Friday, May 30, 2014

pretty flowers, questionable outfits

I was going to have extra time to blog today. But then I spent my extra time roaming around my yard and admiring all the pretty flowers, I have less time to blog than normal. Funny how that works. Flowers before bloggers. Or something?

But at least I have pictures of flowers! 

I planted four varieties of zinnias this year. Only ONE of them appear to be actually growing and blooming. I'm blaming the stupid late frost on this situation. But at least the zinnias that toughed it out are super pretty!

My pincushion flower(s?) (the purple ones in the background) gets bigger every year-- I love it! I just have to remember each spring to not toss it in the compost. When it starts growing it looks exactly like a weed. It has almost been weeded and killed by me for several years running. But once it starts blooming, it's beautiful and I remember that it isn't a weed.

We have several varieties of knockout roses, but this bush is my faaaaaavorite. I love how the blooms come out in perfect little bouquets. They look pink in this picture, but in real life they're much closer to red. The only sad thing is that they don't smell good (well, they don't smell bad, either...they just don't smell). My other knockouts smell amaaazing, but I don't think they're quite as pretty.

Then I took some selfies with the roses. Because of course.

I'm not entirely sure about my outfit today. I actually brought a change of clothes to work in case I decide I don't like it halfway through the day. I got these shorts a few weeks ago because I loved them in the dressing room. Since then, I've ironed them THREE TIMES, tried them on in my room a few times, and worn them zero times (oh, but of course I ripped the tags off). Until today. I just can't figure out what kind of top to wear with them? And I can't decide if I think they're flattering or if they make me look super huge. And also they get SUPER WRINKLY just by existing...please see: worn zero times, ironed THREE TIMES. Note: one of those times was with my flat iron, because I am crafty like that. If I hadn't taken the tags off, I'd probably return them, buttttt....since I'm stuck with them now, I'm finally trying to wear them. Also, they are insanely comfortable, so I've gotta give them credit there. We'll see how long they last. And also if my boss thinks they're work-appropriate, ha. Just taking all kinds of chances today.

And that's all I have time for. Flowers and outfits that are maybe a no. Have a happy weekend!

PS. I noticed after publishing that today is Show us Your Garden at Kelly's Korner! What a great linkup! If I'd known in advance, I would have taken some less crappy pictures with a better camera, but...oh well. If you're visiting from KK, hi! For more (mostly bad, but enthusiastic!) pictures and musings about my veggies, flowers, and gardening in general, go here!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

another favorite thing

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Trader Joe's. And I feel super sorry for any of you unfortunate enough to not live within road tripping distance of one. But not sorry enough to stop gushing about my favorite stuff I buy there. I've preached extensively about some of my favorite TJ's beauty steals before, but during my trip there yesterday afternoon, I realized that I've never shared about one of my other MOST FAVORITE THINGS EVER that they sell.

But first, some back story.

Greeting cards stress me out. They just do. I feel like I have an unusually long list of Things That Shouldn't Be Stressful But Are, and this is yet another item on the list. Having to find a card to accompany a birthday present or shower gift or reaaaaalllllyyyyy troubles me. First of all, they're too expensive. IT'S A PIECE OF PAPER. Second of all, they're mostly WAY too cheesy, fake, or dumb. Occasionally I'll find a great funny one, but then it's $5 and I want to cry. I have never, ever liked a card as much as I like a latte, and so spending $5 on a card is out of the question. And I feel like most card recipients would agree. If I'm going to spend $5 more on your gift, wouldn't you rather it be in the form of the actual GIFT and not the piece of paper you're going to throw away in ten minutes? And that's the last thing that stresses me out. Knowing that no matter how pretty/inspirational/cute the card is, it's just going to get tossed in the trash. This makes me want to just write "Happy birthday, I love you!!!" on the back side of a post-it note I've already used or least I don't have to feel guilty when it lands in the landfill. Oh, and the $1 cards that they usually have at Target or the grocery store or whatever? Vomit. Just because I'm frugal doesn't mean I automatically love obnoxiously bright colors on glossy cardstock with even worse words/phrases/poetry. Ick.

So anyway. As you can guess, I avoid buying cards at all costs. 

Except at Trader Joe's.

In keeping with their general commitment to excellence, Trader Joe's does their cards extremely well. So well that sometimes I actually just browse the cards for fun. In direct contrast to the card aisle at Target, the (very small) card selection at TJ's makes me smile and feel happy. AND THEY ARE ALL ONLY A DOLLAR. That's right. The cards are lovely, not cheesy, appropriate, AND CHEAP. I swear, if the typical TJ's card was at Target, it'd be $5. The paper is thick and lovely. Depending on the design on the front, often there is texture to, you can feel ridges and outlines, highs and lows. I mean, they're nice. And surprisingly generic. Many of them have a quote or something on the front, but they're real quotes (spoken by people you've heard of...not random card designers in the Hallmark laboratories) that don't make you squirm with discomfort. And if there's something on the inside, it's also generic-ish enough that you could use the card for a variety of occasions. Like this (which is currently serving as inspirational office decor, hence the lovely tape on the top):

Please excuse my horrid iPhone photography and how it makes this card look like a piece of crap. In real life, it's pretty.

Pretty, right? The inside simply says "Thank you." Which means that I've given this card for birthdays, Mother's Days, and just because. 

Here's another one currently sprucing up my office:

I should really consider taking better pictures. But you get the idea. This one is a really nice paper and the lettering and designs are all textured and raised...and just lovely. This one is blank on the inside. IT WAS A DOLLAR. I really can't stress that point enough. Only a dollar, AND pretty enough to not be immediately thrown in the trash-- when Matt gave me these cards, I didn't have to awkwardly wonder if it was okay to trash them or debate whether saving them made me a hoarder...I stuck them up on the wall of my office and called it decor!

