A Letter of Apology From a Former Mean Girl

Let me start off by saying, I have wonderful parents. They were attentive, they were intentional, they taught me right from wrong, they were prayerful. I don’t even want to think about what roads I would have taken had it not been for my parents correcting me along the way. They are flawed, sure, but we should all hope to be parents like mine.

I have great parents.

We all know the Mean Girls. They made a movie about it and no one had to say, “I don’t understand…this movie is about girls…who are mean?” We know the Mean Girls.

People talk about bullying and talk about how mean kids are now, but they were mean when I was young, too. I remember because I was one of them. Call it a blessing or a curse, but I am one of those people who is able to come up with the “right thing” to say at the “right time.” And I used that to my full advantage. I can think of the thing to say that will hurt you the most at the very moment in which it would be most effective. I told girls that they couldn’t sit with me in front of all of our friends. I told girls that I wasn’t their best friend after they had said I was. I chastised girls for decisions they made.  I made fun of people behind their backs. Rarely did I have the courage to make fun of someone to their face, but it absolutely happened, and either way it usually got back around to them. I took the lead when there was a weakness of someone else’s to be pointed out. These are just a combination of the ones I remember and the ones that are easiest to admit. The list is very long.

I found out later in life, more than once, that someone who I thought was a friendly acquaintance when we were younger, was actually harboring hurt feelings or ill will against me. The first time it happened, I faulted them. They misunderstood me. I was never mean to them, they are just over-sensitive. The second time…hmm. There were a few more after that, but by then I had figured out what the problem really was…I was a big jerk.

I’m embarrassed by this part of myself.

I mentioned the quality of my parents at the beginning to make the following point: this is part of my nature. I’m naturally inclined to promote myself and make sure others know they’re beneath me. This wasn’t a learned behavior from my parents or siblings or our environment…heck, we weren’t even allowed to watch “Roseanne” because they “didn’t talk very nice” as my mom always used to say. I come by this honestly, and when I was young, I did it for two reasons.

One-I liked feeling more powerful than someone else. –I realize now that this was a weakness of my own. Truly confident people don’t need to belittle others to feel good about themselves, but at the time I just thought I needed to make sure they knew they were beneath me.

And two-I honestly did not know how hurtful it was. I didn’t allow people to talk to me that way, so I remained protected against it. It wasn’t until I grew up a little bit and gained some perspective that I considered the way my behavior might make others feel. My dad was instrumental in helping me gain this perspective. I don’t know how much he knew or didn’t know about my Mean Girl behaviors, but we talked. A lot. And I learned from him that the way others feel is important and meaningful and I can make it worse or I can make it better. And why do I need to make it worse? –well, I don’t. Jesus would say to make it better.

Two things happened for me in 9th grade.That was when I stopped. Or, more accurately, that was when I started trying to be better. First, I became a small fish in a big pond. I wasn’t at my comfortable little middle school anymore. I was one of many in our great big 5A high school, and I got taken down a few notches. And second, I realized what I had been doing. I remember when I realized it. There was a moment. I was in class and I saw some girls–I honestly don’t remember who they were–and they were being rude and annoying. I suddenly realized, I was one of them, and that had to change. It became very clear.

I still have the same natural inclinations. I still think of the “right thing” at the “right time.” I just don’t say it anymore…usually. As Anne of Green Gables once said, “If you only knew all the things I wanted to say and didn’t, you’d give me some credit for it.” It may never go away. I try to say kind things. I try to show love and be encouraging and positive. I fall short of that mark still. Even as an adult, I can think of a handful of people to whom I’ve been unnecessarily ugly.  But now I do recognize it and make efforts to keep that part of myself under control, whereas before, I never did.

There’s been a few people that I was particularly hurtful to that I’ve sought out later in life in order to give them a much needed apology. For the most part, they have been responsive and seemed appreciative that I made that effort. But here’s what I’d like to say to them all:

I owe you a sincere apology. I know now that the things I said and did to you were hurtful and damaging. I’m embarrassed about the way I put you down in order to puff myself up. There’s no excuse or explanation that makes what I said or did acceptable. Now I try to manage carefully the way my actions may affect people. I’ll never be naturally inclined to be sweet, but I can do better. I will. You don’t have to like me or trust me, but I do hope you’ll believe me when I say I know what I was and I’m truly sorry.

It’s times like this I’m so grateful for God’s grace. Grace, y’all. I should have afforded more grace to those around me when I was young. I should afford more grace to those around me as an adult. And I’m so grateful that grace extends to me as well.

