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Horse farms. KFC. The smell of wood burning fireplaces. Rebecca Ruth’s bourbon balls. Two wired-haired fox terriers (and one that wears a pink Snuggie). My bathtub. Hot tub.

Kentucky bourbon balls to the rescue! (courtesy of myownsweettyhme.blogspot.com)

These are the things involving my spring break officially beginning at 5 p.m., Thursday, March 18, that is after I ride the CTA for 1 hour, 30 minutes, fly Southwest for 45-minutes, and drive back from the Louisville airport to my homestead of Frankfort, Kentucky.

Living in Chicago has made me appreciate – for the first time in my life – warm weather and just how joyful it is. The everyday process of picking up my wool beanie from my shelf, gathering my mittens from a random pile of outerwear, applying sunscreen and lip balm, and zipping up my puffy coat, really gets old after two months. And not to say, ancient, after three or four. When I call my boyfriend in Durham, North Carolina and he tells me he just completed a bike trip in 55 degree weather, I feel more jealous than that time in high school when the prom queen wore the same dress as me. What else get’s old? Here’s a list.

Looking at this hopelessly frozen lakefront. When spring/summer finally comes, I can make luxurious jogs, take sailing lessons, and ooooo and awww over peoples’ cute goldendoodles. But until then, I stare and point my mean finger at grumpy Lake Michigan.

Wearing the wrong shoes when I should have worn my rubber snow boots. At least 10 times this has happened. I don’t appreciate salt stains on my good tall, leather boots and I don’t like moist wool socks.

A snow day wearing appropriate shows - my hunter wellies.

It’s 6 p.m. and dark. Day light savings, oh where oh where are you?

•Chapped/wind-burned thighs and cheeks. Long Johns take up too much time to put on in the morning. I want to wear shorts, skirts and dresses, not five layers of winter wear!

•Humidifiers that force you to clean them with white vinegar (you don’t have) and bleach every week. Sorry, I’ll just sleep with a stuffy nose and sore throat.

•Seeing your own breath.

Today a friend did remind me of one piece of hope: Day light savings takes affect March 14. Then there’s spring break – also known as a heat wave.

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A Valentine Note


"You and me sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, first comes puppy love, then comes puppies and more puppies" (courtesy of aaas.org)

For the second year in a row, I’ll have a Valentine’s Day celebration. We’ll make shrimp scampi – our tradition – and drink North Carolina blueberry wine. I love the idea of saving money, an alternative to dining out. I can still wear my grey dress with pleats. But I’ll need to make sure not to drop shrimp shavings on it.

Then there’s the Valentine Day gifts. I don’t want to over-do or under-do the gift-giving. Since I tend I’m hyper-creative, I bought a basic blank card with a pair of Great Danes on the front. So this year, I’ll just be responsible for writing a note, and not creating the card from scratch paper and ribbon. I find the general Valentine’s Day gifts outrageous. Here’s a few thoughts on making heart day fuzzier:

Instead of roses I’d prefer an indoor fern that lasts long through the winter months. And in honor of Michelle Obama’s fight to end childhood obesity campaign, a new way to spend V-Day may include eating red and pink fruit. Hello, apples and grape fruits! Dear Supermarkets – I’m talkin’ Whole Foods – step it up. Make a pink and red-themed fruit display already.

Seek entertainment The Blue Man Group = a mind trip to take a date to. Last weekend, my parents bought tickets for us to see the show. I was immediately opposed, but ended up going. All I heard was they throw a wasteful amount of toilet paper into the audience and stroke one another’s faces. But I was wrong (even though those things did happen). The Blue Men invited the audience into their world, not the world of any other play I’ll ever see. One of the Blue Man sling-shotted smashed bananas on my mom. When the Blue Men had a “who can fit the most marshmallows in your mouth” contest, I didn’t have answers. But maybe you will.

Watch “19 Kids and Counting” together. Great kids yes, but you’ll learn what happens when you’re really fertile. You don’t drive a mini-van. You drive a tour bus.

Take turns reading the AP Stylebook out loud. Look up “pooh-pooh” and “mips,” and “moneymaker.”

Surf videos on cute puppies. This is as addicting as cherry-chocolate Hershey Kisses.

