Herbs and Easter

You've probably noticed that the aesthetics of this blog have periodically changed: a new thing here, an old thing gone, a different picture, things in a different order. It's kind of like tweaking the decor in a room in your house: switching this lamp for that lamp, getting a new picture frame, a new throw blanket, trading the armchair for the love-seat. It just keeps things interesting. :) Hope it doesn't bother you! It doesn't bother me! Change is good.

Holy Moses, where did February go?? Anyone seen it? Tomorrow is March 1st, and the *official* first day of Spring is right around the corner: Saturday, March 20th. I desperately want to trade my boots for flip-flops, my sweaters for tank tops. My current wardrobe is ever-so-tired. Isn't it awesome that God knew we would need seasons to keep from going stir-crazy (among other reasons)? So that things weren't the same ol' same ol' all the time? Ah, He's so smart. One thing I really want to do this Spring is grow fresh herbs on my porch. I hate buying fresh herbs at the grocery store--the bunches are always way too much and therefore more money than you want to spend on a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary or whatever. There was an awesome tiered terra-cotta planter in March's Martha Stewart Living, ("Tower of Herbs" p. 46), that I'm going to try to recreate. If it doesn't work, or it's too expensive or too large, I'll just plant in individual pots, like in the photo below. I want to plant thyme, rosemary, mint, basil, maybe oregano--and I'll see what else is out there. Parsley, perhaps. Maybe cilantro. Mmm, oh--to be a rabbit and nibble on herbs day in and day out.

Photo courtesy marthastewart.com

Speaking of rabbits, Easter is just two shakes away, as well: Sunday, April 4th. As I recall, one thing that was very important to me as a kid was to get an "Easter dress". I always loved getting an Easter dress, because I knew it would be just the most wonderful and beautiful new dress to wear to church on Easter Sunday. Of course, it was always a horrifying pastel or flowered something, with too-tight sleeves, and a propensity for only matching equally horrifying white shoes. And sometimes, if I were a lucky girl, there would be a wide-brimmed hat with a large silk flower hot-glued to the front. Usually, Jessica and Noah--when we were little enough that our outfits were still dictated by Mama--were wearing some version of the same: pastel, a floppy hat, camel-colored suede oxfords, and a handful of garden roses, newly shorn stems wrapped in a wet paper towel and crinkly tin foil. Oh, the agony and the ecstasy of Easter outfits. The church I grew up in always and forever has held Easter services outdoors in a big white tent at Boone Hall Plantation, right next to the softly sloping riverbank lined with moss-laden, sentinel oaks--a more beautiful sight you've never seen! During the service, the young children would venture to the front to find a wooden cross covered in chicken wire in order to secure bouquets of flowers in the holes--and by the end, a few plain four by fours would be bursting with blooms of all colors, sizes, and species. Deluge or sunshine, freezing or sweltering, no-see-ums or not--every Easter, there will always be a big white tent and a wooden cross to be adorned with flowers timidly brought forth by Easter's eager children. And there, amongst the oaks and the flowered cross, a few thousand or so of heaven's saints would sing praises to the One who changed everything. Amazing love, how could it be?/that you, my King, would die for me?

And so, without further ado, have a wonderful, restful Sunday evening.


Bob Marley's got nothin' on this girl

ttthree little birds ring ~ $65
freshwater pearls, 14k gold filled wire

I would like to take a moment to shed a little light on my dear friend--and tres talented artist-- Lauren Holmes. From her photography to her paintings, her jewelry to her pottery--this young woman's creations are unique, timeless, and juuuust right. Today, obviously, I want to show you her jewelry. Lauren started making jewelry in her teenage years, and like fine wine, has gotten even better with age. I own 2 pairs of her earrings, 3 rings, and 3 bracelets--and I've borowed about ten times that amount (one of the featured items is actually the necklace I'm wearing in my profile picture! Lovely, huh?). I definitely want more, especially after perusing her Etsy shop, Two Blue Stripes, which currently showcases 60 stunning, handmade pieces. Here are a few for your viewing pleasure (photographs are also Lauren's work):

handcrafted sweetgrass bangle from historic Charleston, SC ~ $68
faceted agate, coin freshwater pearl, sweetgrass, swarovski crystal, gold filled wire

rabbit hole necklace ~ $78
31" silver chain, coin freshwater pearl, swarovski crystal, ceramic rabbit

color wheel ring ~ $55
dyed freshwater pearls, 14k gold filled wire

horse busts earrings ~ $35
carved antique bone, swarovski crystal, gold filled bead, loop and findings
*hangs two and a half inches from the ear

