12.29.2009

Me, I want a hula-hoop!

Bebop: slang; to move, go, to proceed, (often followed by on down); Americanism: probably from the nonsense syllables typical of scat singing

I'll tell you one thing. Bebopin' on down from one place to another like the ping pong ball in a pin-ball machine has left me uttering nonsense syllables and puttering around the house in my bathrobe and stocking feet. Well, maybe not quite such a drastic picture, but we have been veritable road runners over the last week or so, from Durham to Hendersonville, Hendo to Charleston, Charleston to Sumter and back again, and in a handful of days, back up to the triangle. Stella sure is gettin' her exercise, and that's a lot more than I can say!

We arrived in Charleston from Hendersonville on Christmas Eve at around five o'clock, allowing time for hugs, hellos, hmm-ing and haw-ing, and then zipped to Saint Andrew's for a birthday party, celebrating a tiny, mewling, squidgy baby boy that changed the world and mankind's destiny as we know it. After church, we painstakingly worked on the last third of a jigsaw puzzle while simultaneously watching the all-time classic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Christmas morning was spent leisurely opening gifts by the tree, listening to Christmas music and then a quick clean up to facilitate the preparations for the oh-so-delectable Christmas dinner. We all pitched in to get everything on the table--I won't tell you how many sticks of butter I put in the mashed potatoes--and sat down to a spread rivaling Good King Wenceslas' St. Stephen's Day feast. YUM. The rest of the afternoon was spent, firstly recovering from the aforementioned glut, and then reluctantly to enthusiastically singing Christmas carols around the table. We played games and finished the puzzle, save for one missing, gosh-darned piece.

Around 9-ish (because some of us run on more of a Brazilian concept of time), Jennigray (+ Arm Candy), Kelly, Lauren, and Meghan stopped by for a much needed, if short-lived, reunion. Stories of holiday travel woes, Grinch-like happenings, and home-visit hilarity were exchanged, garnering laughter, incredulity, and other colorful responses all around. It was good to squeeze the necks of my lovelies, even if I would have liked it to be a longer visit. Lauren even gave gifts all around, baggies and boxes filled with Christmas delights! Lauren is a Clemson grad now, leaving behind forever the hurry-scurry and sleepless nights of collegiate life. See ya later, 8am classes! Watch for that girl in the headlines--you'll be seeing her name, for sure.

Saturday, Andrew and I went up to Sumter, SC for Jordan and Michael's wedding. It was a pinky-out affair, complete with coat tails and floor length bridesmaids dresses--just lovely. Jordan was stunning, as always, and a perfect match to her handsome groom. We danced the night away with friends we hadn't seen in a coon's age, loving every minute of it. We met some new Alabama folks and kissed the cheeks of dear old friends. Andrew and I drove back to Charleston in the wee hours of the morning, reminiscing on our own wedding and the weddings of our friends. When all of these weddings taper off, we're all going to have to find some other excuse to get together. And if we're talking babies, I call "not it". I'm thinking beach house, Memorial Day weekend, everyone pitch in for food, drinks, sand, sun, and FUN! Yeah. Have your people call my people and we'll work it out.

So, we're back in the Chuck, leaning towards New Year's Eve and popping the cork on that bottle of bubbly. 2010 seems like it will be good to us. I'm resolving to resolve this year, not sure what about, though. There just always seems to be much room for amelioration--I could pick anything to improve upon, methinks. Either way, I stand resolute. So let it be written, so let it be done.

I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, soak up the last days of 2009 like a biscuit soppin' up red eye gravy. Mmm-mm. See y'all on the other side!

12.25.2009

Happy Christmas!

Joy to the world the Lord is come!/Let earth receive her King!

Let ev'ry heart/prepare Him room

Repeat the sounding joy!

Repeat the sounding joy!

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy!

12.23.2009

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime!

At the moment, I'm watching Bear Grylls beast the Alaskan tundra. Five minutes ago he was marooned on an island in Indonesia eating sea cucumbers and termites. What has this man not survived?? The show says right before each episode that he will be "assisted" if he is in "life-threatening circumstances" and that some situations are "presented" to him in order to show "us" how to survive them. So, I guess sucking my thumb and crying under the driftwood lean-to is not an option? Durn.

So, we're at the Armstrong's for our last night tonight and consequently, it's "Christmas". At least for Andrew and me and for the gifts we have for the family. In a way it's almost like Hanukkah--we've had two nights of presents thus far, tonight will be the third! Hey, I'm a Christmas-lover so I have no problem spreading things out! I'm just tired of holiday jingles re-writing the words of traditional Christmas songs to advertise their spiral ham or how much money you can save at TJ Maxx. Get a new angle, puh-leaaaase.

Yesterday we visited Andrew's great Aunt Sarah and his great-grandparents, Millard and Mama Green. I gotta tell ya, I just love old people. And I don't mean that disrespectfully--I really love hearing stories about "the good ol' days" as Sarah called them and how snow cream was a "scandalous treat". I love hearing about how Millard was in "the war"--WWII, that is--as an airplane mechanic, stationed in Italy. I loved knowing that my own uncles were in those same historic wars--it makes me feel proud of my family history. I'm aware that it wasn't all that glamorous--someone once said "war is hell"--not sure if that was my dad or someone famous (or if I made it up) but anyway--my generation is a generation whose ardor lasts only as long as its battery. But if Millard, at 88 and a half (that's a quote), can still talk about "the war", then it must have been really something.

Anyway, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. I can just imagine the tinny din that is growing around my parents' house as we speak--er, read. I'm sad to leave the Winter Wonderland of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but excited for the reunion that awaits in Charleston. We've got a four-ish hour long drive ahead of us tomorrow after Christmas Eve brunch with Sherri and the gang ;). Too bad I can't just lay my finger aside of my nose and bee-bop down South.

And if you were wondering, which I'm sure you were, my hiney is A-okay.

Merry Christmas to all/and to all a good night!

12.20.2009

How do you pronounce coccyx?

I would post pictures, but I'm currently using Brother Barrett's laptop and will not be able to hook up my camera to his computer.

Andrew and I eked into Hendersonville last night around 7pm with no problems with snow or ice until we actually got into town. Apparently, the interstate is the first thing to be salted and plowed, so it stands to reason that they were all clear, full speed ahead--but when we turned into his parents' neighborhood, we were greeted by multiple snowy cars all parked at the entrance because their owners lived at the top of the mountain and would probably not be able to make it up to their homes (or back down) without incident. I'll definitely post pictures later, but if you can imagine, most everything was covered in a foot of snow. It was the most snow I've seen since the winter after Hurricane Hugo--and I was three, so it's been a while. Andrew, Barrett and Collin and I went up to Granna and Grandaddy's house and sledded (sled? sleed?) down the hill in the dark. I had to beg, borrow, and steal some snow gear, but all's well that ends well. I was warm and dry, both objectives clearly met.

It wasn't until this morning's sledding party at the golf course with Summer and Derek and Friends that I began to rethink this whole sledding thing. Now. I'm not normally a wimp--although I will admit that it's been a while since I faced the downward slope of a mountain with the intention of barreling down it on a thin sheet of plastic, be it snowboard or sled--but in my old age and my increased knowledge of the fragility of my own internal structures, I've gotten a little more cautious of which daredevil sports I partake in and in what way. Today, my coccyx kissed the asphalt golf cart path that incidentally bisected our sledding trail. Translation: as I was careening down the mountain on my sled, I hit a few bumps and on the landing of the largest one, my hiney slammed into the road, full throttle. "Owwie" doesn't quite cover it. Bummer that it was my first go. Kind of put a damper on the rest of the "party" but I had a few more runs. One included a train in which Andrew rolled over my head when we caught an edge and in the aftermath--if it wasn't for my mad round-house skillz--I almost got creamed by Barrett and Collin. Can't stop a movin' train. Yeah, after the tail-bone grand slam we moved down to an area that was not t-boned by the road. Someone always gets hurt, even minorly, and today my number was up. Ah, well. Ibuprofen and a doughnut cushion should do it for a week or so.

The snow is beautiful. In places that kids or dogs or snowplows haven't touched yet it just looks like pearly, sparkling fondant, spread cleanly and evenly over everything in sight. On the rooftops, it's so perfect it almost looks fake! With twinkling white lights on trees and bushes covered in snow, and the moon giving the luster of mid-day to objects below. It's some pretty awesome luster, I tell ya. Winter Wonderland. Truer words were never spoken. (Probably an overstatement, but just roll with me.)

That's all for now. I'll keep you posted. 10-4 good buddy.

12.18.2009

'Snow joke

With a zillion things to do today, I didn't realize that an amazing thing could happen. A veritable miracle. A miracle I tell you!! S.N.O.W. snow!! Here's my two photos. I couldn't get good ones because I was so excited I was shaking and forgot how to work my camera (not that I knew how to anyway, which probably compounded the problem), but here they are: this first one I like to call " Snow on the rocks". Those large-ish glinty white blobs are, in fact, snow flakes. It was actually snowing quite hard at this point, but the camera only picked up those two or three big flakes. It's a horrific photograph, but you get the picture. ;)


This next one I like to call "'Snow joke, it's snow!" and it is a result of standing on the porch in the cross-wind (a term I recently made up) and getting snow in your face and sticking to your purple sweater. Those white things? You guessed it: tiny, perfect, unique snowflakes. I wonder if there's Whos in there somewhere trying to elect a Cheermeister.

