, so willing to be vulnerable and open to one another in just about any setting? These two women and I -- we've formed a weekly support group; become sharers of our collective wit and wisdom. Laughed, cried, laughed until we cried, and hugged our girls together at the end of every class while saying farewell to one another until the next Monday. I'm thankful for the companionship and the warmth and the laughs.

Inexplicably, I'm even thankful I know what color their master bathrooms are painted and how their husbands feel about those colors. (Not PLUM!?)

But there's a teee-nincey problem.

An awkward, ohhowcouldthishavehappened whatdoIdoNOW problem.

Y'all. We don't know one another's names.

Because up until now, it hasn't really seemed that important, you know? Or maybe we're too busy with all the SHARING to think of something so rote and mechanical as introducing ourselves. I know one of them as Maddy's mom and the other is Kate's mom and I'm Bean's mom. And Maddy's mom's baby boy's name is Drew, and Kate's mom has a 7 year old named Abbey. That's been enough.

But now we've all decided to take the girls on a picnic at the park next week after class. And it occurs to me that we've become actual friend-like thingies, and there's a chance we may actually want to get together after the girls' class ends. I know I'd like to. And even if we didn't, I know I'll see (ugh, see how awkward this is?) "Maddy's mom" next year when we take our girls to preschool - they're in the same class. And then what'll I say?

"Uh, hi 'Maddy's mom.' How was your summer? Husband used to that olive green paint in the bathroom yet?"

Yeah. No.

So I'm gonna have to step on up next Monday and facilitate introductions among three women who've been having coffee and deep, ponderous conversation together once a week for nearly 4 months. And I can do it. At the right moment in the conversation, say, right after we wrap up a discussion about PMS or ill-fitting nursing bras, and say, "By the way, y'all, I'm Megan."

"Oh,andIhaveablog.Amommyblog.Sometimesit'sfunny.Mebbeyoumightlikeitonagoodishday.Doyouwannareadit?Doya?Doya?Please?Noseriously,PLEASE?"

"Why yes. Yes, it would be okay to just call me Dork."

Oh, forget it. I wonder how quickly I can get those Mommy cards made up?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Got Us Some Winners, Y'all!

The winners of the two wonderful, helpful, possibly even life-altering Deirdre Imus Going Green books are the following lovely readers:

Jaci Burton
Shay @ Uniquely Yours
Mary Freebies
Chanelireli
Jennifer @ Dazed & Confused


Congrats, y'all and thanks to every single one of you who registered for the drawing. I've emailed each winner except Chanelireli (would you click the email button on my side bar and contact me directly?) with a request for your mailing addresses, so respondez vous (I am sooooooooo Euro-chic, people!) and I'll get your gifts to you ASAP.

Have a great rest of your Saturday. Cheerio!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Huh! Royal Jelly. Who'da Thunk?

I'm over at Chic Critique, thereby solidifying for all of us that Today! Must be Friday! Which is enough good news to give me laugh lines on my laugh lines, but never fear, I'm bloggin' about an all-natural night creme with royal jelly that'll fix those up good. Go find out for yourself - and while you're there, hurry up and get registered to win the $25 Sephora gift card we're giving away this weekend.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

While I Sit Here Taping the Head Back on this Paperdoll, People I Love are Doin' Other Stuff that Really Matters

Land sakes, I'm a mom! I'm simultaneously taping the head of a paperdoll back on while mopping up little girl toddler tears and repeating the mantra, "It's okay baby, Mama can fix her, Mama can fix her" and trying to explain the concept of positive and negative space to a three year old. So I'm prolly not gonna be all that funny in this post - I'm stretched purty thin at the moment.

While I work on that, I'ma send y'all off to check out the amazing, inspiring things a few of my favorite friends and bloggers are up to these days. Because I love them, I'm proud of them and so very happy to call 'em my friends, and I hope you'll feel the same.

First, note if you will the "Bite Back" button on my sidebar over there (actually it says "Bite Bacl" because it's too big to fit the whole "Back" in my stinkin' shrinky dink sidebar, but you get the message.) That little prollem aside, if you click it, that button will take you to BooMama's place, where Sophie's challenged us to donate enough funds in 50 hours to send 50 mosquito nets to Uganda to protect young kids and their parents from the dangerous and totally preventable disease, malaria. BooMama just got back from Uganda on a trip for Compassion, and you can read her funny and touching accounts of her trip, what she saw, and how she's been moved to serve God by advocating for these children, in a link on her sidebar entitled "I Went to Africa with Some People." She's broken up the mosquito net goal into "bite sized" pieces, if you will, and my bet is that if she hasn't already, she'll blow that whole 50 in 50 goal out of the water and over the rainbow and send hundreds of nets to Uganda. But that's just me. Go see for yourself.

My friend Beth at I Should Be Folding Laundry's turning her family's recent tragic loss of twin boys James and Jake at 20 weeks of pregnancy into a blessing for all of our future children. She's created a team in honor of James and Jake who'll be walking six miles in the March for Babies, a March of Dimes event, coming up April 27th. Beth and her boys have my heart, y'all. I miss those boys every day, and I pray for sweet Beth and her family's continued strength and healing from their loss. The three of them will always be built into of the bond I have with my own son, Peanut. (Whom we really aren't going to name Peanut, I promise.)

My FIRLs David and Lainey have been led to create an Etsy store to sell David's beautiful work, the proceeds of which will go toward sponsoring children through Compassion. David, who's a professor at a local college and a talented professional artist, just announced today that he'll be giving away a piece of his amazing pottery at his blog as part of the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival going on this week. I hope you'll go over and register for that drawing, and then take a look around at the new Etsy store, MoCoffee's Art Cafe. He makes beautiful things. We have several pieces (which are full integrated into our daily lives, not sittin' up on a shelf somewhere) he's blessed our home with over the years and we treasure them. TREASURE. THEM. Gorgeous, solid, unique handmade cups made by a man we admire and adore and have known for 20 years - well, they beat the heck out of my old cracked freebie Washington Mutual travel mug any day, I'll tell you that right now!

Lastly, but not leastly, my BFFs and neighbors Nicki, Katie, Christy and Kim will be walking as Team Cure or Bust in the Breast Cancer 3 Day event benefitting Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure here in Chicago this August. I can't tell you how inspired (and a little jealous) I've been as I've watched these 4 beautiful women train daily for the grueling task of walking 60 miles in 3 days in the infernal Chicago-in-August heat. They've got blisters on their blisters, but they just keep going! Each of these ladies' lives have been touched by a friend or family member who's battled breast cancer, and they each have a special reason and determination to raise funds for this worthy cause, and you can read their individual stories, track their training ups and downs, and donate to help them reach their team goal here. You go, girls! I'll be walking beside you in spirit, even if I also happen to be pushing out a baby at the time.

