24 June 2009

[Imported] The Other Happiest Place on Earth

I’m about to redefine the word “dork” for you, so ya’ll better sit down for this one. Because I’m sure you were all standing up at your computer to begin with.

Here we go: I love the grocery store. And I don’t mean that I just have a generally positive attitude towards food providing establishments, I mean full out I’m-naming-my-kid-Harris-Teeter-or-maybe-Food-Lion LOVE the dang place. Is that a weird place to love? From what I can gather, when it comes to which side of the adoration spectrum one’s feelings of the grocery store fall on, I think most people go all Sweden on the place and stay pretty neutral. But that’s not the case for me. I have such a strong ardency for the grocery store, there’s a good chance I’m going to arrange the furniture in my future house into aisles and hang numbered signs in between to let you know what is down each aisle (e.g. “Aisle 1 – Couch, End tables, Coasters;” “Aisle 2 – Coffee table, Television, Decorative Shrubbery;” “Aisle 3 - Ice Cream” etc.) (Yes, there will be an entire grocery-sized aisle for ice cream.)

And while you may think this is just another random quirk of mine, there’s actually a very good story behind it. Well, there’s a story at least. The “very good” part, I’m sure, is just in my head.

When I was in school at Indiana, I went a little crazy. There were many reasons for this, but I’ll just list a couple. First of all, neither I, nor anyone else I was close to on campus had a car, so my world was suddenly reduced to about a 3 mile radius, and that pathetic distance was only made possible thanks to the campus bus system.

Let me stop right there for a minute. Now that I have had more than enough experience with public transportation, I can honestly say that if you were to tell me that I alone could single-handedly save the ENTIRE environment by riding the bus instead of driving my own private car, I’d send my condolences to the environment (probably with a hallmark card and a balloon or something), tell it to take it like a man, and drive off into the sunset with my hands glued to the steering wheel of my exhaust-spewing car and never look back. Then I’d spend hours at a time running over a bunch free-range chicken, just because I could.


Second, I lived in a windowless 5’x8’ practice room (a.k.a. solitary confinement) for about 4 hours a day, and almost every other hour of the day was spent in some other type of music class whether it was theory, lessons, master classes, or ensemble practice. Plus, with so little free time and no “regular” classes, my entire social circle consisted of other music majors who were in the same classes and groups as me. My world was very small, very narrow, and very intense. It wasn’t too bad at first – like when I was at Interlochen, and the clarinet was in my mouth for 9 hours a day, every day, for 8 weeks. But that was the catch – it was only 8 weeks. I can do anything when I know it’s only temporary. So after about the 3rd or 4th month at IU, I started to realize that I was on the road to making this my life. Now I love(d) music, so I never understood why that petrified me so much – I still don’t, really – but with so many other personal things going on, with the insane amount of pressure I was always putting on myself, and with the overwhelming feeling of failure that came along with the inability to meet my own insane expectations, it was just too much to handle. And when you being to fantasize about stabbing yourself with your own reed knife, it stops being fun.

Plus, you could always tell which practice rooms I had been in by the dents in the walls from where I had picked up the metal music stands and thrown them hammer-throw-style across the room.

So I needed an escape back then. And, weirdly enough, I found it in the grocery store.

I let myself go there every Friday after classes were over, and I only went once a week because 1) it was more than a 20 minute bus ride away, 2) I never had much money or room in my mini-fridge for groceries anyway, and 3) I needed food to survive, so I could justify taking the time for at least one trip a week. And, boy, I lived for those trips. The grocery store became my sole link to the real world – after all, everyone shops for food - and for just a little while, I was a regular person with a regular life like everyone else there. I would spend literally hours and hours at the grocery store, just strolling up and down every single aisle over and over and over again, diligently soaking in every last foodstuff on the shelves, and idly pushing my cart filled with the only 5 or 6 items I actually went there for. I’d stare at all the other shoppers there with me, and I’d secretly pretend that I was one of them, that I too was living a non-music filled life, that I was simply picking up the weekly groceries for my non-music family who was waiting for me at our non-music home. It was magical in a way that nothing else was, because it was the only normal thing I had, and I so desperately needed something normal then. It was the only thing in my life that wasn’t making my bottom lip bleed, yelling at me for being unable to perfect that one stupid run, or giving me some of the weirdest health problems I’ve ever had. Visiting the grocery store was the only free, non-self-destructive thing that relaxed me back then, and for that, it became my oasis.

I honestly don’t know what purpose this story serves. I don’t have any point to make here or any moral of the story to wrap it up nice and neatly. But I did go to the grocery store today, as I often do, and I realized that even after all these years, those warm, fuzzy feelings and comforting memories I have for the place have stayed with me. And they probably always will.

Just wanted to share.

[Imported] This and that

So I haven’t really been following along with my post-pictures-of-my-continuously-clean-room plan, have I? I don’t have any excuses for it – no good excuses, anyway – but if it's any consolation, my room is clean. Not under the bed, as was the next part of my project, but my mom decided to put the house on the market, which meant I had to switch gears and tidy up all of the actually visible areas of the house and keep them tidy, so help me God. So while I didn’t stick to my cleaning schedule, I’ve pretty much done 90% of the other places that were on the agenda at some point anyway.

Yadda yadda yadda, that was all really boring.


Good news! I’m dating! And not just in my head! There is an actual, in-the-flesh­ MAN involved! Cue that heavenly choir. We actually met back in August on that awesome roller coaster trip, and we’ve been casually flirting and honesty-box-messaging online like nauseating high school crushes ever since. Isn’t that adorable?! Don’t bother answering, because the answer is Yes. Yes, it is. Say awwww. Also, he’s super involved in the church, and do you have ANY idea how hard to find guy who is obsessively into both roller coasters and Jesus? PRETTY. DURN. HARD.

The only somewhat less-than-perfect part is that he lives in Virginia and, you know...I don’t. But it’s only a 3-hour drive, which is totally doable. He’s made the trip here once already, and I’m going up there this weekend. (Pardon me while I do a little fancy skip real quick. (la tee daaaahhh!)) And while the distance isn’t the greatest thing in the world, I like to think there’s a bit of an upside in that with our fewer in-person rendezvous, it will take him SO much longer to become completely sick of me, and would you look at me all looking at the positive side of things? It’s like I’m growing or something.

Anyway, that might be all you hear about it on here, because 1) I learned long ago that - for me - it's best not to talk about people (good or bad) who actually read my blog and 2) I find that I can only publicly gush my girly giggles so much before I start wanting to throw kittens or don some brass knuckles or something – anything to offset the acknowledgment of my mushy, feminine, saccharin side. Which I don’t actually have. Nope. Not at all. I don’t do that girly stuff.


(Giggle giggle)



Last night, I went from watching The Fifth Element to immediately watching a concert of Andre Rieu on PBS afterward, and I don’t think there is a more poignant juxtaposition of genres in the world that sums me up so well (did that sentence make sense? I don’t know if you've noticed, but sometimes I just throw words out there and hope they fall in at least a partially-meaningful order). Anyway, I luuuuv me some Andre Rieu, who makes wild musical leaps from the “Hallelujah Chorus” to the Sister Act version of “I Will Follow Him,” dresses all his female performers in the most beautiful pastel dresses (any of which I would kill to have and prance around in), and ends his concerts with thousands of balloons falling from the ceiling while the entire audience is running and dancing around like third graders hopped up on kool-aid and birthday cake. I’ve never been a huge concert-goer, but this is definitely one I would love to see live. I looked him up on ticketmaster, and the closest he’ll be to me is either in Baltimore or somewhere in Pennsylvania, which I figured would make the perfect addition to a HersheyPark and Knoebels trip. And I’d buy tickets THIS MINUTE, but in doing a quick mental budget for the year, I don’t know if I’ll have enough money for ALL THAT FUN by May, especially with the installments I have to pay for my California trip in August. Luckily, May is still a few months away, so there’s still some time for money to magically appear in my bank account.


Oh, and also, I do have a job now. So, you know...money. That's really all I have to say about the subject for the time being.


Today, while at school, I tweeted (twittered? Tweetered? What?) this about needing real pizza soon or Armageddon was sure to happen. Approximately an hour later, I arrived home only to find a little door hanger coupon from Papa John’s! Holy granny panty! Granted, I don’t think one could consider Papa John’s as being “real” pizza, but it’s still closer to the real thing than my usual frozen French bread pizzas. I was going to post a picture of the coupon just because I’m a visual person, and I tend to assume my reader(s?) are exactly like me, but then my mom threw it away. Hmph. She doesn’t care for the ol’ PJ, I guess. Anyway, I wasn’t too heartbroken about it, because while my deep, heart-wrenching URGE for pizza is still stirring tumultuously within me, I took the coupon as a sign from God letting me know that He was thinking about me, and with Him I can weather the length of any non-pizza storm I go through. Though if I don’t get a slice by tomorrow night, I may use those brass knuckles after all.

[Imported] Task One - Accomplished

Yes, I did it.



My closet does not have the most efficient floor space for things like shoes, which is why they're still a bit strewn about, but I did the best I could. Also, no, I did not just take the pile of stuff on the top shelf and place it in a basket on the top shelf. All items in said basket are neatly folded and stacked on top of each other in an orderly fashion. Kind of orderly, anyway.