Now I realize that for some of you reading this, this is a silly, silly post. Some of you may spend half the winter stuck in snow drifts, or shoveling the driveway, or waiting for the roads to be cleared. But I, definitely, do not. I come from a place where school was canceled if there was so much as a flurry. So, naturally, my reaction to this wintry miracle was, well, elation! Joy! Delight!


Yes. This is not snow. But this is just as much of a miracle. This, this is chicken pot pie. Pioneer Woman's chicken pot pie. With amazing buttery, flaky crust. This recipe is out of the glorious The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook that my dear friend Jennigray gave me for my birthday. I had some trepidation when I set out to make this crust, but boy, oh boy, did persistence pay off!! My dear, sweet husband said this is the best chicken pot pie I've ever had. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! And I'll admit. It was good. Really good. The cookbook is also a great gift for someone interested in cooking--the recipes are very straightforward and simple--anyone can do it, promise!! Barnes & Noble, Amazon--check, ch-check, check, check, ch-check it out.


Also, Andrew and I were "apartment hunting" last night and we saw a John Deere tractor in someone's front yard decorated with lights, wreaths, garland, bows, etc. Yes. Yes, I saw that.


And, we're also not moving. We re-signed our lease to stay in this glorious apartment for another nine months. It's going to work out better financially and legistically, so we're totally good with it. Annnnd it means we don't have to pack up--yet! Woohoo!


So, now I'm going to make some hot chocolate, pop in Love Actually and wrap some Christmas presents. And fold laundry. But the laundry is cancelled out by the hot chocolate and Love Actually so it's all good.

12.16.2009

Ramble on! And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song!

I went Christmas shopping {again} at the mall this afternoon. And I will tell you what I saw. I was just bustling along with the other shoppers when my eyes spotted a long, gathered, ruched, sequined, corseted pearly white dress. On a person. On a bride. Outside of Maggiano's Italian Family Style restaurant. She was there with her tiara and her bridesmaids and groomsmen, and of course her handsome groom. This was no photo shoot or gimmick. This was the real deal. I stood and watched the groom fumble with the garter and fling it into the air in the direction of his groomsmen. I watched them load gifts and accouterments into the back of their Chevy Blazer in the crowded parking lot. Now. I don't know the circumstances of said wedding, but I do know this. A mall? There were no venues open besides the mall? The MALL??? Your backyard was booked?? Ok...ok. To each bride her own.

Thing number two that I saw. Ah, crud. I can't remember it. It must not have been that shocking if I've plumb forgot. OH! I remember. {Thanks, brain! Youuu smartypants.} I've been seeing a lot of armored cars lately--you know the kind that pick up the cash, {or gold bars... just kidding. But that would be cool}, from restaurants or stores? Firstly, it always, always makes me think of FBI or CIA or Scotland Yard movies where there's some sort of nail-biter chase scene with an armored vehicle, usually involving some crashing and pyrotechnics. And Keanu Reeves. For some reason, I think that kind of movie is his specialty. For some strange reason. Anyway, all of this armored car business makes me think. During Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/anyotherholidaythatyoubuygiftsfor pretty much everyone in America goes shopping. Everyone gets at least one thing. (Not eeeevvvverrryyyyoneeee, I knooow.) But even the less fortunate most times get people that can afford presents buying things for them. So, basically we're pumping money into the economy during this time of year, right?? Shouldn't that help?? Right?? I know. My understanding of Economics is quite elementary. I just thought...that...maybe...I mean....well...shucks.

While I was running errands the other day, I also saw some people selling bonsai trees on the side of the road and a lady with a bottle of Ranch dressing in her coat pocket at the Post Office. Some of you already knew that ;) but for those of you that didn't, I saw it. With m'own eyes. Plain as the nose on my face. Interesting business venture, I must say, but I didn't see anyone else selling those crazy trees, so maybe he's found his niche. As for the ranch...maybe it was a key chain. Like a lucky rabbit's foot. A lucky bottle of Ranch.

So, hopscotch, here's the timeline for the next days:

Saturday the 19th: MG&A Christmas (yeah, we're going to have ourselves a Merry little newlywed Christmas and start some traditions of our own!) in the morning, Bragg Street Love Feast Block Party 12-2p, drive to Hendersonville directly following

Thursday the 24th {Christmas Eve!}: head to Charleston after festivities with the Armstrongs/McIntyres

Saturday the 26th: drive up to Sumter, SC for Kinder/Chestnut rehearsal and rehearsal dinner

Sunday the 27th: celebrate with Mr. & Mrs. Michael Chestnut! Drive back to Charleston after sending off the bride and groom

And, basically, that's as far as we've gotten. I'll keep you posted for any changes. Or any other odd sightings. Or anything I feel like talking about.

12.14.2009

Regular can of 'baccy you say? No, says I.

Lawsie mercy! Well. Currently, I'm house/apartment hunting on Craig's list and simultaneously watching Jennifer Hudson's I'll Be Home for Christmas on ABC. And last night I watched Oprah's Christmas at the White House. I just love Christmas specials. They're special.

So, I'm going to level with you. Got my battery-powered laser beaming level right here and I'm pointing it at your forehead. For those of you wondering--or not wondering--I did not get the ED position at Duke that I interviewed for a few weeks ago. "Bummer" is an understatement. Frustrating? Check. Heart-wrenching? Check. Embarrassing? Check. Baffling? Check. The emotions roiling inside me don't really have names. They have descriptions. Twisting, tumbling, suffocating, squeezing. Yes. That's it. So, I'll soldier on. Applying, applying, applying. Emailing, emailing, emailing. Calling, calling, calling. Praying, praying, praying. It can be exhausting. But I'll trust. I'll trust that He knows best. That maybe I would have hated it. That maybe it just wouldn't have been a good fit. That maybe their scrubs would have made my butt look big. Raise an eyebrow if you like. Scoff if you dare. But I know He knows better than I do. So, I'm okay. Don't feel sorry for me--don't shed one single, dreadful tear. Just keep praying. To God be the glory all the more when I get that exciting phone call.

On a lighter and less life-altering note, Brother Barrett came to visit us this past weekend and boy, did we have fun! We went to Graham and Joanna's first holiday potluck get-together--I made fudge with Craisins and pecans in it and meaty meatballs I found on foodnetwork.com (and subsequently changed the recipe to suit my sophisticated taste buds. Also known as, I added barbecue sauce and brown sugar. and heavy cream. Ummmmm, good. Good, is the word I'm looking for.) We played this hilarious game called Lady in the Garden/Telephone Pictionary. No idea where "Lady in the Garden" came from, but in Telephone Pictionary, you get in a circle and everyone has a pen and paper. First you write something down--anything random--that's the point. Then you pass it to the person beside you and they have to draw it. They then pass their little Picasso to the person next to them and that person has to write what they drew--so by the time your cards get back to you, it's a hilarious flip book of miscommunicated and misinterpreted drawings and scrawlings. And it. is. side-splitting. I highly recommend it at your next soiree.

On Saturday, Andrew and Barrett and I went Christmas shopping at the gargantuan Southpoint Mall--one of my absolute faaavorite things! The mall was teeming with people, all on the hunt for the perfect purchase for that special someone. Moms, Dads, teenagers, kids, babies--strollers, slings, carriers galore! The cuteness was unbearable! And of course, Santa and Santa's Helpers were there taking photographs with the all-but-obliging children. (How much you wanna bet 90% of those little girls had sagging tights?? I'm sure it was a major contributing factor to the orneriness.) So, back to shopping. I love buying presents for people. I try to find things that I would debate keeping for myself, that way I know when I give it to someone they will just melt from the love they feel and the pleasure of getting such a gift! If you want it, they will want it, trust me. It's a tried and true holiday fact. I helped Barrett find something for his "special friend" and I just know that her eyes will shine and her tummy will tingle when she opens her gift! I also helped Andrew and Barrett buy jeans--yet another weird favorite thing of mine. Noah used to take me with him sometimes for a second opinion on those few and far between boy shopping trips. I think that's where my love of helping people find clothes they love was born. And then I worked at the Gap where my love of helping people find clothes was reduced to the number of Gap cards I could hustle in a five hour shift. Kill me. I'm also loving that many of your Christmas gifts are gracing the skirt around the trunk of my tree right this very instant. Makes me feel like y'all are just sittin' right here! But anyway, we had fun. Good times all around. We ate at the Barbecue Joint, a restaurant quickly becoming an Armstrong favorite. We've only been twice, but it is tasty on the tongue! We went to church on Sunday and took the exam for the leadership class Andrew and I have just completed (provided that we pass the exam, of course). You mean, God gives exams?!? Why, yes, he does. Shucks.

Christmas is coming. Eleven more days. Don't be surprised if someone rings your doorbell later and there's eleven Lords a-leaping on your stoop. Your first thought will probably be, "What are all of these royals doing sashaying across my lawn?" And then, you'll know. Christmas is coming.

