Category Archives: Then I found $5.00

Make Them Eat Cake.

I am INSUFFERABLE about my birthday.

However, I adamantly maintain my innocence, because it’s really not my fault. As a little girl, my parents celebrated my birthday for the entire month of April, effectively making April THE MONTH OF ME. I was like a tiny fascist dictator, merrily barking orders about what I wanted for dinner and which Anne of Green Gables VHS tape the family would watch that evening. Thus, with a solid month of build-up and sweet anticipation, my parents inadvertently created a complete monster by teaching me that April 19th was a national holiday. The message was unmistakably clear: the world celebrated Jesus Christ in December, and Ashley Peterson in April.

Now, a necessary clarification: my love of birthdays has very little to do with gifts. I love a good present as much as the next girl, but for me, celebrating is more about the time and effort put in to planning fun things that we can all do together, and less about unwrapping. [This does, of course, become null and void if somebody wants me to unwrap round trip tickets to Paris.]

Kellan and I had never been in the same country for my birthday until last year. And y’all, I just KNEW that my first married birthday was going to be HEAVEN. I had big plans for a nine course breakfast in bed and a sweet surprise date and MAYHAP a brass band to follow me around, heralding my impending arrival everywhere I went.

Also balloons.

Unfortunately, in a wildly unexpected [read: TRAGIC] turn of events, several weeks before my birthday my darling husband informed me that he had a board meeting that was going to last  THE ENTIRE DAY. I laughed and waited for Ashton Kutcher to pop out from behind a nearby potted plant, because I was clearly being PUNKED.

Sadly, Ashton was nowhere to be found. Constraints of the English language make it utterly impossible for me to communicate the vast depths of my despair over this bombshell, but suffice it to say that I was certain that human civilization as I knew it, was crumbling to the ground.

April 19th dawned, and Kellan attempted to ply me with bacon by taking me out to an early breakfast. He then left to attend his meeting while I breathed into a paper bag because THIS WAS NOT MAGICAL. My Mama was all PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER ASHLEY. IT’S A BIRTHDAY, NOT VIETNAM, and I was all THIS BIRTHDAY IS GOING TO DRIVE ME TO HARD DRUGS.

I spent the day driving around the block soulfully belting “It Matters to Me” by Faith Hill with all of the pent-up angst of a menstrual seventh grader. I felt like Faith and I were united in our uncertainty of getting through tomorrow but commitment to bravely soldier on in the face of insurmountable tragedy.

My beloved returned right before I fell asleep. Clearly, there was nothing that he could have done to change his meeting and spend my birthday with me…but that didn’t stop me from staring at him like he’d just burned down an orphanage and crying like a small, emotionally disturbed child.

I told you. Insufferable.

They say that marriage is about clear communication and a steady supply of Merlot. In our house, one of those is always easy to come by, mostly because you can buy it for 6.29 and that’s cheaper than marriage counseling. But in the spirit of WORKING on our communication, in the aftermath of the Great Birthday Disaster of 2013 I sat Kellan down for a coming to Jesus moment.

Honey. LOOK. I know this one wasn’t your fault, but I don’t feel like you’ve really GRASPED the month of me. We need to have a little chat about birthdays.

The best relationship advice that I ever got was from my Mama way back in high school, when she looked me in the eyeballs and soberly informed me that men can’t read minds. That is just the HIGHLY unfortunate, sorry state of things. And so, I benevolently broke it down for Kellan. I told him all about breakfast in bed and balloons and the brass band. I informed him he didn’t need to buy me anything as long as we could just HANG OUT, and I gravely confessed if he ever had another board meeting on my birthday, there was a distinct possibility that I would go to prison for arson and spend the rest of my life in an orange jumpsuit watching bad daytime television and eating jello pudding with a plastic spoon.

My wise husband took me very seriously.

And so yesterday at the Dickens’ house was not April Fools Day. I woke up and my sweet husband beamed, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY MONTH, HONEY!”