And for this week's project:

It probably doesn't look that bad, but that's because I couldn't really see what I was taking a picture of, and this is the best shot I got, even though it's about 90% bed, 10% stuff. I mean, no, the area isn't overflowing with crap, but there's enough who-knows-what haphazardly thrown around down there that it really needs to be sorted and straightened out.

I'm also gonna do the area beneath my dresser this week, too.

(Yes, I spilled a cappuccino on one of my old Italian books - oh, the irony - thanks for noticing.)

It looks to be the worse of the two given the much smaller ratio of crap to space. But I'm sure I will hate cleaning both of them equally.

[Imported] Just trying to keep things clean

I learned a valuable lesson today, and I would now like to share with you my new found knowledge. Pay close attention, because it's incredibly important for one's pride and modesty:

If you decide to wear a skirt one day, please pay attention to the weather beforehand, specifically wind speed.

Oh man, I was so excited today. I don't remember the last time I wore a skirt. It's been MONTHS. But the forecast called for a high of 67o, and that was all I needed to hear to convince me to allow my inner thighs rest from the weary, suppressive world of those suffocating things called pants.

And boy, did they get themselves quite a healthy breeze today. More than they had bargained for, I'm sure.

Now, luckily I was able to keep my skirt down for the most part, but I spent most of my walks to and from classes holding my skirt bunched up tight around my legs, which TOTALLY ruined the whole cuteness factor. Once in a while, I'd relax my grip as the wind seemed to calm down, but within seconds, another gust would come from wherever gusts come from, and I'd just barely wrangle the flying fabric in time to prevent any free peep shows for my 25,000 fellow peers. The thing that worried me most, though, was that I wasn't even wearing cute underwear. No, they were more like the Dang-when-was-the-last-time-I-did-laundry, Oh-well-these-will-have-to-do, Good-thing-no-one-will-see-them variety.

I mean, like I said, I successfully avoided any accidental exposures (not that there weren't a few terrifying close calls...), but oh how sad I am that my skirt could not be enjoyed to its fullest potential. Too busy keeping my lady parts covered.

Ahh well. Spring will be here soon, bringing along with it a myriad of days (wind-free days, even!) on which I will be able to wear skirts sans the Marilyn Monroe impressions.

And speaking of laundry (a couple of paragraphs ago, but stick with me) and other things that I've been meaning to do, please feel free to gasp in horror at the following picture:

This is my closet. My shamefully messy (though small, which is a decent excuse, I think) closet. The spaces beneath my bed and dresser look similarly terrifying, and I've been meaning to clean them out and organize them for mon- uh, well, let's just say a really long time. I always thought of myself as a generally rather self-disciplined person, in so far as I have great patience, I don't usually succumb to the allure of instant gratification, and I tend to work hard for things I genuinely I want and/or care about. But then I think of all the areas in my life I absolutely suck at getting myself together on - organization, studying, responding to e-mails, blogging on a regular basis - and then I scoff (yes, scoff I say!) at whatever pride I momentarily had in my ability to make myself do responsible things.

So! Why am I showing you a picture of my closet? Because I'm recruiting you, The Internet, to help me clean it. Not literally - I have every physical ability to get the job done - I just need the motivation. All you have to do is make sure that in one week's time, I post a picture of my clean closet on here for all to admire and applaud me for. And then I'll post a photo of the space under my bed that week, and the process will repeat. Only at the end of that week, I must show both a picture of a tidy under-the-bed area AND the closet. Otherwise, that thing will be right back to the mess it's in now. This will continue until I've got all the living spaces that I use neat, tidy, and under control; and I figure that maybe by the end of this little clean up experiment, I'll be SO used to keeping things clean (thanks to all ya'lls keeping me accountable and everything) that it will have formed into a habit by then, and I will rid myself of my slovenliness once and for all.

You all are welcome to join me and fight whatever area of your life you feel yourself to be a total loser in. After all, I didn't come up with this idea on my own. I stole it from Life in a Shoe who also recruited all her willing readers.

Just remember: one week. Gotta be done by next Wednesday.

Good luck. I know I'll need it.

P.S. Don't worry about me not living up to my end of the bargain. I've got a pretty sizable guilt complex, so as long as I've got at least one person expecting a clean closet of me in seven days, it'll get done. Otherwise, I'll feel so terrible over how deeply I'm sure I betrayed that person, how utterly disappointed they must be in me, oh-why-do-I-always-hurt-the-ones-I-love-boo-hoo-hoo that I won't be able to sleep until it is done. Yeah, it's pretty handy complex to have. I enjoy it. Good times.

[Imported] MMVIII

I've been trying to write a 2008 Year in Review entry for the last week, and have had a hard time getting beyond this first sentence. It was a…difficult year – yeah, that seems to be an apt word, 'difficult' – but it certainly wasn't the worst. No, that honor is still held by 2004, and short of a black hole swallowing the sun leaving all of us on Earth to die a slow, freezing death in any given future year, that is a title that I fully expect (and pray, pray, PRAY) 2004 to retain for a long, long, LOOOONG time.

I guess I'll start with January, despite it being a terrible start to the year.

January: I moved to Florida on a whim. I allow myself to act upon one whim a year – obviously, I used this one pretty quickly – and given that the whim I acted upon the previous year led me to making out with a Moroccan looking for citizenship, and given that this particular whim of 2008 failed miserably, I think I might reduce my moments of spontaneity to once a decade. Maybe I'll choose my moments a bit more carefully then.

Anyway – Florida. I think it was a move made more out of desperation than reason, because even going into it, I had a feeling it wasn't going to go well. I was just that unwilling to return to school, and I would have taken any excuse not to go back at that time. Nevertheless, on the surface, it seemed like a decent idea: I was still listed as a seasonal employee at Disney, and I knew people personally who had returned to work for a week here, a week there; and while I knew Splash Mountain was down for refurbishment, I still had hope that I could either be stationed outside the attraction with the other Cast Members telling guests that the ride was indeed closed for the season, or that I could be crossed trained on Big Thunder Mountain. In my defense, I didn't officially decide to move down there until I talked to some ill-informed lady in Casting who said, "Oh, yeah, sure! One of those options will most definitely pan out for you. You'll be working within a week once you move down here." I'm just going to cut the story short and say that, duh, it didn't work out – the soonest I could have been stationed anywhere was April, and I did not like the people I was living with down there enough to wait that long. Their sex was too loud. Ew.

February-April: I don't remember much about these months, I was probably too consumed with my Floridian failure, boohoohoo. My father finished up his second government-sponsored vacation, as I like to call it. I had to break my silent treatment to him once he moved back in with his mother, because it was too hard to figure out how to visit her without seeing him. Eh, I got a couple hundred dollars out of the deal, and I really have no problem with that being my motivation. Probably not the most Christian attitude to have, but I'm working on it. Or rather, God is working on me. I'm just being stubborn.

Sorry God. :/

May: The official start of theme park season! And what a season it was. I started off by meeting up with one of my fellow "Splash Trash" friends from Disney. He lives in Maine, but he was visiting his family in Virginia, so we met up to do Six Flags America in Maryland and Kings Dominion in VA. A week or two later, I went to Pennsylvania with my mom and aunt to claim my hard-earn prize of being one of the first people to ride the brand new roller coaster at Hersheypark – Fahrenheit. As you may know, it didn't go exactly as planned, but it was still a fantastic trip.

June: Okay, wow, I really don't remember any single thing about June. I had to go digging through past blog entries to figure it out, which is a very dangerous thing because once I see how bad my writing is from my fresh perspective, I get very delete-happy. But to recap June: I nearly drowned in my living room and my laptop still looked like this. That's pretty much it.

Oh, and I just noticed that I took another trip to Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens with my former neighbor, her husband, and brother. I hadn't forgotten that trip; I just could have sworn that it was in July. The date on the pictures, however, tell me otherwise. It was a good trip, but I did learn something: while sharing the PB&J-making responsibility for our lunches, I learned that I have a very different opinion of what amount "a lot of peanut butter" actually is. (My opinion: if there is any peanut butter remaining in the jar after two sandwiches, you have not used enough. Everyone else's opinion: "Good God, woman." )

July: Man, what a great month to travel, right? What with those record-setting gas prices? My mom and I took a 10-day, 2,400 mile whirlwind trip filled with family and friends (and Six Flags Great America, w00t) and gas-guzzling - right when gas reached its peak. I swear, the day we returned, gas dropped 15 cents. Oh, the timing we have. This is the only post I have semi-documenting this trip, though prepared to be underwhelmed with the amount of recapping I do. But you can at least see our whole trip mapped out here.<

August: Theme Park Review trip. BEST. TRIP. EVER. 10 parks, 6 days, one terrifyingly exhausting drive home.

September: School. Eye roll.

