Friday, December 31, 2010

I Am Excited By Opposums

So I know what I said about not updating again... I promise when I wrote that, I meant it, 100%.

I was also lying through my teeth.

I just didn't know it yet.

I was sittin', looking out the window in the kitchen while on the phone with my friend Kristin, just chatting about her 3-year-old boy Leium and developments in her life, when I see something gray and covered in fur go stumbling across the yard.

"I have to go, Kristin. There's a... there's a possum runnin' across my yard!"

I ran to get my niece Delainey, who I'm pretty sure has never seen one in real life before. Now she was just starting to lie down at this point, and this is probably the reason we couldn't get her to nap until 5 p.m., long after my sister went on a date with my brother-in-law and D was left in the tender loving care of her grandparents and I, but that's another story for another time.

Wait. I think I just told you the whole story right there.

Well back to the story I'm trying to tell.

Delainey clambered up on a kitchen chair and we watched the opposum, as well as two very confused rabbits, run across the yard between our house and our neighbor's house. The rabbits really weren't running much, just stock-still and staring at the awful ugly fuzzy thing eating their food like it was the coming of Satan himself.

Eventually we couldn't see him out the kitchen window, so Christina, Delainey and I ran around to the front, where we caught sight of him again, just ambling on his merry way. He eventually stopped by our front bushes and just... sat.

Just sat there, chewing.

Delainey and I leaned out to watch him, and he didn't move at all, just... watched us right back. I'm sure we had pretty identical expressions on our faces, us and the opposum. Only we weren't chewing grass.

Can you see him? Top left corner.

That's how close we were.

When I was a little kid, an opposum found its way into my grandpa and grandma's barn out at their farmhouse and took up residence there, alongside the barn cats. It had little baby opposums. I showed my best friend at the time with an incredible amount of pride, because we could see its beady little eyes and that was clearly a sign of how awesome we were, to have seen one so close.

I think my level of enthusiasm today was the same, or even greater, than that fateful moment of my childhood.

Which is why I think I need a more exciting life, because clearly something is wrong when you get squealy and giggly about opposums.

Especially, my friends, when you are more excited than the three-year-old beside you.

Hello, my name is Katie, and I am excited by opposums.

I need help.

The end.

Preview of My White Christmas

So I discovered something magical.

My mother's computer has a slot for digital-camera memory cards! Which means I was able to pull a few photos out to show all of you before I'm home (hopefully tomorrow night! Cross your fingers for that plane to take off on time!) and have a couple of hours of free time to load those pictures up and choose which I like best!

And also sift through 400+ photos of my niece to find the few that are of snow.

I think I have a photo of my own foot, too.

I don't know why.

So for now:

The street my parents' driveway opens onto, as of Tuesday.

The temps have since risen and now everything melted and is just wet and awful looking.

Your intrepid blogger, taking a frigid walk in the snow just so she can take pretty photos and give them to you.

I am so selfless that way.

Okay, I just like walking in snow.

But you readers still get the benefits, right?


Some pumpkins out at my grandpa's farmhouse. I... think they may be taking Halloween down a little bit late, don't you?

Everyone have a good weekend! I won't be updating tomorrow or Sunday, as I'm going to be alternately on a plane, off a plane, in a car, in my house, walking down a hill, and at Justin's apartment with Jason and everyone having what promises to be the nerdiest first-party-of-the-new-year-for-me ever.


My sister Christina and my brother-in-law J.W. are going out, leaving Little Miss Delainey in the care of her Grandma Laura, her Grandpa Randy, and me!

Best New Year's Eve party ever.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Belle Weather and the Backstreet Boys

Two things:

1.  Yesterday my Grandma Swearingen and my cousin Melissa stopped by my parents' house, picked me up, and drove me "into town" (the nearest city to my parents, Bloomington-Normal, which has always been "town" to everyone I know here) to a lovely Chinese restaurant for lunch. We met my uncle Bob and aunt Lisa there, and I want you to know, when you don't feel very well that noodle soup with chicken from Mandarin Garden? Really hits the spot.

