Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Truth About Driving in Greenville

1. Don't look for left-turn lanes. There might be one, if you're lucky. There might not.

Just realize that left-turn lanes are considered highly optional, and most of the people here choose their incredible "sit in a regular lane because there's oncoming traffic until the light is yellow and make that left turn as fast as you can JUST BEFORE the light turns red, after the oncoming traffic has already stopped".

Sometimes, there is a left-turn lane! Hurray! But... then you realize there still isn't any left-turn light. The logic here is a little mystifying. But at least all the people trying to make that single last-minute high-speed swerve as the light turns red are all coralled into their own lane. However, if you get stuck behind a cautious, defensive driver who isn't willing to take the risk that they'll be hit by that single car that runs through the very tail of the yellow light... you could sit in that happy little left turn lane all day, waiting for the driver at the front to get brave and try to make it.

It's... exciting.

I feel like I'm cheering all the left-turn people on.

"Go little car go!"

Sometimes I want to get out of my car, go up to the car at the front of the lane, tap on their window, and politely ask them if they could just drive down to the next left-turn light and turn around and come back the other way, since this way isn't getting us anywhere at all.

2. A larger population (this is a city, really, a true city; not McLean's little sleepy streets or Carbondale's angry college students) means a larger population of people who cannot drive. Be aware of this at all times. Any time you start to relax, rest assured someone will just suddenly change lanes without signaling while running a red light and speeding... just to keep you on your toes.

(Name the movie I just quoted and you get... the knowledge that you know stuff about movies! Yay!)

Don't get me wrong, I don't think there are worse drivers here overall than in Carbondale. You have to keep in mind, in Carbondale we would routinely realize driving was a lot safer during the summer when nearly all of the living-on-campus students were gone. It was often bliss, to just drive along on a road full of townies. Then, come August, I'd be dodging side-swipes while the people in the other car are trying to text while driving, drinking a soda, painting a Picasso copy... you know. Doing a lot of things one should probably be careful about while behind the wheel of what I affectionately like to call "screaming metal deathtraps."

Really, drivers in Greenville are probably much better, overall.

There's really no 'probably' about it. They just are.

One of the main things I have noticed, both in cars and just in my interactions with people, is the fact that there is a niceness that permeates things that is a little unusual. Well, yes, of course at the bookstore cafe I still have customers who make me want to rip my hair out, that's a fact of life. There are days at work where customers come in looking for a fight, and we are the hapless service industry robots who get to have target signs painted on us.

Nonetheless, people overall seem to be nicer. Especially driving. I've never seen so many examples in my life of someone trying to pull out onto a road and the people stuck in traffic on that road stopping to let them get in. Every time I need to pull out of a gas station to go home during rush-hour and someone seriously stops their car so I can pull out going the other way without having to sit forever, I'm not sure if I really believe it. I give them a grateful wave, full of some vague surprise I can't explain, and try to figure out what I've done to deserve this kindness. I have to remind myself I am not driving in Bloomington-Normal, back in Illinois, which is legendarily full of angry people who don't want to let anyone get anywhere faster than they do... or in Carbondale, full of distracted (and distractable) college students trying to do six things at once because paying attention to one thing is boring.

Every time I get stuck dealing with a driver who is irrational or driving badly here, I realize that it's less rare that my road rage flares up since I got here.

That's definitely a good thing.

3. When we (finally) got our license plates switched over to SC, I noticed people no longer drove around me as though I might at any second just decide to go careening into a wall. Apparently people did not trust my Illinois plates.

Now that I am an official Driver of South Carolina, people are much less cautious.

I'm going to consider that positive.

4. This has nothing to do with driving, actually, but Jason pointed out to me that I have recently used both the word "ain't" and the contraction "y'all" in this blog within the last month. He seems to think this is amusing. I tried to point out that we use "ain't" back in Illinois, too, and he'd best save this laughing until I start rounding out my consonants all slow and soft like southerners do or calling everyone 'sweetheart'.

I will admit I have said "bless her heart" at least once since I got here that was not in jest.

Well, I mean, it was a little in jest.

I just didn't realize I was saying it 'til I had.

Don't judge me.

