Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Etsy Haze

I've discovered that when I'm sick...I tend to waste inordinate amounts of time on Etsy. And as I poke around, scrolling through page after page of vintage goods or handmade pottery, I convince myself that favoriting all these things has a purpose. Yes, yes really it does. The more I favorite, the more I spread my shop name around the website. Right? So, on the contrary, my Etsy-surfing isn't pointless. Its adversiting...advertising. Sad. I'm so sick I can't even spell. Maybe I should start paying closer attention to those red squiggly lines.


Since I haven't  been able to work the past two days (this cold-flu business has given me the dulcet tones of a croaking toad...not the best phone-voice), I have devoted my time to my other work: shop inventory. Even though I'm sick, I hate feeling idle or lazy. I have to have something to do to make time seem worthwhile.

Over the past two days, I have made six scarves and, on top of that, restyled the photos of nearly all my merchandise. My Nikon 1 has done tremendous good in these pursuits; the picture quality and clarity are both fantastic...and so help display my merchandise to the best advantage. Here's a glimpse at some of the items I've been working on lately. Visit my shop here to see what else is available.

Here are some other Etsy favorite and find I have been enjoying lately. 
Have a happy (and hopefully healthy!) Tuesday, friends. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Just Scraping By

 Today dawned and, with the goopy winter rain, brought a sore throat, hacky cough, and endless sneezing. I decided to take this crud on with the familiar weapons: soft blanket, cough drops, mug of tea, and a handy box of kleenex. (Also hoping my sweet husband doesn't get it. He's the sweetest man ever when I'm sick. I think he would pick me up and carry me around our house if I asked him to.)

I'm afraid this bug has sapped my creative juices, however. So, instead of penning you a charming bit of prose or poetry (although how charming they are, I don't know...seems like I most often write about the past and deceased relatives)... I'm going to go the easy route. I'm going to share with you some Pinterest finds that have been inspiring the cabin-in-my-mind... that is, the future little home Mark and I want to build. Someday, someday.

All images via Pinterest.

I've always wanted a brick accent wall. 
Also.. a farmhouse sink
distressed wood flooring 

an eclectic comfy living room 

love the mantle

stenciled floor in the dining room

and a happy work space

who doesn't need this?

ha. I wish.

pedestal sink and awesome mirror 

claw foot tub

Friday, January 25, 2013

2/52 Reasons to Smile ...and Then Some

no. 1

no. 2 

no. 3

So I know you remember my resolution--just a few weeks ago--to take a picture a week of something that makes me smile. If you don't remember, just look here. I started out a week behind and then fell behind even further when two weeks went by and I found myself lying in bed Sunday night, realizing that another week had come and gone without my taking the camera out once. Oops.

I'm making up for it, though. Three pictures in one post. And surely that will catch me up. I know, I know its cheating to do three in one... but...its my blog and if I spin the correct tale for these photos, you'll agree with me that its worth it.

Now for the question you're undoubtedly asking yourself: why am I looking at pictures of Amp and Abi's couch? Well, allow me to explain.

I love this couch. Plain and simple. Yes, I am blogging about my couch. And why? Believe it or not, this couch is a relatively important part of my day. Every day starts there, with a cup of coffee and my latest read. Curled up on the right side, embraced by the curve of the back cushion and arm. A reproduction of an Edwardian style, the couch's arms curve inward, so that when two people sit on the couch, they face each other, easing the flow of conversation. My early mornings (thankfully) don't consist of sitting and talking with people. (Believe it or not, I'm not a morning person. Please don't talk to me when I first wake up--at least not til I've had a cup of coffee. You know what I mean?) Instead, every morning, I wake up earlier than I need to in order to give myself about 30 minutes to sip my coffee, read, and enjoy the milky light of a pale morning sun.

That's why my couch is one of my reasons to smile and why I'm bothering to share it with you. Because this couch represents a few moments of quietness and coziness-- and those are few and far between for all of us, so why not stake a claim to a few moments for yourself? Even if its just ten minutes, a few moments for just you can go along way in starting you off on the right foot or to refuel you later.