I’m hoping this message will be encouraging. Encouraging to those who are bullies now–there is hope. You can stop. And you should. I want to be encouraging to those who are being bullied. Your bully is a jerk. This is not your problem, it’s theirs. They may come to realize it later in life as I did, or they may not. Either way, they are not your problem. Give them grace. It’s a gift to yourself as well as to them.

Here’s hoping for a more grace-filled future.

Sincerely,

A former Mean Girl.

 

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Epic Muffin Fail

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know I love baking. I find it therapeutic, and I like it when people think I’m cool because I made something delicious, so most of the time it’s a win-win.

The first rule of baking, is you HAVE to follow the recipe. It’s science, people… If you don’t follow the recipe, you end up with something different. Now that’s not always a bad thing, but it is always a thing. You have to measure all the ingredients, and you have to do things in the order you have to do them, or it throws off the mixture and it can effect the chemistry of it all.

I know this.

Really, I do.

Now, my friend Meredith recently invited me and a couple other girl friends over for Brinner. That’s breakfast for dinner, for those of you who don’t watch Scrubs, or weren’t there when I thought I made that word up myself. If you’ve ever had brunch or breakfast with me, you might have heard me go on and on about how much I love breakfast foods, so naturally I was pumped. I excitedly volunteered to make muffins of some kind as my contribution for Brinner. I searched through my recipes and landed on one from my Pioneer Woman cookbook. I’m a big fan of P-Dub and have had lots of success with her recipes in the past.

I dutifully read the entire recipe, went and purchased oranges as they were the only ingredient I was missing, and began my work.

Step one, preheat the oven. Easy peasy.

Step two,  cream butter and sugar. No problem.

This continues until I get to the end and I’ve scooped the batter into the muffin tin. Suddenly I realized I never put in the brown sugar, I only creamed the butter and the white sugar.

“It’s ok, it’s ok,” I say to myself. I’ll spatula the batter back into the bowl, add the brown sugar, and then re-scoop. Brown sugar was added and mixed, muffin tin was washed and re-sprayed. Batter tasted delicious.

I’m golden. Surely the fact that the brown sugar was added at the end won’t make THAT big of a difference, right?

Is there something wrong with these muffins? Are they? Are they muffins?
Is there something wrong with these muffins? Are they? Are they muffins?

I threw my muffin tin away.

Follow your recipes, people. And don’t add the brown sugar in at the end.

I had to bring store-bought muffins to Brinner. They were still good, but I was much less impressive. 😦

Perfect Banana Nut Bread

First, I can say this because it came from my great grandmother. This recipe for Banana Nut Bread is perfect. It originated with my great-grandmother, then was my grandmother’s, then my dad’s. And now it’s mine. I have to share because it’s so wonderful. It’s full of butter, sugar, and nostalgia. The smell when it’s baking…oh the smell! There’s no banana nut bread candle that nears the real deal. Sometimes I bake it just so my house will smell like heaven.

It’s magic. It’s perfect.

Here’s a picture of me baking it earlier.

cropped-audrey.jpg

See? …magic. 🙂

Here’s everything you’ll need.

Banana Bread 1

Ok, ok. Those aren’t the bananas I used. They just looked so much prettier for the picture. The bananas I actually used came out of the freezer and looked like this.

banana bread 2

See why I posed the pretty yellow ones?

Don’t be afraid. Two things to keep in mind: 1) When you freeze bananas, they turn darker than they were when you put them in, and 2) brown bananas mean delicious flavor. They’re not rotten. They’re delicious. Just not pretty enough for a picture.

This recipe calls for 5-6 ripe bananas. I only had 4 in my freezer, so I ripened 2 more in the oven. If you need to do this, just bake them at 350 for 8-10 minutes until they’re brown and smushy. Here’s the before and after of the bake-ripened bananas.

banana bread 3

banana bread 4

Easy peasy.

Start by whipping your bananas in a bowl. This is so you don’t have crazy banana chunks in your bread. They should look like this.

banana bread 6

Then add butter, sugar, and oil to the bowl of your mixer and cream together all delicious-like.

banana bread 10

We’re off to a good start.

Whip up 4 eggs, and dump ’em in. Then, the batter is smooth and thick, like glue.

banana bread 18

Beautiful.

Then, add your nuts.

banana bread 20

Due respect to my great grandmother’s recipe, the original calls for raisins. My dad never put them in, so neither did I. But if you love raisins, here’s where they go in, with the nuts.

For your dry ingredients, in a separate bowl, sift together your flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda & allspice.

banana bread 13

Slowly add this mixture to the mixing bowl.

banana bread 21

Then add those magnificent bananas!

banana bread 22

So you’re gonna bake this in your handy dandy bundt pan. If you’re like me, you’ve had many a bundt cake come apart in millions of delicious, albeit, much less beautiful pieces when you try to remove said cake from said pan. Never again, my friends. Never again. Buy this stuff immediately.

banana bread 23

It truly is a baker’s joy. My cakes come out of their pans perfectly.

