Tuesday, December 30, 2008

And I've Got Two Hours Worth of Video, Too. Every Minute of it More Riveting Than the Last.


I have cute men in my life. What can I say?


The precious little elf face I will try hard to conjure up in my head the next time I hear the magic phrase Mama, I'm done, come wipe me!


What I look like in the morning. Except normally I have a travel mug, courtesy of some now defunct mutual fund company, held white-knuckle tight in one hand. The coffee was still perking at the time of this photo, because it was taken so ridiculously early that Santa wasn't even all the way back up the chimney yet.

It is a true testament to the Christmas spirit that I am even upright.


Mr. Peabody spent the morning cooing happily from his saucer, generally with one present or another dangling out of his drooly little mouth.


We gave Bean a pink Fisher-Price digital camera.

It was not used to take this picture, but it did inspire the thank-you hug captured herein.


My sister and her family gave Bean a princess dress. The skirt LIGHTS UP when you press a button.

Now that's fashion, people.


She said, and I quote, "Every princess needs a prince. To kiss her and wake her up."

"Yes, to wake her up," I agreed, "Then the princess says Thank you for the kiss, Mr. Prince, and now you may go on home."

Al laughed knowingly, because that's what I used to do to him back when we were dating.

We had a quiet, peaceful but really fun Christmas here. Al says it was his favorite Christmas EVER. (Okay, yes, he does say that every year.) But it WAS really special, being our first with Peabody. I think Bean loved having him with her, and seeing them together made me really look forward to next year, and the next, and so on. I know they're going to enjoy one another so much on special days like Christmas. Happy sigh.

For Christmas dinner, I went out on a limb and cooked a ribeye roast, which my mother kindly pointed out on the phone that day, is also known as prime rib. Who knew?

I will not lie to y'all, I was nervous about cooking up a piece of meat that cost that much a pound, particularly when I cannot recall the last time I prepared any meat at all that required actual temperature gauging and/or monitoring. Normally I cook meat that's not considered done until it has dissolved into a chunky paste on the bottom of my slow-cooker.

And that kind of precision-timing just works better with my current lifestyle, you know?

But I took on the prime rib, with my meat thermometer at the ready, and it came out beautifully. All I did was sprinkle it with garlic salt and pepper, sear it on all four sides and bake it at 325° for about an hour and half. I finished it by deglazing the pan with some merlot which I let reduce a bit before whisking in a pat or two of butter, to make a rich, flavorful sauce that got spooned over the meat at the table.

I also made a Brownie Swirl Cheesecake, compliments of the Ghirardelli chocolate people, and let me tell you, in one short ninety minute baking session, I have guaranteed myself another 20 years of happy marriage! Y'all might want to bookmark the recipe, because it is a) easy and b) OUT OF THIS WORLD. And it comes out lookin' quite PRO-FESHNUL, too. Yes indeedy.

And I think a cheesecake recipe is a good note on which to end this post, because if you click over to that recipe, you won't be coming back here anytime soon, that's for sure.

Bye now!

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Monday, December 29, 2008

I Resolve to Do a Better Job Keepin' Up With What Day It Is.

Um... let's see. Oh yes, here's a calendar! And it's Monday! And that means I'm at 5 Minutes for Parenting, layin' out my New Years Resolution Jack Handy style.

Come tell me about your resolution!

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

FriedOkra's Simple Tips for Blog Writing

Tip Number 1 - Know Your Purpose

Tip Number 2 - Be Yourself

Tip Number 3 - Be Specific

Tip Number 4 - Vary Your Sentence Structures and 5 - Use Good Words

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Santa Letter 2008

Nifty image of the Jolly Elf Himself in our living room by

Well Ho ho ho, Beautiful Cobb Family –

Santa loves his trip down this chimney every year, although this year he was a little nervous and made his descent slowly and carefully lest he be mistaken for the Grinch and smacked in the puff as he climbed out the fireplace! Right, Miss Bean?

