Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Well, maybe not YOU.

But some of our Facebook friends are making us cringe when we see that we have comments to review. Here are the top 5 Facebook commenting blunders that I’ve noticed seem to be on the rise:

  1. Adding needless drama and stress in the form of one-upmanship. Your FB friend may complain of recurring back pain, but YOUR brother had long-term back pain that was finally so disabling that he couldn’t walk anymore. Yeah, your FB friend’s headache is PROBABLY related to allergies, but that’s what your uncle thought before he died of a neuroblastoma three weeks after diagnosis. You’re not only asking your friend to worry needlessly, you’re managing to focus the attention on YOU. Way to go, Narcissa.
  2. Offering unsolicited advice. Your FB friend announces that he’s found a diet and exercise plan that works for him? No better time to tell him how much you love this OTHER diet plan and how it has ALWAYS worked for you. Your friend has made the painful decision to have his dog put to sleep? Why not tell him he should TOTALLY reconsider because your cousin’s dog was misdiagnosed and got better after a few weeks with another vet. If someone has thought long and hard about a tough decision or lifestyle change and you insist on offering unwanted, contradictory information, they’ll remember that more than any helpful advice you’ve ever given them.
  3. Ignoring other comments and repeating useless, damaging information (see Nos. 1 and 2). If someone has already said exactly what you’re going to say in a comment, and your FB friend has responded with a “thanks but no thanks” reply, you’re going to look like the biggest idiot in the village when you make the same comment. If you just can’t bring yourself to read all the previous comments to ensure that you’re offering unique and/or reassuring information, then you’re just adding white noise to the conversation anyway.
  4. Saying something unforgivably filthy. As a former newspaper copy editor, I admit that my tolerance for inappropriate humor is a bit higher than normal. And I realize that Internet discourse is a little rougher than interoffice email, depending on the office. But when you say something so obscene that I have to drop whatever I’m doing at the moment to log in and delete your comment from my timeline, you’ll never see anything I post again.
  5. Starting arguments with other commenters just for the sheer egotistical joy of outmaneuvering someone intellectually. This leaves the “losing” commenter with much less of an inclination to ever comment on your mutual FB friend’s wall again. Unless this commenter is someone with whom you engage in intellectual horseplay on a regular basis, save the academic arguments for your own posts.

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Zenni Optical may be the most important company I’ve discovered in a long time.

The three pairs of prescription glasses pictured above? They cost me a total of $28.75, including shipping.

Utterly ridiculous, right? The prescriptions must be wrong, or the frames must be ready to fall apart, or the lenses must be overly susceptible to scratches.

Nope. Every pair is comparable, in every way, to the last pair of glasses I purchased for $300-plus. A pair of glasses, I might add, that never quite fit correctly, despite numerous follow-up visits for adjustments, and featured lenses with a disorienting flare effect despite the addition of a recommended coating.

Zenni ships its products direct from China to California, then to customers. If the price difference were less dramatic, say, $250 for glasses I would pay $300 for locally, I probably wouldn’t bother ordering from Zenni. But the site lists perfectly fashionable and functional frames starting at $6.95 a pair (the price of each pair of frames pictured above, in fact).

I can only assume that this means I have been paying ENTIRELY too much for frames, even the supposedly inexpensive models sporting no name brand. I would hazard a guess that some of the same frames that Zenni carries probably get stamped with a designer label before being marked up in price some 2000 percent and going on sale here.

The one thing that I’ve always hated about glasses (and the thing that has prompted me to wear contact lenses, no matter how uncomfortable they can be at times) has been the one-pair-at-a-time problem. Glasses are so expensive that you feel like you only get to have one good pair, with maybe an old pair as backup.

Even the cheapest frames and lenses are going to set you back $200, an amount that isn’t prohibitive, necessarily, but has always made me hesitate to purchase more than one pair at a time.

I’ve always wished that glasses were like earrings: I want a selection to match moods and outfits.

Zenni has made this wish come true, turning glasses into fun, affordable accessories.

Wait until you see me in the blue pair.

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This loaf of cinnamon sugar bread almost never came to be, which would have been quite unfortunate, because it was a thing of perfection, with a crunchy top and soft interior laced with more than a mere hint of cinnamon sugar.

