Friday, December 28, 2012

Resolve

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The pages of my 2012 calendar have blown past in a flutter and flurry of plastic and paper. Already there are just a few more date boxes left on December, waiting to be crossed off with a bold red X. Another year full to the brim with great moments and memory: lots of laughter, tears, smiles, and joy.

This year held several monumental moments for me: graduating with my BA in English, the birth of my second nephew Thomas, witnessing the engagement of several close friends, and most importantly (for me, anyway!) my marriage to Mr. Amp Hobbs.  Its hard to comprehend how so much can happen in one year--and it makes me wonder what adventures and stories the new year holds.

We know the future constantly shifts and grows--changing its shape as we make daily choices and follow new bends in the road. But yet we still--bravely and perhaps a little foolishly--attempt to plan and scheme and plot our life. I'm not exempt from that drive. In fact, I am the consummate list maker. Mark constantly teases me for writing a list for everything--groceries, packing, cleaning, design projects...You name it, I probably have it organized and prioritized into a militaristic row of bullet points.

Its just a simple truth: goals and purpose make me feel good, secure in myself. If I have something I'm striving for then feel like I'm going somewhere in life. Even if that somewhere is just down the block to the yarn store, buying the skeins for my next project.

"New Years resolutions" are a long standing tradition. Bloggers, tweeters, and facebookers throughout cyberspace are posting their plans for the new year. At the risk of this post becoming another cliche little fish in that pond, I am going to go ahead and share my own personal goals for the future.

So here follows my little hopes and dreams for 2013. Let's see how quickly they adapt and change as life happens, shall we?



  • writing goals- All of you have by now guessed that writing is one of my greatest passions. I can be found scribbling away in some form or another everyday. Be it lists, letters, ideas, blog posts, poetry, essays, or creative non fiction. Lately, however, I've begun working primarily on what I hope will evolve into a young adult novel. My writing goal, then, primarily focuses on that project. I want to have 50 pages written by my birthday--February 6th. Think I can manage that?
  • Etsy goals- One thing I love about Etsy: the teams. Teams give you a chance to meet other artists in your area and expand your own online business. Recently, I joined the Maryland Promotions Team whose leaders often challenge its members to setting personal shop goals. My 2013 shop goals include: adding a scarf a week , adding 2 more paintings in January, adding 2 knitted hats, and adding a set of painted coasters a week. Sounds like alot, doesn't it?
  • physical goals- At least four times a week, Mark and I work out together at the gym. His personal trainer side comes out and I find myself on all fours--pushups until failure--or repping out curls. Sweat beading my brow, I curse and spit at the effort, but later when I see my muscles appear and my figure becoming leaner--I have to admit I love it. I need to improve my cardio, however. So running at least four times a week will be a "goal"--and probably the one I'll break the most often. But also there is The Great Impossible for girls-- pullups. Yes. I want to be able to easily do five. And since right now, one is a struggle, this goal may take a while to accomplish. But hey-- I have 12 months. 
  • personal goals- They say marriage reveals traits in the one you love--traits you never knew before. But it reveals traits in your own self as well. Traits you may or may not have known about. Let's be honest--marriage and living alongside another person, day in and day out, is a different kind of responsibility and challenge. You can't hang up the phone or storm to your bedroom just because you're frustrated. You are part of a team now--you vowed to keep their interests right up there alongside your own. Even sometimes above your own. For me, marriage has revealed my short patience. I so often want something done--here, now, immediately. I want immediate results from others, yet, on the flip side, so often want patience and tenderness shown to myself. I love Amp more than anything else I've ever loved in life--and he deserves the best me that I can give him. So for 2013, I want to work on my patience and I hope that it will filter into all aspects of my life: in my work, my relationship, my writing, and my meditation. 
  • career goals- Master's degree-- yes. I want one, so badly. I have already made a list (surprise surprise) of the universities to which I plan to apply. So, here over the next few months, I will be sending out my transcripts, application essays, letters of reference--the whole please-educate-me-I'm-worth-it gambit. And we shall see what comes if it-- trust me, I'll be letting you know what I hear! 
I think that's enough planning for one day. Those are my expectations for 2013-- I know I'll fall short and far exceed one or more of these plans as life unfurls. But I still can't wait to see what direction 2013 takes us in--and I'm so glad to have my Mark by my side as we take it on together. 

Love you all, readers!
See you after the new year!









Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Poem on 12.27

We're still busy with the hustle and bustle
of holiday trips and family time
but here's one of Abi's poems to keep you occupied
until the holidays are over 
and we return with our photos and stories and whatnots.

Its a poem about moonlight and sleep and being snuggled up
to someone you love. 


image via tumblr



Something about
the moon slant
makes the window
break--
casting shards
of light into your room. 

Beams cut
across the duvet,
cool slices of light--
quicksilver.

A spark trembles
on your lens, a flash
on the frame-corner,
an outlining 
of cheekbone and temple,
a few hairs catching
the lessening beams
that fall.
Glass-dust. 

Closer 
that I realized,
chin-stubble brushes
my nose, sweet-
scented breath mingles
with my hair. 

The darkness bends--
the shadows split
from your solidity. 
And you are there,
rendered in silver,
 a trembling light stolen 
from heavenly bodies.

A small trick
of the light--
as my world is 
prismatically broken
and reassembled
by moonlight. 





Friday, December 21, 2012

Flurries

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Today will be a flurry of laundry, tidying, last minute wrapping, packing, and traveling. Mark and I hit the road today around lunchtime--ten hours spent on the blacktop stretching from Maryland to Georgia. I fully anticipate drivers with their fists clutching the wheels--glaring ahead, steering with defensive intensity--as if Christmas itself hinged on their getting home early for the holiday. I may let Amp drive...

This weekend is going to be filled with so many wonderful things that any traffic woes will be worth it. To name a few happy moments ahead: our family Christmas celebration on Saturday, wedding dress shopping with a good friend, hugs from my little nephews--and plenty of opportunities for good food and laughter.

