Wednesday, October 31, 2012

(Not Really) Wordless Wednesday: Happy Halloween!

image is from a vintage postcard you can actually buy here on etsy.
Happy Halloween! 
In the words of my mother, "Be safe, be legal, and be responsible!"

(or at least make sure the crime is so confusing the cops don't even know what to arrest you for.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ah, Now This is the Kind of Fall I'm Used To

The weather's gone cold and cloudy, with wind that blows freezing right through your clothes if you haven't layered up well enough.

It feels oddly like Illinois outside today. This is the kind of late fall weather I'm used to; cold and cutting.

We had to turn on the heat at work finally. I drank something like a gallon of coffee at work today just because I kept craving something warm.

Last night, Jason and I finally gave in and turned the heater on. We're keeping it low, at 65. I also bought a pair of fuzzy slippers that I'm probably going to wear down to adorable red heart-printed little rags by February.

I've been keeping track of friends and loved ones all along the Northeast coast; they're all fine, although some of them are currently without power and a couple are basically trapped in their houses until floodwaters recede. I was concerned we were overreacting before the storm actually hit, but now I'm beginning to wonder if we didn't underestimate it even so.

My heart goes out to everyone who lost someone to this storm.

I am making vegetarian chili and cornbread for dinner, and I'm going to try and remind myself to clean since we'll have a few people over, but I'm not sure how successful I'll be at resisting the lure of the warm blankets and snuggly cat on the couch over there.

Not to mention the snuggly husband.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sleepy Goats, Aggressive Reptiles and Other Sunday Fun

We went to the zoo today!

Our friend Jo invited us to come along with her, her little toddler son, and Sarah (who I may have previously informed everyone is a saint. Several times. Although mostly on facebook).

That's Jo's little boy and Sarah, inspecting some ghosts. There were wood cutouts of animals, blow-up witches, Frankensteins, ghosts, and all kinds of Halloween-y stuff all over the zoo, because they do this annual event they call "Boo at the Zoo", where you can take your little one around in a cool, safe environment to do Halloween things.

I was also informed doughnuts are involved somehow by Sarah? But I'm not clear on that.

The monkeys were all incredibly sleepy. Most of them are nocturnal or at least enjoy the nighttime a little better, so I didn't blame them. I hadn't had any coffee yet and was myself having a little bit of a time staying awake.

On the other hand, I had a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast and those monkeys got sweet potatoes, spinach, oranges, and other assorted fruits.

Lucky monkeys.

The reptile house was the best part. The reptiles were all pretty active and moving around, which is fairly unusual. This little guy above was fascinated by the little red UV light on my camera (it comes on just before the picture takes) and kept snapping at the plastic trying to bite at it.

There was a little girl next to me who kept shrieking with fear, giggling, and then telling me to do it again.

I liked that little girl right away.

Now, they have all this little standing benches so that little ones like Ben can stand on them and see better into the cage without parents having to exhaust themselves having to hold their kiddos nonstop. This worked out especially well when we saw this big guy above, the rhinoceros iguana.

Ben clambered up to see him. He was just hanging out on his tree branch at the moment, but when Ben got up there, the iguana decided it was a little interested in what was going on out there with all the people.

So he got off his tree branch and came over to check Ben out.

Ben was not certain how he felt about this, but Jo (the lovely lady in blue there), Sarah and I knew just how to handle the situation.

We took twenty thousand pictures.

 All three of us.

All at once.

Of course, a big part of the reason the zoo was so crowded is due to the labors of that lady up there, the giraffe Autumn. Autumn had a baby a few days ago, and you would think that this little baby giraffe is going to find the cure for cancer with the way people crowd around.

I mean, I can't judge.

I went and took pictures of Kiko, too.

He was pushed as far back against the back wall of the enclosure as he could get. He wasn't going to have anything to do with the crowds of people cooing over him. He's a little too young to really understand we can't get over the wall and get close.

Baby giraffes are perfect. They are exact replicas of adult giraffes, only tiny. I kind of want one to live in my yard.