What a year it’s been for this family, indeed. An exciting event back in August, huh? Ho ho ho! Welcome to your lovely new little guy, Peanut. Santa is always happy to see families so full of love for one another expand – another child for Santa to treasure, and another dose of childlike wonder in the world. My two favorite miracles, all wrapped up in one.

Al, look at you, my boy! A father now to four thriving children, a loving husband to Megan and the best manager any branch of your firm has ever seen, bar none. You do it all, my man, and you do it with a gentleness, but a fire, a generosity of spirit and one of the kindest hearts Santa has ever known this side of well, himself. Ahem. Santa continues to be impressed with you as you expand your knowledge and better yourself through continued higher education. You are fine man, my son. A fine, fine man.

And Megan. Santa's heart swells with pride in you as well this year, as he has watched you carry your Matthew, deliver him, and face the challenges new motherhood inevitably brings. And you’ve been tired and frustrated and overwhelmed as any mother would be, learning to meet the needs of her growing family. But you are doing beautifully, sweet lady. Don’t be too hard on yourself, for it is your tender heart your children and husband crave the most – not this perfect person, this perfect home, this perfect life – just YOU, your own creative, warm, eager, loving self. Let it be enough for you, dear one. It will always be more than enough for them.

Alex, what can be said of a little girl who brightens the lives of everyone around her with her own unique blend of sweet, smart and silly? Santa has watched you grow for four years now, and what a big girl you’ve become, in the blink of an eye! You’re in school this year, and loving it – you come home every time full of excitement and wanting to show your Mama what you’ve got in your backpack. And what a helpful, loving, devoted big sister you are to your baby brother. Santa beams to see the two of you together, laughing and playing. And you’ll continue to have more and more fun in the years to come. You'll be the best of friends, each the one person the other can rely on no matter what. Your parents have given you the best gift a person could ever receive – a sibling. He is yours forever.

And Matthew, the sweet little Mr. Peabody himself! Welcome, young man. You’ve already begun working a bit of elfin magic on your family, with your face-splitting grin and those perky ears that would melt the heart of the iciest snowman. Santa is pleased to be leaving a little something for you this year, and looks forward to visiting you every year for many years to come. Grow well, little fellow, and before you know it, you’ll be big and strong and crazy like that sister of yours, and the two of you will be tearing around this house, laughing and playing, making memories together that will last your whole lives.

You all are richly blessed with one another and with this warm, cozy home and all of its comforts. But Santa’s covered a lot of ground this night and he knows many children and families all over the world who want for so much, including the very basic necessities of life. Santa hopes that each of you will reach into your hearts and find ways to share what you’ve been given with those who need an extra blessing at Christmas, and the whole year long. There is no better way to say thank you to Your Loving Father, God than to help Him care for others in His world – to be a light and a blessing where you can be.

Honor the One who is truly The One, above all, and worship Christ as we celebrate His humble birth today, and every day of your lives.

A sleigh-load of love to all of you from the North Pole, until next year.

Santa Claus

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from the FriedOkra Family, Y'all!

We wish each of you and your families a very safe, joyful and memorable Christmas among the people you love the most.

Here's the winning picture for the FriedOkra Christmas card, 2008.


Warm wishes and hugs to everyone!

The FriedOkra Family
Al, Megan, Bean and Peabody

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hot Apricot Casserole - It's So Easy You Could Make It In Your Sleep, and So Good You Just Might

I'm posting this for I-can't-remember-her-first-name-because-I'm-a-dingbat at The Fritz Facts, but it may be of benefit to y'all if you're looking for an easy, yummy sidedish for a Christmas breakfast, brunch or dinner.


2 cans apricot halves, drained and 3/4 c. juice (syrup) reserved
18 Ritz crackers
3/4 cup brown sugar
6 Tbsp. butter (Oh please just use real butter this one time. Please? It's CHRISTMAS!)

Grease a casserole, layer apricots, crackers, then sugar. Dot with butter. Pour 3/4 cup reserved apricot juice over all. Bake uncovered at 350° for 20 minutes.