I bought this one yesterday. I don't even need a card, nor do I plan to give it away. It just looked pretty and I thought I'd like to frame it or hang it up somewhere. Because for a buck, I can do that.

This one says "Here's to new beginnings" on the inside.

So there you have it. Next time you're card shopping (or just grocery shopping), make a stop by Trader Joe's. It's a slam dunk every time. Oh, but be warned: like most of the best things at TJ's, the card selection changes frequently. If you see a card you love, don't assume it'll be there next week. Go ahead and buy it while you can-- there'll still be great cards next week, but they may be completely different. Learn from my tragic experiences!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

stop talking. now. NOW.

There's one tiny Mexican restaurant in our tiny little town. Not Athens, obviously-- there are at least 100 Mexican restaurants in Athens, thank God, but in the little town where our house actually is...there's one. Therefore we eat there at least once a week. I won't disclose what the max number of times we've visited it in a week is...that would be embarrassing (but less so if you think of it from the perspective that I'm just trying to support small local businesses...). Anyway, for the past several years, we spend every Tuesday evening there with Matt's family. Taco Tuesday is one of my favorite parts of the week.

Last night our crowd was slim-- just Matt, his dad, and me. Matt's sister Amy is due to give birth to our newest niece any minute now (or, technically...two days ago...) and so Matt's mom is up in NC with her. We're friends with the family that owns the restaurant (obviously, since we're probably the main reason they're still in business) and the waitress, so it was normal for them to inquire about where Matt's mom was when they noticed her absence. We told them about the impending arrival of our niece, which soon turned into a short, sweet discussion about babies in general and how cute and sweet they are. Nothing wrong with that.

But then.

I'm sorry, it's taking me a minute to figure out how to even tell this story.

Please recall who is sitting at our table. Me, Matt, and my father-in-law.

We're friendly with the workers there, but in a normal-small-town-restaurant-owners/workers-frequent-diner way. Like, we chat once or twice a week while ordering dinner and refilling beverages. We don't talk on the phone or invite each other over to our houses. We're not roommates or cousins. We're not even Facebook friends.

So I'm having a hard time figuring out how our conversation so quickly turned wrong.

Here was the progression. Pretend this is a fancy flowchart.

Mom isn't here because Amy's having a baby-->Babies! Yay! Yes, it's a girl. Yay, girls are great!-->Our waitress can't believe how quickly babies grow up. Her youngest is already 13 months!-->All three of our waitress's babies were conceived while she was on birth control. She is the most fertile person ever!-->Yep, the first one was the shot, the second one was an IUD, and the last one was the arm implant thing. But after the last one she had surgery so now there REALLY SHOULD NOT BE ANY MORE!!-->But still, there's a chance that she's pregnant, maybe.

If you ever see me making this face while you're telling a story, there's a 100% chance you should stop telling your story

Yes. I'm sure that Matt and his dad were SUPER pumped to find out all of that about our friendly waitress!

I mean, infertility issues and over-sensitivity aside...isn't that pretty much ALWAYS INAPPROPRIATE UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES (to share with strangers...not like, your doctor or your best friend)??

I was slightly tempted to respond with the tales of the 71 cycles that Matt and I have tried and failed to get pregnant, or the variety of drugs, surgeries, and specialists that haven't worked for us. Or maybe shown her pictures of the baby that we thought would be ours but wasn't. Or maybe just faked a stroke and had someone call me an ambulance to get me out of there.

But I didn't. I just made variations on that face and ate my taco really fast.

I don't know if any of yall are waiters, but here's a valuable tip if you are. Maybe don't share that stuff with random patrons.

To be honest, it didn't really upset me all that much. I think I was so busy being amazed and awed by the insane inappropriateness of the whole thing that it shielded me from being hurt. And now I'm telling yall and we can all have a big laugh at it, so perhaps the experience was valuable after all. 

But still. Stop.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

celebrity (& family) resemblances

We thoroughly enjoyed our long and glorious three-day weekend. I'm going to kick things off by sharing the unrivaled high point of the weekend, which will reveal a lot about how truly shallow and vain I really am.

On Sunday morning, my parents introduced Matt and I to some friends of theirs at church. As we were shaking hands, this very observant and brilliant gentleman mused (while gesturing towards the general direction of my head/hair) that I "have the Zooey Deschanel thing going on."

I nearly passed out from excitement.

Matt cackled, knowing that that is the HIGHEST COMPLIMENT I CAN POSSIBLY BE PAID.

My mom's face went blank. Huh? Who? What?

He explained, since I was unable to speak. "Your daughter looks like Zooey Deschanel. Your other daughter (my sister was there last weekend) is so blonde, but this one's got the Zooey thing going on!" My mom still didn't know who Zooey Deschanel was, but it didn't matter. This compliment wasn't for Mom, anyway.

Can we all agree that he is probably the smartest man on earth? Yes. And lest you think this was creepy or that he was hitting on me, that totally wasn't the case. It was just a friendly (and brilliant) observation. Later on, as we were leaving, he said "Bye, Zooey!" Hey. If you can't remember my name...I'll take Zooey any day.

Other than being called out as a Zooey lookalike, there were other good things this weekend, too. But I mean...that's pretty tough to beat.

Matt and I spent most of the weekend playing with Carley. Here's how I managed that: early Saturday morning, I texted my brother and said don't be selfish. I need Carley. And like a smart man, he stepped in line and did as he was told. I kept her Saturday for 8ish hours and again Monday for the whole day (until we left to come home)! It was awesome. We spent most of our time playing outside, 'swimming', and going on walks. 

