Friday, April 30, 2010

A Little Sabbatical

My brain needs a rest. I've overworked her lately and now she's punishing me by doing an excellent imitation of a bowl full of wobbly vanilla pudding. Be back in a few days.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Winner Is...

... samtaters! Love the name btw. Just email your address to mabelsblog (at) yahoo (dot) com and I'll get it in the mail! Thanks to everyone for entering.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kitchen Mini-Makeover

I think you ladies know, especially those of you who have been reading for a while, how much wrestling I've done with my kitchen.


It all started with the yellow walls I inherited. I've never been a yellow-wall person, and when you combined that with the fluorescent lights... it looked like the inside of a psychedelic Easter egg. And not in a good way. So, along the way we've painted and said goodbye to the giant garage-like fluorescent light in the ceiling.

Another aspect I've never loved was the Formica counter top/back-splash combo. Why did the previous owner do this? It always made the cabinet space look so dark, not to mention that it was cheaply done.

And so I've lived with it, mostly because as you all know I'm a huge cheapskate. The last time I priced a new counter top and back-splash at Lowe's, I swooned and scared the crap out of the salesman who caught my arm and said, "Whoa, lady.. you ok?" But I was not ok. Anytime someone throws around a $5,000 price tag, I get woozy.


So here's the solution we came up with. And by we, I mean me, since Matt just nodded sweetly and said, "Just do whatever, I'm beating your aunt at wordtwist right now and can't talk."

Thanks to my sweet mother-in-law Linda, we had the old Formica back-splash ripped out and replaced it with bead board. Have you ever heard of a sweeter woman? She gave us a new back-splash as a present. Have I mentioned she can read my mind?

Ahhh bead board, how I love thee. You remind me of a coastal cottage somewhere in Oregon, with the windows open, sea breezes gusting through a screen door. But, I digress.
We kept the original counter tops, which saved a ton of money.

Everything is so much brighter now.

Last night I was actually excited to do the dishes. Just so I could stand in there. Pathetic, I know. But I'm a firm believer that a pretty space makes people whistle while they work. Or, at least it keeps them from cursing while they scrub baked cheese on a cookie sheet.

I also changed things up a bit in the breakfast area. There simply was not room for four chairs in there, and it was a little too cottagy for me. So I borrowed from Peter to pay Paul and snagged two chairs from the dining room. This solution will work until we find a pair of chairs we like.

I also changed out the kitchen window coverings with white curtains. There's something about blooming gardens and fresh air that makes me want to simplify everything in the house. And those roses? They came from our yard. I couldn't believe it either. I kept following Matt around the house with them yelling, "LOOK, I CAN GROW THINGS. THEY DIDNT DIE!"
So that's our kitchen mini-makeover. New bead board back-splash and a switcharoo with the breakfast area chairs. Hope it lived up to the hype. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wash the breakfast dishes and LIKE it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Sweet By and By Book Review & Giveaway

What does this picture have to do with a book review? Nothing. But it is a little hint as to the goings on in the kitchen. More on that tomorrow.

I did not expect to like this book. Let me explain.

When I read the jacket cover and saw it was a book centered on the lives of five southern women, I rolled my eyes. “Oh boy,” I thought to myself. Why? Because I’m a southern woman. And southern women are complicated, sometimes too complicated to put on paper. Or perhaps for the same reason I don’t like it when they make a movie about the civil war, cast Nicole Kidman as a belle … and she proceeds to BUTCHER her southern accent. You see it a lot. Outsiders who think southern stuff is cool and then they mess it up.

BUT… Todd Johnson is not an outsider. Todd knows what he’s talking about.

The book is about five southern women, their lives intertwined and centered on life in a nursing home. There’s Lorraine, a plain spoken nurse who has one of the most achingly well-developed relationships with God that I’ve ever read in a fictional story. There’s April, Lorraine’s ambitious daughter, Rhonda, a gritty lovable beautician, and Bernice, an endearing elderly woman who has lost her mind and insists on carrying a doll at all times. And last but not least, Margaret, another elderly patient in the nursing home who has become, perhaps, one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. She’s saucy, she’s cranky, and at an advanced age she learns to open her heart.

