Category Archives: Tutorial

Saturdays Are For Crafting

I woke up this morning and looked out the window and realized, “Hey, it’s Saturday. I should make something today.”

There were no cartoon birds present to open my blinds, nor a gaggle of geese to make my bed. But in a way, it was kind of a Disney Princess moment.

I actually bought the supplies for this project a little over two weeks ago. Thanks to Pinterest, I found an article called “The History of Infertility’s Common Thread.” I’d been searching for infertility awareness jewelry, and intrigued, I clicked over and read it. If you suffer with infertility, or know someone who does, I strongly suggest that you read the article. It’s…amazing.

But for those who don’t want to read it, the short and sweet version is this: a group of woman in the UK decided that they wanted to start a movement to unify those who suffer from infertility, no matter the cause. They needed a symbol; something inexpensive but poignant, to serve as a beacon to start conversations so they could spread the word about infertility.

Any woman who suffers with infertility, whether it’s because she has PCOS or endometriosis or a partner with low sperm count, shares a common thread with every other infertile woman: the deep-seeded desire to be a mother. So they chose to start their movement with friendship bracelets made from thread. Like “Live Strong” and other such movements before them, they wanted to select a color with meaning, so they went with the deep burgundy of a pomegranate. (They are also longstanding symbols of fertility. I guess it’s because of all the seeds and stuff.)



As I read the article, I found myself feeling a little less alone than I had since our devastating diagnosis. There were others out there like me, other women who dreamed of nothing but holding their child in their arms. So I grabbed my purse and headed to the craft store to buy my #814 embroidery thread (the specific color chosen by the Common Thread movement to most closely resemble the color of a pomegranate.)

Here’s the thing: I’m not crafty by nature. I get these amazing ideas and buy all the stuff I need to follow through, but rarely am I successful on the first try. In fact, it took me a little over four hours to make ONE bracelet just to share with you guys. (The first one was too short. The second one was too long. The third one was lopsided. The fourth one started fraying when I tried to tie it…Are you seeing a trend here?)

I could have done this a thousand different ways…there are so many DIY tutorials on friendship bracelets on Pinterest, it’s a little mind-boggling. After reading the instructions to a few of them, my brain started to hurt, so I just went with my gut and decided to try it my way.

This may be why it took me fourteen tries to create a wearable bracelet.

Anyway, here are the supplies I used:

Embroidery floss, ruler, scissors, tape, and my awesome alien mouse pad.

Embroidery floss, ruler, scissors, tape, and my awesome alien mouse pad.

Per all the instructions I’d managed to read, I used the tape and mouse pad to secure the bracelet while I was braiding it. They also suggested I pin it to my pants, but that’s asking a little too much from someone who doesn’t sew. (Who has safety pins if they don’t sew? Not this girl.) So I went the tape route. It became obvious to me very early on that the tape method wasn’t going to work, so I switched to a clipboard instead. Why? Because I’m a genius, that’s why.

I had this nifty little bracelet that I wasn’t going to use, so I disassembled it so I could use the brass infinity symbol as party of my design. I took 3 long-ish pieces of thread, folded them in half, and tied them to one side of the symbol. I did the same on the other side and wound up with this:

Voila. Bracelet. Almost...

Voila. Bracelet. Almost…

Now, at this point I could have twisted or knotted or swirled or some other fancy thing, but I went old school and just braided it. I had 6 strings, so I used 2 in each of the 3 braid sections. That part was easy.

The hard part? Creating that ding-danged knot on the end of the bracelet so you can tie it on your arm later. It’s hard enough with one string. With six??? Hulk mad. But…I managed it somehow. (I’m still not sure how many tries it took.)

I call it the "Knot of Frustrations," a.k.a., "Don't Do Crafts Until It's Late Enough For Mixed Drinks."

I call it the “Knot of Frustrations,” a.k.a., the “Don’t Do Crafts Until It’s Late Enough For Mixed Drinks” knot.”

Once I got the complicated knot tied, the rest of the bracelet came together pretty quickly. I just braided the other side, tied a knot in the end and left myself a couple of inches worth of thread so I could tie it on.

Now. Let’s rewind for a second. Remember how I said the hardest part in making this bracelet was tying the knot? I SO lied to your face. The hardest part is tying the damned thing on your arm when you’re finished. Let the record show that it is IMPOSSIBLE to tie a knot with one hand. I don’t care if you’re Popeye the Sailor Man, a professional bracelet maker, or a friggin’ Eagle Scout—it just doesn’t work.

