Thursday, February 28, 2008

Happenings and Hurrays

Well, we ate the stew tonight and it was so delicious! And after Heather's help with the prep order, I am starting to think maybe I will make it again- see if I can't trim a few hours off ( I did make a double recipe so there was double the chopping and double the sauteing so that was part of the reason it took so long).

In other news, August and Amabel started swimming lessons today. They are so cute with their little back floaties and their fun noodles. I will be very much relieved when they can manage themselves in water. No horror stories please; I know enough. I actually was a horror story. My mom dove in to get me off the bottom of the pool when I was Elspeth's age. She was vacuuming the pool and wouldn't have gotten to me in time had it not been for three year old Rachael alerting her. Thanks, Rach, you know, for saving my life. Of course, neither one of us actually remembers this incident. Anyway, hurray for swimming lessons.

And a big old hurray for my books from Karma Wilson arriving today! She even self addressed the envelope! And she wrote a lovely inscription inside each book. She sent her newest book, Let's Make a Joyful Noise: Celebrating Psalm 100, and her most recent of the Bear books, Bear Feels Sick. I highly recommend both! I love that she is doing books based on Scripture. It is so nice to have books other than Bible story books to use in teaching our kids. I overlook the Psalms so much myself, and as there are no stories in there really, they get overlooked by the storybook writers and the Sunday school curriculum writers as well. These are told from a child's point of view, sort of helping them make these passages their own (how they can give thanks, rejoice in each day, and offer themselves in worship). I especially love the illustrations in the Psalms series, and how they accompany her "noise" words so well in this new one. The two other books in the series are, Give Thanks to the Lord and I Will Rejoice: Celebrating Psalm 118.

If you are not familiar with the Bear books, you are really missing out. The original is Bear Snores On and it is marvelous. In this first story, Bear and his friends all meet on a cold, snowy night. Each of the following four books is a tale of these same friends working together, sharing, and caring for one another, all done in the most charming rhyme with artful alliteration and snappy onomatopoeia. See what I did there? I made "artful alliteration" an example of alliteration and used onomatopoeia to describe her use of onomatopoeia! (Okay, so it was a stretch; it's ten o'clock at night! I'm half asleep!) Anyway, the Bear books are fantastic: Bear Snores On, Bear Wants More, Bear Stays Up For Christmas, Bear's New Friend, and Bear Feels Sick, the newest one which we received today, in which Bear's friends take very good care of him while he is sick. So two new treasures for our library. Y'all go see what all the fuss is about! Her word choice is delightful, her craft is enviable, her characters are endearing, and her stories are darling. I have yet to find a Karma Wilson book I didn't like.

Get Out a Pot and a Carrot or Two

While I have been stewing over the things we are discussing in the post below, I have also been making a little stew in the kitchen. What a Rachel Ray thing to say! So punny! But I have been making stews lately. I feel so French! I have put off a grocery trip for way too long because of the three snow days last week. And by the time we were desperate, we were only one day away from the Dierberg's 15 hour sale! How hilarious that the grocery store has a 15 hour sale. Not so hilarious, but enough to make you deliriously happy, Sister Schubert's were on special for 99 cents! And fortunately, there was a limit to 4 or I might be in big trouble with or without the five miles a day I've been doing at the Y. I may be in trouble anyway because do you know what they have at Trader Joe's? Dark Chocolate covered Joe Joe's! You've got to be kidding me! Fortunately, I don't shop at Trader Joe's very often. Anyway, I write about chocolate entirely too much. I was supposed to be talking about stew.

So we needed supper last night but we had no groceries. I decided to pull everything to make something: a little olive oil, the last of the carrots, the last two onions, the last sweet potato, a little garlic, a little basil, a little parsley, a little white wine, a little chicken broth, the left over chicken that I roasted this weekend. It turned out so well, y'all! I was so proud of my invention! August sat down at the table and said, "Is that dirt in there?" which was kind of a low. But after he tasted it, he kept saying, "This soup is really good, Momma." So that was nice. I felt so industrious. I had another industrious moment a day or two before where I used salsa, sour cream, and peach preserves in turkey burgers because I didn't have any of the things I was supposed to have. Then I realized I used up all my salsa so I made some with parsley, an onion, cherry tomatoes, lemon juice, and pineapple. I turned out pretty well. The turkey burgers turned out exceptionally well. George wants me to make them that way from now on. If only I can remember what I did exactly...

Anyway, tonight's stew is from a cookbook. And let me just say that I have invested at least four hours in this stew. Oh sure, it's delicious. My house smells amazing. But I am not going to post the recipe. And I will almost certainly not make it again. Because four hours of chopping, sauteing, stirring, and going back and forth from stove to oven is just whoa! But I have a friend who makes it every week! I asked her what kind of shortcuts she takes and it does not sound like she takes very many. I tip my cap to you, Heather. Because, whoa! I found a link for y'all in case you are daring. Really, a lot of you know your way around the kitchen way better than I do so you might could do it a lot faster than me. Give it a try, but don't start at 3:50 like I did, because it will not be ready in time. I thought of you especially, Rachael, because it is so French but with American instructions. Impress your friends! Just make sure to chop ahead of time!

Well, I think the last 15 minutes of simmering is up. And now, at one in the morning, so eight hours later, I can put my stew away and go to bed. I am not kidding. (But I did take a break from 8:30 to 11 or 11:30 so subtract that from the total time. )

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

And All I Got Was This Lousy Tee Shirt

I chatted with a friend yesterday about something I have been thinking about, and I figured I might just as well write a blog post about it. I have been reflecting. One doesn't just face a stack of a dozen or so journals and several dozen poems all written ages ago without some reflection, you know. And on what have I been reflecting? It's complicated. And messy.

I looked back over some of the struggles I had in high school and college- difficult friendships, family dysfunction, broken relationships, etc. and I saw that I had so much hope as I dealt with those sorts of things. I had so much hope for redemption, or at least for my own personal maturation and sanctification. Now, my friend says (and George says) that we see our sin more as we grow. But I just have to say, I feel like I have not grown at all. I know, if we are seeing our sin more, it will just seem like we have not grown. But seriously, I feel like a thirteen year old, just as immature, just as frustrated and foolish, only without a lot of the hope. And as far as redemption goes, it seems like most of the things I hoped for, for friends or for family or whatever, were never put to rights.