Doesn't get much easier than that, does it? Great with pork or chicken, but I'd eat it with pretty much anything. Including nothing. Right out of the casserole dish. As it sits on the countertop. Cold. At 2 AM. With a serving spoon.


I'm just sayin'.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

On Fridays, We Always Go A-Callin'

And today's no exception. Y'all come with me over to Chic Critique, where Bean and I are showing off an AWESOME line of hair products made especially for her wild CURLS! (You have to capitalize it when you're talkin' about Bean's CURLS! They don't know how to be lower case, these babies.)

Also, my friend Steph at Problem Solving Mom posted yesterday about staying connected with your spouse and keeping romance alive in the hectic holiday INSANELY MAD RUSH. Some good ideas there, for the next few weeks and beyond!

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Ho, ho, but no matter. Christmas was on its way. Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved."

Can you name that quote?

Only a week 'til Christmas y'all.


I apologize for all the heavy-on-the-pictures posts lately, but it seems like my brain's a wee mite more occupied than usual this week what with all the bakin' and shoppin' and wrappin' and snowblowin'.

Oh and also, I have apparently, unbeknownst even to myself, started takin' in other people's laundry.

Because all of this surely can't be just ours.

Here's our Christmas tree this year. I have a long-winded and ridiculous story that goes along with the tree, but I'll tell it to you later.


I just decorate our tree with the ornaments we've all collected over the years. For a year or two while I was single and, you know, URBAN or whatever, I did that whole themed-tree thing. But it never felt quite like CHRISTMAS-Christmas without all my mismatched but meaningful decorations. I love how they each evoke a memory, and I treasure how they work together with my plain old strings of wooden beads to make a simple but homey centerpiece in my family room. Maybe one day I'll want a more formal tree. Maybe. But for now, our life here is the furthest thing from formal, so why have a tree that doesn't fit where we are lifewise?

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite ornaments, in no particular order.


What's Christmas without a Radio Flyer piloted by a gift-bearin' bear?

It's just any other day, is what it is!


I have two of these sweet little red mittens. They're both lefties. Like all the other sets of mittens in our house seem to end up, for some reason.


I made these little cardinals. I think I have 15 of them. Made 'em before I knew I'd ever live in Illinois, where, as good fortune would have it, the state bird is? Anyone? Anyone?

Yep. The cardinal!


Bean's Sissy and Buddy went out shopping with their Dad on Christmas Eve, back when Bean was a couple of months old, and they came back bearing this little stocking for her, with her name on it. THEY WERE SO PLEASED WITH THEMSELVES. I love to remember the moment they held it up for my inspection, breathless with excitement, and how much it meant to me that they'd wanted to get it for their new baby sister. It's just a little stocking, but it just tugs at my little heartstrings when I look at it.


Someday, please Lord, may I live in this little cottage? Please? Oh, how I love me a Tudor. A snowcovered, cozy little Tudor cottage. That ornament? Is my dreamhouse.

And lastly, I wanted to close the proverbial loop and show y'all our little family train, now complete with its caboose, just as the FriedOkra family is complete with OUR little caboose, Mr. Peanutty Nut, sweet baby Mafew.


Thanks for all the lovely compliments about the pictures of our kiddos. I'll post the winning Christmas card photo sometime next week, after I've actually managed to send out the Christmas cards.


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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Sauce: It's the Sauce that Keeps On Givin', People!

OHMYGRANNY! You must have this recipe.

Now this sauce originally came from a veggie lasagne recipe I got from my neighbor Nicki. If any of you want the original lasagne recipe, which is PHENOMENAL, well you just let me know and I'll get it to you. But I want to show you the recipe as a sauce because that way you get to see how easy, versatile and most importantly DELICIOUS it is.

I've served this to my family in the lasagne a couple of times, and last night I served it over pan-seared tilapia resting atop mashed potatoes. It'd also work wonderfully over chicken breasts, over a cut up chicken done in your slow cooker, or just mixed into your favorite pasta with a little grated parmesan for a vegetarian dish.