I really wish I’d gotten some photos of myself trying to put the finished bracelet on. It involved a lot of swearing, deep concentration, fumbling fat fingers, and my teeth. But, eventually, I won.

Ha! I win, sucker!

Ha! I win, sucker!

Don’t ask me how I’m going to take it off later. Maybe I’ll just wear it all the time, like a single maroon dreadlock on my wrist. Or maybe I’ll actually read some of those tutorials and figure out another way to secure this type of bracelet onto one’s arm. Because I certainly don’t remember using my teeth and a pair of pliers when I was 8.

At any rate, I finished. I’m proud of my little bracelet. Now I can go out into the world and wait until someone says, “Hey, nice bracelet.”

Then I can cry on them and leave little rings of mascara on their clean white shirts.

bracelet 6

But at least I’ll be a member of the movement. And that’s all I really wanted, anyway.

If you are interested in making a bracelet of your own, and my tutorial leaves you scratching your head and wondering why in the hell I wrote a tutorial post about something I suck at, may I suggest one of the following ones instead? There’s a cute knotted one over at The Red Kitchen which I’m still going to try, and for one that looks like it has hearts woven in, check out this one at Honestly WTF. (Side bar. Honestly? I wish I’d thought of that blog name first.)

Happy Little Trees

Thursday was my monthly Girl’s Night Out with gal pals Jessie and Rachel. We’ve shared some hilarious moments in the past–usually at a restaurant or sitting around one of our dining room tables. But this month, we decided to get crazy. Er. Crazier. And we took our ‘we’re louder than you because we’re also having more fun than you’ attitudes and waltzed right into Bottles ‘n Brushes for a night of wine, art, and fun.

bottles and brushes logo

Click on the logo for their full website!

For those who have never heard of such a thing, let me explain exactly what it is that Bottles ‘n Brushes does so well. You show up to this lovely little art studio, beautifully decorated with tons of finished paintings from previous classes, and are immediately faced with your empty canvas. In two hours, they teach you how to paint a masterpiece–all in a step-by-step, you-can-do-it-even-if-you-can’t-draw-a-straight-line-with-a-ruler, it’s-ok-if-you-drop-a blob-of-paint-somewhere-because-we-can-totally-fix-it sort of way.

For someone like me, who considers THIS to be a work of art, this is a priceless teaching concept.

Final product

An olive oil bottle I painted for Mom.

Jess and I arrived a few minutes before Rachel, and we quickly donned our cheerfully paint-splattered aprons and fancied ourselves as ar-teests.


By the time Rachel, and our other classmates, arrived, we were in full-fledged ready-to-paint mode.

We were also in full-fledged let’s-crack-open-this-bottle-of-wine mode. Which we did. Which made the rest of the night that much more awesome.

As our lovely instructor, Carley, took to the stage, we sat at our stools, pulled out our paper plates filled with blobs of the rainbow, and dove right in. With Carley and Meg (her assistant), cheering us on, we learned how to paint a lovely hilltop scene, complete with…you know it…a happy little tree.

Before we go there, though, let me share with you the stages of achieving painting excellence.

Step One:
Paint the sky.


Step Two:
Learn how to blend colors.


Step Three and Four:
Have a drink, a cookie, and some bruschetta. Also, ask loud questions and cause the rest of the class to look at you like you’re a giant orange Muppet.

Step Five:
Happy tree!!


Now that you have seen my finished product, you will understand why, all night long, I was channeling my inner Bob Ross.


The truth of the matter is that, at some point, each of us was unhappy with the progress we were making on our painting. Jess was unhappy with a spot of canvas she inadvertently forgot to fill in with green. Rachel didn’t like the way the grass appeared to be taking over her path. I wasn’t thrilled with the shape my path took toward the bottom of the canvas. But just like Bob Ross, Carley and Meg taught us how to shade in that white spot, to embrace the artistic nature of our natural hand, and to believe in our artist’s eye.

It was a beautiful thing, y’all.

And so, we wrapped up the evening, incredibly proud of the work we’d done, happy that we’d done it together…


…and just a lil’ bit tipsy. Not gonna lie.