After that, Grandma and I broke off on our own to do a bit of shopping. We ended up at the Barnes & Noble in town, where Grandma and I had some coffee (they still had pumpkin spice! I cannot tell you how happy this makes me, that I was able to have my venti-triple-pumpkin-spice!) and chatted for a while in the cafe. I have to say; I haven't spent a ton of time alone with my Grandma Swearingen in quite a while, and I had a blast.

However, the point I am getting to is this: I discovered a woman in Barnes & Noble. She is hilarious.

She is Celia Rivenbark.

Now, I must admit that I have only just discovered her. I can't speak for her earlier books; I haven't bought them yet. Buying her other books is pretty much my first order of business upon making it home. But while in Barnes & Noble, looking for something light and fluffy to read on the plane, I picked up her newest book, You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start in the Morning, as well as a slightly older book, Belle Weather: Mostly Sunny with a Chance of Scattered Hissy Fits.

Celia Rivenbark lives in North Carolina and is a Southern mama, and she lets you know it everywhere throughout her writing. Her writing involves a lot of stories about just what that means and observations on life as a mama, as a wife, and as a writer. She describes herself as a "slightly tarnished southern belle".

One thing is that, being a Yankee born-and-bred only recently transplanted to South Carolina, I don't quite grasp every in-joke. I started with Belle Weather at about three p.m. yesterday afternoon, and I finished it at roughly midnight. I meant to go to bed at 10, but once I got up there I just kept reading until I was done.

They are breezy, easy reads, the kind that keep you smiling, chuckling, and occasionally laughing out loud, causing confused stares from those around or nearby.

She is opinionated and she lets you know it, but always with a wink and a smile.

Her newest book, You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start in the Morning, is the other book I bought. Once I'm through with that, I'm going to have to go look up the other three. Yes, three.

Once I find a writer I really like, I latch on to whatever they've got to give to me. I am probably a royalty check's dream that way. 

2.  While driving to pick up a few last-minute supplies for the dinner I'm making for family tonight (recreating my Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese, wish me luck) and listening to NPR, something occurred to me.

Music is a funny thing, isn't it?

My first recollection of "music" that I liked, as it were, is a mix of Sesame Street and Whatever-My-Parents-Listened-To-In-The-Car (generally country). I have a soft spot for the Garth Brooks who sang "Friends in Low Places" (which I am not ashamed to admit I have belted out at the top of my lungs while driving somewhere) and Lorrie Morgan's entire War Paint album which exists on a cassette tape somewhere in my parents' house.

(It's worth noting that since I just kept the cassette tape out, no case, I have never seen the actual cover-image for this cd before. My impression: that is a very brave lady wearing a very brave dress.)

After that, it went to Amy Grant when she sang about romantic love rather than religious love, also on cassette. Somewhere after Amy Grant things get fuzzy, and then Jewel came into the picture, then the Backstreet Boys, that earnest five-some who wanted it "that way", although what "it" was or what direction "that way" was located in is something they never did explain to us. Somewhere in here I began to officially "loathe" country music, very loudly and whenever in my parents' presence, although I still had my cap set for some of the old country-western and of course Johnny Cash.

A side note: Johnny Cash is his own genre of music, related to country but not of country. I think most fans of his music will agree with me here. He generally gets labeled country because music stores feel it would be wasting space to have a whole section just listed as "Johnny Cash" in genre and radio stations get very confused. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Country-western is also different from "country". Country is Taylor Swift crooning about bleachers and high heels or Faith Hill and Shania Twain gettin' wronged by their men (or never getting wronged ever, depending on your song). Country-western, however, is Hank Williams and "Riders in the Sky", the kind of stuff my father used to listen to on our boom box in the evenings when he did dishes, songs that my mind immediately places next to an image of John Wayne in a neckerchief and manly squint.

Yes, that's right; our boom box. I don't want any sassback about this; I wasn't born in 1986 just to start calling them "portable stereos" or some nonesense.

Johnny Cash was a constant, but the Backstreet Boys were replaced by D.C. Talk and the Newsboys, those equally-earnest Christian Rock boy bands that wanted me to just cry out loud that I was a "Jesus Freak". Which I did. Perhaps too loudly. Alanis Morisette's angry-lady howl took over Jewel's delicate bird-song of a voice.