Carley looks a lot like I did as a baby. That's fun, really. I don't know if I'll ever have biological kids and get to admire how they have my eyes or nose or I take advantage of doing that with Carley when I can! Lucky for her, I guess she'll grow up to have the Zooey thing going on (if she chooses to have bangs and long hair). I wonder if she'll even know who Zooey Deschanel is by then? Such a sad thing to think about.

One of our most striking similarities is our bathing suit physiques. Only it's waaaaaaaay cuter on a one-year-old than a 31-year-old.

Whereas Carley's muffin top and squishy thighs incite high-pitched squeals and grins of delight, mine kind of make you want to run and hide your eyes. So unfair...the double standards of baby and grownup beauty...sheesh.

It was a really great weekend. I have about 284 mosquito bites to remind me of the leisurely and muggy hours spent in the back yard. I also have a refrigerator full of my mom's leftovers to make sure my bathing suit bod continues looking like my niece's. Oh, and I did the Sephora Color IQ thing!! It was very enlightening- my skintone number is 1Y06, which is extremely fascinating to you, I'm sure. I'm looking forward to much more confident foundation purchasing in the future...although it'll probably be at Ulta. Sorry, Sephora. Love you and all, but a) there isn't a Sephora in Athens, and b) I'm on track to get Platinum status in the rewards program at Ulta this year, and that means I need to keep spending every one of my makeup dollars there. No dabbling in other stores and wasting those potential points!! 

Hope your (short) week is off to a great start!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

i guess i'm easily excited?

I feel like this week has been crazy, but in really hasn't. Ha. It's been a fairly ordinary, regular week! Just goes to show you can't really trust my brain for an accurate report on the state of things. At any rate, I have a handful of random pictures/stories that I haven't gotten around to sharing yet, time like the present.

After last Friday's trip to Asheville, I turned right back around and went to Greenville (SC) on Saturday. If you were to look at a map (or are familiar with the geography in this part of the country), you may note that I got extremely familiar with that stretch of I-85...and you would be correct. But both trips were for a purpose, so it wasn't as annoying to spend that much time on the road as it normally would be for me. Especially since I got to see this:

(for the record, I wasn't driving while taking this picture. Oh the advantages to riding shotgun!)

Yep. Just cruisin' down I-85 like it's totally normal...

So our trip to Greenville was to celebrate my friend Elizabeth's recent marriage. They had a very small family-only wedding, but had a big celebratory low country boil last weekend for all of their friends. It was wonderful!!

Elizabeth and I have been friends since high school, although we SHOULD have been friends since elementary school...we (unbeknownst to us at the time) took piano lessons from the same teacher (JUDY!!!!) all throughout elementary and middle school! I know that no one else cares about my childhood piano teacher, but I'm just going to say...every time I paint my nails (which is often), I think of Judy and how much she would roll her eyes and hate it. Poor woman. She was fighting a losing battle against fiesty kids who really needed neon fingernails. And didn't want to practice their music or do their theory homework. I bet being a piano teacher is a thankless job that drives people to drink.

I would be remiss to not share a picture of the unbelievably great food spread Elizabeth had. Unfortunately, I was too busy stuffing my face to get a 'before' picture. All we have is this:

So long, shrimp. Thank you for your noble sacrifice. You were delicious.
If there's anything that I love, it's a good low country boil. They used the Old Bay recipe and it was freaking delicious. But they included onions and sausage, which is definitely the norm around here...kind of weird that it isn't actually part of the Old Bay recipe? Does anyone NOT want those things in their LCB? I think not. Anyway, there were also amazing appetizers (mini chicken and waffles! pimento cheese! cheese ball!!) and Paula Deen's banana pudding, which is the best thing on earth. In all...thank you for making me gain 10 pounds, Elizabeth. I hope that somehow contributes to your long and happy marriage. :)

Yesterday brought some excitement, too. Just wait til you see how excited I look...then you'll know it's true.

I apologize in advance for the nightmares you're going to have about my face. Yikes.

Last week I won a giveaway at It's a Dog Lick Baby World! And yesterday my prize came!! Four packs of fancy, organic, soy-and-grain-and-chemical-and-gross-stuff-free dog treats! In conclusion, these treats are probably healthier than the meat Matt and I eat,'re welcome, Lola.

She's really excited about the treats (although her face doesn't show it quite like mine does). But probably my favorite part of the whole experience was this:

The way that the company chose to address the shipping label?? AMAZING. Erika B. (CONTEST WINNER)...and then the name of Kara's blog like that's my company name or something? Amazing. I probably laughed for like an hour over this label. Clearly I need to get out more.

That's all I've got. We're looking forward to a nice (HOT) long weekend and spending time with my family. We're really hoping that my dad is still on his ice cream kick so that we won't starve. In addition to eating a lot of ice cream, I have a few other similarly lofty goals for the weekend. I want to finish listen to the audiobook of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that we started last weekend. And I'm also thinking about going to Sephora to do the Color IQ thing. Anyone done that yet? It sounds really cool, and I really never need an excuse to take myself to a makeup store. Anyway. Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

a new look, a new name

Hey look!! A new design!! Yaaaaay!!

I really didn't know yesterday morning when I posted that the new design would be up so soon. Obviously I never had time to really think through the whole FAQ issue and make a page/add a link...oh well. I guess if there are any truly frequently asked questions, I could always put them on the 'about me' page. I love the new design, but I'm still working on some things-- like updating the info on the About Me page, maybe the Infertility/Adoption page (if I'm feeling ambitious), and trying to figure out how to make the mobile page look right. Right now it looks like if I enable the mobile version, then I lose my header at the top (and it's just boring text saying 'something beautiful'). If I disable the mobile version, then obviously you see the whole blog and all of the design,'s not a mobile page, so it's a lot more scrolling and squinting and kind of annoying. I'm hoping to figure out how to get the best of both worlds (the way it used to be...with my header visible in the mobile version), but haven't gotten there quite yet.