So, I will probably be absent from Amp&Abi until after the holiday. I'm going to take a little blogging break and enjoy the eggnog, sausage-cheese balls, and Christmas cookies to the fullest. (Hmm... Is it bad that I only listed food there? I will be enjoying all the other holiday aspects as well!) But I promise to return with more stories and photographs for you to enjoy...once Santa has come and gone.

In parting, here are a few lovely holiday links for you to enjoy:
a pretty calendar for the new year
the big list of last minute gifts
a hot mug of spiced chai
this winter Pinterest board

Merry Chistmas
and a Happy Holidays
to you all! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Squares & Patches

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Today- I want to talk about great grandmothers + quilts. 

Unlike many, I had the privilege of getting to know my great-grandmother. She was a very present force throughout most of my childhood. Some of my earliest memories of Christmas and other holidays revolve around her and her home. Easily I can still recall the crocheted blankets flung across the back of her scratchy old couch; a collection of aged National Geographic, pages curled and yellowing;  the sag and swoop of her tiny front porch; her hedge of blue hydrangeas, their heads nodding to the fat-bellied wasps swarming around them;  and especially the little hat always perched atop her white crown, concealing hair like wisps of cloud. Despite her gathering age, she  was the undisputed leader of the family. Given a seat of prominence at family dinners, deferred to, listened to. She was our matriarch-- sitting in her rocker, hands folded, an inscrutable smile playing across her lips. Occasionally, she would just laugh and say that's great. A phrase that quickly became her mantra-- that we jokingly repeated to each other. In my childish mind, it seemed the only thing she ever said-- but looking back now, remembering how she smiled and laughed with us.. the phrase almost seems like a blessing. As if she was watching her family, so many different generations mingling together, branching from different stations and walks of life..as if seeing us together before her...well, it was just great.

Here's something else about my great-grandmother: she made quilts. These weren't just blankets made of hastily patched squares but rather intricately arranged works of art-- composed of triangles, hexagons, rectangles--stitched of fabric exhibiting variant textures and hues pieced into swirls and patterns that reminded me of stained glass, of mosaics, sometimes even of the three-dimensional depths of a kaleidoscope. She stitched these quilts until her fingers became too stiff and gnarled with arthritis to continue. I was lucky enough to receive one of her last creations: a simple design of sky blue, pink, and delicate spring green. I still have it-- its draped across the bed in our guest room now. I remember at the time--even at 7 years old--feeling special for receiving such a gift. Even at such a young age, I knew handmade items carried special value.

This may sound odd to those who just don't understand--but I believe there is truly something special, perhaps even magical, about handmade quilts.

During and before the American Civil War, quilts were actually used as a secret code to warn and guide escaping slaves of the safe havens or dangers ahead. Abolitionists and other "conductors" on the underground railroad would drape ornate quilts over their window or porch ledges. There was a whole language hidden in the quilt stitching. Keep going. Danger here. or You're safe here, stop and rest. Codes and messages hidden save for the eyes of those who had learned to read the symbols.

Although our circumstances of course were not so dire or desperate as those of history, I think there was a message tucked and stitched into my grandmother's quilts. One much simpler: easy for a little girl to understand. It was a message of love and comfort. A reminder of the warmth and strength that envelops you when surrounded by a loving family. A reminder that life is just great 

For more information on the quilt code,
check out Jacqueline Tobin's informative book
Hidden in Plain View
available here


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Twinkle

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Eggnog staining a mug.  Twinkle lights woven into the garland that weighs down our mantle. Cookies tumbled on a white plate. The expectant glass of milk, crisp and smooth. And, later, the little smattering of soot on the hearth, shaped something like a boot-print.

Christmas is getting closer and closer. Hard to believe that 2012-- which I thought would never go by-- is actually almost over. Last year, I was desperately wanting the year to blow by so our wedding would arrive. But now the twelve months are nearly past--and all these big, monumental moments with them. Graduation, my nephew's birth, our wedding, the engagement of so many great friends. So many wonderful moments pass in the twinkling of the eye.

No where too look but forward, though. And I am so excited. I feel like the future surely will hold some promising things. Even though there are disappointments and let-downs, when you're surrounded by the bulwark of love and family, you know you will get through and find goodness.

Mark and I will blaze down the interstates again this weekend. We seem to wear out the blacktops... or at least our tires. I have to say though, I'm anxious to see my family. Especially my sister and her little boys, whom I haven't seen since the wedding. I can tell in pictures that two months have done alot to change the shape and form of those cuddly little guys. Thomas's baby pudginess, while still there, is different; I can tell he has grown, gotten longer and stronger as he lifts up his little head and waves his arms, learning how to smile. And Jack is just like a bean sprout: getting taller all the time. His little baby cheeks are thinning out, turning into a scrappy tough boy. I can't believe that so short a time has wrought such change.

I can't wait for so many things. For hugs and kisses from those I love the most. For eggnog (spiked? now that I'm old enough? hmm? haha!), for the annual retelling of The Night Before Christmas, for our traditional Christmas breakfast of sausage-cheese balls, and especially for watching those little boys open their gifts. Thomas will probably wave a bow around, wondering what's going on, but I know Jack will really be in the moment. Eyes wide and mouth open-- amazed and over-the-top excited for all that Christmas loot. I remember it so well from my own little-girl days-- and I can't wait to witness it again.

Only a few more days til the weekend! And less than a week until Christmas!

Happy Wednesday to you all. Stay warm and cozy and hope your day is full of holiday cheer!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

If the Creek Don't Rise

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As part of my "be your own happy" self-improvement goal, I asked myself: What makes me happy? And, if I can... I want to push that question even further by then challenging myself to figure out how to take the things in life that truly make me feel accomplished and happy ...and somehow incorporate them into a career path.

Whew. That doesn't sound easy, does it? But I think its good to have moments of introspection, taking time to question yourself, to see where you stand and what you want to accomplish. Mark and I are still young and hopelessly new at this marriage thing. We're figuring it out in fits and starts, with a good deal of laughter and some tears along the way. I always appreciate when he shares his goals with me--his plans for someday opening a gym or his personal goal of hiking Mt. Rainier -and I enjoy sharing my goals with him. It gives us chances to question each other, help each other see things we may not have seen ourselves, and, most importantly, gives us a chance to support each other. I think together we can make our goals a reality--as much as anyone can. Like we Southerners say: It'll work out if the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise. 