12.10.2009

After official review, the call on the field stands

I know I just posted, like, 10 seconds ago, but I just can't help it. I've got to tell you this.

Andrew and I went to see Disney's A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey last night at the IMAX 3D and it was so. amazing. jaw-dropping. out of this world. scary. Yeah, you weren't expecting that last adjective, were you? Well, folks, it's true. Andrew and I really loved the movie, but I would think twice before bringing any little ones to see it. The commercials are all holly and jolly, but if you remember, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by a dead guy, a freaky flame, a ginormous Dionysus-type person, and--the kicker--the Grim Reaper. Not really the movie you want your kiddo to see right before bed time. Especially when it's in 3D and skeleton hands are coming at you. Nope. Not the flick I'd show my kids. But, for the occasionally-Disney-entertained movie-goer, it's a great pick. And Jim Carrey is delightful--he plays Scrooge and all three spirits, so it's fun to see how he becomes each personality. And don't be a Scrooge--it's worth the extra cost to see it in 3D. ;)

Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles

In the interest of the holiday season, {barring Sunday school answers like Jesus, the Bible, my family, my friends--you know I love those things already}, and although the aforementioned song is not quite a Yuletide yodel, it does turn up this time of year. These are a few of my favorite things:



1} Fresh cut flowers in lovely vases all over the house...soothing. Ah.

2} Jeans. Jeans, jeans, jeans!

3} Frye cowboy boots

4} Ralph Lauren Romance

5} Cast-iron cookware: Lodge & Le Creuset deliciousness!

6} Prettily wrapped Christmas presents

7} Sleeping in. I don't care if I went to bed at 7:30--I will still sleep in if I have nothing to do that day. Bonus favorite thing: sleeping in when it's raining. Cha-ching!

8} That feeling after the house is cleaned, the laundry's folded and put away, the dinner menu is firmed up, Oprah's on and you've got the latest InStyle or Martha Stewart Living in your hot little hands.

9} Fitting into your "skinny" jeans. Amen, and amen.

10} L'oreal Carbon Black Voluminous mascara--in waterproof, too. Don't leave home without it.

11} Jiffy Corn Muffins. They are so. darn. good. And each box is 99 cents. You can't beat that, man.

12} Cooking. And the foodnetwork.com and tastykitchen.com. They help me make it through flour tornadoes, burned fingers, lumpy gravy, and all the rest. That, and my Mama. ;)

13} Good handwriting. I appreciate good kindergarten penmanship work ethic.

14} The rings on my left hand. Because I think they are quite pretty and, especially, because of what they mean.

15} A hot shower after a really good work out. Painfully blissful. [Is that even possible?? Ah, just go with it.]


16} Soft, cuddly, timeless, chic Cashmere sweaters. Especially white or grey ones. Ah.


17} Learning new words. I'm a dictionary.com junkie. The bookmark in my latest novel is a piece of paper with all the words I need to look up scribbled on it. Nerd. True story.

18} Nail polish. And one step beyond that, manicures. I just love having someone else expertly sculpt my nails and then carefully and precisely paint them a beautiful OPI Hearts & Tarts, Vodka and Caviar, or Lincoln Park After Dark. Or the old summer standby, Cajun Shrimp. Heavenly.

19} Pashminas. For their versatility and staying power.

20} Starbucks non-fat peppermint mocha. Christmas in a cup! YUM!

21} Chocolate. Always fills you up and never lets you down.

22} Whiskers on kittens

23} Martha

24} The Armstrong tartan we got on our honeymoon. It's flippin' sweet.

25} Partridges in pear trees. What a crazy phenomenon.


That's a cross-section of my heart. Hope you enjoyed it. And I hope the song is stuck in your head for the rest of the day....hehe!

Brown paper packages tied up with striiiings/these are a few of my favorite things!

12.06.2009

Nick-nack-paddy-whack

Yestereve, as the sun faded to from pomegranate to peach over Lake Marion, Stella and I threw out our proverbial elbows and barrelled up 95 North from Charleston back to Durham. I spent one night in my old twin bed to help Mama decorate for Christmas--minus the tree, reserved for Jessica and Kawika, (Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say/on a bright Hawaiian Christmas day!). Mama and I got the two main things squared away: the front of the house and the mantel, so the mini-weekend was a success. For those on the Smith family side of things, the above photo is a tasty preview of the glorious splendor that awaits you down South in just a few short weeks. Get excited. And don't forget your plaid onesie pajamas.

I also got to briefly hug the neck of my beloved Kelly Byrd and wile away the hours, burn the midnight oil, shoot the breeze with my lovely towheaded friend--fitting since she has now pitched her tent and hung her plaque on Sullivan's Island. Ah, to life--l'chaim! [Tevye to God]: I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?

This past week, Andrew and I had the pleasure of pseudo-hosting Chris and Jennigray as they were en route from Florida to the North country--New York, we thought, but back to New England--New Jersey for a wee bit--back to the blustering, blistering cold of winter, bypassing fall entirely. Interesting that the place they were supposed to go was called "New" and the place they went instead is still called "New". Something going on there, methinks. Sometimes you have to squint your eyes and listen carefully beyond the rumble of the U-haul for God's voice and direction. And bring your woolies--as Beckie would say--it's going to be a cold one. I commend them on their flexibility and steadily pleasant attitudes. Where most people would dissolve into tears and frustration--they just laugh and shrug and go with the flow. Nicely done, Hewitts, nicely done.

In a totally different subject category, I have a bone to pick with the fashion industry about this trend I have a love/hate relationship with. There are many things women sacrifice in order to look their most fashionably best: expanding their lungs fully in order to take a complete breath, any semblance of balance, the ability to cry without looking like the Joker, being able to lift their arms beyond shoulder height without bisecting the garment in question, freezing to death/sweating to death...the list could go on forever. This one small clothing item I have had to deal with quite a bit recently is the aptly named: Tights. They are the chameleon of clothing: they could be an accessory, an undergarment, in some unfortunate cases pants (you know who I'm talking about), but whatever category they fall into in your closet, they are everywhere lately. Including on my body. I thought that somewhere around third grade my days of wearing crotch-sagging, ankle-pooling, behind the knee-running, opaque tights were over. It seems that the universe is chuckling at me, because tights are one of the biggest must-have trends this winter--and I will admit, they are very practical and cute in many, many ways. The patterns, the colors--short skirts and high boots--YUM. I really do love it. But I just have this thingggg about wearing something actually named for how it feels to wear it: tiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.ss.ssss. With an "s", meaning plurally tight. Twice as tight. Two tights, not just one. Got it? And no matter who you are, or how stylish you are, if you lifted up your dress in church, you know your tights would be under your armpits, because that's just how they are. It's roll control, it's breathability, it's sag prevention. Whatever your flavor, your tights are always soaring above your umbilicus. Don't get me wrong, I like them. I wear them--in all colors of the earth-toned rainbow. But I don't feel bad--not one iota of shame, regret, sorrow, or penitence-- when I sprint for my closet after church to peel them off, take a breather, and put on my jeans.

As Forest would say, "And that's all I have to say about that".

12.02.2009

Hey, look over there! Some celestial beings are serenading that baby!

So, obviously, the previous post is my Christmas decorations. I'll have you know that I am seriously illiterate when it comes to uploading photographs on this blog. Some day, I'll be good at it. Just you wait, 'Enry 'Iggins, just you wait.

So, some little bits and pieces, snippets and side notes. The angel on top of our tree was made by the one and only Joe Smith, my tinkering, toy-making father. Santy Claus? I think so. It's modeled after an ol' fashioned weather vane. Love it!

Two things I love to use when decorating for Christmas: white lights and the extra limbs from the bottom of the tree. You can never go wrong with white Christmas lights. And they really make the Christmas aesthetic shiiiine through, (ya like that pun?). This year we got our tree from Rob and Ann, and we actually had enough limbs once we trimmed the bottom of the tree to use them to decorate. In previous years we've just picked up piles from the tree lot--they're going to get rid of 'em anyway and we just paid for a tree so why not? They are very versatile and can be used for mantels, flower arrangements, the creche, or--like I did--above the cabinets just to add a little Christmas height. Heh, heh. (Or should I say, "Ho, ho ho!")

Last weekend in Hendersonville we went to this great little shop called Honeysuckle Hollow and we found a few vintage Christmas cards, amongst the piles of odds and ends. I clothes pinned them to one of the PB ribbons from one of our wedding gifts. We obviously don't have a mantel, so we had to improvise with the stockings.

Let's talk flora and fauna. House plants are also an interesting way to add a little outside to the inside of your home, as well as adding a texture and color to a room that may be a little bit unexpected. Bonus, they also clean the air! Thank youuu, photosynthesis. The first and most obvious plants I used were poinsettias. Named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first US minister to Mexico, (he brought them back with him--who knew they were tropical plants?! CooOooooOol.), red poinsettias add that classic Christmas color to a grouping of plants. You'll notice I also used a little Norfolk Island Pine for a little something extra--it's a pine tree so it mirrors the Christmas tree look.