Indeed it is


Filed under Family, First World Problems, Holidays other than Christmas, Marriage, Then I found $5.00

Tales of a Failed Home Decorator.

It all started with a doormat.

I mentioned recently that Kellan and I made the move from our two bedroom apartment to a real adult house. A house that understandably looks rather barren, given the fact that our earthly possessions are comprised primarily of the treasures that independently, we both thought were valuable back in college. The whole scene is utterly idyllic if you need a set for a play that takes place in the Great Depression.

I’ll put it to you this way: the other day, my sweetly sentimental husband informed me that if I suddenly drop dead, there’s pretty much nothing that I brought into our marriage that he’ll want to keep.

What can I say? I married romance.

After we’d finished schlepping our boxes across town, the love of my life and I collapsed in utter exhaustion onto our couch and stared at the bare white walls that we could finally call 11.43% ours. Rubbing his aching temples, Kellan glanced my way and offhandedly mentioned that maybe, we ought to buy a doormat. We do, after all, live in New York, where it snows eleven and a half months out of the year and tell-tale snowy footprints follow friends through front doors.

I beamed. Of course. A doormat! An inconsequential purchase that wouldn’t break the bank, but would serve as a tiny step towards making our little house a home. A warm welcome into the gateway of our messy lives that would introduce us to the waiting world! Dreamy.

I took my doormat mission seriously. I wanted something cute, but not precious. [Is there anything worse than being precious?] Something different. Something that said, Hey, welcome to our home! We’re just tickled that you’re here. Especially if you’re holding a box of Girl Scout Cookies. Less so if you’re holding a Book of Mormon. Please come back when you have Thin Mints.

It wasn’t too much to ask.

I visited the usual cast of characters. Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Home Goods all left me hanging—everything was terribly underwhelming. So bland. So tacky. It was as if doormats on shelves everywhere had waved their dirty brown flag of surrender, heaved a collective, heavy sigh of relief and given up for the year. There was nothing worth the twenty dollars in my hot little hand.

Undaunted, I took to the interwebs. After all, we live in a world where you can order your toothpaste online—surely I could find a doormat that didn’t boast “I CAN SEE YOUR UNDERWEAR” in Times New Roman.

Days later, my bloodshot eyes were still scouring pages of doormats as I seriously contemplated the merits of hard drugs. Meanwhile, Kellan kept unhelpfully asking where our doormat was, blithely unaware that I was one more ugly chevron number away from burning our house down to the stakes and screaming Adele songs at our neighbor’s golden retriever.

In an act of utter desperation, I took to Pinterest. Tediously hand-painted, knitted doormats mocked me from my computer screen. Easy as Pie! they taunted, just so long as you’re comfortable breeding Alpacas in your backyard and hand-spinning yarn from the wool. Don’t forget to pick up the dye at your local Hungarian craft store!

Also, learn to knit.

Now, listen. I appreciate a good craft as much as the next woman, just so long as I don’t have to make it. I come from the “Buy it on Etsy and take credit for it” school of thought. I feel like the ability to craft is a part of our genetic makeup. It’s a gift, like being a size 0. And sure, there are things that we can do to help ourselves along, but at a certain point we’re at the mercy of the genes our Mama gave us and a steady supply of red wine. Also, the aforementioned Girl Scout Cookies.

Some women were born to spend their days hot-gluing eleventy-billion dirty acorns onto a Styrofoam ring and decoupaging their wallpaper , and other women are me. We do not own craft boxes. WE BARELY OWN IRONING BOARDS for heaven’s sake. You will not find us baking cakes with ART on the inside or constructing Mason jar chandeliers. You will find our grocery lists hastily scribbled on the backs of wadded up receipts discovered in the depths of dirty purses, not painstakingly lettered in calligraphy onto homemade kitchen chalkboards. There will be no murals of precious woodland creatures hand-painted on our children’s nursery room walls—in fact, if those walls are painted an actual color of the rainbow it’s an enormous victory meriting the pomp and circumstance normally afforded to chubby toddlers taking their first steps because THIS IS OUR BEST WORK.

