Monday, November 24, 2014
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Southpoint (for my friends who don't know) is a mall in Durham, right off the interstate between the airport and Winston. And it has a plethora of awesome stores that we don't have here in Winston--Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and Restoration Hardware, just to name a few. We ate at The Cheesecake Factory, looked (unsuccessfully) for boots for Lib to wear in Philly, and headed home.
It was dark as we hit the highway (even though still relatively early) and I couldn't help but notice the Christmas lights...or lack thereof.
We all know how old I am--there was a big countdown a few years ago--and one of my fondest memories as a kid is driving around town, looking at the Christmas lights. (Grandma Hazel was a big fan of that particular pastime. In fact, she insisted we drive around town at least once a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas to see if any had been added. This may sound like a waste of time, but as our entire town consisted of an area of about seven blocks by three blocks, it only took about fifteen minutes. Twenty if it was Grandma herself driving, as her own personal approach to driving was to not actually touch the gas pedal.)
Our own house at 32 Washington Street (I don't live there anymore, so please don't try to stalk me at that location) had lights on the front porch, which was actually kind of an off-to-one-side porch, and in the bushes below the porch. These lights, as I recall, were those big, multicolored, elongated bulbs. They were opaque as opposed to transparent, which made them glow in a diffused, softer light. I think maybe we had two strings, total (it wasn't a very big porch). But other houses had more lavish displays--lights outlining the entire roof, 20 foot front yard evergreens covered in lights--even farmers got into the action, putting lights onto fences and outbuildings.
I thought of this as I drove along the highway, where the only lights were headlights and neon. I was hoping once I started into town, there would be some Christmas lights that were a little, well, friendlier.
And what I found was, in a word, disappointment. Even in my neighborhood, where folks have the money to (a) buy lights, and (b) fork over a little extra to Duke Power, I noticed a dearth of Christmas lights.
Why don't folks "do" lights anymore? Yes, we're all concerned about conservation, but there are LED lights out there, and it's only for a few weeks. Some folks are hanging onto the one white candle in every window thing that I used to do when my kids were small (and, don't get me wrong, that's a look that works in the big Georgian homes here in the BV), and there are a few people who place the "netting" of lights on top of their azaleas. (FYI-I consider this cheating. And it looks too perfect--not homey or warm, the way lights are supposed to look. A little too organized for my book.)
Maybe we're all driving to those big light displays--we have one here in Forsyth County--and they are fantastic--but still lacking in the warmth I remember as a kid. There's nothing quite like the strings of multicolored bulbs hanging on the front (or off to one side) porch.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? ~ Are you kidding me? You can’t be serious. There are RULES, people! If it is a box, you wrap it in paper. If it is a weird-shaped, un-boxed thing---gift bag. I can’t believe you are asking this. There are rules. Follow them. Sheesh.
2. Real tree or artificial? ~ My friends own a real Christmas tree farm. The tree lot is a great place to party. Especially if you have hot chocolate and Kaluha or Bailey’s. But my son is allergic to fir. I have had artificial forever, and I used to have one of those old ones that you had to insert each branch individually and it was a HUGE pain in the ass. So a few years ago I bought one of those 9’ slim trees, pre-lit, that came in only three sections. It rocks. I wish I was more like it...slim and lit.
3. When do you put up the tree? ~ Asking me when I get things up is just plain nosey.
4. When do you take the tree down? ~ When I get around to it. It’s fake, so I don’t have to worry about it drying out and bursting into flames. One instance of spontaneous combustion can really ruin your day.
5. Do you like eggnog? ~ I like a little bit of eggnog with my brandy.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? ~ A pony. Oh, wait. I never did get that pony. But if I had received a pony? That would have been my favorite gift.
7. Hardest person to buy for? ~ I really shouldn't have to buy any gifts, as just knowing me is a gift.
8. Easiest person to buy for? ~ Myself. I always buy myself something I like just in case no one else does. I stick it under the tree and say it’s from my Aunt Danuta in Poland. No one has yet figured out that I don’t have an Aunt Danuta, in Poland or anywhere else.
9. Do you have a Nativity Scene? ~ Somewhere in the attic. I don’t go up there, though. I might disturb the Frank family.
10. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? ~ USPS. Some time in April.
11. Worst Christmas gift ever? ~ Being left at the altar. (Actually, that never happened. I just wanted to say it.) A box of tampons. I am not joking.
So please keep all this important information somewhere safe so that you can refer back to it while you do all your holiday planning!
Sunday, November 9, 2014
Well, I hope that things get better this week in terms of computer issues. I am having to use DL's work computer, which is not good to blog on. So I am trying to find SOMETHING appealing...and I did! The only problem is that I can't link back (until my computer gets fixed), but I hope you'll stop in and see these friends anyway!
The Thanksgiving tree is by Debbie Manno at DebbieDoos. What a great idea!
The table setting is by Cassie at Primitive and Proper. It's gorgeous!
And the handpainted chest is by Karen at Somewhat Quirky. It is AMAZEBALLS!
I hope to be back to blogging soon...but...
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
When DL announced that Halloween was on a Friday this year, I said “Let’s go to Savannah!” (No school on Halloween, which is a great idea because teenagers get a little ridiculous on Halloween.)
These lovely young ladies were out in the afternoon, all dolled up.
And no trip to Savannah on Halloween is complete without stopping to take photos in the graveyard.
Happy Halloween, indeed!
NOTE: The blue screen on death has come for my computer every day this week. I’m afraid all is lost (in some fashions, literally). If I disappear for awhile, do not lose heart…I’ll be back!
Sunday, November 2, 2014
As promised, the contractor appeared on the front porch of Blueberry Lane shortly after dawn on Monday morning. Carl Stewart was tall and rangy, and wore a red plaid shirt and jeans. His face was brown and weather-lined, but his laugh and step were youthful. Susie stepped onto the front porch to meet him. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?” she asked.
“No thanks,” Carl answered. “I’ve had two already.”
“Let me grab my sweater, and I’ll show you around.”
“Is your husband here? Shouldn’t he be doing this?”
Susie stiffened. “No, Mr. Stewart, he’s not. I’m coordinating the renovation.”
Susie led Carl into the backyard and pointed to a small window. “That’s the back corner of the kitchen,” she explained. “We’d like to bump it out so that we can add a pastry station.
“How far are we talking about?” he asked.
“I have some rough sketches inside. I thought I’d show you from the outside first, and then we could go in and look at the plans.” She continued to show him around, and Carl peered closely at windows, doors, and the foundation. Once inside, Susie placed the drawings on the dining room table for him to see.
He whistled softly. “Wow,” he said. “This is a lot of work.”
Susie looked at him. “I know,” she said. “You’re the first contractor we’ve talked to, mainly because three different people recommended you. Do you think it’s too much for you? We have a few other names.”
Carl looked up sharply. “Not too difficult…but it’ll take a while. I’m guessing a couple of months.”
“I’d like you to submit a bid, then. As I said, we’ll be talking to a few others.”
“Okay. I’ll have my wife start working on it. She takes care of all the paperwork in the office.” He pulled a business card from his wallet. “Give her a call so you can discuss finishes.”
“And I’d like to see some of your work. If you could give me the names and phone numbers of a few people I could talk to, I’d appreciate it.”
Carl nodded. “My wife can give you those, too.”
Susie called Carl’s wife that afternoon. After a brief discussion, Susie had the names and phone numbers of three of his clients. She began dialing.
At supper time, Susie debriefed Dave. “I have a few appointments set up for tomorrow and Thursday,” she told him. “One lady is really excited to show me her new kitchen. Another one has a big family room addition. She warned me, though…she has five kids under the age of eight.”
“Five kids?” Dave asked, incredulous. “Who has five kids these days?”
Susie laughed. “I don’t know, but it must be crazy at her house. I told her she didn’t need to clean for me and she just laughed and told me that she wasn’t going to clean, she was just going to shovel a path through the house.”
Dave chuckled. “I remember those days,” he said. “I have no idea how you did it. Especially when I was working all the time.” He looked at Susie and continued. “Sue, I’m sorry. I’m really sorry I wasn’t there more. I know I wasn’t much help with the kids.”
Susie patted his arm. “It’s fine, Dave. You did what you had to do to keep our boat floating.”