October: I was not done with my theme parking for the year, hohhhh no. I had a perfectly good 6-day weekend (thank you, Tuesday-and-Thursday-only classes) for fall break and I was not about to waste it. Plus, I had a perfectly good Six Flags season pass ticket, due to the three other SF parks I had done earlier in the year; so I figured it was the perfect time to go to Six Flags over Georgia, especially since there were four credits I'd yet to conquer. And since my dad (ugh) only lived 2.5 hours away from that park and only 1.5 hours away from Dollywood, I stayed with him on the condition that he actually take me to Dollywood. Which he did, like the good daddy he buys himself to be. The parks? Awesome. I did SFoG alone, but that's never stopped me from having fun before. And we took two of my cousins to Dollywood with us, so that definitely helped make my dad more bearable. But, I unfortunately learn that not even theme parks are worth spending the night with my dad, not anymore. It was awkward, annoying, and truly just a gut-wrenching, soul-selling experience. I think I'll keep any future visits with my dad under 24 hours, thank you very much.

November: Thanksgiving at Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. You can read the not-yet-finished trip report here. This trip ties with the TPR trip for being Best Moment of 2008. On one hand, I made a ton of friends on the TPR trip, got lots of exclusive ride time, shared a room with an Oscar winner, and nearly died when we rode a roller coaster non-stop in a lightning storm for an hour. On the other hand, Disney is the Happiest Place on Earth, I finally got to see all the beautiful Christmas lights in person, and the trip was almost entirely free, save for gas. I don't know how I could possibly choose between the two.

December: The year ended about as well as it began. I failed my history class, I watched my grandpa fall into the Christmas tree after drinking all morning, and then I was present for the poorly-planned intervention with him that failed miserably that night. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of crying, and a lot of my grandpa being an absolute jackass. There's 20+ years worth of guilt behind my grandpa's drinking and there's 20+ years of repressed anger in my family toward my grandpa over the thing that causes his guilt. It ended in a mess, our Christmas, and I can only hope that 2009 is the year in which the pieces will be picked up.

All in all, 2008 was as difficult as it was fun. I should have graduated this year, and I never regretted leaving my music major behind once until this year when I saw all my clarinet friends from Indiana graduate and get jobs with orchestras, bands, ensembles, etc. I don't think I was cut out for that world, looking back at it, but there's still a part of me that wishes I had been. I gave up a piece of myself when I left that practice room building for the last time, and I think I will mourn that loss for the rest of my life.

I've been flaky this year – these past few years, really – and that's not me at all. It's not that I can't commit to anything, it's just that I can't make up my mind on what to commit to. I was certain before with music, I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and that path landed me in the hospital. My health - physical and mental - was at stake, but that didn't make the decision to leave any easier. So I've been second guessing myself ever since, terrified of finally choosing something for fear that I'll choose wrong again. And now that I have finally chosen something, all these decisions have to be made surrounding it – do I stay in the free school for four and a half more years despite the fact that I'm utterly burned out with all these gen-ed classes they want me to take? Or do I take out $30,000 more in loans for another school just so I can save two and a half years of my time and sanity by not needing those extra, non-related classes? It's so much to consider, and I'm just so tired of it all. I almost didn't go to my first day of classes today, because no matter which previously mentioned option I choose, this semester won't be a benefit for me in either case. I decided to go at the last minute, because the extra money in my bank account is a nice cushion until I get a job. Plus, I had nothing better to do. Not exactly the ideal motivation, I suppose, but something had to make the decision for me.

But I digress. That last part didn't have much to do with 2008. But it at least leads me to now, to 2009. And I do have hope for this year – hope that is entirely unrelated to Barack Obama, fyi. Because at some point, progress toward my degree will resume, one way or another, at one school or another; and perhaps that light at the end of the tunnel will start to emerge once I stop spinning my wheels as I have been doing for some time now.

By the way – light at the end of the tunnel? Spinning my wheels? How clichéd am I? Gag.

P.S. I think I'm falling.

[Imported] I should just turn this into a food blog and get it over with

I really do love to cook, and it's a shame I don't do it more often. Money is the biggest issue - it's just so much cheaper to eat cereal all the time. But for whatever reason, with my mom gone, I've acted upon that urge with gusto. I think it has something to do with the fact that if whatever I cook turns out completely sucky, no one has to know about it but me.

Now, I'll try anything once - which is a complete lie because seafood is disgusting, and I can't even stand the smell, let alone the idea of shoving it down my gullet, but that's exactly what people say right before they tell you about some really gross sounding dish they tried, so that's why I'm saying it now. Because this dish does sound kind of gross. It's chicken with teriyaki sauce, ranch dressing, cheddar cheese, and bacon bits. What the heck kind of combination is that? Well, it got good enough reviews on the website on which I found it, so I went for it.

Now, as much as I love cooking, I hate this part: the handling of raw meat. More specifically, cutting off the fat from raw meat.

Ew ew ew ew ew. It's enough to make anyone a vegetarian. But then I remember how good meat tastes and how much vegetarians annoy the bejeezus out of me, so my disgust is usually short-lived.

All the ingredients laid out (including greed onion, which I didn't mention earlier). The recipe said to use vegetable oil for sauteing the chicken in, but the people on all those fancy cooking shows always insist on using extra virgin olive oil. So, I went with that.

After I sauted the chicken, I brushed on the teriyaki. I actually used teriyaki with honey in it, because between that and the bacon bits, the salt content was raising my blood pressure just from reading about it, so I figured the sweetness of the honey would balance it out a bit. (I WAS RIGHT, OMG TEH SALT)

Then I brushed on the ranch, at which point I realized how little sense this recipe was actually making. But lo! I pressed on!

Finally, I put on the rest of the ingredients - the cheese, the bacon bits, the green onions - and while I don't have a photo of the Before part, here's a picture of the After, after it baked in the oven:

It was definitely unique. But it was really tasty, believe it or not, and I'd certainly make it again. The only thing I'd do differently is I'd marinate the chicken in some extra teriyaki beforehand, because the chicken itself tasted quite bland unless I sopped it up in the sauce with each bite.

I have two pieces remaining (I halved the recipe, actually), so if anyone would like to come over for left overs, you're more than welcome. I don't think anyone lives close enough to do so, but still - can't no one say I ain't never shared.

Also, I think my pie was a success. My aunt, uncle, and cousin all had a slice last night, and each one of them had only clean plates left. I figure if they were eating it just to be polite, there'd at least be little pieces and cut up bits that they had merely shuffled around on their plates to fool me. But since that wasn't the case, since they left not a morsel, I think I can give myself a pat on the back for a pie well done. Good job, self.

[Imported] Pie time!

One of the people I stayed with while I was in Florida is a HUGE Pushing Daisies fan, and because I don't have enough things in my life to obsess over, he decided to get me hooked on the show as well. And it worked. I watched all the older episodes online first, but I just bought the first season on DVD the other day with my Christmas money, and I've already come up with a few ideas on how to convince my future hypothetical husband that we should name our future hypothetical daughter Chuck (that tends to be a theme with me, coming up with allusive baby names for children I don't even have yet; and at this point, I'm going to have to have 80 kids just to use all the names up).

Some of you may know this about me, but in case others of you haven't noticed, when I get into something, I really get into it. I either love something completely to the point where I carve out a little nook in my heart for it to live and thrive or I don't give it the time of day. That's just my style. And so that may explain my sudden inspiration to bake a pie entirely from scratch (something I've never done before), a pie whose favor I first heard about on Pushing Daisies (tart apple with Gruyere baked into the crust, sans the homeopathic anti-depressants). And I don't even like pie!

I may have more than my share of faults, but lack of dedication and loyalty ain't one of 'em.

Here's all the ingredients I used for the crust. Flour, ice water, sugar & salt, butter, and gruyere (a delicious hard, salty, nutty cheese. I'm a bit of a cheese snob - I refuse to eat American cheese on principle - and this stuff is fantastic! It's a great pairing with my overly sweet Plum wine - so far, the only wine I like - and so I expected it to be a great compliment the tartness of the apples). Supposedly, leaf lard makes the best pie crusts, and I was all about to go buy some (the fat shaved from pig kidneys doesn't gross me out), until I realized that it's extreme hard to come by. I couldn't find anyone local who sells it, and while I found a cute Pennsylvanian butcher who would be more than willing to send some to me so long as I would send a check first (snail mail! isn't that cute?!), I didn't have time seeing as how I wanted to make this pie for Christmas (i.e. tomorrow). So I opted for the next best choice and went for an all-butter crust. Hence the giant bowl full of the stuff.

I rarely use beaters or food processors in my cooking unless it's absolutely necessary. It's just one more thing I have to clean, and I think things taste better with my own sweat and blood baked into it. Figuratively speaking, of course. There is no sweat nor blood in this pie. But I read somewhere that with pie crusts, it's best to leave pea-size chunks of butter so that they spread out in the dough when you roll it, which leads to the maximum amount of flakiness, so the hand method seemed to be ideal, rather than machine mixed.
Oh, and don't worry - I washed my hands a couple of days ago, so I'm good.

Rolled the dough into two balls, and then let them sit in the fridge overnight.

The next day - which was today, actually - I gathered all the ingredients to finish the pie. Lemon juice, cornstarch, cinnamon, and sugar (the recipe called for regular granulated sugar, but I ended up increasing the amount of sugar from 1/2c to 3/4c and using 1/4c white sugar and 1/2c brown sugar. That just seemed more appropriate to me for an apple pie). Also, one egg to cover the pie with and 3 apples for the actual apple filling. I went with Empires 'cause they're just so darn pretty, but any tart apple I suppose would work fine.

