Archive | August 2012

Hurricane Party!

The much anticipated Mr. Isaac the Hurricane has finally made his way to my home.  No worries, here in middle Mississippi he is significantly less of a big deal than those weather people were predicting.  Clearly, we still have power and internet access.

So not exactly a hurricane party, but I WAS just researching farm-themed birthday parties for my resident 1.9 year old, and that reminded me – I never blogged my recent farmer’s market adventures.

Let’s back up.  (Ramble much?)

Once, in 2004, my husband (then boyfriend) and I planted a BIG garden.  He did most of the planning.. and the planting.. And we both did a lot of picking, slicing, blanching, freezing, etc.  And eating.  It was a really fun experience and we grew a LOT of produce.  Yellow & green squash, okra for days, bell peppers, jalapenos, some melons (didn’t really turn out), peas.. and that’s just what I remember sitting here 8 years later.

Here’s a picture of me, the sunset, and the garden – all in one!

Oh, and I can’t resist throwing this out to the internet as well.  Too funny.  And yet true.

The garden was behind my husband’s rented house, just to the left of the picture.  And we still own that truck and that grill.

Back in January while making my 30×30 list, I thought about how much we enjoyed the garden and how we should really just do it again.  So onto the list it went, right up at the top – #3.

And then we sold our yard right in the middle of peak planting season. That was probably for the best because growing things in Colorado is 100x harder than growing things in Mississippi.  By the time we got moved back and settled in (uhm no we aren’t settled in yet), growing season was well underway.  BUT there’s always next year.  I have high hopes of making Laura Ingalls Wilder proud.

Have y’all realized how much I blog about becoming a pioneer woman?  Not like the blog-famous “Pioneer Woman”, but like a real apron-wearing, jelly-canning pioneer woman.

Anyway, with garden growing officially off the table, Momma Daniel wisely suggested that instead I could visit a farmer’s market.  So that’s what I did. Here’s me and the 1.9 yr old in front of the Mississippi Farmer’s Market, open every Saturday.

There were lots of vegetable vendors, tomatoes galore, of course plenty of watermelons, and then some oddball items like soap made from goat milk. And there was live music, and because this is Mississippi, the singer was really really good. Lots of musical talent in these parts, I tell ya.  Overall, this farmer’s market was a little bit city-fied.  I mean, first of all, it IS located right in downtown Jackson, which is sort of like a city.  Second, most of the vendors took credit cards – convenient, but not very farm-like.  Third, many of the booths had refrigerated storage.  Still, we came away with a lot of good stuff at good prices so mission accomplished.  I can’t remember the total exactly, maybe ~$13ish.  Not bottom-of-the-barrel but right in line with typical grocery store prices.

I picked out several varieties of so-called heirloom tomatoes.  As far as I can tell “heirloom” means “weird” tomatoes.. The little green round ones tasted kinda like limes.  Fascinating though.. Next year I will grown some of those for sure.  I semi-successfully grilled those skinny eggplants.  And most of the rest of it went into one meal: Crock Pot Beef Carnitas Tacos with Grilled Peach Salsa.  I bought the avocados, cilantro, and meat at K-Roger, but all the rest came from the Farmer’s Market.

SO good. I love cooking “from scratch”, especially when its easy. MUST get back in that habit.

In addition, related to list item #3, I also:

  • Grew and cooked with my own cilantro back in Colorado.
  • Picked a bunch of wild pears and tried to make pear preserves.  #FAIL.  Have two completely rock solid jars of pear/sugar mess in the fridge to show for it.  I promise you, Laura Ingalls, I WILL do better next time.

So that, my friends, is a wrap on gardening for this year.  I do hope to visit more farmers’ markets too.  They’re so healthy, and local, and green, and economical, and so forth.

#3 Grow vegetable garden.

Don’t Panic When You Get In The Water

Sometimes life lessons come when you least expect them.  And sometimes life lessons happen and you don’t realize they happened until a few weeks later.  For instance, all I needed to know about my new job that started last week, I learned in one simple piece of triathlon advice that I got back in June……..

Some of you might remember me talking about my experience with the swim leg of the triathlon I did back in June. The best piece of advice I got before my race was “Just don’t panic when you get in the water.”  Even the strongest and fastest swimmers are no good if they jump in the water and get freaked out over all the swim caps of other racers bobbing around them and the flailing of legs and arms and splashing water.  But if they stay calm, focus on the swim and not everything going on around them and take the course stroke by stroke, then they can easily finish the swim.

Today was my 6th day of work for my new job.  I’m loving every bit of it.  My boss is fantastic.  I love that so far, none of my 6 days have looked even remotely the same.  I enjoy taking mild chaos and making order of it.  And I love that I’m using skills that I know are my strengths.