To all of these inspirational friends, seeking out ways to help others in need or sickness or danger, I personally thank you. I am so proud to know each of you and I wish you the very biggest, best successes in all of the work you do. Thanks for being you, being strong, and being part of the solutions. May God bless each of your endeavors to the fullest.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let Me Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

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A few weekends ago, the FriedOkra family was out running errands and the subject of baseball came up. Al loves baseball. Specifically he loves the Atlanta Braves - he's a Georgia boy, afterall, Georgia born and bred, with red clay, Coca-Cola® and salted-in-the-shell peanuts coursing through those veins of his. Some of the best dates we had before we were married were at Braves games - sittin' in his favorite spot right behind Chipper Jones in the outfield, drinkin' ice cold beer, eatin' hotdogs and watchin' the game unfold before our eyes as we talked, laughed and basked in the bright, animated scenes of spring and summer fun all around us.

Al knows a lot about the Braves' history, having been a fan since before he could walk. And he keeps up with the current players and their stats, even livin' way off up here a thousand miles away on the Illinois prairie. (I say that like we don't have television or electricity or phones or like we get our newspapers delivered by Pony Express, three months late, faded and tattered from the journey.) Plus, he knows seasonal stats every year for all the MLB teams and will rattle them off with the neighborhood husbands when they're germane to the conversation. He's a baseball fan and a former highschool shortstop, so he's good at it, as he is at anything he decides to do. (I know. People like that really get on my nerves, too, but he's my husband, so in this case it usually works to my advantage. If you can't beat 'em, marry 'em. Or something like that.)

Anyway, so we got to talking about baseball, and the two local MLB teams, and I said, "I'd sure love to go to a Cubs game this year. I wonder how hard it'd be to get some tickets. I wonder if your firm has some - since they have a pretty big presence in Chicago."

"I think we're doing an event for clients at a game sometime this season. I'll probably have to go to that, and I'll see when it is and we can buy you a ticket if we need to."

PhotobucketHOT ZIGGITY! We're goin' to a Cubs game!


And Mama was happy. Goin' to a Cubs game with my husband. Gonna (watch him) drink beer, eat a hotdog, chew the fat and enjoy all new baseball-related scenery.

Two weeks later (this past Saturday) we're sitting at a table at Chili's® eating dinner and he's keeping one eye on a baseball game they've tuned into on a TV in the corner.

"Oh, before I forget again," he lets out casually, "That Cubs game I mentioned is datedy-date-date. Go ahead and see if you can get a babysitter that night and I'mthrowingoutthefirstpitch."

"Okay," I reply. "I'll get right on it. Oooh, I can't wait!"

Waitaminute.

Blink.

Blink blink.

"You're whatting out the what WHAT?"

"You heard me."

"Is this a joke? Are you playin' with me, Al Lastname? You're throwing out the first pitch at the Cubs game?"

"No. I'm not kidding. It's no big deal, just a corporate thing. Jim told me a couple weeks ago."

I'm stymied into complete silence. Utterly speechless. For a minute.

"Are you SURE you're not teasing me?"

"Not teasing." Gives me his best wide-eyed Not Teasing, Serious look.

Photobucket "So what you're sayin' is, you're throwing out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game, you've known for two weeks, and you're just now getting around to telling me?"

"It's just the CUBS."

"But it's MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL! You're goin' to da show, kid!"

He smiles, eyebrows lifted in earnest, expressive humility. A little chuckle.

"Guess I need to buy a ball and throw a few practice pitches. Knock off the cobwebs. I want it to be a good one."

Yeah.

Oh, it'll be a good one, honey. I've no doubt about it.

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Hey! There's a great giveaway over where I moonlight - Chic Critique. Pop over and register to win a $25 gift card to Sephora.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pimiento Cheese: The Classic Southern Sandwich, Y'all









Listen, call me old fashioned, but when the weather goes from this:

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to this:

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I start thinking about pimiento cheese sandwiches.

What?

Well, I do.

Not following my train of thought? Okay, I'll break it down for y'all. It's morning afterall, you're still sleepy.

When the weather hits about 65°, sun shinin', bird's singin', sky skyin' its deepest, darkest shade of blue, Mama can't resist but to drag out her pickanic basket and get packin'. And to me, it's not a picnic if you aren't serving up some homemade pimento cheese sandwiches.

(And some fried chicken.)

(And don't forget the deviled eggs.)

(ARGH. Now I'm hungry.)

Which is why on Sunday when we woke up and took a quick peek outside, confirmed our suspicions that THIS IS THE MOST PERFECT DAY GOD EVER MADE, EVER, I sprang from my bed, trounced down to my kitchen, and gathered up what I'd need to mix up a batch what I consider to be The Eighth Wonder, my Mom's recipe for homemade pimiento cheese.

OHMYGRANNY.

Now I love pretty much any pimiento cheese, except for maybe that weird stuff you buy in buckets out of the cold foods section of the grocery store. That stuff is usually waaaaaaaay too sweet and may, based on its color, texture and taste, not even be made out of any actual real cheese at all. But REAL pimento cheese, to me, is as much a harbinger of spring as the first probing shoots of daffodil stems peeking out into the cold FebRUary wind.

It appears to me that like many of the things I love, pimiento cheese is a Southern thang. Case in point, when I first got out of school and moved to Wisconsin for a couple years, I went into my local grocery store to buy pimiento-cheese fixins and couldn't locate the pimientos. I searched and I quested and I rooted, scoured and dug, and there were no pimientos to be found.

"Where do y'all stock your pimientos?" I asked a store clerk.

"Could you say that in English?" he requested.

Hmmmmmmmm. I don't know how to say "Where do y'all stock your pimientos?" in Wisconsinite. It doesn't translate. See? Southern thang. At the BiLo's in my home town, they have a red tape line on the floor that goes direc'ly from the front door to the location of the pimientos. With signs along the way that say, "Y'all lookin' fer the pee-minners? They ovah heeyah."

True story: Last weekend Al and I watched the last couple hours of The Masters on TV. (MY GOSH y'all that course is the prettiest place in the world. I fully expect when I die to look into the light for as long as my eyes can take it, blink, and then open 'em again to behold Amen Corner, St. Peter lookin' up from the green to whisper, "Be with you right after God sinks this putt for the birdie. Rejoice quietly to yourself for a minute, m'kay?")

(It's a notoriously tough hole, y'all!)

