Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Where did all the sand spurs go?

If you frequented the beach as a child, especially one along the southern east coast, you know what a sand spur is. And you remember not only what the little devils felt like inserted into your feet and toes, but you remember also the fear you felt right before you walked across an overgrown yard- knowing you were about to be pricked. They were everywhere! In every yard. Between every sidewalk crack. Some even sneaked their way onto the roads when you thought you were doing the right thing and staying away from the grass. Persistent little buggers, sand spurs. 

But where are they now? In the past 10 years or so, they've just sort of... vanished. A sand spur genocide. A disappearance of an entire species. Like the remaining precious few red heads and green eyed folks, do you think they saw it coming and tried to reverse it? Do you think a bunch of sand spurs got busy real quick and tried to make more, tiny baby spurs?  Did we kill them? All of them? Are we murderers? 

Is there some sort of prickly afterlife in which all the sand spurs of our youth are now hanging out? Are they still sand spurs in the next life or did they transform to something more soft and beautiful- something perhaps they always wished they could be? Do you think there was a lot of self loathing involved in the brain of a sand spur?

A lot of - 'Flower over there gets admired, she gets pictures taken of her, people put her in vases in their homes. Nobody goes around collecting us Spurs. Stupid Flowers.'

Maybe even the prickliest of characters deserve to be looked back upon with admiration. Maybe we can't always judge a character by its outer shell. What if all this time the sand spur was just trying to get noticed and tell us something? What if they just needed to be looked at and recognized? 

Recognize someone today. Even if they bite, even if they hurt you, recognize them. Because you never know someone's story. You never know what's like to walk a day in their shoes. (Although, in the case of the sand spur- you kinda do...it hurt a little bit, yes?) 

But please, please, don't piss off any plant life- you never know what they used to be or, God forbid, what they can soon turn in to. (Can you imagine a pissed off sand spur?!)

Because my toes and I are so much happier on the sand now without those prickly bastards. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It's All In The Mind

We are a collection of other people's perceptions of Us.  

There are many different versions of ourselves- all different, yet all the same person.  There is the version we know ourselves to be- the way we feel inside- all our insecurities, odd thoughts, skeletons, rage and fear.  And no one will ever know that person.  Even if we try to allow it, even if we say we let someone in, that person inside of us remains invisible to the rest of the world.  No one will ever know what we tell ourselves in the dark while we're lying in bed.  No one will ever know what truly frightens us, what makes Us happy, what secrets we hold onto, what promises we keep.

That is the one and only true secret we, as human beings hold onto in this life.  

And then there are the many different versions that the rest of the world believe us to be- and all of those versions, all of those 'people' make Us who we are.

There is the version our parents know Us to be.  This is how we begin, the first version to exist.  Our parents are our first best friend, our first love. They will always and forever see Us as the children we once were.  And with every year that passes, with every wrinkle that appears, every job we gain or child we birth, we still don't change in the eyes of our parents, we simply grow into older children. 

There is the version that our friends see.  Our friends see us and know us as various characters in a play.  They know Fun Us at the party.  They know Sad Us when we come to them in tears.  They know Mad Us when we need a mad companion.  Our friends know us in snapshots.

And then there is the version of US that our spouse or life partner sees. They know Us very well, the best of all.  They live with Us- day in and day out.  They see Us at our best in the beginning, when we first meet and everything is light and happy and fun.  And then as the years pass, they see Us at our most open, and often at our worst- at our most tired, most strained, most heartbroken- before we inevitably settle into a comfortable version of who we once were.  We stop trying to prove to our parters who we are, because we just let them see whatever they want to see.  And I don't think we easily change for our partners.  People say it happens often, but I don't think that's true.  I think we simply settle in.  And then before we know it, after 10, 20, 30 years we sometimes have forgotten who we once were.  We have forgotten who the person was that was once so captivating and easy to fall in love with all those years ago.  

We don't change, we just settle.  

People see whatever they want to see.  We can try to put our best Us forward, prove to the world that we are the most friendly, the most caring, the most fun, but at the end of the day- people will always and forever see whatever they allow themselves to see.  The players of the sport are in charge of the outcome but it's up to the spectator whether or not they like the game.  

Movies are as funny as the watcher, songs are as sad as the listener, games are as fun as the player.

But what if you meet someone who sees a side of You that you never knew existed?  What if this new You, the one that they see, is better than any other You you've known before?  What if by meeting that someone, you then are able to find the person inside that has been trying to get out all of these years?  Sometimes that's all it takes for that true change to happen.  Sometimes it takes someone new to see something in You that no one has ever seen before to make you realize what you are capable of.      