If everyone in America had red cars, we'd be a red car-nation. Carnations have gotten a bad wrap over the years for being old fashioned and cheap. And they are, let's be serious. But "old fashioned" can also be termed "retro" or "vintage" and cheap...well, these days cheap is good. Cheap is greeeaaat. Honestly, when I think of carnations I think of a 1950s prom with a powder blue suit and a white carnation for a boutonniere. But, if you can get over that image and get enough carnations--like a lot, at least a dozen, two dozen is better--they can add volume and texture to a table arrangement--and they're a little bit different. I'm not saying bring me carnations on my birthday or anniversary, I'm just sayin' quit hatin' on 'em! If you want to hate on something, hate on Baby's Breath. That stuff is whack. Plus, it's called Baby's Breath. Blech. I also stuck a few sweet grass roses in that bouquet for a little more fullness to the bunch.

Now, hold on to your hats, folks: I used sticks. I picked up sticks from outside while I was on a walk one day and used them just like a bunch of flowers. But they're deader. And greyer. And stick-ier. Buuuuut, I really like them. They're different. They add height and they don't die, cuz they're already dead! Hooray!

Sigh. I just love Christmas. My inspirations are always from the classic or traditional, nature, hearth and home, comfort, and of course, the birth of our Saviour. I'm not saying I'll never deviate, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I also love to do some things the same every year and some things differently every year. From mall displays to magazines, blogs to bookstores, inspiration is everywhere. Use whatever moves you!

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices/for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Hark! The herald angels sing glory to the newborn King!














































11.29.2009

Advent, Advent, a little light burns

I just got back from a lovely trip along the Milky Way/I stopped off at the North Pole to spend the holiday!

Actually, it was the Hendersonville Armstrongs. And it was Thanksgiving. But it was just as magical as a trip to the North Pole via the Milky Way, I'm sure of it. We arrived on Wednesday at noon and I dropped Andrew off at FBC to shoot some hoops with the dudes. I GPSed my way to the Armstrong homestead and just made myself at home, watching Private Practice on ABC.com (couldn't work their new-fangled television) and --still--coughing and sputtering my head off. The next four days were a blurry--albeit relaxing--fury of family and friends and food, food, food and decorating and shopping and churching and hanging out. A highly successful Thanksgiving weekend, if I do say so m'self. We piled our loot in Stella's spacious backseat and zipped--well, crawled--our way back to Durham. We saw Christmas trees coming and going, strapped on the tops of cars, rolled up and squeezed on trailers to get to the tree vendor, and precariously dangling out of truck beds--and we saw about twice as many cops. Po-Po. Coppers. Officers of the Law. Interesting how cops are supposed to make you feel safe, like the good guys are gettin' the bad guys, when all they do for me is conjure up feelings of anxiety. When I see cops on the road, I just want to slow my vehicle to a walking pace and smile demurely like I've never done anything wrong in my life. If I spot a five-O anywhere near the vicinity of my automobile, I usually panic for a split second like I might be doing something wrong and I just don't know it--what's up with that, America?? Geez. I'm just drivin'. Anyyyyhow. We saw a bunch of fender-benders as well. And a lot of idiot drivers swerving in and out of traffic like getting to their destination 1.5 minutes quicker was all that mattered in the universe. Newsflash: you're an idiot and you make me want to ram the back of your vehicle, but I would never do that because I love Stella too much and that would not help the situation at large, but in another life, I would. I would. Ahem. Let me get a hold of myself. Pardon moi.

Onward: I would like to make note that today is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent is the period of each of the four Sundays before Christmas, honoring the coming of the Christ child into the world. Usually, we light advent wreaths, which have four candles around the outside and then a candle in the middle. Each candle is lit every Sunday prior to Christmas, and then on Christmas Day the middle candle is lit. The Latin word adventus means "coming", or the coming of Jesus. The time is supposed to be used in preparation and "expectant waiting" for the nativity. It is also meant to show the relationship between the waiting endured by the Hebrews for the coming of the Messiah, but also to mirror our own waiting on the second coming of Christ; to commemorate the first coming, whilst preparing for the second coming. One more of the wonderful things about Christmas. I love how God continually points to the past, present and future. Just lovely.

Advent, Advent, a little light burns. First one. Then two. Then three, then four. And then the Christ child at the door.

11.24.2009

A list

Being sick is the pits. Being sick on a holiday weekend is an even bigger pit. Being sick during possibly the most important interview of your career is multiple humongous pits. The Boggy Dingle of pits (if you know what I'm talking about, kudos to you. You paid attention in Lit class in high school). I've got a nasty cold, and it just so happens that my number was called in the middle of a bronchial spasm.

This morning I interviewed at Duke Healthcare's Durham Regional Hospital for a nursing position in the Emergency Department. I almost couldn't believe my ears yesterday when the nurse recruiter called and said--and I quote--"are you ready to rock n' roll?" Andrew and I spent last evening strategizing and mock-interviewing. I would consider Andrew and interview expert--from Moorehead to Med school, he knows how to work a crowd. It was definitely a whirlwind, but in a way it was almost better to have less than 24 hours between the phone call and the interview--that way I didn't really have time to get super nervous. I was nervous, though, there's no arguing that. I was sweating like a dog and trying not to cough, or sneeze or gross them out anymore than I probably already was. I'm sure there was a mad-dash for the hand sanitizer as soon as I quit the premises. Anyhow, I should find out soon about the job. You'll be reading about it, I can promise you that.

If this really is the end, the end of this turbid, uncomfortable, stretching, pulling, fertilizing portion of my life, I really can say that I have learned. so. much. A hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12. I have experienced the aching frustration over not having a nursing job. But is has it really been not having a job? Or has it been not being in control, or not having everything work out for me on my time table? Or has it been letting my pride fall down? When we are told to wait by the God of the Universe, some of us have a hard time sitting still and not crossing our eyes and sticking our tongues out at him when he turns his back to his pupils and begins to scrawl on the chalkboard--Yours Truly included. And waiting is one thing, patiently waiting is a whole different ball of wax. Something I heard in a sermon recently really put things in perspective. I truly believe that God is constantly working on our hearts, our attitudes, our spiritual fruit--not our bank accounts, our calendars, etc. Not to say that he doesn't care--just stay with me. If you're not okay before _______, you won't be okay after ________. (Obviously you can fill in the blank as needed). In my case, God was prompting me that if I wasn't okay before being hired, I would not be okay after being hired. If my identity is not in Him, I will always feel inadequate. If my joy doesn't come from Him, I will never feel truly happy. If my security doesn't come from Jehovah Jireh, the Lord our Provider, I will always want more and be scared of being without.

So that's what I've learned. That, and a thousand other things. So, Thanksgiving is in a few days, and we're going to Hendersonville. My parents are meeting us there on Thursday to carve the turkey and stuff ourselves silly. Hopefully, I won't cough all over everyone, and it will be a cheerful affair. I'm pretty excited about the culinary delights on the horizon. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Turkey and stuffing and cranberry chutney. Sweet potato anything. Pumpkin bars. Mmmmmm. It will be different than having the five Smiths crammed in the kitchen cooking and baking all together, only to flop down at the table and devour the feast before us in less than half an hour. I have great memories of Thanksgiving during my childhood. Delicious food--with leftovers, playing games or watching Little Women with the fam, getting our Christmas tree and getting all of the decorations out of the attic. That, and my mom forcing us to go around the table saying what we're thankful for. And all of us trying to be honest without feeling cheesy. So, in light of that, I will go ahead and divulge my list of thanks:

First and foremost, and the most obvious and important circumstance to give thanks for: Jesus, sweet Jesus who gave his life that I may have eternal life

My incredible husband who has committed his life to mine and who is a prayer warrior, a people-lover, and a Christ-follower. For his love for me that is only surpassed by his love for Jesus.

My family and dear friends who have held up my arms in battle, who have taught me to love, laugh, try, try again, sing, dance, dream, and pray.

My college education and the beautiful campus that I roamed for four years. For Lever 9A4, The 'Houn and its drama, the Ridge and its beautiful residents. For purple and white scrubs that were completely see-through when it rained. For the 1-2-3-4 and cadence count. For the most exciting 25 seconds of college football. For the Pleez-u and Palms. For tea time. For FCA and doing two loads of laundry in hopes of a spectacular outfit. For Hilton Head and the bridge run. For bunk beds and cake cookies. For monthly CDs of the soundtrack of our lives. For Ancheaux and lying on the floor to recover. For Target runs. For giant paper mache eggs. For purple and orange being dominant colors in my wardrobe.

Christmas and everything in that sparkly, jolly package.

Jeans. Because I don't know anyone who looks bad in them.

My sweet little Muffin doggie and the 20 years she spent with us.

Americaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

Chocolate. 'Nuff said.

Sweatpants. You know you love 'em.

Good books that make you forget time and space and just melt into their pages.

Marriage. Mine, and yours.

Ice water. every day. everywhere. It comes with me.

Stella Dijon the Avalon.

St. Andrews and Catch the Fire. Because God has used them both instrumentally in my life.

For Martha. :) (Guilty pleasure.)

I know there's more than this on my list, but I'm getting a little crispy around the edges, so I think it's time to wrap it up. I'm thankful. For you, and you, and you, and you.

For Thanksgiving dinner! Hooray!

