A Car Story

From the time I was a small child, my reputation with new cars was epic.  We’re talking, well established while I was still in diapers.  You see, friends, I used to be notorious for being carsick in new cars.  Every. Single. Time.

You know how, usually, when someone gets a new car, everyone wants to take it for a ride?  Well, the object of the game with me was always to see how long I could be kept out of the vehicle.  Because, you know, “vomit” sort of tends to diminish the lingering “new car” smell.  Just a little.

As I got older, I sort of outgrew my hurling habit, and it became fairlywidely accepted that I was no longer dangerous to new vehicles.  My bad luck shifted to bicycles (you’ve already heard those  stories) but I’ve even become more proficient in balancing my weight over two wheels in recent years.  In fact, I’ve even managed to balance on the back of Ryan’s motorcycle while texting, surfing Facebook, and even taking photos.  It seemed I had finally graduated.

However, someone who was unaware of my history made the grave mistake of granting me a driver’s license.  Since that fateful day, I have effectively managed to see Ryan’s 1997 Chevy Cavalier to its final resting place, after jumping a ditch, getting run over by an eighteen wheeler, and bouncing the tail end off of a concrete barrier, all in the space of one winter.  After making sure there was not one salvageable piece left on the car, I bought my 1997 Dodge Stratus.  Aside from using my beloved “Purple Beast” to attempt to pull the lawnmower out of the ditch in front of the house, that car left my possession without having felt too much pain after Ryan and I got married and decided to buy a larger, safer, “family” car: my Pacifica.  Because our Golden Retriever packs so many toys when we travel.  Oh, and because I can’t go anywhere without at least six extra pairs of shoes.  But that’s beside the point.

Anyway, though my Pacifica (Genevieve, for those who know her) has seen her own variety of nicks and scratches, she has actually managed to handle my disastrous driving style with class and grace.  The only real quarrel she and I have ever had was the day her built-in navigation system drove me an hour out of my way to get home after spending a day out of town assisting with a seminar for work.  She later informed me that she has a setting to use the “quickest route.”  Hrumph.

This week, my Aunt Sharon and Uncle Don have been in town visiting.  With an opportunity to spend more time with them than I usually can while they’re in town, we spent nearly every day of this week together.  Yesterday, my Auntie A suggested a day-trip for shopping, lunch, and antiquing in a quaint little nearby town.  Uncle Don volunteered to drive. Did I mention he just bought a 2011 Dodge Durango?

In an effort to head off any possibility of projectile vomit on the trip up, my aunts and I watched a movie in the back seat while munching on snacks.  We arrived without incident, did some shopping and ate lunch at a lakeside restaurant.

Think we might be related...?

As we finished lunch, my Uncle Don stretched…and placed the key to his brand new car in front of me.  Me!  He was allowing me to get behind the wheel of his brand new vehicle.  Me!  Um, me?

So the five of us piled back into the truck, me behind the wheel, and headed back toward home.  The car is a dream to drive, and though I was being very aware and cautious, I was still comfortable, which is an issue I sometimes face in larger cars.  I was doing great.

We were about 30 miles from home when the other car bumped into the side of Uncle Don’s Durango.  While I was driving.  The other driver missed her stoplight, or she wasn’t paying attention, or she somehow forgot to look right before turning left… whichever happened, the end result was a sizable dent in the rear door of my aunt’s and uncle’s brand new vehicle.  And I was behind the wheel.  Talk about bad luck!

Though I know the accident was not my fault, I hate that their brand new car was messed up.

So the moral of this story, friends, is that if you’re smart, you will not ever let me near your brand new vehicle.  At least, not before someone else initiates the first “ding.”





On Houses and Cucumber Sandwiches

It’s been an exhausting two years, friends.  It’s been nearly that long since Ryan and I began our search for the perfect home to purchase and begin the next phase of our life together in.  In those two years, we have looked at a countless number of homes, of all different sizes, shapes, styles and locations.

Of that countless number, we have agreed on four that we’ve found to be acceptable to our unrealistic ambitious expectations.

Of those four, not one has worked out.

The first one we found just a few short months after beginning our search.  It was a contemporary style home, with a beautiful cherry kitchen, high ceilings featuring skylights, and a two-tiered back deck, all on a very quaint street in a quiet little neighborhood.  Unfortunately, our offer was not what the sellers were looking for, and they flat-out rejected without even countering.  It was ok with us though; we consoled ourselves with the fact that we had just begun our search, and if it was meant to be, it would have worked out in our favor.  So we moved on.

The second house we fell in love with was a more traditional two-story, one street over from where my aunt and uncle bought their first home together nearly twenty years ago.  The neighborhood was familiar to me, and it felt like home to both of us almost immediately.  We fell in love with the house, even though it was just out of our price range, and continued to watch the market for the price to come a little closer to what we could manage without overstretching ourselves.  Finally last summer, our dream became a reality; not only did the price come down, but our first offer was also accepted!  I began packing up our belongings in August, certain that everything would go smoothly and we would be able to move in on our closing date.  Unfortunately, the home inspection did not go as we had hoped, and the one major issue we found with the house became an issue the sellers were unwilling to negotiate on.  Finally, after weeks of offers and what-ifs and phone calls and tears, we decided to terminate our contract on our dream house.  Again, we decided that it was just as things were meant to be.

