Sunday, July 31, 2011

This Is How My Brain Works Every Sunday Morning

When I'm extra tired, my body seems to soak up all of the sleeps that it needs really quickly and then it wakes up in a better mood than it's had in weeks. So this morning I woke up, went to the bathroom, made a pot of coffee, and washed the few dishes in the sink before I came back to my bed and saw that it was only 6:30. But I'm not going to go back to sleep because I'm so lucky to live in the uppermost part of this house with a bedroom window that faces the rising sun and the light in here looks like honey and it's sweet.
In Looking For Alaska, John Green writes:
Like the way the sun is right now, with the long shadows and that kind of bright, soft light you get when the sun isn't quite setting? That's the light that makes everything better, everything prettier, and today, everything just seemed to be in that light.
And I can hear whatever bird that is that says, "who. whooooooo who. who." I don't hear that bird very often but it always reminds me of younger days when I lived in less populated areas. It reminds me of when we lived in Zenith and could run around all day long in nothing but our underwear. It was the life. I think my whole life I'll be trying to get back to that sort of place. Back to a place that you have to drive a ways to get to. Back to the place where you can leave your curtains open in the night time because there's no one to see into your home. Not for miles. Back to the place where you don't realize that there are things to complain about. We'd go out into the yard and dig holes and fill them with water and make little lego boats to try to float. But the holes always drained. Looking back, I love that this confused us. I never considered that the earth was as thirsty as we were in the summertime and kept drinking our entertainment. I remember that mom would let us stay outside until the sun began to set and we'd come into the house with dirt in so many surprising places. We'd eat dinner and watch the Cosby show. I remember crying and crying and crying the day that The Cosby show ended. I was going to miss The Huxtables. I thought they were my friends and I'd never see them again. I didn't know about reruns. I didn't know that the very next week they would play an old episode and that I would feel emotionally jipped (but also relieved).

Our dad worked at the local Co-op. There was a big tank-thing that was intended to be home to, probably, billions of gallons (keep in mind the disconnect between childhood perspective of size and realistic perspective) of chemicals or pesticides or something else that children should never be near. Before it could be filled, though, the tank (which was made of terribly thick plastic) fell off of the truck and cracked. Rendering it useless to its intended purpose. My dad brought it home, measured about 5 feet from the bottom and cut the top off. And that's how we got a swimming pool for free. Mom split a garden hose down the middle and ran it around the top so that we wouldn't cut our little arms and legs when we got in. We positioned it beneath our tree house so that we could, at times, jump from a dangerous height into not enough water. That shit would not pass inspection in any town where there were neighbors. But it was incredible.

But it wasn't a real pool and it didn't have an ordinary filtration system or, you know, chlorine or anything. It was really just a gigantic tub of water in the back yard with a spout at the bottom that we used to drain it. And unlike a real pool the fight against algae was a physical one that we loved to fight. Mom would strip us down and make us wear socks in the pool. And it was our job to scrub all of the slime off of the bottom using only our feet. She said it was part of owning your own pool. She said all the kids with pools in their back yard had to do this. We'd scrub and then drain all of the water out and then my mom would do her best to get in there and clean the mildew. From my adult perspective--that's truly disgusting and probably fifteen kinds of dangerous. As a little kid, it was a dream come true. We had dreams of keeping the water filled throughout the winter time, letting it freeze solid and then turning it into our own, personal ice rink. Oddly, that swimming pool only lasted for one summer. We thought mom was so mean for not letting us keep it for another year. From my grown up place, though, at an age that is not that far off from where my mother was when she was sending her kids out into a vat of green goo (which she probably hated to do--but are there other options that will preserve the single greatest aspect of their childhoods?)--I don't blame her one bit. She was a saint to put up with it for so many months.

Happy Sunday Morning.

I wish I had a picture of us when we were little to put here at the end of this post.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ten on Tuesday on Time

From Roots and Rings as per usual (only this time I'm really doing it on a Tuesday because I'm working on a bigger post but it's taking time and because I've been up since about 5:00 am on account of my anxious brains and I feel like doing something that doesn't require all too much mind-power).

1. What colour are your toenails painted?
Get. This. It's a color by Pure Ice called (oh this is embarrassing), "No Means No." Which not only doesn't give you any idea of what color it is but it's pretty much called, "Good luck, try not to get raped!"

2. What colour are your fingernails painted?
OPI's Bogota Blackberry. Sounds exotic doesn't it? Yeah, it's not. (I don't care if my fingers match my toes... I haven't the energy to keep up with my toes on the regular.)

