not one step back

womensmarch_atl

this past Saturday in Atlanta, we woke to a monsoon. the sky was a deep shade of charcoal that never lightened from the time i went downstairs at about 7:00 until at least 10:00. our backyard was flooding. it was clear that the $2 plastic ponchos i’d so uncharacteristically bought from Amazon as a precaution were not gonna cut it. i realized Spy, Miss Girl and the neighbor who’d asked to go with us the night before could well bail on me. but hell or high water (much of which certainly was collecting), i was going downtown to be a part of the Atlanta March for Social Justice & Women. with our new president having just insulted one of the greatest living civil rights leaders and having falsely and cruelly dubbed my city falling apart and crime-infested, i was determined that a little rain wouldn’t stop me from being part of the crowd standing up against ignorance, lies and hate. Continue reading

if it clucks like a chicken . . .

Fried Chciken

no joke, this just happened: a colleague i’ve never met was organizing a meeting at a client’s office and was asked by someone on our side what we were doing for lunch, since the meeting would run from 11:00-3:00. his response: “They are in the middle of the inner city, it looks like Popeyes Chicken 🙂” oh yes, he did. obviously, i was appalled.

like so many others, i have been struggling so hard over the past week or so with the violence, racism and ignorance at the forefront of seemingly every news cycle. last week i was supposed to be enjoying our annual family vacation and celebrating the epic greatness of America. i spent much of that time glued to my phone following Facebook and Washington Post to see what people were saying about the shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas, and wondering what the fuck is happening to our country? Continue reading

Atlanta Blizzard Cake

this cake looks pathetic, amiright? yeah, well it is a perfect metaphor for my #blizzard2016 experience.

i wasn’t even thinking of making a post when i baked it. i was literally just baking a cake because my family is crazy and i didn’t feel like going to the store today and i knew in a couple hours Spy would be asking me for baked Alaska (seriously). and so, as usual, i scraped together this hot mess out of what’s in my pantry so i would have some kind of answer when everyone inevitably hounded me about what sweets we had in the house.

don’t get me wrong. Atlanta Blizzard Cake is completely delicious. it just looks really sad. just like when i woke up this morning and we had literally 1/16 of an inch of snow on the ground. not even enough to half-cover the grass, y’all. and at like 7:30, Miss Girl was all MOMMY! THERE IS SO MUCH SNOW! LET’S GO OUTSIDE! and i’m kind of all oh, fuck. this. i need some coffee. AND WEAR YOUR COAT!!

and the next thing i know, she is outside with her friends (not wearing her coat) trying to do snow angels in 1/16 of an inch of snow. it all looked pretty sad, but to her, it was absolutely delicious.

in much the same way, when you pull a cake out of your ass on a “snow day” because you can’t actually be bothered to go to the grocery store (though, you certainly made your long-scheduled massage appointment), the optics on the results can be lacking, to say the least.

i knew i didn’t have what it would take to make chocolate frosting on yellow cake, which is preferred around here. but i did find a tub of Betty Crocker white (vanilla?) frosting in my pantry. no idea how long it’s been there or why it was there (i mean, like literally cannot remember why i possibly could have bought it . . . except that maybe it had something to do with the Satancakes . . . hmmm . . .), but obviously that screamed for a chocolate cake base.

i had just 2 eggs left after an amazing breakfast scramble. and just barely 2 cups of sugar. because. well, i rarely bake. and as i was putting together the idea of baking a cake, Spy decided to eat the last half gallon of milk with some Lucky Charms. sigh. so i got gas station milk and pulled together enough other ingredients to make a version of this One Bowl Chocolate Cake.

because i was also in fridge clean-out mode (lord, when am i not?), it was critical to choose a recipe where i felt i could add in the 2 chocolate swirl pudding cups with expiration dates of exactly today on them so they wouldn’t go to waste. whatever. you know you’ve been there.

so. long story long, the cake recipe is below. it is amazing. i nixed the whole boiled water thing. because what?? and also pudding. no boiled water, 2 Jell-O pudding cups and about 1/4 cup extra milk. bake 35 minutes and you have 2 perfectly fluffy, moist, sweet cakes to frost.

