Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sixty-three words for Mom'

Mom & Dad when they were dating.
They were high school sweethearts.
I didn't become The Luckiest Girl in the World by accident. My mom, SandiPaints , is a huge part of the reason I am that girl today. If I had access to every word in the English lexicon, they would fall desperately short of encapsulating the amazing woman that is my mother. She is the kindest, most thoughtful, genuine, loving, reliable, creative, positive, strongest person I know.

Mom and me
when we were very young.

That having been said, I'm going to give myself a limit of sixty-three words (for no particular reason whatsoever...nudge, nudge...wink, wink...) and give it a shot. It won't be enough, but a girl's gotta try, right?

Happy Birthday, Mom!  I love you.

Here's to you, Mom! Cheers!
You rock at your job!
Brilliant artist.
Strongest woman.
Defends family like a mother lion against all attackers.
I've seen it. I will never forget it! Ever.
Spent her twentieth anniversary in the hospital with me.
Wouldn't have been anywhere else.
Flew cross country with a cracked tailbone to be with Baby Sis as she birthed Baby Boy.
Wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Baby Sis, Baby Boy, and Grandma Sandi 
Check out these other birthday greetings: 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Baby Boy Is One Today

One bright Spring afternoon not so very long ago, Baby Sister called to say she thought she might have a bun in the oven, but she wasn't sure. She was nervous, and anxious to find out, but didn't want to know definitely just yet. Excited and terrified, she thought the best time to take the test would be on Mother's Day.  She thought it would make a great Mother's Day gift for our mom and Hubs' mom, too, if she was, indeed, in the family way.  I told her I thought she was certifiable.

On Mother's Day morning, I pulled into the driveway of Ragg Mountain Retreat and, as I got out of the car, heard Mom and Dad on the phone with Baby Sis saying, "Oh, Jenn, this is wonderful! You are going to do fine..." I got out of the car and knew immediately.  I yelled, "Jenn is pregnant?" I still can't believe it. Dad thought I knew already. He thought we had talked at the bottom of the mountain and timed her call. I wish we had. I would have totally taken credit for it, but it was all her. She just happened to call at the right time with the right news. And all of our lives were changed forever. For the better.

Months passed.  The Christmas holidays came. Our plan was to put Mom on a plane to Seattle and to have her out there in time to spend her own birthday , December 30th, with Baby Sis and be there whenever Baby Boy decided to grace us with his presence.

Then the call came. Early. On Christmas Day Night.  Her water had broken. She was headed to the hospital. I gave her my "Talking You Down Off the Hospital Ledge" speech, and then we set about (with the help of our dear friend, Tiger) getting Mom on an earlier flight. Success! Tiger is really good.

Mom boarded a plane in the morning and was in Seattle by the evening of the 26th. Who knew labor could take so damn long?

"Not I," says the childless one.

We waited...
   And waited...
     And waited...

Finally, on the morning of December 27th Mom called. Crying. "He's here. He's beautiful. She did so well. He's so beautiful..." More crying.

Calls to everyone. Text messages.  Facebook posts. More crying. Then the photos. More photos. More crying. So much happy crying. (Crying as I write this and remember.)

How could all of that have happened a year ago? How could Baby Boy be One today? How could he have spent three hundred sixty-five whole days actually out here in the world with us? How could Baby Sis, my Baby Sis have been a real-live mom, and an amazing one at that, for three hundred sixty-five whole days? Where did the time go?

I was just in Seattle for his three-month birthday and he was Burrito Boy, all snuggly, sleeping in my arms for hours at a time.

They were just in Tampa where he had his first swim, sat up, started crawling, and experienced his (and my) first "motorboat" to the delight of his captive audience.

Now he says, "Hi!" He feeds himself. He walks! He walks?!?!!

Baby Boy is one year old today, and Auntie Q feels like she is the one who has been given the gift. The gift of this precious, sweet, amazing little boy to love.

Thank you, Baby Sis, for making The Luckiest Girl in the World feel even more lucky than she already did. I didn't know it was possible, until you made it happen. I love you more than you will ever know.

Happy Birthday, Baby Boy! Auntie Q loves you beyond words.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tradition. Tradition...Tradition!

Fire crackling.
Cocktails tinkling.
Light twinkling.
Singing along with Mr. Hanky and the cast of South Park to the most irreverent holiday songs imaginable.
Laughing until we cry.
Christmas Eve at our house.

Ketchup With Us #8

Michele and Mel are all about tradition this time, and they wanted to hear about ours, in fifty-seven words, of course.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A baker, I am not...

Wanted to make a perfect pie.
Bought a frozen crust, not overestimating my skills.
Remove pie shell from container. 
Place on baking sheet. 
Remove from "container"? 
Perfect pizza crust.

This was my response to the folks over at Trifecta who posed this challenge.
This weekend we're asking you to write 33 words that will make us laugh or smile. Even a chuckle will do. We look forward to the communal spirit lifting. Good luck!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Betty Foolishness - El Guapo's Birthday Edition

Guess who's having a birthday today?  That's right kids our glorious El Guapo celebrates the anniversary of his entry into the earth today and this Betty is ready to celebrate with him!  It being the sixth day of the twelfth month, I have decided to honor El Guapo with seventy-two words (not including these) in celebration of his Guapy goodness! (Did you notice I did math there?  Be impressed.  Seriously.  I did multiplication for Guap's birthday.  That never happens.  I am as math-challenged as they get.  This is a big deal!  But I digress...)

