Irish Soda Bread and Putting Off Procrastination

16 Mar

This post was supposed to be about procrastination….but I’ve decided to write about that later. 

I know. I love me some irony.

I have a good reason, though, for putting off today’s intended post. Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, and I wanted to share my tried-and-true Irish Soda Bread Recipe. It is fool-proof easy and I will be making it today as I avoid the rain and attempt to clean up the house. We have Company arriving tonight, so this is not a drill. The difference between visiting relatives and Company? Relatives know exactly how messy you are and are pleasantly surprised when your home reflects something different. With Company, you clean with the foolish hope of tricking them into thinking that you’re better than you are.

Personally, I think that true love means never having to pretend to be something you’re not….and my family just happens to not be organized. This might just be my fear talking, though. I’m terrified that the visiting Company will open the closets or look under the beds. As you know from my 5 Stages of Cleaning, that would not end well.

Anyway, let’s get on with the show–Irish Soda Bread. I love raisin bread and I love Irish Soda Bread for its denseness. It’s one of my comfort foods, really, and it helps that it’s so easy to make. I first saw this recipe in Marin Magazine–see the original recipe here. I think I will be skipping the caraway seeds when I make this bread today, but I have used them in the past.

Joan’s Irish Soda Bread

Makes one large loaf or two medium (four cup) loaves.

Note: For the most tender texture, don’t overmix the batter–combine the dry and wet ingredients just until there is no dry flour left. For all you Catholics (fallen and otherwise), Joan suggests mixing only as long as it takes to say an “Our Father,” a “Hail Mary,” and a “Glory Be.” As for my own suggestions: for the best results, listen to this and this while baking. 

3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 tablespoons canola oil or other vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups raisins

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two medium (four-cup) loaf pans. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, eggs, caraway seeds, and oil together in a medium bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and sprinkle the raisins over. Sweeping your whisk thoroughly over the bottom of the bowl, mix the batter only until uniform; do not over-mix. Scrape into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the soda bread rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto a rack to cool.

Happy Baking! Check back soon for my thoughts on procrastination and life as an ostrich. Yeah, that’s right.

Take a Look, It’s on a Book: Book Title Poem

9 Feb

I was sick last week with a bugger of a cold and gave myself a pass from blogging. I thought I was going to have to wuss out of this week’s post, too, since I had no news, no motivation, and no clue what to write. Unfortunately, this is getting to be a familiar feeling. You remember my New Years resolution to maintain a habit of creative writing? Yeah, not going so well. My Giraffe Story is giving me problems because I can’t decide who’s narrating/what perspective is most appropriate to write from. It’s not exactly writer’s block….more like a split personality disorder. I have–no joke–six drafts saved that are ALL from different perspectives.

We are not amused.

So I’ve abandoned the Giraffe Story for the time being, just until I can sort myself out. Today I played with a horse of a different color. I was really impressed and inspired by Judy Clement Wall’s post This One is a Poem on her blog Zebra Sounds. She wrote a really lovely poem composed almost entirely of book titles. Is that a great idea, or what?

Do you know where this is going? Yes, I totally stole her idea.

It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was time consuming and guilt-inducing. (While going through my bookshelves to collect titles, I realized how many books I own that I have yet to read…) I still haven’t put all the books that I used back on their shelves. (Ugh. Seems like a lot of work.)  But it was fun! You should try it! I like the prettiness of Judy’s poem better–and don’t get me started on my photography skills–but clearly poetry is a window to the soul and mine is trying to get a message out…
(Read the poem in normal text after the photos) 

 

Humor Me:
What should I do with my life?

This is a story of
A girl named disaster
playing with books
becoming a writer
the real pretend

She is
the woman warrior,
the bitch in the house,
the blind assassin
searching for Mercy Street.

Watch her
hopscotch
through
the art of choosing,
blink
away
one hundred demons
blame
the known world
till the cows come home

The funny thing is,
the heroine’s bookshelf
is
a map of the world
a gesture life
a contract with God

Finally,
the plot thickens
the awakening
the 3 am epiphany
when you are engulfed in flames
where the lightening strikes
seeing things
truth and beauty
wild magic
miracles

 

5 Scary Things That Happened to Me Today and Why I May Be Having a Mid-Life Crisis

25 Jan

5. While writing something, I could not figure out how to spell silhouette. I was misspelling it so badly that spell-check couldn’t even get a grasp of what I was trying to say. Finally, urged by desperation and impatience, I just looked it up.
s-i-l-h-o-u-t-t-e. Huh. Okay.
So I continued with my work until I got flummoxed again. Jiminy Cricket is a …conscious? No, wait…consiounce?  Oh God, no. Five minutes later, I had confirmed that the word conscience has “science” in it (since when??) and established a growing fear that I had lost all my smarts. Plus, I kept thinking of this 
great (if wince-worthy) comic by For Lack of a Better Comic that depicts an English major getting his English Major Badge taken away for bad spelling. 