The first time I tried the recipe, the top wasn’t crunchy, and the interior was a wet, soupy messy of cinnamon sugar and raw batter. It fell apart coming out of the loaf pan, and I had to cut it into pieces before bringing it to the office to save myself the embarrassment of co-workers trying to cut/scoop servings for themselves.

The concoction’s only saving grace? It was, beneath the disfigured clumps and raw batter, utterly delicious.

The original recipe called for all of the cinnamon sugar mixture (a full 1/3 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon) to be sprinkled in one layer on top of half of the batter, then topped with the rest of the batter. The cinnamon sugar mixture seems to have liquefied and prevented the batter immediately surrounding it from baking completely.

I decided to give the recipe one more chance, figuring that if I could make smaller layers of cinnamon sugar, maybe the batter would have a chance to cook more evenly.

I didn’t get the chance until this weekend, when I babysat my nieces while my sister-in-law had a much-deserved girls weekend out. Given my ineffective Barbie doll skills (the girls got pretty upset when I couldn’t remember the names of the dozen dolls NOT named Barbie) and the cold weather preventing us from easily pursuing outdoor, more tomboyish activities, I decided that a baking project was in order.

Part of the reason I wanted this recipe to work was its ease of preparation: You literally stir seven ingredients together for the batter and then layer it in the loaf pan with cinnamon sugar. No mixer. No sifting. No melting.

After having my charges stir the batter and shake the cinnamon sugar mixture together thoroughly, I poured what I figured to be about a third of the batter into the bottom of the greased and floured pan. I then had my nieces spoon about a third of the cinnamon sugar over the batter. I added another layer of batter, then almost all of the cinnamon sugar save for about 2 tablespoons. I added the rest of the batter, then sprinkled on the rest of the cinnamon sugar.

50 minutes in the oven plus 10 minutes on the wire rack and the loaf slid right out of the pan. After allowing the bread to cool for about 20 more minutes while watching Scooby-Doo (the 2002 live-action version), we had cinnamon bread and hot chocolate out of my childhood Tupperware tea set (now theirs).

Babysitting perfection.

The original recipe came from A Whisk and a Prayer via Pinterest.

Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Adapted from A Whisk and a Prayer

  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×5-inch inch loaf pan (I also cut a piece of parchment paper to fit on the bottom for extra non-stick protection). Stir the cinnamon and 1/3 cup sugar together.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup sugar. Add the egg, milk and oil. Stir until just moistened.

Pour approximately a third of the batter into the loaf pan. Sprinkle with about a third of the cinnamon sugar. Top with another third of the batter, then almost all of the remaining cinnamon sugar. Pour the rest of the batter in the pan and sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon sugar on top.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing it to a wire rack to cool completely.

The original recipe advises you to wrap the loaf in foil and let it sit overnight before slicing. If you can endure the scent of freshly baked cinnamon bread wafting through your home without cutting a piece off until the next day, then go for it. If not, enjoy your snack today AND tomorrow.

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My Birchbox subscription has taught me a lot about the cosmetics industry.

For example, a lot of women will apparently pay $18 an ounce for a “molecular mist” purported to do everything from keeping skin hydrated to protecting it from “ionizing radiation” emitted from the sun and cellphones.

I thought it smelled like that one perfume that every lady over 75 is contractually obligated to wear, so I tossed it.

Come at me, ionizing radiation.

I’ve also learned that oil-based moisturizers, even those containing lavender-scented unicorn tears of happiness, make my eyes swell, which I guess puffs the tiny wrinkles right out.

Overall, the Birchbox experiment has been loads of fun, especially when the $10-a-month box of samples includes makeup. My first box held a full-size container of Laura Geller Baked Blush N’ Brighten blusher/highlighter, and this month I received stila’s Smudge Stick liner in Lionfish (that’s a coppery brown for those of you unfamiliar with hilarious names for cosmetics shades).

The Birchbox item that’s changed my makeup routine, however, is blinc mascara (and no, the cosmetics industry absolutely CANNOT afford to purchase uppercase letters for their company names).

I had been having trouble with mascara for a while. L’Oreal either stopped making or stopped distributing my favorite mascara, FeatherLash, a few years ago, and while other varieties were certainly waterproof, they weren’t anywhere NEAR smudgeproof or flakeproof. By midday, especially in the summer, I was almost guaranteed to have light black smudges under my eyes. Of course, I couldn’t remove waterproof smudges without removing any foundation or concealer that I might be wearing, so sometimes I would just skip mascara in the morning, especially if I was planning on wearing makeup on an evening outing and didn’t want to start over.