Something inside my newly-minted homeowner’s mind snapped. Pinterest and the Alpaca doormats had broken my spirit. Defeated, I informed Kellan that if he wanted a decorated house, he was going to have to talk to one of the visiting Mormons about getting me a sister-wife.

[Preferably one that knows how to make Mason jar chandeliers.]


Filed under First World Problems, Marriage, My ghetto-fab life, Then I found $5.00

Top Ten Nuggets of Newlywed GOLD.

JCP_4509 bwKellan and I celebrated a year of marriage on March 2nd. My sweet husband planned an incredible surprise weekend in New York City, and we lived it up because hallelujah we made it! Reflections on our first year of marriage are coming later.

Today, in honor of one whole year, we’ve compiled a list of valuable pieces of information that NONE OF YOU MARRIED PEOPLE bothered to share with us before we said “I do”. [And here I thought we were friends!] On our wedding day, Kellan and I were blissfully ignorant of, oh, just about every pertinent thing that we needed to know about married life. Engaged friends: I want to spare you that same fate. So without further ado, I give you…


  1. Kellan discovered, much to his chagrin, that not all haircuts cost $9.95. Gentlemen, over the course of your married lives, there will be a great many things worth fighting about.  Look me in the eyeballs: this is not one of them.
  2. Bathrooms. Brace yourselves friends, this one is not for the faint of heart. Let’s just say that ONE of us is consistently indignant at a left-up toilet seat and pee-pee splashes, and ONE of us can’t see the counter top underneath piles of makeup and hair products. Our bathroom looks like it’s home to a horde of dirty, angry hobbits with a curious obsession with Clinique products.
  3. Kellan came to the rather startling realization that dishes don’t magically clean themselves. My darling husband grew up with a magical dish-fairy that I like to refer to as his mother. He was deeply upset when he discovered that she hadn’t followed our U-Haul to New York. [Come to think of it, so was I.] Free nugget: ladies, tell your husband that watching him do the dishes is the SINGLE HOTTEST THING THAT YOU HAVE EVER SEEN. You play your cards right, and you’ll never wash so much as a spoon again.
  4. Kellan was positively baffled to learn that dinner does not have to come from a can, box or packet. Related: ovens are not merely counter tops for microwaves, and can actually be used to cook. [This is not a joke. Before we got married, Kellan’s sad little microwave sat heroically perched atop the stove that he had never once turned on. At the time, I thought it was endearing. Now, I understand that the UNIVERSE WAS TRYING TO WARN ME.]
  5. I was alarmed to learn that there are people in the world that need something commonly referred to as “alone time.” Repeatedly checking on your spouse to see how their alone time is going will only prolong the whole, miserable ordeal. I’ve discovered the hard way that they probably don’t need snacks, water, or updates on current events.
  6. My sports-loving husband was both surprised and dismayed to learn that a magical button on our remote control could take us to TV stations other than ESPN. Also, in a rather disappointing turn of events, it turns out that “Cupcake Wars” does not, in fact, involve any bloodshed.
  7. Kellan made nice with an old friend that I that I fondly refer to as “baggage claim”. Oh, they’d parted ways years ago in the name of “efficiency”, but after a year of traveling with a woman whose hair products do not come in “travel size”, he and baggage claim are well on their way to becoming BFFs again. Engaged men, wrap your minds around this: for any kind of extended trip, she’s going to check a bag, son.
  8. Bless his heart, Kellan discovered that when he orders food, he needs to mentally prepare himself for me to eat any/all of it. And fries? Fuggedaboudit.
  9. We’ve decided that excellent husbands keep an emergency stash of chocolate. Y’all. This is Kellan’s SINGLE BEST nugget. Our earliest married days were a dizzying blur of late-night chocolate runs. Gentlemen, your wife won’t always buy it when she shops. She will earnestly tell you that she doesn’t want it in the house, and she will mean it. [And with Target photo-shopping the lady-parts off of poor, unsuspecting swim suit models…who can blame her?] BELIEVE THIS AT YOUR OWN PERIL. She will exhibit laudable self-control at the grocery store, turning up her nose at every double-stuffed Oreo and box of brownie mix that she passes by. It is YOUR job to understand that her remarkable resolve will inevitably crumble somewhere between 7:30 and 11:59 at night. And then? Well, joke’s on you, because nobody’s getting any sleep until that craving is gone.
  10. Finally, now that we’ve covered Kellan’s best nugget, I’m going to let you in on mine. OhmyLANTA. If I could tell a newly engaged woman only one thing, I would grab her by the shoulders, look her dead in the eyeballs and implore her to GO BUY A KING SIZED BED. I don’t care if you have to beg, borrow, or sell a kidney on the black market, you need to make this happen. This is, without a doubt, the best thing that Kellan and I did before we got married. I think a lot of engaged couples assume that they’re going to fall asleep snuggling every night, an idea so deplorably naive that I’m not going to dignify it with a response. When I fall asleep at night, the very last thing I do is a “bed angel” [think “snow angel” but on sheets] to make absolutely certain that I can’t touch Kellan. If my leg so much as brushes his, I kick until he rolls over to the six inches of allotted space that I have graciously bequeathed to him. Back of gentlemen: he found me first!