1/2 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. olive oil
1 14 oz. can vegetable or chicken broth
1 t. dried rosemary, crushed in the palm of your hand
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. black pepper
1 10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained
(or 3-4 cups of fresh spinach - a bag)
1 14 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 16 oz. jar prepared Alfredo sauce (I use Classico's Creamy Alfredo)

Now I know what you're thinking. JARRED ALFREDO SAUCE? YUCK! But with all of these other yummy ingredients, you're turning the pre-made stuff into something that tastes perfectly homemade.

TRUST ME. Have I let you down so far?

(Just make sure you don't add any extra salt anywhere, because jarred sauces generally have more than a plenty of that.)


Saute the onion, mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil until they're starting to get tender. Add the broth, rosemary, pepper and nutmeg and bring to a boil. Stir in the artichokes and spinach*. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the Alfredo sauce and stir that in, bringing it up to a nice hot temperature.

And you're done.

*If you're using fresh spinach, you can leave it out of the sauce and just saute it up in a little oil and serve it over the fish, or the chicken, or the pasta, before spooning on the sauce. This gives the dish ,a little WOW! factor. It also makes it so you can eliminate the spinach for those who don't like it. (Bean!)


If you like fish, I'm telling you right now: HIE YOURSELF HITHER TO TARGET. Go to the frozen foods section and look for the Market Pantry brand frozen Tilapia filets and buy them ALL. Because they are AWESOME. They come individually packaged inside the big bag, so you can easily remove as many as you need for your family and thaw them, sans fuss or mess.

Tilapia is a really hearty white fish and stands up well against the kind of cooking I end up doing around here now that I have little people who desperately need me approximately every 4.3 seconds. Where other white fish ends up as slush in the bottom of my pan, Tilapia stays firm and perky.

You gotta love you a firm and perky fishy, people.

To prepare the fish, thaw it completely, rinse it, and pat it dry with paper towels. Give it a nice light coating of olive oil on each side and then sprinkle it with your favorite seasoning blend. Me? I just use garlic salt. Get a skillet nice and hot on the stove and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Allow that to get hot and then gently place the filets in the pan. Let those cook on one side for 3-4 minutes, then use a spatula or fish-turner (I don't have one, but I want one!) to flip them over. Cook the second side 3-4 minutes or until the fish is done all the way through, (it'll be white instead of pinkish) and remove from the pan.

Easy enough, right?

Then just whip up some mashed taters and put a blob of those on the plate, perch a piece of seared Tilapia atop them, and then smother the whole creation with your sauce.

It's favorite-restaurant-good food, right there at your own table, I tell you.

I wish I had a picture for you, but by the time I'd decided to post this recipe, this dish had disappeared from all the plates.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Favorite Christmas Card Picture 2008 Out-Takes






And the top three Runners Up to The FriedOkras' Christmas Picture 2008




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Monday, December 15, 2008

A Little Sunday Afternoon Nappypoo


Our little guy's a little over four months old now, and he's finally learning to enjoy one of MY favorite benefits of babyhood: The All-You-Can-Sleep Sunday Afternoon Nap.

Oh, to have that freedom and luxury myself!

Anyway, while Peabody was sleepin', Bean and I made Eggnog Spritz for the neighborhood cookie exchange comin' up this Wednesday night. There's a picture of us in our matching aprons, and a long overdue thank you note I wrote to my sweet elder child, who's stood by me over the course of these four crazy months in ways I never expected her to, over at 5 Minutes for Parenting.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

I Love Friday So Much I Could Just Flop Myself Down and Roll Around In It, Don't You?

I'm over at Chic Critique today singing the praises of my new Sorel snowboots. Y'all go see 'em, they're FANTASTIC.


It is 8° here.

Please forward HEAT under separate cover.

And if you could please arrange for my children's Christmas outfits, which I ordered from Gymboree a WEEK AGO, to arrive today, too, that would just be super.DEE.duper.


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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And Gail Smelled a Little Like Burned Microwave Popcorn

Well, I believe winter's upon us here on the p-p-p-p-prairie.