And what if that's all it took to become your happiest and truest self?  -Meeting someone new, stepping out into the world, no matter how old or young, and simply opening yourself up to interpretation.

If you feel you need a change, if you feel that you have settled too much, become to comfortable, try looking at yourself through the eyes of someone new.

You never know who You may become.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Magician's Nephew

“It's all in the mind.” 
― George Harrison

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” 
― Robertson DaviesTempest-Tost

“To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” 
― Stephen R. CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

"...When you have a great audience, you can just keep going and finding new things" 
- Robin Williams

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Abbey Proof

There was always a running joke in my house growing up- and it involved the fact that I am simply incapable of not making a mess.  Ever.  If I had a nickel for every time I heard, 'Abbey! What did you DO?!', come out of my parent's mouths, I would be incredibly rich and snooty and not be talking to any of you. 

I drop things, I spill things, I break things, I lose things, I fall over things, I bump into things.

And it's not due to a lack of respect for said things (or myself), it's simply due to the fact that I am busy.  Simply put- I am a busy, busy person- mentally and physically.  I just do not stop.  Unless I'm sleeping, and even then I'm told I flail about as if checking items off my to-do list.  I am an excellent multi-tasker.  I mean...I get a lot of shhh done all day long, simultaneously.

...I just happen to break some of that shhh sometimes.  (Fair trade off, I think.  No?)

I've dropped canisters of flour and sugar on the floor, just the other day I dropped and broke my ceramic salt crock and it shattered into a thousand pieces, (yes, the salt was still in it), I've dropped and spilled bottles of oil on many-a-kitchen rug (faulty top on that bottle, SO not my fault), I've broken 34 wine glasses onto the kitchen floor, spilled 12 glasses of red wine on the couch I'm sitting on (thank goodness for Wine Away), dropped 4 birthday cakes (thank goodness for the trifle), and the list goes on.  (No, seriously.  The list goes on and on and on...)  So when people in my family give me fancy gifts (husband included), there is always this look that comes along with it...as if they're saying to themselves, 'Dear god, what have I done.  I've given Dropsie Magoo an iPad, or a new chef's knife or a bottle of wine...I just basically threw my money into the garbage can.'

And I'm guessing what you are now telling yourself is- #1- Don't give Abbey gifts (but please ignore that voice.  I adore gifts.  Gifts are the best!)  And #2- Slow the blank down, missy!  (and my response to that would be No.  Nope.  Can't stop/Won't stop).  So, since Abbey isn't showing signs of changing, basically the world just needs to make better stuff.  Abbey-Proof stuff.  Stuff that I can drop and not have it shatter, accidentally toss into a large body of water and not have it drown, just normal things like that.  It's 2014, people!! If we can make our cell phones answer questions like, 'Where am I?  and 'What did I do last night?' then we can make that cell phone not break.  I mean...someone like me having something like a cell phone with them at all times (yes, I am THAT person- it is ALWAYS with me), is just dangerous business otherwise.  Just this past month I've lost my iPhone twice.  But I would like to think of that as I FOUND my iPhone twice (glass half full, people.)  I've run my phone through the washing machine (back pocket...told you it was always on me), I've left it in the refrigerator, (cheese drawer), I've shattered a couple (which I would like to believe is the phone's fault and not my own...I mean, I cannot be responsible for controlling my own strength at ALL times).  It's become a problem.

Surprisingly so, I'm actually an AT&T Brand Ambassador.  Some poor guy over at some PR firm, years ago, thought I seemed like the perfect candidate to spread the news about new electronic devices.  And so I did.  I received the Nokia Lumia 920 two Christmases ago and was asked to write about my experience with it.  I had that phone for a whole year and a half before I killed it.  (Come on.  That's pretty good, y'all.)  I used it for media purposes mainly, since I am an iPhone owner, but enjoyed using it...as did my kids.  I took it to the gym with me everyday for my treadmill entertainment...which leads me to its demise.  I was walking out of the gym- phone(s) and keys in hand, and some over-excited runner wasn't looking and bumped right smack into me and my stuff (again, not my fault).  The Nokia fell to the ground and shattered into a hundred tiny pieces.


I mourned the death of that thing.  And when AT&T found out about it, they were incredibly kind (and possibly quite foolish) and decided to send me something new to write about.  But this new phone was special.  This new phone was...Abbey Proof.  (They did it!!  Someone actually created something I can own that I can't kill!!!  Hooray for murder-resistance!!)