Married friends, what would you add? Don’t be shy—share for those poor engaged couples that still think that all of those little quirks are JUST SO ADORABLE.

Bless their hearts.


Filed under Marriage, The love of my life., Then I found $5.00, Uncategorized

Christie’s Stupid Good Magical Unicorn Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I was embarrassed, but not embarrassed enough to stop.

At the expense of both my questionable reputation and the little pride that I have left, I will soldier on and tell you the story anyways because I love you and I want you to be happy. And by George, after twenty-six years I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT.

It all started at small group. Kellan and I are in a newlywed’s small group [a bi-weekly hour and a half that I consistently refer to as “marriage counseling”, much to my dear husband’s chagrin,] and one of the best things about it is the food. OHMYLANTA. From decadent chocolate cheesecake to swirled homemade breads, the snacks are positively swoon-worthy and we’re all going to have to join Weight Watchers together after we’ve completed the study. We’ll kick some serious hiney at this whole marriage thing; alas, our hinies will jiggle while we do it.

I digress. SNACKS. There’s been a high bar set in this crowd! With great anticipation I waltzed into small group one Sunday evening, and was utterly dismayed to discover a plate of chocolate chip cookies sitting on the counter.

Can we be honest? YAWN. If chocolate chip cookies could speak, they would unenthusiastically mutter “take ‘em or leave ‘em.” While I am wholeheartedly, unashamedly COMMITTED to my chocolate desserts, I haven’t bothered to make chocolate chip cookies in years simply because BORING. Honestly, they simply weren’t good enough to bother with.

Thinking all sorts of secretly judgmental, self-righteous thoughts and muttering something under my breath about the plummeting caliber of desserts around these parts, I sweetly put one on my plate in an effort to appear thankful. [Clearly, I am exactly the kind of person that one might hope would show up at a small group.] Several minutes later, I absentmindedly took a bite…

…and lost my ever-loving MIND.

As our friend Paula Deen would say, BUTTER MY BUTT AND CALL ME A BISCUIT.

Y’all. With the great Martha Stewart as my witness, it was the BEST cookie that I have ever had! It was gooey and buttery and chocolatey and PERFECT, and before I knew what had happened I was gushing in the middle of what was intended to be a very serious discussion about conflict resolution. Which is important and all, but HOLY COOKIES BATMAN!

I interrupted, mouth full of chocolate: Y’ALL. THESE ARE STUPID GOOD. Who made them?!

Christie, the sassy brunette that sits across from me and joins me in laughing at all of the wrong times, slowly raised her hand.

It was like she’d invented fire. We had coffee together a couple of days later, and I DRILLED her like I was trying to extract terrorist information in a cell in Guantanamo, instead of sipping a latte at our local hipster joint. I was one metal chair and a swinging light bulb away from completely. losing. mymind.