It's so cold that I just put Mr. Peabody down for Daily Nap Number One wearing his COAT. We'd been out takin' Bean to preschool and he'd fallen asleep in his car seat (The wonders, they are unceasing!) and when I went to transfer him to his crib, I moved to unzip and remove his little fleecy jacket and was met with that unmistakeable NO MAMA! I COZY! squirm. So off to bed he went, dressed for 40°. (It's not 40° in here though, it's at least 55°.)

I did take off the hood. Even though it has little bear ears on it and I wanted to leave it on in the worst possible way.


Last night I did sumpm I've never done before and LAND O' MERCY I hope none of my neighbors were lookin' out the window because if they were, I've been the butt end of many a joke up and down the street for goin' on 18 hours now.

I, Megan FriedOkra, up and dragged out the YardMachine 21" Electric Start Snowblower. Normally when the timing of a snowfall requires me to clear the decks, I just drag out my trusty shovel and do it the old fashioned (and less deafening) way. I'm a Luddite like that. Not into the big, loud machines. But last night it was COLD. And windy. And still snowing so hard I couldn't've seen my hand in front of my face had it been on fire. And it nearly was, but I'll get to that later.

And I had Bean out there with me. In the dark, in the driving snow. With her little sand pail and shovel. Helping. And while I know that girl has a will of steel because I've come up against it a time or two thousand, I also recognize that there is only so much frostbite she can stand before she waves the rigidly frozen white flag and begs to go back inside.

Time was of the essence, and with the wind blowing about 75% of every shovelful back exactly where it had been as I lifted it off the driveway, I recognized that now was not the time to play Mama against The Machine. Now was the time to embrace technology and make it work for me.

So, I painstakingly wrangled the somewhat intimidating machine out of the corner at the front of the garage and I bent WAY down, which was no small feat thanks to all the layers I had piled on in preparation for my mission, and looked at the Preparing and Operating This Machine label, with a combination of trepidation and completely unfounded confidence. Photobucket

And the directions were clear enough, but of course I couldn't see any of the labeled parts because it was dark and the wind whipped a snoot-full of snow into my eyes every time I turned my head even 1% to the Northeast. What I was able to glean by reading on the label and looking about for the corresponding part on the control panel was that this snowblower? She's just a lawnmower that mows ice.

And me and lawnmowers have been around the block a time or two. Almost literally!

So, my ridiculously ironically stupidly unfounded confidence bolstered EVEN THAT MUCH HIGHER, I plugged the electric start cord into the outlet in my garage, I turned the key, flipped the choke and pressed the starter button. And whaddaya know? She started RIGHT UP.

And I kid you not, my child, who at the young age of FOUR is already intimately familiar with her mother's total ineptitude in almost every area of life but particularly when it comes to machinery, sent up a HUGE RALLY CRY and then wisely threw her shovel and bucket far out onto the lawn and hoofed it for all she was worth into the garage, where she hid behind my truck, peeking her sweet little pink-hooded head around occasionally to check my progress, or more likely to assure her own safety.

And I was off down the driveway like a shot, people. Snow chuffed out the top of the blower and out into the darkness as I trotted, and a feeling of invincibility spread over my soul. I clodded heavily in my boots after the red beast, blasting snow to the left of me, jetting it to the right of me, and occasionally showering it upon my own head. (It's still me, you know, no reason to expect TOO much here.)

Before long, the driveway was all but cleared of its 6" covering and I, fueled by the euphoria of gas fumes and domination, eyed the sidewalks with a cavalier toss of my chin. NO SWEAT! I breathed aloud. TAKE ME 3 MORE MINUTES. 4 MORE, TOPS.

Bean, red-faced and shivering, recognized my determined look and begged me to reconsider, MAMA, I'M SO CHILLYYYYYYYYYYYYY! CAN WE PLEASE GO BACK INSIDE NOW AND HAVE SOME HOT COCOA?

Ah, no, I thought. No child of mine is going to watch me stop when the job's half done. And I waved my hand at her and told her I'd be done in no time.