Anyway. All in all, I'm thrilled with the new look and very thankful to The Fairy Blogmother for her hard work! If you're bored with your current setup and want to let someone else do all the hard work of redesigning it for you, I would definitely recommend checking Erika out! And if you do, you should also let her know that I sent her your way-- she's going to give me 10% of any purchases (that I refer...not like, all of her purchases for the rest of her life. Sadly.)! So if you love me and you want me to buy more lipstick, you should totally do that. If you don't, you should definitely not. 

I've probably mentioned this a thousand times before, but Matt and I spend a lot of time in the car together commuting to and from work. I'm glad we get to ride together, because that means the time isn't quite so 'wasted' least we're spending time together, right? Even if it's not particularly fun. To be honest, I spend most of the time zoning out on my phone, but sometimes you reach The End of the Internet and even that can't entertain you. 

Then you take selfies and have long mental debates over whether trying to wear your decidedly not-curly hair 'curly' for the day was actually a good idea or not. 

Jury's still out, but we're going with it for the day.

All throughout our commutes we listen to NPR (who FINALLY finished the annual 'membership drive' that felt like it lasted two years), which is both educational and entertaining. For the past few days, we've been noting how exotic and unusual all of the NPR reporters'/correspondents'/anchors' names are. It was one of those things where Matt pointed it out one day and I was like "okay, sure..." but then you start paying attention, and after a few days it was like no seriously, why are all of their names so fancy??! We have some theories.

1. They are highly discriminatory in their hiring practices. They throw John Henderson and Linda Johnson's resumes in the trash the minute they see them. No boring name people need apply.

2. They're all pen names or stage names or whatever. FAKE. When you get hired on to work with NPR, you get to pick your new name.

3. It's all real and legit. Somehow, people with fancy names are drawn to liking NPR and going to journalism school or majoring in international affairs. Then they apply to work for NPR, and they are both qualified AND have the bonus of a lovely name, so they get hired and put on the air.

I have no idea what the truth actually is, but in the event that it's number 2 (heh heh, number 2), Matt and I decided we'd better prepare ourselves. We picked out our NPR names. This could come in handy if we ever need to use aliases for anything. Or go into Witness Protection. Or maybe if we just get tired of our regular old boring names.

I'm Alessandria Morelli.

He's Jorge Ricochi. 

These are both pronounced with lovely accents and lots of flair.

So now that you know THAT, it's time to go. For NPR in Athens, Georgia, I'm Alessandria Morelli.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

thanks! and another teensy question.

Whoa. You guys are insane. Thank you SO much for all of the incredibly helpful feedback on yesterday's conundrum!! On the one hand, I kind of feel like an idiot because there are obviously SO MANY options for taking food that aren't as complicated as the one scenario I described...but for however many years, that's been the only method I could possibly imagine. So I feel a little bit dumb, but also way encouraged and empowered to move forward and TAKE FOOD!!! (and gift cards and order pizzas) with much less stress and fear in the future. This should be helpful, since at any given time, approximately 95% of the people I know are pregnant and/or just gave birth and need food. 

So I seriously spent most of the afternoon printing out recipes that yall suggested and thinking through possible scenarios for the three meal 'situations' currently facing me. I feel way more excited at the prospect now! This also took up most of my mental energy for the afternoon and evening, so...I don't really have anything exciting to talk about. Well, maybe two things.

1. Laura informed me that Scandal Season 3 is on Netflix now!!! Obviously this is amazing news. We managed to only watch two episodes last night, which I feel displays an award-winning level of self-restraint. Who is this girl that can watch only two episodes of Scandal in one sitting??!

2. I'm having my blog redesigned! By someone other than me!! Considering I've been blogging here for six's amazing I've been satisfied with my own janky 'design' for that long! Anyway, enjoy it while you can...pretty soon everything will look different! I'm working with Erika (YES, WE ARE NAME TWINZ!!!!) at The Fairy Blogmother and so far the process has been quite painless. She seems to tolerate my extreme pickiness and rampant opinions about everything pretty well, so she gets a gold star for that. I do have a quick question/poll for yall, though. I was trying to decide on what pages to have on my 'navbar' (at the top, under the header...currently I have About Me, Infertility, Contact Me). I'm going to keep those three, but I was contemplating having a FAQ page. What do you think? That's just the other most common tab I see other bloggers have. Do you look at FAQ pages? I know that when I go to a new bar, I do typically head straight to the About Me tab (and if there isn't one, I get annoyed). If I end up liking the blog/blogger and sticking around, I usually make my way to a FAQ tab pretty quickly, but it doesn't really annoy me if there isn't one. 

Maybe it matters what type of blog it is? Like...a makeup bloggers NEED a FAQ page so that I can quickly figure out what their go-to foundation is (or they should FEEL like they need that, cause I do need to know) without having to sift through 200 posts. But I don't know if a non-themed blogger such as myself really needs one or if it makes sense? Anyways. Opinions welcomed, since I pretty much need to know which all sections to put on my navbar 

That's it. Have a happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

the logistics of caring

One of the many reasons I love blogging and this community of blog friends is the ready accessibility of advice when I need it. Of nonjudgmental opinions. Of help. So don't let me down today, folks. I'm going to confess to being a terrible person and then make a bunch of excuses about why I'm that way. But at the end of the day, I want to be better and I need help figuring out how. So let's focus on the positive desire for change and sort of ignore the part about where I'm basically kind of a jerk, okay? Ha. Thanks!