Every. Single. Time.

Give your friend the bundt a generous layer of this magic-in-a-can. You’ll never regret it.

Pour your batter into your pan and bake at 350 for about an hour or until it’s set in the middle. I live at high elevation, and I think my oven runs a little low on temp, so mine needed an extra 20 minutes. Pay close attention to the top of the bread, and add foil to cover it if needed to avoid burning on the top while the inside is still baking.

Also, this recipe makes a lot of batter. All of it may not fit in your pan. Do what you will with the remainder, but I think the original recipe actually recommends you eat it with a spatula…it’s been passed down for four generations. There’s no way to know for sure.

Once it’s set in the middle, take it out and let it cool for several minutes. Until it’s cool enough to handle with no mitts. Turn it over and remove it from the pan.

banana bread 28And the heavens opened and the angels sang!

banana bread 29

Beautiful. Magic. Perfect.

Here’s the breakdown:

~Ingredients~

1/2 c butter, softened

1/2 c oil

2 1/2 c sugar

4 eggs, beaten

3 c flour, sifted

1 1/2 c chopped nuts/raisins (I use pecans, but you can use whatever tickles your fancy)

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons baking soda

5-6 medium ripe bananas, whipped

~Directions~

-Preheat oven to 350.

-Whip bananas in small bowl.

-Cream butter, oil & sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.

-Add eggs (well beaten), chopped nuts, and raisins if desired.

-Sift remaining dry ingredients together in a large separate bowl, then slowly add to butter/sugar mixture.

-Add whipped bananas.

-Bake at 350 in generously greased bundt pan for 1 hour or until set in the middle.

-Remove from oven and let cool before turning over and removing from pan.

Voila! I hope your family enjoys this recipe as much as ours has! I can’t imagine you won’t! Let me know what recipes say “home” to you!

A Little Catching Up

Hello again!

I took a brief hiatus in order to do some things…

Like start school again!

Yep…I’ve returned. After much moaning and groaning and excuse making. I’m going to get another degree. I have a degree in Family Studies, however after working in that field for a few years, I discovered that I hate it. Forever.

SO, the next logical step is to get a degree I plan to use. I’m going back for accounting. My mom has an accounting degree. She’s a pretty smart lady. I’ve only been back two weeks. It is hard, but it’s been fun and interesting. Maybe someday I can do your taxes!  🙂 So this has been my life the last 2 weeks.

backtoschool

Before that, was Christmas. Christmas! My absolute favorite holiday. We spent Christmas with my family this year. It was so much fun. All the home-cooked foods, the cooler of leftovers that my parents “force” us to take home, the gifts, both given and received. It’s just wonderful. My favorite. For realsies.

This year, my parents took us all to see The Lion King Broadway musical.

lionking

It was absolutely amazing. You just have no idea how wonderful it will be until you actually lay your eyes on all the intricate costumes and lay your ears on the magnificent harmonies. Tears! If you haven’t seen it, add it to your bucket list. Truly wonderful.

Then, New Years!

My husband and I spent New Years in Albuquerque. New Years Eve was spent at the casino. Found out I’m a whiz at Roulette. Troy cleaned up on the Black Jack table, and then we lost it all on the slots. We managed to break even, though and had a ton of fun.

nye

We were in Albuquerque because Troy managed to get us invited to the Governor’s Inaugural Ball. No big deal, you guys…

Ok,  it was pretty awesome. We were really just trying to hold it together and avoid coming off like the Clampetts. I made it through the end of the night without falling on my face in my gown and heels, so I’m calling it a success.

 

ball3

We clean up pretty good, don’tcha think?

What else?….What else?…

Oh.

Yeah.

Garth Brooks in concert, y’all!!

garth

garth2

It was HANDS DOWN the best concert I’ve ever been to. Troy said it was like getting punched in the face over and over with songs from your childhood. Good ol’ Garth sounds exactly the same as he always has, and EVERY SONG is the anthem of your youth. We were up in the nosebleeds singing and dancing and screaming for about 4 hours.

I also love me some Trisha. I watch her show on Food Network religiously, and she came out and they sang together and she sang some of her hits….She’s in Love With the Boy always gives me chills. You guys. It was just wonderful.

Another thing to add to your bucket list if you haven’t done it already.

Whew! We’ve been busy the last two months or so. Several bucket list items checked off. I managed to bake some banana nut bread today…Muy delicioso! I’ll post about that soon! Stay tuned!!