I was trying to write a note to a friend recently, just a sort of encouragement to say, "Hey, I sort of know what you are going through and that it must be really hard. I'm so sorry for your sufferings, but I know it will get better." You know, something like that. But the "I know it will get better" part was a little puzzling. Because in a lot of instances, I just feel like I have just survived. I survived my parents' divorce. But do I really know how to encourage someone in a similar situation and say "I'm sure God has something for you in this; look what I learned?" Nope. The only thing I can say with any certainty is, "It won't kill you." Or what about our experience in Birmingham with George's unemployment? I suppose that drove us to seminary. And I guess we don't know the rest of that story and one day I could be praising the day BellSouth decided to let hundreds of guys go. But not so much today. I can't really tell you what I learned from that experience, only that I survived it. Hear me rightly, I am not angry about these things. I just kind of don't get it. I don't yet see the good that came from them, neither circumstantially nor internally. I feel pretty defeated not to have a positive spin on things that happened in the past, not to be able to gratefully (even excitedly) look back and see that hand of God in it, though I am sure it was there.

Our pastor preached a sermon yesterday about Jesus' sufferings and how even he had to suffer to mature (Heb. 5:8-9). And I have heard that all my life. I mean that's the first chapter of James. I guess I am just looking at myself going "Where's the maturity? Where's the wisdom?" What is the point of our various sufferings if we cannot link them to some sort of personal growth? You want to be able to put a hash mark on the side of God- "God taught me x" or "God's justice prevailed." I can put that hash mark there by faith, but it would be less confusing to really comprehend the victory. For example, I talked to a friend today about a particular recipe and she explained why a seemingly laborious step is required. I told her I always appreciate the reason behind a step. I have a cookbook which always explains the "why" and I always follow the instructions exactly. Without a "why," I am much more likely to, as in definitely will, take shortcuts. Not that we can take shortcuts in our lives, but the point is that it is really hard to do something when you have no idea why, and just as some steps in recipes seem superfluous and like they have absolutely no bearing on the outcome, there are portions of my life that seem about as profitable. I'm not saying that is the case, certainly God knows what he's doing; I just wish I knew what he had been doing all this time.

Anyway, I think I knew the answer to all of this at one point. Or what I thought I knew isn't enough to shut me up now. But I haven't posted these past few days because I have been mulling these things over, and then I thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be so very vulnerably awesome of me to share this with anyone and everyone?" So I am. I keep thinking of the lyrics to that dreadful Edwin McCain "I'll Be" song (which I confess, I actually used to like before the radio got a hold of it), "I'll be better when I'm older." Lame, I know. But it gets me thinking, maybe I am actually only in the middle of all of this right now and when I am seventy I can write a whole book about how everything in my life came to rights and I am so wise and mature and spiritual. Then I don't actually have to deal with this question until I'm seventy. Nice! Any other thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Song suggestions for my iPod?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Young Miss Edema's First Published Work

We have had two dreary snow days in a row. The "snow" is really more that "winter mix" that we used to get in Nashville that is icy and no fun to play in. It also makes the roads more dangerous (hence, the snow days). So these are not real fun days to have off school because you can't go to the zoo or even to the museum. Well, I suppose one could, but I am always a little afraid of "winter road conditions." So my poor children have been cooped up, which really makes me their poor mother as they have turned the living room into a fort and have completely neglected their "inside voices." I sent them down to the basement- no worries, this is where most of their toys are, don't start thinking of Flowers in the Attic or anything- a little while ago to play so I could talk on the phone for a minute. I came down a few minutes ago and found this, hot of the press:

News at my apartment
Somebody got in.... jail!
It was....August! He ate up all the food. I called the policeman but he hit him and he died. (he was very old)

I copied it exactly; she is a pretty good speller huh? I guess she must be doing a unit on punctuation at school. I am cracking up at the dramatic use of ellipses and at the parentheses. But of course, the story itself is hilarious. It's too bad we don't have a scanner; on the other side there is a picture of August with all the food and a smiling policeman, with a hat and badge, approaching (I assume he is approaching and not yet dead or he would not be smiling). I love hearing what these children dream up. It is the cutest thing to see their little imaginations working. Although, it does make me a little nervous when people are dying all the time. Yesterday, I had to intervene when playing house turned into the baby dying! I think we could use a little sunshine and fresh air!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Unpublished Works of Miss Hawkins (that's me)

Lately, my mind has been drifting toward Natasha Trethewey, my poetry teacher who recently won a Pulitzer prize, and my new friend Karma Wilson, who has a new post about writing up right now. Well, no, I am still thinking of myself of course, I have just been thinking of my own writing now that I have had such a close brush with greatness. I have been up since 4am this morning, a very bad morning to have had such an early awakening as it has turned out to be a snow day, and decided that since I could not get back to sleep I may as well drag out the box with all my old journals in it, including, my poetry and story writing journal! Wouldn't you do the same thing if you were up at 4am before a snowy dawn? No, you wouldn't. Because you would recognize, unlike me, that it would be a trip into mortification unparalleled by any prior experience with embarrassment you may have had.

The poetry I wrote in high school can only be compared to what a lovesick Dr. Seuss might write under the influence of way too much Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen Crane, and the Cure. Entirely too much dying and screaming and body parts being torn apart(mostly hearts) were arranged in such lovely iambic pentameter! George was very gracious to remind me that these were written half my lifetime ago. So I guess that makes me feel a little better. I feel much better knowing no one else has ever seen them though!

My short stories from high school, on the other hand, were not so bad. They had an element of triteness that is probably to be expected from a fifteen year old. Two of them were Christmas related, and one was some bizarre metaphor that didn't really seem to hold up in the end. I think we must have been given a topic, because it supposedly answers the question, "what is fear?" But I was actually surprised at some of the showing (vs. telling) I did in one story in a fairly clever way. I also wrote some fairly decent dialogue in that one too. And I gave my audience credit, something I still struggle with every time I write anything (as in, this that I am doing right now, I wonder whether they will get what I mean). So way to go, fifteen year old Abby! On each of the three I found from high school, my teacher wrote a note suggesting I submit them to the literary magazine. I never did, but the point is, it would appear that I only saved the best ones.

Once in college, I was forced by Ms. Trethewey's poetry class (collectively) to give up my rhyming. They said it was holding me back because I forced everything into rhyme, which I realized was so true when I saw the one I left the rhyming in. Fortunately, I had at least outgrown my" gloomy" phase by then, and found I was more predisposed to writing more pleasantly (not that that was hard to do by comparison). So I think I was basically the silly sorority girl of the class with my tra-la-la subject matter even without the Seuss-like rhyme. I wrote five for that class, one about George called "Perfecting Pink" that was not too too bad. And I wrote a really really good one about Christmas with divorced parents. That one rocked. I also found a funny one I wrote around the same time, just for fun, about (and probably during) the history class George and I took together right before we started dating, and another funny one I had done with candy hearts for Valentine's Day one year (this was just the draft; I am not storing 10 year old candy hearts in a box in my basement).