4. I decided to treat myself to a mug of hot chocolate, what with my spelling nerves being so frazzled. I got a mug out of the cupboard, got the milk out of the refrigerator. I poured the milk into the mug, put the mug in the microwave. I put the milk back in the cupboard….
wait a minute…

3. Tomorrow, I will be chauffeuring a friend of my grandma’s to a doctor’s appointment. (I have a feeling that this experience will require its own post. The possibilities for hilarity and insanity are endless.) Today, this lady called to confirm what time I would pick her up, then said seven terrifying words: “I have you for the day, right?” The last time this particular woman asked this, I ended up spending 4 more hours with her than I had intended, pushing a grocery cart through Starbucks like a crazy person, reading the nutritional content of every single frozen dinner in Trader Joe’s, cleaning out her fridge, and doing her laundry. 

2. I applied for yet another job that I could potentially be excited about. ‘Nuff said. 

1. During an afternoon phone call, Grandma expressed her concern about me not meeting new people, living with my parents, not finding a job–the list goes on because, apparently, my life is very concerning. Grandma concluded with: “You really need to meet more people your own age. Your life is half over.”

I’m 23. I’d just like to put that out there. I’m 23, and Grandma has me in the middle-aged category already. Gee,  I thought I’d have accomplished so much more by this point.

“You’re 93!” I shouted. “If I live to be your age, then I’m definitely not at the halfway mark!”
“What, so I rounded up.” Grandma said.  And then: “Still, I think something’s half over. Your child-bearing years. Your brunette years. Your freedom years.”
“GAH! STOP TALKING! JUST STOP TALKING!” 

This Will Make You Chuckle

17 Jan

Baby Ninja?

Last week, in a nod of respect to my New Years resolution to write more, I started writing a short story involving giraffes. It’s probably not as interesting as it sounds; if you’re thinking, for example, that it’s a story with talking giraffes, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. (That does sound like a good read, though.) I was a giraffe for Halloween once, but I’m not sure I could put the right words in this particular animal’s mouth. I’m not even sure what a giraffe would sound like or who would listen–however, my guess would be the opposite of David Schwimmer, and anyone who’s smart enough.

There are actually no giraffes in the story, just a lot of conversation about them. I spent several hours, in the name of research, reading  interesting facts about the giraffe. The trouble with this was that I got sucked down an internet rabbit hole and ended up spending my writing time surfing giraffe trivia. Most major city zoos have a special page of their websites devoted to the giraffe. In case you need some interesting dinner table conversation or unique pick-up lines (hey, it’d probably work on me), I’ll be glad to help you out:

The average giraffe tongue is about 20 inches (50 centimeters) long.

Female giraffes give birth standing up and babies can walk within hours after being born.

Giraffes can go weeks without drinking. They eat moisture-rich foods such as acacia leaves and usually seek water every few days, lowering themselves in a splay-legged drinking stance that leaves them vulnerable to predators.

Giraffes sleep only about a half-hour a day, and this time is usually broken up into about six five-minute naps.

I sort of just assumed that animal information on zoo websites was guaranteed fact. Since zoos are all about education and preservation, I figured that fact-checking would be a high priority. Most of the sites I visited had the same basic giraffe content. All except one, that is.

Which brings me to the chuckle I promised you. Thanks for hanging in there.

The Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri, devotes a page of its website to the Baringo Giraffe. Among the giraffe information listed is this:

Giraffes can run 35 mph and can kick with all four legs at the same time.

Go ahead. Re-read it. I’ll wait.

Okay, now picture a giraffe kicking with all four legs at the same time and don’t laugh or smile.

IT CAN’T BE DONE!

Did you just envision a ninja giraffe kicking out at four different enemies while screaming “HI-YA”? Did you imagine a giraffe that looked something like a bear-skin rug?

Now, I have a feeling that this tid-bit of info is a mistake–but I’ll take my amusement any way I can get it.

This chuckle was brought to you by Oh My Words! and the Dickerson Zoo. You’re welcome.

The Truth is, I Never Left You…

6 Jan

Well, okay, I did leave you.