Sorry about no photos today... it just hasn't been a good picture week for me. I have taken photos, mostly of various friends of mine chatting, but I just don't have any really good ones to work with. We'll see what happens in the next couple of days. It's raining outside, but sometimes rain has netted me some pretty pretty things, so we'll see. Maybe I'll go for a walk while Jason sleeps.

5. This also has nothing to do with driving, but I want to end on this note:

A week from now I'll be waking up in New York City.

That is all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

State of the Katie Address


I am warning you ahead of time: this is going to be really, really long... and pretty text-heavy. 

Feel free to skim through and just look at the photos. I won't blame you if you do.

My mother-in-law continues to do well up in Boston. My regular updates from Jason's aunt Gena have been pretty positive, and today I got a facebook message from the lady herself! I am excited to see her recovering quickly, or at least I hope being on facebook is a good sign for one's recovery.

Today is a day of morning shifts, which is nice in that I am at work while Jason sleeps, so we don't have the usual blink-and-you-miss-it interaction between me leaving, him going, or him leaving and me going... we actually get evenings together. Today we may even go for a walk. I know, I know, it's a pretty exciting plan... but I think we're capable of it.

Next week is basically a week of closing shifts, one after another, three days in a row... then an opening shift... then a day off... and then I leave for New York City! It'll be a new experience for me. I've never been to NYC before, or really the Northeast at all. It'll be a quick, long-weekend whirlwind trip, but I think it'll be a lot of fun.

In any case, I get to watch my sister-in-law, the aforementioned Gena and her daughter Monica be all silly in the big city. I will probably be quietly taking pictures in the background, an abject and unashamed tourist in all my tourist-y glory.

I might even talk loudly about farming or something, just to make sure everyone knows how out of place I am.


I have to admit something here, be really honest; I'm not "over" whatever this weird mental place I've been in lately has been... That place where I start wondering where 25 years went so fast and whether or not I'm going to be able to get to where I wanted to be in time for all my big important goals. I've been waffling in and out of a strange melancholy about it for several months now. Sometimes it's just homesickness, I think, that reality of being just that far away from the first, oh, 23-and-a-half years of my life.

I put a lot of stock in landscape, in the setting I surround myself with. In school assignments way back when to write about myself, the place I was living always came up as part of who I was. And that place was, always, roughly the same. It's changed, and I think the notion of uprooting myself and making the huge adjustment to something entirely new has its occasional "but I just want to go back" effects, even though I really, really don't.

I'm happy here... but I am still affected by that odd sense that time is starting to get away from me.

This is kind of silly, I know, coming from someone as young as I am. I am very aware of my youth, and extremely aware of how ridiculous this probably sounds when my age is taken into account. Nonetheless, I keep wondering if I have the time to get myself together. My mind often tells me that by this point in her own life, my mother had one child and by the end of November had two. My own goals originally had me having a baby when I was 25 (which I can promise you all ain't going to happen, heh).

Granted, at one point I thought I'd be a famous writer by now. Or artist. Or artist-writer.

Writer-artist.

Whatever.


Despite all that, I've been having a feeling creeping up on me the past few weeks, some kind of sweet almost-contentment. Maybe it's just the way my brain wasn't real sure if it wanted to accept this move start to fade out, let me enjoy it once and for all without whispering in the back of my conscious mind that I am missing so much to be here.

The thing is, I was missing so much before, and I knew it then; Jason's family's holidays, really getting to know my in-laws, trips to the beach, his perfectly crazy-awesome sister Hunter and the growing-up-stages of his sweet little twin cousins, who are about a year older than my niece.

Life is good here, and it's nice to finally see my mind beginning to let me enjoy that.

The weekends have been great; full of friends, or family. I've had the ability to relax, laugh with people I already loved or newer friends I am rapidly growing to love. Although it's not even quite April, I am going into this late spring and summer with the knowledge that while last year was deeply lean, and Jason and I fought for every scrap of income we were able to keep... those worries won't be quite so bad this year. I'm actually really looking forward to the rest of 2011... 2012, too.



In the end, I suppose, this was just a really long-winded way of saying "Well, things are pretty good, actually."

I suppose I could have just written that one sentence and saved us all about three pages of ramblin', though, couldn't I?

Ah well.