Like a Good Disease

Amish in the downtown Chicago? Believe it. After walking down to a McDonald’s for breakfast on State Street, I noticed the banner sign above a few windows. It’s called Rise N Roll. So I went in, along with a few of my other classmates, to discover tables of jams, homemade breads, cheeses, and the best hazelnut peanut brittle ever.

Let me back up. An Amish man who works at the store, named Verle, offered us a sample of veggie chips and cheeses. I was a little hesitant at first, but I said sure. Later that day, I returned and bought a container of brittle which I devoured in less than a week. And my friend Jennifer bought the freshest salsa she’s ever had, she says. I talked with Verle a little and our conversation led to the girl he’s courting long distance. Yes, courting. Not dating. Courting leads to marriage; dating doesn’t.

Then I think, has my Amish fascination started back up? Yes. It’s like a disease out of remission. But in a good way. Want to know how it all began? Go on. Read on …

(Courtesy of justbarely.net)

I was 13, in the year of the sixth grade blues – you know, that awkward time when the first zit forms and you fall of your bike multiple times while scoping the neighborhood for people to by your candy bars. And it was the year when you didn’t fit into any social groups. So you fantasized about the friends you wanted/hoped to have. That’s when the Amish came in. Or, when I ignorantly pronounced “Amish” with a long “a” sound.

My grandmother – a lifetime member of Toby Tours, the senior citizen tourism machine of choice – asked me to go to Nappanee, Indiana with her. We would eat lunch with an Amish family in their home and visit Amish bakeries and markets. Cute Amish boys rode bareback on horse through their front yards wearing overalls. The overalls did it for me.

When the giant tour bus weaved down the roads of northern Indiana, I knew I wanted to stay here forever. I wanted to be Amish. Seriously. I would marry an Amish boy and make him grow a beard because that’s how you tell a married guy from a non-married one. I learned the courting process took place at around 18. So give or take, I had about five years before I could marry. But before that, I would just magically join the Pennsylvania Dutch community, leave my “normal” English life, and forget about my favorite TV shows. Oh! What would I ever do about Saved By the Bell or my hip-hugger jeans and lip gloss and high heels? Here’s some questions I considered when I was contemplating joining the Amish:

1. Would my new Amish family let me eat Chef Boyardee ravioli?

2. What about ballet, tap and jazz lessons?

3. Could I still get my driver’s permit? But I guess a horse and buggy would be cool.

4. How do I heat up Hot Pockets if there’s no electricity?

5. Can I still get manicures? At 13, I had already had one for my birthday.

The answers to my questions shared a simple “No.”

But I was still ready to wear a bonnet and never cut my hair. That same year, I presented the Amish in a final presentation for Language Arts class. I entertained myself with Amish romance novels including those by Beverly Lewis. In these books, a reporter fell in love with a blind Amish woman. When it came to their lifestyle, I was the most informed 13-year-old. Nowadays, I don’t care to change my lifestyle, rather observe what I don’t have.

Okay, I know. My pie, now cold, has sat out of the oven for a painfully long time. And now it’s probably rotten, fruit flies swarming about, ready to throw in the trash. As my poor metaphor states, I haven’t been on the blog front in quite sometime. A combination of busy-bodyness (sp?), moving, and writer’s block attributes my lack in recent blog postings. But don’t fret. I’m turning a new leaf, or rather baking a new pie, I like to say. My wish for reconciliation even trumps the two stories for class due this week. So now, enjoy some highlights.

About the first or second day in Evanston, I screamed in the bathroom,”What’s this bumpy, red rash doing all over my thighs and knees?” I called my boyfriend’s brother who is a resident in Jacksonville, Fla. My call went to voicemail. Did I eat something? Did that cheesy chicken bacon burger poison my skin? Nope. I had wind burn. Wind burn? Isn’t that only for bikers and runners who run in windy conditions? Nope. Lesson learned. So my boyfriend – who was visiting me – and I drove to Dick’s Sporting Goods that night. We bought two sets of Long Johns – one silk and one cotton. Then I devoured pear cider for the first time. I guess that’s another story.

Old School (courtesy of neatorama.cachefly.net)

So back to the Long Johns. I consulted my sources, finding that “Johns” refers to boxer John L. Sullivan who wore long undies while in the ring. But then there’s the legend of John Quinion, founder of Morgan Knitting mills, who came up with the long underwear concept. Whichever the case, the undies come in an assortment of fabrics including silk, merino wool, flannel, and I’m sure many more. Wearing the undies about four times a week, for the last three weeks, has prevented my legs from chapping while keeping me cozy.