I left you for about two months. Two months without a word. Two months without my words. I’m not sure how you survived without me and will admit that I got a warm and fuzzy and guilty feeling when a couple of folks inquired about my disappearance. (Hi Allenavw! I’m alive!)

I’ve been an irresponsible blog parent. I’ve been a grade-A procrastinator. I’ve been working on a secret project that will remain unmentionable until it isn’t. 

If you’re at all grateful for my prodigal return (fatted calf burgers anyone?), then you must be grateful for my friend Lisa and the New Year. Lisa is out of town, so I am dog sitting for her. With an empty house–apart from Ginger the sweetheart golden retriever, that is–it seemed like the perfect opportunity for some blog writing/brainstorming. Thus the where and the when blogging puzzles were solved. As for the why….

One of my New Years resolutions is to get back on the blogging horse. No more M.I.A. Oh My Words! This is actually my only resolution that made the cut. Those that have already hit some bumps in the road include:

1. I will not buy another book until I’ve read all those that are lining my shelves, piled on my floor, propping up lamps, hiding under coffee tables etc. etc. etc. 

In theory, this resolution is top notch. It’s practical, fun, and good for the soul. I’ll feel so accomplished if I can finally read the books I’ve been meaning to read. The hiccup? There is another library used book sale coming up and, if you’ll recall, the last one had me swooning from sheer joy. I can’t not go to this sale. Can’t do it. And I can’t go and not buy anything. That would be Hell, pure and simple.

So, within 24 hours of making my book buying resolution, I was forced to amend it. I will try to go easy on the book-buying, I really will–but a book nerd and bargain hunter only has so much strength. For my new goal, I will tackle my To Be Read list and occasionally post about my reading. I’m not into book reviews (more specifically, the idea of writing them gives me the heebie jeebies), so this will likely mean just quotes or random thoughts. But look at me, combining one resolution with another! I. Am. Good.

2. I will spend more time on my creative writing.

The vagueness of this resolution is a problem. “More time” is relative, since I haven’t seriously devoted myself to my writing for quite a long time. I could spend a minute writing today, and it would be more than I spent yesterday (or the day before, or the day before that). Also, this blog doesn’t count. I know, I know–but it’s still writing! It’s still engaging the right (write?) part of the brain! Let’s not forget the blogging resolution already! All good points. What would I do without you?

What I need is a writing schedule. Or a daily word count goal. Or some stick-with-it-ness. What I need is a writing resolution without a lot of wiggle room. (See “more time,” discussion, above.) What I need is a cookie.

Other resolutions I’ve bandied about: working out/exercising more diligently (cliche and vague!), being braver (just vague), and following all horoscopes and fortune cookie fortunes to adventure (call it what you will).

For now, you can rest assured that I’m back, baby! As always, thanks for reading. You can expect more words soon!

“More” being relative, of course…..


Today, a Telemarketer Made Me Cry

3 Nov

I’m not proud of it. It was not a shining moment of maturity, nor an example of my sanity. But, yes, today a telemarketer made me cry.

She happened to call at a particularly bad time. Let’s just say I had recently dunked my fifth post-Halloween kit-kat (“fun size” my left foot) into my third cup of coffee and was trying to ward off a so-much-work-so-little-time panic attack. This was at least the gazillionth time the same organization has called asking for my mother. In the beginning, it was funny because they added “Dr.” to her name. She’s not a doctor, but my family likes to joke that she could have been so the first (and even the second and third) call was amusing.

When I answered today’s call–teetering on an emotional cliff, even as I reached for the phone–the familiar request for my mother the doctor hit me hard. “Who is this?” I demanded.

The woman remained cheerful. The fool. “This is a political call,” she said. “We’re looking for donations–”

I cut her off right quick. “Well, the person you want isn’t a doctor. And she won’t give you money. And anyway, she’s not here. She works–particularly on Wednesdays, at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Like. Most. People.”

At this point, my voice was breaking and I’m sure the faceless woman could hear that I was two kit-kats past crazy. “Someone from your group keeps calling. Do these calls even work, anyway? Could you stop? Could you take us off your list and stop calling? Please? PLEASE JUST STOP.”

There was a pause and for a moment I thought that she hung up on me–a first, in my experience with telemarketers.

“I–I understand.” She finally said. “I do apologize.”

I felt a twinge of guilt. She sounded shell-shocked, hesitant. I generally don’t like to be rude (or batshit crazy) to telemarketers. “We’re not interested” is my go-to phrase. (Not sure if that’s a royal we or if I am speaking for the household. Either way, I’m a queen–right?) If they mispronounce our name in a particularly creative way, I politely tell them they have the wrong number. If I’m really feeling non-confrontational, I just say he/she isn’t home. Of course, then they call back later and I have to mentally choose my own adventure: continue the cycle or end it?