My short stories from college were all kind of okay I guess. That class really freaked me out. I took it before the poetry writing class and it was basically my first instruction in creative writing. For someone who had been writing as a hobby for years, it was strange to suddenly understand that there were rules and techniques, do's and dont's. You have to understand what I naive little person I have always been. I had a similar experience in ninth grade when after drawing for years and enjoying art so much, I took an art class. I sat between two of my dearest friends, who also happened to be the two people in our school who were the most gifted artists ever. Seriously, one of them was my friend Evie who is a professional artist and art teacher now. Anyway, they also happened to be two of the funniest people you'll ever meet. But their humor was the type that is often, well, shall we say "humor at the expense of other people?" So I was totally overwhelmed right off to realize how much I didn't know, sitting in between two amazingly gifted artists, and on top of that I had them making fun of me every step of the way. It was a lot of fun though, way more fun than "Shorter Fiction" with a bunch of people I didn't know critiquing my short stories in front of the class. I read some of my instructor's comments and some were really right on, while some I probably still wouldn't change. Not that I will go back and try to fix them. I think the hardest thing was coming up with a good story in the first place. And most of those were stories I didn't really care about telling.

I don't really write anymore (except blog posts). I really should try to flex those creative muscles soon. But for now, I am pretty sure this is a boring post. Maybe not boring (or maybe so), but not something anyone would have much to say about. It's kind of self-centered like that. But it was a story I felt like telling. I think I shall put another post up soon; buy this will have to do for now. It's something to read on a snowy day anyway.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Feeling a Little Insecure

I am posting a second post today because some of the comments of that other blog I linked to caught my eye and I reckoned maybe some people don't have quite the sense of humor that George and I do. Oh well. We want to please everyone, even the easily offended and those who take themselves very seriously. So I hadn't planned on another post, so what do you get? A very dull rundown of my Real Simple from today. Hurray!

Today's issue, June 2006, was not as interesting. Well, there was an article about a little community in Washington where everyone helps each other out that looked interesting, but I didn't read it because I was bouncing too much to read a six paged article. You lose your place so often it is just not worth it. The write in section was about favorite books which is really not such a good idea. If I am going to get to know you or read you blog, sure I want to know what your favorite book is. Because this adds to my knowledge about you and I can put it with everything else about you and get a better idea of who you are. Or, if I already know who you are, I can get a better idea of whether I will like the book. But random people writing in saying what their favorite book is does not make me want to run out and read it. Because every book is probably somebody's favorite book. Why would anyone write a book that didn't have the potential to be somebody's favorite? And just because it is someone's favorite doesn't make it a good book. I am sure there are loads of people who just love Absalom, Absalom!, when the rest of is know that it is truly a dreadful book. If we could even understand what it is about. Which we can't, because we have no idea who all of these people even are.

I had my iPod going though. It is really an iPod shuffle so there is no display. This means that I have no idea what I am listening to because George put all the music on it. While some of the music is great, little inside jokes like "That's How Strong My Love Is" by the Rolling Stones and some upbeat Regina Spector and REM, there are some songs that are like just playing me a lullaby. Coldplay? On a workout mix? And there was a horrible stint of like three slow Natalie Merchant songs today where I think I only burnt about twelve calories. Anyway, it is pretty good all in all, if I were just listening around the house. George is learning to take my tastes into consideration. I might need to dig up some old Will Smith or C and C Music Factory for the Y though. None of the rules of good taste in music apply when you're working out. Because there is not a whole lot of Counting Crows that makes me want to run real fast! On the other hand, when was the last time Counting Crows put a new album out? Okay, the Shins, not a whole lot of Shins making me want to run real fast. But actually, the Juno soundtrack has some good stuff on it. And evidently there is a new Jack Johnson CD, so that might be something. Not that I have it.

Anyway, what's your favorite book? Or, if that question doesn't suit ya, what should I put on my iPod? I know y'all, no one is going to say anything on this post either. "But that's okay. Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."

Tipping My Cap to a Pretty Funny Rival (that is way funnier that I have ever been)

George's friend, Matt(well, I suppose he's my friend too....um, yeah, I'll claim him), posted a link to this blog the other day, but I didn't link to it so I'm guessing you may not have either. It is hilarious. After I put my really long post up yesterday, which evidently, no one appreciated (thanks a lot, people!), I was ready to be done with the computer. But George told me I really should just link to this one site, Stuff White People Like. As soon as I started reading, I was doubled over with laughter. So you are going to link aren't you? You have got to at least see this post and this post. An excerpt for you, just to convince you further:

"If you are in the position where you need to take a white person to lunch for business or pleasure, saying “I know a great sandwich shop,” will always bring out a smile. The white person will then tell you about the great sandwich shop in the town where they went to college and how they had a crush on a waiter, or that there was some special sandwich that they always ordered. This will put the person in a good mood."

I'm sure you can see why I was so amused. Mmmm, Traditions.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Great Writers Steal

Back when I first started blogging I had a subscription to Real Simple, and would from time to time post interesting things from the magazine. It really is such an interesting magazine. I only got it for one year, but it was the crazy year where we were homeless for a summer and I was expecting Elspeth, and I suppose I was just to stressed out to read my magazine. My life was anything but real simple. So I have all the issues from that summer still in the plastic in which they were mailed to me. This morning I opened one to take to the Y with me and was so glad to be reacquainted with this publication that I had sort of forgotten about.

The first page (that was not an ad) made me actually laugh out loud. It is the opening page, which is always entitled "thoughts" and displays a single picture and a quote. In this particular month, May 2006, the chosen quote was "Either that wallpaper goes or I do." Oscar Wilde, last words. He was always so clever, always so Britishly brilliant and funny, why should we doubt that this truly was the last thing he said? I am a huge Oscar Wilde fan despite his shady personal life. I had a close friend in high school who introduced me to all things British and slightly scandalous, including Oscar Wilde, the Smiths/Morrissey, Gene, (the London) Suede, and all manner of unheard of Britpop. I think I would have missed a little chuckle and almost certainly and A+ in Modern plays at Auburn had it not been for him, so cheers, Andrew, wherever you are.

My favorite section of Real Simple is where the readers write in. Remember in YM where people wrote in to tell about embarrassing incidents or funny first dates? This is the grown up version of that. This month's question was "what's your favorite piece of advice from your mother?" I was surprised that so many people got such good advice from their mothers. I mean, I thought there may be some people who would look at some of them and think they were dumb or obvious, but I really appreciated each and every little gem of wisdom. Some of them were clearly born out of feminism or a sort of "be a good person" mentality, but put with a Biblical world view would still be great mantras.