There were turtles everywhere, large and small. Spotted turtles, box turtles, tortoises, you name it.

These big guys were my favorite.

I like any tortoise so large I could ride it like a horse.

Although I definitely wouldn't get anywhere terribly quickly. I still think I would cut a fearsome visage riding my battle-turtle into war, though.

They had big cats, too; leopards, lions, and this beautiful ocelot here as well. He was napping when we walked up, but obliged me and let his head raise long enough for me to get a picture.

The way everything works, it winds you on a pretty straightforward path. At the end you walk past what is essentially the petting zoo.

The petting zoo was full of passed-out goats and a pig who seemed to be eating the "animal food crackers" kids threw to him out of obligation more than any enjoyment.

Also, Sarah accidentally hit a duck in the head with a cracker.

We thought that was a fitting end to our zoo adventures.

We met some friends for lunch and coffee, and then headed over to the Greenville Humane Society. Jason and I are planning to get a dog after the holidays are over, and I had put us into GHS's awesome "Best Friend Finder" program. Basically, you list the kinds of animals you're interested in, and if any come in they give you a call to let you know.

We'd received a call that a German Shorthaired Pointer had come in, but by the time we got there he had already been adopted. Which is kind of sad for us, but awesome for the dog. We decided to check out the animals anyway, and I nearly walked away with a Boxer named Tyson. Unfortunately, he has aggression issues with smaller animals. I hope he gets adopted; he was such a sweetheart.

My cat is my baby, though, and she's already going to be pretty mad when we bring a new quadruped home and expect her to put up with it.

After a quick stop to look at the puppies and kittens (because seriously, you have to they are some kind of drug), we went our separate ways and headed back home.

I had an oatmeal raisin cookie for dinner, because I am a grown-up and I wanted an oatmeal raisin cookie.

Now I'm settled in to laundry, fighting the cat over who gets to have all the blankets (I'm losing), and I think I'll make myself a cup of tea.

Oh, and in a completely unrelated note, I gathered together something like 20 pieces of jewelry I don't think I need to have any longer, and put them in a box to give away.

Of course, I just bought three new pieces.


I suppose the moral of the story here is that balance is key, or possibly that I should just stop buying things.

I don't like that moral though, so we'll go with the balance one.

That one lets me buy new jewelry.

Friday, October 26, 2012

5 Things - The Reclusive Female Feline Enthusiast Edition

1. Yesterday was sort of an... interesting day, in bad ways and in good. We were on the right side of town for a while, so I ran in and picked up my new glasses, since they let me know they were in.

So... glasses. They are notable to no one except me, but I like 'em and this is my blog, so they're Thing Number One.

So there.

Don't worry, everything else will be much more interesting.

I hope. I promise.

2. Family Glassware from Uncommon Goods. You get to customize and pick out a set that represents your own family, which I think is pretty cool, although I suspect that if my mother were to purchase this, she'd end up with me represented by Child 5 in the little baby outfit.

I told Jason that I want to buy him this for Christmas, only I will wrap it all up in a big box, and when he opens it he'll find one Man glass, one Woman glass, eleven Cat glasses and a notecard that just says "Soon."

Because what good is Christmas if you don't use it to show your spouse a chilling vision of the Crazy Cat Lady-to-Come he married?

3. This is the article I spoke about in an earlier post, about the artist who gathers interesting plants, presses them, and turns into a kind of collage by framing each plant individually and having it arranged just so on a surface or wall.

It's worth a read; it's an unusual version of home decor, but I found it really interesting.

I am concerned that this place may just become a spot for me to declare my love for various and sundry things that appear in Garden & Gun.

So far I've held back.

So far.

4. The Cheapskates' Guide to a Greener Home over at Natural Health. It's a list of tips and tricks to make your house a greener place to live without having to expend a lot of (or, mostly, any) money.