Somewhere between 8th grade and sophomore year in high school I realized I didn't like that music as much anymore. Although I kept all my Jewel CD's, the stuff I actually listened to had been replaced by old-school punk bands like the Clash, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols. Anything noisy and arhythmic had found its number-one fan in me. Powerman 5000 appears at this time, as does H.E.D., the Offspring, Green Day (yes, my taste in music never did quite leave the nineties, did it?). My high school boyfriend burned me piles of CD's from Rage Against the Machine, Weezer, and all those bands he loved that I found I was falling in love with, too.

Overtime, emo bands came into the picture, emo bands and nineties female singer-songwriters, bands like Taking Back Sunday and Fall Out Boy were my best friends in college. Perfect music for breakups and romantic complications, which I was having a lot of at the time. I felt a lot of things very keenly, and there was a lot of talking on those records, and that talking really spoke to me, man, you know? Also Johnny Cash. I never left Johnny Cash behind... that would have been a sin against my nature.

Now we're on this: listening to classical music on NPR and humming along with the songs I know. Stumbling onto the quiet British folk-singer Laura Marling and falling utterly in love with her spare, pretty compositions and clever wordplay, bands like the Toadies that I missed out on the first time around or Aimee Mann's beauitful deep alto voice and calm, spare-no-honesty songwriting. Dancing like only a white girl with no rhythm can to Rage Against the Machine (oh what, did you think I left my old music behind? Heavens no, it just moved down some on the increasingly bizarre rotation). Vienna Teng's soaring piano melodies. Buddy Miller's mellow not-quite-countrified jammin'. My Chemical Romance going off the rails in a very melodic fashion.

It makes me wonder if I'll ever circle back to country... but I don't think so. Much of what is playing on country stations these days makes me grit my teeth and long for the days when Garth Brooks had something to say about thunder rollin' and Reba McIntire's hair was bigger than the rest of her head combined. I want to go back to overwhelming steel guitars and none of this "country-pop" stuff.

Or maybe I'm just turning into one of those "in the good old days we went uphill both ways for our authentic music" types, and we all know that's not true. There are no hills where I grew up!

Okay, there's one. It's quite a ways away and people go sledding on it when there's snow. But that's not the point.

I forget the point.

Something about kids these days and their loud music and get offa my lawn, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Am Bad At Planning

I would label this "Part One", but if I tried to explain all of the individual ways and dates and examples of my inability to plan well, then we would just be here forever. My entire blog would be about my inability to plan for things ahead of time. I am famous for wandering circles around the house looking aimlessly for the toothbrush I brought with me, this pair of pants or that pair of socks lost to me, always forgetting some important object I thought I had placed out where I would see it, convinced that I had even written myself a note... and still, I forget.

An entire blog of those stories?

That, I think, would just be no fun.

Well, it might be fun. Maybe it would start a trend.

But let's just leave that a prayer unanswered, shall we?

In any case, the specific ways in which I am bad at planning for this particular moment of time are that I both left all the gift card-presents I had for people in South Carolina, and I forgot the particular cord which allows me to put pictures from my digital camera onto computers.

So although I have my mother's permission to load photos onto her laptop in order to post a couple of my winter wonderland shots...

it ain't gonna happen.

I have roughly... 310 photos I have taken. this leaves less than three hundred remaining. Roughly 75% of those are of Delainey, my little niece, doing whatever it is Delainey decided to do at that moment. The other 25% is a split between photos of my various family members and pictures of snow.

For now, my words shall have to suffice when it comes to this trip to Illinois.

My words are this:

My niece is incredible. My sister is the best person I have ever known. I made my mother's bed, conceivably the first bed I have actually made voluntarily and not out of necessity. Today I went out and saw my grandma's tombstone, privately said goodbye until next I can come. We have not gone shopping, not once. My brother's laid-back easy-going attitude is ever a helpful dose of serenity in my life. I miss my husband. I love my grandpa. I miss my cat. I love my whole family. I miss my grandma just as much every single moment as I missed her when I said goodbye. Christmas has been awesome! All it needed was Jason. The world here is white, all white, twenty miles in every direction is white. Snow, snow, snow. It's beautiful, with the extra sweetness of knowing I can leave it and go back to (relative) warmth in SC. I have woken up before 8 AM every single day.