But it’s also busy.  There are a million details and lots going on, and I’m sort of a hard-on-myself-perfectionist who hates making mistakes and beats herself up when she does make one.  And just like a strong swimmer who starts to panic and take on water because they didn’t focus on one stroke at a time and got caught up in all the splashing going on around them, today I got overwhelmed.  I forgot that I’m organized and professional and good at what I do, and all I saw were the “headlights” of a million to-do items (and one mistake) and I froze.  I got in the water, and I panicked.  {And then I texted my husband who is super level-headed and loving and who put me straight again and I was able to resume the things that needed to get done and fix the mistake and calm down.}

In my triathlon, even though I’m a terrible swimmer and it took me 16 minutes to swim what Michael Phelps swims in about 3 minutes, I was so proud of myself for getting in the water and staying calm.  And making stroke after stroke until I was on dry land again and off on my run, which I’m actually good at.

The bottom line is that no matter how good I am at my job, I’m bound to make mistakes.  Or get overwhelmed or frustrated.  And sometimes there’s no way to prevent that.  But it’s what you do with those mistakes or feelings that count.  If I sit and wallow in my frustration, then it just compounds itself and nothing gets accomplished.  But if I figure out what I did wrong and how I can prevent it from happening again, or if I can figure out ways of being more efficient to prevent overwhelmedness before it happens (or quickly diffuse it if it sets in uninvited) then I’ve won and become a little bit better of a personal assistant…and person.

So get in the water.  And don’t panic.  You’ve got this.  Whatever your “this” is…’ve got it.

Getting holes in my head

Yesterday I did something that thousands of babies and tweenagers do every day:

12. Get ears pierced?!? (still kinda on the fence) not on the fence anymore!

When I was a tween, I was too busy playing with Legos and frankly couldn’t see the usefulness of adding two more holes to one’s head.  Somewhere in high school or college, I realized that earrings weren’t such a bad idea.   And then it only took me 10 more years of clip-ons to make up my mind and do something about it.

So Saturday, I marched myself down to the local tattoo parlor.  I was probably overreacting but I just couldn’t bring myself to go over to Claire’s and have it done by a 16-year-old… in the mall.  I just knew I’d be stuck with unevenness or other disastrous result.

Read More…

Holy Guacamole: Part Dos

As I write this, my husband and 3 of his buddies are in our living room picking their players for their fantasy football teams.  I know nothing about football players, or how the fantasy league system works, so they might as well be speaking a foreign language.  It’s pretty comical to listen to.  Of course, all that thinking and strategizeing  works up an appetite, so like any good hostess, I had a few snacks out.  I picked up some yummy cupcakes at the store (I was running a little low on time today) and then I decided that this would be a good excuse to try out the guacamole recipe that I got from George the activities director at the Cabo Hilton at the cooking class I snuck in right before the deadline of my birthday.  And then I remembered that I had promised you good folks that I’d pass that recipe along.  And while sometimes it takes me a while, I always try to make good on my promises.  So here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as the boys snacking in my living room are!

*oh.  side note.  as always, I made a few tweaks to the recipe.  And I love it.  I’ll give it to you as I made it.

“George’s Guacamole”

*3 avocados

*2 roma tomatoes, diced

*1/4th of a white onion

*1/4 bunch of cilantro, diced

*1/2 cucumber, diced (optional)

*2 teaspoons lime juice

*1 teaspoon lemon juice

dash of kosher salt

1. cut avocado into little cubes and put in a medium size mixing bowl.  cutting it into cubes first makes it easier to mash up.  mash with a whisk.

2. dice the roma tomatos and mix into mashed avocado.

3. dice the 1/4th onion and mix into avocado/tomato mixture.

4. dice the 1/4th bunch cilantro and mix in with avocado/tomato/onion.

5. dice the 1/2 cucumber and mix in with avocado/tomato/onion/cilantro.

6. mix in lime and lemon juices.

7. mix in a dash of kosher salt.

8. serve with chips, on a burger, etc.

mmm.  i’m going to go see if the boys will let me have any more of theirs.  i only got a tiny bowl for myself.

My tiny bowl of guac and chips! yummy yummy!

A Letter In Reply

Dear Mary-Hall,

Is it weird that the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the subject of your last blog was hair extensions?  Because I kind of think it’s weird.  But also really funny.  I thought maybe you’d decided that the new hairstyle you tried a few months ago wasn’t enough and you’d gotten some weave.  I’m relieved to find out the type of extensions you were referring to were the sort applied to deadlines.  Like the ones that just passed on our lists when we turned 30 a few weeks ago.