Thanks so much to Carley and Meg, for bringing out our inner painters. We will absolutely be back!! Maybe next time we could paint the TARDIS? Or perhaps a lifelike portrait of Donnie Wahlberg? Just a suggestion…

How I’m Feeling About Facebook Lately

The internet has been a hazardous place as of late. Especially on Facebook. With the looming election, paired with recent world events and football season, Facebook has gone from this:

To this:

I always wonder what I’ll stumble across each morning when I open my internet browser. Will I be smacked in the face with some crazy right-wing conspiracy theory, complete with hate speech and illustrations? Or will I (finally) be greeted with the things I WANT to know about…i.e. who’s at the grocery store/which friend’s kid won their soccer game/who found a Doctor Who collectible on eBay.

In years past, when the internet turns hostile, Brian and I have been known to “take a Facebook break.” We disable or delete our accounts, living a blissful, quiet life, free from armchair politics and the web-wide Whiny Wanda. (Because everybody has a friend like that, am I right?)

Believe me when I say my finger has hovered over the “Obliterate Your Facebook Account Here” button several times over the last few weeks.

But I can’t seem to make myself pull the trigger this time. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to go to the trouble of recreating my account in a month when I start going through withdrawals. Maybe it’s because Brian is gone a lot, and Facebook is my tangible connection to the outside world. Maybe it’s because I would miss seeing the daily posts from Jenna about my godkids

However, if I’m honest with you about why I haven’t just quit Facebook this time, it comes down to a simple answer.

It’s because Facebook created the ultimate answer when they came up with the “Show in News Feed” feature. I can be friends with you on Facebook all day long, but if I don’t want to read all of your rants, I can simply choose to take you out of my personal timeline. You’re nary the wiser, and my page is filled with the updates I’m most interested in. 

FINALLY! I can create a timeline that will greet me with unicorns and rainbows instead of gremlins and thunderheads!! I get plenty of pleasure out of making use of that little feature.

You posted something extremely offensive? HIDE FROM TIMELINE!

You continually post political statements that border on hate speech? HIDE FROM TIMELINE!

You complain about everything in your life to the point of exhaustion? HIDE FROM TIMELINE!

I feel like Shera with He-man’s catch phrase.

I’m sure at some point I’ll revisit those I’ve hidden and consider allowing them back into the lovely meadow of wildflowers that is my Facebook timeline. (Perhaps after the election is over?) But for now, I’m employing my own brand of The Timeline Police. And it’s working!

Of course, I could always just use my husband’s answer for Facebook nonsense and post this whenever someone annoys me (Warning: Foul Language Ahead:)


Funny, colorful, and right to the point. But, I think I’m going to stick to my game plan. It’s reversible, it’s comfortable, and it’s keeping Facebook much more warm and fuzzy. HEY! It’s Facebook’s version of the Snuggie! And who knows, maybe one day, the internet will return to being a (mostly) kind place to visit. But for now, I’m gonna stick to my guns and wrap my little piece of the internet in the warm flannel of choice. Thank you, Facebook, for giving me the option to be the passive-aggressive peace keeper of my own page.

Photoshop, The Abby Gabs Way

I recently had my very first request to do a Photoshop tutorial, from friend and fellow blogger Ryan from The Woven Moments. I excitedly took on the task, until I remembered that I’m far from a Photoshop guru. No one would ever pay me to teach them the skills I use for my blog on a regular basis. But, I figured that, for the purposes of this blog, I could at least pretend that I know what I’m talking about, and share some of my self-taught Photoshop skills to the masses. So, in my second-ever tutorial, I’m going to attempt to teach you how to make your own silly graphics using Photoshop.

Be forewarned. I don’t use real Photoshop-type jargon. I call most of the buttons “Whatzit” and “Thingymajigger.”

Let’s proceed.

I use Photoshop for 3 basic things: to superimpose myself into ridiculous situations, to salvage a photo that I like but that isn’t usable in its current form, or to add words and/or graphics to an existing but boring photo.

So, here’s how I do it.