I love it here...

but I can't wait to go home, too, back to Jason and my kitty, to my job and our lives and my in-laws, our friends and all that Greenville has within it. Still, it's going to be hard to board that plane, because half my heart lives here all year round.

That said...

hopefully next time I get it together enough to be able to share my photos with you without having to wait a week.

Let's just hope I don't forget my toothbrush this time.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A note on my continued existence

I'm alive!

I'm also in Illinois.

Flight was okay; turbulent and panicked, due to my rampant fear of heights, that particular fear the filling chocolate cake of fear topped by a happy dusting of every plane accident that has ever happened going through my mind during takeoff.

I lived, in any case.

I warned my seatmate that I don't do well on planes. He informed me that he flies 13-20 times a year for work.

"Good! That's reassuring, because you're still alive," I responded.

He said "Yes I am," and put his headphones on.

So I flew, and I saw no ground through my flightk, because I wasn't looking. No one else did either; we flew over the clouds that brought snow to the south.

South Carolina, my new green humid warm home, got a couple of inches of snow pretty much the minute I was gone.

They had a white Christmas! I know my sister-in-law had to be thrilled, she was all excited at the prospect when I left.

Now I'm here, in my parents' living room, watching my hilarious brilliant genius little niece play. We're going to go into town to buy some supplies, do a touch of shopping, and return in time for a Christmas night of extended family visiting... to watch this incredible child open more presents.

She grew so much in the months I was gone.

No pictures until I return, I think; all I have is Mom's computer. I may buy a small flash drive and go ahead and put photos up. I have some adorable photos of Delainey with presents.

I have adorable photos of Delainey doing all sorts of things, honestly.

I may or may not have been involved in a tea party with two dolls, a teddy bear, and "banana hot apple juice tea". That needed to cool.

Because it was too hot.

All that is missing in this moment in my husband... I return to him soon.

For now...

Delainey tells me which penguin is taller and I am content.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Adam

One of the fun parts about finally being in South Carolina, with my in-laws, is that the childhood stories I have previously heard (Greatest Hits Currently Include: Jason falling asleep face-first in spaghetti, Jason being given "a ticket to sleep" and promptly passing out in his carseat, Jason playing with dust when Robin tried to punish him by taking his toys away) are being augmented by new stories.

Jason, as a child, disliked the rigid understanding we have that children open presents on Christmas Day or, in some families, get one on Christmas Eve. Child-Jason sat and thought this over, and realized something very important; Christmas Eve... but Eve came after Adam!

Which means...

Two days before Christmas? Is Christmas Adam. And he came up with an idea to get to open a present on Christmas Adam, too. Apparently there is also Christmas Creatures of the Earth and Sky (getting a full week before Christmas by going through the whole Creation story in the Bible) but I don't think Robin and Rusty let him win that one.

So we are at Christmas Adam; the presents are finally wrapped, albeit badly. There is a reason my family really didn't like that I did the present-wrapping. I'm famous for using up four times as much tape as necessary and still handing over a lumpy mystery-box to relatives.

They're wrapped, in any case. It's not elegant or graceful, but it's done.

It turns out my Christmas present from Jason (the Mark Twain autobiography), although I thought I had ordered it before the publisher completely ran out, may not come anywhere near Christmas. So I went out and got The Princess Bride to read on my flight and in my spare time over my week in Illinois. You may think a whirlwind week of visiting friends, relatives, and countrymen won't leave much time for reading... but if you think that, you vastly underestimate how much I love books.

Tonight is dinner with my in-laws, then packing for my trip. Tomorrow I have a very short shift at work, then dinner with family and some friends, then my Christmas with my in-laws, then sleep...

and then...


Which has gotten a bit of snow... so I'll be flying into what promises be a white Christmas.

As my mother said earlier today...

I am TWO SLEEPS away!

Happy Christmas Adam, everybody!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Carriage Rides and Countdowns

On Sunday, my in-laws and I drove to a nearby town, Fountain Inn. Greenville is a big, sprawling city, but there are lots of little towns around here that are sort of melted into where Greenville begins and where it ends. I don't really notice the difference, only that suddenly we are on a whole new area's little main street place... an area that is a lot more like the small-town main streets I am used to.

