Joyful Wednesdays

I was wandering around an antique store trying to find a table for our bathroom linens (no luck), when I came across this cookbook: The Joy of Cooking. My friend K had suggested the Better Homes & Garden one since it uses basic ingredients for most of its recipes and because we don’t have a microwave (my knee-jerk reaction to use it is slowly fading and it’s given me the excuse to buy vintage Pyrex refrigerator dishes). These would be the best for me at the moment. I found a BH&G cookbook at the store as well, but it being $12 and this one being $2 made the decision for me.

So, here’s what I’ve decided to do. I’m going to go through one recipe a week (or more) from this cookbook. Not only because I think it will get my cooking motor going, but also b/c my life is stagnate at the moment and I need something to write about. (Also, this was the premise for the new Julia & Julie movie and so I have to copy it.)

Prepare yourselves for some really bad lighting, smoky kitchens, and overly-salted foods. Did I mention that on page 515, it shows you how to skin a squirrel? No literally, there’s a drawing of a boot stepping on a squirrel’s tail while you pull the rest of the skin upwards. My stomach just turned. I’m definitely not feeling joyful at the moment.

We’ll call these wonderful experiences Joyful Wednesdays. Up first, Squirrel Soup.

me vs joy: who will win?

Postmarked with Love.

Standing for hours shuffling through old postcards doesn’t sound like an appealing afternoon for most people, but it certainly does to me. Especially if it’s raining. Ah, then it’s a perfect afternoon. Is my husband reading this? He needs to take note. No more Sam’s Club food sample dates. I want dust and moth balls.

So I’ve started amassing a new collection. It’s so specific that it will keep me from buying out an entire store, yet general enough that my chances of finding them is not too bad. I’m buying postcards depicting sites I’ve visited. But it can’t just be any postcard. It has be old. The older the (so much) better. For one, you can see how that particular site has changed over the years and secondly, it’s just cool. Also, it has to be written upon. It can be as little as ‘See ya later alligator.’ (That phrase came out in the 50s, so it fits, people.) But something has to be written on it.

So I’ve found my first two. Wanna see them? Okay.
First stop, Canterbury Cathedral in England. I barely have any photos from this trip. I was 16 and thought it was more fun to take pictures of my friends holding plastic poo in our hotel room than of historical places. Don’t ask. But I did have the foresight to buy The Canterbury Tales from the gift shop, so I’m proud of that.

The note on the back is what got me, though. He phrased his thoughts in a way that reminded me of, well, me. I write differently when I know it’s just me reading it. More rhetorical questions and less jabs at myself. The year is unknown on this, but here’s what s/he wrote:

The Norman Staircase always gives me a shock of delight. And why? Why does that small structure give the eye such a joy? It is but a porch of 3 round arches resting on heavy columns and a succession of some five or six small arches supported by graduated pillers. The detail shows little fancy and the workmanship little finish. But the whole is such a beautiful imagination that among lovers of architecture it is as well known as a perfect poem is to the world of literature or as a master piece of musical composition like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, description of it is quite in vain.

The second postcard I found was of Blarney Castle in Ireland, 1927. You can climb to the top of it and kiss a stone which will supposedly give you an endless supply of eloquence. I’ve yet to see the outcome of it.

S/he wrote:

If you can look closely, you can see an ink dot on the picture. That is where the stone is. No wonder I didn’t kiss it.

(If you click on the photo of the postcard, you can just make out the dot.)

Oh, but I kissed it. And I also let some Irishman cop a feel while I was at it. But hey, if that’s what it took for him to not let me fall, feel away. He probably got the short end of the stick anyway.

I’ll post more as I find them… and find them, I will.

I’m not proud of this.

Her come-hither look. Sigh. I’ll just never achieve it.

Nope, not proud one bit. I blame my mom and my husband, because well, they don’t necessarily keep me from making a fool of myself and I think sometimes encourage it. I mean, why else would she suggest Jane Austen movies to watch and why would R agree to have a Netflix account? They both must be out to get me.

So I watched one of those movies my mom suggested on Netflix to which R agreed to subscribe. Not a good thing since it dealt with a modern girl going back to Jane’s time and becoming one of the characters in her book. Isn’t that what I’ve been trying to do my whole life?

Of course, I had to try and recreate it. One scene in particular involved learning how to use a fan to convey (or conceal) emotions. So I grabbed my trusty Pride & Prejudice book, fanned myself with it out the door and to the car.

Then I fanned myself behind a dump truck, through the forest, and to a hiking trail.