The blinc sample promised to form smudgeproof tubes of color around my lashes instead of painting them. It also pointed out a DUH factoid about waterproof mascara: Your skin’s oil makes it smudge because it’s waterproof, not oilproof (oil is a central ingredient in many of the very products that REMOVE waterproof mascara, after all).

So how DO you remove mascara that’s waterproof AND oilproof? It turns out that blinc is actually water-resistant rather than waterproof. Sweat, rain and tears shouldn’t affect it, however, since it requires a combination of water AND pressure for removal. I’ve found that a few concentrated splashes of warm water, followed by gentle tugging with my fingertips, takes it right off. This method actually results in fewer lashes getting tugged out, too.

So, yeah, I totally spent $25 on a tube of mascara for the first time ever. Wonders never cease.

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Since I was a little kid, my go-to anxiety dream involved snakes. In this recurring dream, I would step outside my house to find a yard filled with snakes, and I would have to walk carefully to avoid them. No matter what house I walked out of, the yard itself was inevitably the yard from our home in Collins, Miss., where I went to elementary school.

This was never what I would call a nightmare, since Dream Me would just sort of sigh and start picking her way through snakes, but it always occurred during stressful times.

After Hurricane Katrina flooded my home, my hometown and a boggling number of other places I loved, my subconscious traded snakes for water as an expression of anxiety.

Again, these dreams aren’t nightmares. The problems encountered — usually water rising where it shouldn’t be rising, or me somehow falling into a deep body of water — aren’t so much scary as they are irritating.

During one particularly active dream sequence a couple of weeks ago, I found myself seated at a table that was really part of a boat that plunged over the side of the dock when the driver gunned the engine (I never said my dreams obeyed the laws of mechanics or physics). I swam back up to the dock and climbed into a dockside restaurant, which immediately began to turn sideways since it turned out to be a huge boat that was rolling over. As I kicked my way out of a window into the water, Dream Me really couldn’t believe she had to swim all the way up from the bottom of the ocean AGAIN.

I mean COME ON.

I totally get it. My subconscious gets overwhelmed with anxiety and takes it out on my dreams. It takes what I’m apparently scared of deep down and releases it at 2 a.m.

My everyday way to cope with anxiety is to constantly analyze how to fix problems. I’m on to Plan C before most people even realize that Plan A is done for and Plan B is just ludicrous.

It’s the same in my dreams. Instead of waking up in a cold sweat when the boat plunges beneath the surface of the water, Dream Me is concentrating on swimming horizontally before trying to head up to the surface in case the sinking boat creates a whirlpool (apparently my subconscious thinks it just might, no matter what the Mythbusters say).

Healthy? You’ll have to ask my theoretical psychotherapist. But it makes sense to me that working through dream anxieties rather than simply having them scare you half out of your pajamas has to be pretty good self-therapy.

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I’m tired of being hustled at the cash register.

Cashiers at the two grocery stores where I shop at regularly have begun the holiday charity spiel early this year. The script literally says, “Would you like to give a dollar to help a family have a turkey for the holidays this year?”

Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes, if I thought that dollar actually went toward the purchase of a turkey. But I’m afraid that only 40 cents of that dollar goes toward a turkey. Possibly less.

And, you see, I know and trust several local organizations to take that dollar and do something awesome with it. Your unknown organization, not so much.

You might say that I won’t miss a dollar here and there. And you’re probably right. But at some point I WILL miss the sum of those dollars, and my own pet charities may get shortchanged.

So stop it. Stop delivering your spiel in a manner that makes me feel like a cheap jerk for saying no.

Stop hooking up with organizations that I’m not familiar with. Would it be so bad to sponsor a LOCAL organization? Ask me to donate a dollar to Manna House, or Friends of Huntsville Animal Services, and see how quickly I say yes.

Until then, the answer is still no.

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Oddly, education is hindering my ability to write a post about education for the Rocket City Bloggers November blog carnival.

In four weeks, I’ll wrap up my master’s degree in English. I never intended to pursue this degree, but it has been one of the more awesome things I’ve ever done.