Sunday was a cold night; we all bundled up in coats and scarves. I must admit I had to wear my gloves.

It was a hard blow to my pride, but these things happen.

We parked behind a furniture store called Kimbrell's, and walked down the street a little bit.

You have to forgive my photo quality... it was pitch black at night.

The store-fronts were all full of Christmas:

The little street's trees were full of lights:

Also children.

But mostly lights.

Fountain Inn had a little ice-skating rink set up, with people skating around gleefully and other people watching from the sidelines:

The speakers set up nearby were, meanwhile, blaring our Christmas music as loud as they could. This was great, except that the rotation was something like eight songs, so I kept feeling like I had deja vu.

We waited patiently in line for our turn to get up into the carriage, watching the horses come and go, huddling around a little torch that the town had set up where the line was.

Our group included my mother-in-law and father-in-law Robin and Rusty, my sister-in-law Hunter and her boyfriend Michael, my aunt-in-law (that is so fun to say; I love making up new terms for relatives-in-law) Gena and of course Jason. I only got a single halfway decent picture, and that is of Hunter and Michael.

Look at them in that blanket trying not to freeze. It's heartwarming, really.

Also, I had no idea Hunter's gloves were purple until later that night? Because I only saw them in the night's darkness and the yellow-y light from all the lit up trees, and I thought they were navy or black.

Shows what I know.

After a few minutes of trying very hard not to become icicles, it was our turn! We boarded a carriage pulled by a nice Percheron named Dakota, who was kind of sick of the whole thing and ambled his way through the ride, but all in all he was in a pretty good mood.

I have not one single photo of the actual ride. We were driven past houses who had decorated, occasionally with an obscene amount of lights and wreaths, for the Christmas season. They were beautiful houses, covered in lights and Santa. One house had a Grinch theme, one house had reindeer and Santa chillin' out on the porch, one house had Santa climbing a ladder slightly behind the house, so you didn't see it at first, only when you were almost past.

And so this is Christmas?

I tried, folks. All I have are twenty-eight photos of blur and dancing lights.

I did my best.

This week is full of frantic activity; finishing up all the things that must be done for Christmas, packing, working, packing, working some more... my car's alternator died so we spent one of the days we meant to finish Christmas getting the car fixed. Now the car works, but uh, our Christmas present to ourselves this year is kind of a working car.

Merry Christmas to us?

It's only a little over three days until I fly to Illinois!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Am Bad at Christmas, Take Two

So this is the entry, at least mostly, that I had meant to write before I got distracted by delicious apricot-dark-chocolate-bark.

And then the delicious version of feijoada that Jason made for dinner that night.

And then the way he made me homemade hot chocolate from our leftover dark chocolate and milk when I admitted to craving it.

Have I mentioned how awesome this man I married is?


I was going to write about Christmas. I think. And not endlessly bore you with stories about how Jason is super-cool and such.

So on to our regularly scheduled program.

I am bad at Christmas.

Part of it, of course, is the simple fact that Jason and I do not, as a routine, get to spend Christmas together. The reality of a retail-existence (which I am still living, career-wise) is that you do not plan to have a lovely three days together at Christmas; you plan to scheme and to beg for whatever time off is possible, power-snuggle for what chance you get, and then fly back to work as soon as you have to.

The other part of this is the fact that we haven't really been able to live close to both our families. My family is out in Illinois, and his is here. When we lived in Illinois, we were both working retail jobs and it was nearly impossible to get enough time for both of us to go to my parents' house for Christmas... Jason still tells people stories about how he spent our first Christmas as a married couple alone with the cat while I went to see my family.

I have a feeling our kids will hear that story. Repeatedly. And it will get sadder every time he tells it.

This year will be no exception. We will, fortunately, get to have time with Jason's family but then Christmas morning I will be boarding a plane and flying to Illinois to see my family for a week, while Jason remains here so he can keep working. I am planning next year to figure this out in a way that allows both Jason and I to be in the same place at the same time during Christmas. I will manage this, darn it, or I shall go down in flames trying.

