His and Hers: Reality TV Roundup

Last night was a big night for TV in the Fragwell household!  In the perfect storm of network programming, the premier of Survivor:  Blood Vs. Water and the finale of this summer’s season of Big Brother were scheduled by CBS for the same Wednesday night! [smile]  Happily the stars aligned so we could both watch most of both shows.  My new work schedule doesn’t start for another week and Caleb’s Wednesday night was relatively free considering the normal hiccups and delays that can happen with church Wednesday night programming. [smile]

A few spoilers follow so beware if you haven’t watched the episodes and plan too:

Overall, we were both really happy with the set up for the new Survivor season and the conclusion to Big Brother!  Caleb’s the real Survivor expert, but since we’ve been married he’s been putting me through a crash course of the history of this still popular after all these years reality show.  [smile] He and I love that this season features returning players and the loved ones twist is really quite genius.  The dynamics of the game seem to be much more complex and there is some unpredictability in a show that’s been around for a while.  Caleb says:  “Even though nothing can trump the first season or Heroes Vs. Villians, this season may come close to achieving Survivor gold!”  [smile]

If Caleb is the resident Survivor expert, I guess my few summers of watching Big Brother make me the expert in this regard. So then what can I say about Big Brother?!?  I guess, “Go Andy” is appropriate.  Honestly, for me this show isn’t so much about watching to see who will win, but watching the game in progress.  The premise of the show is such a fascinating social experiment.   While the finale was fun, my favorite episode this summer was that second double eviction when the big showmance was finally broken up.  So much drama!  [smile]

I must confess that I was a little hesitant to share our reality TV obsessions for fear it might shatter our super cool image.  [smile] Seems like reality shows like Survivor and Big Brother are out of vogue these days.  So I’m curious… are we the only ones still watching these “traditional” reality TV game shows?  I would love to hear what you thought of either show last night or hear what reality TV shows are your favorites.  Leave a comment with your reality TV confessions.



Through my kitchen window: “Zine-urs”

Last week on a quick trip to Lowes for some sandpaper for a project I’m working on, I picked up a hanging basket of zinnas for half off.  The bright yellow-orange blooms were irresistible and I knew they’d add a pop of color to our still in progress front porch and lawn. We decided to hang them just outside the window above the kitchen sink which makes cleaning up after our meals a lot more fun.  [smile]

I love zinnas.  They are bright happy flowers and they remind me of my grandmother Bertha Nell, who I’ve always called “Mom.”  Mom and Pop were my birding and gardening grandparents.  Each summer without fail their mostly vegetable garden was decorated with several rows of zinnas, which my Mom called “zine-urs.” [smile]  A tour of the garden plot was never complete without a walk around/thru the zine-urs that I remember being as tall and taller than me by the end of the summer.  Mom always spoke with such pride about her zine-urs and rightly so her patch of the flowers rivaled any late summer garden spread in Southern Living Magazine.

When it was time for us to leave, Mom would always insist that we take a rainbow colored bouquet home along with as many ripe tomatoes as we could carry.  Inspired by the bouquet whose stems were wrapped in wet paper towel and tin foil, Sarah, Rachel, and I would giggle about Mom’s extra syrupy Southern pronunciation of the colorful blooms for at least half the ride home. [smile]

Mom and Pop are still living but haven’t planted zine-urs for several years.  They are now living in a graduated residential care community where they don’t have a garden plot.  But even though I’ve not actually heard her say zine-urs in years Mom’s is the voice I hear in my head each time I look out my kitchen window at the basket of yellow-orange flowers greeting me.


3 AM Feeding?!?

Funniest thing happened last night or I guess it was actually early this morning– Caleb and I both woke up to the sounds of a crying child.  I am not kidding.  We were both so confused.  Our sleepy exchange follows:

We don’t have a baby.

No, we don’t.  What is that?

I don’t know.  It sounds like a crying kid.

Maybe it’s a cat.  It could be a cat.

[wild cat shriek right outside our bedroom window]

There’s a neighborhood cat that hangs out on our porch.  It’s a cat, but it sounded just like a child.

What would we do if someone left a baby on our front porch?

I have no idea.

Clearly we’re not ready to respond to a crying baby at 3 AM, but hey I’m counting it a victory that we both woke up.  Made for a great laugh this morning when we remembered our sleepy powwow about the crying baby, aka crazy cat.