And off I went up the front walkway to the stoop - zhip, zhop, zhoop, alldone! And I swiped over the public sidewalk behind the mailbox - zwish! And then I crossed the driveway for my final victory lap up and down the longer stretch of sidewalk behind the parkway trees. FRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOOW! One swath up, one swath back, and I'd completed the entire snow removal task in about 15 or 20 minutes.

I was high, y'all. HIGH AS AN EVERLOVIN' KITE.

Until I looked back behind me.

And what I saw back there is still burned into my retinas and my brain matter and will remain there for many long years.

I looked back and spied the pretty, sparkling Christmas lights all aglow on those two parkway trees. And then, there, on the ground over which I'd just ruggedly and forcibly ground a gigantic and sharp rotary blade, I spied the electric cords that led from our house to those trees.

I had just run a gas-filled, snow-covered piece of heavy machinery WITH A ROTARY BLADE OVER LIVE ELECTRICAL WIRES.

And I had averted certain sizzling, explosive death. Which in retrospect I suppose should have given me a further rush, but it didn't. My knees grew weak and I began to sweat profusely, as I choked out, Okay Bean, we're all done, let's go back inside now. My heart in my throat, I helped her off with her boots and coat and removed my own, fingers trembling such that it took me several attempts to undo every zipper.

I finally calmed down a bit later, enough to serve the dinner and get the kids in bed, and then I crawled into bed myself. Hours later I awoke from a dream in which I'd happened upon Oprah and her friend Gail in my neighborhood and gone to a Christmas concert at the Atlanta Civic Center with them in Oprah's tricked-out deuce-and-a-quarter.

And I have no idea how near death by a snow blower translates to a dream about Oprah, but I will say that the whole time I was hangin' with her, I kept thinking to myself that her hair certainly was uncharacteristically frizzy that day.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

This, However, Is NOT Gettin' My Christmas Cookies Made.

Plus, it's gonna take forever to pick the hay off of all that green velvet.

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

(That's Bean's Teddy playing the role of the 5th elf.)

Thank you, Melissa at Galloping Cows for sending the entire FriedOkra household into hysterics for most of yesterday afternoon!

Now I want to see EVERY ONE of you do this yourselves, and leave me a comment so I can go see it. It's too much fun not to get in on, people!

Oh yes, and it's my day today over at 5 Minutes for Parenting, too. So you've got that to do, as well. Better get a'goin'!

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Friday, December 5, 2008

But I'm Still Not Usin' His Bonne Bell Bubble Gum LipSmackers or His Loves Babysoft Cologne

I'm over at Chic Critique this morning discussing my post partum skin. Sometimes you gotta eat a little crow in life, and this is one of those times.

Sometimes you gotta do a little work to understand the goofy titles of my posts, and this is also one of those times.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Look! There Goes Another One, Gertie! Why Those're the Funniest Lookin' Geese I've Ever SEEN!

And a gladsome good morning to y'all.

(I am loving that word. Gladsome. It's so festive, don't you think?)

So I have this couch.

Only it isn't a couch, really, it's the bent wood frame of a couch with a grid of hard metal straps where you're supposed to put your sitter and a few hardwood slats across the back. The cushions've long since been discarded - a cruel collection dusty, dirty, colorless upholstery, aged yellow and rotten foam rubber, and rusty springs. You know those deep, fluffy, inviting sofas you just want to collapse into and snuggle up, sighing deeply and curling your legs up under you?

Yes? Well, this is not one of those.

But I've had it since I graduated from college and moved into my first apartment, nestled snug in the heart of downtown Greenville, South Carolina, along the banks of the Reedy River. Before that, it belonged to my parents, who got it when THEY were just newlywedded little kids themselves, and even THEY got it and its matching chair second-hand. I suppose one might consider it a family heirloom by now?