This spring, after my job crisis and resulting decrease in our monthly income, we readjusted our expectations and our reality.  In March, we found a wonderful compromise: an adorable ranch with plenty of space and tons of natural light.  It was on the opposite end of the street from the first home we offered on.  But this time, our contract was being considered with another buyer’s competing offer.  The other buyers got the house, and we went back to our search again.  At this point, we didn’t even bother with the consolation anymore.  I was optimistic enough to have made some appropriate comment about how the third time’s supposed to be a charm and all that, but even saying it, I knew I was projecting more hope than I really felt.  Because what I felt?  Was exhausted.

The paperwork, the waiting, the searching, the hoping, the planning… it’s draining in a way that really makes me wonder why anyone ever moves.  Ever.  Because that’s just the first step.  Once the offer is actually accepted, there are still so many hurdles to overcome, from securing the professionals to conduct inspections on the house and the insur-ability of the the house and the appraisal and the financing… all the while, the interior designer in me is mentally inventorying everything I own, trying to figure out what is going in which of the boxes stacked in our basement, all waiting for the day something actually works out for us and I can unpack it all in a new house and make it all look brand new.  The optimist in me says there’s something out there for us.  The realist in me wonders if we’ll find it before we’re grandparents.

Two weeks ago, we submitted a contract on our fourth house.  This one was a spacious split-entry, one street over from the traditional dream home.   A split-entry was something I had promised Ryan I could never-ever!- be happy with.  This one was different, though, with two bright sun porches and a brand new kitchen and a couple of adorable fireplaces.  It’s cozy but still spacious, with most of the major items from our must-haves list.  Also, it was the first house we looked at when we began this search.  Two years ago.  We’re both so battle-weary at this point that we decided to put in a very high, very fair first offer to try to get things resolved as quickly as possible.  Our poor realtor, Suzanne, has had the patience of a saint throughout this whole process, but I think even she is ready for this to just. be. over.

Anyway, they counter-offered.  Without any thought for negotiating.  Their counter-offer was the same number as the purchase price of the house.  We countered, adjusting slightly and excluding a major amenity.  They countered back, with the same number as their first counter offer.  Minus the major amenity.  We terminated the contract.

We were expressing our frustration with this whole process last night, wondering what we need to do differently.  We’ve already adjusted our expectations for what we’re looking for in our new home.  Rather than looking for our perfect forever-home, we’ve decided to look for something a bit more reasonably-priced but with still enough space for our family to grow and space for entertaining our friends and family.

While we were talking about how many more “necessary” items we could scratch, I mentioned that I could give up the idea of having a “real” dining room as long as there’s a nice open-concept floor plan joining the kitchen to a space large enough to accommodate a big table (preferably in a space that would wear plum-purple on the walls.  I have this image in my head of a plum-purple dining room and I will not rest until it’s become an absolute reality.)  Ryan, however, is insistent that we have a dining room.  Since we began our search, that was the one item on my list that I wanted more than anything, and he has been very sensitive to that request, gently reminding me when I fell in love with places that didn’t have one that I would eventually regret finding a house without a dining room.  It was then that Ryan really put things into perspective for me.  His search for the perfect home can be compared to his search for perfectly-prepared food.

See, until I met him, I always thought I had high expectations.  Once I set my mind to what I want, I go for it.  Nothing short of the apocalypse will get in my way.  Come hell or high water, “determined” is what the “D” in my first name stands for.

Ryan, on the other hand, doesn’t know exactly what he wants; he just knows that it has to be perfect.  Obviously, nothing in this life is perfect; not one of the houses we offered on were perfect either.  They all had little quirks here and there that I would have changed.  They all had little quirks here and there that couldn’t be changed.  But regardless, they were all close enough to what I had been looking for that I would have changed what I could and look at the rest as long-term goals and projects.

Last night, though, as we were talking, Ryan pointed out his absolute intolerance for imperfection.  He compared our home-search to my cooking:

(*Ed. Note: I’m paraphrasing here, and possibly combining two different conversations.  Regardless, we arrive at the same point.)

“See,” he said, “It’s like your cooking.  You’re a good cook. I like your cooking.  But if my broccoli doesn’t taste right or if the meat is overcooked, I’m gonna tell you about it.  Because that’s just how I am.  I find problems with everything, even if it’s just to nit-pick at something.   Now, the way you make cucumber sandwiches is perfect.  You make ’em just like my Grandma Merrow used to.  She made the best cucumber sandwiches ever, and you make them just like she did; that’s why I can’t make my own.  I’ll just mess it up.  There are two things in my life that I can’t complain about not being perfect: my wife, and her cucumber sandwiches.”