Mi Amigo, El Guapo
The Tweeting Trifectan tantalizing, taunting, teasing with tidbits from his kitchen each weekend during the #SundayNightCookoff.
The audio afficionado, adapting, amplifying, availing himself of every opportunity to broaden his musical horizons and share what he has learned.
The enthusiastic energizer, encouraging, inspiring, entreating others to follow their dreams and keep going when they are ready to quit.
My adventure-seeking, mischief-making, beer-drinking, skillet-wielding, word-smithing, hooper-loving friend, Guap.

What should Guap and Betty's new cooking show be called? free polls 

That brings us to the end of this edition of Betty Foolishness.  I leave you with two of The Greats in the hope that one day, in their spirit, I might share the kitchen with The Great El Guapo, himself.  Until then, long live the #SundayNightCookoff!

Happy Birthday, Guap!  Hope you and The Most Wonderful Girl in the World have a wonderful weekend!  Thanks for making our world a better place just by being in it!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ketchup With Us #7 Drunken Cranberry Sauce




If you have seen Dad's Ketchup With Us Link, then you know about the peas that he and I  love at the holidays.  But he also reminded me of our new favorite holiday recipe: Drunken Cranberry Sauce.  The idea for this recipe is the one good thing that came out of Marriage Number Two.  There should always be something, right?  This recipe just keeps getting better every time we make it.  It is very free-form, so add or subtract anything you wish.  I change it every time.  

Drunken Cranberry Sauce - kids should eat something else
(Make two days before serving so the flavors have time to mingle)

Two bags of fresh cranberries
Two to three cups of sugar
Half the amount of water that you use of sugar *This is important because you are going to add a lot of liquid with the booze later and you don't want it to be runny.  Add more sugar, if you need to in order to thicken it while it is still on the stove.*
One or two large cans of mandarin oranges - pour off the juice (you can use fresh, if you can find them)
Apricots or peaches diced - fresh or canned without juice (if you are so inclined)

Grand Marnier or Orange Liqueur (at least one mini-bottle)

Chambord or Raspberry Liqueur (around the same amount as the Grand Marnier)
Peach Schnapps or Peach Vodka (splash to taste)
Mandarin Vodka (splash to taste)
Add whichever other flavors strike your fancy! 

Rinse the cranberries.
Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan on the stove over medium heat.  
When the sugar is dissolved, add both bags of cranberries and stir them around into the syrup.  Keep stirring and heating them into the syrup until they pop and incorporate themselves fully into the syrup.  It takes a little while. **Every year I think I will speed the process by covering the pan.  Every year I forget, and the pan boils over spilling burnt sugar onto my stove!  Much like the peas recipe this prompts the steps of : Curse and Drink... Leave your pan uncovered, even though it takes longer.  Trust me.  Or have a string of curse words and a cocktail handy.  You've been warned.**

Once all of the cranberries have busted open and you have smashed them up into the sugar syrup, move them into a storage container and add your booze to the warm cranberry syrup.  Taste it.  If it needs more booze, add it.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Taste the next day.  Need more of one flavor?  Add it.  Put it back in the fridge.  Taste it later.  Need something else?  Add it.  You get the idea.


Ketchup With Us

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things (Trifextra)

The weekend's Trifextra challenge was a fun one, taken from one of my favorite childhood movies.

1n 1959, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the music for the Broadway production, The Sound of Music. One of the most famous songs from the musical is "My Favorite Things." Since its inception, the song has been covered by countless artists, and we're asking you to follow suit. Give us a few of your favorite things, in whichever form you want, in 33 words exactly.

PJ days,
Creating spectacular scratch-made soup,
Snuggling, warm in bed, under fluffy comforters,
Gathering friends and family together, celebrating life,
The dulcet tinkle of ice in a glass filled with Maker's Mark.

My Soup Is Good Food

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Am Not A Morning Person : Ketchup #6


I've tried the dulcet, soothing tinkle of wind chimes,
cheerful chirping crickets,
quirky quacking ducks,
Bad-ass blues,
Clamoring church bells,
And, of course, the classic screaming firehouse siren.
The sound is irrelevant. The result, the same.
I must drag one reluctant appendage at a time, out of hibernation into the cold, cruel world of another day.

Ketchup With Us

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sixty-three for Dad's Sixty-Third

On the occasion of my father's sixty-third birthday, I thought it only appropriate that I use sixty-three words to write about how much he has shared with me over the years.  As I frequently participate in writing challenges using only thirty-three or fifty-seven words, I thought this would be a breeze.  Boy, was I wrong!  It turns out I lack enough language in my lexicon to properly honor my Dad on His Day, but I thought I'd give it a shot anyway.
Here goes.  Sixty-three words for Dad's Sixty-third Birthday.
Happy Birthday, Daddy! I love you.

Little Me learning
the "right" way to
appreciate the classics.
"You've got to hear this song, Aim."

From Steve Earle to The Velvet Underground, The Roches to Pink Floyd, Coco Taylor to Woody Guthrie, Dad introduced me to songs that told stories, tugged heart strings, and took me to places hitherto unimagined. 

One of the greatest gifts he's ever given me: Dad taught me that music has charms to soothe a savage beast.

Dad & me on our Carolina Road Trip 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Betty's Bare Cupboard Improv Sunday Gravy

Betty's Improv Sunday Gravy

My Sweetheart and his Improv Troupe, Nine and Numb, put on a fabulous late night show last night after Closing Night of our show, Sordid Lives.  My friend, TheCoolGirl came to see us, and we had a blast watching the Improv and doing product testing for her website.  Needless to say, we were up well past our bedtimes, but we enjoyed every minute of it!