3. What is your favourite brand of nail polish?
I, honestly, buy the cheapest stuff that I can find. Usually that's Pure Ice or Petites from Walmart. I change my color often enough that I'm not interested in spending $7 on color (I don't even like spending $7 on a bag of frozen chicken breasts). Especially when it'll keep from chipping and staining if you apply base and top coat anyway and keep up with it.

4. As the norm, do you DIY your nails or get mani/pedis?
I would love a pedicure. I usually get one at the beginning of every summah but I didn't this year because there are much more important things on which to spend $30.

5. Have you ever had a gel mani? Do you recommend it?
I don't know what that is and I'm not interested enough to Google it as I've never had a manicure. So the answer is decidedly "no."

6. What is the last movie you watched on television? (TV, Netflix, Redbox, etc.)
Um... let me think about it. Oh yeah! Biutiful. It was lovely and honest and raw and it messed with my brains for days.

7. What is the last movie you watched in the cinema?
Bridesmaids. And before that it was Bridesmaids. First time I'd ever seen a movie twice in the theater.

8. Is there a movie that everyone talks about as if it is a classic but you haven’t seen?
I've been pretty active about getting a bunch of old classics in. Obviously I haven't seen them but I feel like Brokeback Mountain is one of those cultural classics that I should have seen but I haven't because I'm mostly uninterested in cowboys in general. Also American Pie--I should have seen it a million years ago as a passage into my late teens but I never did.

9. What is your favourite movie soundtrack?
And, of course, the answer is Elizabethtown.

10. Have you ever seen a movie and thought it was better than the book it was based on?
Yeah, that's actually a myth.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Maybe I'm a Goose

I went to Lakeside Park today. I sat on a bench facing the water just opposite of a group of waterfowl. There were little ducks perched all in a cluster facing the geese who were not sitting but kind of walking back and forth as though leading some sort of time-share seminar or Sunday School Class. When I sat down, they all sort of turned to look at me like I wasn't invited to the meeting but I sipped my coffee and watched as they ignored me and went about their business.

My brain has been scrambled for the past several weeks and it's all catching up to me. The second I woke up, I knew that I just needed to get out of my house. I needed to be out of my house and breathing some fresh air and soaking in sunshine and generally just being alone--somewhere else. I needed some sort of church. So I got a coffee and I sat cross-legged on a picnic table and breathed deeply and watched the ducks watch the geese and I listened to wind and I tried to evaluate my life. But I couldn't because I don't know what I want. I don't know what I don't want. I don't know what I need. So mostly I just sat there not thinking of anything.

I feel like I'm scared of a lot of things that other people fall into without any effort whatsoever. But I have been actively choosing to do things that are intimidating or relatively dangerous (nothing life-threatening) because I don't want to look back and say, "I never went swimming in a public pool because I'm grossed out by the thought of my own thighs even when I'm alone in my apartment." Or, "I never sang karaoke because what if I accidentally sang off key." Or, "I never let anybody hold my heart because I was scared they would drop it because it's getting heavy." So I have been actively going against my natural impulses. Sometimes it's the hardest thing for my body to do but exactly what my brain requires and so I go against my impulses. Every single ounce of instinct is saying, "get the fuck out of here" but the brain is saying "you can't go, this is good for us." And it is. But the thing about jumping is that you land every time. And sometimes you break something.

Two little kids and their grandma were walking up the path at the park. The ducks turned around to look at them only they didn't return to their business because the kids started throwing bread into the water. Without even a second's hesitation they all got in the water. The ducks with their vibrant colors and slim bodies flew and glided in with grace and started snacking on the bread pieces. The geese, though, waddled to the edge of the water and plopped themselves in like dumplings into soup. They swam over to the children and had their fill of bread as well.

And in the end, everyone got to eat.
And today, I'm going to the pool.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being Broke is Free!

We're coming to the last day of a very broke couple of weeks, my friends. Food-wise we (I say "we" but we all know I'm the only one who lives in this house, unless you count Kiki and it's coming to my attention that every day she wants to live here less and less...) were down to scrounging the desperate section of the pantry. You know what I'm talking about. There are things in your cabinets and you don't know how they got there because there's no way you'll eat them. For me, that's a can of beanie weanies. And not even the fancy kind. As if I'd eat them either way. Luckily for me, I've been creative enough to eat everything else and blessed enough to have people who want to have me over for dinner. So--it's cool. But when you're down to a dollar fifty in your checking account (which you are actually quite proud of) and you have a day off, you have to come up with all sorts of things to entertain yourself.
Yesterday Katie made a vlog about all sorts of things you could do if you are broke. Today, I'm going to expand on that thought and tell you all about the free things that I did, today! Being broke--it costs no moneys.