11.18.2009

Can't stop a movin' train

Today is Noah's birthday. He's 25. Yup, we're all two-ish years apart, with Jessica being almost-but-not-quite five years older than me and Noah being one year, 363 days older than me. I came home from the hospital on Noah's birthday. Not sure if a kid sister stealing the limelight of cute, squishy babyhood is the best birthday present, but I don't think he really had a choice. So today marks the anniversary of Noah's arrival on this planet (well, you know what I mean) 25 years ago. He is the best brother I've ever had and he is hilarious and very smart, always talking politics and history (sounds like someone else I know, mmmDaddy-o??). One of the reasons why I think he's the best. The hilarity never stops. We always peek at each other during the blessing at supper time. And then, in true big-brother form, Noah tells on me. I think Jesus is okay with it. I think He thinks it's funny, too. ;) Noah and Melody are fa', fa' away in New York City, fighting the good fight of crowds and tourists and subway trains and H1N1. I miss them very much. Three cheers for Noah, on his birthday!

This past weekend was Graham and Joanna Ashe's wedding--and a gorgeous wedding it was! They couldn't have asked for more perfect weather, 70 degrees and sunny, on the side of a mountain at sunset, no less. It really was a miracle--hurricane Ida cast a dark shadow on the week prior, so it was definitely good timing--God timing! Joanna was a beautiful bride and Graham a dashing groom--we can't wait 'til they get home so we can hang out! Side note, Andrew and I have been married for five months. FIVE. Count 'em. Where does the time go?

As you all know Monday was my birthday and I was showered with love and kisses and presents and cards and phone calls and texts all day and I got to buy Christmas decorations from Lowes and HomeGoods. It was almost too much joy and happiness for one poor soul to bear! Andrew and I went to the Melting Pot for a fondue birthday dinner--so. amazingly. drippy. and goooooood. We were stuffed like a coupla mushrooms. Apparently, the Swedes and the French have an on-going battle as to who "invented" fondue. They would. The Melting Pot is an interesting establishment--it's built like some kind of labyrinth with twists and turns and nooks and crannies, ("crannies??", says you), and private booths with privacy curtains. S-K-E-T-C-H-Y is all I have to say about that. Needless to say, Andrew and I did not pull the privacy curtain. We're not shy about eating fondue in public. All shady dealings aside, the food was quite delectable.

This weekend we'll be staying home, thank goodness, catching up on some QT, R&R, TLC and other acronyms. We've got a pig roast birthday party (not for me, for Michael and Grace) scheduled for Saturday evening with some friends from church and their UNC alumni pals. Sunday after church I'm going with some girls to see New Moon--don't knock it 'til you've tried it. I said the saaaame thing, "vampires? You're kidding, right?" But I read all of the books. All of 'em. In like three weeks, or as soon as I could beg, borrow, or steal the next book from my friends. Don't judge a book by its cover. Literally.

I would like to end this post with a joke that my cousin-in-law, Grant, told Barrett over the weekend: "Doctor, Doctor, can I have a new butt? Mine has a crack in it."

I don't write 'em, I just report the facts. That's it and that's all, folks. To bed, to bed.

The years go by/like stones under rushing water/ we only know/we only know when its gone.

11.16.2009

Twenty-three

I think I can safely say that my childhood has come softly and complacently to a close. Like a baby-sitter sneaking out of the room of a child they just ever so gently lulled to sleep, there it goes. Today on my 23rd birthday, I turned. Turned from 22 to 23. But really I think the moment you are one age, you begin to turn the next. So tomorrow, I will be turning 24. And the next day and the next until the day of my birth comes again. Not being a child doesn't mean I won't delight in Christmas, sleep in late, eat ice cream for dinner, love red skittles the best, or get excited about new tennis shoes--don't sign me up for shuffle board and the early-bird special just yet. Age is inevitable--maturity is optional; and youth is a state of mind, says my whipper-snapper of a father. And indeed it is.

One year, I think my five-year old birthday party, I had a "kitty-cat" birthday party. Cats. Everywhere. Cat cupcakes, cat plates, cat food (juuuust kidding), cat costumes. We had it all. Meeeeooowww. I think in 4th or 5th grade I had a princess birthday party, where everyone came in dress-up clothes and my dad made cut-out cardboard crowns and my friends and I colored in the "jewels". My mother served tea and crumpets and tiny sandwiches and other small, dainty, royal foods. At sweet 16 my mother threw me a huge surprise party with all of my friends from school and church--believe me I was surprised; I almost had a stroke when they all screamed from the dark. When I turned 18 I decided to have a Christmas themed birthday party, (you're shocked, aren't you?), and my parents dressed up as Santa and Mrs. Claus. Jessica and Melody were elves. Very cute elves, at that. At 19 I discovered designer jeans and when I turned 21 I discovered Budweiser Select. That, and my friends threw me a totally amazing surprise Christmas birthday party, (shocker again, right?), that I loved. Right down to the non-traditional "Christmas tree" (a small pine tree the boys chopped down in the woods) to the spray-on snow around the windows in our Ridge apartment (that we practically had to scrape off). At 10 you hit "double digits". At 13 you're a rotten teenager. At 15 you get your permit and your parents warn people to stay off the roads; at 16 your full license gives you freeeeedom--at least until your midnight curfew. Turn 18 and you're a voting adult. 20 you're in your "twenties". At 21 you're legal. At 23, apparently you get a husband. Yeeeehaw, I like 23!

I'm excited about my 23rd year of life. I'm thankful for it. I've got my health. I've got food, clothing, shelter. I've got family and friends that I love so much I just want to squeeze them all every time I see them. I've got a closer-than-a-brother, stickin'-like-glue, where-you-go-I-go relationship with JESUS, (woah, he's like totally famous). And I've got a song in my heart and a smile on my lips. And that, my friends, is more than a girl could ever ask for.

Amen, and amen.

11.12.2009

Hurricane a-comin'

Ida has been sloshing over the middle of North Carolina for a few days now. The local meteorologist has been squawking about the wind and rain, and Rick Sanchez' "Fotos del Dia" showed a huge mudslide in Tennessee with boulders the size of pickup trucks. Yikes. Not to mention it's 48 degrees out. "Ida" sworn I left hurricanes behind when I left Charleston...sneaky storm. Raincoats and umbrellas are useless in weather like this: your lower half gets totally drenched by horizontal rain and your umbrella gets completely turned inside out by upward gusting wind. It's best just to call in sick. Stay in bed. or at least in your pajamas.

I cracked. I crumbled. I caved. I decorated. Well, I decorated as much as I could. No tree as of yet because, let's face it--it's still the beginning of November--but I put up a few strands of lights, busted out the green velvet lined table runner, threw down a red and white plaid kitchen rug and broke out the grey and red snowflake dishtowels. And I made some pine cone ornaments. All while Ida was hammering against my windows. First, I cleaned though. My mama didn't raise no fool--clean first, decorate second. That way when people are marveling at your clever, homemade, uniquely "you" decorations, they won't be totally grossed out and put off by a layer of grime stealing the show from the holly you hauled out. Clean the halls, then deck them.

The things that I love about Christmas are the things that, as a little kid, I looked forward to every year. Things eventually dubbed "traditions". Traditions are things that we hand down, from our parents to our children and their children. When we were kids we used to drive 45 minutes to McClellanville to the Saw-Dam Christmas Tree Farm, (which, of course, we thought was soooo risque because it almost had a curse word), to cut down our very own real live Christmas tree. We would get all bundled up, get old blankets, The Christmas music tape (yes, tape), and pile into the van, sometimes bringing our little Muffin girl with us. It was seriously the loooongessssst caaaaar rriiiiiiiide everrrrrrrr to get there and once we did, we still had to walk to where we'd pick out our saws before we could run (not with the saws, of course) through the rows upon rows of Christmas trees, measuring as only children can, the height, girth, fullness, and that special je ne sais quoi of our Christmas tree. And then, the three of us, Jessica, Noah and MaryGene, would skip around our tree singing "We want this one; yes we do! We want this one; how 'bout you!" It was less of a question to passersby, "Would you like this tree, or can we have it?", and more of a "THIS IS IT!" declaration to the world of Christmas tree buyers. Original, huh? Nevertheless, it became a tradition that we repeated every year. We hadn't really picked our tree if we hadn't sung the song. We would take turns sawing and then carry our tree to the front of the farm where they would put it on this jack-hammer-like machine that would shake all of the loose needles out of it, then send it through the netting loop and put it in the car. Those were the days. These are the days.

This weekend we're heading to Hendo for Graham and Joanna's wedding on Saturday! I can hardly believe it--it seems like a few days ago when we just moved here saying, "three and half months? Oh, that will fly by." And it has! We're praying for clear weather, not too cold, and beautiful fall leaves still on the trees. We're praying for peace, joy, and blessing upon blessing on their wedding day. It's amazing to me that whether or not God is invited into a wedding ceremony, he always shows--because marriage is something he designed and likened to himself. Whether you believe or not, there is a paradigm shift that every culture recognizes as spiritual. I really think that marriage is one of the "good things" that can happen to a person that will bring them closer to God, instead of having a crisis moment when they turn to God for a bail out. Sorry. Let me take off my Aristotle cap. So, annnnyway. We're excited about this weekend.