But anyway. Here are the things that make me happy, without fail, everyday:

  • being with Mark- obviously. How many of you knew that would be first on my list?
  • creating. Be it knitting, painting, writing. I love the creative process and the feeling of having something of yourself to share with others
  • antiques-- finding, re-purposing, and refurbishing them. Its so fascinating to me to see what stands the tests of time--and to learn how people adapted without the ease and convenience of the technological advances we have now. And I love to take these little timeless pieces--especially if they seem like junk--and incorporate them into home decor, artwork, or even something actually useful around the house. Like an old tray into a message board, a metal desk drawer into a card holder, chipped old floor grates into metal wall art.
  • writing- I know I just mentioned that above-- But I'm going to mention it again, because it really makes me happy. I often jot my thoughts down into poems (note that these are bad, unedited poems) but going back and seeing what I felt and thought at the time...and then taking that and distilling it into something with creative value is a really interesting process. 
  • meeting and talking to people -- I love people's stories, where they come from, what they're up to. That's something I've always loved about the South. People will talk to you; they're willing to share and speak. If you pass someone on the street, they'll say hello and if you're lucky they may even sit a spell and tell you about their day...their week...their year and how their mama's doing. 
  • teaching- I always enjoyed tutoring other students when I was in college. Helping them with their writing or English homework and then seeing their face light up when a certain explanation finally lifted the veil...and the information clicked... that is really a satisfying feeling. 
  • music- Spending time at the piano, playing and composing songs. 
  • horses- Being outside, riding horses, or even the simple tasks of talking to them, caring for them, grooming them. They'll stare with those big brown eyes, slowly blinking their eye lashes, and just listen to whatever you have to say that day. And if you're lucky, you'll get a litle nibble on the sleeve or velvety nose on your cheek. Its no wonder studies have proven spending time with horses to be therapeutic... They truly are good for the soul. 
That's basically what I have right now. I guess most of my interests are creative in nature, aren't they? 
Any tips on career paths from my readers? I'm open to suggestions--always! 

Have a lovely Tuesday! 



Monday, December 17, 2012

Together Forever


I've lived a life surrounded by many strong women. My mother, grandmothers, sister, aunts, friends, professors--women who live full careers, pursue dreams, and maintain healthy, happy families. They smile and carry on, even as they wear themselves out meeting the demands of the nine-to-five work schedule and the 24-7 mommy schedule. And all of them have, at some point, shared advice with me. Advice on how to live for others while maintaining yourself.

But you know the sage snippet that has stayed with me the longest? Don't rely on your work, your family, or your husband to be your only source of happiness. Be your own source of happiness. Or, as my mom often puts it, "You have to be your own happy." 

In these first few months of marriage, I have felt completely absorbed by this new life: moving, finding a job, decorating the condo, learning how to run a little home and manage a budget. Then, add in the rush of holidays and travel. And all these things sometimes feel in the way-- because what I really want to do every day is so simple: be with Mark. Just hang out with him, goof around, laugh, and have fun. I guess you could say we are already like a little old couple--because we already have our routine. Work, workout, supper, movie/xbox/game, bed. That's pretty much the basic order of things in the Hobbs household. Throughout that entire routine, we're pretty much side by side.

And that is something I've had to get used to. Mark and I lived hundreds of miles apart while dating. Our visits felt so rushed--Friday and Sunday being spent mostly in driving back home. I felt like I had to soak up every moment with him. Every second, because soon we would be apart again for two or three weeks at a time. Texts and phonecalls only.

But now, now that we get to be around each other constantly...it's hard to switch my brain out of that desperate he's-going-to-be-leaving-tomorrow mode. He will still be there in the morning; he will come home at night. I don't have to be completely devoted to and absorbed in every moment--dreading the approaching time when the will hop in his truck and head back north on 85. Because that moment isn't coming anymore. I can actually relax. If I want to sit on the couch and knit while he plays a videogame... I can. If I want to run get groceries while he runs on the treadmill at the gym...I can. We'll be home together that evening.

(I'm getting to my point, folks. I promise.)

I had a lesson in this shifting of mood this weekend. Mark's boss invited him to go along with him and some other employees to a scenario paintball game here in town. Mark's an avid paint-baller, even starting his own team with his cousins. So, of course,  the opportunity sounded great. But here I am-- still slightly in desperate he's-going-to-be-leaving mode. At first, I felt completely opposed. No! We both work all week--I didn't want to be apart on Saturday! We could hike or something, at least. Not to mention, I was feeling blue and homesick. My puppy had just been put to sleep and, even worse, a good family friend had passed away and long distance made traveling to his funeral an impossibility. The last thing I wanted to do was sit around the condo again, all alone, all day, missing home and feeling blue. Sitting is something I do enough of. Trust me, me and this red couch have a close enough relationship--since it serves as my official desk for this CSR work-from-home business.

I'm not going to lie; I felt pretty upset and sad. But at the same time, I wanted Mark to go and have fun--knowing how much he loves the sport. I felt selfish asking him to stay home; I felt sad telling him to go ahead.

So. I bit the bullet; he went. Luckily for me, I was able to spend the day with a lady from our church. She's become a good friend here in Frederick; always quick to have us over and very easy to talk to and laugh with. We had lunch, stopped by a home decor store, found some items for her  recently redecorated master bedroom, then just sat and had coffee and talked in her living room. And you know what? I had fun. I wasn't lonely or sad or blue anymore. I know part of that was due to good company-- but still. I feel even if I had stayed home and worked on my Etsy inventory or creative writing... I would have been okay.

Sure, I missed my husband all day. It felt so odd not to be right by him. But when he came home that evening, covered in paint chips and beaming-- I remembered that phrase: Be your own happy. I can't just be absorbed in Mark and our little home--putting all my store and energy in that and expecting him to carry the burden of being the only thing that makes me happy. No, that's not fair or healthy. We each need the unique things in our life that make us happy. Me--a good job, my creative projects, my writing, my painting. Him--the challenges of sports, being outdoors, working with his hands. We are two multi-faceted, unique individuals--we fulfill each other, but we are not solely absorbed in each other.