So here's the thing. I want to be more generous. I want to actively care for the people in my life better. To be honest, and Matt can confirm this-- my New Year's Resolution this year was exactly that: to be more generous. I even BUDGETED for it-- to be sure that I always had a little extra cash to be generous with. So this isn't just something I woke up and realized today. I know that actively helping and caring for friends and folks in my community is important. I just suck at actually doing it. The main issue (and this may seem silly to you, but this one 'act of caring' has seriously been a mental hangup for me for YEARS now) is taking meals to people.

I don't know if it's common where you live, although based on what I see on your blogs that represent a vast array of cities and cultures, it seems like a widespread practice, but 'round here, when something good/bad/hard/exciting happens, people take meals. You have a baby? People bring you meals. You lose a baby? People bring you meals. Your whole family has the flu? We show up with meals. And (in theory) I love this. What a loving and practical way to fill a need, right? Take care of the thing that highly stressed/tired/bereaved people really need but may not be able to currently take care of on their own. It makes sense and it's perfect.

Only...I suck at it. And then I kinda just quit doing it. When I was first a 'grown up,' I had a few good years. The first couple (dozen) friends/church families that had babies? They got a meal from me. It was probably even good. And hot. But somewhere along the way, I quit doing it. I know why I quit at first- it had nothing to do with the logistics of taking people food and everything to do with the emotional difficulty of being around families with newborn babies. And I'll give myself a pass for that. Whatever. It's fine. But then somewhere along the way, I just quit doing it for anything. New babies, fine, pass...but that shouldn't have given me an excuse to opt out of taking a meal to the family dealing with chemotherapy, or the friends dealing with the untimely and tragic death of a parent. But after a few years of being in the habit of not taking I can't figure out how to get back on board. It's the logistics. Let me give you my laundry list of reasons why it's too hard for me (so that you can dismantle them later and tell me to stop being a jerk and get over it).

1. We get off work at 5. It takes at least a half hour to get home. So- best case scenario, we get home from work and can begin preparing a meal at 5:30.

2. I can't even fathom a meal that would take less than 30 minutes to cook, so let's just ballpark that it takes 40 minutes to whip something up. We'll pretend that I was uber-prepared for this and set all the ingredients out in the morning so that I could jump right in when I got home. Alright. It's 6:10.

3. NOW the issue is that we live way the heck out in the boonies. A reasonable estimate is that it'll take us 30 minutes to get to the house we're delivering to. Depending on what part or suburb of Athens they live in, that could easily be 45 minutes. There are a few rare folks who live a little closer, so it may only take 20 minutes to drive, but really...let's just ballpark 30 minutes.

**DURING THIS SUPER LONG DELIVERY PROCESS, THE FOOD IS GETTING COLD. This is one of my super huge main hangups. Who wants cold food? Not me. The main kind of thing that would NOT be getting super cold during this drive would be a casserole that I could put in my little Pyrex cover thing...but a casserole would have required a much longer cooking time in the oven, meaning that Step 2 would be more like an hour or so.**

4. So, depending on the cook times/drive time, maybe we'd be lucky to get to your house at 6:50 or 7:00. That may work for many people. But some people have really particular dinner times and schedules. My church usually uses Take Them A Meal to coordinate meals, and that means that the meal recipients can list their preferred time to eat. Now I understand that most people would probably just be thankful for food no matter what time it comes, but what if you're the family with a couple toddlers that REALLY EAT AT 6:00 and anything later than 6:07 throws off their whole night? So...does that family have to feed the kids at 6 and then pretend to be thankful when I show up with (cold) food at 7:00?? I don't know. But the thought of this stresses me out.

5. The actual food hand-off. AWKWARD. Do you stick around? Just hand it over and run? Watch them eat? Eat with them? Ugh. 

6. In the meantime, and related to Step 5...when do I get to eat?!?!? I'm a hungry girl. I'm usually ready for dinner at approximately 3:00 p.m. So if we're pushing 7:00 and I haven't eaten AND I don't even know what or when I'm going to eat, I'm probably hangry. I'm probably NOT in the mood to coo over your freakin newborn. I'd probably rather grill her and eat her. (Gross, not really.) So I have to go back home and cook AGAIN? Do we stop for fast food on the way home? Because fast food is really going to be sucky compared to whatever I just spent 40 minutes cooking earlier. This is another major roadblock in my quest to take a meal. Deep in my soul, I'm a selfish, hungry person. I'm worried that if I take a meal, I may actually starve to death myself or something.

We interrupt this wall of text to share a random and unrelated selfie that includes the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC. This is the face of someone that wants to take people meals but has too many psychological issues to pull it off. Help!
Okay. That's basically the narrative that goes through my mind when thinking about taking a meal to someone. I didn't even touch on the stress that comes with figuring out what to FIX. We'll just assume that an angel visited me in my sleep and revealed the perfect dish that circumvents all of the other family's allergies and preferences, while also taking only 40 minutes to prepare and consisting of affordable, easily purchased ingredients.

A great solution would be to do something in the Crock Pot. Sadly, that basically doesn't work for us because we're gone from home for too long. We leave at 7:30 a.m. and can't get home til 5:30...that's 10 hours. Most recipes max out at 7 or 8 hours on low in the Crock Pot. Another solution would be doing (home made) frozen know, delivering them frozen. We do this a lot at church. This definitely would fix most of the issues relating to delivery and the post-work crunch...I could make it on a weekend and deliver it whenever and then they could warm it up whenever they needed it. This is honestly probably the best method for me except that I get PARALYZED WITH FEAR when trying to figure out what kind of meal would freeze well and at what point in the recipe you actually do the freezing. But this is probably a good place to start easing myself back into the meal delivering game.