And now, I have to cook supper. See ya later, alligators.

11.10.2009

I wear long sleeved shirts under short sleeved shirts under long sleeved shirts

Because lately I've been vacillating between depression over not having a place to hang my stethoscope and joy because God is, in fact, in control--after a quagmire of phone calls, emails, compulsively clicking "renew" on my job application accounts--I turn to Christmas to fill the void. Not in a sadly misguided eat-your-feelings kind of filling of the void, but when times get tough, tinsel can help.

So, I went to Barnes & Noble and Pottery Barn today. For four hours. Gasp! I read approximately nine children's Christmas books, Polar Express and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas included. Everything in me wanted to purchase a $4.95 Holiday tote bag and fill it chock full of books with titles boldly proclaiming that good always triumphs over evil and there is always a moral of the story and strangers will help pay for Christmas shoes for Mama. The bad news is that that's not possible. Bad things happen to good people. Hard work doesn't always return what you expect. But. I'm so thankful there's a but. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him...Romans 8:28. God is working. For me. For my good. His sleeves are rolled up and His brow is glistening with sweat. Good to know.

Pottery Barn miiiight possibly be my second favorite I-have-nothing-to-do-so-I'll-go-poke-around stores (Barnes & Noble being the first favorite). And they've recently turned over the floor to Christmas decor. That rhymes. Anyhow, right now their enchanting motifs make me want to turn klepto and line my pockets with hand blown ornaments, silvered wine stoppers, and cinnamon potpourri. Mmmm, five-finger discount. I've tamped down the urge, so you won't see my mug shot anytime soon, but I may have to decorate my apartment for Christmas before Thanksgiving. Would that be such a horrible thing? No. No, I don't think so. I did use a gift card from our June nuptials and I bought this (gorgeous green) and this (the smallest one) on sale! Both can be Christmas-y and both can be used during other seasons. Score! Thank you gift card giver!

IIIIII'm dreaming/of a [cheaaaaaaap] Christmas....that's why I'm going to use the leftover nuts from my nut wreath for ornaments. A little glue and a little twine and you've got a super cheap organic ornament! I'm thinking about pine cones as well. And glitter. I got all of my Christmas ornaments out today--all seven of them--and realized that this may not be the Christmas of a carefully collected, preciously ornamented tree. It might just have to be a graceful Fraser fur of nuts, pine cones, ribbon, crocheted snowflakes and white lights. Who knows, maybe I'll get sassy and throw in a red and green construction paper chain.

Wanna know a secret? (This is a non-noel bit of news.) Don't tell anyone, but I've started using vitamin and anti-oxidant rich, anti-aging Olay Total Effects face lotion plus SPF 15. I know--you're thinking, "anti-aging? What, are you trying to look like an infant?", but all we hear about these days is preventative medicine. Prevent: -verb- to keep from occurring, avert, hinder. to act ahead of; forestall. I'd rather layer on the lotion now than inject botulinum toxins into my crows feet later. Yeah! Other age interrupters? Sleep and exercise. Juuuust what you wanted to hear. ;)

As for the title of this posting, I have no excuse. It just popped into my head and came out through my finger tips.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow: Stephanie Ashmore and Ryan Lee = engaged!

11.07.2009

My apologies for all of the nut jokes in this post

I wonder what Martha Stewart's middle name is. Maybe Nancy. Martha Nancy Stewart. Beatrice? Martha Beatrice Stewart. Yolanda? Martha Yolanda Stewart. Definitely Yolanda. I wonder why she didn't go by Martha-Yo (bahaha).

So, in Martha-Yo's November issue of M.[Y.]S. Living there were a few crafty craft ideas involving wreaths. Being as I'm still unemployed I thought, "I'd be nuts not to make this wreath!". And I think you would be, too. It's super simple and returns a very sweet, unexpected, home-made decoration that will quite easily float you from Thanksgiving to Christmas without having to lift a finely manicured finger. Here's how!


Assemble your supplies. You'll need a wreath form*, mixed nuts--from your local Nut-House (or Harris Teeter), a long ribbon (in the magazine Martha-Yo uses about a three inch sable brown satin ribbon, but I used a two inch cream grosgrain ribbon because I already had it), a hot glue gun, and spray matte lacquer. Make sure you put something down on whatever surface you're working on--you will have drips. *Note: Remember that your wreath will be quite weighty with all of the nuts on it, so don't be too ambitious with the diameter of the wreath form. I thought, "Aw, nuts, mine might be too small!", but it turned out to be just right.


Begin hot gluing the nuts to the wreath form. Use the larger nuts first, like pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and use the smaller nuts (almonds and hazelnuts) to "fill in". Glue them every-which-way to get a really full look, making sure the wreath form can't been seen through the nuts. You can even use acorns if you've got oak trees in your area. Fo' Free!

Optional--you can spray a matte lacquer finish on to make sure that the nuts don't go bad--I'm not really sure if they would or if they do, but just to be on the safe side. Tie on your ribbon, and voila! A nut wreath. You can tie the ribbon in a sailor knot, a bow on the bottom, the top, or the side, or even just use the ribbon as the hanger for the wreath from the top. Here's the finished product: I'm just nutty for this nut wreath!

11.03.2009

It's a topsy-turvy world, but somebody's got to write about it

I just got back from a jaunt around the neighborhood and it has occurred to me that there's this one nagging thing about taking walks outside that presents itself as a thorn in my be-Niked side: walkers passing walkers.

Bike riders and runners have an unspoken agreement that permits them to yell "LEFT!" whenever they're passing someone, but walkers--no. They've got nothing but an awkward, startling moment when they see someone walking directly beside them. I'm obviously not talking about walkers passing other walkers going in opposite directions--no, that's never a problem. The only issue there is when to make eye contact and how long to hold it, but that's a different blog post for a different day. When one is on a walking path, trying to power through the Reece's cups she ate the previous day (this happened to a friend of mine) and she spies another walker up ahead walking in the same direction, but slightly slower than her briskly stepping self, she is between a rock and a hard place: She can't yell out "LEFT!", completely startling her walking neighbor and then walk awkwardly right next to them for the longest half-second in history, if at a slightly quicker pace. Pretending to be a runner would be a complete farce, if only for the huffing and puffing and clutching her side as she cramps up. It's a lose-lose situation. So, what does she (I) do? Just try to walk as quickly as she possibly can without looking like she has some neurological problem past the other person, saying hello (which totally scares the bejeezus out of most people anyway) and pressing onward. Oh, the perils of suburbia.

Andrew and I have been wanting to start swimming together for exercise, just for a change of scenery and to get back into the greatest sport ever made. Both of UNC's pools are currently under construction, so they've contracted out with two of the local rec departments to allow students to use the pools for free. Yesterday morning, we went to "Homestead Aquatics" to dip our toes in the lap pool and see just how out of shape we really were. First of all, Homestead Aquatics sounds like a place that sells cattle and fish tanks. Secondly, I did not want to put on my cherry-red TYR unitard for everyone to stare at my undulating hind-quarters as I made my way from the locker room to the pool deck. I did make it to the pool alive and relatively unscathed, until I realized that my husband had traded places with Michael Phelps and left me in the dust--er, bubbles. Andrew had this whole plan of "sets" and "drills" and "warm-ups" and all these things that made me just want to sink underwater and have a tea party at the bottom of the pool. At the end of our workout, however, I did feel really good--swimming really is the best exercise there is. We're going to try, try, try to swim at least twice a week, if not three times. And maybe the unitard might not be such a scary thing. Best laid plans of mice and men. We shall see!

In my next blog post (or one coming up) I will be making a nut wreath. Chew on that.

11.01.2009

Price tag: a thousand words


You can't see the blue tights, blue crocs and snow boots in this photo, but it's the best we've got. Moo. or Snort. Whatever oxes (oxenisn?) do.

Find a tree and put it in your house

November First. First November, then December! Today, is el Dia de los Muertos for Latin America--the Day of the Dead, literally--a day to remember and honor friends and loved ones that have passed away. You can find out more information about this holy day of our Hispanic neighbors to the south here. What a mosaic world we live in.

So, Andrew and I have re-discovered a favorite family past time: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Yep, Jane Seymour, Gerber baby extraordinaire, has found her way back to our TV screen and back into our hearts. Let me just say--although no one is quite as smokin' hot as my one and only--Sully. is. fiiiiiine. He lives with the Indians. Basically, if you've never let your imagination go with this family-friendly TV series, you're missing out. It's set in Colorado Springs in the 1800s (think General Custer, Civil War era, etc.) and Dr. Michaela Quinn is an unmarried, female physician that moves to this quaint little settlement to be the town doctor. Of course, the drama unfolds because she's a woman, she's alone, she's a high falutin Bostonian--you get the picture. In the pilot episode, she is bequeathed three children (Matthew, Colleen, and Brian) by a woman on her deathbed, and of course, Sully, the Indian outlaw, begins to notice her and romance blooms, unbeknownst to them. There's medical drama, cowboys and Indians drama, love drama--it's just great! Way better than the OC or One Tree Hill or any other mindless "drama" series today. All's I'm sayin'.