Anyone reading this blog for any length of time already knew I'm a big fan of rambling. Really, anyone who has the vaguest knowledge of me in general already knew I'm a big fan of rambling.

I like to think of it as one of my many charms.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pumpkin Sunflower Scones


Last night, Jason and I did indeed go downtown.

I told you I was determined.

We walked all over the place, from one end to the other. We had hot dogs at Hot Dog King, finally granting Jason the wish he makes every single time we can come down here. We walked all around Falls Park, back up and around through the crowd who had shown up for a music show that was being put on for free.

We walked past just as they were playing "Ball of Confusion", which is my number 2 "greatest political song ever written" on my own personal list. So of course I had to jam. And by jam, I mean "nod my head along with the beat because to dance would probably mean someone would think I was having a seizure."

Once we had walked until my legs ached, thanks to having taken a long walk around the apartment complex myself in the morning and having done my full hour in the fitness center in the early afternoon, we stopped at Coffee Underground and just relaxed for a little while. I think I am becoming a one-woman ad campaign for Coffee Underground at this point... I've probably brought it up here something like five times at this point.

But- and this is important- at Coffee Underground... they have pumpkin syrup. So I had an iced pumpkin latte and I cannot even explain how much I miss pumpkin syrup when I cannot have it.

However, that got my mind a-whirlin' about pumpkins, and the various things one can do with them. We've had a can of pumpkin languishing in the cupboard for some time, the victim of me deciding I would absolutely make smoothies with it, and then not doing that at all.

So I went hunting for recipes, and found a recipe for Pumpkin Pecan scones that looked really promising. There was just one problem: I didn't have pecans, I didn't have buttermilk, and my canned pumpkin? Turned out to be the canned pumpkin pie stuff.

Oh yeah. We're experts at this stuff, clearly.

So I sat, and stared at the recipe for a while. A friend on facebook helpfully told me you can substitute milk and a touch of vinegar for buttermilk, so that solved that problem. I could still use the pumpkin pie stuff; I just wouldn't need the same level of seasonings.

And we have sunflower seeds.

There was indeed a light bulb over the head moment for me.

So I made absolutely certain I had everything else, and went to bed knowing what I would do first thing in the morning.

"First thing" being, oh, 10 A.M. when I crawled out of bed. Don't give me that look... I didn't go to bed until 1:30 A.M.! There was reading to be done!

In any case, when I finally got up this morning, I did indeed make the scones.

And there are indeed delicious.

Pumpkin Sunflower Scones


What You Need:
2 cups whole wheat flour (or any flour, really)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Two quick shakes of allspice (seriously, I did not measure this)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter at room temperature, cubed
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (unsalted, they must be unsalted)
1/3 cup buttermilk (or since I was out, I used 1/3 cup milk with 1 teaspoon vinegar)
1/2 cup pumpkin pie puree (or pumpkin puree if you want to do this the right way)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten
Turbinado (or raw) sugar for sprinkling, optional

Onto Creation!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Combine flour, brown sugar, your cinnamon and allspice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add your butter and combine until you have a crumb-like texture. You can do this with a fork, but the blogger I adapted this recipe from and I agree; using your hands is  much faster, if a little messier. Once you've got your crumb-y stuff going, add in the sunflower seeds, mix around.
Combine pumpkin pie puree, vanilla, and buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute) in a bowl and whisk together. Add your mixture to the dry ingredients and combine until everything is just moistened.

Dust your work surface with a little flour and pour your dough out, working it with your hands until you have a slightly flattened disk of scone. 

Take your beaten egg and just brush it across the top of the scone and kind of around the edges a little bit. Make sure it is evenly coated in the egg. Sprinkle the raw sugar on top, as evenly as possible.

Cut the disk into wedges; try to cut evenly. I am bad at cutting evenly so I had a few normal scones, some REALLY BIG scones, and a couple itsy bitty ones. I'm calling that my artistic license.

Place on a nonstick or sprayed with nonstick-spray baking sheet.

Bake for roughly 20 minutes, or until golden and firm.

Allow to cool before eating.

Try not to eat all of them.

Also, please don't ask me for nutritional facts. These particular scones? It's probably better for all of us if we never know what the nutritional facts are...

Pumpkins are good for you, though!