I've moved it with me from apartment to apartment to house to house to storage unit for TWENTY YEARS people, saying with every move, "Oh YES, honey! I want to take that with us - I love that couch! I'm gonna have some new cushions made for it and refinish it and it'll be FANTASTIC! A SHOWPIECE!" For TWENTY YEARS I've had these grandiose plans, and for twenty years the thing has ended up shoved off into some dark, dank corner of my space, quietly but hopefully awaiting its return to greatness.

It's down in our newly re-organized basement now, and would be the perfect cozy little spot for the kids and their friends to plop down on to watch the little TV down there, except for its obvious limitations in the comfort department. And I'd finally break down and spend the money to have CU$TOM CU$HION$ made for it, but we're talking about CHILDREN here. Sticky, gooey, leaky children who are already rapidly converting my LEATHER furniture in the family room into what looks to be some close kin of Jabba the Hutt.


So me? I want to find a less expensive alternative. A stopgap, if you will, on the road back to eventual glory.

And as you know, in my world, all roads to glory have to pass through?



Which is where I found myself late one evening a few weeks ago. Scouring aisle after aisle for something to convert the shell of a couch into a pleasant perch for my children and their sticky, gooey pals.

First I found some rather nice dog beds, at $25 a piece. They were nothing more than large floppy cushions in some fabrics that I suppose maybe would be appealing to dogs? It wasn't appealing to ME, but I reckoned I'd slap four of them on the sofa frame and then cover them up with a comforter or blanket.

A hundred dollars worth of dog beds stuffed into my cart, I wheeled off hazardously (The aisles in Homegoods? THEY'RE AN INVITATION TO DISASTER FOR A KLUTZ LIKE ME!) to the sheets, blankets and bedspreads to find a suitable slipcover.

Which is when I saw THEM. Beautiful, fat, fluffy pristine white European-style pillows. Made by Mr. Calvin Klein himself! Bin after hastily-arranged bin of them. AND THEY WERE ON SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALE! My brain mechanisms churned haltingly into action, and I rifled through my purse and hauled out my trusty metal tape measure to determine immediately that six of these would cover that frame perfectly. PERFECTLY.

So I awkwardly carted my four tackily-upholstered dog beds back to their rightful place on the low shelves in the back corner and returned to punch six of Mr. Klein's now-ridiculously-cheap pillows down into my cart. I then discovered an ORANGE (radioactive sweet potato orange) comforter and two blue wedge pillows, ALSO MARKED DOWN TO NOTHIN', piled all that on top of Mt. Calvinous, and veeeeeeery slowly and teeteringly steered my haul up to the register.

The clerks at Homegoods know me as The Pillow Lady, as they've seen me through the purchase of over two-thirds of the 42 throw pillows currently in service at FriedOkra Manor, so they didn't so much as bat an eye at my current collection of goose down and muslin. "Great deal on these, huh?" my checker-outer commented.

"YE-HESS MA'AM!" I replied in breathless rapture.

Less than a hundred dollars and a few happy heal-clicks later, I was on my way out to the parking lot with my U-Haul full of cushiness, everything rocking shakily from side to side as I attempted to steer and balance this faltering UNBAGGED load out to my car.

Do you know why they call Chicago the Windy City?

Because I do.

In the fading light of dusk, as I gently eased my cart down a ramp and out into the main driveway of the heavily trafficked parking lot, I got a dose of Chicago wind that will live in infamy for the rest of my born days. A microburst of the coldest, meanest, most spiteful wind I've ever experienced SNATCHED THOSE PILLOWS AND THAT BRILLIANT ORANGE COMFORTER UP OUT OF MY CART and without so much as a "Hi, how ya doin'? Nice pillows you have there, mind if I take them for a spin?" WHIPPED THEM IN EVERY DIRECTION INTO AND ACROSS THAT PARKING LOT.

Cars skidded to a halt. Tired screeched. Fists were waved threateningly in my direction as I stood frozen, one hand bridling my cart and the other clinging desperately to the very SEAM of a blue wedge pillow, watching my prized purchases skittering over asphalt and concrete, farther and farther, under cars and out of sight.

I was both crushed and infuriated, people.