Finally. I was alone and could practice my fan moves. I even pulled my hair back into a bun and walked sans make-up for probably the second time in my life. No seriously. My first words to my mom were “please cover up the dark circles under my eyes, mommy. thanks a bunch.”
All of this for Jane.

So, here goes nothing:

Cough, ahem. Uh, so yeah, come hither you tall thing, you.

How dare you come hither! Stand back!

Okay, okay, just kidding. Come back and hither a bit more.

What did you say? Don’t you hither away from me.

Hey you — You have a fast hithering pace, but I caught up. Don’t you like me?

Hee Hee… I knew you did. I hear other people hithering on the trail. Let’s get out of here!

I seriously could have done this all day. Point, shoot, click, hither. Point, shoot, click, hither. All day. But my spell was broken when I looked down. Sigh, again. I just can’t get in the regency era mood in these honkers. Next time on the trail I’ll bring my ballet flats. That will surely do the trick.

Good days…

Like I mentioned, I stayed with my friend K for a few days. She has a newborn baby and so I wanted to help out with what I could. I tell you what, the day positively flies when you stay at home. This was a glimpse of what my future might hold (don’t read into that. I’m not pregnant.)

Riding off into the…
First off, 24/7 of cowboys. After introducing me to his imaginary horse, Jack, I made the mistake of asking J if we were standing in front of his cowboy ranch. He scoffed at me and said, “No. Cowboys don’t have homes. They roam.” Ah, rookie mistake #1, Miss Carolyn. Know your cowboy facts.

I should’ve given history lessons on the Nazi regime based on my “red light” stance.
I spent a good 5 minutes explaining Red Light/Green Light, only for them to green light it out of the yard. Rookie Mistake #2: Do not go into a history lesson of Red Light/Green Light. Learn how to hold a 4 year old and 2 year old’s attention.

The light is flashing! Hurry, hurry! Now look natural.
K and I reminisced about college days during a walk on campus. Rookie Mistake #3: When using a stroller, for gawd’s sake, use the handicap button to open the door. Remember, you are not graceful.

Our college exercises: Bend, two, three, hold, two, three, four… up, two, three, four.
Good job! Reward yourself with skittles!
You saw one of my college memories in a previous post. So K reenacted her routine in between spanish classes. If anyone from KSU reads this blog, she just might get a few more Facebook friend requests. We don’t think many people would recognize her in any other position. Rookie Mistake #4: Not recognizing K until downloading this photo.

She done picked a good ‘un, that thar sh’did!
And lastly, getting to know little C’s ornery side. A lot can happen in a year (which I can’t believe is the last time we saw them.) She’s a quiet one, but watch your back! Rookie Mistake #5: Asking kids to give you their sweet faces for the camera. Just one.. C’mon.. just one!

I wish I had amnesia.

Just for specific moments in my life. Like when I stepped on a soccer ball which caused me to roll forward into the splits and go headfirst into an old lady’s lap. Or, when offered a piggy-back ride, jumping onto a guy’s back which caused him to dive bomb into the pavement and break his teeth. Or, one of the most squeamish (and telling) memories of insisting that my 5th grade “boyfriend” hold my hand during a viewing of Anne of Green Gables.

But as K and I wandered through the KSU campus, other flashbacks caused me to sigh loudly and roll my eyes. I decided to reenact one for you at the very scene of the crime. Interestingly, though, we both thought the number of stairs leading into this building had been lessened. It just seemed small, but I suppose that’s how all memories disappoint you.

Okay, so let me set the stage.

There was a beautiful student, me, headed to class… My mahogany hair fell in layers around my face and shoulders… I was ab-solute-ly stunning.

What. That’s how it is in my memory. Okay, let’s be more realistic.

I rolled out of bed in my pjs, glanced at the clock, and ran out the door while rubbing toothpaste on my teeth with my finger for last minute freshness. I was lucky if my hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Ugh, I hated this class…whatever business class it was. Where’s my spanish poetry when I needed it.

So, with my mouth set in a frown and face turned down, I forged on. It was chilly that morning and was starting to sprinkle. Hurry, hurry, hurry. As I rounded the corner, walking to the front door, I happened to look up. And there she was. The epitome of “the girl I’d like to be.” Yeah, I could dye my hair red like hers, or work out a bit more for slender ballerina legs, but that gracefulness. Oh, that gracefulness. I watched her as she opened up the door, stepped out and then did a little hop onto the first step. Then a second hop. And a third. All the while her toes were pointed and wrists dainty. Damn it to pieces.

I sat through that class analyzing myself when I realized that I not only wanted to be her, I wanted other people to also think to themselves that they would like to be me! Control freak that I am, I literally wanted to force people into admiring me.