[Yes, I’m making HEAPS of friends up here. Thank you for asking.]

Four batches of chocolate chip cookies later [I am nothing if not dedicated], I am equal parts elated and embarrassed to report that I’VE NAILED IT. Here it is, friends:

Christie’s Stupid Good Magical Unicorn Chocolate Chip Cookies:

  1. Buy a bag of Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  2. Follow instructions on the back of the bag TO THE LETTER.
  3. Substitute butter flavored Crisco for the butter. [Just do it. DO IT. You’ll thank me later!]
  4. Now, this is very, VERY important: BAKE ONLY FOR SEVEN MINUTES. Not a second longer, friends! You won’t think they’re done, they’ll still look like dough in the middle, but PULL THOSE SUCKERS OUT OF THE OVEN.

Slip into chocolate bliss. Share with your friends and become the most popular kid on the block. Slip them to your boss and get a big fat promotion. Give them to your husband and win wife of the year! These are phenomenal frozen—they’re chewy and perfect and last for forever.

…or so I would assume. Clearly, I have no idea.



Filed under Then I found $5.00

[Non]Sense and [Southern] Sensibility.

Emily shaved headMy sweet sister shaved her head and raised over $5,000 to fight cancer. I know a number of you jumped in to help her—THANK you.

In other news, who looks that cute with a shaved head?!

It’s been snowing for two days in New York. I am, of course, fighting my North Carolina urge to run to the grocery store at the first flake’s sighting and BUY ALL OF THE THINGS. My New York friends can’t figure out what’s wrong with me—two snowflakes, and I bunker down in my apartment like it’s the apocalypse. Once upon a time when Kellan knelt down on a white-sanded beach and asked me to marry him, I’m almost certain that his dreamy picture of marriage was NOT coming home to a crazy-eyed wife on her fifth day of yoga pants and pink fuzzy socks. [These are the things that probably would have been useful in premarital counseling.] I’ve informed my sweet husband that I am simply living my truth–and right now my truth happens to involve yoga pants. My southern sensibilities have been so grossly offended by the frosty air swirling outside my door that I’m on a shower strike—mostly because showering would require taking off the aforementioned Yoga Pants, which at this point I have become one with.

Yoga pants are my spirit animal. 

Over Thanksgiving, my sweet Mother in Law picked up on the fact that I had yet to purchase a pair of snow boots yet, on account of UGLY. Given that her grasp on reality is a slightly steadier than mine, she took me to Dicks Sporting Goods, where I stood in front of a daunting stack of the world’s most tragic-looking rubber snow boots and disdainfully refused to so much as deign to try them on. [I am a gem.] I mean, I already bought the androgynous marshmallow coat—what more could New York ask of me?!

Gina wisely insisted that I needed a pair of boots [and a Valium], and so it was off to the mall with us where we compromised on an adorable pair of RAIN BOOTS. [She was desperate.] So clearly, living in the arctic north is going just SPLENDIDLY.

[In other news, if I make it through winter with all ten toes intact, it will be thanks to my in-laws.]

Finally, I’d like to announce that I DON’T KNOW MY HUSBAND AT ALL. Y’all. Our house hunt has had us watching a lot of HGTV lately—and not just because of my mild obsession with the Property Brothers. [Seriously, handsome men waltz into your dump of a house and renovate your kitchen? BE STILL MY BEATING HEART.] The other night Kellan and I were sitting on the couch when an email chimed on my computer screen, informing me that an HGTV producer was interested in speaking to me about the possibility of our appearing on a little show called House Hunters.

…come again?

I asked Kellan what on earth was happening, and grinning, he informed me that he’d signed us up to be on the show, never imagining that anything would actually come from it.

Baffled, I sarcastically inquired as to how many other shows we’d been signed up for that I ought to know about.

Impishly, he responded: EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. The most private man that I know signed us up to be on every single HGTV show! So y’all just watch for the Dickens, coming soon to a TV screen near you.