What makes you smile everyday? 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Silence is Key

via tumblr

Writing allows for catharsis. It gives us an opportunity to stand apart, to inspect our experiences and moments from an objective, third-party eye. Rather than just experiencing the moment with that visceral, first-hand, what-on-earth-is-going-on perspective, we get to ask questions: what circumstances led up to this moment? How did I react? Why did I react that way? What did I say, how did my expressions change? Did I gasp, start, raise my eyebrows? What was the angle of the sun-slant through the window? What shoes did I wear--why did I pick that pair? Was I sitting, legs-crossed, or standing, hands on my hips, mad and alert?

But why does writing down these seemingly meaningless details relieve the tension? How does recording the moment expunge it from our soul--if not completely erasing it, at least making it easier to bear?

Countless people journal, keep diaries, blog, write poetry, short stories, novels. Perhaps it is simply the mechanic motion of the pencil on paper, the rhythmic flow and scrape of the pen-point, or the ratta-tat of the keyboard, offering some soothing therapy. Yet I think the answer is something else: the key is in those questions. Writing gives us a chance to pick up a moment as if it were an object in the closet of our minds. Flip it around, turn it over, take the batteries out and peer at the insides--what's going on in there? We can break the moment down and recreate it again. And in the breaking down of the tiniest details--from the angle of the light to the lipstick you wore that day--we can find a tiny moment of meaning. The lighting can be a metaphor. Or the way you write a scene--adding imagery or dialogue--can connect your mind to your reader, drawing them into the moment. The moment, then, can be about truth and connection rather than just a confused jumble of firsthand emotion.

But then--here's the kicker.

Something happened--years ago--and you can't write about it. You've picked up your pen...more times than you can count. You close your eyes and pull the day back up to the light. And you start your work....you record--"once upon a time" "in the beginning there was." And then you stop. You realize you've got it all wrong. You know full and well that the event happened on a roasting summer day. You  distinctly remember wearing black and that dark shade being too oppressive for the heat raged that day. You remember sweating and the skin flaking on your shoulders later, burned from standing outside even for those scant minutes. Yet, as you sit and recall, you start to shiver, and you know, you know down to your core, that you were so cold that day. Why else would you remember goosebumps and shaking? How does that coincide with the truth--the August heat and sunburn.

My memory isn't flawed, in this instance. The real obstacle is this: I don't want to write about this experience. While I understand that writing provides an outlet, a release, and a way to take a bad experience and render it something good--a short story or poem capable of reaching out to another--I don't want to write  about that day. I don't want to write about the sun on my shoulders, the grass under my feet, the papers clenched in my fist, or the black sheath dress that I loved, but after that day, crumpled and threw away.

The simple truth is this: sometimes, writing isn't always the answer. Some things need to remain wrapped up and hidden. Not because I don't want to deal with them or because I can't handle them. But rather, because they are done and, now, should be left to lie undisturbed, at rest. Its just simply time to lay it down, turn away, and walk down the path laid out ahead.

And that, my friends, was a very hard lesson for the writer in me to learn.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dot + Will Had It Right

A little over a year ago, a group of college students found themselves huddled against a chilly spring rain in the Lake District of England. We kept pulling our rain jackets closer and our hats lower as if that would help against the sporadic breath of the wind and the wet. My Georgia blood was accustomed to the constant southern sunshine not this pseudo-spring. In the states, spring arrived (at least in our part) with a definite burst of warmth and color--with only occasional snaps of cold as winter died off. Not so in England apparently-- here the wildflowers and bumblebees had arrived, but winter was reluctant to release its hold. So huddled and shivering we remained in the spot that poet William Wordsworth called the loveliest that man hath ever found.

The streets of Grasmere run close between the buildings. Looking up, you would see clusters of chimney pots and spouts, sidled up snug to each other like a whole bunch of nosy neighbors peering down at you. The stone houses bear thick coats of ivy that have been crawling and growing on the bricks, undisturbed, for hundreds of years. The tiny white cottage on the right is no exception. Relatively plain, its white walls are overtaken with ivy and all manner of creeping vine, some white tiny yellow pom-poms for blooms. A humble yet warm visage. It has the look of a place well-loved.