coin pearl cluster necklace ~ $78

champagne coin pearls, swarovski crystal, aquamarine, sterling silver fish clasp, blue chalcedony

camel earrings ~ $30

carved jade, sterling silver loop, purple swarovski crystal, gold plated brass

turquoise strand necklace ~ $65

turquoise, swarovski crystal, silver plated beads, sterling silver clasp

If you're not reaching for your wallet or holding your hubby's face up to the computer mouthing the words "birthday", "anniversary", or "just cuz"...then I fear this is where our friendship ends. Just kidding. But if you're not convinced already, head over to Two Blue Stripes and see for yourself. The featured items are there with a few other shots of them at different angles, along with about 50 more amazing baubles. Trust me, you'll want to own a Lauren Holmes creation from "way back when". Oh, and if you're engaged, pregnant, have a newborn, need a family portrait, or just like to click links, check out her photography at http://www.laurenmathenyholmes.com/ --she just finished a few other projects, too, so check back to see some of her recent work.

And on top all of that, she's a really great friend. Love you, La! xx


Things of late

I just got back from a lovely rendezvous at Caribou Coffee with my dear friend Stephanie. So, so good to see her shiny, sweet face, (and her beautiful engagement bling!), if only for a brief cup o' tea. It was our beloved tea-time, but with 2/3ish of the members unaccounted for--so a bit bittersweet. Everybody's growing up, graduating, going to grad school, getting married, moving away. Hm. Life comes at you fast. Make sure you're wearing clean underwear.

So, I a few books ago, I read a book entitled The Help by Kathryn Stockett and it was very, very good and a definite recommended read from me, your very own, personal, stand-in librarian. Right now it's #2 on the NY Times Bestsellers list. And it deserves that spot, quite rightly. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s, The Help, is about the relationships and struggles between the white, punctilious (eh? eh?) "Junior Leaguer"-type women and their families and the black maids. The narrator and main character is Skeeter Phelan who incidentally wants to become a writer and is trying to make her big break by writing about the lives, experiences and stories of the black women who spend their lives cleaning up after the white women and raising their children. Hilarious, poignant, and thought provoking, this book will make you kiss your bedtime good-bye just to get to the next chapter. Read it. There will be a test.

This past week many Christians observed Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent, the 40 days (give or take a few) leading up to Easter Sunday. The 40 days are supposed to represent the 40 days Jesus spent being tempted by Satan in the desert. Traditionally, Lent is a period of time during which the Christian prepares him or herself for Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter) through prayer, self-denial, the giving of offerings, etc. Lots of people give things up like chocolate, caffeine, Facebook, etc. but it's important to remember that a Lenten resolve is not a New Year's resolution. Staying away from fried foods won't bring anyone closer to Jesus if we don't look to Him for help when it's hard and grace when we fail. The idea should be that whatever we give up or refrain from, our focus is on the Lord and how he was tempted in every way and never once faltered. Our hearts should be thankful that he was the perfect sacrifice to atone for our complete and total depravity and imperfection. My prayer is that we would all know our deep and serious need for the love of our Heavenly Father, the hope of and relationship with Jesus, and the sweet friendship of the Holy Spirit. Really, that is all He wants from us. More than He wants you to kick that nicotine habit, he wants you to know that He loves you! He really, really, really, really, really, really loves you. And that is why He was tempted and triumphed, and crucified and triumphed. Can I get an "Amen" up in herrrr'?

Welp, we're gearing up for 24 tonight. Is Dana Walsh as dumb-dumb as I think she is?? Are they going to find the nuclear rods??? Shuuuucks, I don't know!! Andrew is currently fiddling with some science project--materials: paint stirrers, rubber tubing, power drill. No idea. The dishwasher is running--albeit altogether too loudly--but it's running. We've had Sloppy Joes for dinner the last few nights--last week I made rubbery baked chicken and burned broccoli, (our whole apartment smelled like charred farts), so obviously you can imagine my enthusiasm to make up for that egregious fiasco of a meal.

True story.


Slubbin' it

Photo courtesy JCrew.com
Soooo, I'm kind of obsessed with this Faded Chambray button down from J.Crew. In fact, Merry Christmas to me, I bought it yesterday with a gift card from Santa, a.k.a Mama (sorry if I've just spoiled that for some of you). The golden rule behind this laid-back Spring/Summer staple is fit. Say it with me, folks: FIT! It's nicely tailored in all the right places so that even though it is a slouchy, slubby, comfortable shirt, it still gives you a feminine silhouette. I swore up and down that I would save my gift card for Spring, but this shirt is in J.Crew's first Spring line, so, technically....yeah. I splurged. But it's gonna be so cute with white pants, gold flip flops and a chunky necklace! Or a bright, patterned miniskirt! Or over a canary yellow bikini in the summer! Yay for Spring! I just can't wait. Don't worry, I will not be rocking a Canadian tuxedo or joining a reunited 80s hair band. I'll have none of that, please-and-thank-you.