The first one that really jumped out at me was, "A little will show what a lot will be." The daughter explains that what her mother was trying to do was to get her to pay attention to the little clues that show what a person's true character is. Wouldn't it be great to have known about that? Because of course, now you see it and you know it is true. I think of this mostly in terms of dating. There were always giveaways early on. Why did it takes us two years to see? Another quote that I appreciated goes along with this train of thought, "Men are just dessert." I love that. I was not raised like that at all. My experience was a little more along the lines of the Bennett girls in Pride and Prejudice, the objective was to get married or at least be in a meaningful relationship. I am not sure why. Really. But anyway, if it had been just the little extra thing that was neither here nor there, not at all necessary but very nice, I would've done so many things differently. All's well that ends well though, eh?

There were two that made me laugh out loud. First was a girl who said that her mother's motto is "But we're cheery!" I thought that was darling! She says her mother had guests seated for a dinner party and when she took the roast out of the oven, it fell and slid across the floor. Her mother said "But we're cheery!", picked up the roast, and served it to "unknowing guests." I love everything about that story. I may adopt that motto. Imagine laughing instead of cursing or crying! I had my mother-in-law over for breakfast one morning not long ago. I always kind of bug her with my um, we'll say "lack of punctuality," and I could tell she was getting a little annoyed. So I was trying to be all quick, pancakes, apple topping, whipped cream, sprinkled cinnamon, and I accidentally opened the wrong side of the cinnamon container to the pour side instead of the sprinkle side. Without looking first, I turned the container and dumped a good half a Sam's sized bottle of cinnamon all over a short stack. I was laughing so hard I was practically crying. But it was so strange that both George and his mom seemed really annoyed. Come on, what is not funny about that? See, if I had known to say "But we're cheery!" maybe I could've gotten a smile out of one of them! I cannot believe I haven't posted the recipe for those pancakes, by the way. Coming soon!

The second funny quote reminded me of my Nannie. The daughter explained how her mother grew up in the 40s when they got their hair done, wore dresses and always bright red lipstick, while she grew up in the 60s and drove her mother crazy with her very different choices. Her mother had been ill, I suppose, as the daughter explained that she knew she would be dying soon and was caring for her in her room one night when her mother called her to her bedside. She expected some sort of great piece of wisdom or secret and instead her mother asked, "Don't you need a little lipstick?" This is what Nannie said to my mother time and again. I distinctly remember sitting in the car in Nannie's driveway waiting for my mother to get her lipstick on before we could go inside. I look pretty washed out without lipstick so Nannie is with me in spirit often, reminding me to put on that lipstick!

The last two I thought were self help-y but very true. First, "Don't let other people rent space in your head unless you want them to." I totally need to take that advice. How often do I obsess over what someone thinks when I ultimately don't care. I was having a no one likes me attack one day and George challenged me, "who doesn't like you?" The only people I could think of were people that I don't particularly like either. I don't mean that I dislike them or there's anything wrong with them, but just that what on earth do I have in common with them or can I talk to them about. And I'm upset because they don't think I'm so great? No wonder they don't think I'm so great, they are totally different from me. Being all things to all people is so overrated. Oh, and impossible too.

Second self help-y thing, but something I have definitely found to be true, as long as you don't use it to beat yourself up or forbid you to feel, "Whenever you are feeling down or sorry for yourself, the best thing to do is something for someone else." I had an interesting talk with Amabel's teacher about the program at school that he oversees. He has a quail farm in an empty classroom that each student in the school has an opportunity to help with regularly. The eggs are sold at Straub's, the super swanky grocery store in St. Louis, and at the Clayton Dining (Diners? I don't know, it's swanky though) Club. And the proceeds go to support orphans in Africa. They are currently sponsoring three orphans with the profits, I believe. Anyway, I was being all hoity toity and saying how it is great to realize that there are people less fortunate, blah blah blah. And I'm sure her was like, "Yeah, tons of people are less fortunate than you. You poor poor child of Southern aristocracy." No, he's way too generous to think that. But he was very gracious to explain to me that the poor kids get handouts all the time and they start to feel kind of useless. This is a way for them to recognize that they are made in God's image and they have something to give! Well, he put it a lot more eloquently than me. I have so much to understand about generational poverty. But anyway, even just in dealing with temporary bouts of poverty, I can vouch for this. It does feel good to be able to do something, especially when you can't help yourself and people all around you can't afford clothes or tuition or their car broke down or they lost their job. These things are all around us, and it is uplifting when we can help in some way, even, as it is with the kids in Amabel's school, it is just to sanitize quail eggs.

And I'll leave you with this, a quote that is on the side of my refrigerator, cut from a Real Simple ages ago, just because I liked it. "The beautiful is everywhere; perhaps more in the arrangement of your saucepans on the white walls of your kitchen than in your eighteenth-century living room or in the official museums." Fernand Leger, painter. Oh, and "Great writers steal," is T.S. Elliot.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Catching Up

I have written about three or four unpublished half posts since my last one. I never could get a complete thought out. I have just been busy this week. Busy using my Food Network 4-in1 Grill! Here's the rundown: waffles on Saturday, eight grilled cheese sandwiches at once on Sunday (you can imagine what a thrill that was, I actually got to sit down and eat at the same time as everyone else!), pork tenderloins with rosemary pesto that turned out fabulously tender on the indoor grill on Monday, and turkey with sundried tomato mustard panini sandwiches on Tuesday. That covers the four functions pretty well and then I mostly started on Valentine's cupcakes on Wednesday so I was otherwise occupied. But I have to say that I am really delighted with my new appliance-y thingy. Do you need this? No. But if you have a big credit at Kohl's and need a waffle iron anyway and there is a big home sale at the time, I highly recommend it :)

So I have promised a lot of things in the past: recipes for cupcakes, pictures from the kids' birthday parties where said recipes were served, pictures of the Christmas wreaths I made, etc. We all know that I am not a picture-y blogger. Last fall we got a digital camera from my dad when he got some sort of gift for working at his office for 15 years. He always passes these things on to us, things like portable DVD players, digital cameras, etc., because he "doesn't want to fool with them." My parents don't even know how to record something with their VCR! Anyway, it was a reputedly nice camera, but it never worked. I guess we got a dud. Normally, if you had paid money for such a thing you would take it to the store and get a different one. When it is a free gift from your dad's company it is hard to know what to do. So that is a rabbit trail about why I never have pictures on my blog. Oh, let's hop over here too! I do have a digital camera that some of our friends sent us when they upgraded. The thing about it is that the battery only lasts about 20 minutes so I can't be carrying it around all day long. Plus, we have such a nice film camera that I would rather get the best shots with the better quality camera, even if that means not having pictures on the blog.