The Samsung Galaxy S5 Active is kinda incredible... it's 'Made for active lifestyles with a casing that's dust proof and water-resistant...(it's) engineered to withstand the rigors of your workout and your world.'




Perfect for me, right?!  And it's huge!!  Pretty difficult to forget and leave some place...

And so far I've taken this thing everywhere-  I've run in the rain with it, brought it to the gym every single day, allowed my kids to man-handle it, and most importantly...I've allowed myself to Abbey-handle it.  And this sucker is tough.  I've dropped it A LOT.  Everyone I've given to to try out says the same thing- They all agree that it is a really nice device, the screen is large and clear, lots of colorful, pretty things to look at, and lots of fun things to play with.  Overall I have really and truly enjoyed everything about the phone.  

But with everything wonderful, there are oftentimes a couple things that you aren't as thrilled about.  And honestly, I'm nit-picking here.  Since I'm used to Apple devices that, let's face it- a child can operate, this device is fairly complicated for quick, everyday use.  It usually takes several steps to get to the same place I would with my iPhone.  I have trouble with the keyboard, as things are in different places and the buttons are extremely sensitive so I'm hitting the wrong things a lot.  The sound quality through the headphones isn't stellar...and the headphones themselves just don't work for me, (but I have tiny baby ears so that isn't too much of a shocker).  And, I'm sad to say that the camera isn't that great.  I do love the fact that you have a lot of different choices like the coveted 'beauty face' mode which instantly softens features on selfies... 






(the ladies know what I m talking about here).

But all in all, the shutter speed is slower than ideal so a lot of the photos come out just a tiny bit blurry...  




With all that being said, I really think they've done an excellent job with this phone.  

And, most importantly- I can Abbey-handle the hell out of it and it can take it.  It's the perfect device for a clumsy super hero on-the-go.

Now, if they can only figure out a way to keep it from being left in strange places... 

I'll put on my Ambassador hat (it has tassels!) and see what us important people over at AT&T can do about that and get back to you.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(all thoughts expressed in this post are my own...except for the ones about what my family thinks of me and gifts.  Those I do NOT agree with.)


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Whole Grain Summer Peach Scones

There's a rumor going around town, have you heard? (I know, I know. People and their gossip.) Apparently some people are saying that my scones are the best they've ever tasted. Can you believe that?! 

Well. Look. I'm not one to cater to gossip and fall into people's traps so I'll just sit back and let this one play out. Seems like the noble and adult thing to do.

I do always try to be a good person... 

These scones are great. They're moist and tender, delicately sweet and hearty. I make them with 100% healthy, whole grains and they taste like the breakfast version of a peach crumble...(not that eating peach crumble for breakfast is a bad thing...I've been known to eat dessert for breakfast from time to time...)  

I created this recipe last week when we were having family come stay with us. Scones are my go-to breakfast for houseguests.  Always.  Whenever I hear someone is coming to stay, I start baking my scones.  It's just my thing.  I like that I can make them ahead of time (way ahead of time and freeze, if need be), which is nice because then I don't have to be cooking when my guests are here... I also like that scones are a simple thing to have out by the coffee maker so guests can just grab one as they please. 

Everyone likes a scone, right?  What's not to like? Sweet, savory, buttery, satisfying,  delicious. 

And now everyone will like this scone.

...or at least that's what the word on the street is.

Enjoy! 



In the bowl of your standing mixer, add the following:
-2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
-1/2 cup rolled oats
-1 TB baking powder
-1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
-1/4 cup white sugar
-1 tsp kosher salt
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-lots of freshly grated nutmeg

Turn the mixer on to combine everything well, making sure the brown sugar de-clumps completely.

Add in:
-1 1/2 sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes

Mix on medium speed until the butter becomes the size of peas, distributed throughout the dry ingredients.

With the mixer on, slowly drizzle in:
-a good splash of vanilla extract
-a good splash of almond extract
-roughly 1/3-1/2 cup cold milk or cream

Add the milk slowly, and stop when the dough just starts to come together, but isn't wet yet, and you can press it together with your fingers to create a moist clump.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and, by hand, mix in:
-1 fresh peach, minced (about 1 cup's worth)

Make sure the peaches are evenly distributed throughout and shape the dough into a flat disk shape.  (It will be a wet dough, and that's ok.  Whenever I make a scone using fresh fruit, it's just what happens, so don't get nervous!)