just make sure you have ample frosting. ONE TUB OF FROSTING IS NOT ENOUGH FOR AN ENTIRE LAYER CAKE. it’s about half of what you need. and it’s been so long that i forgot that. but it ended up being enough to put about a 1/16 inch layer of white in between cakes and on top . . . just like we had about 1/16 inch of white snow this morning, scantly covering our grass. sad looking, but still a delicious experience.

see how i brought that around, y’all? i know. i need to get out of the house, stop eating 10,000 calories of carbs, exercise a minute and pretty much get a life tomorrow. snow days are so hard! i hope all that happens and i’m out of the house when my family realizes the entire back half of the cake isn’t even frosted at all. doh! hope y’all with real snow day problems are doing way better!

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

onebowlchocolatecake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two nine inch round pans.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Stir in the boiling water last. Batter will be thin. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

5 on Friday: a(nother) Writing 101 mashup

turtlerace(photo: thrillist.com)

um. didn’t Writing 101 end like 6 weeks ago? you’re asking. i know, right? but here i am. still. did i ever tell y’all that i didn’t graduate college on time? yeah, somehow at the finish line, i still needed one more class and ended up hanging around Winter Park for the summer taking an Ann Tyler class to fulfill my very last couple credits and officially get my degree. so this feeling is super familiar.

that said, creative combinations seem to be my secret weapon here, so i’m doing it again! i didn’t have anything pulled together for Friday list of 5 when i remembered that Day 11 asked

What do you do when you’re not writing? How do you reset and return to this dashboard, refreshed? What do you need in your day-to-day life to maintain balance?

since my last post was a week and a half ago, this really resonated today. what have i been doing? why haven’t i been writing? that second question is probably a bit more complicated than “life got busy,” which is what i like to tell myself. i’ve been questioning again what i’m doing here. i’ve also been exploring a book idea and much of my focus has been on whether that idea is viable, how to make this space more fun for me — and for you — and kind of generally doing a gut check about my writing and what i want to do with it. deep, y’all. and i’m not ready to write about it yet. ha. Continue reading

Writing 101: coffee talk

coffee & notebook

if we were having coffee right now, i’d tell you how excited i am to be the only one awake in the house. i’d tell you it’s my very favorite time of day — when things are quiet and clean. it’s one of my very few windows of me time, so it’s a really perfect time for us to be catching up.

if we were having coffee right now, i’d tell you i’ve got my notebook with me because i have a lot of writing to do this weekend and i might need to jot down some notes. i’d tell you about Writing 101 and that this post is the Day 10 assignment. today is actually Day 11 and i’m actually a few posts behind and skipping around, but having a lot of fun with it. in addition to getting caught up on all that (i think i have 3 more make-up posts?), i volunteered to write a proposal for finally getting seating and shade in the park behind our house. someone else already did the heavy lifting of getting all the estimates and i just need to write up something really brilliant to justify the cost of the project.

Billy Idolif we were having coffee right now, i’d ask if you’re loving this fall-ish weather we’re having right now with crisp mornings and gorgeous sun-shiny afternoons. and i’d tell you how glad i am that everyone here for Music Midtown lucked out with the weather. and speaking of Music Midtown, i’d mention that Spy ran into Billy Idol in the lobby of the St. Regis on Wednesday morning! how cool! (image: songkick)

if we were having coffee right now, i’d tell you how slack i have been about working out and that after running for the first time in a couple months last Sunday i was so sore i could barely move my legs until Thursday. i plan to get out there again this weekend, with (i hope) less bodily damage and really get back on track.lukeskywalker

if we were having coffee right now, i’d tell you all what Miss Girl wants to be for Halloween: Luke Skywalker. and i’d ask you if you thought that was weird or not. i’m torn, but mostly think it’s cool and wonder if i should be Princess Leia or a Storm Trooper (or maybe Darth Vader) to go with her. we’d also talk about how i can’t believe we need to buy some Halloween decorations when we go to Target later today because everything gets sold out so quickly and i don’t want to find myself SOL in October like i did last year.