1. You wake up and you want--nay, require coffee. Because coffee is the most delicious drug I've ever had. Unless you count liquor as a drug. For the past week I've looked at the coconut rum in my fridge and thought, "Oh! I'll put that in my coffee!" And then I remember that it's booze that I'm wanting to put in my coffee at 7:30 in the morning. Indicative of a problem? I don't do it, you guys. Anyway, I always need to put something into my coffee and due to the aforementioned empty-fridge syndrome, I was out of both coffee creamer and also milk. I wasn't actually out of milk, milk was expired. So I went on a hunt and I searched between couch cushions and in pen cups and piggy banks and in the car and I came up with the $1.20 it takes to leave the gas station with a big cup of coffee. What?? So, that wasn't free but it was still awesome.

2. Update your Favorites list on Etsy so that when your friends become overwhelmed with love for you--love that can only be satisfied by buying presents, they'll know exactly where to go for ideas. (I've asked for presents twice in one week... man, I just want new stuff) The fun part about adding stuff to your favorites list on Etsy is that it's exactly like online shopping! But it's free (and you don't get anything in your mailbox)! (Seriously, though, there's a pair of shoes on that list that I'm going to be saving up for. I wants them.)

3. Do your laundry! You haven't had a day off in a hundred years and you've only got a few pairs of unders left. Just do the laundry. It's not fun (especially when your brother pretty much convinced you that the basement is full of bats and then you sort of spooked yourself into thinking that there might be a snake in the washing machine) but it needs to be done and there's no better time. Plus, you love folding the laundry (once you really get around to it). I'm out of laundry detergent, now, though so that next load won't be free anymore. But I'm excited about the new design of the Cheer label--so I'm going to buy it. That's how I make my decisions.

4. Consider a hobby. Perhaps cross stitch? People have been trying to teach me to knit/ crochet for years and years but everyone has given up. Maybe I can learn how to cross stitch or something. I want an old lady hobby. This activity did not take long.

5. Browse Tastespotting and come up with a shopping list so that you can make the delicious creations. You have to eat anyway, you might as well eat awesome stuff. For the record, next week I'll be making Pasta with Shrimp and Artichokes and also vegetarian (read: primarily black bean and avacado) tacos this week so anyone who wants in on any of that is more than welcome.

6. Learn how to Dougie. You can learn to do anything via YouTube. What existed before YouTube existed? How did people know how to tie their hair into fancy knots or dance or apply liquid eyeliner or cut their own hair? (I learned all of these things--today, alone!) Do not tape yourself Dougieing (which is, I assume, the correct way to say it?) but do take photographic evidence. Try to Dougie to every song that pops up on the internet radio to which you subscribe. Admit that, in fact, it's difficult to do any type of dance while Super Bass is playing but that might be because you are seriously friggin' impressed with Nickie Minaj. Anyway, photographic evidence of mein dancing efforts:

7. Utilizing another YouTube tutorial, cut your own bangs. Like a boss.

8. Blog about it all.

9. Then do the dishes for the same reasons outlined in the bit about laundry. But with totally different downsides.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dear Bruno Mars,

When did we first meet, Bruno? I think it was when you sang that darling little melody, "I wanna be a billionaire so fuckin' bad..." And, let's be honest, it was pretty endearing. I hadn't seen a boy like you since Michael Jackson and young, young Little Richard made that seemingly scientifically impossible love child. You were cute but if we're being completely honest, and that's what this letter is--an exercise in honest feelings, I think that a lot of my love for you was run-off appreciation from this insatiable crush I've had on Travie McCoy since before he dated Katy Perry. Bruno... I think you're like the friend of a friend that started hanging out with our group and then never really left even though everyone only likes you for a little while. Is that okay to say? You're nice and all. You're even funny and entertaining but you're kind of an attention junkie. My guess would be you're the youngest in your family. When this is over I'm going to Wiki that to see if I'm right.