Superimposing Myself Into Ridiculous Situations (AKA: The Magic Extractor)

You’ve seen it a hundred times on Abby Gabs…Abby with a goofy grin standing at the feet of Mordor, Abby sipping on a frilly cocktail  on the beaches of Hawaii, Abby kissing Donnie Wahlberg’s cheek. Photoshop allows me to live a dramatic, somewhat enviable, celebrity-like life. Without it, suffice it to say that you’d see a lot of boring pictures featuring me, my cats, and the terrible 1970s throwback wood paneling that covers every inch of wall in my apartment.
(My landlord calls it classy.)
So, in order to take yourself out of an ordinary picture and magically transport yourself into fairytale land, you simply need to make use of the Magic Extractor tool. (For the purposes of this blog, I’m making a life long dream come true and putting myself into the Michael Jackson Thriller video. Just go with me here.)
Step one: open up Photoshop, upload all the photos you want to use for your project, and choose the first photo you want to manipulate. In this case, it’s my face. Click on “Image,” scroll to the bottom and choose “Magic Extractor.” The following screen will pop up:

Don’t be intimidated. This little tool couldn’t be easier to use. Use the red paint tool to mark the areas of your photo that you want to keep. Use the blue paint tool to mark the areas of the photo that you want to disappear. When you’re satisfied, click “Ok.”

Now here’s where I differ with some of the Photoshop gurus on the innerwebs. They’ll tell you to be meticulous here. And inevitably, the first few times you use The Magic Extractor, you will spend 30 minutes making sure that the stray hair poking out of your left ear is most definitely NOT highlighted with red. Let me say, though, that you will have an opportunity to perfect the photo once it’s added to your chosen background. So—swirl that mouse with abandon, baby. No need to be nit-picky. Just get the job done.

Once you’ve applied the Magic Extractor, your photo will now look like this:

As you can see, there’s some schmutz around the very edges. Again, don’t panic. You can fix this later. Now, double click on your background image, figure out where you want to smoosh your face, and drag the edited face photo onto the background. Manipulate it until you get it where you want it. Then, begin your perusal of the handy-dandy little buttons on the left-hand side of your screen.

See that cute little pink eraser that looks like the kind you carried in your pencil box in third grade? That’s the answer to all your problems. Select the layer of the photo that you want to edit (most likely, it’s your face. You don’t want to erase background, right?) Then erase away those last little remnants of the original photo that you don’t want anymore. If you’re having problems seeing what you’re doing, feel free to click on the little magnifying glass and zoom in. It makes ensuring you don’t accidentally erase your left ear a TON easier.

After a few minutes, you can successfully say “Voila! I have a finished product!”

But Abby, wait! There’s a hat with flowers in that picture!! How on earth did you manage to add that to the photo? No worries, friend. We’ll cover that in the Third Section of this blog. For now, let’s move on to Section Two.

Salvaging a Photo That I Like But Isn’t Usable In Its Current Form
When a majority of the photos you use for your blog are self-portraits, you will wind up with more duds than studs. They’ll turn out fuzzy, or framed incorrectly, or just generally poopy. Case in point: this fuzzy photo I took of myself recently for my Valentine’s Day blog:
Naturally, it didn’t get chosen to go into the blog becasue it’s out of focus. However, Photoshop is GREAT for fixing those photographer-errors, and  you can wind up what I call “Artsy Fartsy” photos. The first thing I do to make any bad photo into an Artsy Fartsy masterpiece is convert it to Black and White. Click “Enhance,” scroll down and select “Convert to Black and White.” The following page will pop up:
Photoshop is already equipped with a ton of options to make your black and white photo as artsy or as fartsy as your little heart desires. Just click around until you find the optimum option, then select “ok.”
Woo hoo! This is a “self high-five” moment. You’ve just joined the ranks of self-involved, pretentious artists on the internet by creating your own creatively shot and edited photograph. But maybe you’re still not happy. Maybe you want to manipulate it even more. Let me introduce you to Photoshop’s “Artistic Effects” arsenal.

This is where clicking buttons and playing with the options on Photoshop becomes crucial. There are SO MANY DIFFERENT ways to manipulate a single photo. You can make it appear that the photo was really painted, or drawn with charcoal, or even sketched by a street vendor. Your choice. Just click the handy little buttons, apply to the photo, sit back and enjoy the show. And no worries—no changes are permanent. There’s a handy little option in the “Edit” column that allows you to undo any changes you’ve made to the pic.