DIY $5 Envelope Pillow Covers!

Guys.

I made these pillow covers!

DIY Pillow Covers for $5!
DIY Pillow Covers for $5!

For five bucks a pop!

So. I’ve been slowly redecorating our home, one small project at a time. Kind of a white and brown rustic, industrial, southwestern motif with pops of blue, orange and gold. It’s not a thing…I made it up. I have a collection of ideas in my brain about what it’s supposed to look like and it’s hard to explain. But slowly, slowly, I think we’re getting there.

Anywho, pillows are a great place to start when you’re redecorating because they are easy and can make a big difference. But when I was shopping for new pillows, I was like, umm $75 for THIS?!?

I say no! Surely there is a cheaper alternative.

There is! I already have the number of pillows I want in the shapes I need, so maybe I could just make covers for my existing pillows.

After a little research, I decided to try it.

Here’s your supply list:
-Fabric of choice; 1+ yards, depending on how many pillows (roughly 3/4 yard per pillow to be safe)
-Scissors
-Measuring tape
-Fabric glue

I had a hard time finding the right blue Ikat fabric. I searched and searched and finally found it here.

Like so many of my undertakings, there were mistakes involved in the making of these pillow covers. They were originally intended to be no-sew pillow covers, thus the fabric glue. This particular fabric glue came highly recommended. It’s called Unique Stitch glue, and can be found here. But after I didn’t read all the instructions and didn’t measure properly and didn’t wait long enough, I inevitably ripped one of my pillow covers as I was stuffing the pillow in–I don’t think it was the glue’s fault.

Thankfully, I have a whiz of a seamstress for a mother in law, and she helped me fix the ripped one by sewing it, and since I was doing that one, I went ahead and did the other ones too.

I’ll explain each process.

Chances are, if you know how to sew, you won’t wonder how to make pillows and won’t be reading this tutorial, but I’ll show my pictures just for fun.

Here’s a handy-dandy diagram I found on livelovediy.com  where this idea originated.

How to make an envelope pillow

The easiest way I discovered is to set your pillow about 3 inches away from the edge of your fabric and trace it. Add the same amount of extra inches to the rest of the perimeter and mark where you should cut. Be sure all your marks are on the non-patterned side of your fabric. The original tutorial gave measurements for a pillow with a 20″x20″ front panel, which I used for the two brown pillows pictured, but for my blue pillow, since it was a rectangular lumbar pillow, I had to improvise. I got my two brown pillows out of 1.5 yards of fabric, and my rectangular pillow, I only used 1 yard. I had quite a bit left over of each.

You’ll cut on your marks (the extended 3″ from where you traced the pillow) as one whole panel for the front of your pillow. For the back, you’ll measure 2 panels of the same height, but for the width you’ll measure 3/4 the length of the front panel. So, if your front panel is 20″(H)x20″(W) your two back panels will be 20″(H)x15″(W). Super clearish? Ok.

Once you have all 3 panels cut, fold your open envelope edge (marked green on the diagram) about a half inch and glue it, creating a seam for a finished edge. Do that for both of your back panels. Then you’ll lay all three panels with the patterned side inward, front panel on the bottom, back panels on the top. Your back panels should overlap when you match up the outside corners with the corners of the front panel (see diagram: corners numbered 1 should match up, corners numbered 2 should match up, and so on and so forth).

Then, glue the top and bottom panels together on all the outside edges, leaving about an inch from the edge.(Marked in black on the diagram.)Your glue will go on the patterned side of the fabric.

Let it dry about 24 hours to be sure it’s really dry, then turn your case inside out, press with an iron, and stuff with your pillow like any old envelope sham.

DON’T do these things:
-cut your fabric too small (too big is always better than too small)
-weight your pillow case down while it’s drying
-become impatient and stuff your pillow in before the glue is totally and completely dry.

If you do these things, you WILL rip your pillow case when you stuff your pillow in.

Trust me.

Luckily for me, I knew who to call when I did all of the above. If you’re gonna sew the pillow covers, your measurements and assembly are the same. Just instead of glue, you run it through the sewing machine. Like so.

Then you’ll want to cut the inside corners off as close to the sewn corners as possible so it won’t bunch when you flip it right side out. Like so.

With my mother-in-law’s help, this part was super easy. Without her help, this would’ve been a totally failed project.

Taa-daa!!

DIY Pillow Covers for $5!
DIY Pillow Covers for $5!

Adapted from livelovediy.com

Garlic Butter Herbed Chicken

Made this for dinner tonight and had to share! Super easy. Super delicious. I will definitely be making this again.