So I felt sort of bad for talking to this woman like I was a supporting role from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Until…

“Ma’am?” She ventured. “Would you be interested in providing a donation?”

And Now, Some Grammar Humor…

3 Oct

A Story About the Kindness of Strangers and Musical Miracles, Told in Song Titles

27 Sep

The picture above is an approximate representation of how I feel. I’m happy. Like, spin-around-in-a-mountaintop-meadow-while-singing happy. Actually, since I’m supposed to be taking vocabulary steroids in preparation for the GRE, maybe I should be using a better word than happy. Gleeful? Ecstatic? Joyful? Thrilled? Jubilant? Elated? Tickled pink? Man, if this turns out to be one of the questions on that dratted test, I am set. 

I know what you’re thinking: Oh my words! Why are you so very happy, Abigail? Well, first of all, I like you’re enthusiasm. You’re all right. Secondly…I’ll TELL you why I’m happy! Because the universe is awesome and I have been rewarded with a stupendous gift! 

You may recall that I have been searching for a special Birthday Song that is part of my family’s birthday tradition. Well, a wondrous, serendipitous event happened. Someone who visited this little ol’ blog (Kasi, if you read this, you’re my new favorite person in the whole wide world) appreciated my desperation and my story, and left a comment that included a link to the MP3 for the song. Isn’t the universe amazing? Isn’t the internet incredible? Is the sky bluer than usual today? Are my dogs cuter? Don’t you just feel like smiling and laughing all the livelong day?

Really, though, I am so happy that a perfect stranger helped me out and am grateful that I now have this song in my itunes possession. I was taking a blogging break to focus on studying and working and other unpleasant -ings, and when I finally allowed myself to return to my blog baby, it was such a thrill to find this long-lost song. See? You can rely on the kindness of strangers. Ask and ye shall receive. Music does make the people come together!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: What’s this about a story told in song titles? Oh my word, Abigail, was this post’s title false advertising?

First of all, woah Nelly! You’re a tough audience, aren’t ya? It’s okay though, I forgive you because a song title poem-story is quite exciting.

Below is my epic hero’s journey–the significance of the Happy Birthday Song, its absence, its recovery–told through song titles, to honor this miraculous musical moment. I’ve linked a few of them to their youtube selves and encourage you to listen and enjoy.

(Note: You may need to read the original Birthday Song post for some helpful context….or you can just muddle through and listen to the music….woah-oh-oh, listen to the music… )

~

Music. Foundations. We Are Family. Songs We Sing. Memories Are Made of This. All the Small Things. Precious Love. Part of My Life. Hooked on a Feeling. Groove is in the Heart. Hidden Away.

I Got Trouble. Something’s Missing. Those Sweet Words. Can’t Find the Words. I Have Nothing. Lost. Harder to Breathe. It’s the End of the World as We Know It. I Hate Myself for Losing You. What Did You Do. Don’t Blame Me.

Heartbreak Hotel. Today I Sing the Blues. Irreplaceable. Incomplete. Inaudible Melodies. Here Without You. Crying Shame. When You’re Gone. I Want You Back.

Help! Rescue Me! Not the Only One. We All Want the Same Thing. Searchin’. Luck Be a Lady. Simple As It Should Be. Needle in a Haystack. Creep. The Things We Do For Love. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.When You Were Mine. Wasn’t It Good.

Worrisome Heart. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning. Trouble Sleeping. On My Mind.  I’ll Do Anything. Nothing but a Miracle. Makes Me Wanna Pray. When You Wish Upon a Star. I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.

Takin’ Care of Business. It Ain’t Over Till the Fat Lady Sings. You Can Get it if You Really Want. Never Going to Give You Up. I’ll Find a Way.

People Get Ready. Something Good This Way Comes. Teardrops Will Fall. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. Fairytale. Love is All Around.

You Don’t Know Me. Beautiful Stranger. You Give Me Something. The Gift of Song.

Listen.

Oh!   You’re the One.

Back Together Again. Celebrate. I Feel Home. Breathe Again. Oh What a Day. Because of You. You Rock My World. Hallelujah. Wonderful. Bubbly. Overjoyed. Zip a dee do da. This Magic Moment.

From My Heart to Yours. Thanks and Praise. Danke Schoen. Thank You For the Music. Thanks For the Memories. All Because of You. Earth Angel. You’ve Got a Friend in Me.  

What a Wonderful World.