Saturday morning, we drove over to an area of Raleigh called South Park, a neighborhood rife with poverty, gang violence, prostitution, and heavy drug activity to participate in a "Love Feast", a name aptly given to this outpouring of our abundant resources--God's abundant resources--to the community there. We had hamburgers, hot dogs, cole slaw, potato salad, birthday cakes, chips, fruit, candy and more to serve up to the people who live in South Park. We took any extra winter clothes, blankets, shoes, etc. to give away to anyone who had need. We put our nerves behind us and prayed for anyone who would let us, and most were very willing to receive prayer. It was an interesting, awkward, fun, sad, uncomfortable, natural, heartbreaking, heavenly, faith-building experience, one that I hope, I pray will show up repeatedly in the timeline of my lifetime. It is the Church's responsibility to care for this poor, hurting, broken world. And we don't have to go to Africa to do it. It is my responsibility to feed, clothe, pray for the neighborhoods around me that are quite easily and readily (might I say, thankfully?) driven by, detoured around, shied away from. And in my limited, novice experience, I really believe that in these communities respect and trust come with consistency. A church cannot do a drive by at Christmas or Thanksgiving--these people are hungry and naked more than twice a year. Lord, put a burr under my saddle, that I may never feel okay not helping those who need it. Make me uncomfortable in my comfort, that I may be a laid down lover of Jesus Christ, and his little lost lambs.



Saturday evening was an entirely different scenario. It was Halloween, All Hallows Eve, (there's a connection to el Dia de los Muertos there), and Andrew and I went to a "costume optional" party at David Goodman's for mostly Summit Church people that had previously been helping out with their kids' Fall Festival type deal. So, anyway, some people were dressed up--and by dressed up I mean they wore jeans, a flannel shirt, and a cowboy hat--but Andrew and I were dressed up. In some languages, "dressed up" also translates to embarrassed, mortified, snickered at. We were Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Never mind that Babe, in fact, was male, let's just talk about the fact that I had viking horns glued to a blue kids' headband that made the clearance of my upper half about three times wider than it is naturally. Yeah, I stabbed a guy in the jugular with one of my horns trying to get something to drink. I also had a cowbell roughly the size of my head around my neck that actually made noise--lots of it. Eventually I took it off because, let's face it--it was hard to walk and could even be heard above the din of people playing NERTS or exclaiming over the hot cider. My poor, dear, sweetie-peetie-poo-poo Andrew was wearing a waffle shirt, a flannel shirt, Carhart pants, snow boots, and a beanie--not to mention the frying pan and hatchet! He was sweating like a dog, but totally looked the part. Hey, go big or go home, right? Do it right or don't do it at all, folks.

It just so happens that I pushed pause on this creative query into my weekend happenings and spent a moment in time with a precious sister and her lovely boyfriend: Lauren and Eric. They were just a-passing through, on their way back to Clemson, but wanted to stop for a quick hello and a bit of leftover Halloween candy. It is refreshing to see familiar faces--ones so dear, at that--in my neck of the woods. What a blessing.

A tree in my house: So, my tentative plan is to get a Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, the first weekend in December. I will say that usually I would like to get a tree on Thanksgiving weekend, but we'll be out of town visiting the fam. I'm just lettin' y'all know so no one loses sleep. Don't worry.

A praise report: I am ecstatic to announce the long awaited and much prayed for engagement of Jamie Blackwell to Kent Orr!!

10.28.2009

And one more thing before you go

It's Kelly Byrd's birthday. Her 23rd.

An Ode:

O, my high flying Kelly Byrd:
she flies on the heights of the written word

Her birth will forever be marvelous in my sight
For without her friendship my life would not be alright

She lives there, and I live here
O, but to live what some would call "near"

I hope that this day leaves her glad
For her 23rd year will certainly not be all that bad

That is, if I am within it more than without
Which will be--it must be!--without a doubt.

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday, dear Kelly Byrd
Happy Birthday to you!

Tha End.

10.27.2009

Snippets

Tonight I made Italian pork chops, via Jennigray Hewitt, via Giada de Laurentis. And I burned the first one, undercooked the second one, and the third and fourth ones ended up on our plates. Bottom line, no more pork chops.

Last night we made homemade vanilla frozen yogurt to go with our stewed apples (thanks, Beckie!) for a little fall treat. It was almost too much--really yummy with the hot apples and cold, creamy froyo, but almost too much. I'm not a crazy apple pie fan and we were kind of channeling apple pie. Something about all the sweet sticky goo. Hm.

I'm supposed to get a Gallup Survey from Duke in the next few days. Anxiety = 10. Giddy-yap.

Going to women's prayer tomorrow morning. Excitement = 10.

I went to Snappy Lube today to get my oil changed. Of course, they tried to swindle me, telling me that every fluid needed to be changed, my tires should have been rotated, I really needed a pine tree air freshener, and my car would explode in 24 hours if I did not give them a large bundle of cash and my first born to become a master mechanic and climb the corporate ladder to become Snappy Lube Executive President. I said no thank you; I will take my chances.

I made a list on Google documents of all the things I love about Christmas--I'm brainstorming about decorating ideas. So far, I think my favorite items are: white lights, bells, mistletoe, nativity scenes, cider, plaid, music. I'm debating whether or not I'm going to make a pledge to not listen to Christmas music until Thanksgiving-- but it's a toughy. The way I see it, Thanksgiving is basically the kick-off party to Christmas. I mean, why can't we be thankful for Christmas?? All that business about the Native Americans and Pilgrims trading corn is a bunch of hogwash. I'm pretty sure the Pilgrims wrote the history books. (Just check the title page: Obediah Heidelberg). Biased? I think so.

I hate folding laundry. And there's a big pile of it.

When our lease is up in February, Andrew and I are hoping to move A) closer to Chapel Hill, if not in Chapel Hill, B) to a house C) with a yard with a fence, D) with wood floors, E) within our budget.

I'm wearing a purple tank top from Urban Outfitters, a grey sweater from Target, Banana Republic jeans (from hiiiiigh schooool), and my fuzzy LL Bean slippers. And pearl earrings from my mutha-in-lowah.

My pumpkin (the striped one) is totally imploding. I wish you could see it. I might just post a picture. Andrew's is fine, of course.

I'm going to bed now. Buenas noches, amigos. Dios le bendiga.

10.25.2009

and the pictures to prove it.

Obviously, these photographs go with the previous post. And the painful truth is that they are mostly food.

On our way to the fair! We decided to bob for apples before we left just to get in the mood.


A serious snack.


Every. food. fried. Yes, that says deep fried cheeseburger.


The photographic evidence of a really good bad decision. Verdict: could have skipped the oreos, the Snickers was definitely worth it.


Carve Master Andrew.


There's always a better way with power tools.


Please excuse the fat arm syndrome. It must have been the Snickers.



The finished product now adorning our countertop for at least the next week.

Fall Breakin' it down

I've got two glorious pumpkins sitting on my counter. One with holes, one with stripes. And I've got Christmas lights on top of my cabinets. White ones that glow with the glow of a thousand Who's singing "Da Who Dores" a.k.a "Welcome Christmas" on Christmas morning. Yeah, you know exactly what I'm talkin' about. I love it so much!

This weekend was Andrew's fall break from UNC, which meant that he had a few extra days with no classes to catch up on grading lab reports. We were still able to have some serious fun, though. The first, was Thursday evening. We volunteered to take tickets at the UNC game as a fundraiser for Engineers Without Borders, although in true Andrew Armstrong style we were late. Outside forces were definitely to blame, however, because we had to get cash for the bus and then we had to fight traffic to get to the Friday Center where we parked. Because we were late we ended up ushering, not taking tickets. Usheringggg. Also known as standing for three and a half hours. We had to wear khaki pants and a white collared shirt--they could have just said dress like tools--so we already stood out amongst all the baby blue, garnet and gold. Then they hand us these GINORMOUS plastic rain coat looking jackets that say EVENT STAFF on the backs of them. The jackets might as well have been neoprene--they did not breath at all. Definitely can cancel my appointment with the endocrinologist because I'm positive my sweat glands are in good working order. UNC played FSU, the school from whence my father gained his undergraduate diploma in 1967 (I think), and lost. Yup, FSU won by a field goal after stinking up the field for the entire first half of the game. I think the Seminoles knew it was my dad's birthday, so they decided to win. Long story short, I did not enjoy my first Carolina football experience. But, we ended up going to Top of the Hill on Franklin Street after we left to watch the rest of the game on the big screen, so the night kind of redeemed itself. But we still looked like tools.