Start with however many chicken thighs you plan to prepare. I used four. With it being just the two of us, four is a good number because I’ll eat one, he’ll eat one or two, and there’s enough left over for at least one meal.

Salt and pepper your chicken thighs and arrange them in a baking dish. Choose one that’s big enough for all your chicken to fit easily without crowding.

Melt your butter with minced garlic in it, then add olive oil to the bowl and stir it all together. Once it’s combined, pour it evenly over the chicken.

Add your herbs of choice. I used dill, parsley, basil, and a little tad of seasoned salt.

Bake at 375 F for an hour and twenty minutes. This dish goes deliciously with mashed potatoes, but you can serve with whatever sides you like!

Voila!

Garlic Butter Herbed Chicken
Garlic Butter Herbed Chicken

~Recipe~

INGREDIENTS:
-4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
-3 Tbsp butter
-3 Tbsp olive oil
-1 Tbsp minced garlic
-1 tsp dried dill
-1 tsp dried parsley
-1 tsp dried basil
-1/2 tsp seasoned salt
-salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Salt and pepper chicken and arrange evenly in baking dish.
2. Add garlic and butter to bowl and microwave until butter is melted, about 1 minute. Add olive oil to garlic butter mixture and stir to combine. Pour evenly over chicken.
3. Sprinkle herbs and seasoned salt evenly over chicken.
4. Bake at 375 F for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until skin is gold and crisp and chicken is cooked trough.

DIY Christmas Wreath for $15!

First, I love Christmas. It’s absolutely my favorite holiday. Family, gifts, delicious food, Christmas music, all the lights, and of course, glitter everywhere!

Needless to say, I love decorating for Christmas. The house is so much cozier and I automatically like you if you have a wreath on your door. There are some beautiful wreaths out there, but a lot of times, you pay dearly for it. I made this wreath this year and I love it so much more than anything I could’ve bought!

DIY wreath for $15!
DIY wreath for $15!

Now to start, you have to choose your theme. There are so many to choose from that sometimes it’s hard. I stuck with the theme I have on my tree which is mostly neutrals, gold, white, and of course green. Make sure to measure your door if that’s where you’ll hang it. I’ve made the mistake of a wreath that was too small, and also a wreath that was too big. Trust me, you want a happy medium.

Then it’s off to the store. I went to Hobby Lobby and found everything I needed in one stop! In order to do this on a $15 budget though, you’ll have to get it on sale. The best time is right after Christmas, HOWEVER, I hit the jackpot and got all my stuff a couple of weeks ago when Hobby Lobby was having a 50% off all Christmas decor sale…I went a little crazy. I spent more than $15 but all together, what I used on my wreath was about $15.

I digress.

So, you’ve bought your theme-consistent supplies at a discounted rate and you’re ready to go. I’ve found it’s a good idea to stick with odd numbers of each item, but it’s really just what you think looks good in the end.

When you’re buying, make sure to choose your focal point. Like on mine I used the burlap poinsettias. You can use whatever tickles your fancy or even a grouping of a few different things, but I think something that anchors it always ends up looking the best.

After your wreath is sufficiently fluffed, lay all your items out next to it and just start placing. I started with my focal-point-poinsettias and worked my way around the wreath with everything else. No gluing yet! You’ll put things in and take them out and add and take away until you get it right. There’s really no rhyme or reason to this part, just make sure things are facing the way you want them to face and fitting where you want them to fit.

Once you’ve got everything placed where you like it, then it’s time to add your ribbon. It just weaves in and out and around your items and you can bend some of the wreath branches around it in places that you want it secured. It can change direction and make “Vs” and go wherever it goes, but I do actually wrap it around the wreath. Seems easier than cutting and gluing each piece you see.

Now it’s time to fire up your glue gun. Hot glue is perfect for stuff like this because it’s very secure, but also very forgiving. Glue your ribbon on the back of the wreath at the beginning and the end. No need to glue it in between unless there’s somewhere you need it secure that you don’t have it tucked into a branch. Then glue all your items one at a time all the way around. If you glue something in the wrong place, you can just rip it off and glue it again. I did that a lot and you can’t even tell! Just be careful not to rip a bald spot on your wreath where it will show, but even if you do, you can cover it with something. Like I said…very forgiving. If you have any floppy parts on your items, glue those down so they stay put. I glue my focal point last because it’s the biggest and I want it on top of whatever is around it.

Done! Easy! And cheap!

You may need more than one hook to hang it on your door depending on how heavy it is. I started with just a suction cup hook and it fell after a few hours, so now I have one suction cup and two command hooks holding mine and it’s held up fine!

Yay Christmas!

Christmas at the Olivers
Christmas at the Olivers