(I chose Pastels for the below photograph. You’ll find it in the 3rd row, 2nd option from the left.) Now how artsy-fartsy is THAT?!?
Now you have an all-purpose black and white photo that you can use for a myriad of applications: avatars, Facebook profile pictures, Christmas cards—whatever you need! But perhaps you still feel like it’s a little lacking. Maybe you’d like to add a poem, or an inspirational quote.
That’s where adding stuff comes in.
Adding Words and/or Graphics to An Existing But Boring Photo
Psssst. Want me to let you in on a little secret? THIS IS SO EASY. Once you have the Photoshop software, you have an entire warehouse worth of fonts, colors, warping options and more right at your fingertips.
My method of finding the right font for a project goes like this: click on the font tool (it looks like the letter “T”.) Click somewhere on the photo. Type whatever you need to type. Then highlight it and scroll through the fonts, changing it when you find one that sounds interesting. You can increase or decrease the size to fit it into the photo as needed. You can also click on the color box and change the color of your font in 2 shakes of a lamb’s tail. If your text needs to be physically moved to a new location, click on the Move Tool at the very top (looks like an arrow with a compass next to it.) and drag it around till you find your inner peace. And eventually, you’ll have an image that looks like this:
It’s just as easy to add graphics to your photo. Let’s say, for this blog’s sake, that you want to add a picture of a black cat wearing a Marilyn Monroe wig. Easy enough. Let’s use Photoshop’s “Create” button, located to the right of your screen.
Using the drop-down menu, select “Graphics” and then smile when you see the balloons, banners, and baseballs load with ease. Double click on any graphic you want, and it will add automatically to the picture. Here, you can use the Move tool to manipulate the image however you need to–whether it needs to be bigger or smaller, straightened or catty-cornered. Add whatever your heart desires: mustaches, thought bubbles, hammers and ukeleles. And eventually, you’ll end up with an image that looks more like this:
And this, ladies and gents, is what makes Photoshop my favorite photo-editing software, ever.
I hope this tutorial has proven to be a helpful jump-off point for those who wonder how I create the images that drive Abby Gabs. If I’ve only managed to confuse you further, I apologize. What works for me might not work for you. Especially since I’m the kind of person who finds a black cat in a Marilyn Monroe wig hilarious.

How To Become A Professional Twitter-Stalker (An AbbyGabs Tutorial)

If you have an obsessive nature like me, or you have a fondness for one celebrity in particular, Twitter Stalking could be your next step toward fame. If you’ve ever been curious about what it takes to be a successful Stalker (as I consider myself somewhat a professional), then this Tutorial is for you!

Step One:
Create a Twitter account. Revel in the newness of this technology. Follow every single person you can find–famous or not–until you’re following 1500 people in less than an hour. Realize, at this rate, your Target’s tweets will be lost in the crowd. Frown.

Step Two: 
Create a new Twitter account. Pay more attention to the username you choose this time, keeping your Target in mind. What will catch their eye and make them smile? What name will put you at the top of the list of fans to follow? Use your imagination. Get creative. Don’t google “fan girl names” for help.

Examples:  BeMyBieber69. MarryMeMarkyMark. 2Hot4Any1butJT. You get the gist.

Step Three:
Now’s the time to find your mark. You’ll want to make sure that your Target is active on Twitter. Because, honestly, Twitter Stalking someone who only tweets on holidays gets a little boring. Even though each new tweet from an infrequent flyer is like winning the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes, your interest will wane after awhile.

Once you’ve found the Target’s profile, click the “follow” button. Now re-read every tweet, all the way back to the beginning of time, and admonish yourself for all the celebrity lovin’ you missed while sitting on your hands and not creating a Twitter account sooner. Reply to messages they sent in April of 2009, knowing they’ll probably never be seen. Then retweet them to your 10 followers (your best friend from high school, your Mom, and 8 other fan girls who jumped on you like monkeys as soon as you logged in.)

Example: My own Target, DDUB himself, is definitely active on Twitter.
He tweets up to 10 times a day! And see that little blue check mark?
That means Twitter has officially verified that he is, in fact, who he says he is.
Beware of posers. Just because his user name is ZacEfron
doesn’t mean it’s really THE Zac Efron!

Step Four:
Try to keep your head from exploding when your Target tweets live for the first time. (IE: When you’re actually on Twitter.) There’s a thrill in knowing you’re sharing the interwebs with them at the same time, and they don’t even know it. Respond to this tweet 375 times, even though it only reads “Happy Tuesday, tweeps!” When your compulsive tweeting comes to an end, google the word “tweeps” and try to get hip with the lingo.

Step Five:
Reconfigure your Twitter layout. Spend 2 days finding the perfect free photo-manipulation software, downloading it to your computer, and creating the perfect background for your profile. Once your profile is all shiny and new again, begin a NEW Twitter campaign, begging asking the celebrity to check it out, in hopes that it will result in a follow.