So, yeah, there was Billionaire and I couldn't get enough of that. In fact, I kinda would like to hear it again right now. But I won't do that because it's going to distract me. But then you did that song with B.o.B and I thought it was still a little bit flattering and a little bit fun and because I was clearly going through an adorable hip-hop stage. But, lyrically--and I know this isn't all your fault--kind of pretty cheesy. "No matter where I'm at--girl you make me wanna sang. Whether a bus or a plane or a car or a train--no other girl's on my brain and you're the one to blame." Really? Yeah? While we're at it, would you like us to put our hands in the air like we just don't care? But I let you have it because you're the friend of a friend (who doesn't seem to be hanging out that much anymore and yet you're still showing up at my house when I really just want to sit down with a bag of chips and watch reruns of Wings without anyone there looking at me) and I will mock you a little bit behind your back but for the most part we're still friends.

And then you started putting out your solo stuff on the radio. I will admit that this was a great way to market yourself, you know? Give everyone a little bit a little bit at a time and then when they're hungry for you--what? Overpower them with your flavor?! Sheesh. You came fresh out the gate in a frenzy! You were singing about how pretty I am and that was adorable the first time and only the first time. Because then I started paying attention to the words and now I'm that pissed off girlfriend who has no right to be pissed off because you're trying to be nice but the more that you talk the more you just sound like a dick.

"Her hair, her hair falls perfectly without her trying." Actually, Bruno, I've been glued to youtube tutorials, blow drying and producting the shit out of my hair to make it look like I didn't try at all. But it's cute that you think that.
"She's so beautiful and I tell her every day." Well, hon, you see "beautiful" should really be reserved for maybe the specialist most "damn girl" kind of times. "Beautiful" is a little over the top, don't you think? And "amazing"? Is "amazing" the word you're going to choose to stick with every day? You're amazed? Last week I farted in the car. Did you forget that? No, Bruno, no, I'm not mad I'm just--I don't think you get it. That's all. Thank you. Thank you for thinking I'm beautiful. Every day.
"If perfect's what you're searching for, then just stay the same." See, perfect is kind of on the same page with "beautiful" and "amazing". So... can we just go with "you look pretty today?" Or maybe, "you smell nice?" or "it's cool that you didn't fart in the car, this time." I don't know. Let's just try to be realistic.
"Don't even bother asking if you look okay--you know I'll say you're amazing just the way you are." Gaah! So what you're saying is that I shouldn't even ask because you already have this stock answer that you're always going to use no matter what? You don't think I look beautiful you're just saying it! You're saying, what? Like, you're tired of having to tell me how perfect and beautiful and amazing I am every friggin day even though it bugs the hell out of me that you do so? I mean geeez! You know, I never even asked. I am still not even sure how much I like you. We're so breaking up.

Then I get this email from you a few days later and you're all, "Easy come. Easy go. That's just how you live. Take take take it all but you never give."
Bruno, that's just not fair! We weren't clicking! I--I'm sorry that I didn't know you were so in love with me. Two weeks ago you were just a friend of a friend who has, since, moved far away. I haven't heard from him in so long and you're over all the time.
"Should have known you was trouble from the first kiss. You had your eyes wide open. Why were they open?"
Well, if you must know, they were wide open because you came at me from out of nowhere with your "beautiful" and "amazing" talk and you were just, like, on my face. I was taken by surprise. And so what if sometimes I like to kiss with my eyes open? That's my prerogative. You should try it. Not all the time, obviously, that's strange.
"Tell the devil I said, 'hey' when you get back to where you're from." Wha? What? I just--you. That's not fair! I'm a nice girl.
"Darlin' I'd still catch a grenade for you!" You don't need to do that. I'd never ask you to do that. And I can't imagine that I'll ever be anywhere near a grenade. So let's just take that off the table.
"I'd throw my hand on a blade for you." Unnecessary. Really.
"I'd jump in front of a train for you." Yeah, now, that's just going to kill us both.
"I would die for you, baby. But you won't do the same." No. I won't. Because that's unrealistic. I barely know you and you've been kind of cute for the majority of our relationship but mostly really irritating. You're all over the place. You have a bouffant. You are on all of the radio stations. You're going to wear yourself out. Just calm down. Just calm the heck down. Take a day off.
"But darlin' I'd still catch a grenaaaade for you!!"

And then I didn't hear from you for a few days and that was nice. Until I checked my inbox and there was this video that you'd obviously shot in your bedroom with a webcam. So you did take a day off and write a song about how you're going to spend the day masturbating and learning how to Dougie. I know that you want me to feel like you're over us and I really hope that you are but I guarantee that you'll release something new in two weeks. Find true love, Bruno. Go forth. There are plenty of girls who would LOVE for you to impose self-harm on their behalf.

"Oh my god, this is great."