I’m so sad to hear that 30 isn’t off to an awesome start for you.  To be honest, my first full day of being thirty was pretty terrible.  Yes, we were still in Mexico, but we got hit with the tail end of a hurricane, so it poured rain; blinding, driving rain, and then I came down with what they call “Montezuma’s Revenge.”  I won’t explain what that entails since we write a nice, polite blog, but I will tell you that I took a tour of almost every restroom in the hotel that day…and the four days that followed.  But things have improved from there and I know things will get better for you as well.  Someday soon, you will have a house all your own again, a bed that’s all your own, and internet that functions well in your house.  Although CUPS isn’t a bad substitute.  [Please drink a peach-and-yogurt smoothie for me.]  You can tell people that your new office comes complete with an art gallery and a sweet barista and people will be jealous.  And sweet Ransom is a survivor.  He will rock that preschool in a few weeks when his immune system gets all fortified.

I LOVE the idea of extensions.  I say lets keep this party going until December 31st.  A full year to do 30 extraordinary things.  And find a new blog name.

Two Girls Take Thirty

A Tale of Two Girls

Tales of Our Thirties

Two Girls: Thirty Things

Two Girls: Thirty and Thriving

Mary-Hall and Bethany May Be Thirty But They Are Still Awesome
OK, so that last one might be a little lengthy.  And I don’t love the rest, but we’re on track at least.  So here we go.  4 more months to check off the rest of our list items.  We’ve got this, sister.  No excuses this time.  🙂

Here’s to BEING thirty, and loving it.




Dear Bethany,

I was going to write you an email but figured I might as well make it a blog post.

How does it feel to be thirty?? Your new job sounds perfect for you. I bet you will keep the most awesome day planner ever. Complete with color coding. What a fitting way to start the new decade!

I would say that so far on my end, 30 is not off to an awesome start. I have descended into a sort of frustrated funky mood over here that I’m having trouble shaking. First off, our Internet is out and had been for two weeks. How does one work from home without Internet? So now I work from Cups.

Ransom’s new daycare is not going smoothly. He is either teething or picking up weird illnesses there, which is know is a given but he’s only been three half days (out of the last seven).

August has a cold.

But mostly, I’m tired of being at camp. I’m ready to go home and sleep in my own bed. Except of course, we sold our home… And our bed. I’m ready to establish our new identity in Mississippi instead of just feeling temporarily parked. I know this takes time but ugh.

Okay Mary-Hall’s whiny party is over.

What I really wanted to “email” was that I’m feeling like we might as well give ourselves an official extension till New Years Eve. That way we’ll make this a nice even 12-month project.

That gives us three more months to figure out what to change the name to. Like:

  • Two Girls Turning Thirty Again
  • Two Girls Turning Forty in 10 Years
  • Two Girls Blogging About Food, Books, Travel, and Whatever else crosses their minds
  • I need some major motivation to get back on the wagon. Hoping an official new deadline will do the trick.

    Love, Mary-Hall

    Letting My Life Speak

    A few days ago I mentioned that I’d snuck in one final book whilst sitting by the pool on August 13th….the day before my birthday.  (And if you’re keeping score….I also promised an announcement when I gave you a book review…a promise I”ll make good on today….)Nothing like checking something off just under the wire.  Sadly, this was only book number 7 on my goal to read 8 books before my birthday, so I didn’t effectively check off 3. Read 8 books (one a month) although I came pretty dang close.

    Without getting super personal and divulging all my innermost thoughts and feelings, because lets face it, that would be awkward for all of us, I will say that the past eight years since I graduated college have been haunted by a giant vocational question mark.  Since graduation day in May, 2004 I have worked:

    *at a high-end children’s wear/Lilly Pulitzer/designer maternity boutique as a sales clerk

    *at a major teaching hospital as an assistant in the office of the Department Chair of Medicine

    *at Vanderbilt University as a floating administrative assistant

    *as the assistant to the assistant of a well-known Christian singer

    *as a freelance violinist playing for any number of weddings, concerts, videos, events and the like

    *as the assistant/road-manager/merchandise girl for Ronnie Freeman Read More…

    Happy Birthday Right Back At Ya Bethany

    I really wanted to brighten Bethany’s birthday as she did mine, with that photo of her cat-child.
    I loved the all-around awkwardness of it and so I set out this afternoon to see what I could come up with.

    Unfortunately I was unassisted and thus getting a shot with both my child and my dog proved impossible. Alas, I thought this one turned out kinda funny even without Abby.


    Yes Bethany, he is THAT Pepé. Long story. The only important part of the story is that Pepé wishes you a week full of festivity in his native land in honor of your 30th year.
    Read More…

    Holy Guacamole: It’s My Birthday!!!