(Author’s Note: It’s best if you use pictures of the Target. It’s good for a celebrity ego boost. If you have a photo with you AND the Target, so much the better. But save THAT one for your avatar.)

This is my Twitter background. While it focuses on my blog  (because
that’s why I started my Twitter account in the first place) there are enough pictures
of Donnie Wahlberg to draw in his interest, were he to click over to my profile.

Step Six:
After about a week, when the only responses to your clever tweets have been retweets from fellow stalkers, you’ll begin to feel downtrodden. Doesn’t my mark see me? Can’t he HEAR ME??


Fear not, Stalker friend. This is only the beginning of your campaign. It’s time to pull out the big guns. It’s TIME to get CREATIVE. It’s time to be RELENTLESS.

It’s time to download the Twitter app for your phone so you can stalk your Target 24/7…

(Author’s note: Wine helps when the breakdown arrives. Tequila works, too.)

Step Seven:
Now that you have the Twitter app on your phone, you can take Stalking to a whole new level. Put yourself in situations that would make for a humorous “look where I am” tweet. Take pictures of things you think will make the Target laugh. Visit the beach and write silly phrases in the sand and photograph them, making sure to tag the Target when you upload them to your profile. These techniques will only make you more visible to the Target…because who can resist clicking on a link in a Tweet???

Just 4 of many examples that I’ve uploaded to Twitter via
Believe me when I say there are other less flattering pictures
I’ve used in the past, including taking photos of DVDs, road signs, and
his name written in the sand at the beach. (Yes I really did that. I swear.)

Step Eight:
Devise a clever plan that will make you more visible to your Target’s FANS, which will only make you more visible to the target. Have a giveaway. Draw a funny picture. Find a photo of the Target and insert your own witty caption. Have a good friend make you a birthday pinata bearing the face of your chosen celebrity. Whatever your plan, think outside the Twitter box. Being a standout in a crowd of crazies is the ONLY way to get that follow.

Step Nine:
Enlist the help of your friends. Don’t let them weasel out of it by saying they have no love for Twitter. Saying they’re already stretched too thin by Facebook and Pinterest is NOT an excuse. Remind them of why they love you and are friends with you in the first place. And tell them your life will NOT BE COMPLETE without a follow from your Target. Eventually, they will comply. Even if it’s reluctantly, with a twinge of annoyance.

With the help of your friends tweeting, retweeting, and pestering the hell out of continually asking your Target to follow you, your dreams WILL come true. Your Target will eventually click that little follow button because you and your army have made it impossible for him not to do so.

Step Ten:
Celebrate. Squeal. Take screen captures of that special moment in time when the follow becomes official. Then log off the internet and go spend some time with your friends. They deserve it.

(Author’s note: Wine helps when celebrating with your friends. Tequila works, too.)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
By following these simple 10 steps, you’re sure to create a closer, more intimate bond with the celebrity of your choice. And the good news is—most of them are on Twitter for fan feedback. That means there’s no chance of a restraining order ever being issued. Yay!

*Edit* If enlisting your friends doesn’t secure you the follow you so desire, you can always turn to sexual innuendo.  Many find this technique to be effectual. However, there HAS to be a line you won’t cross somewhere, right?


An Abby Gabs Tutorial: How To Power Through A Boring Book In Time For Book Club On Sunday

I’m an avid reader. In fact, there’s very little that I won’t read. My bookshelves are overflowing with all genres: fiction, nonfiction, children’s series, chick lit, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, autobiographies, even a few comic books.

Occasionally, though, I’ll pick up a book that, for whatever reason, doesn’t hold my attention like the others. There’s usually one main ingredient missing–the ingredient that keeps me glued to a book to the very end.

That ingredient? Character development.

Simple math, authors. If I don’t care about the characters, I don’t care about the story line.

Makes sense, right?

Well…my little book club decided to take its first foray into the world of science fiction. I was psyched!! I’ve got a couple of sci-fi books in my top 10, so I was looking forward to this little detour. The book was suggested and accepted: Dune by Frank Herbert. I was ready for some classic, old school sci-fi.

Without going on a serious tirade, and in an attempt to keep this blog from going on FOR-E-VER, let me just put it this way. I’m not that into it.

I found myself carrying my Kindle with me everywhere, in the hopes that I’d get a second to read this week’s assignment. It went with me to the salon, the grocery store, Target, the garbage can. I carried it in my bag all week and never touched it. It sat beside me on the couch, guilt beckoning me to continue reading.