if we were having coffee right now, i’d tell you how excited i am to watch football on Sunday and how nervous i am about the Falcons’ first season with their new coach. i’d tell you i’m counting the days until we head to the Dome for the game against the Redskins, which is always my favorite match-up since i grew up as a Redskins fan.

if we were having coffee right now, i’d apologize for cutting it short, but tell you that the family is awake and i need to get ready to go out for breakfast because i absolutely don’t feel like cooking this morning. i’d ask if we could do it again sometime and promise that next time, we’ll talk more about you!

have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday favorites: Labor Day edition

soooo looking forward to the long weekend! who’s with me?? the beginning of September always gets me energized to get things organized and (re)start some good new habits. to that end, i have a huge to-do list to tackle over the next 3 days, but instead of feeling overwhelmed i’m excited! here are a few current favorites. hope y’all have some big plans and enjoy the extra day!

1. Clusterfest
clusterfest(image: Creative Loafing)
hands down, this is my very favorite weekend in Atlanta all year. every Labor Day weekend, geeks, jocks, gays, rednecks and booknerds descend upon the city and close-in burbs to celebrate in their own ways. this year, looks like we lost NASCAR and the rednecks, but DragonCon, Chick-fil-A Kick-off Game, Decatur Book Festival and even a couple other big local events will be in full swing. check out the full roster. it is literally the best people watching all year! i work downtown in the middle of DragonCon and have already gotten an eyeful of superheros, video game characters and other cosplay far outside my realm of familiarity. can’t wait to head down tomorrow to watch the parade, which always includes a unit or 2 of Stormtroopers walking down Peachtree. coolest. ever. then we’ll head over to Centinnial Olympic Park to catch the SEC crew. and out to Decatur. Miss Girl has already said she should get 5 books because she’s 5. not sure i can argue.

2. new office furniture
ballard_homeoffice
dying for this. i am so tired of working at my kitchen counter. if you ever wonder why my posts are so disjointed and random, it’s because my family drives me insane. i’ve been threatening to contemplating turning our sitting room upstairs into an office just for me: a place to get away. i’ve been looking at girly desks and fantasizing. and then i stepped back a moment. i love being around my family. and the thought of sequestering myself felt a little weird. the fact also remains that nobody ever uses our real, dedicated office space downstairs. so i thought the first thing i should do is fix that up and see if i can work there. i have had my eye on this Ballard Original Office collection for probably years, but never wanted to spend the money. turns out it is 20% off this weekend. when i went into the local outlet at their headquarters right here on Atlanta’s Westside to see if i could pick up wood swatches (i want white, Spy doesn’t. we’ll probably compromise on the grey.), they had a couple of the pieces i wanted, discounted because of minor damage and 40% off this weekend! turns out there is one more outlet i can visit to search for additional pieces. so add one more thing to my list this weekend! hoping i can show y’all a before and after soon!

3. GapKids x ED

just. this. Miss Girl has turned into such a tomboy and i’m wholly supportive of it all. hello, i’m going to have a girl Luke Skywalker for Halloween! it’s like that. so, i was really psyched to see this Gap line this week that at least strives to be a little more gender neutral and positive in promoting different images for girls. plus, it features a couple of these really brilliant, overachieving like 8-year old entrepreneur/brands i keep seeing mentioned. crazy. great marketing. unfortunately, it’s all still probably made by 8-year old non-entrepreneurs in China. but i have to pick my battles.

4. shouting it out
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if you follow me on Instagram, you know that Lily ate a black pen this morning, then ran back and forth across the length of our upstairs with black ink on her paws. i tried to catch her and quarantine her in the bathroom, but on every attempt, her paws just got wetter with shower drippings, which made the ink prints darker when she ran back out on the carpet. long story short, after finally catching her and throwing her in the bathtub, i spent a good part of my morning spraying Shout on and steam cleaning all the spots. a bit more work to do in a few places, but i think the Shout totally made the difference in getting these black stains out of our light beige carpet.