Here's a totally staged photo of me peeling the apples with a paring knife I got for Christmas. I didn't even ask for it, but look at how handy it came in! I'd never peeled apples before, but if this becomes a habit of mine, I think it would be a worthy investment to buy an actual peeler.
And yes, that is my dog on my lap, but she's under the glass and away from the food. All good.

The apples mixed with all the other ingredients:

The recipe suggested rolling the dough on parchment paper so it wouldn't stick. Well, I don't have any parchment paper, so I just wiped down the counter, threw some flour on it, and shrugged at the mess.

Starting to look like a real pie, eh?

I think it could have used at least 1/2 an apple more, but no biggy.

Wow! You'd think I actually knew what I was doing!

After I glazed the egg on top and cut three slits for steam to escape out of, I shredded a bit more cheese on top. The recipe didn't call for that, but one can never have too much cheese. Ever.

Ta-da! I cut myself a small sliver about an hour ago, and for being a person who doesn't generally like pie, I thought it was quite yummy. So! Success! Yay! If I ever make it again, I think I'll go ahead and use a full cup of sugar and even more cheese in the actual dough, just because I like flavors to knock me off my bum, but otherwise, I thought it was pretty excellent.

And, the lovely mess afterward. I have some dough left over as you can see, so I think I'm going to add in more cheese and put some sort of jam or jelly inside and make some turnovers.

Merry Christmas everyone!

[Imported] I give myself an A-

Two weekends ago, my cousin and her husband went out of town for an early anniversary present, and I watched their three kids for them, which was the longest time I've ever watched this many kids all by my lonesome. I like to think of it as practice. Anyway, I feel like such a bum when I babysit kids and all we do is watch TV, so I came up with a few activities to do.

First, since their mother needed these done for a cookie-exchange later that week, we made some chocolate-covered pretzels:

Let me just say, this was THE SINGLE WORST ACTIVITY IN THE WORLD. The only thing that takes longer to cover the pretzels in chocolate is cleaning up all the caked-up, dried chocolate that's left over in the bowls, on the forks, and on the table. This is one food craft thing that I will never do with my kids, or even by myself. They taste better when Nestle makes them, anyway.

We did end up watching a movie that night ("The Emperor's New Groove," which is just about the greatest movie ever), but after the HELL that was dipping pretzels, I needed the vegging.

The next day, I taught the girls how to make paper beads, which I did all the time when I was their age (boardgames don't work too well when you're an only child, so you gotta be creative). I must have been insane to risk using glue after the chocolate fiasco from the previous night, but it wasn't messy at all. Hallelujah.

Then after lunch, we baked and decorated cookies. There wasn't really any reason for it, other than the fact that in the end we had delicious cookies to eat, and really, what other reason do you need?

I bathed Travis a bit later. He was being fussy, and that always cheers him up. You can't tell in this picture, but I promise...he's having fun.

Later, we walked to the park about a mile away. Jasmine and Daisy could entertain themselves...

...so I spent most of the time pushing Travis on the swing.

Awww. He's a doll, don't you think?

I don't know what exactly was going on in this photo, but I think it sums up their respective personalities pretty well.

So, kind of impressive, huh? The crafts, the cleaning, the exercise? Yeah, at that point I was pretty much patting myself on that back for the ease at which I was sinking into the role of pseudo-homemaker, too. Then we walked back to their house, where we were met with a locked door and no key. Yep, I locked us out of the house. Luckily, I at least had a cell phone so I called my Aunt who had a spare, and she came to our rescue about a half hour later.

So, if you ever need anyone to watch your kid, I think I'm a decent enough choice. Just be sure to keep a spare key under a rock in your yard somewhere.

[Imported] 'Tis the Season

1. Tin Man

2. Kingdom Keepers

3. Tales of Beedle the Bard

4. Sleeping Beauty

My Christmas list this year reads like a list of (mostly) obscurities wanted by a 13-year-old D&D fanatic who hasn't quite yet come to terms with the fact that we all live in a little place called Reality.

Oh wait, that's it exactly. Well, not the D&D part. I don't know anything about D&D other than what the letters stand for. I was just using it to allude to the fantasy aspect of the nerd demographic that I so clearly belong to. The rest hits the nail on the head given that I emotionally peaked in my early teens, which explains the lack of adult-appropriate gift requested by me, despite my adult age.

Anyway, I also thought about asking for a box of reeds* for Christmas as well since I have been playing my clarinet a bit whenever my mom isn't around and since all my reeds are at LEAST 2 ½ years old (do you have any idea how gross that is? Imagine finding a 2 ½ year old used popsicle stick rotting away in a box AND THEN STICKING IT IN YOUR MOUTH FOR HOURS. Okay, show of hands - who still wants to make out with me after that information?). But as nice as would be to have some new fresh reeds for my secret musical rendezvous, I know that if I ask for anything even remotely related to music, my family will start hounding me to perform for them or… join a local orchestra or… 'stop wasting your talent, Natalie - remember how proud you used to make us?' I mean, they do that as it is – I can't even listen to classical music with my mom is in earshot lest she get all teary-eyed and say, 'Oh, boo hoo hoo, how mournful and glum I feel on hearing this piece as it reminds me of the happiness you once brought me with your own music,' though perhaps that's not quite how she words it (might as well be, though). Still, I'm just as quick to point out the fact that 95% of depression medication commercials use a lone clarinet as the background music, and HELLO! SHOULDN'T THAT TELL YOU SOMETHING? Anyway, all I'm saying is if they thought I was actually playing my clarinet again, they'd get all gloaty with their fawning and praising and thank-you-for-taking-on-the-responsibility-of-our-happiness attitude, and really now, can't I just play for me for once?

*Yes, I suppose I could just buy them myself, but they're TWENTY-THREE DOLLARS. Sure, it's not that much money, but in case you haven't noticed, I'm very frugal, very cheap, and I JUST DON'T EVER SPEND MONEY. Except for traveling, mostly. Think about it - how else do you think I managed all these theme park trips when I worked less than 15 hours a week and got paid not much more than minimum wage? I budget with the best of them, and reeds are just not something I can squeeze in right now, at least not until I get another job.

And as for Christmas this year, my family is actually celebrating the holiday this weekend. The reasons why are rather uninteresting and not worth getting into, so I won't bother; but due to our early festivities, my mom has decided to go to Florida over the official Christmas to attend her friend's son's wedding, one that I was invited to as well, but also one that I have no interest in going to since 1) I was just in Florida 2) I'm not a big fan of my mom's friends and 3) I'm not a big fan of weddings unless it's my own, in which case I would totally be there. So I guess that means that this will be the first Christmas I don't spend with at least one parent, which isn't that big a deal since we're having the actual celebration early as I previously mentioned, though I still expect the day to be slightly weird and drab. But before you all start feeling sorry for me, my aunt, uncle, and cousin who live in the area aren't going anywhere, so I'm sure they wouldn't let me stay home alone all Christmas day even if I wanted to. And I probably would want to, seeing as how I'm sure the four of us would do nothing but watch TV for hours on end, which is the only thing this family does when we get together any other time of year anyway (I love my family to death, and I think they're all hilarious people, but activity-wise, they can be as boring as watching dead grass grow.)

Now that I typed all that mess up, I just realized that I don't know where I was going with any of it. If I had a point to this post, I think lost it about two sentences in.

By the way, let me just take a moment to apologize for the slightly, oh, I dunno…melancholy? whiny? cynical? tone I suspect my blogs have taken lately. That teenage emotional peakage? Yeah, I wasn't foolin'.

[Imported] I probably won't be able to get a job one day because of this post

I had my first final exam of the semester today, and there’s no two ways about it – I blew it. It was my history final, complete with TWO essay questions, neither of which I knew the answer. It’s my own fault – no sense in beating around the bush on this one – but I did try. Initially, at least. But I had barely made it to page 3 of my 60+ pages of notes before, well...before I had a teensy tiny little mental collapse where I had an hour-long sob fest in the bathtub over the shambles my life is in, and after I drained the water I still laid therefor about another half hour, holed up in the fetal position, soaked and pruned to the bone, unwilling to get up and look at my notes again because studying? I was certain it would kill me.

I live for the melodramatic. Thank you for putting up with me.

On my last test in my history class, I had a similar meltdown, though on a much smaller scale; and when I realized that none of the information was sticking, I decided that I had one of two options: fail or cheat. And after many more failed attempts at testing myself on the information, I ended up sadly sweeping my morals and values under the rug for the time being and choosing the latter. I wrote down almost all of the information I was thought I ’d need on the test (I actually just chose one section of the notes and crossed my fingers that that would be the part the essay question would be about, so there still was no guarantee that this was gonna do me any good) in my Blue Book (which is a 12ish page-long notebook that we buy AHEAD of time in which we take our test, and if that doesn’t scream “CHEAT!! WRITE STUFF DOWN IN HERE AND CHEEEEAAAAT!!!!” I don’t know what does), and yes it was wrong. I know that, so don’t bother with the lecture. I’ll have to answer to that to the Big Man Upstairs one day, but I’ll cross that fiery bridge when I get there. So. Armed with all the answers the day of the exam, I wrote my essay with grace, flourish, and – of course – accuracy; and in the end, the combination of my failed attempts at studying and my not-so-honest method of "memorizing" the information resulted in the lovely grade of a C-.