We both sat riveted as some fancy camera and computer work gave us the ball's eye view of the fairway after Tiger sailed a drive off the 17th tee, up, up and over. Al watched the arc of the ball, noted the location of the pin, and, moaning a little, offered up, "Oh, he's not gonna like that one."

Me? I'm shouting "Oh, a little more to the left! Little more to the left! C'mon ball! Go LEFT!"

"It's nothing but TREES to the left, woman. What are you saying?"

"I know. The ball's going in the rough. Sigh. I was just hopin' to catch a glimpse of one of the little green shacks where they sell the pimiento cheese sandwiches."

Yeah, even at The Masters, with Tiger five strokes over but closing the gap quickly, pimiento cheese can steal the show. Well, my show anyway.

But even that pimiento cheese, pimiento cheese good enough for St. Peter and Tiger himself, can't hold a candle to my Mom's pimiento cheese.

Which is why, even this far into a post that is already entirely too long, I'ma tell y'all how to make it. And y'all'll thank me for this, one day, I can promise you that.

FriedOkra's Mama's Pimiento Cheese (alternatively known as Pimiento AND Cheese)

Here's what you'll need.

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And if you like things really spicy, you'll want to bring this guy to the party, too.

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  • 2 cups grated SHARP cheddar - But if you want to be exactly like my Mom, buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself. (Don't bother with anything milder. It just won't hold up to the other flavors.)
  • 1/3ish cup Hellmann's mayo (I may be thrifty, but when it comes to mayo, Mama don't play.)
  • a PEENCH of onion powder
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, diced eversofine
  • A little jar of pimentos, drained (I forgot to note how many ounces it was. But it's TINY.)
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • Tabasco® to taste


Now, I will be honest with y'all. I normally perpetrate this entire deal in my food processor, because I dig the ease with which everything comes together AND you know, it's easy. But for the sake of the pictures and to entertain the Bean, who was "helping" me in the kitchen, I did it all by hand.

Dice your jalapeño up very fine. And please, PLEASE wear gloves or do like I did and slip a plastic bag over your hand so you don't get jalapeño juice on you. Oh, the stories I could tell you about accidental contact with jalapeño juice. But that's for another day, people. Another day.

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Now put all of your ingredients into a great big mixing bowl.

What? You don't know what a peench of onion salt is?

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'Bout like that.

Aaaand stir.

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Mix it all together well. Until it's creamy and dotted with green and red bits and starting to make your mouth water.

The only way. I SAID THE ONLY WAY! To serve pimiento cheese in sandwich form is on PLAIN OLD WHITE WONDER BREAD. To put it on anything else would be an utter and complete travesty.

BEHOLD PERFECTION.

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(ALTHOUGH, and I'm only telling you this because you are dear friends and I love you and want you to experience the best life has to offer, this spread is also phenomenal on a toasted sesame bagel AND, as completely unconventional as this sounds, you will be amazed at what a fancy and delicious little hors d'oeuvre it makes if you spread it on little crostini and put it under the broiler for a minute! Maybe garnish it with a slice of jalapeno or a little sliver of roasted red pepper? Mmmm.)



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And last but not least, for it to be official - an Official Pickanic-Approved Pimiento Cheese Sandwich - you have to wrap it in wax paper. Incidentally, when I pulled out our pimento cheese sandwiches for the picnic we had this past Sunday, Al said, umprompted, "Aw. They're even wrapped in wax paper. Mama, you think of everything. It just wouldn't be a picnic if the sandwiches weren't wrapped in wax paper."

Do you see why I love this man? Do you?

And when you've wrapped your sammiches in the wax paper, you'll need to start referring to your picnic basket as a hamper. And you'll need to wear a freshly ironed gingham dress with a Peter Pan collar to the picnic. And a chiffon scarf tied over your hairdo, and some black cat-eye sunglasses. Like I do.

'Cause I'm old fashioned like that.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Why I Love Weekends #962

Although it'd be much farther up on my list, in reality.

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Went Back to the Well, I Did. And It's My Bloggiest Giveaway Eh-Vah.

This giveaway is closed. Five winners have been selected and I'll announce them as soon as I've notified all five via email. Thanks for your interest and participation!

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Y'all responded to my giveway a couple weeks ago with such copius enthusiasm that it seemed a terrible shame I couldn't give a book to everybody. But when I tripped over a reminder about this week's Bloggy Giveaways Carnival, my tears of sadness dried and a bright! green! rainbow appeared over FriedOkra Manor, because the Carnival seemed like the perfect opportunity to approach Simon & Schuster for a second helping of Deirdre Imus's natural intellect. ('Cause nothin' says PRO-FESHNUL like a nice "Gimme more!" email, y'know?) And now life's worth livin' again, since I have FIVE copies, I said FIVE NEW COPIES of Growing Up Green to give away.

As if that weren't cause enough to send me out into the front yard for a ceremonial cartwheel or two, I'll be daggummed if the marketing manager at Simon & Schuster didn't also offer up FIVE copies of the first volume in the Green This series, Green This: Greening Your Cleaning, to pair up with the Growing Up Green books so that each of FIVE LUCKY WINNERS will get a SET of two wonderful, helpful, packed-with-smart-and-important-information-and-tips books, fresh off the press, hot out of the oven, and brimmin' with my love and hopes for your family's complete greenification.

Well, when she responded to my email with her great news, cartwheels didn't seem enough, so I attempted a round-off/back handspring combo.

And allow me to assure you that typing with all but one limb in traction is no easy feat.

The synopsis of Green This, from the Barnes & Noble website:

"Change the way you clean and keep your family's home wholesome and healthy with the help of expert and activist Deirdre Imus.

We all grew up thinking chemical smells like bleach and ammonia signaled "clean." But as Deirdre Imus reveals, some of the chemicals we use to maintain our homes are doing us and our families much more harm than good. In Greening Your Cleaning, the first in her Green This! series, Deirdre shows how cleaning house the environmentally responsible way can be as effective and often cheaper than the more traditional, toxic, means. This volume includes:

  • Simple, efficient cleaning methods for every room of the house
  • Spotlights on everyday products (all purpose cleaner, glass/window cleaner, laundry detergent) and the toxic ingredients you should be wary of
  • Summaries of the latest research on the toxic effects of ordinary chemicals
  • Resource lists of widely available "green cleaning" products and retailers

Filled with tips and testimonials, Greening Your Cleaning will show you how to streamline your cleaning products and practices, and how easy it is to make 'living green' your way of life."