We have never had a tree; we're both too easily distracted and bogged down by life to remember to ever get around to it.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love Christmas. I'm just bad at remembering to do all of it. Decorations just don't happen, unless you count helping other people decorate their houses. I love doing that.

Shopping is happening, albeit all at once, in a horrible rush, and with much stressing out. Every year I tell myself I'll do Christmas shopping early, and every year I end up running around trying to finish it at the last second. I tell you, this is a talent of mine. Every "what kind of worker are you?" quiz I come up with tells me I am a procrastinator, and gives me helpful tips on how to fix that, and I cheerfully mark them down for future use... eventually.

 Maybe tomorrow, or the day after that. I'll get around to it.

This year is my first Christmas attempting to shop in a city of any serious size. I have been continually astounded by the sheer amount of people out in stores, demanding exemptions in price from various exhausted retail workers, lines backing up further than I ever imagined they would at 2 PM on a Thursday afternoon when everyone with a day job should be at work right now.

I stopped by a Barnes & Noble today, and when I went into the cafe to order a drink, they had one poor flustered worker there running everything herself. I was third in line. By the time I got up to make my order, there were twelve people behind me and she had already called for help twice.

I had a pile of presents with me, and asked her if she would prefer I just get my drink and head over to the other side to wait in line over there, since I wasn't in a hurry. The look of sheer, stressed-out gratitude she gave me was enough.

In any case, I am done with all but four things on my Christmas shopping list. Wait... five.

Five things. But they are not difficult things to do.

I would have finished them all this afternoon, and given a mournful sigh at my bank account and waved all that lovely money goodbye, except for two simple facts: it is nasty and cold and rainy outside, and I almost got sideswiped three times in the two hours I was out.

One of those times was a gigantic Hummer, who clearly believed that since they were very large and my little red car is very small, that they could simply run me over and no one would challenge them. The driver of the Hummer and I exchanged a long look over the course of roughly a second-and-a-half. My look was saying I took Drivers' Ed and so did you. I clearly have the right-of-way. You are attempting to do a move in traffic which could conceivably kill me and possibly the two cars behind you as well. Please cease and desist.

The driver of the Hummer's look appeared to be saying But I am in a hurry and my car is bigger than yours! This should be all the reason I need! You are a villainous woman who is keeping me from moving quickly!

We came to a truce, in so much as I continued to drive and she came to a begrudging stop. Our lives carried on.

Now I wait for Jason to wake up, write this entry, and wonder whether or not I should stop drinking a lot of caffeine before I write in my blog.

Everybody have a good day!

Roughly eight-and-a-half days until I am in Illinois for Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

I was going to write a whole other entry than this

I was going to write an entry about Christmas, my terrible gift-shopping problems, all my issues around remembering things during the holidays.

I was going to write many, many paragraphs.

I went to work today, intending to write the entry the moment I got home.

I got off work at 6:30. I just walked in the door a few minutes ago.

Jason is cooking dinner and at some point today made apricot dark chocolate bark.

I am in the middle of eating one piece and I have to admit I have completely forgotten anything I was going to say.

Nom nom chocolate bark from husband nom nom.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's beginning to (feel) a lot like Christmas?

I am feeling the familiar drumbeat of not nearly enough time. I still need to do so much shopping, gift-wrapping, packing planning partying making food and seeing people.

I did tree-trimming with Jason's family; wish we could have stayed longer. So fun to see so many ornaments full of stories, referencing people I haven't met or stories I haven't yet heard, having them explained to me, all those old kid-made creations that parents hold onto each year.

The red berries are out in force on green trees and bushes all over the place around here. They line my workplace, our apartment complex, up against fences, downtown on the other side of the bridge... just everywhere. A visual reminder of the way this new city I live in retains its color, even when the leaves fall.

It's so green here for it to already be December. I hardly seem to notice seasons passing; the usual markers aren't there for me. No snow, but cold enough to freeze the windshield-wiper fluid to the side of our windshield when Jason drives home in the morning and has to clear it off. 

And of course, the most audible reminder of all is the Christmas music blasting all over the place, in shops and in restaurants, on the radio and being sung from everyone's mouths. 