Today, for us, was meant to be a lazy day to catch up on rest, football, Twitter, rest, reading, rest, shows we have on DVR, relaxation, and more rest.  Cooking on Sundays, for me, is a major source of relaxation.  However, finding the cupboard mostly bare, and still wanting to make something delicious for dinner, it was time to work with what we had: to improvise.

This is how the magic happened.

I thawed a whole package of low sodium bacon in the microwave just enough to be able to chop it into small pieces, and tossed them into the Dutch Oven to brown. Being devoid of any actual onion (How the Hell did we let that happen?), I dumped a bunch of dehydrated onion into the bacon grease to let it start absorbing the bacon-y goodness. As things started sticking, I deglazed the pan with some Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale, and had a sip or two to make sure it wasn't poisoned. That is important!  I can't be serving poisoned food! It was safe.

Meanwhile. I was furiously chopping garlic. I threw five or six (maybe seven) cloves of chopped garlic in with the bacon, onion and beer. I add more beer, and gave it all a good stir. Everything started to turn a really beautiful brown color, so I just let it all play together for a little while.

We were also out of ground beef (We really need to go grocery shopping.) but I found half a package of turkey meatballs in the freezer from our last party, so in they went with the rest of the beer, and I gave it all, a big stir. I covered it for a few minutes, then stirred it again.

Fortunately I did have a box of chopped tomatoes, so I tossed those in along with a can of tomato paste and a good size squirt of tomato paste from the tube. I stirred it all up together and brought to a simmer. This was much thicker than my usual Sunday Gravy so it was throwing mean bubbles up into the air. That's when I remembered to put on an apron. Thank you, Donna Reed. I wanted to make it a little thinner, so I found some open wine that someone left here after the cast party and dumped it it before paying attention to what kind I was adding. It was white Zinfandel! D'oh! I panicked, thinking I had just made sugary sweet sauce, so I added some chicken broth, dumped in some Dry Vermouth and, just to be on the safe side, a big swig of Vodka. It worked.

Sweetness crisis averted, I dumped in Oregano, Basil, Italian Parsley, Black Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, and Old Bay by the handful, pinch, dash, or shake. I may have put in a pinch of White Pepper and some Adobo powder, too.

I let it simmer.
I tasted it.
If it needed something else, I added it. Then I turned it down to simmer and left it alone for a few hours.

The whole house smells amazing!

Soon I'll boil up some whole wheat pasta in salted water and drain it when it is done, toss it with the gravy, grate some fresh Parmesan Cheese over the top and enjoy it with garlic bread.

And, believe it or not, leftovers tomorrow, it will taste even better!

Who knew I could improv, too!

Is it dinner time yet?

Betty's Improv Sunday Gravy 

I'm linking this up to Weekend Cooking @ BethFishReads
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Scary Silence

For Round Four of Ketchup with Us, Mel and Michele challenged us to do the following:


In 57 WORDS OR LESS, retell the plot line of your favorite horror movie. And, if you can find one, be sure to include a movie clip of your own.

 My choice was a no brainer.  I give you The Silence of the Lambs  Now "Put the f*#king lotion in the basket," and read it, please.

"You use Evian skin cream. And sometimes you wear L'air du Temps. But not today."

In sixteen minutes of scintillating screen time, Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter is, "Courteous and receptive to courtesy," with FBI Trainee Clarice Starling. But he would admittedly eviscerate, sauté, and ingest anyone who dared impede his, "Having an old friend for dinner."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Trifextra: Drink Up!

The folks over at Trifecta  have given us another fun weekend challenge. "Describe something that is three different things at the same time.  Oh, and do it in 33 words."   Here is my take on the prompt.  

"Another round, Bartender!" Liquid courage.
"Keep 'em coming," sobbed, slurring into melting, soggy cubes. Damned Late-night heartache!
Blinding, brain-splitting headache. "What was I thinking?" Need a little hair of the dog!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Check out Dr. Betty Fashion Plate

So get this!  Dr. Betty, TheSmartPrettyFreakishlyTallOne, was stopped on the street yesterday by a fashion blogger and asked if she would like to be featured on her blog!  Now, y'all should know that Dr. Betty has been our resident fashionista for longer than we care to remember, so this is a really big deal!

The woman can raise a child, write a doctoral dissertation, cheer on that damn college football team that she and TheSmartPrettyOne so rabidly worship, knock back cocktails that would blind a weaker person, and throw together an outfit like nobody's business.  She is The Total Betty Package!  And now she has finally been singled out by a total stranger for her fabulous fashion sense!
We always knew she was a star. It's about damn time the rest of the world figured it out!

Thank you, JacksonvilleLooks for showing our Betty to the rest of the world.

Rock on with your fancy self, Betty!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bad Crushin'

‘KETCHUP WITH US’ – Prompt#2

"Tell us in 57 words or less about your biggest celebrity crush from childhood. Or, you know, now. Either way."

My mad, crazy crush is The Edge, of U2 fame.
Sadly, I'm afraid he has yet to know my name.
He wakes me every morning, top down, with his first note
Cranking "Bad" at full volume, driving to work by rote.
Although 'tis true, we may never meet,
Playing his music, my dreams will always be sweet.

Third Time's The Charm

Number One: too young. After college, marriage was what you did next.
Number Two: looked too good to be true. Lucky to survive.
Number Three: best friend, muse, and poet. Dream come true.