And, according to the back cover of my copy of Growing Up Green:

"... Environmental activist and children's advocate Deirdre Imus addresses specific issues faced by children in every age group - from infants to adolescents and beyond. With a focus on preventing rather than treating childhood illnesses, Deirdre concentrates on educating and empowering parents with information such as:

  • How to make sure your child is vaccinated safely
  • Which plastic bottles and toys are least toxic
  • How to lobby for safer school environments and support children's environmental health studies
  • Advice from leading "green" pediatricians and nationally recognized doctors such as Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. (Dr. Oz, people!)

Chock full of research and advice, Growing Up Green makes it easy for you to introduce your child to the "living green" way of life.

Deirdre Imus is the founder and president of the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology®, part of the Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) in New Jersey. She is also cofounder and codirector of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, and the author of the bestselling book The Imus Ranch: Cooking for Kids and Cowboys."

I'll do a drawing on Friday morning, so y'all leave your pertinent information in the comments of this post to be entered. As long as there's some clear way for me to contact you at your own blog or via email, and you live in the U.S., you'll qualify for the drawing. I love you deeply, my friends abroad, but shipping these books overseas is cost prohibitive. (Grovel, grovel.)



Hey! There's another great giveaway over where I moonlight - Chic Critique. Pop over and register to win a $25 gift card to Sephora.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I Fear My Subtlety May Lead to Your Asphyxiation

Oh dear.

I've been sittin' here nervously reading y'all's comments on my nostalgic remembrances of road trips with Grandaddy Clover.

And well, I believe that what we have here is a failure to communicate. And it's my duty to rectify any and all misunderstandings spawned by what I'd hoped would be a perfectly harmless and funny yarn, so as to preserve the respiratory safety of you and your family and also save you your nosehairs, which contrary to what you may have been led to believe DO have a purpose besides being just another unsightly nuisance and embarrassment to you in your forties and beyond.

Y'all, I was bein' subtle. Which, as y'all may have noted before, really is not one of my more finely-honed literary (or verbal, for that matter) skills.

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See, when we were meandering along down through South Georgia in Grandaddy's white Olds Toranado with the red leather interior, which even at the young ages of 11 and 7, my sister and I recognized as a pimp car, (Grandaddy wasn't a pimp though, allow me to read that into the record right NOW), we did NOT pass 700 papermills. No indeed. Instead, we were the unwitting - and unfortunate in this case - victims of my Grandaddy's clever wit. And his intestinal reactions (A-HE-E-EM!) to Stuckey's Pecan Log Rolls, which you will surely recognize as THE retro family travel treat if you ever spent any time on highways South of the Mason-Dixon when you were a kid, and bothered to look out the windows at the skillions of billboards singing their praises.

I will spell it out so as to avoid any further confusion on this vital matter: Most of the noxious gases in that Toranado came directly from Grandaddy Clover, not from the transformation of pulp-wood into paper.

PEOPLE: Do not open your car window when you drive past a papermill. What comes in stays in; it is a matter of physics, or you know, something scientific that I learned and have subsequently forgotten along with Avagadro's number and the molecular weight of xenon. And as many of you have pointed out, papermill STANK will either straighten or curl your hair, depending on its natural state (your hair's, not the STANK's), and I do not recommend inhaling said STANK in large, windblown quantities under any circumstances.

Also, the word gullible is not in the dictionary.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Blowin' Through the Jasmine in My Mind.

I looked out in my backyard last night around dinner time and caught a glimpse of my three new little jasmine plants, tiny little yellow flames of baby blooms flickering on each young stem. Can the fragrant purple blossoms of lilac be far behind? Finally, a breath of spring. Finally a day or two of beautiful soul-warming sun. Praise God, from whom ALL blessings flow.

Y'all can count on seeing pictures of every bud, blossom and bloom unfurling in my yard this month - last year this time we paid a landscaper to come install beds and borders in the front and back. All winter long I've watched the temperatures and held my breath, praying the plants would survive and give us the show of color and aroma I've hoped Bean will associate with spring's arrival. I'm sometimes literally breathless with anticipation to see what the next weeks will bring.

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I'm over at Chic Critique again today, (I know, who do I think I am?) discussing a delicious body wash that's phthalate free for your kids, but still distinctly grown-up in scent and cleansing-power. Go check it out!

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The answer to Wednesday Puzzler came from my amazing friend Mari at My Little Corner of the World, a beautiful, loving wife, mother, nurse, friend and blogger who is also not from Walla Walla, Washington. But I treasure her friendship, her comments and her occasional comforting, reassuring emails so much, y'all. And she's smart, too, because she knew why the water in my potties (and her potties, too!) sways when the wind blows hard outside. It's because of the sewage gas vent that pulls all the fumes from the house's septic system up and out through our roof. See, the vent is open so the STANK can go up and out, which is a very good thing, because I don't want that kinda STANK getting STUCK anywhere near my nose, do you? Anyway when the wind blows across that vent (poor, poor unsuspecting wind - can you imagine just blowing along merrily minding your own beeswax and all-of-a-sudden breezing through a cloud of sewage gas?

(Tangent)Kinda reminds me of the roadtrips we used to take with my Grandaddy Clover down to Flagler Beach, Florida, these roadtrips upon which we would drive past about seven hundred "papermills" - ahem. Did y'all know that "papermills" put out a wide and abominable range of the most (ob)noxious gases you have ever laid your little nose upon? But that those gases will actually dissipate if you OPEN your car window and let the wind blow in from the outside, which seems odd because that's where they're coming from in the first place, but lo and behold it still works? Yes yes, it is all fact. And it is also fact that if you can manage to say Kushlamarie! at EXACTLY the right moment, which is hard to do indeed, but if you can, your garage door will open magically before your eyes as you sit very quietly in your Grandaddy's car with your hands folded calmly in your lap? No? Well my Grandaddy knows ALL of these things, and he lovingly instructed me over the course of my childhood and now I know them, too. "Papermill"-dotted south Georgia farmland and its noxious gases, and Kushlamarie! - these are my proud heritage, people. Does this give you a little glimpse into why I am who I am?

Mmmm-hmmm, I thought it would. (/Tangent)

Oh brother. Where on EARTH was I?

Oh yeah. The wind whipping across the top of the sewage gas vent. It creates a vaccuum in the plumbing, and tries to suck the water out of the potties and up through the pipes, but even at 40 mph, all it can do is make the water sway a little bit. Probably weakened by the STANKfumes, wouldn't you think? And there you have it!

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We don't have any huge plans for the weekend in the FriedOkra household. I'll be too busy cramming for my Glucose Tolerance Test on Monday. I'll also be getting ready for the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival next week, so make sure you come back and register to win a delightful freebie courtesy of yours truly, FriedOkra.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An' I can see you, your brown skin shinin' in the sun - y'got your hair combed back and your sunglasses on, baby!

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(Do you know who this is? Click on the photo to see if you're right!)