Being apart for a few hours, to do our own thing, made being together so much better. And its so great-- no more dread or fear of being separate, because in the end, supper will be on the table that night, and we'll be together.

So. That's my lesson this weekend.

Sorry for the longwinded-ness!



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Patina & White

 Daydreaming about
worn leather, 
rainbow patina,
chipping paint, 
creaking hardwood,
and crisp white-wash.

Some pretties
for the future: 

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Which is your favorite? 


Friday, December 14, 2012

Chin Up, Chin Up


Some days- 
thankfulness and seeing the blesings
hidden in the small things
is difficult.

But if I look hard enough,
really search inside and out,
I'll see that blessings are there.
Everyday. 
Cushioning the painful
and the sorrowful. 

Or, in the more lovable words of
Charlotte's Webb:
Chin up, chin up. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ode to the Murph Man


First time we met, I'm pretty sure I gagged. Yes. Gagged. You had the visage of a miniature lion-- all fluff and tattered mane, you only came up to my little girl knees--but somehow you carried a colossal smell. Some kind of awful potpourri of mud, grime, dead animal, trash, and dog breath. Pleasant, it was not.

We were outside, a whole group of us kids. Shooting basketball right outside the garage. The ball kept banging with a hollow, metallic rattle on the half-open doors. Still too little to play with the bigger cousins, I was sat on the sidelines, my back to the brick wall that contained my mama's camellia. The bricks warmed my back as I watched the older kids toss the ball back and forth. twump twump twump swoosh. They'd toss it to me occasionally, let me shoot--a desperate little leap full of flayed elbows and ponytail bounce.

That was the scene when you came bouncing up, your tongue lolling from a goofy grin mouth. I'm pretty sure that you said "hello folks" in your own puppy way.

We entertained you for a moment, expecting you to do like the other strays: pass by for a quick lap of water, only to disappear in the morning. But no. You plopped down on the edge of the driveway, eyes following the curve of our ball. If one of us turned and looked, you would grin and dash right for us, young enough to still do that eager, puppy bounce, front paws splayed. We had to cover our noses with the edge of our shirt to stand to pet you.

We gave it a good honest try-- hardening our hearts, trying to be tough, and resist the temptation of falling for your wet little nose and sleepy brown eyes.

Ha, yea right. You waggled your butt right into our hearts. You weren't passing through. You sniffed a cookout and found a family.

About a week later, after we properly bathed and trimmed and petted you to a  more presentable and less odorous state, we sat on the front porch. You perched between our knees, tongue out, going between us all for pets and smooches. My sister and I tossed a few names into the air. I can't even remember all of them. But I do remember this: someone suggested "Murphy" and you went gave a little mmmph of consent. You picked a house to stop at, you picked your name, you picked us.

There are so many more things I could say about you. Our failed efforts at fetch. Your ridiculous friendship with our cat. The baby bunny rescue. (Yes, that happened.) There's just not enough time to tell all the stories.

I'll miss you, little Murph. Your waggy butt, the jingle of your collar, your howly yawn, and your cold-nose kisses on my leg. Can't believe you're gone. But thank you for teaching me something: the blessing of a sweet innocent little life and pure, loyal love.

Good boy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Currently

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Some things happening currently in the Hobbs household:

Reading: You may remember my whinings and moanings over Philippa Gregory's Wideacre trilogy. Yet even as I bemoan the awfulness, I can't seem to get away from this sweeping English estate. Its one of those series that just absorbs you. I keep finding myself curled up on the couch, nose stuck to the pages, eyes skimming back and forth, back and forth, lost in the story...only to suddenly realize Mark has said something to me...about four minutes ago. My belated "huh?" long after the question has melted back in to the air, unanswered, always draws his sideways smirk.

Watching: Castle. Wednesday comes with back to back episodes of the gorgeous detective and her witty writer sidekick. Its a suitable exchange for our other favorite- the Mentalist. Nothing like some good cop banter and 45 minute murder drama to make supper taste even better.

Listening to: Sometimes, nothing suits quite like Christina Perri. It amazes me how she can adjust her voice to suit any song. Here's my current favorite.

Anticipating: What am I anticipating? Seriously? Must you even ask? I may be the biggest closet Lord of the Rings nerd that has ever existed. I own all the films, including the special edition extended versions. But my love isn't reserved solely for Peter Jackson's film adaptations. No, my affection is for Tolkien in general. I have it all: the trilogy, the Hobbit, the Silmarillion (I dare you to take that one on, Mr. Jackson, think you can handle that epicness?), the Children of Hurin... So, you're wondering what I'm anticipating? Hmm? Really?

Making me happy: Journaling. Hence the above photo. We were standing at Barnes and Noble; Mark's hands in his pockets, head cocked back, probably staring at the florescent above wishing he could leave, me, roving through shelves and shelves of journals--leather bound, hand-bound, ones made of recycled materials... Until finally I picked the most simple, basic one possible. College-rule lined pages, white jacket, a slim gold ribbon marking my last scribbled place. I know a lot of people out there find journaling to be a waste of time, but there's just something about flipping open those pages, crisp and fresh, and just waiting for a flood of vowels and consonants. Ha- you may have picked up on the fact that I love creative writing. It applies to my personal life too--another among the many things I'm blessed to have to smile about.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Razzle Dazzle Frizzle Frazzle Pop

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Things have been so busy lately here in Frederick as we finish up the last legal requirements demanded of those of us who dare to get married, move in together, and...gasp....even move to another state. Who knew that there were so many i's to dot and t's to cross...or so many agencies and departments that required so much of your money. Little fees and costs here and there just to prove who you are, just to have little documents that say yes this is mine, yes I am Abi Hobbs, yes I live here, and yes I'm married...and yes my husband is that man over there...um, yes he's real, see he has these papers too!

In addition to all this running around, insert the crazy wonderful Turkey-Santa-New-Years-mind-pop (<--another word could go there... but I'm a polite southern lady) and all its tinseled- beribboned demands.