    So I made my peace a few weeks ago with the fact that I probably would not finish my 30×30 list by my birthday.  But, imagine my delight when I realized there was one more thing I could check off last-minute! (I feel like I’ve had excellent luck with unexpectedly crossing off list items on vacation)

    It was Monday.  Keith and I were relaxing on our lounge chairs by the pool this afternoon when the “pool concierge” came by with a cart of books and games and a bottle of Evian “refreshing mist” (which lived up to its name, by the way.)  As Keith perused the books available to borrow, my attention went to  a sign perched on the corner of the cart that announced the special events for the week….with a “Guacamole Class” at one of the resort’s restaurant.  Since 20. Take an official cooking class remained un-crossed-off, and since I love guacamole, I was elated.

    George, the concierge, taught an excellent class.  Even more than the recipe itself (which he’s supposed to be emailing me….and which I’ll pass along to you as soon as I get it) which made the most delicious guacamole I’ve ever had, I loved some of the basic knife skills that he took time to explain.  How to quickly and neatly dice a Roma tomato, how to cut cilantro without it turning black (who knew there was a trick to that!), and how to dice a green chile without making it too hot.  I can’t wait to go home and put them all into practice.

    George and Arianna, his assistant, explain the best way to cut an avocado. i for sure needed help in this department. (ask my sweet husband who complains about the butchered avocado pieces he finds in the fridge.

    I also read a book yesterday whilst lounging by the pool.  I’ll give you the book review in a separate post however because I have an announcement attached to the book.  (and yes…I’m going to leave you hanging!)

    I know that I already checked off 1. Visit a new country and 5. Visit a new state or major city, but I love that Cabo San Lucas (where Keith and I are vacationing this week to celebrate my turning the big Three-Oh) is not only a new city for both of us (that rarely happens!) but it’s also a part of Mexico neither of us have ever been.  We’ve decided we really love the Baja peninsula.  We’re staying at the Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort and it’s so beautiful that we’re spending most of our time lounging by their pool and getting up only to stroll down to the beach.  We have also driven into town the past two days to visit the “Destiny Spa Pacific.”  It’s a tiny little place, but I had the best massage I’ve ever had for $20, and then yesterday a great mani/pedi for $27.  “Rosy,” the spa therapist, is the sweetest lady and I was wishing I’d actually checked off 24. Learn to speak Spanish conversationally before I came to Cabo so we could have chatted while she scrubbed my feet and trimmed my out of control cuticles.  She seemed disappointed when I regretfully told her “No habla Espanol.”

    I’ll leave you all with a few photos of our resort….and then I’m headed back out to the pool to do some more relaxing and work on my tan.  And in a day or two, I’ll give you a recap of the things I didn’t finish on my list.

    And to everyone who has stopped by Facebook to send Birthday wishes, I’m so grateful.  I feel very loved!

    The view of the ocean from our 4th floor balcony room! so beautiful!

    The view from the balcony at the end of the hallway, just outside our front door. you can see the other building of the hotel, the ocean and part of the infinity pool!

    This yummy chocolate mountain and almond cake was waiting for me when we checked in…..

    ….and this is how they decorated our room for my birthday this morning while we were at breakfast! love the baloons, starburst and the towel-elephant clad in a birthday hat.  They even spelled out “happy birthday” in beach pebbles on the center of the bed.

    5. Sew an apron / mixer cover

    I worked in as much list mania as I could handle last week. Nothing like meeting a deadline. NOT that I met ’em all, by any means. But I DID sew an apron.

    I really kinda like sewing but I don’t do it enough. Thus, the list item – my first foray into sewing something that’s not a rectangle (a la draperies, baby bedding, pillow covers etc).

    First I searched the interweb for free apron patterns. There are a TON of options. This post, 191 Free Apron Patterns, is a round up of free apron pattern round ups. I’m sure theres something here for everybody. I got a big kick out of the “sexy apron” poses.


    Somewhere in those 191 patterns, I found one I wanted to try – a vintage 1951 pattern that fit entirely into two paragraphs and a diagram:


    I searched high and low for blank sewing grid paper like the 50s ladies apparently had. No luck. So instead I ironed a scrap piece of packing paper (yes still living out of boxes). For bonus points, I used an iron made in 1951.


    Okay I’m exaggerating.. 1981. The iron is a hoss though. To sketch the pattern I used a yard stick, pen, string, and iPad. Channel your inner geometry nerd for this portion.

    Copying it was easier than I thought. I elected NOT to get wrapped up in intricacies because after all it’s just an apron and so why fuss?

    The pattern calls for “cotton bias skirt facing,” which also no longer exists
    (at Joann). Instead I used “double fold quilt binding”. Don’t be mislead, this stuff had 3 folds.


    Besides the cutting and facing, the pattern is simple and easy enough for a medium-novice like me. Generally I cut corners as much as possible, pinning but not basting, etc.

    Here are my pleats:


    In the end, I was very happy with it. Happy enough that I gave it as a wedding gift to my dear friend Sarah, whose wedding eve was my birthday.
    I hope she bakes many happy blinis in it.


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