Although possessing two stories, the building is rather squat, the ceiling  somewhat oppressive with its low, soot-darkened beams. Even at five foot one, I kept instinctively ducking my head. But the outside..the outside opened to a private world of quiet and green. William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy's garden.

At first, the cloud and drizzle obscured the beauty of the growing things there, rendering the twisting stone path and the wild thatches of greenery into a drooping, dripping landscape. But then, the clouds parted and the thing happened that so often happens in spring in England--the sun burst out for a few blessed moments. The rain sputtered to a stop, and the land revealed its hidden colors. Yellow, pink, and white flowers brightened everything around us, throwing their color back into the sky. In the distance, above the cottage rooftop, sunspots on the rolling hills of the Lake District revealed the tender greens of new grass and the faintest lavender of the bluebells.

 This was our welcome to the Wordsworth's home.

Here now, in our Maryland home, cloud-cover and the unforgiving dampness of winter has become a new constant. Admittedly, Georgia can have some yucky winters--usually involving plenty of ice cover and sludge. Lately, though, it does seem like Maryland's version of January has come out to play. Just note the current 15 degree weather...and the sun doesn't do much to raise that number during the afternoons. These past few days of lonely cold, looking out over Maryland's bleak hills, brought back memories of England, the rain, and that sequestered garden. It was a little pocket of beauty that survived the chill, and it took only a few seconds of light to reveal its breathtaking radiance.

And I think that may be one of the chief lessons I learned on that college trip, a lesson that has just now--over a year later--revealed itself: to live for and enjoy those little moments of light and color. They will make a world of difference in driving away bleakness and always reveal some hidden  little beauty--like a yellow flower growing in the crevice of a cottage wall--that will remain even when the clouds roll back in.

image sources: my own. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In So Many Words 1.19

I know I shared a quote-post just a few weeks ago. But today is busy with family and friends and some long-needed sunshine. So I thought it wouldn't hurt to share something inspiring in place of a story--I'll cook up something entertainingg and good for you all on Monday.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Scrambling + Scribbling

source unknown

Isn't this a great picture?  There's nothing quite like having a free moment to lose yourself in something you really enjoy. For some of us, its pounding out a five mile run; for others, it may be hitting the local mall; or maybe its donning a super man cape and rocking out to your own tune.

You may have noticed I haven't updated this blog in a few days. In fact, I'm not sure that I've been on here all week. Shame on me! I've let my days become filled with work, gym-time, and household chores. My down time lately has consisted of crashing on the couch with my husband after supper, vegging out and watching either The Mentalist or The Biggest Loser. Creative time hasn't even occurred--unless you count knitting one or two rows on my most recent project or opening up this post three times attempting to finish it...to no avail.

So in short, its been a week of veritable, full-fledged writer's block. Hence the post's title...I've been scrambling to try to find something to scribble.

I've also been trying to avoid slapping together meaningless posts--a pretty picture,a few links, a.k.a. nothingness. Instead, I've been trying to focus on posts that contain some quality--a story, a poem, a meditation--something with some creative pith, something of worth...something that readers will actually enjoy reading.

But I've also learned something else this week: that its good to take a few moments during the day and devote them to you. Even if those moments are just your lunch break--complete with your packed lunch, your Iphone or simply a dog-eared book. I think those little stolen moments (even tho they shouldn't have to be stolen) help to re calibrate our inner selves, to give us a few moments of relaxation and a little joy.

As writing is something that brings me considerable joy, I probably should make time every day to participate in it. This blog helps me do that-- and you readers know I love any feedback you're willing to offer--whether here or on Facebook. Next week, I'll resolve to be more disciplined...and not let this blog sit, lonely and abandoned in cyberspace.

So. in short, today may not count as a good post, but it does count as a resolution and statement of purpose. And that is surely worth something.

In closing, here are a few Etsy favorites I've been enjoying:

Monday, January 14, 2013

In So Many Words 1.14

My quote for the day.