In the market for new sunglasses? Want to see if your favorite shades are the most flattering for your face?

(I was dubious at first. Do I really need to know that these I've been wearing for 4 years are all wrong? Or wouldn't I rather just live in blissful ignorance? I'm not gonna lie to you, people, it was a quandry for me.)

Head on over to Chic Critique where I'm blathering on about sunglasses. And showing pictures of a few of my favorite bloggers - and my onliest sister - sportin' their own go-to eyewear.

Happy All New Tips, Tricks & Tools Thursday, y'all!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Are You a Plumber, Or Are Those Just Low-Rise Jeans You're Wearin'?

Oh, wasn't that a pure-tee HOOT, y'all? Thanks for being GREAT sports and attempting to solve yesterday's little puzzler - the Mystery of the Mischievous Husband, His Twitchy Nose, and the Self-Lighting Lightbulb.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: The correct answer was sent in by Lora Lynn of Walla Walla, Washington.

O-KAY, she's not really from Walla Walla, Washington (are you, Lora Lynn?). I have just always wanted to announce a winner like that. It sounds so official, don't you think? Why, I could be in radio, don't you also think?

Anyway, here's what happened. I turned that light on at the switch and nothing happened. I closed the door immediately, heck-bent on finding out why the darling man had climbed up that dadblasted ladder to hang up a galldurn tennis ball but hadn't changed the lightbulb located not two feet to the right of it. (Wow, that makes me sound like such a pill. I'm really not a pill. I was just curious. Maybe a bit self-righteously curious. But we'll just forget that part. Because they don't let pills be on the radio, do they? Oh wait. Dr. Laura.)

(/TANGENT.) (Ahem.)

So I came in the house and asked the question. And that man. That QUICK, SMART, AMAZINGLY WITTIFIED man of mine - oh, I don't know how he does it - he figured out in a split second exactly what I meant, exactly what had happened, and he came up with that Bewitched! thing RIGHT THERE, RIGHT ON THE SPOT! And he knew it would work, too, because HE knew that the bulb, Yes, Lora Lynn of Walla Walla, the BULB in question, the one he HAD replaced, was an energy saving flourescent bulb which takes a minute to fire up and come on, and I'd given up on my sweet husband, and unquestioningly accepted that he was a no-count varmint/schlep, just like that, in a split second. But the bulb came on, I'm sure, just as my faithless, uncharitable, no-benefit-of-the-doubtin' hand slammed that door shut. All it needed was a second to warm up.

You know, I should really take a clue from that lightbulb.

Samantha I mean, Honey, I admit, I was total goober. You are the BEST man - and I shouldn't have doubted you for a second. And I love that instead of getting mad and snarling, "I DID change the &$@#! bulb, WOMAN!" you very cleverly made me laugh instead. You deserve way better than me. (But let's not go testing that theory, okay?)

P.S. T of TwithHoney also sent in the right answer. She's an engineer, y'all.

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And now, because we had us a rollickin' good time with yesterday's puzzler, I'ma throw you a BONUS puzzler, as I solved another little mystery today and I wonder if you can too.

See, Chicagoland's livin' up to it's moniker, The Windy City, lately. I mean it always does, but the past few days have been especially blustery. Today's winds are gusting up to 40 MPH. That's some serious wind, people. Like blow-neighbor-Nicki's-boys'-HUGE-basketball-goal-over-not-once-but-twice-so-far-today windy. Find-your-line-dried-nightgown-tangled-up-inna-bushes-two-houses-down-and-not-even-be-slightly-mortified-by-this-turn-of-events windy.

Well, on really windy days, a strange thing happens around here. The water. In my household potties. It ... well ... it sways.

So, do y'all know why it does that?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Husband, Samantha Stevens

Okay, since ya'll got such a kick out of Al's antics over this past weekend, I've got one more tale to share, and this one ends with a little twist. A Puzzler, Click-and-Clack-the-Tappet-brothers style, for y'all to figger out.

(Do y'all listen to their show by the way? Car Talk? 'Cause if you don't, you should give it a try one Saturday morning when you're out running around in the car. Those two guys are HIE-larious -- you would LOVE IT. I promise!)

The lightbulb in our overhead garage door opener burned out about two weeks ago. It's not a huge deal -- we have another overhead light in the garage we can turn on when we need one, but turning that light on involves EFFORT, because the switch isn't particularly conveniently located, and frankly, I'm not all that into exerting EFFORT these days. So later in the day after Al had been out in that garage banging around installing my new depth perception assistant, I went out there to do something or other, and on my way back in, I flipped the switch of the burned-out light in hopes I'd find it fixed.

But nothin' doin'. Still deader'n a doornail.

I came on in the house somewhat - um - mystified, I'll admit. He'd been out there with a ladder riggin' up that stinkin' tennis ball - why hadn't he replaced the burned out lightbulb a few feet away while he was up there?

(I must point out that Mama's no shrinkin' violet and would GLADLY have changed that lightbulb a week ago except her husband doesn't believe pregnant women should EVER CLIMB ANYTHING. EVER. GET OFF THAT 6 INCH FOOTSTOOL, WOMAN! YOU'RE GONNA KILL YOURSELF! I should tell you my attic story from when I was pregnant with Bean someday. One of those classic tales about two stubborn mules living under the same roof. I'm just not sure I could make it as funny to you as it is to me. One of those "You had to be there" deals.)

"No new lightbulb?" I asked him.

He looked at me. And he smiled. I think he had one of those little sparkly things on his front teeth, even. *DING* Then he reached up and twinkled his nose back and forth with one finger.

"Oh! I'm sorry! I completely forgot. But don't worry, it's done now - I just did it Bewitched!-style. Go look."

Huh?

But I did. I went out there and looked, and that light? Was ON, goshdarnit.

What the ...?

"HOW did you do THAT?"

"You saw me." He smiled with wide-eyed innocence, "I just twitched my nose."

He is so quick on his feet, that man. But I finally figured it out later. Can y'all?

What REALLY happened here?

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Perils of Life and (Deliciously) Compromised Loyalty in a Small Town

I've never put much stock in that whole star sign/horoscope thing, but I'll tell you this -- Al and I were both born under the sign of Virgo (only one day -- well, and 4 years, hee hee, apart) and we definitely both have one Virgo trait in spades and in common:

We're creatures of habit. The two of us thrive on routine more than anyone else I've ever met. We're pretty much famous around the neighborhood for being predictable - the people on our street adjust their clocks and other devices of chronology based on our comings and goings. We do the same things at the same times based on the day of the week. What? We LIKE it that way.

In short, you can depend on our complete inability to bust out of our ruts. The good ones, anyway.