I am not, as a rule, against Christmas music. I don't dislike it as a whole genre. I loathe 'modern' covers of traditional songs that take all the soul out of them, and I have found that much of the Christmas music that plays over the speakers at work falls into this unfortunate category. A welcome exception is Lorena McKennitt, a singer with an incredibly lovely voice and a way of slightly shifting songs without taking away their meaning.

This is Lorena McKennitt's take on my absolute favorite Christmas song, "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen". This is the song I hum to myself when I'm trying to remind myself to get somewhere near the 'Christmas' frame of mind.

Hit the 'play' button there and have a listen:

The chill in the air at this point is enough that even I have to admit I might have to pull my real, true winter coat out of the closet. So far I've been fine wearing jackets and thick sweaters, but I don't know; I might need my gloves at this point.

It takes some sustained cold temperatures for me to even consider wearing gloves, readership. My mother can tell you all about sustained battles of my childhood and adolescence (and, to my shame, adulthood) to try and get me to A. wear gloves, B. remember where I put my gloves or C. agree to just let her buy me new gloves already. Last year I received these gorgeous fuchsia gloves as a gift, and I wore them all the time while trudging through the snow on my daily walks and I love how colorful they are.

I might just have to pull them out.


I'm not yet sure I'm willing to declare this particular battle won by Team Wear Your Gloves, Darn It, It's Cold. Team Eh, It's Not So Bad If My Fingers Are Slightly Numb is putting up a valiant fight.

Not too many pictures, lately. That's the fault of a couple of things; I've been heavily distracted, and I've been very 'cozy' lately. Most of what I do is curl up under a blanket with a cup of hot tea, Jason beside me doing much the same, and read or watch Food Network's incessant lineup of candy-and-cookie-themed-shows and daydream about making my own giant gingerbread houses and then trying very hard not to eat my hard-won construction.

So much tea, I drink. And also coffee, if I'm not careful. I've been attempting to be careful about it, but I am not always successful. There are days where I make it to 4 p.m. and I realize I haven't had anything except a cup of coffee and a huge green tea with soy all day long to drink.

I've been drinking a lot of honey mixed with hot water to stave off any conceivable colds; so far it seems to be working.

Every time my throat gets a touch scratchy, I drink a few ounces of hot water and honey, and soon enough it fades out. I'm a big fan of honey as a cure-all or at least a really good placebo.

My second-favorite Christmas carol is 'Carol of the Bells', especially if done by a really good choir:

In the end, even I am susceptible to accidentally falling headfirst into the season:

I swear, I just wanted to put on cozy pajamas and a sweater to lounge in.

Next thing I know, I'm a walking Christmas tree.

All I need are twinkly lights and an angel on my head.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On Gainful Employment And My Inner Child

Since this blog is mostly read by family and friends in real life, you know what I currently do for a living already. For new people, I'll explain.

I'm working as a barista at a certain large-scale bookstore's attached coffeeshop. I wear a green apron. A stylized depiction of a mermaid may or may not be involved in said apron.

I don't write about it all that often, mainly because it's not the most exciting job in the world. I am not exactly saving lives here, folks, unless you count all those lives spared by getting people the caffeine they desperately need not to become homicidal by the end of the day. And I'm not really counting those lives.

I am on my feet all day, shifting back and forth from register to espresso bar to our bakery case to the sink in the back and then back through that cycle again. It's nice, because I am always moving, and on a good day it helps the time fly by.

I have learned the following things I did not know before: how to steam milk to the absolute perfect temperature, the secret to whether or not your drink will be decent (did your barista stir it before handing it to you? It's surprisingly uncommon), how industrial dishwashers work, all of the ingredients in most of our food and drinks. I feel full of wisdom, let me tell you readership.

Right now, thanks to the Christmas season, I've been seeing a big uptick in hours. It's been a great boost to our bank account, at a time when we definitely are grateful for it... not that we wouldn't be anyway.

For all that it is a retail/food-service job and perhaps not the ideal for where I had hoped to be as far as employment by this point, I actually really like my job. I like that my coworkers and I tend to have a fairly cheerful attitude, I like the customers, especially the regulars whose faces and occasionally names and even more occasionally grandchildren I get to know pretty well. I even allowed my previous 'no friendships with coworkers I did not know beforehand' rule to expire.