I've been thinking a good deal lately about rowing my own boat and minding my own business. Not in such a way that I become callous to others and their problems. But rather, focusing on how to improve my own self rather than nitpicking others flaws, issues, or complications. I think all to often its easier to think about how I could improve others rather than how I could improve myself. And my efforts are not always helpful...and instead maybe just critical. 

I think the verse I read this morning puts it rather plainly as well. Don't be so focused on the tiny splinter in your brother's eye that you miss the wood beam in your own eye.  The metaphor of wood and beams and splinter bits poking about in people's eyeballs is enough to make my skin crawl. But really, the attitude behind that mentality should make my skin crawl. How sad would it be to amplify someone else's minute flaw and yet be blind to my own huge problem? I wonder how often I have done this. I know its something I need to work on in the future and think the above quote sums it up. To be proactive -- everyday praying, meditating, and seeking away to improve myself spiritually and naturally. That way, I won't be treading on others to vainly elevate myself. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Peaches: A Story

When I was about 7 years old, my grandfather passed away. At the time, I didn't really understand what that meant. He "passed away"--did that mean he went somewhere? Was it like passing another car on the street or another kid in line at school? You pass ahead and now are in a different place, going further then those behind you. That year had been full of many words I didn't understand--"radiation" "chemo-therapy" "cancer."  To a seven year old, those words meant keep quiet, don't jump around too much, don't bang your toys, hug Granddaddy gently, don't bounce on the couch. Some days, he didn't feel good, and the house remained dark and filled with tiptoe silence; other days, he danced with me to old country tunes spilling out of his radio box, waving his cane to get me to boogie. Somehow with all that, I never thought that "feeling bad today" led to death, to this state of passing. 

I figured it out tho, pretty quickly, what the ambiguous passing away meant. Not seeing someone anymore, no matter how much you miss them and call for them in your mind, a lot of tears from people you never see cry, and wearing Sunday clothes several days in a row.

Several weeks later I discovered that passing away also meant cleaning up and cleaning out. I found myself in my grandparent's crawl space attic, sorting through old boxes. My mom made it a game--like digging for treasure. Who knew what interesting things we would find hidden in the back rafters?

My dad pulled out a wilting cardboard box. The inside was a jumble of odds and ends--including an old fruit-candy box. He handed it to me. I pulled open the lid and found a pile of tiny cards. Postcards, curling inward and shaped now like little bridges. Handwriting flowed across the majority of them, a waving, looping penmanship, much prettier than any I had seen before. The postcards held pictures of places I had never seen. They were stamped France,Germany, Great Britain, and captured the hesitant, squinting smiles of young men in pants that ballooned out at the thighs. Soldiers from the earliest decades of the 20th century.

"These are from World War One," my dad said. He held the postcards to the light and gazed at them with something akin to reverence. Those tiny cards held several years worth of correspondence between Lee and Myrtle--my recently deceased grandfather's parents. I miss you. It's cold here. Can't wait to see you again. 

One photograph slipped out from the stack of postcards. It fluttered to the attic floor, twisting in the air like a little leaf. I picked it up. It was a simple little image: two elderly ladies, leaning against a ladder in an orchard. Confused, I flipped it over. On the back, the word peaches was written in ink faded now to pale yellow.

The word meant nothing to me.

"Who are these people?" I asked.

My parents took the photo, looked it over. "I don't know. Maybe Grandmama knows." We took the photo down to the kitchen, where she was packing up her dishes and cutlery, preparing to come live with us. She too did not recognize the two ladies in the photo.

"Maybe its two ladies your great-grandfather met in France during the war," she suggested. "Or probably just got stuck in the box somehow."

That pretty much ended the discussion. For some reason, however, I kept the little photo of the two smiling ladies. Slipped it into my little backpack of toys and books. I still have it to this day.

I don't know why I kept that photo. Why a seven year old girl felt the need to keep and protect a 70-something year old photograph of two strangers. But there was some pull in that image. Something that reached out to me, touched me, and held me the way nothing else had. Those two smiling, happy women, their baskets full of overripe fruit, represented a long-forgotten summer and sunshine. With my grandfather's death--the first touch of mortality I had known--fresh on my mind, there was something reassuring in  looking at photo of people from long ago. I knew those two ladies had long since passed away. But here I held in my hands proof that this passage did not necessarily mean total oblivion.