This post was written in response to the weekend challenge from the folks at Trifecta
"The Rule of Three is a writing principle that asserts that, in writing, groups of three have the most impact. This week's challenge is to write 33 words using the Rule of Three somewhere among them. It is up to you to interpret the rule, just make sure to use exactly 33 words."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ketchup : Advice in 57 words

"Just be still," Laura, whispered as she held me tightly, trembling, exhausted, verging on collapse. "Breathe. Listen. Allow yourself a quiet moment. Just be still."
I began to cry.
Then I went home and for a few moments I did it!
Nothing came crashing down upon me. Instead, being still helped me feel relieved and refreshed. Brilliant!

The promt from Ketchup with Us:
"Tell us in 57 words or less the best advice you have ever received from someone older than you or that you admire."

(Laura is someone I sincerely admire very much.  I have had the priveledge of teaching both of her children, and while she may be older than me, if she is, I'm pretty sure it can't be by more than a couple of years.)

Thanks, Michele and Mel, for allowing me the opportunity to finally put this into words.

Ketchup With Us

Sunday, September 2, 2012


The folks at Trifecta have thrown down the gauntlet once again this weekend: a three word challenge! I like it! Take a look.

"Robert Frost once said, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." We want you to do the same. Sum up anything you want, but do it in three words. Your response should mirror Frost's quote by beginning, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about--." And the last four words are yours to choose."

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about worrying: it wastes time.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

According to BettyRants

Mel: "Where are you in FL? Swear I'm not a stalker...just curious. :)"
Me: "I've been dying to ask where you guys were, too, but didn't want to sound all stalker-y."

The picture that started it all.
Want to go fishing, Mel?
Dad says Michele can come, too, since it's your birthday.
And so, began the start of a beautiful friendship. I have my father to thank for its inception. See, he introduced me to the force of nature that is Old Dog New Tits when he nearly pulled a muscle laughing more and more each week at the "Check Your E-mail, Dude!" exchange, and for the first time in a long time felt compelled to participate.

Faithfully following ODNT's blog led us straight to According to Mags and we all fell head over heels for Mel, Chris (this is his tribute to Mel), and those precious, precocious little darlings who inspire Mel to pen such brilliance.

You Can't See Me!
As Baby Sister became Mother to Baby Boy, Grandpa Wy found himself reading more and more about what it means to be a SAHM today and passing those nuggets of knowledge along to Grandma Sandi, Baby Sis, and me. Baby Boy is now, in fact, proudly wrapped in one of the fabulous anti-microbial blankets that Grandpa Wy won for him through Mel and Chris' Night Light Stories project.

With the summer off, I took to reading and writing and found hours of entertainment with Guapola, TheJoyofJoe, Lance, and KBar to name a few who are joining this birthday bash. Dad and I took a road trip, just the two of us, to the mountains of North Carolina and each night, through the magic of technology, managed to share Happy Hour with Mel, @Bbswit, and a couple of our new friends in the blogosphere/Twitterverse each night. We just kept coming back for inspiration, for encouragement, for a laugh. The Mel & Michele Spreecast that took place in advance of BlogHer 2012 nearly sent me into a full-on asthma attack. Seriously. And I almost left my inhaler at home! What a pair! The fact that those two had yet to actually meet in real-live-person until BlogHer just boggles the mind. To think that we, Mel and all of The Raggs, have shared so much and have never actually met face-to-face is just nonsensical! But such is the world we live in today.

Mel, when Hurricane Isaac was threatening and we were trying to bring Michele home to stay on Ragg's Ranch Florida, you jokingly said that you thought you should draw up the papers so you could both be adopted by us. Darlin', you are a little late. You had us at "MAGGIENOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Although we me may have yet to occupy the same air space, Mel, you have become family to me and and all the rest in this crazy beautiful Ragg Bag! So from all of us to you on this most auspicious day, Happy, Happy Birthday! May all your dreams come true.

How do we not have any newer pictures? Seriously?
Do you know how old this is? Damn, my face is red!
Okay, not the point. We all love you!
Happy Birthday!

May your year be filled with sunshine, exploration, discovery, laughter, good health, enough of everything you need that you never ache for anything, joy, and more love than you ever imagined possible.
Happy Birthday, Mel!
Thank you for the blanket!
You have brought great joy into this world. May that joy surround you all the days of your life.

Happy Birthday, Mel!
We love you!
The Ragg Family

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Healing Power of the Book (Club)

It has been quiet on BettyRants for the last two weeks, and this has been driving me crazy. That is, unfortunately what happens when it is time for school to start again. After enjoying a summer full of magical moments of free time to write, read, tweet, photograph, draw, and explore to my heart's content, suddenly every moment of every day belongs to someone else. Every day and night is suddenly overfilled with things that need to be done immediately, if not sooner.  That is quite an adjustment to make.  It's a good thing I love what I do.

Anyway, after going ninety miles an hour with my hair on fire for the last two weeks, I finally had the opportunity to stop and slow down for a little while yesterday while I caught up with my book club.  For the last few years, my mother and I have belonged to a book club made up of lifelong friends who have become family.  In theory, we meet monthly, and each woman takes a turn choosing a book.  Our tastes, like we, are vastly different, so we read all kinds of stuff that we would never see without The Club.  We usually meet at someone's house and all bring food and drink that is connected to the book.  We go a little crazy in our preparations; the more creative, the better.  When we read Arcadia Falls, by Carol Goodman in the early days, Mom helped me pull grapevine out of her yard which I wove into a wreath to put around the outside of the pan of roasted root vegetables that I made to represent the twisted roots that recurred throughout the book.  It was awesome, and not even close to the most creative thing there that day!