The mash up

I've got about a billion things to write about. Let me give you an outline.

1. Armstrongs came to visit
--A. Valentine's Day
2. Shake n' BAKE
--A. Cowboy Cookies
3. The Olympics
--A. The travel bug
4. Going Green
--A. Seventh Generation/Martha Stewart Clean
5. Bing, bang wala-wala bing bang.

1. This past weekend the Armstrongs made the journey from Hendersonville to the Triangle, braving the sleet and snow, to visit us at our humble abode they helped us move into more than six months ago. Has is really been that long?? Sheesh. Not much has changed, however, other than my ever-changing switcheroos of plants, lamps, candles and other mobile decorative items. 'ey, lay off me, I like to change things up. ;) We went to the Barbecue Joint for supper with Beckie and Collin and surprise guests Graham, Joanna, and Price, after stuffing Graham and Joanna's moving truck and cars full of every last possession in their Durham apartment. We bade the Ashes 'adieu' and sent them on their way as a light snow began to dust our surroundings for the millionth time this winter. That evening, we watched Canada, with glowing hearts, welcome the rest of the world into its country for the 2010 Winter Olympic games. On Saturday, with Mike in from a business trip, we went to Big Ed's and met the Edmondsons for breakfast. After that we went to the mall where I found the best pair of interview pants in the world. (I think I'm going to get the job with these puppies on.) We went back to our apartment and decided to have what Beckie dubbed a "fitness event". Basically, we channelled the Coopers and all went to the gym to work up a sweat before relaxing the evening away with lasagna, blackberry cobbler and the women's moguls. After church and lunch at Pei Wei on Sunday morning, we said our good-byes. Until next time!

A. Isn't he just wonderful?!?! A man who brings flowers home the Friday before Valentine's Day. A rare gem.
2. Shake n' BAKE: no, these are not shake n' bake, break n' bake, boxed n' baked or any other kind of pre-made cookie. These. are home-made. They're called Cowboy Cookies and came to me via a redheaded nursing school friend of mine, Betsy. These are a belated birthday gift, but I'm 99% sure the recipient is not reading this blog, so it's okay that I've just blurted that out. These particular cookies have oats, chocolate chips, craisins, and pecans in them, but the original recipe calls for oats, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, raisins and pecans. Basically, you make an oatmeal cookie and then add whatever you want to it that sounds yummy, hearty, and cowboy-ish.

Here's the recipe:

MIX: 1 cup white sugar (or Splenda), 1 cup brown sugar, 2 sticks butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

ADD 2 eggs to the above mixture.

IN A SEPARATE BOWL sift together 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. ADD to sugar/butter/egg mixture.

ADD 2 cups oats, 1 pack (12oz) semisweet chocolate chips, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup butterscotch chips, 1 small bag chopped pecans.

BAKE at 350 degrees on greased baking sheet for 8-9 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to cooling rack (otherwise they are so soft and gooey that they will fall apart!)

There you have it. BRIEF ASIDE...The above recipe yields a TON of cookies--great for a bake sale, party, weekend camping trip with friends, etc. In the batch I just whipped up, I only made a half recipe and it gave me about 2 1/2 dozen big cookies. So, adjust accordingly.

ALSO--Once you've added the oats, the amounts and ingredients are basically up to you. Don't like raisins? Leave 'em out. Love white chocolate? Add some creamy chips to the mix. Rather have walnuts than pecans? Go for it. I will say, the original recipe also calls for 12oz of butterscotch chips (as in, equal amounts chocolate and butterscotch) and I found it to overwhelm the other flavors so I only added a cup. Play around with it! Just make sure you keep in mind your favorite cowboy as you lick the spoon or drop the dough onto the baking sheet. :)

PS: I definitely did not sample one of these hot and fresh out of the oven. And it was not very good. Which is why I'm not sad at all that we are sending them to someone else. Not at all.

3. The Olympics. Other than the amazing feats of athleticism, this years Olympic games make me want to go on a second honeymoon. To CANADA!!! Again. For those of you who don't know, Andrew and I were this close to going to Banff in British Columbia, but instead went to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on our week-long trip as newlyweds. The trip was amazing, but the beautiful vistas and snowy mountain tops on the TV are seriously giving us the travel itch. And, boy, do we want to scratch it.