And what's more-- and here's some good news--I got a job. Yea, like one of those paying, taxable things. I actually now work from the little red couch in our condo, making call after call for a windshield repair company. I hate to repeat "who knew" but seriously--who knew how many people there were getting windshield chips repaired. Yea, I know what you're saying now; Abi what does that have to do with being an English major? Well I'll tell you...

Not much. But its helping pay the bills until I can get my masters-- which I'm still dithering about: creative writing or teaching...? How bout ya'll help me decide. Sound off: what are your opinions on how I should further my education? Not that I'll base my decision on what you all say; but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

In conclusion, the secret to surviving all these days has hit me hard: take time to breathe and enjoy small moments. I feel like I say that so much maybe even too much on this blog. But really--days are made up of small moments strung together. Like Mark's brush of a goodbye kiss in the morning, the first, bracing sip of morning coffee, the sun peeking through the blinds, or--like today-- when a grateful customer says "God bless you" with sincere strength in his voice just because your voice was kind.

Lots of little blessings throughout the day--And its best just to focus on those tender, good moments rather than lettering the bother and worry build up and rob you of your joy. Its like this picture I'm sharing here today-- hair half a mess, not sure if you're dressed yet or not, but having a second to close your eyes and enjoy a sip of tea. Even if all you have time for is one sip.




Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dear Friend

oldie

newbie
Dear friend:
Once upon a time, a lady stopped us outside the movie theater. We were standing side by side, you and I, cellphones flipped  in our hands, so full of giggles and self-importance, rocking our matching shirts, jeans, light-brown Sperry TopSiders...this was back when owning a pair of Sperry Topsiders was a demand made of general adolescent society. If you owned Sperrys, you were in-style, in-the-know, in-the-in-crowd...well at least we all thought so. Anyway, this lady took in our matching outfits and exclaimed "Oh! Ya'll are twins!"

Of course, we looked at her like she was crazy. I mean, come on...really? At the time, we laughed and laughed. Looking back now, though, I think I understand why that woman asked that. (In fairness to her, our fourteen-year-old selves were dressed exactly alike.) But it was more than that.

Yea, we're the same height. A hair's breadth over five feet. Yea, we both had curly brown hair, sparkling brown eyes, and big smiles. But that lady saw something different, I think.

She saw the ease of two sisters in two friends who had become so close that they became family instead.

While I'm over-the-moon happy up here in Maryland, I sometimes miss the days of jalapeno poppers, endless Friends marathons, singing Brandi Carlile, and flirting with the same boot-and-bluejean boys. And everyday I miss you, friend!

There's a guest bed in Frederick waiting with fluffy pillows and your name on it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Road Less Traveled



Today is full of new things that are keeping me busy-bee hurried, so unfortunately I don't have time for a post full of creativity and wit. Instead, I thought I might share a favorite quote. It's sort of a family motto--something I've had repeated to me, in one fashion or another, since childhood. Be your own happy. A task much harder than it sounds...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wrap It Up

I've been thinking a lot about packaging lately. Yes. In the great whirlwind of things that fly and flitter through my mind... how to properly wrap things seems to be most prominent today. Maybe its the fault of the Christmas season and all the holly-jolly Pins that have been popping up on my Pinterest homepage. Or, perhaps its due to having my own Etsy shop and learning how to package and ship items... either way, packing is my topic for this sunny (again! how lucky are we?) Tuesday.

Being able to attractively wrap and present things doesn't seem that important...until you really think about it. When you hand a product to someone--especially if the item is handmade--you essentially hand them a bit of yourself, something into which you have invested time and effort, something you created. Whether you're a small-time Etsy vendor, like I am now, or a successful small business owner, like I someday hope to be,  you want your product to exhibit care and style down to the last detail.

On the flip side, if the item is simply a gift--whether for a birthday, holiday, or just-because occasion - I believe you would still want to imbue the gift with care and love. It's like saying--See? I love you down to the tiniest detail.

Men--you are exempt from the assumptions in this blog post. I know that if you even managed to find the tape and wrap your gifts, you're putting forth a good bit of effort and love. So, husband, if you're reading this... no, you do not need to emulate any of the packaging ideas posted here. No worries, mister. Heehee.

But isn't the anticipation--holding that shiny present or crinkled package in your hands...just before you slip your thumb under the seal--more than half the fun anyway?

Here are some of my favorite--and relatively simple--wrapping ideas for the holiday season:







Which one is your favorite? Personally, I like the giant pink bow the best!

image source(s): herehereherehere, and lastly here




Monday, December 3, 2012

One Buck Beauty



There's just something about having a bouquet of fresh flowers on your kitchen table. 
Our nearest grocery always has a few baskets right at their check-out lines, overflowing with one buck bouquets. Of course, they're just little dyed daisies...but they are fresh and bright and make me smile to look at them. I bought them on a whim--fancying they would brighten up the onset of winter, now that December has arrived. Yet, surprisingly enough, December dawned beautifully this weekend: azure skies, chilly but gentle weather, and a cool, winter sun. And, if the weather man isn't deceiving us all, this lovely climate is here to stay for a few days. Which is fine by me. Being at home alone, churning out job applications, and missing my fellow is a little less daunting and dreary with sunlight streaming through the windows. 

Our weekend, then, was filled with red and white daisies and that broad sky--but also a fun card night with some friends, a little Christmas shopping, a good bit of Christmas wrapping, and my first attempt at baking tilapia. How was yours?

In parting, here are a few lovely links I enjoyed over the weekend: 
Have a wonderful Monday! 



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hunker Down You Hairy Dawg

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I apologize for my lack of creative wit today. But the Georgia girl in me--the one sporting the bloody bulldog fangs--is a bit preoccupied with a championship game. Bulldogs are known for clinging to the throats of large bulls and holding on until they strangle the life out of the beast. Maybe that voracious trait will apply to elephant-bulls today.

GOOOOOOO Georgia BULLdogs!! 

In blog news: head over to the amazingly talented Kinsey Mhire's blog Sincerely Kinsey to check out our sponsor ad there! I'm excited to begin my first tenative outreach into the blogging community; very excited to see how this all works and where it takes us. We shall see! Happy weekend, everyone! GO DAWGS!!