5. Yeezy 4 prez
yeezy4prez(image: Cambio)
and then, in the middle of an already-insane moment in American politics, this happened. i didn’t actually watch the VMAs on Sunday to see the inspiration for this go down (and know he said 2020). but you know what? what the hell. part of me says it’s already a circus, let’s let all the clowns in. part of me says the nation seems to really want a change in who leads us and how we’re led (maybe i’m denying that’s code for wanting to go back to an old white man. yeah, i said it.), so let’s be open to some really new kinds of candidates. you gotta admit, some Kardashians up in the White House would certainly add a little flair. and can you imagine the reality show?? E! must be salivating . . .

stick a fork in me

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I’m done, y’all. I am sitting on my front porch at ten-something Monday night, slathered in Miss Girl’s various eczema meds after bath time, listening to the rain and drinking one last glass (?) of wine. the long weekend has been a whirlwind of pool time, cookouts and random bulk cooking with a smattering of “OMG I have to get some shit done before Tuesday!”

I’m exhausted. it’s been perfect and amazing, but as I say every Sunday “I still need one more day!” seriously beginning to think it’s a personal problem! am I alone?

anyhow, I know I’ve been gone from here for a bit. figuring some things out and trying to relax. (for instance, I am not doing a post on the chocolate ice cream I made today. it is a boring process and the pictures suck as a result. who needs to see that?)

so…hope y’all all had a really wonderful Memorial Day weekend! looking forward to getting caught up on reading and to diving back into posting a bit.

have a great week, y’all!

Friday favorites: blog shout-outs!

do y’all fight the urge to start like every third post with something along the lines of “OMG, things have been so crazy — sorry i haven’t posted so much lately!” i sure as hell do. Spy finally got home from his travels on Wednesday, so i’m hoping this weekend things will get more back to normal around here (although, sadly, i’m beginning to believe crazy is normal). i somehow found time to do some posts while he was away, but what suffered was my reading. i definitely felt like i was missing out on all the fun stuff you guys have been writing about. so last night, i sat down with a glass of wine and tried to get at least somewhat caught up. great reading, as usual, everyone! below are 5 of my favorite posts from the past couple weeks. hope y’all enjoy them as much as i did. TGIF, everybody!

1. easy apple pie
RaeofSparkles_easyapplepie

y’all know i love a semi-homemade recipe and will shortcut a recipe any time i get the chance. this apple pie from Shauna over at Rae of Sparkles looks right up my alley. now if i can just get someone to peel and slice the apples for me . . .

2. Charleston!
agirlnamedwanda_charleston

I loved A Girl Named Wanda‘s take on her recent trip to Charleston, a city i’ve been wanting to visit for a while.

3. doggie dress up
travelswithchoppy_aroundtheworldtraveler

lots of y’all participated in the April A to Z challenge (and i’m totally impressed!). Sara over at Travels with Choppy posted a recap of all the hilarious personas sweet Choppy took on last month. so. totally. fun.

4. fun ways to get active in Atlanta
workoutlifebalance_beltline

Carly over at Work(Out) Life Balance put together an awesome list of activities to help you stay fit and explore our great city.

5. sippin’ sparkles
peachfullychic_goldconfettiglasses

i just love these cute sparkly champagne flutes from Allison over at Peachfully Chic! what a fun way to add some new life to old glassware or dress up a bargain basement find!

May first: lights. camera. action!

clapperboard-movie-spotlight-photo-hd-wallpaper

i know i’m a few days past the first here, but Hollywood simply won’t schedule their activities around my posting schedule. gaaahh. who do they think they are?

anyway, you got it, guys. earlier this week, my monthly first was being an extra for a movie! mum’s the word about what or where or who until it’s showing in a theater near you. what i can say is that thanks to some sweet state tax credits (among other factors) Atlanta’s TV and film production industry is completely booming and it is amazing to see the sheer number of shows and movies that are in production here at any given time. in 2013, their production budgets totaled nearly $100 million.

for folks here, that means a lot of jobs. i mean a lot. according to the WSJ, there aren’t enough crew members to work on productions. and according to one woman i met at the call, the demand for extras also outweighs the available bodies. she said she pretty much has her choice of assignments whenever she wants them, but just can’t do the 12 and 14 hour days 5 days a week like some people.