Each chapter is written in first person, centered on a different character, so I really felt I had the inside scoop on each woman. By the end of the book I was smiling and crying, these women became my friends. And Margaret's cranky outlook on life is the real gem of this book, because beneath all her crustiness is a woman I not only loved, but identified with. And if you can make a 30 year old identify with a woman in her late 80's/90's... you're a really talented writer.

I loved that Todd interspersed southern gems of hilarity amidst what is, at times, a hard tale of growing older and dying. I found myself nodding and smiling, because I’ve KNOWN women like this. I want to thank you, Todd, for writing about Southern women in a way that’s not over-blown or overly-dramatic. And even though I usually don't like crying when reading, this time, I did. I heartily recommend this book.
And so I'll be giving away a copy today. Just leave a comment on this post, the deadline is Wednesday. Good luck!
*Drawing is closed! Thanks for entering, check back later today to find out if you won!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Roses & Bird Plates

Ahhh.... climbing roses.

It's their time to shine. Three years ago I had no idea what I was getting into when I planted four of them along the fence.

I also had no idea what I was getting into when I started collecting plates. This is my latest addition to the dining room wall. It's safe to say I've got a big weakness for all things bird related.
But back to the roses. I thought when I planted these climbers that they would be like the ones in my neighbors' yards. Small tiny roses everywhere. But alas, my climbers aren't that kind.

In fact, I'm not sure what kind they are at all. They don't have a lot of blooms, maybe ten at a time, but the roses are gigantic. Almost like cabbage roses. And the coloring... that's another odd thing. Some are bright pink, but some are yellow with pink trim.

But back inside the plate collecting continues. Matt predicts they'll eventually cover this whole wall.

But I object. I don't hang any random plate. I'm picky, picky, picky. And let's face it, there aren't a ton of vintage bird plates floating around in flea markets.

So that's me. I'm on the lookout for bird plates and smelling the roses in the backyard. They remind me of big ruffled petticoats.

See the pink trim? So pretty. So weird.

But then again, anything normal would seem odd in our yard.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kitchen Project

I needed some banana nut muffins today. I also need a functional kitchen, but right now things at Mabel's House are a smidge up in the air.

We finally tackled a kitchen project I've been fussing about for the past three years. Or rather, a carpenter tackled the project. It was exciting. It also involved a lot of saw dust and we're not done yet. Next stage? Oil paint. Yuck.
But for right now I'm concentrating on banana nut muffins.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Process of Finding an Agent: How to Not Go Crazy When All You Really Want To Do Is Sit in a Corner, Blow Raspberries and Never Write a Book Again.

I love you gals. Every morning I usually wake up to an email that says either, “How’s the book thing going?” or “Will you post it on your blog so we can read it early?” To the first question I can only say… I’m waiting. To the second, no. But I love you, I really do.

Waiting to hear from agents is like working the emotional swing shift. Sometimes, I’m totally Zen about it. I think, “Meh, my life is good. If I get an agent, great, if not, I’m still good.” And then other times I’m a bit more, how shall I say this, um… frigging-nutzo-crazy-town.

Here’s the process break-down:

1. Query Letter. When you search for an agent your first step is a query letter. Basically you must sum up what your book is about and why you are fabulous in a pithy, wry, one page letter. It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. I compare this stage of the process to the time my two year old sister smiled sweetly, stated “I love biting” and took a small chunk of flesh from my forearm.

2. Press Send. After you’ve sent your query letter into the universe, you wait. Some rejections come fast. Others are slow. But if you’re lucky, you’ll hear back from interested agents who say, “Great, send me more, I’d like to read it.” At this point you jump up and down, clapping your hands. Then you stop jumping up and down and realize it will take weeks, even months, to hear a peep from these agents. I compare this stage of the process to the time my mom threw a cold glass of water into my three year old sister’s face when she was lying on the kitchen floor screaming and holding her breath.