While we've done some things with the house - we are installing the energy-efficient bulbs, we don't turn on the heat until sweaters and blankets just don't do the trick any longer, we don't keep paper towels in the house any longer - I'm not terribly good at this greening-my-home thing when it comes to stuff like watching how much I throw out.

It's a list I think about and kind of dwell on now and then. I'd like to deeply simplify and get as many chemicals out of our house as possible. In some ways I am all about the better-livin'-through-science, but I really lean towards the more all-natural stuff.

We've switched over to using vinegar and other more natural stuff for cleaning. The upside is that our kitchen floor looks great. The downside is that it turns out vinegar makes the floor a lot more slippery than our old chemical-stuff did.

The upside to that downside is that for the first time since I was a teenager, I have taken up sock-skating.

It's awesome.

5. One of my newer friends out in that there internet world (what my mother has referred to as my Axe Murderers since I was a teenager) started a blog semi-recently. She takes Pinterest finds and tests them out, to occasionally successful (or incredibly unsuccessful) ends.

Her last few projects have worked out pretty well, and at least one of them has me plotting an idea for a friend of mine.

Her blog, Living Pinterestingly, is over here.

You should go there and amuse yourselves.

Go on! Nothing more to see here. Move along.

I'll just over here staring at this Framed Cat Blueprint and deciding whether or not I am ready to be that kind of cat owner yet.

(the answer is yes, but Jason's answer is different and noticeably not yes. Meanie.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I think the cat has the right idea.

Today we walked five miles, did some cleaning, I ran to Barnes & Noble to pick up House of Leaves and have some coffee and lunch with my friend Sherrie. I've made myself tea, lost my phone somewhere inside the house (don't try calling me, it's on silent because clearly that's what you need to do before you lose a phone), I'm doing some laundry and trying to get up the motivation to do anything about the dirty dishes.

If I was smart I'd make a grocery list while I'm procrastinating on doing the dishes.

On the other hand, I have this whole internet to look at...

Listening to:

Buffy St. Marie, "The Big Ones Get Away"

Friday, October 19, 2012


This isn't the first frost - I've seen it the last couple of days, silvering all the taller grasses and the leaves. This is just the first time I decided to grab a couple of pictures of the pretty droplets as they begin to melt back into regular dew.

Driving to work this morning was lovely. Every time my car drew up a hill the air would be clear, every time I drove back down the hill there would be mist hanging not-quite-motionless over grass, steaming up from ponds, migrating across the road, preparing to evaporate as the sun rises.

I woke up this morning inexplicably in the worst mood ever. I know I joke about waking up like an angry bear until I've had my caffeine, but this morning it was more like a sullen giraffe or pouty snake. Caffeine appears to have cleared up the problem. Either that or simply the passage of time throughout the day. To be honest, I drink coffee basically nonstop through lunchtime so I can't really say which... there isn't even a control group for that test.

Does anyone know if you can press fall leaves? Some of those I see dropping to the ground are gorgeous, but I assume they'll just turn brown if you try to press them, right? I've been looking at this website's instructions. I may do something with them or at least use the colors for something. Or... who knows.

Sometimes things just catch my eye, but I've never really been drawn to hold on to flowers or anything. I think the idea came from a blog I've been reading lately who presses flowers. Well, and Garden & Gun recently had an article about an artist whose specialty is interesting pressed plants. Actually, that article is really neat and you should go read it - the artist in question searches out odd or very singularly Southern plants. They're framed, mostly individually, but then put up on a wall as a grouping, creating sort of an understated collage.

I've also been playing around with Pixlr - it's an online photo-editing site, completely free. You can add borders, overlays, create effects, or just sharpen things up a bit. I like to do a mix of the easy version and the advanced version sometimes just for fun, but I usually just keep whatever I end up creating to myself. It never seems to be quite as high quality as anything I create on our ancient copy of Photoshop.

Although if you're reading this blog for quality Photoshopping, we seriously need to sit down and discuss expectations.

Pixlr's not really going to get you the same effects as professional Photoshop or Lightroom or Elements or whatever the DSLR crowd is using these days, but it's fun.