Friday, November 30, 2012

To My Two Best Buds






Dear boys:
Today is about you two. Two bouncy, smelly-good, cuddly boys. Except one of you is growing up way too fast, changing from the round-bellied baby you were to this full-blown little boy who runs around, yipping and yahooing, loving things like bugs, dinosaur-trains, cars, fishing poles, climbing rocks, and throwing balls.

It was such a shock, your birth-days. Walking into my sister's hospital room and getting a load of love slammed on my shoulders. Who knew that you could feel instant, powerful, raw love at first glance? You both came into the world blessing all those around you with the realization that hearts can expand and grow in just seconds.

I know at some point--and probably alot sooner than any of us want--you both will grow past the cartoons, little shoes, stuffed animals, and free hugs. So, now, I am  going to take full advantage of those opportunities when I can still scoop you up and swing you around and blow kisses on your arms and tummies. I promise, though, when you're tall and gangly-kneed and trying desperately to impress that pretty, pony-tailed girl over there, that I will be the cool aunt who doesn't do those embarrassing, little-boy things. But please.. don't grow up too fast.

If I could, I would scoot Maryland further down the east coast toward you both. Ten hours away is alot worse than two hours away, but lucky for us, love has an ability to reach across long distances. And I'm already counting down the days toward Christmas with you two and your mommy and daddy.

Love you both bunches and bunches,
Auntie Abi

PS. Jack, I love Dinosaur Train too. Which dinosaur is your favorite? Lemme guess-- Buddy, the T-rex?



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Memories & Milk


Waves of heat tumbled over the pastures, turning the summer grass's bright shoots to prickled dry stalks that  would angrily poke my sandal-clad feet. A small cowherd--the neighbor's stock grazing on my grandfather's land--dotted the hillside. As I leaned against the kitchen window, my whole weight balanced across the  counter on bent elbows and waist, I stared at the slow moving animals. The occasional lowing of a mother calling to her calf wafted to my waiting ears--I watched as the beasts waddled around, fat from spring and early summer eating. As they lowed and wandered across the hilltops, I wondered if they were complaining about the slim pickings, whining at the stick-like blades now poking their thick tongues and broad snouts.

Everything seemed to be turning brown. The grass, the trees--parched with thirst. The cattle and the old draft horse--their sleeky black hides bleached by sun beams. Even inside, the thick, brown heat seemed to fill up the kitchen, coating the oak cabinets and linoleum floor. It was a thick, slow-moving heat--oozing and seeping like honey.

It was a heat that should've slowed me down, but all it did was manage to keep me indoors. My little-girl energy emanated from my skin just like the sweat-steam emanated from the cow's hides outside.

I continued to dangle on the counter , not caring that my elbows were turning red from the pressure, ignoring the dig of the laminate edge into my ribcage. Hold on, hold on, hold on. My flip flops beat a staccato on a loose cabinet door in my effort to cling and balance, but still I slid down with a hmph, one bony knee knocking the door handle as I went. I let my bottom bump onto the floor, hands splayed behind me, and there I stayed, head arched back, looking upside down at the kitchen.

At the top of my vision, I saw my grandmother's slippers moving back and forth. She bustled from the under-the-counter radio across the room to the oven, peeking inside its glowing maw.

"Ready yet?" I called out, then laughed at my own voice--stretched out and distorted from the way my head was still arched back.

My grandmother glanced my way and chuckled at my expression. "Almost ready," she chirped. "Almost ready Freddy."

I straightened and crawled like a baby over to the oven door. The oven window pulsed a yellow-red color. I could just make out the dark edge of a pan before a swift pat to my pant-seat told me to get up.

"Better wash your hands, crawling around on the nasty old floor," my grandmother said.

I looked at my palms. "Your floor's not nasty, Grandmama," I said, holding my hands up as proof.

"Better hurry, if you wanna eat," she said, oven mittens already in hand. Up I hopped.

After what my child clock termed forever, the oven would gape and reveal its humble treasure: a fresh, crumbling cornpone baked to golden perfection and glossed a syrupy brown on top. With mitten hands, my grandmother grasped the skillet handle, lugging its burdened weight onto the countertop. I always marveled at that strength; I knew how heavy that pan was--old, solid iron, rubbed a rusty black. Occasionally, she would let me tentatively lift it, always two-handed, my elbows bowing at the weight. Then she would laugh and toss the pan around, her arms accustomed to the heft and size.

"Whole kitchen sets used to be made like this, honey," she said. "Different from now." Yet, she always moved swiftly and gracefully when, inside the oven, the metal blossomed red.

Quick as a finger snap, a twist made the bread slide onto the waiting surface of a lily-white plate. Using the big kitchen-knife, she then sliced eight, pie-shaped pieces. I clambered into a chair as two bowls and two little spoons appeared on the kitchen table. Bouncing, bouncing in my seat as my stomach gave a quick gurgle.

"You know, some folks eat this with buttermilk but ish"--she squirmed and made a face--"I  don't like old buttermilk with cornbread. Give me regular sweet milk."

She sat the milk carton on the table. I reached for it eagerly and poured until a thick ribbon of white splashed and pooled around the bread in my bowl. My hungry eyes always then searched for the bear-shaped honey jar. Tendrils of honey flowed over my fingers, leaving finger prints all over the carton and lid, a sticky mess later. I'm sure my grandmother grinned at my efforts. But she never stopped me--simply sat down and poured herself a bowl.

Together, we sat--I jabbered, she listened, our spoons clinking little,muted laughs. Until the bright, white belly of the bowls showed clean, until all the sweet bread, milk, and honey was gone.


*

The cast iron skillet, the smooth bowl, the brown cracks marring the top of the pone--ironically, it all wasn't the product of some age-old family recipe. Although, one of those does exist, tucked into some dusty recipe book on a pantry shelf. The secret to those lazy little-girl afternoons was simply a nondescript, little cardboard box. Boasting in bold red to be America's favorite. One box, one egg, 1/3 cup milk. 

Some of the best moments in life are so simple. And childhood memories are glossed and sticky with nostalgia; and mine, like any recipe, are made sweet by the sugar. 






Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Musings


A little thought for the day.