I probably could have gone on for the rest of my life without ever getting back in the meal delivery game except for I experienced for myself how meaningful and helpful it actually is. When we lost Ellison, we were on the receiving end of the meals for several weeks. Even though we actually weren't busier than ever with a sweet little baby, we were too much of a mess to even brush our teeth in the morning, much less figure out what to eat, go to the store to buy the ingredients, and then cook it. The fact that so many families overcame all of the obstacles (hello-- the SAME ONES THAT I FACE! We live as far away from them as they live from us!) and came all the way out to our house hauling soups and casseroles and toddlers now horribly off of their schedules...and came to not see a cute new baby, but a crying and miserable couple...and they hugged us and told us they were praying, and they filled a physical need in our lives? I will never, ever forget that. They couldn't have known how much that meant to us. That they weren't too scared to come when we were at our worst. That they sacrificed their schedules, their preferred personal eating times, and their gas money. It blessed me beyond measure. 

And so that's why I'm determined to move past my millions of excuses for not helping. My reasons are all pretty valid, but so what. I need to get over it. And right now there are THREE families in my life that I really want to take a meal, so it's time to get going. 

If you can offer any help for any of my roadblocks, I'm all ears (or...eyes, as the case may be). Recipes for yummy and freezable meals? A testimony that you got meals and you really didn't care if they came at 7:00 and lukewarm? Help me help my friends, people!

Monday, May 19, 2014

i pulled off a surprise!

My dad's always been a 'surprise' person. You know...the kind of person that really likes planning and pulling off elaborate surprises for other people. Secretly planning something that he knows another person will love gives him great joy. The sneaky plotting. The carefully woven un-truths. The reveal. He's a surprise guy. 

I inherited a bit of that love, but to a lesser degree. Or maybe it's just that my love of treating myself seems to take precedence over planning fun things to surprise other people with. Oops. But on occasion, I really do love plotting a good surprise for someone else. But I'm bad at keeping it a secret. Here's a typical scenario in my house:

Me: MATT!!!!! Your birthday is coming up!!! We are going to do something SUPER AWESOME and soooo fun and you are going to DIE!!!! from how awesome it is!!!!!!!!!

Him: Cool, what is it?

Me: I'm not saying, it's a surprise!!! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Him: Oh, okay, cool!

Me: ...ummmm...don't you want to know what it is?

Him: You said it was a surprise....??

Me: It is!! But don't you like...want any clues? Aren't you curious? Do you even CARE THAT I'M PLANNING SOMETHING SO SO SO AMAZING?!?!?!

Him: Oh, yeah. what are we doing?


Him: (wanders off to play with the dog or something)

Me (ad nauseum, for the next however many weeks it is until the reveal): Are you excited about the surprise? Have you guessed what it is? I'm not telling, you know. But here's a clue: it is so awesome

Him: (ignoring me)

It's kind of sad, right? Right. Anyway.

A few weeks ago, my now-friend-but-then-stranger Emily sent me a Facebook message. I know of Emily (and am FB friends with her) because she's great friends with my blog friend/soulmate Colleen. Any friend of Colleen's is a friend of mine. Emily used to live in Colorado near Colleen, but recently moved to northwestern North Carolina. So anyway, Emily sends me a message.

Colleen is coming to visit me in a few weeks. I know she would LOVE to meet you in person, but I know it's pretty far from Athens to ____ (wherever she lives, I can't remember the name of the city). Any chance you could meet us in Asheville any of those days? I'd love to take her to Biltmore and I think it'd be a fun surprise!

Ummm....yes. Yes and yes. I gave a brief thought to the logistics: take the day off work. Drive a million hours (okay, three...each way) alone. GET TO MEET COLLEEN. Done and done.

So Friday was the day. I felt like my dad as the Surprise Day approached. Is there such a thing as Surpriser's High? I think that there is. Thinking about how awesome and exciting it was going to be when I 'revealed' myself to Colleen made me insanely giddy all week long. It is nothing short of a miracle that I didn't spoil my own surprise by sending Colleen obnoxious messages like I wonder who you might run into on your vacation??!?!?! Oh, how did I know you were going on vacation? Umm...good guess?? I hacked your credit card? GOTTAGO,BYE! Emily and I excitedly messaged and texted all week, imaging how it would all go down. And also scoping out the Asheville food scene WHICH IS MAGNIFICENT and planning our meals for the day. 

I got to Asheville around 11:15 a.m. on Friday. We were planning to meet at Tupelo Honey Cafe for brunch. We weren't sure how things would actually go down because we didn't know who would get there first, whether we'd have to wait for a table, or what. As it turned out, I beat them to the restaurant by about 5 minutes. I thought quick and decided to cop a very natural pose against the outside wall of the art gallery next door to the restaurant. I opened up my copy of Queen of Hearts, one of Colleen's novels, leaned back against the wall, and pretended to read. I sneakily texted Emily to let her know what I was doing...and to make sure that at least ONE of them noticed the girl in the green shirt reading Colleen's book, ha. 

Colleen fell right into the trap. I was wearing my sunglasses (and not actually reading), so I saw them when they turned the corner onto the block. I could hear them when Colleen spotted someone READING HER BOOK IN PUBLIC!!!!!! She stopped in her tracks and I could hear her freaking out that a total stranger on the other side of the country was reading HER BOOK...right next to the restaurant they were going to eat at!!!! She decided to approach the Queen-reading stranger and ask to take a picture with her. 

I took my sunglasses off and said "Hi, Colleen!!"

She looked like she had seen a ghost.

"Er...eri...ERIKA?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!!?" (I cannot emphasize the excitement and loudness enough here.)

"ERIKA?!??!?!?!" is more like it.

Emily and I cracked up at her bewilderment. I hugged her. She looked totally shocked and sputtered "oh my you live here??! Is this close to Athens?" (bless her non-geographically inclined heart)

I had to inform her that this actually was not a coincidence and was actually a big surprise plotted by Emily, whom I high-fived. 

It was awesome.