I don't really take the pictures I take (especially those that came out of my phone, like today's frost pictures) any more seriously than that. If a hobby stops being fun... why do it?

I leave you with this:
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.
"October", by Robert Frost.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I Make Too Much Food

... an also, in a post about food, I inexplicably decide to show you a picture of fog rising into the clouds out of the mountains from our vacation.

Well, I think you'll bear with me.

So, I decided to cook right?

Well, I checked out this book from the library, because one of my primary pastimes is checking out the cookbooks that have the most pictures, drooling over recipes, and then handing them back having hardly touched them. Well, this time I decided I'd actually utilize at least one of the recipes.

So I picked this one. Meatloaf made with lean beef and really no added fat (getting some added interesting flavor from kidney beans, no less), in the book paired with a "spiced fruit salad" on the side. Sounds good enough, right?

I ran by the grocery store this morning (with a list, like an adult) and grabbed everything I thought we'd need for this week. Did I question the amount of beef it suggested I buy? No, I didn't.

No, I didn't think about why it needed a whole onion, or was going to basically drain a small bottle of ketchup. None of these questions floated past me at any point.

I'm pretty sure we've discussed before on this blog about how my sister managed to get basically all the common sense allotted to me and my siblings. The two of them got all the math ability, too. You know what I got? I can draw.

I consider it a worthwhile trade.

Who needs math anyway.

Well... maybe the person who bought all the ingredients for a recipe without ever noticing that the recipe was made to serve twelve people one serving each.

I made it anyway.

I made enough meatloaf to feed the British army circa 1778, which I would not have done were I alive then because I would be a rebel.

... or possibly have died of smallpox.

In any case, dinner was a raging success. The meatloaf was awesome and we probably ate more than our "allotted serving" and all that, and we still have enough that I don't think either one of us has to worry about making dinner for the rest of the week. I'm going to call this budget planning or something? Because that sounds better than "Whoops, I can't read serving sizes".

The spiced fruit salad, by the way, was apples and bananas cut up and tossed in lemon juice. Then you add green grapes to the mix and the whole thing gets a dressing made of nonfat plain yogurt, brown sugar, and cinnamon kind of poured over it before you eat. It is delicious.

Laundry even got done today... as well as going to my eye exam to get seen for a new pair of glasses, and getting my hair cut.

Also, I discovered that while my eyes are dilated, I'm not just sensitive to sunlight, my vision is also kinda blurry! Which is great, because I drove myself home.

Also also, on a completely unrelated note I discovered that I am a really good driver.

So did everyone else on the road!

So I definitely think today is a gold-star day.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I Shouldn't Be Allowed to Write This Without Adult Supervision

The best part about fall is piles of blankets on the bed, the warm little cocoon you make for yourself against the outside world, an excuse to wear scarves and long-sleeved shirts and the ability to walk for nine miles and not die of heat. The best part of Fall is chilly nights and warm enough days, chilly toes and other romantic notions that come into your head when the thermostat starts to finally dip.

The worst part about fall is your alarm clock going off at 6:30 in the morning and it seems like it's still as dark as midnight outside, and the world outside your little cocoon of warmth is frigid and you know you have to get up, and it is going to be one cold race to make it into the shower before your brain registers your cold little toes. Also our water heater doesn't stay hot long enough for me to have a nice long shower.

Stupid fall. I have invented so many new swear words during fall and winter, and don't even think that's a coincidence.

In any case, Jason and I overslept like woah thanks to that aforementioned cocoon of warmth that exists in the mornings in our bed on our days off. I'm talking like ten hours. Jeez. I'm not sure if I'm impressed or disappointed in us or impressipointed which is a word I just made up.

So, being reasonable people, we decided a walk for lunch was in order, and walked down to the Swamp Rabbit Cafe (it's a nine-mile round trip - well, close. What can I say, we're kind of ambitious). I decided that if I was going to do that much walking, I was going to make my food worthwhile, so I had an egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich on foccacia. And it was, well, 'worth it' does not even begin to describe the delicious. I asked for "the largest cup of coffee you even have", and I ended up making that coffee last most of the way back home, too.