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Break Up with Netflix

Oh my goodness! There is controversy and hurt feelings run amok all over the interwebs regarding the way that Netflix changed their prices. Outrage in the village, people! And, yeah, I did decide to cancel my subscription and, yeah, it did happen to coincide with said price changes but it really didn't have to do with them. Well, I guess maybe it did a little bit but not by much.

This is more a piece about how I go through phases. I'm sure you do, too? I'm only sure of that because all of my siblings do. My older brother goes through phases that are years and years and years long so maybe that's not so much a "phase" as much as an ever growing and expansive personality which might just be the right way to go about it. But the mind wants what it wants and my mind needs constant changing stimulation. But I go through phases. They're generally six months long or so. I go through healthy eating and regular exercise phases followed up by I'm-so-excited-about-cooking-things. I go through phases where I'm going to write every day--no matter what. This is subsequently followed by "What's the point? I'ma write only when I feel inspired because then everything will be gold! (no it won't)" I went through a meditation phase... it lasted about ten minutes (spread out over the course of a week). And then I go through rotating movie/ books phases. Those are really the only ones that are consistent. I know that if I'm going through a watch all of the movies phase, then I will inevitably stumble upon one good looking book review in Real Simple Magazine and then bum rush the library.

Did I just use the phrase "bum rush" appropriately? Probably I did not.

I had a professor in college who was from India. She was sweet and oftentimes unreasonable but definitely sweet and she would say things in a unique way. Like instead of saying, "I probably did not use "bum rush" correctly," she would say, "Probably I did not use "bum rush" correctly." Only I'm about a thousand percent certain that Shanti would never use "bum rush" under any sort of circumstance. Anyway, what started out as casual mockery (much like my use of the word "totes" and also "LOL") quickly morphed into my everyday vernacular. So... now I totes put "probably" into weird places in a sentence. Now you know. Do you love it? Probably it bugs the hell out of you like it did me. (Also, most of her "v" sounds came out as "w" sounds and you should have seen the look of confusion on our faces the first time she asked us to "identify the werb". It was mostly awesome but there was always that anxious self-doubt where you're wondering "is this the accent thing or just a word that I've never heard before...")

So now I'm going through a reading phase. I joined the adult summer reading program at the McPherson Public Library (because I am middle-aged and trying to fill my time since the Empty Nest Syndrome has set in) and it's forcing me to read a bunch of genres that I am not instinctively drawn to. I like that. I'm reading Latin American lit right now and, frankly, I'm feeling a little saucy. Also, I've been talking about starting up a local book club. I think my little town is in need of one and maybe as the summer comes to a close, then I'll seriously try to get one started if people are interested. I know I'm interested. I really miss talking about stories with people who have all read the same thing.

So anyway, Netflix, all that to say that's why I left you. I can almost guarantee that I'll come back to you at some point. But when I cancelled my subscription, you gave me this little questionnaire to fill out about why I was leaving. I checked the boxes that kind of worked for my reasons but it wasn't enough. You were like, "are you leaving me for Amazon? Hulu Plus?? You know you have to pay for that, too! Those bitches." But that's not it, Nettie, baby, honey, shhh... there's no one else. It's just--you're not it for me right now. Not, now. And I know you're going to send me occasional emails begging for me to return to you--and maybe I will. I get lonely sometimes at night.

And I really don't mind spending $7 a month to have you send dvd's to my house as often as I like. I really don't. Seven dollars is a steal! And if I ever streamed movies on my computer, then the new $15 price for both is still a really great deal! It is. It's just that if I'm absolutely not using this service, then I'm going to save my $7 and give it to Applebees in exchange for a sangria in a glass the size of a small fish tank. It's nothing against you. I just have priorities and those priorities involve Chuck Palahniuk and liquor. But it's not Hulu Plus. I promise, I'll never pay to stream a movie onto my laptop. That's just stupid.

Do you go through phases? Do you want to join my book club? Are you butt hurt because Netflix wants to charge you $4 more than you paid last month?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On Flying, Cottage Cheese, and One Reference to the 1995 Disney Film Pocahontas

I haven't done one of these in a few weeks because the questions didn't pertain much to me. But I'm doing it today because I was feeling so hungry to write something--anything at all and I was so our of things to say and I actually like most of these questions. It's good for a Wednesday, yeah? One day I'll give you something meaningful and deep and also hilarious. Something that will make you say, "Wow... that girl. I wanna make love to her brains." But that day won't be today.