Keep in mind that this isn’t an English class, and so he’s not critiquing my grammar or writing abilities. It’s all about accuracy, and since I had used the notes that HE HAD TYPED OUT FOR US as my source, my only question is WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS I MISSING? Nothing, as far as I could tell, and the only theory I have to explain my less than perfect grade considering the perfection of the information I used is karma.

Nevertheless, I can only imagine that had I not done what I did, there wouldn’t be a letter in the alphabet low enough to match the grade I'd have earned. I hate that my level of moral hypocrisy is at an all time high right now in admitting this, especially after reading this article and realizing that I could no longer put myself in 36 percentile of students who DON’T cheat. But it is what it is. Also, that therapist that I saw for a day a couple of months ago had responded with, “Perhaps that is the problem,” when I told her I never was much of a rule breaker and had never been in any sort of serious trouble before. And while I never once doubted the TERRIBLE-NESS of that advice since the moment I heard it, I’m still just going to go ahead and blame her for me questioning and thus compromising my own ethical compass.

Anydangway, back to today’s exam. I really didn’t have much hope, because there are no other grades in this class except for the tests. With the vast eternity of schooling I have ahead of me, despite the same vast eternity of schooling I have behind me, I was getting a bit overwhelmed with it all, especially considering that this is my third (count them – first, second, THIRD) attempt at a history class. I dropped the first two on the last possible days I could in their respective semesters when it was obvious that I simply was not going to pass, but I couldn’t do that this semester since it would have dropped me down to part-time and I would have lost my financial aid. And this was my third very different time period of history I had tried (first Medieval History, then early 20th Century History, and now this – Ancient History). But I think it was last night sometime in my shivering moments of being naked and damp in a dry tub that I just gave up on the exam before I even started it. I just accepted that I was going to fail the exam, and OH. THE. RELIEF. when I stopped caring. Don’t judge me, people (I at least vowed to take the high road an not cheat this time. Last thing I needed was to start a habit) - my mental stability was at stake here. Sure there was a tiny twinge of guilt and remorse over being a COMPLETE FAILURE, but I’ve become an expert on ignoring that feeling ever since I quit majoring in music. So I went in today, answered the couple of multiple choice questions that count for all of about 2% of the exam, and for the first essay, I took the four questions posed within the overall essay question and answered them all in short, complete sentences (and those were mostly guesses too, seeing as how I barely understood the questions to begin with), and for the second essay – the one that I was COMPLETELY clueless about – I wrote a short explanation on why I had chosen to not bother. I think I used phrases like "nervous breakdown," "sorry for being a total failure," and "never going to graduate, oh well." I was done in a grand total of 6 minutes and 27 seconds, but since I had three hours to complete the exam - and since I didn’t want to get up and leave, making it painfully obvious that I didn’t actually write anything down worth grading - I sat there and doodled on my second Blue Book which had been predestined to remain blank inside anyway.

Here’s my lovely artwork:

Yes, I have tiny writing. My teachers hate it.

As you can see, I spent most of my time drawing tetris pieces, though only the five on the left are the ones used in the game. I don’t know if you ever noticed, but the pieces represent all ways four (you know, tetra- tetris...see it?) squares can be arranged so that each square is touching at least one full side of another square (not including mirror images). I then went on to figure out all the possibilities of five squares (there are 12), and then I proceeded to do all 6 square combinations. I believe there are 36 possibilities with that, but shortly after becoming stuck at 34, someone else stood up and turned in their exam after finally finishing, at which point I figured it was safe for me to do so as well. Anyway, if anyone wants to try to figure out which two pieces I’m missing (as well as double check my work to make sure that 1) I don’t have any rotations/mirror images and 2) there actually are 36 pieces), you’re more than welcome to do so. You'll notice I started out with a system in moving the squares one at a time, but I’m notorious for getting bored with “systems” and wanting to jump ahead to whatever else pops in my mind (could explain how often I interject random thoughts and explanations in these handy-dandy little parenthetical asides, eh?), so that could have been my downfall in not finishing.

Anyway, I only have two exams left, neither of which I’m as worried about as I was about my history exam, though I’ll admit right now that my grades have suffered all-around this semester, so I doubt that F will be nothing more than a statistical blip in a sea of As. No, I’m expecting something resembling the actual first measure of lyrics to the Alphabet song.

And speaking of songs, because I’m just so gosh-darn giving, I'm going to painstakingly upload an entire CD’s worth of Christmas tunes one by one for all of you to "enjoy." I put "enjoy" in quotes like that because I made burned a CD of Christmas music that contained mostly the same songs for a friend, and he pretty much admitted to skipping over 90% of the songs within the first 10 seconds of each one starting. I guess the Muppets/country/brass quartet/1940s compilation isn’t for everyone. Oooo, I bet you can't wait now that I've spoiled the surprise now, can you?

[Imported] Oh well, I guess I'll just never get married

My mom left for Tennessee this morning for Thanksgiving, which means that I'm home alone until I leave for Florida next Wednesday (for those of you thinking that this would be a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of my single womanhood and come break into my house to do…whatever, well, let me warn you that I took karate for 6 years (sure, it was 10 years ago, but I still know where your balls are located) AND I own a Tae Bo workout video that I watched one time. So…yeah. I'm pretty dangerous.) And like any child would do when she suddenly finds the house all her own for days on end, I've decided to...*giggle*...go a little crazy. First, I had ice cream after lunch instead of after dinner, then I set the thermostat to 71 degrees instead of 70 degrees, and finally (yes, there's more!) I had a full sip of milk straight from the carton. Maybe I'll even stay up until 9:30 tonight! Oh heavens, can you imagine what my mother would do if I knew of this devilish wild side in me? Oooo, it makes me giggle nervously.

Tee hee.

Speaking of my wild side, yes, my hair was parted on the right side in the photo, which someone correctly guessed (darn me and my far-too-easy questions!), but I definitely have to give you the story behind the picture. Here we go. My hair naturally parts on the left side. It always has and, unless I shave my hair completely off and start over, I suspect it always will. Until the other day when I decided to spice things up* and dare to defy my follicles. After all, how often does my hair do what I want it to do anyway? (Psh, never.) Then why should I so obediently and unquestioningly follow the Thou-shalt-part-a-sinistra commandment as my hair demands? So I just threw my hair to the other side one day, sprayed it down so much that I'm pretty sure I formed a new hole in the ozone layer (okay, that's a lie, I don't even use aerosol hairspray), and then admired the New Me in the mirror. I must say, I was taken aback by how different I looked, and after a minute or two I realized that wow! this is what I look like to the rest of the world! Awww, I'm pretty!

*Part of my decision was also based on the Hair Part Theory (WARNING! PDF! AGGHHHH!), which says that a specific-sided hair part draws unconscious attention to its relative side of the brain, thus a person is then subconsciously perceived to have traits associated with said side of the brain. For instance, with my left part, I would - in theory - be perceived to have more left-brained, traditionally-male qualities (logic, dominance, leadership, an uncontrollable need to talk about myself, etc.) rather than right-brained, traditionally-female qualities (artistry, sensitivity, daddy issues, a deafening biological clock, etc.), so - DUH! - no wonder I can't get a boyfriend! I've simply been intimidating men with my masculine, pants-wearing hair part! Ahh, feels good to have solved that mystery.

So there you go. It only took me 22 years to completely reinvent the position of my hair.

Annnnd no one noticed.

But whatever. The real issue I had with my hair being parted on the right side was how ABSOLUTELY CRAZY IT DROVE ME. OH. MY. GOSH. With my hair parted on the left for just about my entire life, I'm long past the point of noticing my hair draped across the right side of my forehead. But in reverse? UGH. The left side of my forehead was SUFFOCATING under the hair. And also, during a typical left-hair-part day, I'm constantly [subconsciously] brushing and tucking my hair behind my ear with my right hand, which is normally NO BIG DEAL, except I'm so used to reaching beyond the center of my body to where the left-sided part begins that with my right-sided part, I kept accidentally pulling my oppositely-draped hair back over to the other side (where it normally lays) which meant that I was messing up my hair roughly every 5-10 minutes throughout the ENTIRE DAY.

The next day, I moved my part back to the left, and ohhhhh, the relief was instantaneous. It was as though I had spent the day completely blindfolded and only after taking the blindfold off did I realize how beautiful sight was. Yes, that comparison is totally appropriate, don't give me flack. I'm telling you…I heard angels sing.

Conclusion? Change - it's a bad thing.

[Imported] Afternoon delight

Yesterday, we had a cold front plow through (which more than likely developed from the continental polar air mass in the Canadian plains, and I'm only telling you this because I'm taking a meteorology class this semester, and it's just about the only thing I actually understand, so look! Look at my smarts! Someone call Jeopardy!), and it made for some crazy (though beautiful) skies.