Which is why we are so ashamed of what happened last weekend.

As I've mentioned before, my little family gets up every Saturday morning and trots off to breakfast at a little locally-owned diner around the corner from us. Everyone knows us there. We're Saturday morning reg'lars to such a degree that even Bean calls the staff by name - her two favorites are Gramma Terry and Auntie Angie, who spoil the child rotten with gifts and treats on a regular basis. Gramma Terry even introduces Bean to other patrons as her granddaughter.

And we all pretty much eat the same things each time we're there: Al gets a Denver omelette with wheat toast and a side of sausage patties, Bean gets a pancake, and I get a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich with hash browns on the side.

Why, last Saturday morning I had heartburn so bad my eyeballs were bubbling in their sockets, so when Gramma Terry came by to write down our orders, I asked for just a bagel with cream cheese and a needle of shock and horror scratched against the vinyl of the morning as a hush fell over the place.

"Oh, honey! ARE YOU OKAY???"

Now on Sundays at lunchtime, the cooks make a fantastic Greek chicken soup and serve that it up with huge baskets of the fresh-baked bread that Bean adores, plenty of butter on the side and of course another dose of family-away-from-family lovin' from the gang. So it's been our tradition to have lunch there on Sundays, as well. Every Saturday as we pay the tab and Bean's sopping up her final hugs and kisses and collecting her lollipop from Jamie, the greeter and cashier, Gramma Terry says, "See you tomorrow!" and Bean says, "Yep! See you tomorrow Gramma Terry!" It's a done deal, see? Sunday lunch at Gramma Terry's.

Oh, the guilt.

A few Sundays ago we had errands to run over in a neighboring village, and had been exhorted by our neighbor, Mr. Charlie, to one day for-cryin'-outloud try something NEW, wouldja? and go to this great place over there for brunch. We warily pondered all the ramifications of such a bold move and hesistantly crossed the threshhold of Richard Walker's last Sunday morning like a coupla cat burglars with overactive guilt complexes. We took our seats with cowed heads and glanced over our menus, trying hard not to conjure up mental images of Gramma Terry as Auntie Em in the Wicked Witch's crystal ball, wringing her hands worriedly as she gazed from the clock to the diner parking lot and back again.

Our neighbor hadn't steered us wrong, either. This menu featured all some of our diner favorites along with a list of specialties that made my mouth water, and 100% Kona coffee that tasted like nectar, straight from the gods. We ordered and cleaned our plates hungrily while we basked in an ambient selection of beautiful classical music and the rich dark wood appointments and stained glass accents that surrounded us.

Al began to shake his head sadly, saying, "Poor Gramma Terry. I'm gonna miss her."

I assured him we were NOT abandoning Gramma Terry and the gang. We'd visit them on Saturdays and come HERE on Sundays. And we have, for going on a month. We've got ourselves a new Sunday rut. Gramma Terry's cheerful "See you tomorrows!" have become more and more dubious as the weeks have worn on. Now it's "See you tomorrow? You missed last Sunday." Bean still happily shouts the affirmative, but Al and I hang our heads and sink into our booth cushions.

Sigh.

It's almost enough to make Richard Walker's apple pancake (it's actually fritter, y'all), which is as big as my head, crusted over with gooey brown sugar and cinnamon, taste bitter and cold as a big ol' raw turnip. Almost, I said.

And to make matters worse, the crushing blow: As the cheatin'-hearted FriedOkra family waddled out and climbed into the car yesterday, our bellies full of Richard Walker's delights, hopped up on Kona coffee and cinnamon sugar, I casually glanced to my right as I buckled my seatbelt and there, climbing into the car next to ours, was an elderly couple we recognized as fellow reg'lars at the old corner diner. I tried to avoid eye contact, hoping they wouldn't see us, but it was too late. The husband caught my gaze and immediately I saw in his face the same shame and guilt I'd been carrying within me for weeks. We'd both been caught.

Tippin' out on sweet little Gramma Terry.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ever the Diplomat, He Is.

After his slight (unfortunate) miscalculation Friday morning, the husband's been cautiously minding his Ps and Qs.

At Al's request, I just stepped out and saw this on my side of our garage after I'd heard him out there knocking around for 20 minutes or so:

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(Please note The Loving and Innocent Smile.) (A common husbandly defense mechanism.)

"Darling, are you saying I'm a bad driver?" I teased.

Pause. Throat clearing.

"Everyone's depth perception is a little different, honey," was his careful reply.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

And I do believe I love you.

Y'all. I freely admit that I've always been a natural-born, card-carryin' sap.

And it got worse (or is it better?) when I became a Mama.

Well, you came and opened me
And now there's so much more I see
And so by the way I thank you.

We headed out to breakfast this morning at our diner around the corner, like we always do. 'Bout halfway through the meal, as is her custom, Bean announced she had to go potty. These days I'm always up for a trip to the restroom, if you know what I mean, so I did the honors.

I got Bean all situated and primed for pottying action and then took my place in the stall next to hers. She wrapped up her little project quicker than I did mine, and I heard her open her door and head over toward the sinks.

"I'll just wait fer you out here 'til yer all done, 'kay Mama?"

"Okay. Thank you my sweet Beanie-girl." (Did y'all know we actually do call her Bean?)

"No prollem, my sweet Mama...
Thass what friends are for."

Indeed it is, my love. Indeed it is.

Oh and then for the times when we're apart
Well then close your eyes and know
These words are coming from my heart
And then if you can remember ...

Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That's what friends are for

In good times and bad times
I'll be on your side forever more
That's what friends [and Mamas] are for.

And OHMYGRANNY people, check out Stevie, Luther, Whitney and Dionne. So young, and can those people SING or what? UNBELIEVABLE!




*Lyrics from That's What Friends Are For
Written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager

Friday, April 11, 2008

What NOT to Say.

Every morning Al gets up at o-dark-hundred hours to get ready for work. Even by the time he leaves, it's still pitch-black in our bedroom, but he always cautiously feels his way over to a sleeping me, huddled under the covers, my head buried in a heap of pillows, for a goodbye kiss.

This morning was no different. As he leaned over the bed, his puckered lips searching around to find mine, he caressed me sweetly with his hand and whispered, "Wow, Peanut is REALLY growing... that belly's gettin' BIG."

"That's not my belly," I corrected. "It's my behind."

"OHOKAYWELLBYEHONEY!!" he shot out quickly, as he lept for the door.

Book Winners 'n More. Not Necessarily in That Order

It's Friday! Happy Friday, people! I'm over at Chic Critique today, hangin' with the girls, talkin' about feet.

And honey.