Food analogy aside, and the fact that I fall into rank with my ability to toast two pieces of bread, slather them with mayo and slap on a few cucumbers and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, is that not the sweetest thing ever?  See why I married this guy?

And so friends, as we continue this journey to find our perfect home, I’ll just keep reminding myself that our cucumber sandwich is out there.  Somewhere.  And yours is too.




Idle Hands

You’ve heard that saying about idle hands, right?  I’ve heard different versions of it: “Idle hands make mischief,” “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” “The devil finds work for idle hands”.

My hands may or may not be idle over here, friends.  I’m not sure I’ve decided which applies.  Or if one leads to the other.  I’m just not sure.

Regardless, I spent last week preparing our house to finally-FINALLY!- having our carpeting replaced.  Of course, as with most everything I attempt, it was a kind of  debacle, but it’s finally done and we are back to normal and our little home-improvement project is complete.

If you remember, this project began back in October, when I began comparing paint swatches and carpet samples.  The week before Easter, we began the actual work by painting the living room and hallway.  After a little dilemma with the carpet I really wanted, we settled on one that was in-stock and last Monday, I placed the order.  Silly me, I was under the impression that placing an order (and paying in full) would allow me to pick the best time for me to have them come and install.  Also, since Ryan and I are such beasts where physical labor is concerned, we had decided to waive the fee of having the installers also remove and dispose of the old stuff; we agreed to tackle that task ourselves.  For this reason,  I wanted to have at least a couple of days for us to move all of our furniture and get the existing carpeting out.

Finally on Wednesday, I called and bugged  politely requested to speak to someone who could give me some idea of what was going on.  I had already started packing up our stuff, and needed to know if my efforts were in vain or if something was actually going to happen.  Apparently, we had been scheduled for Friday, and nobody had told me.  I was, um, a little miffed.

So when Ryan got home Wednesday night, we ate our last supper in the living room, over the old ratty carpet.  Wings and pizza, of course, with a glass of red wine thrown in for good measure.  (Of course, nothing was spilled… I’m saving that trick for the nice, new carpet.)  Last week was also one of the hottest weeks we’ve ever had in early June.  It was the perfect week for physical labor without air conditioning.  Anyway, by Thursday morning, this was our living room:



By Thursday night, our bedroom was in the kitchen and the rest of the ugly green carpet had been removed to the front yard.  And no, the color certainly did not camouflage with the grass.  Not even close.

So with our floor on the front lawn and our bedroom in the kitchen, we called it a day by dining at Outback…seemed rather fitting, no?  And then we called it a night in the guest room.

Friday morning, I gave the bare floors one last vacuuming, removed the stuff from all the walls, and found a home for all of the clothing in our many closets.  The installers arrived around 9:40 AM.  Since they were basically taking up our entire house, Clohe and I were relegated to the great outdoors; fortunately, it was a pretty nice day.  I managed to give Clohe a bath with the garden hose and wash my car, and trim back some of the overgrown weeds outside.  I’m convinced that my weeding performance alone was worth charging the guys back on some-if not all- of the installation cost.  After all, it’s probably not every day they get to watch some five-foot-nothing chick wearing capris, flip-flops, and a baseball cap go at weeds with a hand saw and pruning shears.  But I digress…

So by 3:40, they were finished in the house and I was able to get in and get everything thrown back together.  By the time they were done, just before Ryan got home with the muscles to get most of the furniture put back, our living room looked like this:

Our bedroom looked like this:

…the hallway looks like this:

…and my thigh looks like this:


which is the only noticeable battle wound I accumulated, aside from the 1/3 of a toenail I broke off while trying to move furniture.  Cause, you know, of the flip-flops.  For me, this is not bad.  There wasn’t even much blood!

And now, our house is back to (almost) normal.  The only adjustment is going to be trying to keep dinner OUT of the living room.





























Grass Clippings

So it seems I should not cut grass.

I don’t have much experience with the chore; growing up, though we lived in the country and had plenty of grass to cut and more than enough kids to pitch in, my brothers pretty much took over.  I helped occasionally, with a push mower for the trim work around the house and our above-ground swimming pool.  However, allergies that caused my eyes to swell shut and more than enough bee-stings to last a lifetime finally convinced my parents that I was too accident prone to pitch in.  Besides, as the only girl for most of the time I lived at home, I was needed for other chores.  Most of which I avoided, naturally, but that’s beside the point.

When Ryan and I moved away and it became just the two of us, I decided it was time for me to re-learn the joys of grass-cutting.  Of course, Ryan and my dad have had enough man-to-man chats during which we tell embarrassing stories about yours truly, that he’s made sure I’ve had few opportunities to hone my skills in the past few years.