We eat, drink, laugh, and sometimes even talk about the book.  Usually what begins as a discussion of the book ultimately leads to a discussion of life as we know it.  When we make it happen, it is sacred time.  The Club is made up of two generations of women, some of whom have known each other since birth.  Some are working while raising babies and young children, some work and have children who are grown, some have children in The Club, and some have four-legged children.  Our beliefs and politics may be different, but when we meet for Book Club, none of that matters.  We are friends who let down our hair, kick off our shoes, and have fun for a few hours.

Delicious Coconut Cocktail
It had been a few months since we had all been able to make our schedules work to get together for Book Club.  Between work, kids, and life in general, we are a busy bunch.  It seems like everyone I know is busy these days.  We are busier than we used to be, busier than we want to be, busier than we need to be, just busy.  We get so busy that we forget to stop and connect face-to-face with the people that help energize us.

For our Summer meeting, we read On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves.  It was a quick read about two people who, after a plane crash, learn to survive together on an deserted island.  Since we had all been so busy lately, we decided to meet at a beach-themed restaurant.  Bahama Breeze, overlooking the water between Tampa and Clearwater, was a fantastic choice!  Coconuts featured prominently in the book, so a coconut cocktail was high on my priority list.  Theirs was perfect!

Our fun centerpiece
As we were in public, the decorations were mostly set already, but C, J & J brought a bag filled with kids' toys to use as a centerpiece representing different parts of the book, some of which, like the chickens, I had forgotten.  What a clever way to remind us of the story!  The toys provided a great jumping off point to begin our discussion of the book.  We actually found ourselves delving deeper into questions about this story than we have in a while, and the conversation was most exhilarating.

Our Survival Kits

To help us remember On the Beach, each of us was given a "survival kit" filled with items mentioned in the book that they either missed or managed to find to make it through their time on the island.  The thing that they said that they most wanted was a cold Coke over ice, so a little Coke was included for each of us.  It was creative and thoughtful, as always.

Possibly the coolest moment of the day came as we were wrapping up.  My mom, SandiPaints, looked over my shoulder into Tampa Bay and saw a dolphin playing in the water.  Again, dolphins figured prominently in the book.  We were all transfixed watching to see the fin pop up again. It was beautiful, and peaceful, and energizing at the same time.  For all of us.  Just as it should have been.

As the afternoon storm rolled in over the water, our little club parted.   But we have already planned our next meetings through March, promising not to let so much time pass again without this wonderful, inspiring connection.  I have always known that books have the potential to take me anywhere, to make me feel better.  Now I know that sharing these books, and this time, with amazing women has a restorative power all its own.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

If You Are Me, This Is a Big Deal!

Monday, August 13th, 2012

I have some exciting news.  

Instead of the blog post that would normally be found here, I have been chosen to be the featured writer today over at studio30plus, an amazing community full of tips, support, and inspiration for all types of writers!  My blog post is on their website!

Please click on one of the links or their button on the right and pay them a visit.  Read my blog.  Leave a comment.  If you enjoy it, pass it on to someone else.  

My Summer Vacation ends today, so I will be back at work when all of this happens, but chances are good, that I will sneak a peek on here, there, Twitter, or Facebook at some point during the day.  I'd love to read what you have to say.

Hope you all have a wonderful day, and an amazing week!


Security Blanket

Baby Boy Burrito
Infancy spent swaddled in its soft, flannel warmth and comfort.
Possessing superpowers, his cape propels him through boyhood.
Worn threadbare with love, Grandma sews it into a patchwork bunny welcoming his firstborn child.

The above is my response to the weekend's Trifextra writing challenge. "Noted blues musician, Lead Belly, was quoted in Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet as saying:
You take a knife, you use it to cut the bread, so you'll have strength to work; you use it to shave, so you'll look nice for your lover; on discovering her with another, you use it to cut out her lying heart.
Give us 33 words (exactly) that tell us three different uses for one object. But don't just tell us that a can opener can be used to 1) open cans, 2) open beer bottles and 3) break a window in case of a fire. Tell us a story, like Lead Belly did, if you can. It won't be easy, but you guys are far beyond needing easy prompts."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mountain Magic Part One

Our view over the mountain

Quite a few years ago now, my parents, my sister, and I were lucky enough to find property on a mountain in North Carolina with a house big enough for all of us that, together, we could afford. We had grand ideas of one day turning it into a compound like the Kennedys in Kennebunkport because we like to dream big, but really, there is room for all of us in the house and building new houses on the side of a mountain would be insanely expensive.

When we first started coming up to visit the house, our trips were crazy mad dashes from one "must see" place to the next. Every moment was filled with either driving somewhere to look at beautiful Carolina mountain scenery, or hitting some cute, little shop that just couldn't be missed, or checking out the food at a restaurant that the locals swore was simply the best in the South. We found ourselves at home just long enough to sleep, shower, wake up, and do it all over again the next day. By the time we made it back to Florida, we were always more tired than when we had left. While we were in Carolina, we recognized the laid-back nature of the place, we felt the sense of calm that permeated the air we breathed, but it just seemed like there was too much we "had" to do to ever sit still long enough to breathe in very much of it.

Finally, last year, something changed. A switch flipped in my head, I guess, I don't know, but something was different. For starters, this trip was just me and Dad, instead of the whole family. We hadn't done a father-daughter road trip since my senior year in high school when we went to New Orleans, but that is another story for another day. Anyway, for the first time ever we got up in the morning and asked the question, "What do we have to do today?" Much to our surprise, the answer was, "Nothing." It was seriously disconcerting. I tend to have almost every minute of every day scheduled in my regular life, so to say, "I have no place to be today and there is nothing I have to do," totally threw me for a loop. Then I decided to embrace it. I knew that opportunity would only exist for a short period of time, so I grabbed it with both hands and held on for dear life!