...

So...

that means it has to be good...

right?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Couple of Things


1. So March in South Carolina is officially kind of amazing. It's 83 degrees out today, there's a good breeze. I've already taken a walk around the apartment complex in the sun. It's actually conceivable I may get a tan this year... or at least become a color that is not similar to fresh paper.

This is great for me, but terrible for everyone I know who has allergies. All I can do is make sympathetic faces, really. I'm not saying I won't develop allergies later, but for the moment, I can roll around in hay and flower petals all I want. I'm taking advantage of that.

Uhm. Not by actually rolling around in hay or flower petals, though.


2. My mother-in-law's surgery was yesterday. Jason's aunt Gena was there, as well as his dad, and they kept Jason and I up to date on everything that was going on. Everything seems to have gone fairly well, Robin is in a hospital room recovering, so cross your fingers for the quickest recovery possible for us, okay?

One of my friends just got his wisdom teeth out; he's a little older than I am. He seems to be sleeping away the days just like anyone recovering from this kind of thing should. I have some pretty terrible memories of the actual act of getting my own wisdom teeth out, so I am no help in matters like these. All I can say is, "Well... milkshakes are awesome, and you can have all you want!"

And then everyone stares at me.

And I go back to my coffee.


3. BEES. There are BEES EVERYWHERE. No one told me about this part of southern springs. The bees and wasps are flying all over our apartment complex, now that the trees are all starting to bloom. I stare at them like a country under attack, desperately trying to marshal my best defenses.

So far my defenses are to stay inside, or to swear at them.

You can see why I'm leaning toward staying inside.


4. I had yesterday off. I have today off, and I have tomorrow off. Of course I open the coffeeshop on Sunday, so that'll be exciting, but nonetheless... I have three days off in a row, and come hell or high water I am going out with my husband tonight.

You know what, I'll be honest here.

If hell actually rained down upon the earth I would probably not make Jason take me out on a date.

I feel like we'd have bigger issues to worry about at that point.

But it made me sound pretty determined, didn't it?

...

Well... I'm impressed by how determined I sounded.



5. So there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grace


Rain is grace;


rain is the sky condescending to the earth.



Without rain,


 there would be no life. 
-John Updike

My mother-in-law is having surgery in Boston. The date it was meant to happen was not really this soon, but they moved it up twice and my in-laws left this morning. My fingers are crossed for her. We'd appreciate it if y'all would cross your fingers, too.

Maybe your toes, if you can.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Truth Is


The truth is...

I could learn a lot about peace from this cat.

Or at least, I could learn a lot about napping.

Which is probably a skill I need to learn all over again.

Sorry for the shortness of the update; I've been stressed out and came down with the Cold From Hell this week, and have been taking some time to heal and sort of center myself. I've been off-balance.

So...

we're working on that.

Apparently, taking photos of the cat sleeping counts as 'working on that'.

It certainly counts for something.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

25

I am 25 now.

So that's something.
I'll try not to question whether or not it counts as an accomplishment of any kind. Although some of my family members might find it amazing I haven't managed to get myself killed yet, since my lack of common sense means I make a lot of dubious decisions.

In any case, I'm 25. 

So...

That's something.

For twenty-five years, I have had the most incredible family. I had the luck of being born into knowledge that no matter what, my family will stand behind me.

More recently, I married into another amazing group of people, who raised up the pragmatic, plain-spoken, endlessly supportive man I married.

I have known Jason since August of 2004. We started dating in January 2005. Well... January-ish. I'm not real clear on that.

So that's seven birthdays with Jason, since we started dating.

Best seven birthdays ever.


2004


Something like... 2006?


2008


2009


2010


March 6th, 2011

Yeah...

that seems right.

Now, that's something.



                                                                                                                                 *Note: these are not all photos from birthdays.
                                                                                                                                  Just the last one. I just... really like all these
                                                                                                                                            pictures and will use any excuse to put them 
where people see them. So there.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Very Merry Unbirthday to Me

Although it's exactly one day away, so...

Actually, if I get exact on this, I'm pretty sure I turn 25 sometime around... 4:30 in the afternoon on Sunday? I know Mom told me once.

I don't really remember. I was a wee bit busy being a newborn infant.