Cut the disk into 8 triangles, like you're slicing a pie.

Transfer each triangle to an un-greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven on the top rack for 18-22 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms have turned a light, golden brown.

Allow to cool on the cookie sheet until they've firmed up and transfer them to a cooling rack to finish cooling if you're planning on storing them for later.

Otherwise, eat warm...or room temperature...or cold...and thank me later.


(For a list of my other scone recipes, please visit my Pumpkin Brown Sugar Scone link.)


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thirsty Thursday- A Cup of Kindness, A Cup of Truth

OK.  I need to set a couple things straight.  There are a few things that I feel I need to get off my chest- things I've been holding onto and debating over whether or not I should actually say anything about.  I suppose I hoped the issue would fix itself, that there would be no need for clarification on my part, but it has now come to the point that I can no longer sit back and allow anyone to take something that I hold dear to my heart and just trample on it out of ignorance.  It has become a problem- a big, messy, unnecessary problem.  There are many people out there, right this very second, who are walking around thinking false truths, and I now fear more people are going to get hurt if I don't take a stand and speak my Truth.  I've sat on this for far too long.  And now, simply because I know in my heart it's the right thing to do, I, personally am going to set the damn record straight.  Once and for all.

There's no turning back now.  I understand that and accept the reprocussions that may come from this.  I only hope that you all understand that it is coming from a place of sheer and utter frustration at this point, but also from a place of Kindness.  I am a kind person, please know that about me if you don't already.  And I wish that more people would be the same, I wish more people would go forth in life with Kindness as their priority above anything else.  Remember that many of you know me- the real me.  Many of you reading this right now have watched me grow up.  You know me and my family, or perhaps you are, in fact, my family.  So you should know that anything I would say or do should and would come from a place of Kindness.  Check your facts before you start spreading information that isn't true, know that hitting send on that email, or that tweet, or finishing the last lines of that whisper in the office break room then puts you personally responsible for someone's feelings and, in this particular case, their health.  Because, this my friends, my family, has gone way too far.

OK.

Here goes.


If you are attempting to follow Jillian Michael's 'detox water' 'recipe'- the one with the lemon juice and the cranberry juice and the dandelion tea, then PLEASE LISTEN TO ME RIGHT THIS SECOND.  (I am tired of Pinterest getting this screwed up for all of you.)  When you read, 'Real or Fresh Lemon Juice' in the recipe, (in ANY recipe), that means take a damn lemon and squeeze it.  DO NOT take a green bottle of neon yellow liquid that reads 'Real' or 'Fresh' on the label and pour, because the fact that it is coming from a bottle should very well indicate that it is neither one of those things.  When you read, 'No Sugar Added, Real Cranberry Juice' or '100% Pure Cranberry Juice' in the recipe, that means find the bottle of the stuff that is, in fact, ALL (which is what 100% means, by the way) cranberry juice, NOT the cocktail, which is full of added sugar, NOT the 100% juice that is actually apple juice with a splash of cranberry added so they can call it 100% juice, and above all else, NOT THE STUFF THAT CONTAINS ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS.  You are looking for 100% CRANBERRY JUICE...meaning the label should only have 1 ingredient listed.  It's there, I assure you.  That 100% Pure Cranberry Juice, or Just Cranberry Juice- it's there at the supermarket.  You just have to look for it...top shelf, above the big, plastic bottles of the cheap and commercial stuff.

No part of a 'detox' or 'cleanse' should ever involve anything artificial. Or processed.  So knowing that simple fact right there can help you out tremendously in the future.  Sugar=not too good.  Artificial Sugar Replacements=so so bad.  And also know, while we're on the subject, that 'losing 7 pounds in 5 days' by drinking juice, or in this case 'water', is not going to be permanent.  Do it if you desire, I'm not saying don't, but know that it is short term.  Know that whatever weight you are losing is not fat.  It is water.  And that water will come back.  If you want to lose weight- actual body weight made up of fat- if you are overweight and unhealthy and unhappy about it- there is no magic drink.  There are no magic pills, there is no book that you need to waste any more of your hard-earned money on.  It is simple math-