First, there were TWO FULL rainbows stretched out across the sky. You can only kinda see the top one in this first picture and you can't see it at all in the second, so you'll just have to trust me that it was indeed fully there and not merely a hallucination from some trippy drugs, which, of course, is so like me anyway.

Now, I know you're all thinking that the blue skies do not at all match the orange-y reflection in the windows and against the houses. Bravo, you, for noticing such details, and needing me to point that inconsistency out to you. No, it's not shoddy photoshop magic. It was due to this:

CRAZY, RIGHT? Part of me was expecting to suddenly see a city-sized space craft enter our atmosphere from the right and start interfering with our satellites and causing static on our TVs. But - obviously - that part of me was severely disappointed when it didn't happen (oh, how I would have loved for Jeff Goldblum to show up and save me the world.)

And finally (and totally unrelated), anyone wanna tell me what's different about me in this next picture?

(hint: it's not my double chin)

[Imported] (I can’t help it, they’re like a hug for my words)


That right there deserves to be it's own entry, but since I'm trying to be a bit more environmentally-friendly, I'll do my part and not waste this update with merely one sentence so that I can save a few e-trees out there.

Ha, ha, ha, I chuckle. You thought we conservatives didn't care about the earth, did you? Well, pish posh! PROVED YOU WRONG.

Speaking of politics (no! it's not what you think, I swear!), I'll admit that I was less-than happy with the outcome of the election - though not entirely surprised - but I'm not going to go into it much more than that. I've done pretty good so far in keeping politics out of my blogs (my tweets, however? not so much) ("my tweets..." Huh, does that sound dirty to anyone else? ), and that's something I don't plan on changing any time soon EVER (learned that lesson the hard way in high school. NEVER. AGAIN.) So, all I will say on the matter here is that, in the spirit of fairness and maturity, I promise to show the exact same level of respect, courtesy, and understanding to our soon-to-be President that the other side has been showing our current President for the last eight years. The end.

Anyway! Here's some fun news (haha, "fun." I'll tell you what's REALLY fun - denial!): I went to an info session about transferring into the graphic design program here at NC State, and found out that out of the 500+ applicants (including all on-/off- campus transfers AND incoming freshman) only 28 (read: TWENTY EIGHT OMGSUXORZ!!!!!) are admitted into the program. Also, since students are only allowed to take one studio class per semester (and there are eight total), it is impossible to get one's degree in less than four years. And in case you're a product of public school (like me) and can't do that kind of math in your head, don't worry, I've calculated it for you - that puts me graduating in 2013, a full NINE YEARS after I graduated high school (by which time my eggs will be old and shriveled up and I'll never have kids and then the world will end and we'll ALL DIE!!!! AGHHHOVERREACTING!!!). But that's assuming I even get in THIS time around. They only accept students for fall semesters, so if I don't get in now but get in for the fall of 2010, it will then take me AN ENTIRE DECADE TO GET A BATCH-EL-LORS DEGREE.

(I know that's not the right spelling, I'm just emphasizing the pronunciation to drive the point home, here).

So, heavy sigh, I'm just trying to not think about it for now, because when I do, I feel my brain go all mushy, I stop blinking for long periods of time, and I can't utter a single sound except, "muh muh muh muh." Instead, I'm just going to focus on how I'm GOING TO DISNEY WORLD FOR THANKSGIVING, YAYZ!!!

Ahhh, how it soothes me.

(One last thing - after proof-reading this entry and getting a headache from a ridiculous amount of parentheses (even for me!) (Aghhh! I can't control it!), I think that there is a correlation to be found there: the more frantic I am, the more of these - ( ) - bad boys you'll see here. (Like these.) (Or these.) (Or even these). (Haha, I don't know what I'm doing anymore.)

(Pssst...also, I'm really giggly right now. Frantic and giggly is apparently a very interesting combination for me).

[Imported] We’ll be hobos for Halloween, but I don’t know what our costums will be

A month or so ago, the people I was babysitting for asked if I could also babysit during the hours that I was currently working at the YMCA. And since these people paid me twice as much as the Y, I said sure (my exact words may have been "hell yes," but I could be wrong) and put in my two week notice. But - huh, crazy thing - after those two weeks were up, I wasn't called to babysit. I didn't think much of it, because that had happened before, like when the kids were sick, or when the family was out of town. But when I didn't hear from them the following week, I decided to call them and see what was going on. Turns out that they decided to cut back on non-necessities due to the economy, and that meant giving me the axe. They must have tried telling me this via ESP or something, since they never otherwise let me know this VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION, and only inconsiderate dopes would "forget" to inform a person of her de-employment. Now that I think about it, I never DID tell them that I wasn't a psychic, and since that must be the method in which they attempted to contact me, it's probably my fault that I didn't get their telepathic messages. That must be it. No big deal, though, it's not like I had JUST QUIT MY OTHER JOB FOR THEM OR ANYTHING.

I couldn't really get to upset, though, because I was babysitting for the daughter of my mom's boss. So. Suck it up, Nat. Suck it up.

But - heavy sigh - two days ago my mom was told that Friday would be her last day of work. She works at a family-owned commercial construction/development company, so really, how much of a surprise is that given the current real estate and new construction market? The company has been letting a few people go here and there over the past month (they also let my mom's ex-boyfriend go the same day as her, so I was sure to bring up the bright side by saying, "Good thing you didn't marry him."), and from what I gather, I don't think they're quite done cutting back. Still, my mom was understandably upset when she got the news.

And she was even more upset when she got home later that evening.

I was at school, so I didn't get to see the lurking horrors firsthand, but apparently when my mom walked in the door, she was greeted by a flooded kitchen. A flooded wood-floor kitchen. A flooded, wood-floor kitchen that only we have used since we're the first owners of this townhouse. And not only was the kitchen flooded - the flood was caused by the refrigerator which had suddenly stopped running at some point in the previous 24 hours (we noticed that the ice tray was empty the night before, so perhaps it was on its way out then). Thus - it peed all over.

(Also, I say "flooded," but it was probably more like a puddle of water with a radius of about 8 feet. Not that our kitchen is much bigger than that, and not that the water didn't do any damage; I just don't want to give the impression that we were wading chest-deep in melted freezer burn.)

She called a repairman who was able to come and look at it yesterday while I was home; and when he arrived, he said nothing other than 'hello,' and then he just yanked the refrigerator out from against the wall, and poked around the thing. Now, I don't know if this guy is new to the business, if he deals with only ceramic-tiled kitchens and perhaps he was doing a favor for the wood-floored kitchen guy, or if he just didn't like our McCain/Palin sign in our front yard and didn't care what the hell he did; because once he put the refrigerator back in its spot, we had two fresh 3-foot long wheel indentions in our floors (granted the floors were rippled a bit in spots from the water, but that you can only see in certain lights). That's precisely the reason my mom left it up to a "professional," rather than pulling the fridge out herself to see if she could figure out the problem - SHE DIDN'T WANT TO IGNORANTLY MOVE IT LEST IT SCRATCH THE FLOOR. So how in the world would this not cross the mind of a man WHO DOES THIS FOR A LIVING? I sincerely doubt that we are the first house of which he has permanently scratched the floor.

Long story short, he had to order a part, which meant I had to empty the recycling bin, fill it up with all our nearly-thawed frozen foods (except the ice cream, which tragically melted the night before, and oh, how my heart broke to dump it), and drive it over to a friend's house with a spare freezer. He then lent us a cooler and some ice, in which I packed all our refrigerated foods. Well, some of them anyway. Not everything fit, so I had to throw away some stuff. Luckily, there was a good portion of food that expired sometime in 2006, so that made the picking and choosing a bit easier.

ANYWAY. Back to today. The part came in, my mom is going to talk to the head of the head of the fridge-repair company about compensating us for our carelessly treated floor, and the fridge is currently up and running again (knock on wood). My mom has been an emotional wreck these last two days, which means that she's been crying pretty much as often as her body will allow her to, and - as terrible as this is going to make me sound - I find incredibly awkward to listen to it. Not that I don't get why she's upset - I do. I'm just not good at dealing with "people" and their "emotions," the cold-hearted witch that I am. I mean, she can collect unemployment to tide us over until another job comes up, and we still have a roof over our heads, and (as of today) food in our fridge (praise sweet baby Jesus, because I've just been eating dry cereal and chocolate for the last two days since those were basically the only non-perishable foodstuffs we have). Yeah, the situation still sucks right now, and I know she's tired of having to start over, time after time. But this losing her job stuff? This is nothing compared to some of the things we've been through. We've both lived through some very Bad Things - Things that make other capitalized words lowercase in fear, and this is a scraped knee compared to those events. Just gotta get her to see that now.

Of course, when we're on the streets begging for money in a few months, maybe I'll feel a bit more antsy about our situation.

[Imported] "I tied my own shoes once. It is an overrated experience."

While at Target the other day, not only did I stumble across one of the top 10 things God has ever bestowed upon His children, I also bought it for a grand total of $7.00.


Yes, I posed with the DVD. But only those who have never seen this movie would be so foolish as to mock me for doing such a thing.