This newborn infant, to be exact.

Oh, preemie-Katie. You just swim in your cute little infant clothes, don't you?

Anyway...

Thursday, I received something in the mail.


The cat was also very curious.

It was a large something, so far as packages go. It was covered in brown paper, addressed to me from my whole family in Illinois (and Texas!), and it had decorations on it.


Stickers, and random marker markings, and...


And this. Now I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that 'happy birthday' was written by my niece, because that's definitely my sister's handwriting, but... but look at the faces.

I couldn't even take the brown paper off before I took way too many photos of them.

Inside...


A coffee calendar! Which, if you've been paying any attention at all to me or this blog, you will know is so incredibly appropriate as a present.

Note: I do not do my happy dance with a full coffee cup in my hand. That seems dangerous. Let's leave that to the gigantic coffee mug with legs, shall we?


Although this technically wasn't a birthday present, I just wanted to show you the newest addition to my rapidly growing childrens' library (I suppose eventually I shall have to have children in order to justify all these kids' books...) and when I was taking the photo, some of the evidence of the truth of that title decided to come sit with me.


There was also, snuggled within the gift bag, this.

This being a tiny, blue ipod shuffle. It's sort of oddly delicate looking. I adore it. It's the perfect color (actually a lot lighter than it looks in this photo), and it clips onto my shirt for working out. They gave me a gift card to iTunes as well, and now I have the new Adele album, the new Cage the Elephant album, and have been eyeballing the one Brand New I don't have and a couple of others, too.

I can only thank my whole family with every fiber for my awesome presents.

Of course, I have been saving what I think is the most incredible of my presents for last.

No offense to the ipod shuffle, but it cannot compete with this.


Yes thank you, cat. I'm glad you wanted to see, too.

You see that little paper heart? With little heart stamps?

My niece did that.


My 3-year-old niece, full of fire and light and imagination and "I do it myself!", made this for me. You can see the dotted lines where my sister gave her the shapes with work with.But that shaky red marker writing is all her. She's 3. I remember meeting her for the first time and this itsy tiny bundle being placed in my arms.

When I pulled this out of the box I started to cry, in the best possible way. I'm actually tearing up quite a bit now just looking at the photo. It's a twist of homesickness, to be sure, an awareness of just how far away I am (733 miles away from the city my sister and niece live in) but also this fantastic pride of that smart, brash, hilarious little girl.

I took the heart and I placed it on the bookshelf next to the TV, in a little Longaberger basket my mother bought for me years back, next to a tiny fairy-doll I got from a farmer's market in Bloomington-Normal, IL when I was visiting my family one time. Those three things are a pretty important reminder.

I may be turning 25, but I was three once. I was brash and entirely without common sense (hey, some things start early), loud and insistent, the youngest in a family of five and willing to throw as much noise around as I had to if I could make sure everyone was looking at me. My family looked at me once in a way similar to how I look at Delainey.

Sometimes I am so homesick it hurts. Sometimes it's horrible and sometimes it's actually kind of wonderful.

Today I have a Nominally Birthday Lunch (really, it's an excuse to eat at the best place ever, this little Brazilian restaurant that is fantastic. Then we have the Birthday Party. Then sleep. Then tomorrow a birthday lunch with Jason's family! His Nana and I share the same birthday.

I will have Monday to recover from all gaiety.

I'm going to need it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

because my sister reminded me I haven't posted

I'm going to post this:


Guess which one is me.

C'mon, just guess.

I'll give you a hint: this photo was taken in 1986.

I'll wait for you to think about it.

...

...

did you guess the screaming pink thing in a frilly dress?

You win!

I like to believe that even as an infant I was making sure I got my relationship with my siblings off on the right foot: I flail around and screech, they calmly keep smiling and try not to kill me.

I feel like, somewhere, that's in the Big Sister/Big Brother Manual, the most important advice: Keep smiling and try not to kill her. As a Littlest Sister, I did not receive that manual. Only the one titled The Youngest Child: Ways to Eternally Annoy the People Who Love You Most... But Hey, at Least You're Cute!.


It's true, you know.

I am adorably cute.

Just...

just not in that particular photo.

Two and a half days 'til 25, and I just got off work... can you tell?