I think everybody should go back to school for something in their mid-30s. It remaps your brain and reenergizes your thinking process. Or at least that’s what it’s done for me.

It apparently has not, however, transformed my ability to do three things at once into the ability to do five things at once, so I better get back to writing for work, writing for class and cogitating about this Friday’s master’s exam.

I promise to return to cooking and decorating and writing about the whole glorious mess sooner rather than later.

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I spent last week in Biloxi with my mom and had every intention of blogging about my adventures. I quickly figured out that I’d rather be having said adventures than blogging about them, however, thus the weeklong absence of posts.

Let’s start with the journey. Having discovered the amazing lunches at Birmingham’s Culinard Cafe a few months ago, I decided that I simply had to start my journey early enough to make it there to test-drive the breakfast menu.

The breakfast menu is significantly smaller than the lunch menu, but it still lists enough items to make anybody happy. It boasts three breakfast sandwiches on ciabatta bread, all featuring scrambled eggs: hot ham and Swiss cheese; bacon and cheddar cheese; and Southwestern chorizo, sautéed onions and peppers and jalapeno cheese. All are priced between $3.35 and $3.65.

My instinct pointed me toward the spicy chorizo sausage, but I’m still getting to know chorizo, so I chose the hot ham and cheese sandwich instead. I also ordered a small serving of loaded grits ($2.10).

My meal arrived with a surprise hashbrown pattie (a surprise only because I hadn’t really been paying attention to the menu details).

Just like the irresistible flat-iron steak sandwich that the husband and I have split a couple of times at the Culinard Cafe, the ham, egg and cheese sandwich was big enough for two people. Alas, I was by myself, but I did my best.

The bread, as usual, was spot on: thick and sturdy enough to safely encase the slippery ingredients, but thin and soft enough to bite through without too much effort. The eggs were cooked to perfection and then wrapped around the ham and gooey cheese.

The grits? Oh, the grits.

Loaded grits usually arrive with grease pooled on top, a consequence of adding more cheese and butter than necessary in an attempt, I presume, to fully “Southernize” the dish.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There were no greasy pools in these loaded grits. They weren’t laden with butter or unmelted cheese. The grits were light (not so light that I thought they were baked with eggs in a casserole, however), and filled with small pieces of bacon — real bacon, not fake bacon bits.

The grits alone made the early departure worthwhile. I didn’t even have to stop for lunch (I actually tried to find lunch, but you know that span of I-65 between Montgomery and Mobile? That happened.)

If I have to plan a trip through Birmingham, I’m totally planning it on a weekday during this restaurant’s business hours.



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My favorite part of blogging? Not the groupies (please tell me there are groupies) or the riotous after-parties (again, please let there be after-parties).

It’s the site stats. Definitely the site stats.

The myriad ways that people find this blog are simply fascinating and, sometimes, completely random.

The most popular search terms aren’t the ones that interest me, although it is flattering to know that I’m one of the top 3 Google results for “little debbie banana pudding rolls.”

The more rarely used search terms tell more interesting stories.

For example, over the past two years, six people have arrived at this blog using the search term “two headed angel.” The related post describes a craft project gone wrong due to wine and impatience, but seriously, WHO is typing in this search term and what are they looking for?

My absolute favorites, however are the weirder, more mysterious search terms:

  • llama sunset (pretty sure it leads here)
  • pete \”wet dawg\” gordon (I have NO idea)
  • Revenge of the king cake babies (probably leads here)
  • 2 other uses for star crunch pies (totally did not address this topic)
  • fun weird things to do on a first date (I know a few, but haven’t written about them)
  • model of land tortoise house (I’ll build you one for a price)
  • uah nerdy (you have no idea)
  • two-headed (likely)
  • how to stop 25 things (you can’t)
  • used mattress alabama (not recommended)
  • he was adequate for her (so far)
  • dogs texas “avoiding snakes” (not likely)
  • sherbet cigarettes (I’m in)
  • wide cats (overrated)
  • is it too late to by butterfly bandages for my laceration on my arm? (yes)
  • cow child (guilty)

Until the groupies show up and take me to the after-party, this is as good as it gets.

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So if I had anything as organized as a bucket list, seeing U2 live would definitely be at the top of it.


More about this later. I’m still processing. And recovering.

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