My grandfather--and all those other things that become lost, forgotten, or disappear--wasn't completely lost. Some things are intangible--things like memories. Even though we have such few years on this earth, we have the ability to collect this little moments. Moments and memories  of good times, summertime, easy smiles, and trees laden with ripe fruit dipping down into bright sunlight.

Someday I'll share with you what else
these two smiling ladies
hidden among the peach trees
have taught me,
what other lost things
they have come to represent. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Currently 1.10

With so much focus on interviews and applying to jobs, a pair of smart heels seemed like an appropriate"currently" photo. 
Loving: This may sound odd, but lately I have been fascinated with honey. Not my honey (although I'm pretty obsessed with him too) but the natural product honey. Previously, I had no idea how good honey can be for you! It has so many uses. Be it as beeswax candles (which I guess really isn't honey), chapstick, shampoo, skin care, or even homeopathic remedies. For example, lately, I have discovered that taking a spoonful of honey can help your immune system if you have a bad cold. Sound strange? Its true. I've witnessed it myself. A few months ago, my mom had an awful cold that couldn't be vanquished by any medicines or over-the-counter standbys. On a whim, she started taking a spoonful of honey a day-- and she started getting better. This week, I've had my own case of the sniffles-- out came my honey bear. Think about it: doesn't honey in hot tea soothe a sore throat? Apparently its helpful qualities go even further. If you have bad allergies, try buying locally grown honey and eating a spoonful a day-- it will boost your tolerance to your region's pollen. How cool is that? All hail the awesomeness of kick-butt honey!

Watching: The Biggest Loser. Can I just say how inspiring that show is? To see people who have felt so beyond hope or help stand up, stake a claim on their life, and make a change just makes me want to stand up, throw a fist pump, and yell "You go sister!" Or brother, as the case may be. 

Learning: The importance of kindness. I know that may sound kind of obvious and out-there. But really. Working in customer service lately has taught me that a few kind words (no matter how irritated you may feel inside) can do a world of good. However, my work has also taught me something else: how you treat those in customer service says alot about you. If you can't afford five minutes of kindness to a stranger...you must be living a poor life. We have a tendency to hand out kindness like its in short supply, when in actuality its limitless. 

Reading: After seeing Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Hobbit, I felt a pressing need to brush up on my Tolkien. Today I finished rereading The Hobbit for the first time since I was about eleven. I blush now to admit that when I was young I did not enjoy that book at all. The old story-telling style didn't suit my modernized little mind. I didn't like being addressed by the narrator-- I wanted to be immersed in the story, in the main character--something I was used to in my first-person narrative children's books. But The Hobbit is different--written in a different time--but somehow, timeless. I love that Tolkien's work focuses on the age old strife of good and evil. For the most part, evil is clearly delineated -but when you least expect it, evil can sneak in and taint even the most stalwart "good guys."  I think that's why his fantastical worlds resonate with so many people. In a world where what's "wrong" seems to be becoming more and more confusing...we like having a clear cause to rally to. . Everyone needs something good in their life; some good cause to hold to even if its just your afternoon teatime and a little peace and quiet in your own little hobbit-hole of the world. 

Anticipating: Martin Luther King weekend. After the long stretch of holidays, the one day off for Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend seems like a godsend. A little treat tossed our way to help us get used to working full weeks again. Mark and I have some fun options for that weekend: 1) going to see his brothers and enjoying a snowboarding get-together, 2) having some good friends to our place for the weekend,or 3) seeing my own parents. I guess I could always go actually spend the holiday with Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr himself... or at least his memorial. I live close enough to it to actually be able to do that. But I probably won't... Like every other holiday, I'll spend it selfishly on my self. Whoops. 