With owning long undies comes responsibilities. I’ve learned I must tell the people around me I’m wearing Long Johns, not Granny panties. Because if I’m not careful when I bend down or stretch upward, the Johns come to public view. “Guys, I’m wearing Long Johns. That’s not my underwear you see.” It’s also difficult to discern when it’s too warm to wear undies. When it’s upwards of 30 degrees, it’s too warm. The other day, my thighs felt constricted as in a wet suit baking in the oven. But it’s all worth it.

Here’s a great comparison: Ever had a chocolate Long John donut? They taste so good until you realize their expensive caloric price.

(photo courtesy i63.photobucket.com) Delicious chocolate Long Johns

Deep fried butter balls (courtesy of statefairblog.dallasnews.com)

 

Three-and-a-half months have come and gone. On Saturday, I’ll be packing my bags back to Kentucky, sporting my Hunter Wellies and Portland cashmere scarf. Then on to Chicago in January. And, if all goes well, Maine after that. Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to work at Down East! This fall has been ridiculously unpredictable. Let me provide a brief recap ..

1. Moved to a new town a.k.a. Greensboro in which I knew no one. Except my boyfriend in Durham, 40 minutes away. Thanks to Craigs List I ended up with a fantastic roommate, a fat kitty, an old orange kitty, annoying little white dogs that bark every time I get out of my car, howling cats to the right of our condo, and a semi-clogged shower.

2. Interned at an unfamiliar magazine, in which I received $0 in paychecks. Here, however, I learned  how to be a more conversational writer, and less critical of my work and other’s work I proofread. There’s also the idea of writing specifically for  a niche audience as in a VERY niche audience that desires the warm and fluffy, honey and maple syrup stories. My book review of Ron Rash’s latest collection of short stories was initially “too gory.” That’s A-Okay. I just removed the details about bloody bodies and raw eggs, leaving it up to Rash to fill in the blanks. I learned how much I enjoy the work Daniel Wallace and his Tar Heel Humor column.  

3. Watched more movies and TV shows than I could ever imagine. I’m a new fan of 30 Rock, Californication, The Blind Side, Fantastic  Mr. Fox. Not a fan of Zombieland. And the list goes on.

4. Went to the Dixie Classic Fair and witnessed fried butter (not that I tried any, but rather gagged as I witnessed its creation.) 

5. Became a fan of Paula Deen.

6. Got popped in the head by a giant horse. (See previous blog a few back.)

7. Side-swiped a Lexus, the driver oddly one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. 

8. Experienced some sort of panic attack, realizing I need to reduce my multi-tasking, anxiety inducing habits i.e. playing on the computer, worrying way too much. Ya know.

9. Had the time of my life in Durham with my boyfriend; For the most part, we slept late, and went out to eat for 90% of our meals. We also became proficient on the guitar medium level on Beetles Rockband. But, sadly, I can’t say that for the drums. As weird as it sounds, we shared the bliss of popping each other’s back. 

10. Perfected the art of concocting carrot souffle. 

11. Realized writing really is hard. It’s only fun when it’s done and/or when you receive positive feedback.

12. And how could I forget, served Greensboro’s finest at the local country club.

Now, the next chapter of my strangely exotic life begins. And I couldn’t be more delighted. After all, it’s scarf and brown boot season.

Gossip Girl

gossip girl

Did you hear what she said about your shoes? Oh no, she didn't!

Sometimes it starts innocently: “Okay, so I’m going to tell you a secret, and I know you want say anything to anybody, but please don’t.”

Sometimes it starts abruptly: “I’m going to rip her weave out. She stole Marissa’s man the other night when they went bowling.”

Sometimes is starts unintentionally: “Did  you hear Sue’s getting a nose job, and she’s seeking taxidermy for Roofus?

And sometimes it shouldn’t start at all.