However, I did finally get some wreath pictures about a month ago right before I took them down. And while Lauren just today posted a link to the icing I used for the kids' birthday parties and yesterday for Valentine's Day, I feel I should go ahead and post all three recipes in one spot so you can cut, paste, and print oh so easily. Trust me, you will want to do so; these are so yummy! I am going to put the wreath pictures on at long last, and then maybe eventually I will put my Valentine's flower arrangement pictures up- oh, let's say in time for Fourth of July? I didn't think anything of it because I was sure I had seen it somewhere before, but the three people who know about it, my husband who watched me put it together, my mother-in-law who received it as a gift, and my sister with whom I swapped Valentine's Day stories this morning over the phone, all seemed somewhat impressed. I wish I had taken a picture, but maybe I can get over to my mother-in-law's house and snap one before the flowers die and put it on here soon. Then you can all tell me that you have seen it done before after all!


These are the cupcakes I made for Elspeth's birthday party. The recipe for Dark Chocolate Cupcakes is taken from Cook's Illustrated number seventy-three (March and April 2005) which says that the recipe does not double well.
It yields 12, so bummer.

8T unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 c. Dutch processed cocoa
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 c. sour cream

- Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat oven to 350. Line standard sized muffin pan with paper liners.
-Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and fully combined. Set aside and cool until just warm to touch.
-Whisk flour, soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.
-Whisk eggs in second medium bowl. Add sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift one third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogenous and thick.
-Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until skewer inserted in middle comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.
-Cool in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove from pan onto wire rack for 30 more before icing with buttercream frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream is from Magnolia Bakery in New York City. There is a cookbook, but I found this recipe online. Maybe I should get the cookbook too? The Vanilla Cupcakes recipe that follows is also from the same website and bakery. We made these for Valentine's Day with pink icing and for Amabel's birthday, also with pink icing, but inside flat bottomed ice cream cones.These are another of those things that I was pretty sure I had seen done before, but was flattered by the praise I received anyway. And well, everybody loves an "atta girl" every now and then! It was hard to find a decent picture where you could actually tell what I made. I chose this one because you can also see the ice cream sandwiches I made. Those are pretty self explanatory, bake cookies, scoop ice cream onto cooled cookies, roll sides in sprinkles. The favorite was a tie between M&M cookies (which was just the Nestle Tollhouse recipe with M&M's instead of chocolate chips) with vanilla ice cream and sugar cookies with some sort of bizarre Edy's limited edition American Idol ice cream rolled in colored sprinkles. The other one was a double chocolate cookie that I thought was just okay with moose tracks ice cream on it. Well, those would have been super if it hadn't been for the cookie. Anyway, the cupcakes are the point.

Vanilla Cupcakes (yields 24)
1 1/2 c. self rising flour (yes, I know, I don't buy self rising flour either. try 1 1/2c. all purpose flour, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder for the equivalent of 1 1/2c. self rising flour)
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
2 c. sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 c. milk at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
-Combine flours and set aside.
-combine milk and vanilla and set aside.
-Cream butter on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar gradually and beat 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients in 3 parts alternating with milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until ingredients are incorporated, but don't over mix.
-Spoon batter into cupcake liners and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350.
-Cool in pan for 15 minutes; then remove to wire racks to cool completely before icing with Vanilla Buttercream.

Vanilla Buttercream
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
6-8 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
-Place butter, then 4c. sugar, then milk and vanilla in mixing bowl. Beat 3-5 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition, until desired consistency.

Last but not least, the wreath pictures. I'm just catching up today, y'all. I know if you ever want to find these you will be going crazy looking in December. But just remember I am always late. That really should be the title of my blog, it is the one true thing about Abby you know! Well, with that in mind, either I'm 54 days late or an optimistic 311 days early with these! There were two of the circular wreaths, one on each big window out front. And I made the E by having George clip off a quarter section of two different circular wreath forms and wiring them together; then I just covered them with fir trimmings like the other two. Other letters that would work well are C and S. I also used the same cutie polka dot ribbon around the brown paper I wrapped around the bottoms of my winter rose poinsettias. I figured these are Valentine-y enough so I still have them up. They are on their last leg though; they don't look nearly so pretty as they did when this picture was taken! I have had them on either side of my old "mantel" which is really the top of an old door frame I bought from a salvage yard. I like the beat up look you know. I guess I value things that have weathered a few storms even if they aren't classically beautiful any longer. I've got a house full of these kinds of things! The painting on the mantle was one George did for me while we were dating. I really should get a better frame for it though. The silver E was one I picked up at the same salvage yard; it had been used among the lettering on a post office that had been torn down. And I guess that's enough blogging for today!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Why We Would Be Terrible On the Price Is Right

One funny little footnote, if you will, about the trip to Goodwill. They wouldn't take the old radios, nor would they take the faux Christmas wreath that somehow wound up in our basement. But when I went out to the car yesterday afternoon I noticed that one of our wedding gifts that we have never much cared for that I had finally decided could not go through another move and placed remorselessly in the giveaway pile was also still in the van. I actually called George on the cell phone and asked him what it was doing there. He said he figured he could sell it for $10-20 and not to worry about it. I was a little annoyed after my big breakthrough, but I decided it really was just one thing and we still really were getting rid of it. Then this morning he called up to me from the computer down here in the basement, "Hey, you know that ____? It's worth $300." Except that I'm horribly afraid that it would somehow get back to the gift giver, I would post a picture as proof. My guilt was so bad at thinking it had cost like $80, it is quite a mercy I never knew the original price! I do however, this time with probably pretty valid reasons, fear that I did not adequately thank the person who gave it to us! Oh well!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Giddy

So today has been a pretty great day. I mean, I am pretty happy sitting hear typing to you all. It all started on Wednesday when I got my little comment from Karma Wilson. You sneaks with your fake comments in the past made me doubt whether it was real or not. I suppose I was worried someone was making fun of me for deciding on a waffle iron just because Karma Wilson likes it, like what do waffles have to do with children's literature? Plenty, if someone writes a children's book about waffles. But you know, when things get reviews that are all over the place, it is hard to know who to believe. But when you see your favorite children's book author who writes smart books, and books about the Bible, you can be assured that you're dealing with an intelligent, honest person who has similar values. So why not trust her good taste and character in the kitchen as well? But I suppose I do not have to defend myself to you all as it really was Karma Wilson! I told George, and later Karma herself, that it was like Bono posting on my blog! I was so excited! She has now generously promised to send signed books to my family! What a treat!