Since apparently "the largest cup of coffee (they) have" was not enough caffeine for me, when we got back I made myself a yerba mate latte using this tea (my current absolute delicious favorite), honey, and steamed milk. I just barely held off making a run for fried chicken, because who walks for nine miles and doesn't crave the least healthy thing they can imagine?

Recently read:

This Book is Full of Spiders is the sequel to John Dies at the End. John Dies at the End is a novel by David Wong (the pseudonym for Jason Pargin) and was originally available in its entirety free on the internet.

Because Jason always always always brings this up, when it was available for free he read it, loved it, and tried to get me to read it. I demurred, for one reason or another. I continued to demur, always for one reason or another. He has probably told me to read the book online over fifty times. I never got around to it.

Finally, when the book was out in print and no longer available online, I decided to read it and bought us a copy. I brought the copy to Jason and said, "Look, it's out in print now! Let's buy it so I can read it!"

And Jason's brain exploded. But he forgave me.

So when the sequel came out, I decided to read this one right away.

In any case, John Dies at the End was online to start with.

 It was something Pargin did at his mind-numbng data-entry job, just trying to pass the time. One regular reader turned into two, then four, then fifty, then a couple thousand. It took off, was published, sold well enough to warrant a sequel and the sequel has made the Bestseller's list after coming out on October 2nd. The first book has been turned into a movie because it is the kind of insane ridiculous horror monstrosity that needs to be a movie.

I read This Book is Full of Spiders in one day.

Technically, I read the whole book in less than fourteen hours.

Here's my review as posted on Amazon (cleaned up a bit, since, you know, I do swear like a sailor who stubbed his toe on a crocodile occasionally... which is my way of saying please don't read the review on Amazon if you still have some image in your mind of me as a classy lady.

This is definitely a step up in Wong's writing skill. I read John Dies at the End and was incredibly impressed - I described it to people who asked about it as "Like Stephen King with a sense of humor. And actual writing ability. And also if Stephen King's books were ever actually scary. So... really not like Stephen King at all, but like... David Wong. He writes just like David Wong." I stand by that assessment.

Second novels sometimes fall prey to what they call the "sophomore slump", but I have to tell you, Wong just ramped things up in this one. Literally, kind of.

This Book is Full of Spiders really added to the challenges Wong puts in front of himself when it comes to writing - the point of view skips around, timeline skips around, and setting skips around.
The best part of the book, in my opinion, is Wong taking on John's point of view. In JDATE, everything is told from Dave's point of view, it's first-person, and it doesn't deviate. In this book, we get Amy's point of view, Dave's, John's, and other things entirely get in on the show (I don't want to tell you who - it's one of the best chapters in the book and I prefer to leave the surprise).

However, like I said, John's point of view is where Wong's writing really shines. John and Dave are friends and have known each other forever, so their thought processes aren't dissimilar, but in JDATE there's always this underlying sense (because it's how Dave sees him) that John is basically untouchable. No matter how much he drinks, what random drugs he does, what random women he sleeps with, nothing sticks to John for long and nothing throws him off - at least from where Dave is standing. In TBIFOS, we discover that Dave's version of John is not JOHN'S version of John. He becomes really three-dimensional and inside his mind is quite a BIT different than how Dave assumes his thought-patterns work. There were a couple spots in the book where I just sat back and went, "He's a real person and I don't know if he's going to be okay... and I don't know how I feel about that. Well played, Wong."

Dave also excels at pushing the action and pacing so that by the time we reach the final third of the book, you almost feel like you have to read fast or the action of the book will occur before you get there. Considering it's a book and it is literally impossible for that to happen, I'd say getting the reader to feel that way is impressive.