So what have you all been up to lately?
What is going on currently in your lives?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Reasons to Smile, 1/52

To be fair, this blog project idea originated over at Sometimes Sweet with Danielle's adorable portraits of her son's busy little life. However, when she challenged her readers to join in on the project--sharing a photo a week of anything, be it their home, their child, their partner, or even themselves--I thought it would be fun to join in.

A weekly photography project would not only give me an excuse to use this fantastic new camera Mark got me for Christmas but would also give me a goal: a reason to write every week, a theme--not simply to fall back on but rather to form my other post ideas around. Anyway, it beats rattling around in the creative bits of my brain trying to come up with an original post. A picture and a thought seems simple enough. Right? ...Right?

Originally, I thought I'd take a photo of Mark a week--because we all know I love talking, writing, and mooning about that fellow. But then reality tapped on my shoulder--Mark hates having his picture taken. Sense settled in and I realized as soon as I started that project, I would end--out of pity for his forced smiles. After the barrage of engagement, wedding, and honeymoon (not to mention holiday) photos... I think poor Amp has more than met his quota in picture taking.

So instead, I decided to base my weekly photo project around thankfulness. Or, reasons to smile as I've put it in this post's title. Of course, this past November, I hopped on the give-thanks-once-a-day bandwagon. That daily goal taught me something invaluable--that finding something to be happy and thankful for once a day goes a long way in making your day always seem better. Continuing that trend into the new year seemed a good way to go.

So, once a week, I'll be sharing a photo and a little anecdote on something for which I am thankful, something that has been making me smile. Of course, one of the weeks will probably consist of two photos, due to my somewhat belated start.

And what do we have for week one? The obvious. My husband Amp. Who makes me smile every single day with his simple, quiet ways. One kiss on the cheek, one smile, one look over the top rim of his glasses. Small things that make my heart skip and my face beam. Without fail. Sometimes even in the midst of the most heated fusses.

What makes you smile everyday? 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: Phillipa Gregory's Wideacre Trilogy

There's something so final and sad about finishing a book series. I just put down the last novel in Phillipa Gregory's Wideacre trilogy. It consists of three books (surprise, surprise since its a trilogy of all things): Wideacre, The Favored Child, and Meridon. Each one had the requisite steamy portrait of a buxom, beautiful  young woman. I almost had as much fun mimicking their dramatic poses as I did actually reading the novels.

In short: these books trace 3 generations of the Lacey family, a group of squires living in Sussex, England. Wideacre is the name of their family estate. The novels deal specifically with the female members of the families and what they go through to maintain their identity and land ownership in 18th century, patriarchal England.

At times, I had to grit my teeth to get through the novel--perhaps I just have developed some ill-conceived, English-major snobbery for literature quality. But, occasionally, the scenarios and dialogue in the novels fell a little on the melodramatic side. A description that all put begged an orchestra's dun dun DUN. Or a snippet of dialogue that only needed a gasp and a swoon. Yet be that as it may... I found I couldn't put these novels down.

Why? Why did the English-major snob plow straight through these books? Because the main characters are fantastic. Who doesn't love a heroine who is also a villain every now and then? And a villain because she struggles with her own human nature and against society--- a struggle of power, greed, desire, and wit.

These novels really weren't about thwarted romance, passion, or money (although there was a good bit of all of these flashing about). Really, these novels are about female identity. How the protagonists are seen, how they wish to be seen, and most importantly how they see themselves. They battle against their social status, against societal convention, and even against themselves to figure out their own identity and place in the world. Gregory challenges the idea of what it meant  to be a successful woman in the 18th century--is it the kind housewife, the virgin, the landlord, the heiress who its successful? And really... thinking about it now... I feel like these demands on identity are still in place.

What woman doesn't feel that she is sacrificing her home when she decides to pursue a challenging degree or successful career? How often do people use disparaging terminology for housewives? "Oh she just stays at home." "She's just a stay-at-home-mom." (As if that life were easy and just one thing or another.) And for those women who can juggle both home and work--like my own mom or my sister--how often do they make sacrifices, not only in one plane or another but also sacrifices to themselves, to maintain that identity?  How often is female sexuality challenged--we're expected to remain virgins, we're humiliated for being virgins, we're labeled as "whores" for choosing to not remain virgins. How often are people judged by others? And how often do we judge ourselves because of the judgment of others?