I wound up being more interested in re-runs of Awkward on MTV instead. (For those mature enough to avoid this channel at all costs, let me say this show reminds me of My So Called Life…with iPhones.)

Finally, one day I look up and OH SNAP it’s FRIDAY! I’ve got approximately 48 hours (give or take a few for sleeping) to read 200 pages.

I felt like I was in college again, reading to meet a deadline. And since I was a little rusty on the procedure, I had to re-learn what works for me. And since it was so danged hard, I thought a little tutorial might help those who might be in a similar situation. (My book club friend, Dana, will appreciate this tutorial the most, since she, too, is struggling through the desert of Dune.)

How To Power Through a Boring Book In Time For Book Club on Sunday:

Step One: Find a quiet spot with NO DISTRACTIONS and start reading.

The “No Distractions” rule is crucial. Normally, it takes a small nuclear bomb to drag me from the pages of a good read. In this case, though, it doesn’t take much. Case in point: my husband sneezed and it took me 10 minutes to get my groove back.

Step Two: Plan on falling asleep. It will happen. More than once.

Don’t worry. No one will judge you for drooling. Much.

Step Three: Move to a less comfortable spot to minimize napping.

If you curl up under an afghan with a kitty on your lap, you’ll be asleep in less than 4 pages. Just FYI.

Step Four: Figure out that your less comfortable spot still isn’t uncomfortable enough to keep you awake. Relocate to the kitchen table. Or the floor.

As soon as you find that perfect, uncomfortable spot, you’ll power through 50 pages, pronto!!

Step Five: Take breaks. 

Wine-guzzling is my favorite way to pass the time.

Author’s note: You absolutely cannot skip this step. It becomes crucial to the process when, during these breaks, you make a deal with yourself that if you get to page 250, you’ll reward yourself with chocolate ice cream/a 10 minute power nap/a trip to Bali. Better yet, have your spouse promise you a reward: foot massage/dinner out/a trip to Bali. Now you have the motivation to KEEP READING!

Step Six: Finally find your groove.

By this step, you should have figured out the tricks that keep you interested in the story line. Give your characters funny nicknames, write furious notes on the incompetency of your main character, try to guess where the story is going (even if you inject gnomes in funny hats as the new heroes of the tale). Spend the next 2 hours tearing through page after page until you FINALLY reach the finish line. (Note: Try not to let your eyes cross.)

Step Seven: That’s it, you’re through!

Head to the computer to post your accomplishment to Facebook. Then reward yourself with 30 gratuitous minutes of mindless internet surfing. (May I suggest looking up pictures of Bali?) Congratulations. You deserve it, friend.

An Abby Gabs Tutorial: How To Paint An Olive Oil Bottle You Can Be Proud Of

I’ve never done a craft tutorial before.

You will see why by the end of this blog.

But, I was inspired by my friend Stephanie over at Love Life Project. She is the kind of person who makes stuff, and her projects always turn out Martha Stewart Magazine worthy. Jewelry boxes, notebooks, paintings…

In short, I want to be Stephanie when I grow up.

Eager to join the party, I was excited when the opportunity for a craft project presented itself this week. So I decided to build my own Step-By-Step Tutorial. Enjoy.

How To Paint An Olive Oil Bottle You Can Be Proud Of
Step One: Have your Dad break your Mom’s olive oil bottle.
After cleaning up the shards of glass, listening to your Mom lament her favorite piece of crockery–now deceased, and watching your Dad pace a groove in the kitchen carpet, you will be able to present them with the perfect alternative! A hand-painted bottle, created by your helpful, talented, creative daughter! Voila! Tears will instantly dry, smiles will replace frowns, and the angels will sing your praises on high.
Step Two: Find a plain glass olive oil bottle.
Because it’s easier to paint if if there’s nothing else on it yet. Unless, of course, you suck at painting and would rather pass off a store bought one as your own handiwork. You know what they say about hindsight being 20/20, right….?
Step Three: Turn up the radio, gather your equipment, and let your inner artist come out.
What you’ll need:
Paint (I just used basic craft paint that sticks to all surfaces)
A myriad of brushes (half of which you won’t even use)
A vessel to hold your paint (yeah, it’s an old plate. What? I was fresh out of fancy palettes.)
A glass of water (to rinse your brushes. And to spark creativity as you try and guess what substance it looks like as it changes colors)
Paper towels (especially if you’re messy like me.)