Amy also gets fleshed out further in this book, and I like her quite a bit as a character. She is, in essence, a basically normal person who gets to make the kind of faces people would really make if things like this began to happen around them, but she's also - smart, stubborn, and capable of handling herself and her problems more adeptly than Dave is at handling his own. She's never a damsel in distress, really, even in the scenes where she is in actual distress, and I'd like to give Wong a hearty THANK YOU because that shit routinely drives me nuts in novels.

I wish I could write all this down and send it to Wong himself somehow, but I suppose that would sound entirely too much like I'm taking up creepy fangirling, and that's definitely not the plan. At least not yet.

I will say, though, that this was definitely an excellent follow-up to JDATE, well worth the full hardcover price I paid at a local indie bookstore.
You don't really need to have read JDATE to get this book, but you should anyway, because David Wong needs more money, and I support the campaign to give it to him. Also JDATE is a great book - but this book is better.

So there you go.

If you can't handle horror, spiders, obscenity, violence, or really classless jokes, you shouldn't read either of the books. But if any of those things are up your alley, trust me, these books have my most seriousfaced recommendation.

I know you can't see it, but I am very seriousfaced right now.

At the moment, Jason is out with some friends of his doing nerdy friend things, and I am here debating hot chocolate and listening to the soundtrack to The Lion King musical.

And I'm wrapped in blankets, but my toes are still cold. Oh, well.

I'll survive somehow.

Through the power... of music.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I Shall Bury You in Photos of Leaves

I am watching (or about to watch, rather) the Vice Presidential debates. I had to watch the first Presidential debate after-the-fact, so I'm happy to see this one live on CSPAN's website.

So it's me, Jason, the cat, and some pumpkin hot chocolate I just made to use up the last of the pumpkin puree and coconut milk from our soup the other night, and the acting Vice President vs. the candidate for Vice President.

On the other hand, the lead-up stuff gives me time to put up some more pictures from vacation.

My last big post was just about Bryson City and the Fryemont Inn. These photos are from the hike - mostly from Deep Creek. It was overcast and a little bit rainy, which made the light quality strange and intense. All the trees were not just dark brown but pitch black with wet, the leaves were unbelievably vibrant.









I have so many more pictures - these are all I've had time to work on. Look for more photos in upcoming Wordless Wednesday posts.

Oh, the debate is about to start apparently. They seem to be done telling everyone to turn their cell phones off already, so I'm taking that as a sign.

Well, I'm off.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bryson City

Jason and I had this past weekend planned for a while. I did get the original idea as kind of a whim, though Jason and I talk about just booking a hotel room and disappearing for a weekend more often than you think.

Or perhaps just as often as you think... that really depends on who's reading this, I suppose.

A few months back, though, I decided to go ahead and plan a damn vacation already, since I was talking about it so much and we both need one badly. Since I no longer work a job where I have to beg, borrow, and steal enough vacation days to actually see my family in more than a passing glimpse (and Jason's job gives him the week of Christmas as a baseline, with a few days of personal-choice time), we actually had enough days to make this kind of thing happen.

So we packed up the car, drove into the mountains, and ate way too much food.

We stayed at the Fryemont Inn. Originally built in 1923, it's on the National Register of Historic Places (it even has a shiny plaque by the door) and the owners (who bought it back in the 80's) have worked hard to keep the original charm of the place.

This means, in a word, that the walls are thin and you can basically hear the conversations of the people next door. If this bothers you? You might want to stay somewhere else. But it didn't bother us, and to be honest we never felt like anyone actually kept us up at all. I mean, everyone basically went to bed around 10-ish since we all had lots to do the next day.

However, staying at the Fryemont also means the smell of old wood,a huge fireplace whose fire never goes out, and warmth radiating out into the lobby. Complimentary coffee, decaf, icewater, and hot water are right there with tea bags and hot chocolate packets. There are giant wooden doors they can deploy to close off the hallways and make the lobby even cozier. The rooms don't have TV, though there is a TV in the "kids' corner" type place in the lobby, and the wi-fi works there, too.

And it's perfect.