So the whole waffle iron issue was still up for debate, but we made our trip to Kohl's tonight hoping that closely observing each appliance would help us make our decision. While the plain waffle iron had both the Cuisinart name and the Belgian style waffle to boast, the Food Network 4 in 1 Grill also boasted a name I can appreciate (just not sure in appliances, but the T-Fal name helped) and the panini press, grill, and griddle options. Another bonus was that somehow there was an additional mark down on each appliance making them both about $5-10 less than they were on Sunday. So because I was down to paying only $30 for the Food Network grill, and because George was so excited about the prospect of being able to grill indoors, and because my pans are not nonstick and I am past ready to pitch my tiny electric nonstick skillet, and because we were so impressed with the overall sturdiness and apparent ease of use, we went Food Network 4 in 1 Grill at a total cost of $30 to us from an original retail price of $140. Not too bad! Waffles for breakfast tomorrow!

On top of that, George took a van full of give away items to Goodwill this morning. Nothing is more exciting to me than getting rid of things we don't need anymore. And I have to say that all of that physical baggage represented a lot of strange emotional baggage. I have written a longer, separate post for an explanation if you wish, but I feel like not everyone is a fan of that type of stuff. I have gotten away from it I think, but I wonder if anyone misses it. Well, the post will be below if anyone cares to read about my strange spiritual and emotional journey. But even without all the inner significance, it is always nice to pitch unwanted stuff.

I am also working on adding some things to my sidebar. I will probably be working on it for a while, so this is a great time to give me tips on new blogs or websites to visit or books to read etc. I just feel a change coming on. It's like a brand new day. And that day starts with waffles!

The Case For Being Giddy

So there are so many little streams that run into this one little cup of joy of mine that is now overflowing that I thought I would write out the long and the short of it in case you're interested. Because you know how I love a back story : ) It's fairly personal though, so don't feel like you have to wade through my psyche if you don't want to. If you are going to read this, I hope you read the post above, because it all starts with a waffle making dilemma, first mentioned in this post, and moves on to a trip to Goodwill, which this post is mostly about. I have already written it and am still not sure it makes sense to an innocent bystander like yourself, but here is my best attempt.

First of all, the clutter, you all sort of know about my battle with clutter and all of the thought processes that accompanied this because of this post. I have been in the midst of a major winter cleanathon since writing that post. I just love throwing things out! This is really bad for the environmentalist in me. I do my best to recycle, to give things away to charity, etc. but I figure things are still getting chucked in a landfill in the end. Even finishing up a box of cereal or a bottle of shampoo is such a delight to me. I have no idea why, but I just love knowing something has served its purpose and sending it on its way. The less stuff, the better. Other members of my family don't really subscribe to the idea though as shared in this post.

I saw Oprah yesterday. I know, we all know, I can't stand Oprah. I mean, I just think she offers all these answers and everyone listens to her and loves her and they are being fed false gospels. On the other hand, I suppose she is helping people who would not be otherwise helped. Common grace. I know. So anyway, there was this guy on there who wrote a book called Does This Clutter Make my Butt Look Fat? Isn't it usually "does this make my butt look big?" Well, anyway, he was going through some lady's house and getting rid of all her junk. I was ironing. But I was paying attention. I was inserting my junk where her junk was and thinking of my own issues that have me accumulate junk. I don't know what her issues were. But I know the reason I have stuff I don't need always goes back to not hurting people's feelings. It always goes back to me taking on some sort of responsibility for their well intended bad ideas. Because I know they were well intended. And I worry what their misconception of me will be if they know I gave away something they gave me.

I worry about being a snob a lot, partly because I am a little bit of a snob. I work against it, but when you grow up in snobbery, with parents who grew up in snobbery... it's a Hawkins generational sin, I guess. Anyway, I try really hard not to be snobby and so I often worry about it too much. Like when I send out gift lists to everyone at Christmas because I know they will call and ask anyway, I worry they are thinking I only want what I want because I am a snob. And that is true. It's only part of the big picture, but it is true. And I feel bad. So I keep the things they got that I don't like that weren't on the list because that will make me not a snob? No, it won't make me not a snob. Furthermore, it makes me feel bad about myself because every time I see that stuff I think about what a terrible snob I am and how everyone must think so or they would just stick to the list. And I think how ungrateful I am that I don't like what they got us. And I think how they spent their time and money on those things and I am just not honoring that. How do I be me and maintain the home I want to make (as a homemaker) without being snobby and ungrateful?

And second, there's the pizza. There was the issue of how often to be available, there was the issue of how much more I could commit to, there was the practical issue of how to make the system work. And again, it was not wanting to hurt people's feelings, trying to be responsible. If someone asks me if I can do something, I don't know what answer to give. I don't have a concrete barrier like a job that starts and ends at a certain time, but I do have things at home that need to be done. These aren't the types of things you write on a calendar, but they are nonetheless important things. So how many times can you just "run up to the school for a few minutes" before you have a whole lot at home not getting done? Because nothing is ever as easy as running up to the school for a few minutes. How can you be flexible without just bending over backwards for everyone?

I don't know how, but sometime this week I grew a backbone. Maybe it was all those conversations with George and Jessie and Jennie and my counselor all kicking in at once. But I just decided that I can't do everything. I can't be responsible for everyone else's feelings and trying to be is making me neglect my own feelings. Consequently I am angry. I am angry a lot. Because while I am busy considering everyone else's feelings, they are not all sitting around considering my feelings. Why? Because that would be absurd! I mean, to a point, we need to consider people's feelings, but I am just always getting mine hurt. And it's because I don't take care of them. I wait for other people to take care of them and get angry when they don't. All of this I actually realized while ironing and watching Oprah!

So I marched myself downstairs and just started packing stuff. I had a van full of giveaways in less than an hour. Yeah, it didn't take long because this is stuff I have wanted out for ages. This is stuff I have literally cried over. And why did I have so much emotion invested in it? Because I was all wrapped up in being responsible for what everyone else does and never hurting anyone's feelings, and yet I wanted my home to be a place I could move and breathe and function in, but it was like all these other people and their feelings were stifling me out. They weren't doing it though; my worrying about them was doing it. I was like this as a child. I used to lay awake for hours at night, often crying, and my mother would sometimes come in, if she was still awake, and ask me what was wrong. It was always something like I was worried that I didn't play with my doll house enough or that I was worried I neglected to thank someone appropriately for something. I don't know why. I mean, I could guess, but it doesn't matter for this post. Anyway, George was only slightly resistant to the carrying out of many of our possessions. I think his main concern was that the antique radio collection was among the castoffs. It didn't take him long to realize how serious I was and to recognize strength and firmness in me for one of the first times ever. So he emailed everyone in the neighborhood to see if any of them would take the radios! And I am not sure if he has found anyone, but guess who wouldn't take them? Goodwill! Well, I am certain the garbage truck will accept them if he doesn't find a sucker, er um grateful recipient, soon.