Step Four: Paint in the background colors, then let the bottle dry. Completely. Yes, this takes longer than 4 minutes.
Don’t forget to hum along to the music. Oh, and painting over the same spot for a solid 45 seconds probably won’t coat it any better. And did I mention letting it dry? Yeah…do that. Otherwise you’ll end up with streaks and stuff. So get up, walk away, do some laundry/dishes/cross-stitching and LEAVE IT BE!
Step Five: Add in the details.
For some, that may be intricate stencils, free-handed seascapes, or beautifully scripted letters. For me—blobs of paint that are *supposed* to look like flowers. Remember in step two, when I told you to “let your inner artist come out?” Yeah…for me, it was more like letting my inner 3-year-old out of her playpen. And handing her paint.
Abby: “Oh, there needs to be a flower here…and here…and here….and over here…oh look, that spot’s blank, let’s add a cloud…ooh, another cloud here….OOOOH! I know what’s missing!  Giant alien flowers that are totally not-to-scale! Awesome!”
Artist’s note: Don’t be afraid to channel your inner Bob Ross and get brave. Ya know…happy little trees?

Step Six: Find somewhere to sign your name. Because if you don’t sign your name, no one will know you painted this awesome piece of art. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?
Then take it somewhere well-ventilated (let me suggest you avoid using your kitchen for this step) and add 1 or 2 coats of a clear glaze to finish the bottle. Let it set for up to 24 hours to ensure it dries completely. Don’t pick it up after 2 hours and expect NOT to leave fingerprints in the clouds.

Step Seven: Proudly wrap the bottle in bubble wrap and carefully deliver it to your Mommy. 
Smile like an idiot while she coos over how cute the flowers are. Try not to wince when she promptly places it in her knick-knack cabinet, right next to the clay hand-prints you gave her in 2nd grade.

Rejoice in the final product. And wish the last picture wasn’t so crooked.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully painted an olive oil bottle that you can be proud of! Well…mostly.

Transforming Prime–an AbbyGabs Vlog

In an effort to repair my marriage after yesterday’s post, in which I outline all the ways Jem is cooler than Transformers, I agreed to let my husband teach me how to transform Optimus Prime.

Not only did it give my hubby great pleasure teaching me the ways of the robot, I was also able to check something off of my big “30 Things to Do While I’m 30” list.

(If you haven’t read yesterday’s post, you may consider doing so before watching the video. But even if you don’t, I hope you will find it humorous anyway.)

Without further ado, here is the funniest video blog I’ve ever done, hands down. Stick, with it…the good stuff happens around minute 3…

***No robots were injured in the making of this movie.***

PS: I tried really hard to bleep out my profanities. Sorry to Mommy bloggers out there. If you want your kids to see Optimus Prime performing jazz hands, I curse at 2:32 and again at the very end. May I suggest you keep an eye on the clock and make an even louder “BLEEEEEEP” noise to assist my own? 

PPS: Can’t see the video? Here’s the link:

How To Completely Freak Out Your Sister From 2,000 Miles Away

Step One:
Convince her to take you to Frankie’s Fun Park, where you will play mini-golf, ride go-carts, and earn tickets while playing arcade games. Use said tickets to purchase strange, creepy-crawly things from the ticket-taking lady.

Step Two:
When you get back to your sister’s house from all your amusement park fun, find convenient place to stash your winnings, like her favorite over-sized coffee mug/kitchen catch-all, located in a somewhat visible place.

Step Three: 
Place the creepy-crawly things into said mug, wander off to play the Sims/eat your dinner/sleep the sleep of innocence, and forget about them in a matter of minutes. Then, a few days later, board your airplane to take you back to the other side of the country, leaving your creepy-crawly friends right where you left them.

Step Four:
Upon discovery, big sister eventually locates creepy-crawlies and cringes at their realistically rendered forms. She will then more closely investigate the contents of the mug, where she will find the single thing that creeps her out more than the real thing: a plastic spider. Once she realizes she is holding a plastic spider, she will shriek at the top of her lungs and fling the horrid thing halfway across the room, where it will land in an eerily natural pose on top of her newly purchased lemons.

Step Five:
Bound and determined to do the sisterly thing, no matter how sick to her stomach she may be, big sister will then bag the contents of the mug, evil plastic spider included, to eventually be shipped back to little sister.

You didn’t expect her to pick it up with her fingers, did you?