The one exception, before today, was the first summer we lived here.  We had a long weekend away planned, and I wanted the grass cut before we left.  Ryan had somewhere he needed to be, and was unable to get to it, so I decided to step up my game and offer a hand.  I mounted our 1960’s-era Cub Cadet lawn mower and set to it.  I did pretty well man-handling that beast, and was just finishing the last little bit near the road when all of a sudden… the tractor just flat-out died.  Unsure as to what had happened, yet knowing I needed to get the thing back into our yard, I pushed the dead machine back into the driveway and out of the way until I could figure out what the problem was.

Just as I was getting it into the yard and had determined that I had, in fact, run out of gas, the Laws of Gravity and Murphy decided to kick my butt simultaneously.  The lawnmower began moving toward the 4-foot-plus ditch that runs between our yard and the main road.  So I grabbed the seat of the tractor and dug my heels into the grass.  It was, obviously, to no avail, and the stupid tractor buried itself in several feet of mud.  Since I was still home alone (I hope you’re picturing that Maculay Culkin movie.  It bears striking resemblance to my solo adventures) I needed to find a way to remedy the situation before Ryan got home.  Moral of the story, here:  when looking for assistance while appearing to be a Damsel in Distress, attach a piece of rope to a lawn mower on one end, and a 1997 Dodge Stratus on the other and drive.  I guarantee the neighbors will be knocking on the door in moments flat.  I can not, however, guarantee that they will not be accompanied by the people with the hug-yourself coat with all the pretty, shiny buckles.

Moving on.

Fast forward a couple of years.  Ryan has had another hellish couple of weeks at work, including staying late most evenings, and one morning when he was called in at 4:30AM.  Since he treated me to dinner at my favorite restaurant last night, I thought I would return the favor by cutting the grass for him this afternoon so he could enjoy a relaxing Friday evening in.  I even picked up a couple of his favorites at the grocery store, planning on grilling for him this weekend.

There was only one problem with that moment of genius.

I don’t know how to use the “new” lawnmower.

Apparently, while I was trying to figure out how to make the darn thing “MOW,” I messed with the blade height, effectively scalping our lawn.


Oh, and also, even though I was completely sober during the entire experience (come to think of it, maybe this was the problem.  Hmm…), the lines from the mower are so crooked and uneven that one might wonder if my eyes were even open while I was working.

So, lesson learned here, friends: I will now be confining my domestic talents to where they belong.  Um… hmmm.  What domestic talents?

Happy Weekend!




Yes, blue.  And I am not referring to Patsy Cline or LeeAnn Rimes, either.

 That’s what color I turned our house last night. 

And no, there was no paint involved.

Last night, I broke one of my very own, hard-and-fast, cardinal house rules. 

I deep-fried. 

In my kitchen.

And I paid.  Oh, I paid dearly.  Because I have literally, in the five-plus-years we’ve lived in our house, deep-fried homemade French fries a total of two times.  This includes yesterday.  This is why I do not allow deep-frying in my house.  And to think, it was my brilliant idea.  I am a genius.  A genius who so desperately loves her husband that she will do absolutely anything to make him happy.  Anything, including turning the house blue.

Here’s what happened: I had a meeting last night at 6:00, which meant I had to leave the house at 5:40.  Ryan got home at 5, and I wanted to surprise him by having a different dinner from what I had told him we were having, ready on the table when he walked through the door.  So, rather than Monday night’s leftovers, I made him hot roast beef sandwiches on French bread with homemade gravy and homemade French fries.  (hmmm, I must’ve been feeling a little French last night, though I didn’t realize it until just now.  Ooh, la la.) 

Anyway, when I dumped the mountain of sliced’n’diced potatoes into the vat of boiling fat on my kitchen stove, the entire house erupted with sounds and smells reminiscent of a bad carnival.  Then, to add to the chaos, the smoke alarms in both the kitchen and the living room started to go off.  To top it all off, a blue haze quickly descended over the entire house.  Understand, when I say the “entire house,” that I am describing a small amount of space; we live in a house that is less than 1,000 square feet.  We have three bedrooms, one bathroom, kitchen, and living room.  That’s literally all the “house” we have.  So it didn’t take long for the blue stuff to settle in. 

However, as of the time of my departure this morning, the blue haze was still hovering over everything.  Including my hair and my clothing, in spite of my morning shower.  In fact, as we experienced thunderstorms all through the night last night, I was continuously awakened to the claps of thunder and flashes of lightning (the very ones that were forcing our dog to hide under our bed, shivering and whimpering in fear).  Every time I woke up- due to either the thunder or the dog’s cries- the first concrete thought to run through my head was, “damn.  It smells like French fries in here.  Gross.” 

Tonight, I will not cook.  We have already mutually agreed to order out.  In the meantime, I will be airing out the house and lighting every single candle within reach.  And hoping the candle smoke clears out the fry smoke.



Monday. Mornings. AKA, Two Words that are NOT Harmonious Together.

So, we’ve previously discussed my distaste for the torturous twenty-four-hour period in my week that is Monday.