Lately, the awareness that some things are not worth carrying has become very acute. Some things just need to be set aside, or even tossed far, far away to a place where there are no fears of dust-gathering or unexpected toe-stubbing. Often,I feel that I've evolved, moved on past things--be they worries, fears, or grudges--only to realize I never cast the feeling aside at all. Sure, I might set it aside, but somehow its always close enough for me to be able to reach out and touch, reassuring myself that its still there, picking it back up again out of habit or familiarity.

Its so fearfully easy to become familiar, even relaxed with carrying a weight--small or large. Your body adapts to the presence, and before you know it, you're changing your center-of-gravity, your balance, your walk. Its not until you open your hand and let it go  that you even realize the weight itself, having mistaken it for your own self for so long.

But really-- life shouldn't be laden with things that don't matter.

Rather, I hope I can load my arms with the moments that truly matter: little or big. Little, like my husband's sudden, sweet kiss on my temple; or big, like witnessing my nephew's first days on this wide earth.

Some things are worth holding on to, while some things are not. I'm grateful for what I have learned about telling the difference and yet am daily humbled by how much I still need to learn.

image source

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Currently 11.27

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My life lately consists of a wilting page from the Frederick classifieds, internet job searches, ink-stained fingers, and coffee rings. Outside, the wind intensifies and turns to a chilly wetness, reminding us that autumn is falling away fast.  And faithfully everyday, my sweet husband trudges out into the cold, while I do my best to scramble and scribble--job hunting, cleaning, writing, and cooking, half-ready and half-scared for change.

Otherwise, here is a glimpse at what's currently happening beneath the Hobbs roof:

Loving: This weather which permits the unabashed indulgence of my addiction to awkwardly big scarves. Yes. And I'm not alone in this obsession. This lady has the exact same issue. But there's just something really comforting about throwing on a cowl of chunky-knit or a thick, embroidered pashmina and running out in the cold. I don't know about you, but if my neck and head are covered and warm...I'm usually good to stay out there in the bluster and snow for as long as needed. So, big scarves it is; even if they make me look like a little kid when I  peep over the edge.

Reading: You mean, other than job postings? Well... Ha. Honestly though. After all my whining and moaning, I finally finished Phillipa Gregory's novel Wideacre. And you know, I actually liked it. Despite the betrayal, seduction, murder, and down-right dirty awfulness... I found myself really feeling quite sorry for the main character. A female historian, Gregory's writing focuses on women in history, their cloaked power, thwarted power, oppression, and ascension. She basically took this book's main character, Beatrice Lacey, and explored the archetype of the "witch-woman." It's a pretty uncompromising look at women of the 18th and 19th centuries and what they were required to do to grasp  and maintain the power that fell into the laps of their brothers, uncles, fathers, and sons. Its really fascinating--because you at once loathe and cheer for Beatrice, you love her and yet you want to bash her in the head. Well...maybe not that intense, but sometimes..sometimes...  Anyway, my point is: Gregory really challenges the ideas of female place and identity. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, really. I shall have to keep musing. In the meantime, though... I believe I might actually buy the sequel. Bet you didn't expect that.

Listening to: My husband and I have decided to open about this new relationship we've formed. Yes, we've started listening to Taylor Swift. Specifically her new album Red. That's all we have to say on the matter. ....Don't judge, folks. The tunes are catchy, okay?

Loving: This easy homemade pizza crust recipe. Oh my word-- I love it! I made it once before and blogged about it here. The quick and easy pizza has returned. Tonight, I'm trying it out again--this time with a BBQ chicken-and-pineapple theme. We'll see how it goes.

Following: These seasonal Pinterest boards. I've really been enjoying the collage-like affect that Pinterest possesses. It's fascinating to see what images people group together, based not solely on theme, but also on tone, mood, color, or shape. This particular Pinner nails perfectly the flavor of the various seasons. ( Pardon my pun there.)

Anticipating: Getting our Maryland driver's licenses this weekend. Admittedly, I'm not looking forward to the whole annoying process of actually acquiring the things: the waking up early, waiting in line. bad-photo-taking, paper-signing, etc. But I am very excited indeed to finally have a little plastic card that officially declares my name to be "Abigail Hobbs."  May seem cheesy, but it is true.

A Happy Tuesday to you all!


Monday, November 26, 2012

Recuperating

The belly-stuffing and family time we all anticipated with such excitement and relish has finally arrived and passed. Short weeks and long weekends fill you with relief and satisfaction--only to fly by much quicker than you thought possible, even though past experiences warn you these things are gone almost before they even get here. We're left feeling blue to wake up so early again, smacking our alarms which gloat too loudly this Monday morning. But then, even as we all trudge back to work (or in my case, back to application processes), we still smile to remember the jokes shared, the unabashed and unending video gaming, the hearty helpings of pie, and our hands wrapped around steaming mugs of coffee. All those little, blessed things for which we are thankful. Little things that can somehow are inadequately reduced to a handful of syllables. Syllables that can do nothing to capture the love that swells in the curves and bends of each vowel or consonant.

Home, joy, family, hearth, health, smile, hug, love. 

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving. And many hearty thanks to those who made it all possible. How was your Turkey-Day?

Let us now flip our calendars in anticipation of the next big holiday and gear ourselves for the rush and hulla-baloo at the shopping centers. And so it begins!  Allow me to wish you the first happy holidays of the season!

As I forgot my camera like a dolt this weekend, here are a few Instagram shots of the feasting and fun.
Coming across the Peaks of Otter on the BlueRidge Parkway

My mother-in-law's cranberry apple crumble-- such a pretty dish!