I felt a huge relief having all of that stuff out of my house. All day I have walked down the stairs and actually seen the rug at the bottom instead of pile of boxes! But more than that, I told myself that my feelings matter. I didn't argue it insecurely and hypothetically or even angrily out of desperation. I just believed it and did something about it. This is a breakthrough for me. Truly. And I guess it had been coming on because the day before I said no to a pizza meeting at school. I didn't have an immovable conflict, it just wasn't a good time. And I said, "can we do this via email?" And you know, that worked just as well. And we also got a chance to talk about the amount of work that I was doing and the frustration with that (not that it was anyone's fault I was doing so much, but we got a chance to figure out how to make it easier on me, something I never would've asked for before- I would have just expected it or hoped it and then been angry if I didn't get it). It was really exciting. I think the success of the first decision made it easier to think through what was going on (during Oprah) and go ahead and make the next decision. And I am so pleased with the results of the second decision that I am hoping I will remember it for the next decision.

Part of the other smaller proceeds of my journey are also causes for giddiness. I have been somewhat jolted into action and have tackled nearly my whole pile of mending and completely tackled my gigantic pile of ironing (for now). I feel unleashed, like I really can do something and be maybe even who I want to be. It's just so freeing to feel like I matter! It's so strange that what I have needed to hear all along was the reverse of what we are so often told, "Don't think about yourself so much, think of other people." Who knew what ways my mind would warp that message? I know that so many of you have tried to tell me before that that is indeed what I was doing, warping that message, but it is only now really making sense.

Anyway, I am hopeful. I am not sure why a new waffle iron and connecting with someone I really admire and giving away old junk has done that, not completely. But God is in all of it, working on me as He works on all of us. I think I have been going through a time of really feeling like I must be a disappointment to Him and certainly to myself, and am possibly now coming out of some of that with new courage and hope. Thanks to friends who have talked me through some of this, heaven knows I am a talker! Thanks to George especially for exponentially more talking, for signing me up for counseling and working out the insurance, for teaching me what you learn in school everyday, for sweeping up the glass I broke when I got so sad and angry I thought I would burst, for telling me the good you see in me and challenging the bad that I see, and for all the hugs I so don't appreciate like I should. Thanks to Jennifer for pointing out that the Food Network Grill was made by T-fal, I took strange comfort in that. Thanks to everyone who commented, Karma Wilson especially (man, I hope she doesn't read this, because "what kind of a weirdo is this girl?!"), for your help with the waffle maker decision. Thanks to Goodwill for existing and wanting our junk. Thanks to Blogger for a place to put this stuff out there. Heck, thanks to Oprah for having the clutter guy on your show! And of course, thanks be to God!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

An Interesting Site

I have been up since 4am. Don't know why. That's just when I woke up from a dream and never could get back to sleep. It's no fun, you know, not being able to get back to sleep. I lay there for a while thinking of all the things I could be doing, writing letters in my head and having discussions in my head with evidently, very predictable people. And then when my stomach started rumbling I remembered that I didn't eat much for supper. So I got up and had a bowl of cereal and remembered that I needed to make Amabel's lunch. One thing turned into another and now, three hours later, I am boring y'all with the story. I have been meaning to bring up this website for a while. It is a book website that my friend Courtney emailed me about after the last time I wrote a post about children's books. I have been trying to get it updated with all my favorite children's books so I could have it linked to my blog. But that may take forever. While I am not totally crazy about the site, I am trying to press on because I think it is such a great idea. You have an account, a bookshelf really, and you customize your shelf and make booky friends with people who read the same things you do. It has like every book in the world, and you pick the ones you like or own and put them on your shelf and review them, recommend them, whatever. Great idea, right? Totally. They have pictures of the covers of the books and you can select even down to what edition you have. But see, that's where it gets laborious. A lot of times it will list the hardcover (and I think anything besides hardcover in children's books is just throwing money away because they get torn up) but it won't have a picture of the hardcover. So that's fine, I just use the picture from the paperback. But then there will be like three different pictures of the paperback, a picture of an audio cassette, sometimes even note cards or other novelty items. It is confusing. And if you do a search even as specific as "Two Little Trains Margaret Wise Brown," you get like 100 results, the first of which is not Two Little Trains by Margaret Wise Brown. So while I love the idea, I find the site itself a little frustrating. I may never get my shelf in working order to have on my blog. But it is a cool idea. The site is called Shelfari. See what you think.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Can we Trust The Food Network?

I don't really expect anyone out there to know what I should do in this situation. Mostly because I am guessing that none of you has the exclusively sold at Kohl's, Food Network 4-in1 Grill. I really need a waffle iron. I used to have my grandmother's dinosaur of a waffle iron that burned me, didn't tell me when the waffles were done, and was extremely heavy, your basic all around death trap from the 1940s. So in our last move I asked my mom if it was like an heirloom or if it was okay to just lay it to rest. As she is only sentimental over a 50 year old package of multicolored Dixie cups (and why she has chosen this particular item to attach all of her childhood sentiments to, I will never understand), she said to send it on its way. So I did, thinking that I would just get me another waffle iron next time I saw one. But when do you ever see waffle irons? You have to go out of your way to shop for them. So I will get up one morning with a craving for waffles and think, "I gotta go shop for one of those."

Well, at Christmas, I finally did the research. I looked on Amazon and studied all my options. See, with already a family of five, none of these circular Belgian waffle makers would be worth the money. I'd spend all morning standing up turning waffles. So I decided I needed a bigger one. The idea of the waffle iron, panini press combo was really appealing to me, because mmmm paninis. But, while the panini press is often combined with a grill and griddle with switchable plates, they often don't include a waffle iron plate, as in with the Cuisinart Griddler. I love Cuisinart. I have Cuisinart envy. But the Griddler has no waffle making capacities. However, Cuisinart does make a nifty waffle maker. But I was so fired up about the panini making capacities, that in the end, I put the Black and Decker Grill and Waffle Baker, which received a five star rating from none other than Karma Wilson, on my Amazon wish list. But we know how this ends, I didn't get much off my wish list. So no waffle iron for Christmas.