“I know. I keep telling myself that. But I feel like I missed so much.” He sighed.
“Well, I don’t think the kids suffered. We were able to pay for everything they needed, including college. How many kids finish college debt-free? You did that for them, and I know they appreciate it.”
Dave stood. “I guess. Well, I’m going to catch up on some e-mails. What are your plans for the evening?”
“I’m checking up on livestock laws and looking for chicken coop plans online. There are some chickens who are better layers than others. I need to know which ones to buy. I guess I thought all chickens lay the same.”
“Not with the chickens again.” He smiled, shrugged, and left the room.
Friday, October 31, 2014
October was a great month for books. (Reading, them, not trying to write them. That is never great, because I set a goal like ‘500 words by lunchtime’ and then I remember I have laundry and papers to grade and stuff like that. Sheesh.)
First, I won a book at The Cottage Market! Do you know Andrea? If you don’t, you should. She is a clearinghouse of all things cool and trending, and she gives so much love to great projects and bloggers. She also has AWESOME graphics for sale…as well as Junkin’ Joe’s vintage finds. (Joe is her husband. He finds stuff. Like DL, but without the penchant for huge industrial pieces. Joe’s stuff is more refined. DL’s stuff is … well, stuff that only DL can love.)
Anyway, this book is by our mutual friend, Karah! She does AMAZING things over at her blog, The Space Between. I believe her strength is in her tutorials, which are incredibly well done. I teach for a living, and I can’t put together a tutorial to save my life. I’m more the “pace and talk while showing” kind of person, rather than the “write it down so that someone can actually DO it,” kind. Karah’s book is DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize your Space. It’s full of fun projects and you’ll find that you don’t even mind crawling into that dumpster to haul that pallet out.
The next book I won (which was for guessing a musical theatre question, which may have been totally unfair, but I don’t care because all’s fair in love and musical theatre) was Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint (a look book). I won that from Lorraine who took a road trip with me, but not the Thelma and Louise kind; we lived. She has a remark PUBLISHED IN THE BOOK!!
See? (She is the only one who has a quote who didn’t use her last name. I think it’s because she’s incognito.)
The last book is the one my book club decided to read: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. Hmmmm….how do I describe this book?
I have read approximately 10,000 books in my lifetime. This includes the 3/day I devoured between the ages of 9-13. It includes the 5 or 6 a day I read to my kids when they were little. (It does NOT, however, include those I read over and over and over again…I count each book one time. Because if I had to count that fireman book I read 72 times a day for a month? Sheesh.) Therefore, I know how books work. I know the patterns…all of them. I know when a book does not follow a prescribed pattern, that we call BS and throw the book across the room. I even had the cajones to ask Janet Evanovich if her publisher asks her to write the same book over and over, or does she think of that herself?
Books that are too predictable? Not interested. (Even though Janet Evanovich makes approximately seventeen bazillion dollars writing the same book again and again…so I guess most people WANT predictability in their reading material. Change is hard, peeps.)
So I wanted to put AJ Fikry down. I could see every single plot point coming as if it was a mile down a long, straight road on a sunny day. (That's a simile, in case you've forgotten.) Love interest? Check. Baby Daddy? Check. Cop and you-know-who? Check. All of it.
And do you know what I teach my students? I teach them that in order for a book to be interesting, there needs to be some sort of conflict. That our protagonist has to face something big. And AJ Fikry, other than being ornery, had no conflict. Yeah, his wife was dead…big deal. We never met her, so there was no buy-in. A baby showed up on his doorstep, but we knew what was coming there…so…
…and I was about to put the book down.
But AJ Fikry’s comments about his favorite short stories (which appear at the beginning of each chapter) had me intrigued. And I thought “well, I’ll just read those and skip the rest.” Luckily, just as I thought it…WHAM! The conflict appeared. No, not appeared…hit me like a freight train going 75 miles an hour! Oh, lawd. I lost my $hit, my peeps. That conflict dragged me down a long dark hallway and beat the crap out of me. (That’s personification, by the way.)
Yep…it’s winner, winner, chicken dinner when I can recommend not just one or two, but THREE books to y’all!
Check out AJ Fikry at Cozy Little House!
And at Cassie's!