The rest of the day was awesome, too. We ate, we went to Biltmore, we ate some more, we went to a wine tasting. We ate BBQ. And throughout the course of the day, approximately every 12 seconds, Colleen was once again overcome by the awesome surprisiness (real word, promise) of it all: I can't believe I'm _____ (eating, driving, sitting) with you!!!! and it was so, so fun.

I'll share more about Biltmore later (kind of small and tacky, in my opinion...), but hands-down the best part of the day was the realization that blog friends are even better as real life friends. That the people who serve as your sounding board and support system through messy and difficult years of life via email are even better listening ears and huggers in the flesh. It was so so so good for my heart to meet my blogging soul-sister in person.

And for a really good laugh, you should read Colleen's account of the day. It is hilarious and also a little hero-worshippy (with the hero being me!), which makes it even more hilarious. And also I'm a hero with the lilting drawl of Scarlett O'Hara...betcha didn't know that! (I didn't.) Also she describes meeting me (on the internet, pre-real life meeting) as like finding a seahorse in a swimming pool, a little bit of delightful magic.If you tell me you wouldn't travel across the universe and through time to hug the neck of someone who describes you like that, you're lying.

It was a super awesome day. And now I'm ready to plan my next big surprise! This could be addicting.

Friday, May 16, 2014

the gardening tip that will change your life

 It's time for the new edition of Semi-Useful Gardening Advice from Erika. YAAAAAAY! I can hear the enthusiastic cheering all the way over here. Thanks for being so excited.

No, but really. This one is going to be the most useful, practical, no-fail bit of information that you didn't know you needed to know...just wait. Your mind is about to be blown. 

For starters, all you need is a glass. Or cup. Or anything cylindrical that can hold water. An old spaghetti jar. Whatever. You will also need some water. Tap water is fine. And lastly, you need a windowsill. Preferably one that isn't the same height as your kid or your dog or anything else that might be inclined to knock water-filled glasses onto the floor.

Got it? Now we're ready.

Green onions.

I know. Not very exciting. I'm not really a huge fan, but they're the kind of thing that show up in loads of recipes. I don't hate them or anything, I just feel very...neutral. I don't think they're particularly nutrient-packed, nor are they unhealthy. They're not gross. But they're not really great, either. They're just there. But sometimes they do add a particular bite to a recipe, and so they're the kind of thing I find myself buying at the store a few times a month. They're not expensive, so like...why not. I just like to follow recipes. The less thinking, the better. So if it calls for green onions, I buy green onions.

But one day, my friend Cat showed me something that blew my mind. And I'm about to show you. And then you can drastically reduce your green onion purchasing at the store. I mean, this could save you like...I dunno, five dollars a year? Eight, if you're a heavy onion eater? THAT'S A CUP OF COFFEE (or two!), YO. 

Next time you use green onions, don't throw the bottoms (the white parts) away. Get your glass, your water, and your windowsill, and do this:

This was Sunday afternoon.
And then, sit back. Do nothing. And keep an eye on them. Because SOON, it will look like THIS!
This is Thursday evening.
Did you see it?? New growth!! At the top!! Fresh green onions growing out of the old green onions!! It's like magic! And also, the water has become cloudy. That's kinda gross, so don't think about it. Just look at the new onions!!!

That's like an inch or two of new, edible growth on each onion! So if I had a recipe today that needed a few tablespoons of chopped green onions...well then, there they are. No trip to the store required. No dollar spent. Heck yeah.

And even though I don't really care for the onions, I must say-- I think it's really fun to watch them grow. They grow FAST! Oftentimes I have to give them a 'haircut' because they're just too out of control on the windowsill and they're crashing into the blinds and causing all kinds of chaos. This green-onion-in-water thing is probably the most instantly gratifying 'gardening' I've ever done...I mean, they grow so quickly you can practically WATCH it. You'll see noticeable growth from morning to night. It's really quite entertaining (if you're as easily entertained as me). I bet if you have a kid, they'd be really amused too. for the whole family! Who needs Disney World?? 

I've been growing our onions like this off and on for a few years now. You can get probably 4-6 weeks of re-growing out of them before they just peter out and quit trying. And then you can toss them and get new ones. The fun never stops. And as a bonus, when people come to your house, they'll be like are those...onions? Growing in water? And then you can feel really smart and earthy when you explain how it goes.

So there ya go. The one gardening thing I'm confident everyone can master. Just don't forget to refill the water. It does evaporate, and that leads to a swift onion death. So keep it topped off. And you can change it when it gets murky so that you don't look like a gross person with gross onion water in her kitchen. And...that's about it. I hope this changes your life like it changed mine. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

family traditions

Last night my phone alerted me to an incoming text from my brother. As soon as I saw that it was a picture, I got excited. Obviously it would be my niece-- what other photo-worthy things could possibly be going on in Jake's life that would necessitate a 9:00 p.m. text? Exactly. Nothing. Clearly gonna be Carley.

The caption under the photo said 'BUSTED!'

And there in the picture was my darling little niece, two days shy of her first birthday, looking up at the camera with a guilty expression on her face. Standing next to an open bottom cabinet, she grasped a large bottle of Wild Turkey in her tiny hands. Busted indeed.

Jake could hardly believe it. His precious baby...already pilfering from the liquor cabinet? What is this world coming to? (Relatedly...probably about time to start child-proofing the kitchen, bro.)

He followed up with another picture taken probably 2 seconds after the first one. In this one, Carley appears to be cracking up with baby laughter, still holding that bottle of bourbon. If she were about 16 years older, I'd have said that the second picture was the 'after' picture. After you drink some of that...this happens. (Or, you know, you're puking your guts out in the bushes. Equally likely.)