I do not believe, however, that I have ever expressed my hatred for mornings.  I am, to put it quite mildly, NOT a morning person. (Insert sweet little smile here, with an irresistible little eyelash flutter.)

So what happens, you may ask, when my least favorite day of the week happens to coincide with the time of day when I am at my girlish WORST?  This morning.  This morning is a prime example of how time clashes to create a series of incredibly unfortunate events.  Well, ok, maybe I’m being slightly melodramatic; it wasn’t THAT bad, and in hindsight, maybe it’s even a little funny.  I’ll let you be the judge.

Since I changed jobs about 9 weeks ago, my daily routine has seen a complete overhaul.  While I have, for the past several years, been the mature and responsible adult who was able to haul her sorry self out of bed in the mornings and stumble, bleary-eyed into the shower before waking my husband and setting him about his day, I am now a lounger in the mornings.  I refuse to leave my toasty cocoon a moment before absolutely necessary, usually choosing instead to take a few moments to catch up on current events and celebrity gossip a la GMA and the Today show, or preferably squeezing in a few more pages of whatever book is calling to me from my nightstand.

This morning, the latter won out, and I spent a good half hour immersing myself in the life of a convicted pirate post-escape-from-two-near-hangings and his mistress/wife/ex-wife/baby-mamma drama of the 1840’s.  Fabulousness, I tell you; my guilty pleasure in the extreme.  When I finally dragged my attention from the throes of the couple’s life as they were, stranded on a deserted island with a newborn baby and being attacked by pirates (oh, the irony!), real life called to me and I realized that there were two abandoned baskets of clean, folded laundry that really required my attention before I began my day.

I tended to the laundry, paid Clohe a moment’s attention of which she has been long deprived (ahem, NOT!), and wrestled wardrobe, hair, and makeup into some semblance of a presentable human being, gulping down a mug of coffee in the process.  After my maniacal morning ritual of checking to be sure the coffee pot had been turned off for the gazillionth time, I poured the remaining half-pot into my commuter mug and put it on the table next to my purse, so as not to forget my life-juice.  (Yes, that is precisely what it is.  I swear, I will make millions on the invention of an intravenous caffeine drip.  Watch me.)

After determining that I was already running late and thus did not really have the time to be concerned with the fact that my bright pink shoes and my bright orange raincoat did not exactly coordinate- to my absolute dismay!- I rushed through the kitchen to check the coffee pot for the gazillion-and-one(th)- time (yes, I said oneth.  It’s my blog and I will invent words if I want to.)  Anyway, after checking the coffeepot again, I snatched up my purse and the empty wine bottle sitting next to it, and rushed out the door.

An illustration of my favorite shoes, making their encore appearance here.

I’m not sure where the reality check finally kicked in, but I know I had actually turned over the engine of my car, but had not put the car into gear, before realizing that an empty wine bottle was not going to benefit me- or my coworkers- in any way.  Furthermore,  I surmised that in my haste, I had also overlooked another, rather important, work-related detail: my work bag, containing my laptop, notes, and planner.

Of course, my absurdity cost me: on my way to work, I found myself creeping at a ridiculous 35-miles-per-hour behind an elderly gentleman in a Subaru in a 55MPH zone.  Once he took the opposite fork in the road, I was sure I was home free, but the fates were having too much fun with me this morning to let that happen, so another absurdly slow vehicle pulled out in front of me, this one increasing its speed to 40-in-a-55.  And again, the constant traffic heading in the opposite direction allowed not one opportunity to pass him.

Somehow, by some miracle, I was still at work on time.  Of course, having published my stupidity of the morning on the internet, my coworkers (who have known me for only a couple of months, and are apparently catching on to the fact that I’m far more amusing in writing than I am in person) could not wait to bust my chops about bringing alcohol to work.

Somehow, I managed to make it through the day without further incident.

In fact, it was quite an enjoyable evening, with a visit from my friend Janelle and her daughter Lexi; a quiet dinner- at the table!- for hubby and me; and a quiet night for us in the middle of hockey playoffs.

So there you have it, friends: another example of how I just may not be ready for this whole “adulthood” thing I keep hearing so much about.

The Crazy Aunt: AKA, Winery Shenanigans and Setting A Good Example

Everyone has one. You know- the aunt the kids know they can always get in on some hair-brained scheme like launching water balloons at neighbors or staging bubble-gum blowing contests.  Of course, I am completely exempt from this rule- my family is completely normal, and I certainly don’t have anyone I would refer to as my “crazy aunt.”  Except that… in recent weeks, I have learned that I might BE the crazy aunt.  And I don’t even have nieces or nephews by blood.  Nor do I intend to for several more years (I hope you’re reading this and taking it very seriously, Derek, Brandon, Cory, and Peanut.)  However, I am loving my duties as an aunt to a couple of “adopted” nieces and nephews.

So the question you’re probably asking is, what makes me a crazy aunt?  Am I right?