even folks not directly related to the industry benefit, as services like technology, lodging, real estate and food service get a boost. Disney alone paid $696 million to 4,066 vendors in Georgia in 2012. it also means cool perks like celeb sightings and gossip about who’s shooting what where, which is always totally exciting.

what’s not totally exciting? being an extra on a movie set. i’ve been on lots of shoots for work before and know they’re boring. there’s a lot of waiting around for shots to get set up with props, lighting and cameras in exactly the right place. then testing and testing again. then adding actors and doing take after take, re-setting in between, until you’ve got that one shot just right — or think you at least have enough good footage to piece it together. the difference between doing that for a 30-second spot or a 2-minute web video versus for a full-length feature film has got to mean thousands of hours of hours of people standing around waiting for shit to happen. for work, i’m also on the other side of the camera, as it were, making sure everything looks right and is happening the way it’s supposed to happen, fielding questions and making decisions. on the contrary, last night was mostly just a lot of standing around. at times, the monotony and the lack of control or even knowing what the plan was seemed excruciating (along with the chilly weather, lack of caffeine and my old-lady back).

anyhoo, while i was standing around wondering why the hell i had signed up for this in the first place, i had a lot of time to observe and reflect on the experience. so since everyone loves a list, here are a few of my takeaways from the experience:

1. dressing for your film debut is crazy hard.
call time was 5:00 p.m. don’t even get me started on the work/babysitter sitch i had to finagle. but i got that worked out, then schlepped like half of my closet to base camp. “casual summer attire” sounds easy, but it’s like when you get a “black tie optional” invite and you’re like totally confused about whether your man’s actually supposed to wear a tux or not and if you should spring for a ballgown or just throw on your LBD of the moment. what’s worse is that you’re basically trying to dress for some wardrobe assistant you’ve never met whose idea of cute is probably totally not yours. and as part of a bigger group of people, it’s not just about you. that wardrobe assistant has to consider whether there are too many girls in dresses versus pants, too many patterns, too many solids, too much orange . . . god, i’m glad i don’t have that job. in the end, i netted out in a cute skirt and top with shoes i would never ever have worn with that outfit in real life. with several cute combinations in tow, my girlfriend ended up in an outfit that looked like our daughters’ school uniforms. none of it made sense.

2. oh, the people you’ll meet.
wow, so this was an education. of about 70 extras last night, they seemed to fall into 3 mostly cliquey categories (real life is still always like high school, right?):

  1. the neighbors — some of the folks there were just the people who lived in the neighborhood, have regular day jobs and just wanted to see what this whole thing was about (and get to see the actors up close since they have been wandering our ‘hood for a couple weeks). these were my peeps. i thought it would be mostly just us. not so.
  2. the theater kids — you could just tell these guys had been to film school or acting school and actually want to make a living in the industry. a show tune or pirouette was bound to break out at any time. they might get a break in a show or film, where they are extras on the regular, but you just know they are also into writing and producing and music, too, and are trying to make connections in every facet of Atlanta’s ever-growing entertainment industry so that one day they can be a star. there is an air of drama about these people — from how they gesticulate in conversation to how they never take off their sunglasses (not once) during the course of a 10-hour, mostly-nighttime shoot. you know who you are.
  3. the semi-pros — these guys are on the extras circuit. (i mean. i didn’t know that even existed.) they all know each other from having been on-set together time after time. Walking Dead . . . Tyler Perry . . . i mean, i think everyone with a pulse is involved in those productions, but when names are dropped it’s more for like street cred and acknowledgement of battle scars than actual name dropping like the theater kids do. the semi-pros rub elbows with the theater kids, but don’t have their same ambitions. these people are (from what i gathered) retired or in school or out of work and making ends meet with odd jobs. they have time on their hands, so they might as well get paid to stand around.