A couple of the days we just stayed in our pjs and hung around the house reading and watching tv. I introduced Dad to my favorite series, The Wire, on DVD, so we watched a marathon of that. Each day seemed more amazing than the next! We ventured out to Terry's, my favorite roadside produce stand, where we bought Hillbilly Stripeys, the most delicious heirloom tomatoes I have ever tasted. The first bite actually made me cry. I made them into tomato sandwiches, a Southern staple. When we felt like it, we went into town and ate our favorite burgers at The Coffee Shop, or pizza at Mill & Main, or our very favorite, vegan chili and sandwiches, at Soul Infusion Tea House & Bistro. We went to lunch whenever we felt like it, we came home and took naps if we were tired. One afternoon we washed dishes and rolled silverware at the Community Table.  Another afternoon we drove out to the new casino to have lunch at Paula Deen's restaurant.  It was fabulous!

At that point, Baby Sister was early into her first pregnancy, so when we did venture out into the local shops, we inevitably found things that were so cute, the baby (we had yet to learn his sex) just had to have them!  We caught up with our favorite potters, Zan, Brant, and Karen Barnes at Riverwood Pottery, the only place in Carolina that I am guaranteed to spend money every time!  Their work is seriously beautiful!  We drove into Cashiers one day and ended up on a quest for a big, metal chicken named Beyonce' like TheBloggess' for my friend, Julie.  We also got to spend some time with my godparents up at their house on Dick's Creek.  On that trip I photographed the water in a few really beautiful Carolina creeks, which I love to capture on film more than almost anything.  We went where we wanted to go whenever we felt like it.  The freedom was intoxicating!

Deep Creek 

Afternoon Cocktail Hour was celebrated with fun, fresh appetizers and Bloody Marys. In the evenings I played Chef in our kitchen to my heart's content, and Dad was seriously appreciative of the food I made. I even started writing down what went into some of the dishes I created, knowing that someday I wanted to do something with them, even though I wasn't sure yet what that was.  I felt all of the stress and tension of the year melting away a little more each day. The magic the mountains were working on me was palpable. I couldn't remember when I had last felt so relaxed, and I knew, Dad and I  both knew, that we wanted to do it again this summer.  In fact we started planning our escape for this summer before we drove away from the house last summer.

Photos and details of this year's trip are coming soon.

Green's Creek from the bridge

Hemingway Homage: Six Word Story

It's positive! 
Finally dreams come true.

This post is in celebration of Hemingway Week at studio30plus. I combined both prompts, "It's Positive" and "Obsessed with Earnest" in creating this six word story, inspired by his. And no, I am not pregnant.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

No Choice

When would it end? Hadn't he suffered enough? She needed to help him as he always had her. She had no choice...

As his final breath left him, the rain began to fall.

This post is a reponse to Trifexa's weekend challenge "give us a 33-word opening line to your book. That's it. Make us want to read the next 333 pages of your work."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What a waste!

Sydney's ordinarily tiny toes were swollen sausages, red and aching beneath giant cankles that threatened to split the soft, tender skin of her previously perfect legs. Sydney had been on her feet since first light, chopping, mixing, sautéing, tasting, adding a pinch here, a dash there, until every bite was perfect.

They finally sat to eat; her heartbeat was audible. Louis slowly chewed his first bite, inhaled deeply, and wiped his mouth. "Not bad," he exhaled.

"Not bad?" She seethed. "That pretentious little, bow-tie-wearing, wanna-be-epicurean sonofabitch! He wouldn't know good food it he choked on it!"

This piece was written as an answer to this week's One Hundred Word Challenge from VelvetVerbosity to tell a story using the word epicurian which has changed quite a bit since it first came into use.  I chose to go with its more modern, common usage.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On the magic of salon therapy

What is it about a visit to the beauty salon that changes everything? Is it just me? Seriously, is it?

I can be in the worst mood, ready to knock someone into the middle of next week, but the minute I cross the threshold of the salon, whether it is to see my brilliant hairdresser, Mags, at her own salon or to see one of the nail techs at my neighborhood pedi place, all of stress and irritation is out the door. It is crazy! How does that happen? What is in those chemicals?

Mags and I have been friends for over ten years now. We were friends first. We met doing a play together, she rescued me from a hairstyling disaster, and the rest is history. Since we have been friends for so long, it makes sense that I should feel great just having the opportunity to go in and hang out with her. Plus, she is a rock star at her job, so I always leave looking so much better than when I arrived! Conversely, I am challenged to understand more than a few words from the miracle workers at the nail salon and yet I still feel a rush of euphoria every time I walk through their door.

What is it that makes those hours so relaxing, refreshing, recuperative, rewarding, REQUIRED to keep me from wanting to shake people senseless? Perhaps it is the fact that I am an absolute captive for those precious few hours that my head is covered in chemicals, or my feet are soaking. I can't go anywhere or do anything else (except apparently blog) so I have no choice but to relax, read trashy magazines that I never get too see, and enjoy! Bliss!

Whatever it is, I know that I will do anything it takes to make sure I can continue to relish these visits. I am really doing it for the rest of the world, if you think about it. I'm a giver like that. After all, it these infrequent visits that allow me to continue to be the smiling, pleasant, patient person you see here. Isn't that better than the alternative? I think so, too!

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Disappear. Leave everyone she loves, and slip into anonymity? Or, wait for him to get Out and come after her again, this time intent on finishing the job? To survive means to Leap!