(I would show you the pictures, but Jake's kinda particular about plastering pictures of her all over the internet. I try to respect that and I forgot to ask about sharing these, but I'll err on the side of guessing it'd be a big NO. Hopefully I painted the adorable picture well enough with my words.)

As Jake and I laughed and mourned the loss of innocence at such a young age, I remembered something. I ran over to the photo albums from my own childhood and thumbed through until I found it. Then I took pictures of pictures and texted them back to Jake.

You're not a bad parent. This is clearly a family tradition. Possibly genetic.

That's right, folks. Apparently I had the same issues back in 1983. Maker's Mark was my poison, so apparently my niece and I share a one year old appreciation for fine bourbon.

Exact same guilty look.

Jake nearly died laughing (he'd never seen these before. Shockingly, they were not prominently displayed around our house growing up...???), but I think that at the end of the day he felt a lot better. Apparently this is just a normal rite of passage. At least in our family. And look what a fine and upstanding citizen I grew up to be! See, no worries. And I don't even like bourbon as an adult. Bonus!

And yes, if you're a long-time reader 'round here, you may recall that I shared one of these pictures several years ago. I hope you forgive me. To be honest, this is the kind of picture that is so funny to me that you're lucky I don't share it once a week.

If pictures of guilty babies holding bourbon can't get your day off to a great start, I don't know what will. Have a happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

reason #1839018

It's probably never come up here before, but I'd really like to be a mom. I know. Little-known fact. But it is what it is, and I have a never-ending supply of reasons why I need a kid or 4 to call my own. The recent passing of Mother's Day combined with the pervasiveness of social media reminded me of one of the main reasons I really, really need a kid, like, stat.

These things:

This was filled out by my co-worker's son. I hope she doesn't mind that I stole it from her Facebook for illustration purposes. And now I really want her recipe for chicken bones.

I don't really know what to call these things. Interviews about your mother? Biographies according to a four-year-old? Maybe. Whatever. The point is, they are hilarious

While I mostly just roll my eyes or make fun of most of the cheesy stuff people put on Facebook around Mother's Day (those being the highly preferred alternates to crying or being jealous, obviously)-- anyone who shares one of these that their kid filled out instantly gets 10000 bonus points from me. I don't even care if I know you. I love reading what kids think about their moms. I wish that this had been a thing when I was in preschool. I'm dying to know what I thought about my mom back then.

So you know how childless people always think they know everything about parenting and that they have it all figured out? And they have all these grand plans about how they're going to raise their kids and they just know that their kids are going to be great sleepers, easy to potty train, and love vegetables because the pre-parent is just so educated and disciplined and special and smart? Right. I mean, I'm pretty much like that, but only about unimportant things like this. I have no idea if my kids will ever sleep through the night, but I know for damn sure that my kids are going to fill out these awesome mom surveys like once a week from the time they're old enough to utter a syllable that can possibly be construed as a word. And then I'm going to put them on Facebook and make everyone laugh at them. You're welcome, humanity.

So the moral of this story is that if you have a kid and you aren't regularly encouraging (slash forcing) your kid to fill out a biography about you...please rethink your parenting. And then amend your ways and put a picture of the result on Facebook so that I can be filled with joy at how funny it is. Often. Thanks!!

(PS. You can stop once your kid is older and smart. They aren't as funny when the answers are actually true-ish. So use your judgment and only share the funny/cute/precious ones. Not the ones where they actually know how much you weigh. Awwwwkward.)

Monday, May 12, 2014

unexpected visitors

 We had some unexpected visitors on Friday night. Steve and Jess, my brother and sister-in-law, dropped in for an evening of Monopoly, wine, and laughter. They live in Charlotte, so the chance to spend a random Friday evening hanging out doesn't happen too often. It was great!

I don't know why I always think I like playing Monopoly. I clearly didn't learn my lesson at Christmas. Once again, despite my best attempts at socialism...I lost. Big time.

Oh well. At least there was wine. With wine, there are no losers. ;)

Around 11:30, Stephen went to get something from their car. No sooner than he'd stepped onto our front porch, he was back. you guys have a new pet?

I was assuming he'd forgotten about Aidan, our ancient porch-dwelling outdoor cat. Aidan takes up residence on the glider at night. As I leaned to look through the glass door, I discovered that Stephen was actually not talking about Aidan.

Look carefully inside that kennel.

Definitely not Aidan the orange tabby cat.

If you've been pondering how the zoom on an iPhone 4s works in low lighting with the flash turned off, now you know. Stunning, isn't it?
Apparently a possum (technically an opossum, but that silent o really drives me insane, so I'm just gonna spell it like it SHOULD be spelled) decided to take a cue from Aidan and spend the night lounging on our luxurious front porch!

Stephen said that when he stepped out the door, the possum wasn't in the kennel, he was just standing on the porch. Then he got startled by Stephen/the door closing and ran in the direction opposite of Stephen...which dead ended in the kennel. Oopsies. Speaking of backing into a least it was a corner with cushy blankets?

We all had quite a time laughing at our new "pet" (and pondering where Aidan was during all this. Why didn't he scare off the possum? Or did the possum scare off Aidan? We're pretty sure the possum was actually bigger than the cat.) and thinking about things we'd never before considered: where do possums actually live? I've probably come across 183,928 possums in my lifetime, and 183,927 of them were dead on the side of a road. It never occurred to me that at some point in their life cycles they were actually alive somewhere.

I must sadly inform you that alive possums aren't any cuter than dead ones. Those are some ugly suckers. They look like large rats with huge claws, and also bear a strong resemblance to the ROUSes in The Princess Bride. So if you haven't had the pleasure of being within 6 feet of a possum in your lifetime, I can definitively say you haven't missed much. But it still made for a pretty exciting Friday night. Monopoly, wine, and possums. Just another Georgia Friday night.