So give it a go, Carrie! — I thought — After class walking down those same stairs, it will be your debut into a graceful person.

So I did. I opened the door, dug deep for my kindergarten ballet moves, and gave my first hop.

It was also my last one.

What I didn’t know was that while in class, the rainy drizzle had turned into ice. After just one step, my legs went straight into the air and I literally remember seeing the sun and thinking “Oh my, what a beautiful sunrise.” Then thump a-thump thump. I landed on my back, arms outstretched like I was auditioning for Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.

And two things happened.

First, a girl passing by smiled at me pitifully and said: Don’t worry, I’ve done that before too.

Not exactly admiration.

And then something more horrifying took place. As I peeled my head up off the stone steps, I looked down the path and saw, what else? A tour given to a large group of high school seniors!

“And to our left is Calvin Hall, where you will want to be careful to not try to look cool in front of others, lest it bites you in the ass. Literally.”

She likes me, she likes me not.

I caught myself a few hours into the roadtrip to Manhattan quietly pulling off petals. I like this… oh, I don’t like that… I finally grabbed my camera and tried to capture those petals as they fell.
I like driving on stretches that are lined with growing corn.

I do not like eminent domain.

I like catching the name of the river before crossing.

I simultaneously do and do not like boarded up windows. It makes it look old and mysterious, but at the end of the day, would a board be the best way to preserve a historical building?

I like to read bridge numbers.

I like looking off into the plains’ distance.

I do not like when people will not go on a proper walk.

I like stopping by a quick garage sale with my sister and find a free button. I also like making my sister wear it despite her dirty looks.

I do not like the overuse of Wizard of Oz.

And of course, I like old farm houses.

Around Town, Part one

Right now, I am in Manhattan (Kansas) visiting my friend K. So I’ve pre-posted some quick things I’ve yet to talk about. Like this turn-off here, barred off by a cinderblock wall. You can see the steps on the other side along with the pipe/handlebar thing. Where did this lead? Why was it blocked off? I want to know. I want to jump over and explore. Not now, there’s someone watching… but soon.

Dorm Room Love

That’s what we are affectionally calling it: our dorm room. It’s the smallest place in which I’ve lived (with another person) since college. I thought it would be interesting to see how we’ve scaled down — not like we had a lot to begin with — and how we’ve made the most out of our space.

Here’s the layout: 538 sq feet. One bed, one bath, and 1/2 kitchen. Right when I start getting into cooking and baking, I have the rug swept out from under me. I’ve been reading a blog where a young lad cooks up a storm in a super small apartment. Here it is and the photos themselves will just kill you.

So that helped. That, and imagining I live in an ultra urban and cool city has helped too.

At our last place, we had a garage sale to rid of things we either a) absolutely did not need or b) wanted to upgrade to another item. But from looking at this picture, it’s hard to believe we sold anything. We were in shock and I must say a bit saddened.

So after hours of rummaging, piling, and sifting through everything, we finally saw the floor and got encouraged. The one aspect we never felt like we fully utilized were the walls. So we’re treating our living room as a mini-art gallery. Not that I know Picasso from Dali, but I know what I like when I see it and so just slap it up there.

Then R broke out Evelyn, the leveler. He loves that girl so much and this is where that old saying “opposites attract” applies. Like I mentioned, I just slap it up there. R takes enjoyment in measuring and penciling, measuring and penciling, and repeat for hours.

But that personality trait was important for our next project. We took down our closet door, replaced it with a curtain and set about putting up the shelves. This is our “entertainment center” folks, so be prepared to be wowed.

Or not. We’re not exactly “techie”. But I do like how it came out. I call my style “garage sale chic”. I made R carry that table (on which the TV/Computer is sitting) two blocks home because a neighbor was throwing it out. Score! And for those of you that tease us about not having a TV, guess what we were watching when I took this photo? Wimbledon — Live! Things are moving this way, my friends, so I’d encourage you to research using just the internet to watch your TV shows and sports games. Let me list some aspects of it:
  • You can hook up the modem to your existing TV. So, if you have a big screen, you won’t be sacrificing size.
  • You completely wipe out your cable/DVR bill.
  • Many events are LIVE: President speeches and sports events to name a couple
  • If you use Netflix, you can watch movies online for free. (We get the cheapest plan possible — I think $9 a month — and in between receiving movies in the mail, watch them online.
  • Barely any commercials. Talk about freedom. I was listening to an NPR broadcast on the race for ad companies to be effective online. They said it wouldn’t be completely solid for a few years, so why not get as much time away from the onslaught as you can?
  • One drawback is that you have to wait until after the show airs (unless it’s Live) to see it on the internet, but you get used to that time schedule. You just have to inform your family and friends to not tell you what happened last night on Lost.