I stood crestfallen and watched. I silently cursed the stupid, stupid wind in this stupid, stupid prairie-arse town.

And then I hauled bummy out and across that parking lot, and I dived and dodged and scooped and trotted all over heck-and-half-of-Georgia collecting those pillows and depositing them into the back of my truck.

Then I drove home quietly, thankful for a BLOGGABLE EVENT THAT DOESN'T INVOLVE POOP OR SLEEPLESSNESS and full of excitement about getting these hard-won cushions on my NEW DEEP AND LUXURIOUS ORANGE FLUFFY KID-COUCH.

Long story short, they didn't work.

I put them on and Al and I attempted to sit down but were flung off sideways by the wobbly wads of down and fiber-fill. CAN YOU SAY ANTI-CLIMATIC?

Thwarted again, I dragged the cushions back upstairs and parked them by the front door so I could, on a perfectly windless day, put them back in my car and return them.

The next morning, the lady who cleans my house arrived via that same front door, took one look at the pillows, asked me with GREAT ENTHUSIASM where I'd gotten them and if there were any left, and in the blink of an EYE, people, found herself the proud owner of six fluffy pillows that had recently had the ride of their lives.

And I got my house cleaned for FREE.

I'm thinking I need to go to JoAnn's and buy some big slabs of thick foam rubber for that couch.

You'd better believe I will be VERY CHOOSY about what day I run THAT errand.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

And What On God's Green Earth Did I Think I Was Gonna Do with MORE PILLOWS?

Thank you Karen for my festive little accessories up there!

I have about a million things I want to tell y'all about, but I never EVER have time to just sit down and collect my thoughts. If you opened up my brain right now you'd see basically the contents of your garden variety kitchen junk drawer - an odd assembly of various bits and pieces, some of which have specific functions but just don't belong anywhere else, and some of which should've been thrown away 18 months ago because WHO THE H-E-DOUBLE- HOCKEYSTICKS PUT THIS IN HERE AND WHAT IS IT? IT LOOKS LIKE IT'S BEEN ON FIRE A TIME OR TWO. AND WHAT IS THAT SMELL?

I want to tell you about a recent trip to HOMEGOODS, the first time I've gone back since this debacle.

And yes. It does involve pillows. Because, well. Because this is me we're talking about here.

I want to tell you about the trip we took to Costco to look for the foam tiles for this project and what we came home with instead.

How do they do that, people?

And I want to tell you about the million funny things Bean and Al have said lately.

But I'm only going tell you about one right now and then I'm going to bed because it's snowing, which means the snowplows will be out scraping the school parking lot behind our house at 3 AM tomorrow morning (I ONLY WISH I WERE KIDDING!) and that means both Peabody AND Bean'll be up and at me, I mean at 'em ridiculously early.

Now I know that I romanticize this prairie life, and Currier & Ives have nothing on the FriedOkras' capacity to soak up the beauty and coziness of winter in our matching Fair Isle sweaters and our black watch plaid scarves and our red mugs of steaming cocoa with tiny little marshmallows on top, but people? Lemme tell you.

When we finally move back down South where we belong, if I EVER. And I mean EVER. See another snowplow as long as I live?

Say it with me now:

It will be WAY TOO SOON.

Oh yeah.


So we were puttin' up our brand new FAKE Christmas tree over the weekend and Al was all happy and giddy and going on and on and on about the benefits of a fake tree over a real tree (he was trying to make me feel better because I am not a fan of the faux tree).

"Yes," I said in reply to his reason 962, "and we won't be stuck with a brown tree in our living room come the new year."

"Mmm-hmm." He rustled around in the box a bit.

"What's this?!" he exclaimed, "A little can of some kind of spray! 'Apply to branches on January 2' it says."

"Huh," I puzzled, not looking, as I untangled a string of wooden cranberry beads, "Wonder what that is?"

"Let's see," he said, "Pssst. Pssssssssssssst. OH! Wow. They thought of everything. It's brown spray paint. Now THAT'S authenticity."

'Night y'all.

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