What I did end up with after many returns, was $60 in credit at Kohl's. So that's something. But Kohl's doesn't carry the Black and Decker Grill and Waffle Baker, which also got some bad reviews so maybe it wasn't meant to be? What Kohl's does carry is the Cuisinart 4 slice Belgian Waffle Iron, which is very exciting. But it was too much. Until this week when I had a baby with a fever during Sunday school so I couldn't leave her in the nursery and decided to run over to the Kohl's that is just across from our church and found the Cuisinart waffle iron to be on sale for what? $60. "The biggest home sale of the season."So that was exciting. But the lady in line behind me said "Honey, you don't want that." I don't? Why don't I? "Because that one doesn't have the plates that change out." Well, the one with the plates that change out doesn't have a waffle iron plate. "Yes, it does. At Macy's it does." Of course, this is he story of my life, I was so confused. I had researched this! I had been waiting! I was in line! And one lady with one comment blew the whole plan out of the water. Bossy lady! Seriously, this is the story of my life. This is why I am always in therapy. Strangers make me doubt myself! Imagine the power that you people who know me have! It's terrible!

So I checked to be sure that the sale would last the week and decided I better check my research. Well, of course, I am not stupid, and the Griddler does not come with a waffle iron plate. Cuisinart does not make a panini press waffle iron combo. And it's too bad really, because the Griddler is pretty sweet. Anyway, back to the moment, as I was walking back to put my waffle iron away and chasing my feverish tornado baby who was wreaking havoc in the small appliances section, I happened by a large display of Food Network cooking sundries that are supposedly a "Kohl's exclusive" and saw that Food Network makes a 4 in 1 grill that includes, guess what? Both waffle iron and panini press plates! I found this article which is the only review I seem to be able to dig up, except a message board where one guy tells another guy to keep the one he received for Christmas and the the other guy comes back and thanks him and said he is glad he did keep it. So for what that's worth... Anyway, it is a lot more expensive, but is on sale this week for $100 (from $140). So do I invest $40 (after the $60 credit) in a product that does a lot more and could potentially be my favorite thing, but could also potentially be a very sad conclusion to my waffle iron hunt if it doesn't work well? Or do I just get the plain old Cuisinart waffle iron, the one I had decided on, for pretty much free, and if one day I have some money lying around (yeah, right) I'll buy me a Griddler? Well, I'll never do that second part. Because the main reason I am doing this is because of the store credit, and also two such appliances would take up ever so much storage space. And while a panini press is very nice and an open griddle is something I could really use, I am not sure I want to gamble on appliances made by Food Network. It just seems so gimmicky. Could they really put out something that works well? Part of me says that they would want a really good product to put their name on, and part of me thinks maybe they figure that anything with their name on it will sell and so they will just want to put something out there whether it's good or not. So the real question becomes "Can we trust the Food Network?" And as you know, I listen to what people tell me, even the lady behind me in line at Kohl's. So what do you think?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Mmmmm

Yes, I want you all to get a headache while reading my blog. I just get bored. The blue and red was not doing it for me anymore. If this is really hard to read, let me know. I guess I will know if I can't read my own writing. Nothing new really, I am generally known to have the worst penmanship had by any girl anywhere. I put "woman" in that sentence first, but I did not like the idea of calling myself a woman. Yuck! I think it is because I was raised that you wanted to be a "lady" and not a "woman." We were not supposed to refer to anyone as a woman unless they had somehow lost the privilege of being referred to as a lady. Or did someone just tell me that once and it stuck? Probably. Anyway, I am uncomfortable with that word, particularly when applied to myself.

There is not much to post about. But when did that ever stop me? I feel that February needs a post. After all, February now has its very own Valentine-y pink and browny blog design. Brown for chocolate, you know. What kind of chocolate do y'all like? I never understand why people don't enjoy dark chocolate. I know if it's like above 60%, it ceases to be chocolate in the sweet form we know it and gets that fruity taste, and I can see why that might not be someone's favorite thing. But I much prefer a good 58 percentish dark chocolate to milk chocolate. Except for the M&M. Did they not hit the jackpot when they came up with the M&M? I could write a poem about M&Ms. But prose will serve.

First of all, the size is perfect. What is the deal with the Shrek sized M&M? You would think it would be so good. But it's not. No, the candy to chocolate ratio is all off. It's too close to a Hershey's kiss. And everyone knows how dreadful Hershey kisses are. They're like the Cheetos of the chocolate world. Yuck! Anyway, the Shrek sized M&M was all wrong, but not so wrong as the M&M mini. See, there you have entirely too much candy, hardly any chocolate to speak of at all. Who wants to waste their time and calorie intake on colorful candy shells? Not me. Not unless they're stuffed with chocolate!

Now what I have been surprised about is that I do not enjoy the dark chocolate M&M. But for me, it's a no go. I think because the candy shell is so sweet that it negates the semisweet dark chocolate factor. It just doesn't work for me. The peanut M&M, a true classic, will always have a warm spot in my heart, and in my tummy. But I can't say the almond M&M or the crispy M&M have ever really impressed me. Do they still even make the crispy M&M? The only one left is the peanut butter M&M. I have to say that I had mixed feelings about the peanut butter M&M. It came on the scene and I thought to myself, "Is it really different enough from a Reese's cup to need it?" and "Is it really so different from the beloved peanut M&M to need it?" The answer to both of those questions is a resounding yes. We do need the peanut butter M&M. Not so often as the peanut M&M, and certainly not so often as the classic, milk chocolate M&M, but it does have its place in our world. And we should welcome it with open mouths.

I checked the M&M's website (careful, it's noisy. and no, they do not make the crispy M&M anymore) just now and was astounded to see that there is such a thing as "wildly cherry" M&M's "for a limited time." Uh, gross. I was also reminded of M&M's baking bits. These are, in a word, disgusting. The Bruno's in Alabaster, Alabama is a dreadful place to shop and if you ever have the misfortune of living in Alabaster, I would recommend that you commute to a different Bruno's as I almost always did. Or, now there is a Publix in nearby Helena. I once tried to find a bag of M&M's at that particular Bruno's, a common everyday search for a common everyday item which you would think any grocery store, or gas station for that matter, would carry. Not so with the Alabaster Bruno's. Oh no! They recommended that I purchase M&M's baking pieces as they were "exactly the same, just packaged for the baking aisle." I should have recognized who I was dealing with, the same store that tried to convince me I could buy canned black olives and they would taste exactly the same as kalamata olives (I knew better that time though!), but unfortunately, I purchased the M&M's baking bits and was sadly disappointed. I know, it sounds like a great idea. You put regular M&M's into your cookies and the candy colors run all into the dough, the shells crack, and it's just not as pretty as you thought it could be. Baking bits with specially designed heat proof shells (or whatever) would look much prettier. But pretty is not everything; let me tell you, those baking bits taste nothing like M&M's. They don't really taste much at all. Well, they're the horrific combo of the dark chocolate M&M and the M&M mini. So, no thanks.

But the classic M&M, the milk chocolate, been around since 1940 M&M, is a little piece of perfection. And I prefer perfection by the pink handful. It almost was poetry, wasn't it?

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