So I came across a short book actually dedicated to the art of gossiping. It’s called “How to Gossip Nicely: A Southerner Ponders the Grapevine” by Susan Taylor Block. Well, I’m kind of a Southerner but I’ve never substantionally pondered the grapevine. Until now. In the first chapter, I’m told to avoid toxic gossip and in doing so I should refrain from cell phone conversations, “doing lunch,” “the walk” a.k.a. the Walkie-Talkie which gives me time to catch up on everything with my co-walker where we disclose embarrassing female issues, problems with pregnant second cousins who recently inherited $6.3456578 million, and the fact two police officers were sent  to jail for stealing a dozen Krispy Kremes. Please do note, however, I don’t have said issues. But if it’s gossip, I guess it doesn’t have to land in actually-had-occurred land.

Block suggests to follow the Walkie-Talkie mantra, “what happens on the walk, stays on the walk.” During my Walkie-Talkie, I shall not forget to discuss how horrific the wait service was at Magnolia, an upscale Yuppy restaurant in Durham, North Carolina; The scallops and prime rib were rich in delightfulness, but our waitress paused (and did this odd humming/”uhmmm” noise) for 20 seconds while determining if the fully-stocked bar served martinis. It did. What about the restaurant’s policy of not splitting checks?

Yes, I needed to Walkie-Talk about it, but instead I wrote up a review and stuck it somewhere in the public domain of the Web. That same night, I became the audience to my roommate’s heart pounding story where she witnessed an FBI raid. Since the police didn’t have a warrant to enter, they left and 20 minutes later, she says, a church van barreled down the block, honking its horn, and an old woman ran out of the house, into the van. Gossip-worthy news, at its finest; I repeated this story to at least five different people.

norman

Word sure does get around on that ol' grapevine.

What satisfaction do we gain from the Big-G? Is it the adrenaline of retelling a story? Added attention? Accomplishment? To me, the feeling of holding in a juicy tidbit of news is like holding it in when you need to use the restroom and your blatter’s about to pop. Furthermore, I feel it’s my responsibility to inform my roommate there’s now a new homeless beggar at our intersection, and to top it off, he’s an eccentric – a dwarf. Another story of an ecentric is found on page 13 of Block’s book: She recalls the story of a man who had a pet donkey and took it on car rides where he sat in the passenger’s seat, and also brought the donkey to a grocery store and a cocktail party where apparently he was “the best behaved ass of the night.” Or there’s the former chicken farmer close to my old college town of Murray, Kentucky who won America’s Got Talent. In a small town, you betcha he was and continues to be the center of attention at pot lucks, bingo gatherings, and at the gas station pump(s). That brings up another point: us gossipers tend to stereotype since it always makes for a better story. This lends us to news that’s been twisted, baked and/or turned up side down, known as exaggerated gossip, the most dangerous of its kind falling into the toxic category.

In the benefit of the doubt, some exaggerated  gossip is unintentional because maybe the grapevine has faltered in miscommunication down the chain. In these incidences, you should use your best judgement determining if the said news is worth spreading. Otherwise, it’s time to retire it. In high school I told a classmate I saw a teacher holding the hand of another teacher, therefor they had to of been dating. In this case, I was wrong; he had a twisted ankle and needed help up the stairs. Lesson learned: hand-holding doesn’t necessarily warrant dating. After all, in the early 1900s, brothers and sisters loved a clammy hand.

It’s difficult to determine if gossip remains gossip if you tell a stranger, particularly a hair dresser or your nail lady. That’s what they’re payed for – besides manicures and perms – to listen to your whining, complaining, dishing, bashing and other types of gossip that you would NEVER be the subject of. And there’s an entirely different type of gossip out there, known as literature. Literature, meaning book reviews, travel guides, food reviews, hotel reviews. Reviews through expedia.com or urbanspoon.com, on the same restaurant, range from 5 stars to 1 stars. Aren’t they just gossip, some true and some not, based on opinion just like my Crock Pot potato soup recipe from Southernliving.com? I proclaimed in written and verbal word never again will I make such runny, and tasteless soup.

If you talk about something, hear it, or repeat it, it’s gossip. So basically everything we say – unless revoluntionary – falls in the unescapable  trap. Where gossip takes place can, luckily, be pin-pointed, and ultimatly avoided. Right? Wrong. Some places I find gossip thriving includes any family function, nail salon, college dormitory, golf course, country club, dance class, horse stable, high school gym, work space, airplane, taxi cab, coffee shop, bar, or cup cake bakery.

Can you ever really avoid the Big-G? I take home gossip with me every day, and I wouldn’t trade my stories for any amount of pumpkin pie.