I know, right? YUM! Y'all come on over -- it doesn't feel quite like home without YOU.

And speaking of YOU, did YOU know Chic Critique has a day or two a week set aside for guest reviews written by YOU? Well, it's TRUE. Because who knows better than YOU do? So if YOU have a pick or pan YOU'D love to share about a beauty, body, skincare, health or even fashion product, write it up and submit it to Chic-Critique@Live.com for review.* We can't wait to hear from YOU!


Now before you go, lemme get these winners of Growing Up Green! announced. The lucky winners are the following very lovely and enthusiastic entrants:

Someone at Someone Being Me (and by "me" I mean "her," not really "me," because I'm not giving a book to me. I already HAVE a book, silly! Let's not be GREEDY. It's a good book but I don't need two. Besides, that wouldn't be very eco-friendly, now would it?)

AndiK

and

Jill at live, laugh, blog

I'll contact the winners via email to gather mailing addies, etc. for shipping. Enjoy your books, ladies!

For those of you who really wanted to read Growing Up Green! by Deirdre Imus, it's available now at bookstores nationwide, and online at the big on-line book stores. And I hope to be giving away a final copy later this month, as well!

A HUGE thank you to Simon & Schuster for sharing these awesome books with me, so I could share 'em with y'all.

Y'all have a great day and don't forget to head on over to Chic Critique. Mama's got the kettle on for you.

*All entries are also subject to editing because, as June says, we're anal like that. But not TOO anal - have you seen the scrawlings I've been allowed to get away with over there?





Thursday, April 10, 2008

(So apparently I'm not going to be the next Dave Barry, either.)

I dreamed last night - get this, you're gonna love this - that I wrote a whole post, laughing outloud the WHOLE time I was writing it, about how, lamentably, I wasn't ever going to be the next Luther Vandross.

Which, to me, IS in fact, on many levels, indeed lamentable. And, you know, OBVIOUS.

But deep, deeeeeeeeeeep inside me there does, I kid you not, live a heavy-set black man in a funky suit (PLEASE DO NOT TELL MY HUSBAND) who could croon the theme to Clifford the Big Red Dog and make couples the world over fall in love.

Oh yeah -
Giddy-up giddy-up giddy-up!
Clifford, he neeeeeeeeeeeded his Em-i-ly,
And baby, love, oh oh uh-LOOOOOVE made her choose hi-im for her own.
Buddoh doh dee oh day yay yay yay yay yay yea-eah...


Are ya feelin' it yet, y'all?

NO?!

Awwwwwwww. Sigh.

Okay, yeah. No. I recognize that despite my inner Lutha, out here on the surface in, you know, Realityville, none of us has to think too hard to come up with the countless searingly bold-faced ways in which I am, in fact, not he. And that's without your ever even having heard me sing, which would pretty much put the final nail in THAT coffin for you.

But try as I may, I can NOT turn this unfortunate twist of fate into a funny post, here in the painfully honest light of day.

Ah, life's cruel, cruel ironies.

Sigh.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Dear Weatherman: Go Fly A Kite!

HOLD IT! Have you entered the drawing for the free Growing Up Green books yet? Go get that done and then come on back.

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As I type this from my bed in the wee early hours of Wednesday morning, drinking coffee and mentally sorting through the day with the soft strains of PBS Kids' Word World tickling my brain, it sure seems like the past weekend's 60°+ and brilliant sunshine were a lifetime ago. Right now it's 38° and raining. Another soup day, people, and this household can't hold another drop of soup.

We're flat souped OUT.

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But Bean has just re-appeared in my room after a brief absence, sporting a new pair of purple shorts and a t-shirt with an appliqued umbrella and little heart-shaped raindrops, which she plans to wear to the children's museum we're visiting this morning with some of the neighborhood Mamas and kids.

Hope springs eternal, y'all.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

But NOT Short on Flavor.

With time marchin' on in a big old hurry toward my debut as a mother of two, I've been making friends again with my old pal, the Rival® Crockpot™ and in my online research, I came across this little factoid: In certain culinary circles, the slow-cooker's known as the Monster of Braising.

Well, HELLO! All these years, I've cooked along merrily in my kitchen, completely oblivious to the dual and dangerous gaping maws of the twin Monsters of Braising hidden away in the dark recesses of my upper cabinets. I have never been more thankful to still be alive and in possession of all my limbs than I was at the moment I read that horrifying piece of information!

But you know what? It makes sense, since the very definition of braising is slow cooking, in liquid. And you know what else? Braising allows you to take very tasty advantage of some of the less-expensive cuts of meat, and involves, in my humble opinion, more than a little good old fashioned magic.

You start by puttin' a bunch of raw ingredients and some hunks of meat in a pot with some liquid. It's all fresh and chunky and well, watery, and I always think to myself, "Sheez. This isn't gonna work - this is gonna turn out to be a weird, bland veggie stew with a big ol' tough hunk of meat in it, is all."

But I'm always dead wrong. Because the process of braising brings together all the flavors of the veggies, tenderizes the meat, and turns that sloppy, no-confidence-inspiring mess you start with into mouthwatering, melty meat in a rich, deep, dark, velvety sauce. Yes, I said velvety! Just wait! You'll see what I mean in a minute.

Braising's generally a stove-top/oven shuffle, although I've seen it perpetrated entirely on the stove-top as well. It's a slow process that starts with the messy (though admittedly yummy-smelling) browning of the meat, sweating of the veggies, deglazing of pans, addition of liquids, and then simmering for hours with lots of watching and checking and adding of stock or water.

Can you see me perpetratin' all that with a little nursling attached and a four year old dancing around my feet singing, "Let ME help, Mama! Let ME help!"

Yeah, me neither.

So I wanted to see how this whole slow-cooker gig would pan out for one of my favorite braised dishes, good old shortribs. And guess what? It worked beautifully. BEAUTIFULLY. So beautifully in fact that I must share the recipe with you. It's maybe a more sophisticated recipe than your average slow-cooker fare, and turns out a pretty impressive product - one that Bean declared delicious and left Al speechless for a minute or two. I'd gladly and proudly serve it to comp'ny. But it was SO EASY! The way I did it makes it a dump and disappear deal, and guess what? I really ONLY used my Crockpot™ to cook it up in.