4. Going green. So. I don't know if my proximity to Carrboro, my composting mother, or my California residing sibling is to blame for this, but I've decided to systematically, well, go green, for lack of a better term. No, I'm not going to stop shaving my armpits and exist on tofu and soybeans, but my first step towards assimilation into this emerald tinted life is to phase out my usual household cleaners and opt for more environmentally and well, human life friendly organic cleaners. So far, I've purchased Seventh Generation all-purpose wipes (the fume-free version of Clorox wipes), and Seventh Generation all-purpose cleaner (for more stubborn spots and stains in the bathroom and kitchen). I want to check out Martha Stewart Clean, too, (y'all know how much I love Martha!), but they only sell them at Home Depot and I just don't really go by there very often. But anyway, instead of taking all of our "old" cleaners to the hazardous waste drop-off, we've decided to use 'em up and then make a clean break towards a safer and healthier and cleaner home. Orrrrr, as soon as we can afford it, I will be taking them to the hazardous waste drop-off and totally switching. Basically, we've got no reason not to, and too many reasons to make the switch. I mean, why not? The prices are basically the same as other name-brand cleaners, and they are not every day purchases, so it's an easy switch. It's step one, really. In ten years, though, if I'm eating granola out of my pockets, wearing Birkenstocks and socks, and living in a cave, please, please stage an intervention. I will thank you kindly.

The wala-wala bing bang was just filler. Ta-ta!


She's got ruby red lips, blonde hair blue eyes, Lord I'm about to bid my heart good-byeeeeee

Law, it's been a month of Sunday's since my last post! Not really, it's just been a week. But, it's been a busy week! Sheesh! Let's see. I don't even know where to start. Today's Wednesday...Hm. Well, Friday I think we stayed home and hung out with each other. Cuz we're cool like that. But, Saturday--Saturday is the reason John Michael Montgomery's lyrics are titling this blog post. Saturday morning I was supposed to go to Ashleigh's wedding shower in Greenville, but the weather was freakin' out again--as it is in the habit of doing, as of late--so I ended up staying home. So, Saturday evening, we went to The Engineers Without Borders Symposium banquet, complete with cocktail attire, a silent auction, a live auction, a bonafide auctioneer, and tiny, unidentifiable hors d'oeuvres. The auction and dinner was obviously to raise money for EWB and to honor those individuals that have put their blood, sweat and tears into making EWB a success. Tables and tables of beautiful crafts and other items from all over the world were auctioned off, and also gift certificates and vouchers from local businesses. It was great to see all the nerds let loose without their lab coats and calculators, too. They just work too hard! ;) Anyway, the auctioneer's name was Charley. And he was very. serious. about. auctions. Very. The auction went something like this:

Well, folks we have here a one of a kind autographed basketball by Roy Williams and the entire UNC basketball team. Come on, don't pause--it's for a good cause!

Let's start at fiddy. Wouldja bid fiddy? Fiddy wouldja bid? Fiddy dollars up in the front--thanky, sir--Wouldja bid one hunert? Woulja bid one-hunert? one-hunert, one hunert, one hunert? Ma'am in the back--thanky ma'am! Wouldja bid one-fiddy? Wouldja bid one-fiddy? One-fiddy, one-fiddy, one-fiddy--it's for a good cause--one-fiddy, one--thanky sir! Wouldja give two-hunert, wouldja bid two hunert?...Alright, one-fiddy going once, one-fiddy going twice--SOLD! to the gentleman in the yellow bowtie!

And so on. And every time he said one-fiddy or whatever number, he would bounce on his toes in rhythm with the bidding. It was quite a sight. We didn't bid on anything because we're obviously in a more frugal season of life right now, but I just really wanted one of those ping-pong paddles with the numbers on it. Shucks.

So, Sunday was the SUPER BOWLLLL--Geaux Saints! I'm so glad they won. They deserved it. Sorry, Kelly. Sorry, Peyton. Better luck next time. I got into a cooking tizzy and decided to make meatballs and mocha silk pie--both from the P-Dub. She gots it right. I'm telling you, this pie is like WOAH. But here's my version:

The garnish: chopped baker's chocolate. Don't you just love it?! The paper and the stamp on the top makes it feel ol' fashioned to me. And there's my little piggy cutting board that my pops made. A little personality and just right for chopping veggies, fruit--and chocolate.

The crust: chopped pecans, chopped bakers chocolate, brown sugar, vanilla, instant coffee--and a little bit of maaaagic. Mmmm.