3. Waiting. Waiting. More waiting. During this period you find yourself doing odd things which may or may not include:

a. Twitter stalking agents online. This is not healthy. Plus, it just makes you feel weird so you quite after a couple of days because you feel like Travis Bickle.
b. Google the phrase “waiting to hear from agents on full manuscript” and “can stress thin my hair?”
c. Take up a hobby. Like knitting, running, or shaving those little sweater balls off your clothes with leftover razors.

I compare this stage of the process to the time my best friend Jared thought he saw a dead body in the woods and jumped on my back as I tried to make a run for it.

4. The Verdict. This stage of the game can only go two ways. They will either say, “I love it, when would be a good time to chat?” Or they will reject it. Rejections can range from cold and impersonal, encouraging and kind, to mean and soul-crushing. Both will come in email form and the moment before you open the response is electrifying as stress waves course through your heart. I compare this stage of the game to the time I awoke on Christmas morning and rushed to open a large present, joy and horror mingling as I realized it could be the bike I’d begged for or a lifetime supply package of socks and underwear.

So what stage of the game am I in? I’m waiting. I’ve had full manuscript requests from almost a dozen agents and as each day passes, I’m finding a new gray hair. I’m also finding that I have the ability to take deep cleansing breaths, count sheep or brain storm synonyms for words like maniacal or plethora. So thank you for asking. Thank you for caring. Thank you for reading this blog and helping me remember why I write in the first place.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to repaint my toe nails, hem a pair of pants and try my best to come up with a solution to this whole volcano-ash-canceled-flights debacle. See? I’m getting good at this waiting thing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Planting Day

It's planting day. I suspect Mother Nature knew we'd be outside with gardening gloves and spades and SPF 30. It's just gorgeous.

I spend all winter waiting for a day like this, a day of sunshine, warm breezes and bird choruses. Every February I sit in my living room and gaze longingly out the picture window at the dead grass, black tree limbs and frozen lake and think, "OK, just a few more months. You can make it." And now, thank goodness, we've made it.

So the garden this year is a big'un. We have sage, lemon thyme, basil, mint, cilantro, rosemary, lavender, cherry tomatoes, big tomatoes, red bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, and cucumbers. And just the make things pretty, so far, I've planted approximately 30 caladium bulbs and 28 gladiola bulbs.

Whew. Yeah. We may have bitten off more than we can chew. But that's ok. We're game. We've been waiting all winter to jump through the starting gate, so we don't mind the work.

Sometimes I joke and tell Matt, "We can a buy a farm someday. We'll remodel the house and I can write and you can freelance." To which Matt responds, "Um, farms require so much work we wouldn't have TIME to write or freelance." Touche. After all, I'm pretty satisfied with a big backyard and a coffeeshop just around the corner.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday Evening Snack

Crackers & goat cheese...

... basil, dried cranberries and cracked pepper. It was a good weekend. No, it was a great weekend. And in answer to a few of your questions about my previous post:
1. After my guests arrive, I could care less about maintaining a spotless house.
2. I don't care or even notice the cleanliness of someone else's house, unless off course I walk into the foyer and stumble over a pile of their husband's underwear. But anything else just pretty much flies by me.
3. No, I'm not on medication. But thank you for your suggestions. :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cleaning Nazi

My mother-in-law is coming into town this weekend and it sent my cleaning instincts into overdrive. However, this primordial urge to scourge the floors with bleach until my skin falls off has nothing to do with Linda, my sainted mother-in-law. She could care less what the house looks like. In fact, when I asked her what she wanted to do this weekend she just laughed and said, "I'd like to go on a walk, and then just sit around and talk." See what I mean? Saint.

No. My cleaning neurosis goes back to the fact that I desperately need to live in a universe where all the bookshelves are dusted and alphabetized, a universe where there are no food particles on the kitchen floor or a ring of ick inside the toilet bowl.