My husband expressing how we all felt after the feast: stuffed and tired

Have a happy Monday and new week, friends!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

You're My Sugar Pie

In case you haven't noticed from my constant references to their blog or from my incessant pinning of their ideas...I'm mildly obsessed with the lifestyle blog A Beautiful Mess. (But I mean, come on, who isn't? These ladies are, number one, absolutely adorable and, number two, insanely talented and creative.) This blog, which documents the work and inspirations of sisters Elsie and Emma, consistently inspires me to keep writing, working, and perfecting my own creative work--be it home decor, creative writing, photography, cooking, or art. This blog literally offers something for every reader. Today, however, I decided to do more than simply read and admire their quirky handiwork. I decided to test out one of the recipes over which I so often gawk and drool. And now? Now I'm completely head over heels for this peanut-butter pie recipe . Yes, my heart has been stolen by a slice of pie. Sincere apologies to my dear husband, but really...when you taste this delicious little bit of sweet heaven... you will understand. I can't wait to test it out on our families at Thanksgiving this Thursday!
Before adding the peanuts and chocolate chips garnish

It actually looks like it should! I'm so proud!
Also- aren't those little white pumpkins adorable? 

Recipe from A Beautiful Mess, as stated above. 

Pie Ingredients: 
graham cracker crust (I went the easy route and bought a Keebler Ready Crust)
6 oz dark chocolate chips (plus some extras for garnish!)
2 cups whipping cream
8 oz package cream cheese
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
chopped peanuts and chocolate sauce for garnish (optional)

Instructions: 

  • In a small pot, melt together your chocolate chips and 1/2 cup whipping cream. Stir until just melted and no lumps remain. Remove from heat. Pour over the graham cracker crust. Set aside and let cool while you prepare the next layer. 
  • In a mixer, combine peanut butter. brown sugar, cream cheese, and 1/4 cup whipping cream. Mix until light and fluffy
  • Add in the vanilla extract and remaining 1 and 1/4 whipping cream. Continue to beat until the peanut-butter mixture forms stiff peaks. Spoon over the chocolate layer. Cover and freeze overnight.
  • Be sure to allow the pie to soften slightly before serving. Garnish with chopped peanuts and remaining chocolate chips and drizzle with chocolate sauce. Enjoy!


I highly recommend making this pie. Its so yummy and very easy to make. It only took me a few minutes and was a good new-wife-new-cook recipe. That means it caused me no stress and no panic whatsoever. I'm sure I'll be reusing this recipe in the future. (Finally my constant reading of A Beautiful Mess has a practical result; and my hubby can't tease me about my blog obsession anymore because he likes the pie as much as I do. He gave the pie an eyebrow raise and "hmm" of approval. That's volumes for this man of few words.)

This will be my last post until after the turkey holiday. Tomorrow brings some exciting opportunities, as well as a nice, long car trip down to Virginia. I can't wait for the long weekend of family, food, and friends. I'll return on Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your week and eat lots of yummy food!





Lovelies 11.20

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Day 20: Today I'm thankful for my sweet sister Heidi. She's the kind of woman I think all women cheer and root for. A woman who runs from before the sun comes up until after the sun goes down. She dazzles the customers and bosses at work and then cuddles on her two baby boys at home. Makes money for the company then makes dinner for her family of four. She'll tell you off in a minute if she thinks you're wrong, but she's also the sweetest, most tender-hearted woman I've ever met. I've seen her pull over to help a stranded kitten or lost dog on the side of the road, and I've seen her exercise unlimited amounts of patience with her toddler son, when I long ago would've pulled my hair and probably his out too. Basically, other than my husband, there's no one else I'd rather have by my side and there's no one else who I can guarantee always has my back. So today I give a hearty thanks that she was born before me and put up with my goofy little-girl-ness, ponytails, plastic ponies, and all, for all those years before I grew into--I hope!-- a tolerable woman and friend and little sis. 


There. See? I'm remembering this November-Give-Thanks thing. It helps when I sign on facebook and see others faithfully logging in their grateful little status updates. But honestly, I think there's something wholesome about taking a moment, everyday, to sit down and come up with at least one thing for which you can shout out a thankful praise. It reminds me of how much I really do have to praise and laugh and smile about.

Today, I'd  like to share with you some little lovelies for which I am also thankful. These finds mainly are gleaned from my Pinterest boards, Etsy favorites, and blog roll.

Here you go:



Only a few more days until tummy-stuffing, family love, and turkey-induced sleepiness! Prepare your pantries, waistlines, and over-worked ovens! Turkey Day is one its way!

Have a happy Tuesday, friends.



Monday, November 19, 2012

Smooth & Jolly: A Post about Food + Frederick


Some decorations from the weekend

This past weekend consisted of jingle bells, nutmeg-sprinkled eggnog, a little Christmas shopping, a little Christmas wishing, peanut-butter-pie planning, Panthers cheering, and a frothing glass of Dunkel Weizen.

Saturday night, my hubby took me on a date to Brewer's Alley, a fantastically yummy restaurant in downtown Frederick. We've strolled past its doors several times and have been meaning to get in there. Thank the starry heavens we finally did! Undoubtedly, its the best place we've dined so far in our new hometown.

The restaurant site originally operated as Frederick's townhall. That was in 1746. Since then, it has morphed from office spaces, farmer's market, opera house, movie theater, and now this fantastic restaurant and micro-brewery where they generously pour tall, frothing glasses of nutty-dark beer. Now, Mark and I aren't really beer drinkers and rarely drink in general. But when you step into a place like this and smell the spice of good food cooking and have a stained glass king-and-stein staring down at you.... you have to try something new. And let me just say, one sip will make you sit up and take notice. It'll be the smoothest, richest flavor that's ever flowed over your tongue.

You're probably thinking "yea, but its probably an expensive glass." Well, you would be wrong, my friend. The homebrew was as economically priced as (and we honestly think perhaps even cheaper than)  the drink menus old standbys. And why you would want grocery-store-quality BudLight when you could have a tall glass of amazing I don't know. At one point during the evening, Mark and I glanced across the room and saw a lady ordering just that. We both felt the urge to raise our glasses and cry "Sacrilege!"

Obviously, we didn't. But still.
Ah well.  To each her own. Everyone has a favorite flavor,  I suppose.

I have now waxed eloquent for long enough about this restaurant. Time to move on to the rest of the day's tasks: more job applications, Christmas wrapping, and laundry to prepare for holiday packing. Woohoo! Only three more days until Turkey Day! Which means hitting the treadmill a little harder in anticipation.

Until next time,
Abi.

Day 19: Today I'm thankful for a relaxing weekend of fun and laughs-- a perfect way to prepare for the short, holiday week ahead. 









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