Our delicious super bowl meatball subs: with a little cheese, please!

So, there you have it. The last few days I've been babysitting precious little Elise and Will while Nanny Nancy has her baby. Love those kiddos. And Kelly was right. Your luck can change in Candy Land in the blink of an eye--and you'll find yourself canoodling in the Chocolate Swamp while the three year old next to you is frolicking in the Candy Kingdom at the finish line. Such is life. I hope my kids are as bright and energetic as they are some day. (I said, some day. Meaning, a far, far away day in the distant future....riiiight?? Right. Right? Riiiight.)

In other news, I shadowed on the Surgical ICU at UNC Hospital yesterday morning. I know--shadowed. Like I don't know what it's like to be a nurse in a hospital. BUT, it was good to finally go in UNC and see what it's like and get to know some people, aka The Management. I can has a job? Pretty please?? So, anyway, things are in the works and I can feel the Lord oiling the rusty joints on this thing, setting things in motion. And I am thankful. Thankful that God is in control, and not me. Because if I was in control, I might have lost it a long time ago.

So, tonight we've got ignite group, tomorrow hopefully hanging out with Graham and Joanna before they head on to Iowa (gulp. Sad day!), and then the in-laws are a-comin' to town this weekend. Should be a bang up time.

Until then, adios amigos!


A few recent revelations:

1. I always get the grocery cart with the squeaky/epileptic wheel. Always.

2. When I am shopping by myself, (which, these days, is more often than not), I verbally process my loves/likes/dislikes/horror-at-the-price-tag-sticker-shock. Out loud. Meaninggggg I talk to myself. While I'm shopping. In public.

3. I have watched more CNN in the last eight months than a regular person should. I think a healthy balance of in-the-know and out-of-the-loop is the norm. Right now I am in the know. I am so. in. theknow.

4. I love snow day number one. Snow days following? Notsomuch. I thought I would love living in NC with all four seasons present and accounted for, and I do--but I also love 70 degrees from October to April and 9o degrees otherwise. Makes for a much simpler wardrobe.

5. Please watch this.

That is all.


Just say no. To snow.

I gotta be real for just a second. The snow was awesome the first day. Still very pretty the second day, even though it cancelled our church meeting. But today, it's annoying. And helloooo road worker people--you can't just scrape the interstates and not the roads that lead to the interstates. That's just all around bad form. Good thing Stella is a beast and we made it to and from the grocery store without incident today. Granted, I was going approximately seven and a half miles an hour, much to the chagrin of the fancy pants Lexus behind me. Hold your horses, lady. I didn't back my seat up four inches to prevent major facial damage from my airbag in the event of a slip n' slide just to have you ride my tail like you've got somewhere to be. Chiiill, Winston. (Name that movie!) Anyway, before the driving in slush adventure, I had to make like a Yankee and scrape the glacier off my car. With one, little, half broken ice scraper. I had to get it off the front windshield (obviously to see where I'm going) and the back windshield to see where I've been. JK--heh-heh, no-- I had to back out of my precariously tight parking space between two gas guzzlin' SUVs. [Gulp]. One little fish-tail to either side and the owner of the white Tahoe or the red Expedition was going to have a nice new dent. Whoops. Not my fault? Annnnyway, I wish I had taken a picture of the continental shelf that was melting ever-so-slightly atop my vehicle. It would have lent to a more humorous mental picture of MaryGene's Snow Demolition Project 2010. Basically, the snow on the top was a little melted and stuck together so I could chisel out large pieces, (much like the breaking off of our glaciers and polar ice caps), and push them off of the edge of the car, but the snow underneath was still powdery so I had to methodically scrape the second layer of powder off without getting it all over myself. Which did not work. Passersby probably thought I was playing in the snow instead of trying to get into my car. Fail. All in all it took about 30 minutes which was way too long in my book. But Rome wasn't built in a day (or was it?) and you can't snap your fingers after a snow day and summon Spring at a moment's notice.

Too bad you can't. I'm ready for fresh flowers on the table, sandals and toe nail polish, and having a low/no heating/air conditioning bill. I always do this, though: get a hankering for the next season when we're still in the middle of the current season. In an effort to speed things up, I painted my nails ElePhantastic Pink yesterday (thanks, Lauren!). I don't think it's working. Shucks. Sorry, Mother Nature. Didn't mean to rush you.

Tonight, we're having Pioneer Woman's Cajun Chicken Pasta. Go ahead. Be jealous. Or come to dinner. Either one.

Love ya! ;)