Some people don't feel the same "I'll burn this house to the ground before I let anyone see it dirty" drive. I envy those people. I wish I were one of them. I'd love nothing more than to open my front door and grin at our church small group while shrugging and saying, "Sorry about the mess guys" as 30 people file past four loads of unfolded laundry and a kitchen full of dirty dishes. But it's not in me to do. In fact, if that happened, I'd probably voluntarily commit myself for a week in a straight jacket.

So anyway, last night we were busy bees. Matt mowed the lawn and I went into hyper drive cleaning the bathrooms. Somewhere around 8, I felt that wave of 'crazy' crash over the top of my head.

"Matt, we need to remember to take out the trash."


"Oh, and Matt? Please don't cut your hair over the sink in the morning, I hate cleaning that up."


"And Matt, don't forget to sweep your den, I think I saw a dead roach by the door."

"Liz. Ok."

"Oh, and we need to go ahead and wash those glasses by hand because the dishwasher is full and..."


I paused, taken aback by Matt's raised voice. This man doesn't get mad. Testy? Yes. Mad? Never. And he certainly never yells.

"Liz, seriously, get off my back. You're like the cleaning Nazi."

My mouth wagged open on its hinges. And then I realized he was totally right. I am a cleaning Nazi. But I don't want to be. I don't want to lie awake at night because I forgot to sweep the kitchen. I don't want to become one of those nuts who hops around maniacally in an effort to avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks.

So I apologized to Matt. And I made myself go to bed without changing the sheets in the guest room. Granted, I got up at 5 this morning and did it, but still, it was a step in the right direction.... a step away from being a cleaning Nazi.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Big Water Color

The month of April reminds me of a living, breathing, water color painting.

I sat in the backyard this morning. I didn't clean off the patio or check on the climbing roses (which coincidentally, I forgot to cut back). I didn't water the plants or fuss at Mabel to 'go potty' when she got distracted by a kitten in the next door neighbor's yard. I just sat there.

The sun peeped over the horizon and the birds' chorus swelled around me. I just sat there, camera in hand, marveling at how beautiful it was. It's shocking, how much I miss. I swarm through my life like a distracted bee, missing the birds, the purple trees, and the dew.

But not this morning.
This morning I paid attention.
This morning I just watched and listened.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Big Fat Snoop

I was working in my yard when the lady across the street came over.

"Hey, I just finished the remodel in my house, wanna see?"

I stifled a snort. Did I WANT to see? That's like asking a dieting woman if she wants a lifetime supply of magical calorie-free chocolate.

"Yes! Can I bring my camera?"

I waited for it. I waited for the shadow to pass over her face. I waited for her lips to tighten and the inevitable thought "Great, I live across the street from a big fat snoop" to filter into her brain. I waited for her to cross her arms and say, "Uh, never mind. We'll do this another time."

But instead she grinned, "Sure! Come on over!"

I think this is going to be a great friendship.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mabel's Vet Called...

... and we have a cancer free dog.

Bye-Bye Winter Clothes, Part 4

Hello $17 sale dress from Target with a super-comfy stretchy waist.
Goodbye knee-high stockings and static electricity.

Hello cameo pendant from a flea market $5 bin.
Goodbye scarves and fingerless gloves.
As you can tell, my wardrobe is in a permanant state of celebration.
The only down side to these clothes?
I'm going to have to start shaving my legs more than once week.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Morning

This weekend could not have been more gorgeous.
As they say, "This is Honolulu weather."

Mabel agreed and spent as much time as possible in the backyard. The neighborhood turned out in droves, buzzing around the hive, running lawn mowers and digging gardens.

Mabel is doing better. We can always tell when she's feeling perky, the hair on the top of her head gets fluffier. It's nice. The 'demented monk head' syndrome seems to be lessening.

Hopefully we'll get her results this week.

But until then, Mabel has decided to spend as much time as possible lying in the sun and barking at neighbors... complete with her fluffy hair and scar.