This post is in response to this weekend's Trifextra Challenge:
Forty-three years ago today, Neil Armstrong became the first person to ever walk on the moon.  In celebration of Moon Day we want you to write 33 words about someone who took a giant leap.  It can mean whatever you'd like, just make sure you write exactly 33 words.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Fear

"What are you so afraid of, for goodness sake?  What's the worst that could happen?"

I hear these questions on a continous playback reel in my head lately.  I assure you this is nothing new.  I am a girl who, for the most part, likes to play things safe.  I was a rule follower in school because I was pretty sure I'd get caught and get in trouble if I didn't.  And getting in trouble at school meant my parents finding out, and even worse, having to explain to my grandfather, my idol, the horrible thing I had done to bring shame upon myself and the family name.  No pressure.  So I tended to be a pretty good kid.  If  I wanted to do something I knew I wasn't supposed to, I usually asked my parents first.  Keep in mind, I had fairly laid back (if somewhat overprotective) hippie parents.  As long as I was unlikely to get hurt, hurt anyone else, or end up in jail, they were pretty cool.  They let me try things, make my own choices, make my own mistakes, and supported me throughout it all.

So what is my challenge now?  What AM I so afraid of?  Change.  Even when I am fairly certain it is a change for the better, the idea of changing from the proverbial Devil That I Know to step into any new situation with a Devil That I Don't is absolutely paralyzingly frightening to me.  It isn't like I haven't successfully navigated innumerable changes before in my forty-something years.  I have, but have I ever done it without a feeling of nausea and impending doom?  Not that I can recall.

This change even includes the change of meeting people in a new environment.  Attending a social gathering in a place where I know next to no one can be almost crippling to me at times.  For those who know me, this may be hard to believe because, on stage, I am fearless.  If it is in the script, or will improve the show in some way, I am 100% balls-to-the-wall ready for anything!  I always have been.  But on stage, I get to be someone else.  When I have to be me, around people I don't know, I am terrified.  The whole meeting new people thing represents a change to my little bubble of comfort where I know everyone and they know me.  They get my jokes, they know I am a big bag of crazy, and they love me anyway.  What will I do with new people on their own turf?  Panic! 

Does any of this mean I don't try?  Does it mean I don't step out of my Hermit Crab shell and try to feel the sun on my face?  Sometimes it does.  Sometimes I curl up in a ball in my pjs and stay in bed cursing my own cowardice.  But other times, other times I feel just a little bit strong and just a little bit brave and decide to give it a shot.  Those days I realize that the worst that can happen is I fail at whatever it is I wanted to try.  I end up right back where I started.  I fall on my ass trying to Rollerblade, I crash into a tree trying to learn to ski, I nearly pass out trying to jog half a block, (Notice a theme?) I draw a total blank in the middle of the monologue at the audition, I don't get the part, I step out of the car at the party and end up with my pants on the ground when the drawstring breaks then have to hold them up as I walk in the door to ask the hostess for a safety pin (Mortifying!).  That was an ice breaker for sure!  And the party was a lot of fun.

What's the big deal?  Chances are pretty good I end up with one hell of a funny story out of it, maybe a few scars, maybe a few tears, but almost always a good story.

This was written in response to the Weekly Prompt "What Are You So Afraid Of ?" at

Monday, July 16, 2012

Betty Brilliance

After prayers and offerings to all of our Patron Saints Betty (Ford, Page, Boop, and White - we Saint you while you're still alive around here, just for being a kick-ass Betty) on her behalf and more hard work, caffeine, and Pixie Stix than can possibly be healthy, one of The Betties, TheSmartPrettyFreakishlyTallOne, finally succeeded in earning her PhD on July 10th. The other Betty, TheSmartPrettyOne, and I were so proud we were ready to bust! Our Betty has been through the wringer and back to get here. She has climbed the mountain! She is raising an adorable three-year-old son, and is kind, thoughtful, and beautiful to boot. It we didn't love her so damn much, we'd have to hate her!

To celebrate the monumental accomplishment, her fabulous doctor-husband planned Betty Family Beach Weekend Celebration. I, Auntie Q, am the only child-free Betty. TheSmartPrettyOne has two adorable little boys, Five and Two, who have stolen Auntie Q's heart. While we three all live in the same state, we are each about two hours from the next. Like
most people these days, we lead crazy busy lives so we rarely get to see one another. Betty Family Beach Weekend was to be the perfect opportunity to catch up, celebrate, and spend quality time together.

The child-rearing Betties arrived at the beach with their families on Friday night. Friday was my first day with Baby Sister and Baby Boy (more on that later), and then we threw an impromptu going away party for Middle Sister who told us Friday morning that she was moving away Monday (today) to follow her dream. As I was a little overbooked Friday, my sweetheart and I planned to join The Betties at the beach Saturday morning.

After entertaining a houseful until the wee hours, I had reconsidered my plan to arrive at the beach first thing in the AM in favor of a bit more precious slumber. My Betties, however, were up early and ready to go, texting me a supply list before my eyes were even thinking of opening. As soon as I could see straight, I started getting things together for the trip. As our visits tend to be few and far between, we had yet to celebrate Christmas or any of our birthdays. This meant I had several bags full of regular Betty gifts and books for the boys along with Doctor Betty's graduation gift to fit into my convertible VW Bug before we put in the bag of beach necessities, our technology (with which we can never leave home), and the required groceries. By the time the car was packed the sunscreen was applied, the top was down, the tank was filled, and we had stopped at two, yes TWO grocery stores for the required supplies, it was close to Noon! So much for getting there early. I came to the conclusion that it was a good thing that we are child-free because if we had to get kids ready and pack for them, too, in the midst of all this madness, it would be Sunset before we got to the beach!