Burn more calories than you are ingesting.  And move around more.  Eat things that occur in nature more so than things that are wrapped in plastic.  Drink more water than things that are colored.  And break a sweat doing something that makes your heart pump and brain feel alive.  It is simple, it is natural and it is the only thing you need to succeed in your pursuit of a happier body.  Do not think of it in terms of size.  Do not compare your body to someone else's.  What you have is beautiful.  What you have is unique.  What you have is yours.  Think of it in terms of happiness.  If your body is unhappy, make it happy.  When was the last time your body was happy?  Was it when you were a child?  Why?  Because you were carefree and you played.  You weren't concerned with its size or shape.  You moved around more and you played.  Let us go back to that place- the place, the playground where we played and were happy, and kind and true.  And never forget to look within.  A good body, a happy body begins with a good heart and mind and soul.  Once you decide that you will change, once you tell yourself that it is time to change, your body will follow.  I promise you.  Look within.  Always, always, look within.  The answers to anything you shall ever need are always within you.  You just need to take a second to remember who you are.

And whether it's water or some television trainer's 'recipe' for 'water', drink a cup of it mindfully and with Kindness and Truth in your heart.  Only then can you be the best version of yourself.



Ahh...I feel so much better.  I truly do.  Thank you for listening.


Wait.  What did you think I was talking about?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Salted Brown Sugar Chocolate Banana (mini) Muffins

I made these muffins the other day when I just had the urge to create something. That happens from time to time... I start feeling creative and need to exercise my kitchen muscles a bit. Sometimes I'm making something for an event but sometimes I'm really just doing it so I have a new recipe to add to the others. 

My daughter had been requesting to make muffins with me for weeks. She loves the Gluten Free/Processed Sugar Free Coconut Banana Muffins we make together, and that's what I thought I was gonna make, considering I had a bunch of overly ripe bananas on the counter awaiting their destiny.  But then this idea flashed into my brain.  I love the combination of dark chocolate and bananas in a baked good.  There is something so incredibly comforting about that combination- I sometimes throw in some chocolate chips into my banana bread and it's just incredible.  I also love the addition of sea salt with dark chocolate...and with banana pudding...and also with caramel...which, pretty quickly led me to this idea.  I just decided to throw all those concepts together and form an adorable and amazing mini muffin.  In lieu of using actual caramel, (out of sheer laziness, mind you) I used brown sugar in the batter to mimic that rich sweetness, and it worked out perfectly.

These tiny tablets of goodness turned out really really well. After they baked and cooled a bit, I put them (still slightly warm and ever so inviting) into a pretty basket and headed to my lab (a.k.a Father's office building) for some feedback.  Feeling a bit like Not-So-Little Red Riding Hood slash Drug Dealer, I walked around the building and offered up my goods.  Because I decided to make these into mini muffins, I was actually able to get the women on board to try them.  Usually my boys are my only taste-testers, as the females are in a constant state of diet, (love my office boys- always in a perpetual state of hungry!), but this time those lady dieters were into it- the mini muffin is just less of an emotional commitment, I suppose.  And considering several people kept popping them in their mouths like tic tacs, (the record was...eight, I believe?) I'd say the feedback was fairly positive.

So now it's your turn...give these babies a try and let me know what you think!!

Enjoy!



In a large mixing bowl cream 1 stick of softened, unsalted butter with an electric beater until fluffy and creamy.

Add 2 large eggs, one at a time, while mixing, and mix until the eggs are fully incorporated. 

Add to the bowl 4 large and very ripe bananas that you've peeled and broken apart a bit. Using the electric beater, mix until the bananas have broken down into the batter. 

Add in 3/4 cup light brown sugar and 2 good splashes of vanilla extract

Then slowly beat in 2 cups of flour (I like to use whole wheat pastry flour for more nutrition but standard, AP flour is fine). Mix with the electric beater until just combined then switch to a spatula. 

Add in 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 2 1/4 tsp kosher salt. Stir to fully combine. 

Fold in 1 1/4 cups semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

Using a small cookie scoop if you have one (or two large spoons), place some batter into the well-greased cups of 2-3 mini muffin tins. You can fill the cups almost to the top, but don't overfill because they will rise quite a bit. (And you will get roughly 50 muffins with this recipe...so make sure you fill any empty muffin cups with some water to ensure even baking time.)

Sprinkle a bit more light brown sugar onto each muffin before baking in a preheated 350 degree oven for 18-20 minutes, or until they've slightly browned around the edges and are firm to the touch. 


Transfer to a cooling rack.  Enjoy warm or room temperature.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days for optimal results, or well wrapped in the freezer for up to 3 months.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For another (ah-mazing) salty-sweet banana treat, check out this recipe for Salted Caramel Banana Pudding Cheesecake).