Cheat-Braised Short Ribs a la FriedOkra

3ish lbs. individual short ribs, trimmed of excess fat
2 large ribs celery, finely diced (mebbe about 1/4 inch cubes - heck, you COULD use your food processor to prep all the veggies - just don't turn 'em in to mush)
2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and coursely chopped
1 14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 packet Trader Joe's Reduced Sodium Beef Broth Concentrate (or your favorite beef stock base or boullion - enough to flavor three cups of liquid)
1 cup white wine (I used chardonnay because that's what I had)
water to cover
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. flour

In the "real" braising process, you'd season your shortribs, dredge them in flour and then sear them off in a hot pan with some olive oil and butter. But in my cheat-braise method, you just season them on all sides with salt and pepper and arrange them in the bottom of your slow-cooker. No extra pan, no grease-covered stove. SCORE!

Next, dump in all of your finely-diced veggies including the garlic, right on top of the meat. Pour your tomatoes over the lot, without draining them. The acidic tomato juice adds flavor AND helps to tenderize the meat.

Whisk your Trader Joe's Stock Concentrate, soup base or boullion into your white wine and pour that over the veggies and meat, then add enough water to just about cover the meat.

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See? Meh... not doin' anything for me yet. But don't be fooled. Braise-monster to the rescue!

Pop the bay leaf on the top of the pot and slap on the lid. Turn the slow-cooker on to HIGH for an hour to get things going, then reduce heat to low. I cooked my shortribs from 9 AM to 5 PM. That's 8 hours, people. A full day's work, and I only put in about 15 minutes of real labor. Yeah.

About 30 minutes prior to dinner time, crank the slow-cooker back up to high, fish your shortribs out of the sauce and onto a plate and set those aside. I was delighted to discover that all the meat had fallen off the rib bones, so I just removed and discarded the bones. Skim the fat off the top of all the juices in the slow-cooker with a big ol' spoon.

Make a slurry with your whisk of the little dab of water and the tablespoon of flour, mixing well to avoid lumps - because shortribs don't call for dumplings, people! Pour your slurry into the pan juices in the slow-cooker, stir well, and slap the lid back on. You can stir occasionally if you need an excuse to open the lid and feast your eyes and nose on the miraculous sauce you've created, but this'll lengthen your thickening time a bit. About 15 minutes or so later, taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings (salt and pepper), then add the meat back into the pot to reheat.

I served my meaty little shortrib morsels in a big, wide bowl atop some cheese grits (polenta's Southern cousin) and smothered it all with spoonfuls of the beautiful, rich sauce, then scooped out a nice Caesar salad on a side plate. Crusty bread for soppying up the last of the sauce would be great too, and if you aren't a grit or polenta person, this dish would go perfectly over rice or even mashed potatoes.

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Bon appe-cheat, people!


At Long Last, Free Books! For Free! And You Don't Even Gotta Pay for 'Em!

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The essential, parent-friendly guide to raising a healthy child in our increasingly toxic environment.



I was SO EXCITED AND TICKLED when a marketing manager from Simon & Schuster emailed to offer me the opportunity to give away some copies of Growing Up Green!, the second volume in Deirdre Imus's bestselling Green This! Series. I know many of y'all are mamas like me and you're always, always, ALWAYS looking for the most up-to-date information out there on how to give your kids the best possible start in this here little world of ours. And many of you have mentioned on your own blogs a desire to point your households and families into a more eco-friendly, natural direction, as well.

That's why I knew this particular book would be a big hit with ya'll, and I couldn't email back "OHMYYESPLEASE! Yes, yes, yes!" fast enough to convey my eager!!! enthusiasm!!!!

In fact I'm still working out the knots I accidentally tied my fingers into, what with all the tripping-over-myself-typing of exclamation points and smiley faces.

I am slowly making my own way through the book, being both educated and challenged as I go. Educated on the dangers of many of own daily child-rearing practices and challenged to try ways ways of caring for Bean (and the rest of us) that are safer, less toxic, and more natural and nurturing, physically. I love the book, but I confess that so far it's been a difficult read for me, not because it isn't well-written, clear, and easily-digested, but because Imus packs so much valuable knowledge and so many practical ideas for change into each progressive chapter that I feel both guilty for what I've BEEN doing and slightly overwhelmed by the amount of change I feel inspired or even mandated to implement here at FriedOkra Manor. Imus gives me much to ponder, both frightening and helpful, based on her own experiences and expertise.

According to the back cover of my copy of the book:

"... Environmental activist and children's advocate Deirdre Imus addresses specific issues faced by children in every age group - from infants to adolescents and beyond. With a focus on preventing rather than treating childhood illnesses, Deirdre concentrates on educating and empowering parents with information such as:

  • How to make sure your child is vaccinated safely
  • Which plastic bottles and toys are least toxic
  • How to lobby for safer school environments and support children's environmental health studies
  • Advice from leading "green" pediatricians and nationally recognized doctors such as Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.

Chock full of research and advice, Growing Up Green makes it easy for you to introduce your child to the "living green" way of life.

Deirdre Imus is the founder and president of the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology®, part of the Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) in New Jersey. She is also cofounder and codirector of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, and the author of the bestselling book The Imus Ranch: Cooking for Kids and Cowboys. "

You want a piece of all this knowledge, now don't you? See? I reckoned you would.

I have THREE copies of Growing Up Green to give away. I'll do a drawing on Friday morning, so y'all leave your pertinent information in the comments of this post to be entered. As long as there's some clear way for me to contact you at your own blog or via email, you'll qualify for the drawing. If you are so inclined, please help me spread the word about this book and the drawing to other parents who might be interested by mentioning this post on your blog, but that is not a requirement for the drawing.



Good luck in the drawing and y'all? Have a great week, okay?



Friday, April 4, 2008

Hie Thee Hither, Y'all.

I'm talking about bustin' the winter crust over at Chic Critique today, as the final installment in a great series about schmearing on that increasingly-popular fashion accessory and beauty treatment, the tan-in-a-can. Go find out how to shed your winter skin and get spring-ified, just in time for a beautiful, sunny weekend.

Happy Friday, my friends!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

And It's Green, Too!

The one and only thing there's more of at FriedOkra Manor this week than snot is self-pity. And it's not the quiet, long-suffering kind of self-pity, either. It's mooooooooooooooooan, siiiiiiiiiiiigh, blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh-ing self-pity. The kind that makes me as annoyed with myself as surely everyone else within a 10-mile radius of me must be.

There was barfing, too, from another member of the household, but that appears to be over now and I'm gonna spare y'all the punishment of those details, because you've done nothing at all to deserve such misery.

But there's something to live for! Because when this plague finally leaves my household and I can sit up for longer than a nano-second at a time, I'm going to review a handy little volume about raising healthy kiddos that Simon & Schuster sent me, and then give away several copies of it to some lucky readers.

!!!!!!!!!!!

Yep, I said free books, people! That is what I said! FREE BOOKS, right here at FriedOkra! Upon my restoration to health.

Hot ziggity, I can't wait, can you?