Be our guest: A top 3

We are thrilled to have guests at “The Parsonage”!  My parents arrived late afternoon yesterday and are with us through tomorrow early afternoon.  We’d love for them to be able to stay for church, but as my dad just moved to a new church it’s still a little early for him to take off a Sunday.  Still having Bill and Sue visit for even a quick trip is a real treat!  [smile]

I only have time for a quick post so I thought I would list the top 3 best things about having weekend guests:

  • #3:  The house is super clean.  Even though we’ve not completely finished decorating, I wanted to present our new home in the best possible light to my parents so we spent yesterday cleaning top to bottom.  I love waking up in our clean house and knowing I don’t have think about cleaning anything for a few days.
  • #2:  We get to be tour guides and tourists in our own town.  I love the opportunity visitors provide to drive around and explore where I live.
  • #1: Finally, I love getting to have real, in person conversations with people I love.  The telephone is a marvelous invention, but nothing beats a conversation across the table with someone.  Plus actually being together means I get plenty of good hugs from Mama and Daddy.

Gosh I miss living closer to my parents, but I also love having a house they can now visit.


His and Hers: Inbox maintenance

Daily Musings “His and Her’s” series is back! It’s Thursday and its been too many weeks since my last “His and Her’s” post, plus I just can’t talk about the bathroom remodel for another second.  For those wondering where we are in the process, I’ll just say our one day project is turning into multi-week project.  In the last 48 hours, I feel like I’ve learned the secrets of DIY homeowners out there: plan to expect the unexpected and everything takes longer.  [smile]

Back to the “His and Her’s” post for today- inbox maintenance.  Da da duuuummmmm!  Did you hear the scary music too at the mention of such a heavy and dreaded topic or was it just me?  Perhaps I’m the only person whose anxiety slowly increases with the number of unread items in my email inbox.  [smile]  My inbox anxiety disorder began near the end of college when I found myself with a very full and very mismanaged inbox where I could hardly find anything that I needed.  The ever-growing inbox was a result of a summer of little to no email access when I was a camp counselor and my tendency to be a bit of a pack rat. [smile]  By the end of my 4 year stint at LaGrange College it seemed like dozens of more messages were added to the pile each time I logged on.  It got to the point that I just thought for sure I was going to lose it.

Thankfully around the same time my inbox anxiety disorder was reaching its peak I discovered Google’s Gmail.  Gmail’s user-friendly platform with the capability to create different folders and archive just about any and every email I wished felt heaven sent. So I said goodbye to my old address and became mnellbagwell [at] gmail [dot] com.  [smile]  When I converted to Gmail I thought my days of anxiety producing inboxes were over but boy was I wrong.  I’m sure by now you all know where this is going– Caleb’s inbox is bursting at the seams!

You may be wondering why the state of Caleb’s inbox should even matter to me.  Well I must admit that is a great question and my not so great answer is “I don’t know.”  It is his email inbox and not mine.  Only occasionally does something that I need to see only get mailed to him, regardless his very full (we are talking 7000+ messages) makes me break out in sweats.  [smile]  The obvious difference in our ideas of inbox maintenance got me wondering whether one or the other of us were more “normal” than the other.  Time for another poll. [smile] Share your thoughts below.



The Saga of My First Pintrocity

I have been working on the guest room most of the morning and the early afternoon with the goal of getting just one room exactly the way I want it.  It’s a small room and as you can imagine won’t include much stuff, but still its taken much longer than I expected or intended.  Part of the problem is that there are so many projects I want to work on in “The Parsonage” that in the midst of my hunt for some vase or painting to use in the guest room I was distracted by another little job that simply must be done right in that moment.  [smile]  I’m not entirely done as I sit down for a writing break, but the last few tasks are essentially just hanging some art and my favorite handyman is at the office.  I could probably hang the art myself, but it’s much more fun to have Caleb help so I’m on pause until he gets to a stopping point on sermon prep for Sunday.  [smile]

Can I make a confession?  I promise to get back to the titular post in a moment, but first I must confess that despite moving in, I mean really moving in with decorating and organizing, the whole life we are building here still feels a bit surreal.  It feels like we’ve been given this really fantastic house to “play” or “pretend” in.  Living in the apartment with Caleb never felt that way and so I can only assume that the extra space to make my own has something to do with this feeling of “playing house.”  I took a photo of the guest room last night after I had made the bed to text my family to show them that whenever one of them decides to drop in we have a bed (and now a room) ready and couldn’t stop staring at the photo.  I told Caleb that I thought it was just so cute and he responded that of course it was because it was in our house. “That’s our guest room, darling.”  The thought of it was much more profound to me than his simple words would indicate to someone else.  Alright enough about all the adjusting that I’m discovering comes along with a move and onward to the pintrocity!