Hubba Hubba! Hunks from Yesteryear

20 Sep

(This short post could alternatively be titled I Should Be Studying, But Instead…)

Who needs People Magazine’s Sexiest Man pick, when you can ogle some hunky hotties from history? My new favorite discoveries are two tubmlr sites–My Daguerrotype Boyfriend and Bangable Dudes in History–that feature daguerrotypes and old photos of some bygone babes. If you’re like me, and swoon for fedoras and gentlemen and oldtime standards of beauty,  you’ll get a kick out of browsing these images. BDiH is particularly funny, with breakdowns of each photo’s appeal. Check it out!

What’s The Meaning of All This?

16 Sep

You may have noticed that I’ve been M.I.A lately. If so, you are awesome and amazing because that means you were observant and missed me. (The former is good, but the latter is more worthy of praise…) I meant to write, I really did. I meant to write about my Grandma’s 93rd birthday on August 31. (She had a rockin’ good time and my mom and I made a cake that was EPIC.) I meant to write about the weird dreams I’ve been having. (A few nights ago, I dreamed that I was eating tomato soup in my car. That’s it. Nothing else happened. Tomato soup.) I had plans, I tell you. Plans!

However, I’ve been busy. I’m not going to go into all of it because I subscribe to the superstitious belief that I will jinx myself and the universe will punish me for sharing too soon. This sounds very doom and gloom, but I’m pretty sure there’s something to it. Of course, it’s not unlike the reluctance of J.K. Rowling’s characters to speak the name Voldemort. This might mean that if I do talk about certain decisions that have been made and actions that have been taken, they will lose their ability to inspire fear and self-doubt.

Meh.

Well, I will tell you that I am taking the GRE in a little less than a month and have been trying to study. I was never very good at studying, and I hardly had to do it in college. I was an English major. We mostly had essays instead of tests. When there was an exam, it was on a book or something we’d read…and we wrote an essay. (Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, that’s all I’m essay’n.*) You either knew the material, or you didn’t. For four years of higher education, I rarely had to memorize anything. (Rote? Is that anything like “wrote”?) I watched my friends and roommates study and recite formulas, dates, chemicals, economic principles, Chinese vocabulary. It looked hard.

While I don’t want to bomb the math portion of the GRE, I don’t care all that much about it. It’s important that I do well in the verbal part because it’s generally assumed that an English major should know that crap section. I’ve been doing some vocab exercises, and I’d like to share with you some words I got wrong:

hoary
What it seems like it should mean: difficult and sketchy
         ex. When she found herself surrounded by skanks with no way out, she knew she was in a hoary situation.

What it means: White or grey from age. 
         ex. My neighbor’s fourteen-year-old golden retriever has a hoary muzzle. 

somnambulist
What it seems like it should mean: A person who speaks loudly, incessantly, and without recognizing his/her audience.
         ex. Her boyfriend was such a somnambulist–droning on and on–that he reminded me of a car alarm.
What it means:  a sleepwalker
         ex.  Oftentimes, a somnambulist will wake up in another part of the house, having no recollection of leaving his own bed. 

cozen
What it seems like it should mean: a dozen covens? A cozy oven?
         ex. 1 I worry that Michelle Bauchmann has a cozen of followers ready to do her bidding.
         ex. 2 Spooning in the two-person sleeping bag, we were as warm as a cozen.

What it means:  To deceive; to cheat; to act deceitfully.
         ex. Sometimes I jingle the leashes and stomp my shoes to cozen my dog to come out of hiding. Yes, she is probably smarter than me.

perigee
What it seems like it should mean: A type of falcon
         ex. If Cory was an animal, he would be a flying perigee–the hunter of all that is fuzzy wuzzy.

What it means:  The lowest or closest point; the point of a satellite’s orbit that is nearest to the earth.
        ex. Tonight, for the first time in a kazillion years, the moon will be at its closest perigee. 

picayune
What it seems like it should mean: A particularly spicy pepper native to the southeast region of Peru
        ex. Before our trip to Machu Picchu, we decided to eat a picayune. Santa Maria! I still can’t feel my tongue!

What it means: Small coin; something of little value or importance.
        ex. If I had a picayune for every time hour I spent studying–wait, this feels like math…

Just to warn you, my posts will probably be sporadic and shorter than usual in the coming weeks. Go ahead and miss me, it will warm my vocabulary-filled heart. Oh, and don’t any of you mention that I could have used this blog-writing time to study and review. This is a vituperation-free zone.

*essay’n? Oh man, I apologize. I have no excuse, except that it’s nearly 2 am and my brain is toast.

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