The room we stayed in was the perfect size for us - a bed, dresser, sidetable, desk, room to walk in, a sink, and a bathroom with a shower. The quilt laid atop it was heavy and there was a soft under-blanket as well to keep us warm, as well as a fan that blew cool air when we came in still sweaty from hiking. While we spent some time in the room reading in the evenings, we actually preferred to head out into the lobby, curl up on one of the couches provided out there, and enjoy all the people hanging out. This is what people used to do - be with each other in the lobby, talk to strangers, make new friends.

The price of breakfast and dinner is included with your room, and you pay your bill when you leave with all taxes and extra charges (like beer, wine, mixed drinks, or if you go completely nuts in the gift shop like I did and find yourself buying herbal bath salts for some reason). I had steak two nights in a row. I never eat steak, but the people at the Fryemont did an awesome job. We even ended up seeing the same woman working the dining room the whole weekend and she remembered us, as well as a server we'd had one night asking us what we'd been up to the day before. Friendly banter = an awesome mood to eat dinner in.

I maintain that Jason and I's habit of being as nice as possible to the servers, piling our dishes neatly up to the side when we were finished with them, leaving as little cleanup as possible and tipping generously probably alerted everyone that we had worked the service industry ourselves.

Seriously, I don't really mean to ramble on and on and I am so not being paid to gush like this over a hotel, but I felt like I was taking a chance when I made the reservations, that maybe a place this old wouldn't be a place I'd like, that maybe we'd miss the lack of TV too much... but we really didn't. Well, Jason and I don't really watch TV (beyond reruns of Frasier and Mythbusters on Netflix), but still, it was a concern.

It was a great base from which to go hiking or into town or do whatever.

Totally worth it.

Totally going back.

The Fryemont sits up on a hill just above downtown Bryson City, which is a city in that it has houses and shops and people live there. It's pretty much just a small town in an exceptionally gorgeous part of the country, and it makes no bones about this. "Downtown" is about three blocks.

Which meant it was a perfect afternoon shoppin' time.

Best places: Mountain Perks (best pumpkin latte I've had so far this fall - also staffed by the friendliest people ever, and as a side note some of those friendly people had the cutest children ever, so apparently there's something in the water here), Cork & Bean (what, me love coffee shops and restaurants that make fancy crepes? Who knew? Pssst - if you're ever there, try the Crepe-a-dilla), and the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad train depot because it had a barn quilt, like this:

.. and also because there was a place behind the depot called Choo-Choo Coffee & Trading Company that also (you guessed it) made awesome coffee. And also fudge. But mostly it's the gingerbread latte that won me over.

... also I love this bear-bench.

I love it a lot.

We had exhausted Bryson City (although we never did ride the railroad, since it didn't really fit into our plans - if we bring our hypothetical children with us, it's definitely something we'd do) in about four or so hours of wandering split over two days, but the little city is seriously a great place if you want to hike in the Smokies and want a good place to rest your head and unload your gift shop acquisitions...

I mean your stuff.

Unload your stuff.

That you brought with you from home.

This was mostly just to tell you guys a little bit about where we stayed, city and hotel. I'm trying to make this soup I found on Pinterest for dinner and I've barely had time to touch the actual hiking photos I took and the stuff from the Cherokee Indian Museum, so I suppose, once again I must end an entry with

More later.

But you forgive me, right?

Oh! Let me show you, in a single photo, why Mountain Perks was my favorite coffee shop.

"Hippies Always Welcome."

These people are my soul mates.

Monday, October 8, 2012

There and Back Again

I haven't been much for updates the last few days because Jason and I stole ourselves away for about three-and-a-half days up into the mountains. We got back about an hour ago and I am up to my elbows in laundry. I own four new books, two new T-shirts, several new postcards, and a frankly hideous amount of new photos are now living inside my computer.

I need some time to start wading through them.