Friday, however was a much more glorious day. I did pretty much nothing all day (and by nothing, I mean nothing) and then we went to the North Carolina State Fair on Friday night! Fairs are known for their rides, food, animals, etc.--but most of all, they are known for the people that frequent their dusty, noisy grounds. And those people--you know the ones I'm talking about--were out in droves. I know everyone knows about this phenomenon, I just wonder if some people know that they, in fact, are the people everyone knows about. I'm talking mullets. I'm talking "Hell yeah, I'm American" paraphernalia. I'm talking jorts (jean shorts), tattoos, screaming babies, cigarettes, neon colored bras under sheer white tank tops, and more. Unicorn balloons. Airbrushed personalized clothing items. Cotton candy. Funnel cakes. Fried Snickers. Turkey legs. Infants to octogenarians, everyone was at the fair. Everyone who's anyone, really. All of this not to say that the Durham Armstrongs are exempt from that kind of hillbillyness--I wore my Frye boots, come on now!--but just to say that there are loads of interesting people at the fair. And being that Andrew and I are "people watchers", we saw lots of interesting people. With our jaws slack and our eyes glazed over from taking it all in, we wandered into the animal exhibitions: We saw the biggest horse I've ever seen in all of my days, we saw big fat pigs and their cute little oinking piglets, we saw goats, donkeys, baby chicks, cows, sheep--pretty much Old MacDonald and his farm. Side note, this little girl with a serious lisp was milking a goat for people to watch and answering questions--she was probably the cutest thing I've ever seen. And she was milking that goat like she was born to do it, yanking those teats like nothin' you've ever seen--it was mildly disturbing, but very impressive. Yes, I just said teats. Moving on. Confession...we ate fair food. Yes, I had a corn dog and Andrew had a Polish sausage and then we topped it off with a fried Snickers and fried Oreos. I know. I know. Paula Deen would have been proud. And yes, the treadmill is calling my name. All in all, a fabulous night. Many thanks to our dear friend Ann who got us in fo' free!

Yesterday, Saturday, we had plans to carve pumpkins and watch the Clemson game--and we did both of those things, but we had surprise visitors from Wake Forest come and join us! My old roomie Jess and her boyfriend Ryan were in the area and they came and watched the game with us--so good to catch up, laugh, and drink cider and eat sweet potato cookies and of course--cheer for the Tigers together! And cheer, we did! My heart was in my throat--I thought it was going to be a triple overtime repeat from four years ago. Whew! What a game. When Jess and Ryan left we carved our pumpkins into the glorious, if elementary, structures they are today. Not only did we carve them, we used power tools. Carving kits are for amateurs. :) While we were at Target getting our aforementioned pumpkins, I also picked up a few strands of Christmas lights from the very last aisle in the store that is just beginning to brim with the trimmings and trappings of Christmas. I have been looking forward to this for months.

Da who doooores, da who dore-es/Welcome Christmas, Christmas day!

10.20.2009

Holy Ghost fiiiiyaaaah shut up in my bones

It's Tuesday and we're back from a drizzly, frigid--yet altogether joyful--weekend in the Appalachian mountains. Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Bauman are blissfully honeymooning in Mexico after an action-packed, albeit damp and freezing, wedding weekend. Friday we scampered to the Blue Ridge mountains, procuring an embarrassing shuttle bus along the way, to a self-proclaimed "mini-resort" called the Sassy Goose where the wedding party and its accompanying dates, wives, children, etc. was being put up for the weekend. What followed was--from my perspective--a frenzy of golf, dinner for 47 at a Mexican restaurant, hiking Triple Falls in the rain, rehearsing, rehearsal lunching, crying, crying some more, jambalaya cookout for everyone and their neighbor, and then the crowning achievement, the wedding. With a cherry on top. And now, we are le tired. But it was a glorious, and successful weekend.

The day of the wedding, Sunday, dawned clear, crisp, and cold. Everyone made their way to Pretty Place Chapel at Camp Greenville, arms burdened heavily with blankets, to witness the miracle of new birth. Miracle? Yes. As Dr. Coffield (the officiant) simply explained, weddings are in fact, miracles. Two families enter the sanctuary and three families leave. He spoke of redemption in Andrew and Christy's lives and the power of the covenant of marriage: I will do my part even if you do not do yours. And isn't that what God says to us every day of our short lives? He says, MaryGene, I will do my part even if you don't do yours. I will speak to you, even if you don't speak to me. I will love you, if you don't love me. I will send my Son in your place, even if you don't ask for it. I will, I will, I will--even if you won't. Gosh, I love Him.

Last night Andrew and I ventured to our new favorite frozen yogurt place in Durham called "Local Yogurt". A place lovingly referred to as "Yocal Yogurt" because I can never say it right, it has just about any topping you could possibly desire on plain, chocolate or, a seasonal favorite, pumpkin yogurt. Last night I had chocolate with Snickers chunks. Mmmm mm. So yummy. And just a tad more guilt-free than ice-cream. Tonight, though, I made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, recipe courtesy of a one Summer Stipe, but I actually did not have pumpkin, so I used sweet potato. So, technically they're Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookies. But they have the same kind of feel, so it works.

This weekend is Andrew's fall break and we are so looking forward to a weekend at home. We might go to the UNC/Florida State game on Thursday, although I don't know who to "go" for. I will probably pull for Clemson. :) We've talked about going to the fair, although I don't think I have enough hand sanitizer in stock for that kind of germ-fest. That, and I grew out my mullet 20 years ago. I think pumpkin carving is in the mix of options as well, so that could be pretty spectacular.

Spectacular, spectacular!

Ok, I'm going to hang out with my husband. If I can tear him away from that blankety-blank lab report.

10.14.2009

Fuchsia lipstick and pumpkin soup

Today is just one of those days that make you want to find a good movie, brew a pot of tea, and put your sweatpants back on for the remainder of the afternoon. That's not exactly how my day is going, but I am trying to follow the line of best fit. Went to the bank this morning--we're in the process to get me on Andrew's bank account, finally. I'm chomping at the bit to get my license and social security card in the mail. Come onnn America, move it!

I know I've been writing a lot lately, but I just have to tell this story. On Monday night we went out to dinner with a friend of Andrew's from home and toward the end of our meal, a sharply dressed elderly lady came up to our table trying to peek out the window at the rain starting to fall and immediately struck up a conversation with us. We talked so long that eventually she sat down at our table, introducing herself as Donna Parker. Of course, the weather was the conversation opener, but by the end, we had a snapshot of her life from Binghamton, NY to Miami Beach, FL where she was a model during her younger years. I'm telling you, this lady, I'm sure, had a crazy life. If the word "whipper-snapper" doesn't cover it, I don't know what will. She imparted her wisdom on marriage to Andrew and me, imploring us to wait a few years to have children (no problem, there). She told us she loved to "rock", meaning she loved dancing and rock n' roll music, (before heavy metal, she specified). Eventually, she left to get her food and eat her supper, but as we were walking out, she caught us and asked for a ride (her apartment was just up the street, but it was raining) so of course we gave her one. Before we left, however, Tim asked her if we could pray for her--we did, and she said that it was the nicest thing that anyone has asked her in a long time. She noted that sometimes you have to be careful talking religion to people because some people get offended easily. But she was not offended. She was blessed. And I'm pretty sure she was an angel. I would not be surprised. Her pink lipstick, pearl earrings and twinkling amber eyes spoke of a lifetime of experiences and wisdom. I'm really hoping we run into her again sometime.

Something struck me about Donna Parker. She was alone, but she didn't feel the quintessential American pull to remain independent and self-sufficient. She struck up a conversation with strangers, telling her story--telling the world that "I, Donna Parker, was here and I have something of worth to say". I hope I can be like her when I'm older. This is not the first time I've been blown away by an elderly stranger. One of my first patients as a student nurse was a woman who worked in a grenade factory in North Charleston during one of the World Wars. The second was another patient of mine, a Holocaust survivor from Poland. She was in one of the concentration camps with the Nazis and showed me her number tattooed on her arm. She barely spoke English yet she conveyed to me the horror of living through something like that and then growing old in a modern America-- such a different life. In a world filled with "get some and then get some more", it's important to be brought back to the reality that it's people that matter, not things. Here's to you, Donna Parker.

A few side notes...that have nothing to do with old people...I just saw the trailer for Disney's A Christmas Carol annnd I'm really excited. Not only is this movie a Christmas classic, but it's going to be 3D! Oh my eggnog, Santa! It's coming out on November 6th, just in time for my 23rd birthday. I just can't wait to haul out the holly and deck the halls! Not to mention donning my gayest apparel!

I made pumpkin soup yesterday--yuuu-u-uum! Different taste--probably because I'm not used to eating pumpkin, really--but it was quite delectable. Here's the recipe...the skeleton of this recipe is from Martha Stewart Living, but I added quite a few other things to make it especially scrumptious. What can I say...I am my father's daughter!

2 cans pumpkin
1 1/2 cans vegetable stock
1 can cream of chicken and mushroom soup
1 pint heavy cream
1 onion, sliced and diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
dash nutmeg
dash ground cloves
big dash cinnamon
dash cayenne pepper*
salt and pepper to taste

First, in the bottom of a big pot cook olive oil, onion and garlic until soft and aromatic. Add remaining ingredients, stirring until mixed well. It's a good idea to wait to add the spices until you have a more soup like mixture, that way you can taste it as you go along and temper your amounts according to what your own sophisticated palate likes. :) Bring to a low boil, turn down to simmer and then remove from heat. Serve warm and breath deep. Mmmm.

*If you are cooking for kids or just don't like spicy, either go easy on the cayenne (a little goes a looong way) or just leave it out!

That's it and that's all. As Dances with Wolves would say, "tatonka".