We arrived in time for all of the Betty Boys to be fast asleep! Classic! It gave us the perfect opportunity to give TheSmartPrettyFreakishlyTallOne her graduation gift, and to celebrate all of our other gift-giving occasions while they napped. It was absolutely fabulous! We have discovered that we have an unusual affinity for office supplies, so they became a reoccurring theme throughout our exchange. This also gave me the chance finally to put a copy of Let's Pretend This Never Happened into each of their hands. That was one of the biggest gift hits of the day, we do so love TheBloggess. As usual, we laughed at things that only we would find funny until our sides hurt, and essentially reaffirmed our beliefs that life would be so much simpler if everyone just did things our way, and that we can handle anything as long as we are wearing the perfect shoes.

When the boys awoke, our focus naturally shifted to them. Now, I may be a little bit biased, but these are three of the cutest, smartest, most well-raised boys I have ever seen. What? I said I might be biased! Storms raged outside, but we and the boys had a blast playing together inside. It was such a treat for me to watch all of the verbal skills, positive phrasing, and teacher tricks that I use with my middle school students actually in use by my Betties on their own kids, just because that is they way they choose to parent.

My Betties are amazing moms. They are amazing women. They are amazing friends. They are, in point of fact,  "MyVeryBestFriendsInTheWholeWideWorldAmen." They are among the greatest joys of my life. They have given me the opportunity to be Auntie Q to their incredible boys, and go home to my own two-legged-child-free home at the end of the visit. My Betties are both beautiful and brilliant. They are heroes to me. I wish we had more time to spend together, but we certainly do make the most of every moment we have.

My Betties show off TheBloggess' fabulous book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened.

Eleven words

This was a challenge for Firefly to tell a story in eleven words. I missed the deadline, but I still love the story! He'll be here tomorrow night!

Mom, I'm ready. It's time to meet those I already miss.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This is the big one, Elizabeth!

Monday morning. I could put it off no longer, all of the warm-up organization projects had been completed. It was time to take on the big dog. Time to open the door that has stayed closed for almost a year and a half: the door to The Office. A sense of dread overcame me as I turned the handle, pushed open the door, and beheld the disaster area that prompted one of my friends who saw the Before photo on Twitter to say, "...Looks like a rainbow threw up in there...Very colorful," so that was the bright side which I was, in that moment, challenged to see.

Where to begin? I thought it might be best to sit and look around the room before beginning, but even navigating safe passage to one of the TWO office chairs in there was a dangerous business. All of the previous projects had clear starting points, and a clear place to put everything while it was being organized (the bed, the counter) but not this time. I was absolutely frozen in overwhelm mode. I didn't even think to bring in trash and donation bags. My brain was blown! All I could think to do was start picking things up off the seat to identify and sort.

And that is how I started. It was a tiny, baby step, but it was a step. I found a bag to use for garbage, another to use for stuff to shred, and a box for donations. Before I knew what had happened, I could actually see the very dusty top of the desk! I was in glee-filled shock! I ignored all the rest of the mess around me, dusted it, and organized the items that deserved a perch on such a shiny, clean desktop. Upon completion of that project I was elated and allowed myself a Twitter/ Lunch break. The instant encouragement I received after posting that I had found the top of the desk gave me the adrenaline to get back in there and tackle the rest of the mess.

It all seemed to go faster once the desk was done. I was able to corral all of the stamp collection and related paraphernalia inherited from my sweetheart's grandfather into a few Rubbermaid containers of various sizes. That was so much easier than I had anticipated, I couldn't believe it! Next it was time to make room on the shelves for the towering stacks of CDs that threatened to topple over on top of someone at any moment. In order to do that, most of the VHS tapes had to go. Why did we even still have VHS tapes? We have DVDs coming out our ears, too! Where does it end? It ends when I run out of space to put it all away neatly. That's where! If it didn't fit, it was out the door! Take no prisoners! No mercy! Hear me roar!

And roar, I did! I filled boxes and bags I rolled out the extra chair for donation. I shelved, boxed, and re-hung everything that was left. I dusted, put the closet curtain back up, ran the vacuum, stood back at the end of a very long day and admired the room that had once been my favorite, and which I could now love again: The Office.

Kitchen Chaos

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest and relaxation, right? Well, not for this Betty! Our most recent Sunday meant attacking the mountain of mayhem that had overtaken my kitchen table and sideboard. Both, it seems, had become repositories for anything and everything that needed to be set down as we walked in the door: stacks and stacks of mail, art supplies, vitamins, end of school paraphernalia, purses, Koosh balls, office supplies, scripts, programs, gift cards, receipts, magazines, tote bags, grocery bags, and a sling from when I sprained my shoulder. Needless to say it was what has come to be known as a "hot mess."

I wonder how many trees could be saved if we eliminated all of the damn junk mail that we all get every week. Seriously, I think a small elm tree was taken out just in the mail in my kitchen. Ridiculous! Once I sorted through all of that mess, I found the bills that needed to be paid, filed the stuff that needed to be filed, and shredded the papers that needed to be destroyed. The shredding was surprisingly satisfying. I found myself wanting to find more things to shred just for fun! Seriously. You should try it. It is almost therapeutic.

It took all day, but everything found a home. All all of the bills got paid, and both the kitchen table, and the sideboard were unearthed. Who knows? Now that I have found it, I might even serve an actual meal at the table, instead of at the kitchen counter for once! Probably not, but it is nice to have the option!