I feel like Gregory, a female historian, does a great job of crafting a world from the past she has so lengthily studied. Although the prose can get a wee bit repetitive and dense sometimes, the novel's character development really is laudable and believable. And the core themes and struggles are applicable even today. I think these novels would resonate with many different readers--and they fall into the category of a gripping winter read. A little bit of love, a good bit of Gothic chill, and a greatly portion of the sweeping English countryside--something worthy of snuggling up with a blanket and a cup of tea. Trust me--whether from your own winter chill or from the novel--you'll be glad for the warmth now and then.

My personal rating on the Abi-Book-Scale:
7.5 (maaaybe 8)  out of 10

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Quotes 1.5

image source

I thought I'd start sharing a meaningful quote 
every few days or so. 

These days, I've been in a hiking mood--
sometimes you just need crushed leaves,
rich loam, and crisp air burning your lungs. 

Happy Saturday!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Dear Mister

Dear Mr. Hobbs:
Its a brand new year.
Can you believe that? More than a year ago, we were impatiently waiting for 2012 to start and pass--eager for our October wedding to get here. Now that big day has come and gone, and we're together staring down the long, blank road of another year. And... to continue the little road metaphor I've got going here...I know that there will be unexpected twists, turns, stops, and bumps along the way, but I have to say, there's no one I'd rather face them with than you.

Little things confirm my love for you and yours for me. Like, for example, you dumpster-diving yesterday to find a big enough box to ship this painting. How many guys would sit on the edge of a dumpster in breezy 30* weather, tossing cardboard around? I've never known a guy that sweet. Seriously, never.

Somehow, my making meatball subs doesn't seem to add up to the dumpster level of dedication. But mixing up the breadcumbs and meats really grosses me out... so maybe it equals out a little bit?

Try not to blow off any tall DC buildings today in all this winter wind, please. Then hurry home so I can hug and feed you.

your girl.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Some flavors, without fail, always go together excellently. There's tons of these famous food pairs out there, ranging the taste-bud scales : coffee and chocolate, cinnamon and sugar, wine and cheese, buffalo-chicken,  lemon-lime, tomato-basil.

One of these delicious pairs is peanut-butter and chocolate. Oh my word...so good!

You may recall this amazing peanut butter pie I made for Thanksgiving. I believe its still my reigning peanut-butter favorite, but I decided to try out the yummy combo again for Christmas. And what's better for Christmas than cookies? Or cookie bars, as the case may be.

I first encountered this recipe here while trolling Pinterest's unending inspiration boards. I will warn you... these bars are incredibly rich. The chocolate layer almost has the consistency and flavor-intensity of dark chocolate fudge. So one tiny cookie is enough for me; but hey, who doesn't like to splurge over the holidays.

1 package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used PeterPan)
2 eggs
1 (12oz) package chocolate chips
1 (14oz) can sweet condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 325*F
Combine cake mix, melted butter, peanut butter, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Press this peanut butter mixture into a greased 9x13 pan, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the mixture to use later as the topping.
In a small pot, melt together the chocolate chip, sweet condensed milk, and 2 tablespoons butter. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Spread chocolate mixture over the peanut butter layer. Then, crumble the remaining 1 1/2 cup peanut butter mix on top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely before cutting.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Merry & Bright Winter Nights

Mark and I are finally back from the holiday rush and bustle. We've returned to everyday working life-- with the daily little joys and tidbits of fun. But the holidays were filled with laughter, good kitchen smells, hugs, pretty paper, and of course pretty ribbons. It was great to spend time with both our Georgia and Virginia families; spending time with everyone reminds you of how much you are loved and cared for in life. And that reminder is good regardless of the season or time of year.

Here are a few photos of our holiday adventures with snowy roads, giggly nephews, cookie baking, good music, and lots of presents.

I love this: Jack hopped up on the couch and said "What's up Mark-Mark?"
(his word for his Uncle Amp is Mark Mark) 

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