Now, I don't like standing on tile floors all day and neither do my legs or my back, but ah well, they'll live. For now I just have to be careful to stretch after work lest my back start doing a happy little hurty-dance.

I like that I am back in a job where I look forward to at least four of my workdays per week.

Also the half-price drinks don't hurt.

Although they do make buying anything full-price at any other coffee-shop a little bit painful.

Trying to decide on what I might want for Christmas has been... interesting, this year. They always say you know you're growing up when you start wanting socks or vaccuums or other such useful things instead of shiny new toys or movies or video games.

Well, my inner child and my thin veneer of outer adult are currently waging somewhat of an epic war for Christmas. The thin veneer of adulthood continues to remind me, constantly, that we need bookshelves, that I could use some nice useful things like bakeware or something like that, something grown up, while my inner child throws a great big tantrum and stomps her feet and demands more books now now now.

I am, generally, inclined to give way to my inner child, since she clearly makes a whole lot more noise than that silly adult version of me I try so hard to shake off.

Recently asked to come up with a Christmas list by a couple of relatives, I managed to put together an Amazon wishlist for Jason and I (although most of it is mine, since Jason's inner child is frankly very quiet and his outer adult is very much in charge here), I attempted to compromise somewhere in the middle between grown-up useful things and my soul-deep love of all things present-y and shiny.

I mean, look at that list. When you've got an item like this on there:

It's a cookbook! That just screams adulthood, right?


... right??

 Okay, so maaaaaybe the part where I also stuck on Shel Silverstein books and the Toy Story movies isn't really doing my argument any favors, but I like to think that the cookbooks totally make up for it and make this a totally useful, grown-up Christmas wish-list. I refuse to think otherwise.

Nyah nyah nyah, you're not the boss of me, you can't make me!

I mean. Ahem. Er.

Yep. Totally a rational adult. Right. That's me.


20 days until my Illinois Christmas!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


That is the best word for the temperature right now here in Greenville. It's wonderful; this slight bite of winter to the air, but still 50 degrees during the day. It's been sunny for a couple of days, too; beautiful weather to wear a light sweater or a long-sleeved shirt and take long walks in the sunshine.

I've seen quite a few people pulling out their thick coats or complaining about the cold. My Yankee-born heart knows no fear of 50-degree-weather! But I can tell you that my upcoming Christmas trip to Illinois is going to be a very frigid one, and a hard adjustment. They tell me your blood thins pretty quickly when moving from climate to climate, that by next year I'll have my coat on with everyone else.

I'm sure I will.

I love coats! I'd like to be able to pull my winter coat out and wear it. I just think it looks very weird to walk around sweating because I'm so hot, but darn it, I love my winter coat.

A winter coat I only own because my mother insisted, last year, that I should probably get one. I suppose the second or third time I described the complicated series of sweater-layers I was wearing against the cold in southern Illinois just was too much.

It's so pretty here! There's even still color in the trees. The "star" light on top of Roper Mountain (I live along Roper Mountain Road) is on... it sits at the very top and it's really gorgeous to see lit up at night while I'm driving home.

We have a December ahead of us that is not going to be very friendly to our bank account; I need to change over much of the registration and insurance on my car, we are planning for a trip in January, lots of Christmas presents to buy... my bank account shudders in anticipation.

Then again; Christmas.

Christmas and the prospect of seeing my niece and my sister and brother and my brother-in-law and my whole family again pretty much make up for my bank account's woes.

I have no photos for you this entry; I made an incredible breakfast casserole last night, but my camera has been on the verge of dying and I'm not sure I got any decent pictures of it. It wasn't a pretty casserole? But it was surely delicious.

Nom nom om nom, as the cookie monster would say.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Mom, Dad, and Jason leaning over the railing at the top of Caesar's Head.

You will notice I am taking pictures from a safe distance away.

I am also very worried that the railing will break and they'll fall over the side when I take this picture. Even though that's completely irrational.

I am running lots of errands today. Last night I put through payments for rent and for my student loan, so now my bank account is a little sad and the groceries and I are in for some price-watching.

I am compiling recipes from Thanksgiving, although I am sad that they will have no pictures with them. Maybe I'll just have to subject Jason to all those foods again to get some photos of what I made...