Let’s start with the name.  Back in the dark ages, when I was in about- oh, 7th grade- a good friend of mine blessed me with a nickname that would serve to haunt me well into my adult life.  Though few of my college friends and other friends I’ve met in “the real world” know this, in high school I was known only as “Hootie”- even to some of my teachers.  The name is basically based on a misunderstanding, but believe me when I say it has nothing to do with anatomy.  I promise.

A few of my high school friends, (and sometimes even my husband, whom I didn’t technically meet until just before I started college), still use the  nickname, either as an endearment or because my true identity has escaped their memory.  My friends Kayla and Bekah fall into one of those categories.  Or possibly both.

I recently received a text message from Kayla asking if I would be available to watch her two adorable little ones, ages one and two years, while she ran an errand.  Of course, I’m addicted to children so I couldn’t refuse, and I accepted without needing any real coercion.  And when I arrived, I was greeted by two angelic voices shouting, “Hootie!”  We’re friends with another married couple who have a tiny one as well, with another one on the way.  When Little #1 was born, I was also dubbed, “the baby thief,” because once I had him, nobody else had a chance.  Little #1 and I are good buddies though, and I will go to any extreme necessary to make him laugh.  Though he doesn’t know me as “Hootie,” I’m pretty sure I’m “Crazy Lady” to him, at the very least.

This past weekend, my friend Bekah and her fiancé Kasey came to visit the local wineries.  We do this a couple of times a year- get together and invade the shops of local wine makers.  It’s always an adventure.  Ryan has accompanied us once, driving around while Bekah and I sat in the back seat, giggling like a couple of teenagers.  At everything.  This time, Ryan had an RC Race and was not able to join us, so Kasey was responsible for the two of us and our shenanigans.  He did a great job of supervising two tipsy, giggling women, and he remained calm and patient while we snickered and stumbled our way through the afternoon.  Finally, at our third stop, we encountered a couple who seemed to be having as much fun as we were.  So we made friends and teamed up for the remainder of our tour.  We then became three giggling drunk ladies and only two men to keep us from doing anything we’d REALLY regret.    One of our first adventures with our new friend was the discovery of  this poster- which none of us wanted to leave the winery without.

Finally, once we all had our very own “Woman Pleaser” poster, we hit the road for the next destination with our new friends.


Of all the places we visited, though, the last one was the strangest.  We had a totally different experience here from any of the wineries we’ve ever visited, up to the proprietor requesting that two of us (from our already relatively inebriated group) read aloud from a newspaper article on the founding of the winery.  After testing our sobriety via “Popcorn Reading,” a la first grade, we were permitted to advance into the “tasting room,” and afterward moved on to the couple of wineries we had missed before closing time.

Unfortunately, we were too late and the others were closed, but we still enjoyed ourselves.  We parted ways Saturday night and promised to get together with Kayla and her kiddos Sunday morning for breakfast before Bekah and Kasey headed home.

We did have brunch with Kasey and Bekah, and Kayla and the little ones, who sat at our table shouting “HOOTIE!” during breakfast.  They even laughed at the appropriate times while we joked and laughed after my meal arrived on two plates and I suggested that I might have to stay and work washing dishes to pay for such a huge meal.  But before we parted ways, I received several sloppy kiddie kisses from each of them, reassuring me that even if I am their crazy aunt, they still love me.

Hey, we all have to be known for something, right?



Love Holidays

As previously discussed, I love holidays.   I don’t really need to confirm this; just last week, I blogged about being a member of a family that celebrated this Christmas in February.  At one point I noted strange and wacky holidays on the whiteboard in my office so I could provide chocolate or donuts or a laugh to anyone who had the guts to walk through my door.

So today presented itself with one of my very favorite ever holidays.  I LOVE Valentine’s Day.  (This may or may not have something to do with the fact that I never had anyone special to celebrate it with until college.  I grew up planning on being a lifelong member of the Spinster Sisters of America.)  I know, I know, lots of people dub it a Hallmark Holiday, an excuse for Kay Jewelers to break out their commercials again (because apparently they work on some people.  Apparently.)  But it’s still special and amazing and magical.  To me.  Because I found my Valentine.

I love that he went to the jewelry store for Valentine’s Day.  Not only did he come home with jewelry; he also covered the flowers, the card, AND the candy.  My contribution was going to be dinner.  Yes, I did say “was.”  Because the universe loves to play with my head.  He had mentioned going out to dinner while we were getting ready for work this morning.  But I still had my plan for dinner at the table, candlelight and all, and all electronic devices turned off until we finished eating.  Well, I got my candlelight…