3. settle in. have fun.
like i said, there is a lot of waiting around. the theater kids brought cards. the neighbors one-upped their spades game with Heads Up. after a few hilarious rounds, the theater kids were dying to join in. what ensued was a semi-raucous and semi-raunchy few rounds with new semi-buddies. pretty much never has such a thing happened around here without booze involved. just sayin’. point being, you are going to be there a while. make the best of it and bring something to read (like your blog feed!), work, a game . . . and be open to meeting some people who are totally not like you. they can have some really interesting stories.

4. don’t be a dick (in general, but especially with crafty).
apparently the extras who came before us in the past few weeks ruined every single thing about being an extra. craft services or “crafty” as it’s known <wink>amongst insiders like me</wink>, is the part of the production team that provides all the food. depending on where you fall in the hierarchy of the production, your food may be nicer than others’. kind of like life, right? for non-union “background” talent (like me), you pretty much get cold gruel while everyone else is snacking on filet mignon and Chateau Margeaux. okay. not really, but there is a difference. and there just seems to be something about free food that makes seemingly normal people (background talent) act like maniacs. do you really need to grab 6 bottles of Coke from the crew cooler? we live in Atlanta for god’s sake. that shit comes out of our kitchen faucets. so whatever happened in that tent before we got there meant that for a night shoot scheduled to last until possibly 3:00 a.m., there would be no coffee. no. coffee. i almost died. at some point, i was hallucinating Starbucks smells. when we had a 30 minute break, i considered running home to brew a pot. in the end i didn’t. but in the end, i also cursed the a-holes who tortured punished us for our forebearers’ sins.

5. don’t do it for the money.
i mean, if you are in clique 2 or 3, there is obvs some financial appeal or you wouldn’t even consider this. the check that i will receive in 2-3 weeks for 10 hours’ work won’t even cover what i paid my amazing, awesome babysitter for staying until 3:00 in the morning. hell, my real job bills me out at like twice that for one hour. but i can see at a different time and stage of life, this would be a cool income supplement and way to meet people/get closer to that ideal entertainment industry job. so there’s that.

6. don’t count on seeing celebs.
i was kind of bummed it’s the time of year for me to get my eyes examined and my contacts may not totally be up to snuff for celeb spotting! like i said. i can’t name any names or tell any of the plot here. but. just know that even if you know who could be on set with you, don’t count on seeing them. turned out that of several main characters with recognizable real names, only a couple were around and involved in scenes being shot when i was there freezing, falling asleep and not getting paid (much). and in all likelihood, y’all ain’t gonna get close to ’em at all.

overall, i am 1,000% psyched that i did this. at the time it mostly sucked. no lie. but with some time to reflect, i love that i had the experience, saw the production details (which i haven’t bored y’all with and is more interesting as a work thing than anything) and also had some good bonding time with some really cool neighbors. and feel like it gave me a good story to tell (to you and to Spy, who finally got home tonight!).

when i can give any more detail, i will! y’all can expect timecode level info. no doubt. ha! have any of you ever done this? i would love to hear your story!

munch out on your lunch out: White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails

oh, yes, y’all. late lunch this afternoon, due to random west coast calls. work is slow at the moment and i just couldn’t bear to go grab something and eat at my desk. late is actually the perfect time to go to a lot of restaurants and get awesome service and an awesome experience. White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails is no exception. even though it’s downstairs from my office, i’ve never actually eaten there. i know. i can’t believe it either.

i grabbed a seat at the bar and put myself in the capable hands of my bartender, Tim. for a couple hours (:/), he became my buddy and partner in crime, beginning with a little help in selecting my meal. i was torn between the steak salad and lamb burger. thanks to not much arm twisting (oh, that devilish smile), i ended up with the burger. obvs. and OMFG. this thing was ridiculous, y’all. much as i love my meat, i don’t really get that tweaked about burgers. thanks to a restaurateur friend who was looking into opening a burger restaurant in Atlanta, i think i’ve tried every single one of them from Holeman & Finch to Yeah! Burger, Bocado, Flip, Farm Burger . . . all of them. really. of all of them, my favorite is honestly the Black & Blue burger at The Vortex. but that’s another post i never finished . . . Continue reading