Also, no, it's not Coming to 'Merica. Nor is it Coming to Umerica or Omerica (though I wouldn't doubt that that's what Obama is going to change the name of the country to if he's elected, pardon the digression). I apologize for my ill-place fingers.

So. I'll try this again:

Damn, I didn't think about the mirror and how they, you know, MIRROR THINGS. Awwwww, but I'm so cuuuuute!

Okay, let's go for that third-time-charm thing:

Ah, there it is. Coming to America. That's Desert-Island-movie material, right there. LOVE. IT.

Ugh, is that my kissing face? Really? Good Lord, no wonder I don't have a boyfriend. Then again, I just spent my evening taking photos of myself with a 1980s Eddie Murphy film. I think it goes deeper than just my poorly puckered lips.

Oh! Also - yesterday, I found $200 in my paypal account that I didn't know I had. That was pretty cool.

I mean, it's no $7 DVD, but still...pret-ty cool.

[Imported] I MUST be crazy to blog about this

I know I've been very negligent of my blog here lately, and I'm very sorry if your life has been worse off because of these non-blogging ways of mine. But life here in the Visage household has been precariously uncertain as well as unbelievably boring (don't ask me how that combination can possibly exist - I don't have an explanation or examples to present - just know that it does) here in these last couple of months, and neither fear nor monotony have ever been great muses for me. So, if you want entertaining blogs in the future, please, do your part and donate your ideas and inspirations to the Natatomic Cause for a Better Blog.

Humor: It begins with you. Because I got nothing.

Still, I know you're all hurting for some Natalovin', so here's an attempt to get this blog rolling again.

A couple of weeks ago, my mom decided to send me to a shrink because – after nearly a decade – she finally noticed some of my outward signs of what I like to call "The Crazies." I've been on diving helix (I originally had the more common "downward spiral," but then fond memories of the summer hit me) into a shimmering pool of pink elephants and imaginary voices for quite a while now, and I've been fully away of it, but don't ask me why I didn't bother sitting my own butt down in a shrink chair myself, because I don't know. Maybe I enjoy being self-destructive, maybe I'm only happy when it rains, maybe I'm only happy when it's complicated. These are all just theories that I remember learning about in my Psychology class last year (or I maybe it was a mid-90s alternative rock tune, the details are a bit fuzzy) so I'm hoping the therapist will figure it out and explain it to me (i.e. explain me to me), because I don't know why the heck I do half the things I do. Like why am I posting all this on TEH PUBLIC INTRAWEBZ??? I HAVE NO IDEA.

Anyway, the first session was quite possibly the single most uncomfortable thing I've ever sat through (at least in the past couple of weeks). The woman very much reminded me of Coco Chanel, at least in her attitude and accent. Not so much in anything else like fashion sense or fame. So I guess just any old, stuffy French woman would work as a comparison, really. But you get the picture. And for an hour and a half, she asked me things like was I breastfed as a child? Was I born vaginally? Were my first words, "I have daddy issues?" Well, maybe the baby questions were only about 5 minutes of the entire session, but goll, were those five minutes ever long, gross, and awkward.

Then she started asking me more expected questions regarding my behaviors and thought processes as well as a general timeline of my life and any significant events that I personally went through (there is something grammatically wrong with that sentence, but I really don't care/know how to fix it right now, sp please ignore), and I honestly don't know what was worse – listening to myself list all my weird, totally not normal habits or listening to myself yak on and on about my "woeful" life experiences (like high school! The horrors! With that dumb, stupidface, poopyhead boyfriend I had whose mommy and daddy didn't like me, and my ex-friend would flirt with him just to, like, make me angry or jealous or whatever, I mean, like, HOW RUDE, so OMG HOW TERRIBLE MY LIFE HAS BEEN!!!!1!!1111). The former made me just want to curl up under a blanket and never show my face to the world again because, really, who does stuff like that? while the latter made me just want to SLAP MYSELF IN THE FACE because I obviously let the most frivolous things affect me an astonishingly disproportionate amount. Not that I don't have a number of legitimate sucky life experiences to talk about (good thing Obama didn't come to my neighborhood and let me ask him a question, since the skeletons in my familial closet? they are scandalous), but for whatever reason, it was the small things that got my hair all in a tissy (haha, like that should really be past-tense), and I couldn't even help but roll my eyes at MYSELF as I whined about things that are sooooo 2004.

Looking back on it, I don't know why I told her anything in the first place. Sure, she asked questions to which I provided the answers, but come on…who just gives it all up so easily? Aren't I supposed to act like everything is all hunky-dory at first, get all defensive when she starts to hit a nerve a few weeks in, and THEN – after, like 3 months of intense scrutiny and prying questions – finally blurt out my dark, shameful secrets in a blubbery mess of agony and tears? Aren't I supposed to make her work for the small fortune she makes every hour? Not uncontrollably vomit up every single flaw about myself within the first 8 minutes of meeting each other?

Good news is that I'll have a second chance at playing the pish-posh!-everything-is-grand! denial card. I didn't get a good vibe from this first woman (I mean, honestly - was I born vaginally? What?), so it looks like I'm going to have to shop around for someone to fix my brain.

Maybe she can stop me from writing such personal blog posts, too.

[Imported] This subject title just BLEW YOUR MIND

Spent the day working on a brand new header for my brand new layout, and I must say, the ratio of my sense of accomplishment to the meaningfulness of the project is really, really depressing.

There was a bit more to my previous header, but this one is much more fun and much less violent, and I think most people prefer me to not threaten them with a knee in the balls. The males, anyway.

I will tell you right now that despite how simple the header is, it was indeed an ALL DAY project. I mean, do you have ANY idea how many fonts I have? Close to one thousand (!!!), but they all look so different when bolded AND/OR italicized. And don't even get me started on all-caps vs. no-caps vs. just-the-first-letter-capped-because-that's-how-my-high-school-English-teachers-would-have-wanted-it because ZOH MY GOSH THERE ARE JUST TOO MANY COMBINATIONS.

When I close my eyes tonight, all I'm going to see are the words "San-serif" flashing across the inside of my eyelids, and it's going to be hell.

Oh, one thing - let me know if the header for some reason covers part of the top two tables on my profile. It's been doing that to me lately, but I don't know if it's just my computer/firefox/the fact that life hates me/hallucinations or what, because as soon as I hit refresh once or twice, it moves itself right back up 50 pixels or so where it belongs.

Next topic:

So! This weekend! Fall break! YAY!

Total change of plans. I was thinking of doing the whole Hershey thing as you might have read in the last post, but then I remembered my Six Flags season pass and how I don't plan on having one in future years any time soon (they're not exactly local parks for me). So I figured why not take a trip to Six Flags over Georgia instead, and collect the 4 or so credits that I'm still missing from the park (including Goliath! FTW!) SINCE IT WILL BE FREE?

The next part is where I suck up a lot of really weird and complicated feelings, simply for my weird, obsessive love of theme parks. (I have no man in my life, WILL YOU JUST GIVE ME THIS?)

After my romp in the park at SFoG, I plan on driving to my dad's house in Tennessee. Where I will spend the night. Voluntarily. I will then wake up the next morning and go to Dollywood. With my dad. Voluntarily.

This is some pretty crazy sh!t right here, and it totally deserves the expletive.

Normally, I would avoid spending the night at my dad's at all cost because it's just so dang awkward and depressing (oh, goll, if only you saw where he lives these days); but it's free lodging, and knowing him, he'll offer to pay for my ticket to Dollywood (yes, he's allowed to go, but don't ask me how that works out - not that he'd do anything anyway, because that's not what he did in the first place, and yes, I know a lot of you are TOTALLY LOST right now and have NO idea what I'm talking about, but don't trouble yourself with it, it's not worth trying to figure out), and he'll probably give me a bit of gas money for the return trip home.

I'm poor, and if all that's required of me is to spend a little "quality time" with my dear father in order to get away from school and ride a freaking roller coaster before the season is out, well then, so be it.

Besides, the relationship I have with my dad is probably better (oh, what a relative term it is) at this point in our lives than it was at any other. This has to do with a number of things, but few of the main reasons are 1) I live far, far away from him, 2) he can't exactly come visit me any ol' time he pleases (take a wild shot in the dark as to why), 3) he's got no room left to be a jackass anymore, since he's already living on borrowed forgiveness.

But! I get to ride Goliath! At last! AND Dollywood ranks 4 after Hershey on my favorite parks list (I luuuuuv me some Thunderhead). So what if I'm, like, 90% excited but 10% ugh-my-dad? It could be worse - I could be sitting home on the computer all fall break thinking about the horrors of school, and that is a nightly ritual for me as it is. I NEED A VACATION.

So, if anyone wants to tag along as SFoG on Friday, let me know. Same with Dollywood on Saturday, I guess, but since my dad will be there, it might be best for me to keep that madness to myself.

[Imported] Good thing I’m clearing this up right as summer’s about to end

I wrote this post once all ready, and I honestly don't think it's worth the effort to write all over again, but my stubbornness far outweighs my laziness and efficiency, so I WILL PERSEVERE AND SHOW YOU WHO'S BOSS, INTERNET.

My computer just flickered in fear.