I got home a little after 4, after stopping for a few errands along the way.  This is a completely new schedule for me, and I was unsure about what I was going to do with myself at 4 in the afternoon, when I haven’t gotten home much before 6 on a normal workday in…ha!  I don’t even know.  So imagine my surprise when I pulled into the driveway, hit the garage door opener in my car, and…nothing.  Thinking I was not close enough, I got a little closer.  Still nothing.  Thinking I was not pushing the button correctly (this coming from a girl who excels in pushing buttons), I pushed again.  And again.  Nothing.  Finally, I pulled my keys from the ignition and fought to remember which seldom-used key on my ring was going to open the man door so I could get in and use the wall-mounted garage door opener.  Imagine my surprise when THOSE buttons did not work, either.  Completely baffled, I walked into the kitchen to discover that the clock on our ancient stove read “2:45”.  at 4:05.  Which meant the electricity was out, and that interfered with my dinner-making plans.  Of course, going out to eat was almost certainly out of the question, because every place in town was sure to be at a minimum of a 90-minute wait.  And while Ryan and I are both planners, we can never decide until the last minute where we want to eat when we go out.  Our favorite Japanese restaurant didn’t have a seating until 9, and none of the other places we were hungry for accepted reservations.  Cooking was out, obviously, unless we were up for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in the backyard.  Which may have worked, except, remember what my back yard looks like?  Oh, and also, I don’t have any hot dogs OR marshmallows in my house.

Not much has changed since this photo was taken

In the absence of the hot dogs and the marshmallows, we opted for a casual, romantic evening out.  Pizza, wings, and beer.  We’re fancy here.

We came home to a still-dark house, so I set to lighting every candle I could get my hands on.  (Also, I went to a candle party a few weeks ago and can’t wait to put the new ones out.  So I burned up most of the old ones.)  Oh, and our house smells heavenly right now- a real candle smorgasbord, with the aroma of some freshly brewed coffee thrown in for good measure, and to thaw out our frostbitten extremities.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration; it didn’t get that cold in here.  But it was cold enough to warrant a romantic, candlelit snuggle.

Hope your Valentine’s Day was just as sweet!



Times: They’re a-Changin’

Warning: this post has the potential to get down and philosophical.  This brainless bimbo has some deep thoughts to share today.  Be warned, and be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Change.  It’s something we all deal with differently.  And, aside from the necessary paying taxes and death (a la Ben Franklin), it’s the only thing in this life that’s absolutely certain.

While I’m not a huge fan of change, I know it’s one of those things in life that’s going to happen, regardless of how hard I stamp my stiletto-clad foot or how far out I stick my glossy bottom lip to pout.  I’ve learned that these behaviors just. don’t. help.  So instead, I take the chameleon approach: find a cute outfit and matching shoes to fit the situation and roll with it.  While I may be kicking and screaming inside, painting an outer portrait of calm and serene is the only way to guarantee that I’ll make it through.  That we all will.

It scares me sometimes to think of how much change can result from one second.  One decision.  One slight movement.  If I had chosen (a) rather than (b), how different would my life be right now?  Everything around us is a result of change.  Some changes are for the better; in order to improve upon the lives we’ve built for ourselves, we have to allow change to happen.  Other changes occur that make us question what the higher purpose is; those changes that make us say, “why me?”  (This reminds me of an early episode of Grey’s Anatomy where a patient was experiencing a chain of unfortunate events.  Her way of coping was to look up, raise her hands, and exclaim, “COME ON!”  I can’t deny that I’ve felt an urge to do that on occasion.)

This past week has been full of change.  Obviously, all weeks are, but this week has been a real challenge for change-a-phobes.  Many people who are near and dear to me have experienced some pretty life-changing events this past week, and most of those have not been happy changes: my uncle undergoing a hip-replacement surgery; a friend whose home was devastated in a fire; TWO special people to us are waiting for biopsy results; and a very close friend is dealing with the grief that comes with losing a grandparent.  Life is changing for all of us.  Of course, there are good changes out there, too: Clohe only has two supervised visits remaining before she qualifies to become a certified therapy dog, and I start my new job on Monday.

With my own storm of change swirling overhead, I’ve been reduced to overeating.  Again.  Because one of my most amusing quirks is my dietary habits.  Oh, I have so many idiosyncrasies when it comes to food.  Food and I have this fabulously dramatic love/hate relationship.  I love to cook and bake, but once the meal or dessert has been assembled, I’m rarely hungry anymore.  That meatloaf from the other day?  I had more fun photographing it and writing about it than actually eating it.  Baking for me is more of a mindless exercise in stress-relief than a search for fodder.  And when I’m stressed to my limits?  Forget eating.  Food is most definitely the last item on my priority list at moments like that.  My college diet consisted of coffee, salad, and peanut butter, because most days I was either too busy or too stressed out to eat anything else.  So today, at the end of a week where I was haunted by the inevitability of change, with the reassurance that we will get through all this, I’m stuffing my face with pasta, Pringles, and those Keebler E.L. Fudge cookies that are one of my greatest weaknesses.  You know, rather than hiding in a corner rocking myself back and forth.  Because, as my mom often says, we sometimes just have to hitch up our big girl panties and deal with it.

The true revelation of our character is in how we deal with that change.  And, hard as it can be sometimes, I’m looking Change in the face and saying, “Bring it ON!”