Except not, because ain’t nobody got time for that.

Happy Friday, friends!

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Filed under Then I found $5.00

The Dental Walk of Shame.

Last Thursday, I went to the dentist.

He kindly scheduled me an 8:00 AM appointment for the next morning to have a cavity filled.

Y’all, there are few things in life that are more humiliating than a dentist sitting in a pristine office with a perfect smile and a crisp, white lab coat informing you that your teeth are, in fact, ROTTING OUT OF YOUR HEAD.

I felt like a dirty, rabid hyena.

The urge to explain myself was overwhelming—I bathe! My house is immaculate and I engage in a plethora of varied forms of personal hygiene—THERE ARE THREE DIFFERENT KINDS OF SHAMPOO IN MY SHOWER!! I’M CLEAN!!!

Alas, all I could do was smile weakly [after all, the sorry nubs masquerading as my teeth were about to fall out of my mouth, so I had to be careful!], take my pink reminder slip of shame, and drive home.

Kellan arrived back at the ranch only to find me prostrated on the living room carpet, moaning about how I had to have MAJOR SURGERY.

He grinned, and offered to drive me because the man’s not an idiot.

Friday morning rolled in with a dreary New York fog, and I rolled out of bed and into my yoga pants. I slowly drank a steaming mug of caramel truffle coffee with the vague impression that it might be my last, and then did my best not to swoon as Kellan led me to the car while I mentally composed my last will and testament.

After enough extra pain killer to tranquilize a baby elephant, I spent the duration of our car ride home exclaiming that “Ah fink mehr fehrc ish melteenk awf!” [Translation: I think my face is melting off.], and proceeded to spend the remainder of the day drooling out of the right side of my mouth.

Which MIGHT have been more amusing had we not been having friends over for dinner that night…


Filed under First World Problems, My ghetto-fab life, Then I found $5.00

Release the Flying Monkeys!

JCP_3508Kellan and I made an impromptu decision to go house hunting this weekend.

Honestly, we’re not even convinced that we’re in the market to buy, but we’re young and had nothing better to do after church than to wander into strangers homes and stare at carpets that saw the Nixon administration.

Also, the terrifying Home Alone basements. I just. I can’t.

The whole experience went as swimmingly as you might imagine, given that Kellan spent our time making mental spread sheets while I walked into each respective foyer, stood eerily still, and waited for the house to “speak” to me. [Not one of them said a darn thing.] While I’ll admit that my strategy may not be the most rational, I remain entirely unapologetic given that  I’m pretty sure my husband wants to buy the little brick number where the realtor had made hot chocolate chip cookies, because HOT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES. Nine later, and that man was ready to sign a mortgage.

So really, this is going well.

Monday morning found me at the Albany DMV, because my brand spankin’ new social security card had arrived in the mail and I had successfully geared myself up for phase two of becoming a Dickens. Y’all, I even had a FOLDER. A folder with my marriage license, passport, old drivers license, angsty poetry that I wrote in middle school and eleventy billion other scraps of my old life for just in case purposes. After sitting in a dirty waiting room for an hour and a half while the gentleman sitting uncomfortably close to me enjoyed a Hot Pocket [No, I would not like a bite], a bored, gum-smacking blonde who clearly would have rather been anywhere else called me to the front desk. [I VOLUNTEER AS A TRIBUTE!] The aforementioned blonde then proceeded to unapologetically inform me that because North Carolina marriage licenses are different from the ones used in New York, I would need to submit THREE other proofs of name change before I would be permitted to change my license. She helpfully offered the following options as acceptable proof:

  1. NYC pistol license
  2. Welfare/Medicaid/NY food stamp card with photo
  3. St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Photo ID card
  4. Veterans Universal Access Photo ID card


I spent the rest of the day rolling in the deep with Adele, and making Ina Garten’s chocolate brownie pudding.

Goodbye forever.


Filed under First World Problems, Marriage, My ghetto-fab life, Then I found $5.00