The cupcakes when finished baking.

The caramel centered cupcakes when finished baking.

This post could also be called “How Margaret Quick Thinking Prevented Major Dental Disaster.”  [smile]  Caleb’s birthday was about a week ago and in advance of his party I asked what kind of cake he’d like to celebrate.  True to his sweet tooth loving form he requested some kind of chocolate caramel creation.  Of course my first thought was to search Pinterest for a easy recipe with a twist.  I love to incorporate a twist in my baking creations! [smile]  I came across a super easy recipe for a chocolate cupcake with a caramel center and knew at once it was the one to try.  I’m used to making my own caramel, but realized I wouldn’t have all the time in the world and was swayed to try this recipe because instead of having to make homemade caramel it used Kraft caramel squares.  The absence of homemade caramel should have been my first clue that disaster was imminent, but I so wanted it to work so I ignored any apprehensions I might have had.  [smile]

The recipe called for the Kraft caramel squares to be inserted into the cupcakes for the last five minutes of baking.  So dutifully I plopped one in each cupcake, but when I removed the cupcakes I was immediately dismayed to find that the caramel square had barely lost its shape let alone melt into the cake.  I was so disappointed with the results that I decided to not make another batch with the caramel squares which turned out to be a good idea because it helped me discover an alternative.  [smile]  When the icing was finally prepared, I found that the caramel had re-hardened to form a very dense and quite brittle center that I thought for certain that meant a cracked tooth was in very near future for one of the party-goers.  A quick fix was in order.  So I deconstructed the existing caramel centers and filled the cupcakes with a mixture of a few of the second batch cupcakes that my oven decided it did not want to bake to perfection anyway and the caramel sauce I used for the icing.  I was sure that they would still not be the best cupcakes I’ve made, but was pleased to receive rave reviews from the rest of the family at the party.  My adapted recipe for chocolate caramel centered cupcakes and the recipe for caramel frosting I used is below.

The finished cupcakes!

The finished cupcakes!

Cupcakes: (from Southern Living Cookbook)

20130711-200921.jpgYou will need:  1/2 cup shortening, 2 cups sugar, 2 large eggs, 4 (1 oz) unsweetened chocolate squares, melted, 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 3/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Beat shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating well.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.  Add chocolate, mixing well.  Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to chocolate mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Mix at low speed after each addition until blended.  Add water, mixing well.  Stir in vanilla.  Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin pans, filling each cup half full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes.  Remove from pans, and cool on wire racks.

Frosting: (slightly adapted from Cara’s Cliche)

You will need:  1 cup unsalted butter (softened not melted), 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cup caramel sauce (I used Smucker’s Ice Cream Caramel Sauce.), 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Mix butter with hand mixer until smooth and fluffy. Now add the vanila, salt, caramel and vanilla.  Mix until fully combined. Gradually add the powdered sugar mixing each time in between.

20130711-200945.jpgFilling and Assembly:

You will need:  5 or 6 baked cupcakes, approximately 1 cup caramel sauce (I used Smucker’s Ice Cream Caramel Sauce.)

Spoon out the center of each cupcake.  Set aside centers in bowl with 5 to 6 crumbled cupcakes.  Add about 1/2 cup of caramel sauce to crumbled cupcakes and mix until a gooey mixture forms.  Squeeze or spoon about a teaspoon of sauce into each cupcake and add a 1/2 tablespoon of the gooey mixture to each cupcake center.  Frost with salted caramel frosting as desired.


Missing: Blue jean capris

The crazy back and forth of our in between lifestyle has finally taken its toll and I’ve started misplacing things left and right. First it was a pair of blue jean capris that were last seen (and I’m certain are still residing) in my mothers laundry room in Georgia. Then last night I forgot the power cord to my computer in Caleb’s office at the church. Minor frustrations that are easily fixed, but plenty of evidence that this living out of a suitcase is wearing thin. [smile]

Still there have been some definite highlights to life in In Between Land of course. Getting to spend so much quality time with our families is at the top of the list! After living in DC and so far away from our parents, it is really nice to not feel so rushed to cram a whole lot of experiences into one visit. We have also gotten to see so many different places in the last 6 weeks. The driving back and forth from Georgia, to Tennessee, and to North Carolina has felt a bit like a series of mini vacations. I’ve decided though that vacations are nice because they don’t go on forever. [smile]

I’m a creature of habit and I miss the mundane routine of everyday life together. Plus getting back into a routine has the added bonus of not forgetting my pants in odd places. [smile]

– Margaret