This Week’s End

I’ve been AWOL.  MIA.  I have completely abandoned my blogging obligations.  It’s been nearly a week since you’ve heard from me.  I’m sure you enjoyed the quiet, but I’m back now, and ready to catch you up on the happenings of the last several days.

You knew my week got off to a rocky start when I told you about my flat tire debacle last Monday.  Tuesday I backtracked to Sunday to show you the scenery around here.  And Wednesday was Groundhog Day, for which I worked and worked to create an inside look at my hometown- Punxsutawney Phil’s hometown.  That post kept sounding cynical and jaded, though, so I was going to change topics and present you with something really fun and funny for Friday.

Then Thursday happened.

Have you ever seen the movie, “Up in the Air” with George Clooney?  Remember what his character, Ryan Bingham, did for a living?  (I’ve just spend nearly an hour trying to track down a YouTube clip- even if you’ve seen it, it’s worth watching again.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the scenes I want.)

Anyway, I received a speech on Thursday morning that took me back to that movie, resulting from a phone call from the west coast.  Almost the exact same speech- swear.  I literally almost laughed as they explained that I would be receiving my “packet” to tell me where to go from here, and requested that I return my keys and ID card, gather my personal things, and leave the building.  It may have been hysteria speaking.  Still, I was sane enough to honestly miss someone saying, ““Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it’s because they sat there that they were able to do it.” (An “Up in the Air” quote.)

Of course, my job does not define me, and I won’t be defined by reacting badly to a situation I don’t have control over.  So I’m moving on.  I’m taking the opportunity I’ve been given to help Ryan build the empire that is our life as a married couple.

We had already planned to be out of town this weekend, so I used my free time Thursday afternoon to finish my travel preparations.  In Punxsutawney, one thing you know you can always expect is the unexpected.

Remember when I told you that my family celebrates Christmas late each year, and that when I presented my homemade Christmas gifts to my mom and my aunts, I would pass it on?  Here’s a photo of the silverware wind chimes I made for them this year:

Simple enough; I found lots and lots of old silverware at a flea market, then used my pink hammer to beat it until it was completely flat.  (Not only was the end result pretty cool to look at; the action of beating silverware with a hammer was also a great form of stress relief!)  Then Ryan helped me to drill holes in the handles of the silverware, so I could thread heavy-gauge fishing line through the holes. I used my pink pliers to twist the tines of the forks to hold the lines for the dangling pieces, and my chimes have more forks than the others do, so I used the pliers to curl those tines also, for a more whimsical effect.  We celebrated Christmas on Saturday, and partied late into the evening.

We were awakened Sunday morning by the sounds of fire whistles.  Always expect the unexpected.

When we go to Punxsy, we always stay with Ryan’s parents.  Their house is just outside of town, but still pretty close to everything- including the fire station.  In the years since I started staying there, I’ve adapted pretty well to ignoring the whistles when they sound in the wee hours.  There have been only two exceptions.  The first time was the night the machine shed across the driveway from my parents’ house caught on fire, burning a fortune’s worth of my uncle’s farm equipment.  That night, the sound of the whistle stopped my heart before I even heard the address of the fire broadcast over the scanner.  The second time was Sunday morning.  The fire whistles sounded and something in the pit of my stomach told me that this was going to be close to home.  Close enough to be next door, as it turned out.  We awoke to the flurry of activity that always accompanies someone you know being in danger, and Ryan’s dad informed us that the problem was at the neighbor’s house where the carbon monoxide monitor had detected a problem.  Soon, fire trucks and ambulances were arriving and the neighbor came over to stay with us while the fire fighters checked her house for the source of the fumes.  Turns out, there was a problem with her furnace that seems to have started burning oil from within.  Scary.  Fortunately, within a few hours she was able to return to her home where the furnace repairman was waiting to diagnose and fix the problem.

Shortly afterward, just as I was leaving to wrench collect Clohe from my mom’s clutches care and say goodbye to my family, Ryan’s grandfather called to say that he wasn’t feeling well.  Ryan and his dad decided to take Grandpa to the emergency room to be sure he didn’t have pneumonia.  Fortunately, it turned out to be a sinus infection instead,  though he’s still pretty miserable.

So aside from a February Christmas celebration, being awakened by fire whistles on a Sunday morning, and a trip to the ER, the weekend ended on a pretty decent note.  We were home at a decent time, the car is unloaded and I have most of our stuff unpacked and put away, I have a load of laundry finished, and the best team won the Super Bowl (sorry, Steelers fans, it’s nothing personal, and it’s just my opinion.)  I’m ending the weekend on a happy note and ready to start the coming week with a smile and my head held high.  Because whatever happens, happens for a reason.  I’m ready for this.  I’m ready to take on the world and build an empire.  I’ve just closed one chapter of my life, and a new one is about to begin.

Come on back; a new chapter is sure to mean many new stories!