Anyway, just think about it. We haven’t missed a thing.

Okay, enough of my rant. There’s little pieces around my living room that I love. Like, one of my favorite quotes being “typed” out of the old Underwood:

Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder. – Thoreau

… or some french postcards I bought at an estate sale. A couple of them are very ornery, so you’ll have to come over to see for yourself. But here’s my favorite.

Okay, so there’s my living room. Up next is our bedroom that is housing a sofa, a loft bed, and an entire wall devoted to outdoors stuff. Scary.

Small Town Fourth

So R and I spent the majority of the weekend getting our place sorted out. I could’ve sworn we sold a lot of things at our garage sale, but you wouldn’t know it to look at it last week. I’ll have some before/after shots sometime soon. This is by far the cutest (and smallest) place I’ve ever lived.

Although we were exhausted, I managed to scramble together a quick picnic and head out to our local fireworks display. 

I had thought we brought a halfway healthy meal: grilled chicken salad, cheese, trail mix… but then R broke out the ranch and I was done for. If there’s one thing that can make me blow off a healthy intent, it’s ranch. I even elongate the word just to make the sound of ranch last longer. Ray-aaaaaanch.

I grabbed my mug of wine, a bit of cheese, and a dorky smile & was all set. Until I got a case of the lonlies. The 4th is such a social holiday and I kinda felt sad all of a sudden. R must have sensed it because while I was drowning myself in my mug, he texted a friend from work and heard back that they’d meet us out. Yes! Warm bodies!! Bwah-ha-ha. 

Things were looking up, so that’s exactly what I did. And my gosh, it was a great sky. The clouds, the colors, the bomber jet dropping black things above us. Wait, what? You heard me.

I was leaned back, soaking in the clouds reflecting the sunset, when I noticed a plane fly overhead. I watched it for a bit and then mused to R about our chances of living if a bomb were dropped. Yes, these are the types of conversations I have. However, he assured me very sweetly, “We’d have zero chance. Start praying.” I laughed and looked back up. And I am not kidding, but four black bundles were shot out of the plane. I grabbed R’s arm and almost ripped the sleeve off his shirt I tugged so hard. You. have. got. to. be. kidding. me, I thought and literally held my breath for what seemed like days. Then I saw them… the parachutes popping up above their heads and I closed my eyes in embarrassment. (But only after I sighed in relief.)

After the fireworks display, we asked R’s friends back to our newly  cleared-out apartment. I deliberately positioned myself by the door so they could not leave. No way was I going to shorten this treat of having company over. We had some good wine (I only buy wine based on the label and this one delivered), good conversation (at one point this was said: “She used a theological presupposition there, Carrie. Did you catch that?” Panicked and feeling like I was in Philosophy class all over again, I said the first thing that came to mind: “I don’t like multi-syllable words, sorry.”), and good games (Can’t beat Loaded Questions, my all-time favorite). It was by far the most laid back fourth, we’ve had.. but it was exactly what we needed. 

I made R document that we had people over. 

The main drag…

I like our small town already. It tops out at 14,000 people and I’ve never lived in a community that size before. I’ll be posting other aspects I like of the town, but how can you not start with Main Street.

There’s a park at the end of Main with a creek that runs through town. This fountain was originally built in the 30s and was recently renovated.

There are so many cute stores. An old-fashioned candy shop, antique store, barber shop, cafe, and art gallery.

And of course, the run-down motel (which, I think, are apartments at the moment).

My favorite building is the one with wood siding over brick. Oh, this just screams old to me. I love it.

Let’s just hit up a pub instead, shall we?

I love magazines. Did you know that? Love them. It’s such a treat to get something other than bills and promotions in the mail. One of my favorites is Budget Travel. Every month they have a trip giveaway with the best travel story. So, I’m giving it a shot. Even if I don’t win, it’s still a good story to be shared. Here it is (cross your fingers — and your eyes, it might be funnier that way — I have a word limit):

My friends and I recently went on a road trip through Ireland’s countryside. One morning, we skimmed through our guidebook for the next stop to make and decided on an ancient tomb north of Dublin. According to the book, you had to swing by a little old lady’s house just south of the tomb to pick up an entry key. We drove around and around looking for this house and after finally finding it, our friend T jumped out to pick up the key. He didn’t make it far. The big black dog that now guards the little old lady’s house from ill-informed tourists cut him off with a growl… and a chase. We never made it to the tomb, but T made it back to the car. And, to us, that was just as impressive.

Travel tip: Bring an updated guidebook. And learn how to run….fast.