More later.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Blue Skies & Book Talk

What's funny is that I actually feel like the onset of fall clarifies a few things. I'm kind of a transitional person (read: I am indecisive and change my mind every four seconds), and seasons that aren't really one thing or the other tend to speak to me, so right now the weather is good for my brain.

Although I do maintain spring is the best of all seasons. Granted, my birthday is in March, so I'm a little biased towards that time of year... which, by the way, is basically still winter in Illinois but is already delightfully on its way to full-on Seriously Spring in South Carolina. Don't get me wrong, the shift in climate isn't exactly like going from northern Canada to Florida or anything, but it is noticeable.

Right now is kind of a jangly time for Jason and I; we want to plan further than we are currently able to, but life keeps making sure we're reminded that it is nothing if not foolish to attempt to draw up concrete lists when the universe has other ideas.

I catch myself making five-year-plans, calling them foolproof, only to have to scratch some things out and move other things around a few weeks, months, or a year later.

The universe is a fickle mistress.

 One of my friends recently publicly announced her pregnancy, and between that and my niece's continual insistence on growing into an awesome person when my back is turned, it's really got me thinking about how we're going to fit a family into our house here as soon as possible. Well, maybe not as soon as possible.

As soon as the whole idea stops being kind of terrifying we are properly prepared.

Yeah, I like that one better.

The sky today was mostly clear and very blue.

Although here in the Upstate with all these rolling hills and the proximity of the mountains, it's not really like Illinois... well, a sky like today's sky still reminds me of it.

Central Illinois on a day like this is a great blue bowl overturned on flat fields that are brown lines, dust kicking up behind combines and sometimes obscuring the road. It's a thought that makes me a little bit homesick, although I hesitate to call it "homesick" since South Carolina is rapidly worming its way into my heart as well.

Well, one can have two homes and be homesick for whichever one you're not currently living in, I guess.

I can get kind of pathetic about it, though. For instance, I very nearly wrote an entry before work that would have been entirely about an old button-up shirt of Dad's that I stole from his closet sometime around ten years ago and still keep in mine.


I had a surprising amount of words dedicated to my sentimental attachment to this old plaid cotton shirt, overlapping deep teal, red, and black with pearly white snap buttons... and then I realized I was writing a blog entry about a shirt. I think there are better ways for you guys to spend your time than reading me waxing poetic about a couple pieces of cotton.

So instead I've waxed poetic about the sky, combines, and having babies preparing the house for the idea of maybe considering the concept of possibly conceivably considering having children.

Clearly an improvement.

Aren't you just so glad I share these things with you?

Good times are had by all.

 Currently reading: Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson.

This is one of the best nonfiction books ever written; it is simultaneously the story of the Chicago Worlds' Fair and the Fair's main architect, Daniel Burnham as well as a story about the chilling, truth-is-more-horrifying-than-fiction actions of serial killer H. H. Holmes and his accomplices, who turned an empty lot into a hotel that promised horror and death to many who stepped foot inside.

Larson is a novelist at heart, and he relies extensively on letters, memoirs, and other documents to be able to place dialogue directly into the story, not just using descriptors and exposition to move the story forward.

 I was going to put something here about how many times I've read the book, but I actually don't know because I don't exactly keep count or anything. Suffice to say, I have read this book many times. I first checked it out from the library back in my hometown, and got my hands on a copy of my own as soon as I could. It has a pretty important place on our overstuffed bookshelves.

Larson also wrote another favorite nonfiction book of mine, In the Garden of Beasts, about the final American ambassador to Germany before the official onset of World War II and his family. Like I said - Larson is a novelist whose novels just happen to be true. He is one of my all-time favorite writers.

I don't own In the Garden of Beasts, though... yet.

It's on one of my lists of things to do somewhere, I'm sure.

Probably right after remembering to actually paint the walls of our new house sometime.

I'll get right on that, I promise.

Right after I attend to this shiny other unrelated thing that has suddenly gathered my full attention instead.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Shed Your Skin

Today is a double-feature, since I couldn't really choose between this photo of the lizard...

and this one.

Which one is your favorite?