Anyway, the lost blog was all about how I wore a bikini to the pool today. An outdoor pool. Where people frequent. Or at least, where people are supposed to frequent. See, our neighborhood pool isn't so much a pool as it is a, um, one notch above a kitchen sink. Maybe a bathtub. So no one ever goes. Except me (that I know of), donned in a silver tankini (which makes me wince just to type, because as far as portmanteaux go, that one is really just the bottom of the wordtastic barrel), even though it's really just a one piece that wishes it was a - groan – tankini, since not even a millimeter of midriff shows between the top and bottom pieces. Goll, I'm such an old person.

By the way, if you're hoping this story has a point, you're in for a huge disappointment. Also, this next paragraph is a doozy. You've been warned.

So, this bikini has sat unworn in my closet for the last 3-4 years, due to my stereotypical female insecurities, blah, blah, blah, especially after working at Cold Stone Creamery for 7 months and gaining 15 pounds because ALL! THAT! ICE CREAM! But did I feel bad about this bathing suit rotting away in my closet, all neglected and dry? No, because this bikini was FREE. How was it free, you ask? Well, it was given to my mom by her then-boyfriend as a gift, only it didn't fit her, so I said I'd take it, and yes, I'm sure Freud would probably have a thing or two to say about that. But I couldn't pass it up because 1) hello! FREE! Do you know how much bathing suits usually cost? and 2) it was much hotter and more grown up than my previous bikini, which had a different color on both the front AND back of the top AND bottom (pink, yellow, lime green, and sky blue, if you can imagine), as well as some cartoon-y map on the butt and weird Moroccan squiggles/quilt-like patterns everywhere else (yes, it was that crazy-busy), and honestly, the only thing missing from it was the word 'POLACK' written across the chest, because that suit didn't even match itself, though I'll admit that's what made it cute, but once I outgrew that suit, I was ready for a more mature one (not porno mature, just grown-up mature), and that's the story of how I got this bikini I wore today, and if writing never-ending sentences was an Olympic event, I'd have just won a gold medal, and I'd be sobbing my eyes out on the pedestal and forgetting the words to the national anthem for all the world to see on world-wide television right about now, right after they did the interview in which I'd, of course, be thanking the Lord for blessing me with a holy amount of talent for rambling, in Christ our Savior's name, Amen.


Where was I?

Oh, yes.

So, I just happened to see this suit crumpled up in the closet today, and I decided to try it on. Just to see. I didn't look…disgusting in it, at least. Actually, it was okay. I still couldn't stop myself from grabbin my pooch of a belly and thinking, "Goll, Natalie, lose some effin weight already," but that's just my estrogen talking, so don't go leaving me a comment now saying I'm not fat. I know I'm not fat. But, see, one is not allowed to be a girl unless she at least thinks she's fat. No joke, it's actually the law that all post-pubescent females must have a full-blown nervous breakdown in either a restaurant or clothing store at least once a month and yell for all to hear within a 3 mile radius about how gross and flabby their bodies are, otherwise the government comes and takes away their vaginas.

Damn government.

But, like I said, I'm the only one ever at the pool, so who did I need to hide from, especially since I didn't look that bad? And since my stomach is so white other virgins are asking me if they can wear it on their wedding day, I decided to wear the bikini and let my pasty skin get some color for once. I'm sure you already have an idea of where this is going, that perhaps I got to the pool and had it all to myself, only for people to suddenly show up about 10 minutes into my swim, and if that WAS your guess, well, props, because that's what happened.

I didn't care too much, since I just stayed in the pool and swam the whole time (that, really, was the pathetic part, since it took me all of five strokes to make it from one end of the pool to the other. It was like trying to run laps in a parking space), and how were they going to see my body through ALL THAT WATER, RIGHT?

But whatever, that's not where I'm going with this (that whole story of my bikini? Yeah, that's all I had to say about. I told you there was no point, and don't you wish you could get those five minutes of your life back?) The thing is those people went to the pool today JUST TO SIT BY IT. Every once in a while, someone would put a toe in the pool, freak out about how cold it was, and then slowly creep their body in until the water reached, oh my gosh, their belly button (their bravery, it was INSPIRING); but then they'd hop right back out after ten seconds just to spend another hour marathoning the lawn chair. This is a common practice that I simply don't understand, because, you see, the entire point of going to the pool, in theory, – and stay with me here, this gets kind of crazy – is to actually SWIM IN THE POOL.

I'll take a second to let your mind recover from being. totally. blown.

Now, I understand that some people just like to get some sun, but really now, you can sit in your driveway just as easily if sunbathing is your main goal. You can even spray yourself with a water hose to cool you off! Isn't that brilliant? I mean, just sitting by the pool and NOT getting in it is like buying a movie ticket and popcorn then sitting in the lobby. You're simply missing all the fun! All four feet deep of it!*

So what's your opinion? Are you a swimmer or a sitter?

*Actual depth may vary

[Imported] In one of those moods where nothing is TMI

Since the bra I was wearing in this picture broke shortly afterward (coincidence? I think not!) (oh, and no, you can't SEE my bra in that photo, you pervs. Is that the only reason you clicked?) (also, that was totally my favorite bra – best I ever owned, hands down, and now I have half a mind to sue Darien Lake for a new bra, and really, what trial lawyer wouldn't want to try that case?) (Oh, and yeah, that's me riding a coaster with Diablo Cody. Go on, be jealous.)(I swear I'm done with these parenthetical asides now), so my mom gave me money to buy three brand new bras for a little back-to-school "gift," if you will. And that's a totally appropriate gift for the occasion, right? Calculator, text books, 0.5mm lead for my mechanical pencils…What good would any of those things do me at school if my boobs are hanging down to my knees? Maybe when I graduate (in 38 years), she'll get me an underwear/douche combo!!!

Okay, seriously, I do appreciate my mom's offer, because if she didn't buy me bras, I certainly wouldn't. I hate bra shopping, and I'm not about to go out and spend money to do it. It's quite possibly accepted by women everywhere to be the worst type of shopping there is, and if you boys think I'm wrong about this, just imagine if jockstraps were part of your everyday wardrobe, and how annoying those things would be to buy, especially if they came in about 8329.4 variations, and you had to try on EVERY SINGLE ONE and STILL not find one that fits "just right." And even if you DO find one that fits, you still don't feel great about it, because now you actually have to WEAR it, and no matter how well it fits, it's still not comfortable by the time hour 3 rolls around every day.

Also, I haven't really ever owned any pretty, sexy bras because, well, I'm pretty much the only one that sees them, and honestly, I stopped trying to impress myself a long time ago. All my bras are plain and white or nude with straps as wide as the Mississippi River and reinforced with some NASA-designed light-weight titanium alloy, because THAT'S JUST THE KIND OF SUPPORT I NEED. And if the straps of my bra are any narrower than, say…your average two-lane highway, then they dig into my shoulders which end up looking like the grand canyon by the end of the day, complete with sight-seeing tourists and base-jumpers.

(By the way, if you are one of those women with perky boobs that don't even require a bra, then I want you to leave this blog right now and never speak to me again. My chest doesn't like you anymore.)

But on my recent coaster trip, I just happened to see my roommate's very fancy bra (fancy compared to what I wear, at least) lying on the floor, and I thought to myself, "Self…you are 22 years old. Get yourself something HOT already, woman!" So when my mom offered to buy me three new bras, that's just what I set out to do.

Like I said, though, bra shopping is not at all fun. There are literally thousands of bras to choose from at most stores, all with their different sales pitches and enhancements which drive me crazy. Listen – my boobs do not need any Pushing Up, they certainly don't need a Miracle, and they definitely don't need any more Wonder. I've got wonder to spare. MY BOOBS ARE UP TO THEIR NIPPLES IN WONDER. I just need a basic bra that doesn't look like my grandmother's, that minimizes bouncing, and that doesn't poke me to death, and you'd be surprised at how hard that is to find.

I ended up trying on about 30 bras, I think, and finally narrowed it down to a plain nude one (similar to my favorite on that broke, and since I have a few shirts that you can see even plain white bras through, I did need to get this ONE boring one), one fire-engine red one (Whooooo! I'm on FI-YAH!), and one pretty blue one with lace or flower print or needle point or something. I can't remember exactly, but I just know it was pretty. There were two gorgeous bras that I really had my fingers crossed for, while trying them on. The first was perfect in every way, until the moment when somehow my fingernails just happened to brush across the surface of the fabric. It honestly sounded like I was scratching a record, and while I can't imagine there ever being many instances in which my fingernail would come into contact with my bra for that sound to be heard in a public setting, that's just not the risk I'd like to take. Plus, what if I still had that bra when I got married? I don't think I like the idea of me being my husband's personal turntable.

The other bra I liked was a beautiful color, it fit perfectly, and it was on sale. I love things that are on sale. The flaw, though, was that it snapped in front. Now back in high school, I used to like bras that snapped in front – they were much easier to get off and on, and they didn't poke into my spine whenever I leaned back in a chair. But every day I wore it, the snap would suddenly undo itself as I was walking down the halls at school, eating pizza in the cafeteria, doing a presentation to my entire class, etc. And there are very few occurrences in life that deliver the same level of panic in a girl as her boobs suddenly plummeting to the ground below while standing in front of all her peers.