So, as usual, I'm going to be straight with you and say that Ten On Tuesday is not my idea, I steal it every time from Roots and Rings. It's just a fun idea as I love answering questions about myself. A little self centered? Absolutely I am.

1. When you are on a plane and the kid behind you is kicking your seat, what do you do?
Twenty-seven years old and I've never been on an airplane. Except that one time when I was very little, my dad's friend owned a plane and he took us up in it and I cried the whole damn time. I was afraid we'd get sucked into outer space. Also my brother tried to climb out of the window.

2. What food that you KNOW is bad for you and you shouldn’t have, but you love/eat it anyway?
All of the things? Cottage cheese and sour cream are two things that I don't allow myself to keep in my refrigerator because it is weird how much I love them. Also Ruffles brand potato chips.

3. What is your favorite book of all time?
This question again... To reiterate: there is no "favorite book of all time" so I will ask a similar question. That question is "what book on your shelf have you read more times than any other book on your shelf?" The answer is, Ash Wednesday by Ethan Hawke. Do you want to hear him read some of it? Here. It's funny to hear a boy read from a female narrator's perspective. Ethan Hawke looks like someone's little brother.

4. If I came to visit you in your town, where would we eat?
Oh my goodness, we would go to Amics. Doy. It's pretty much my most favorite place in this whole town. I don't go often, though, because the hours don't really always fit with my schedule and also because I want to keep it a special treat. I like how there's a place in town where feta--so much feta is an option but a double bacon cheeseburger is not.

5. You have 500 dollars and 40 minutes to spend it at any store you want. Where do you go?
Urban Outfitters for new bedding that I've had my eye on for a while now. My bed is a full-size, everyone. Christmas in July is just around the corner. I'd spend the rest of the money on other things to make my apartment awesome. Like this rug and these curtains and this bag.

6. What blog do you read every day/the most often?
Katie's. Because she updates every single day. Also, I read The Bloggess every time that she updates because it's nothing if not life-changing.

7. What’s the longest you’ve ever been stuck at an airport?
While I, myself, have never been on an airplane, in college I was absolutely the guy that everyone asked to drive them to the airport. I friggin' loved it. I never had to wait long, though, I was usually late. Inconvenient? Maybe. Free parking? So much yes.

8. What’s your daily makeup/face/cleansing routine?
Wash face. Moisturize with this! I love it. It's a mattefying moisturizer which is incredible for people (even boys) who have normal to slightly oily skin (me) who live in places where the temperature has no qualms about reaching 110 on an average day (here). Apply powder. Apply eyeliner. Apply mascara. Tinted lip balm. Now you're totes ready to go about your day without that gross, greasy feeling and absolutely zero upkeep.

9. Where is your farthest away friend?
Jamie lives in South Korea. I could tell you exactly where but, and this is going to sound so ethnocentric of me, *whispers* it all kind of looks like gibberish to me so I have no way of telling you. But it looks delightful from the pictures!
Jamie cartoon blogs about being a foreigner. Can we say expat? Is that accurate? I like that. I wanna expat one day.

10. Where is your favorite place to go hiking (or to enjoy nature)?
I went to a mountain, once, in Colorado. That was nice.
Honestly, though, I don't go to places! As much as I want to--I want to, I don't. I live in Kansas. I has a job. I have no vacation time (yet). Geez, this just whole survey just makes me sound far less adventurous than my spirit really is. Trust me, my spirit is adventurous and exciting and progressive. My spirit is, like, constantly singing Colors of the Wind.

Ya dig?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How To Make Up a Recipe

Okay, boys and girls. Here's a legitimate How-To that I might be qualified to write! I'm not using this space to brag but to teach. I don't really use recipes. I just make them up. And when people find that out, they say "How do you do that?? How do you know what goes together?? How do you know you're not going to mess it up??" And today I'm going to teach you how to do something that comes super naturally to me. That is, developing your own dinner using only your own brains. It's hard for me to write, actually, because it is a skill (skill?) that comes so naturally to me that I can't really explain it. It's like this: I don't know how to whistle but no one who knows how to whistle can tell me how to do it. They say, "It's easy! Just purse your lips and... blow." No. It clearly is not that easy because I can do that all day long and no lovely song comes out. Just air. And sometimes saliva. Sexy. That being said, I'm still going to give it a shot.

I guess it all really starts at the grocery store. A well minded person would gather a list of all of the things that she wants to eat that week, compile another list of everything that she will need to purchase to make that list come true and then go to the grocery store. That's how the responsible types do their grocery shopping--I think? Some people also go to the store whenever they decide to cook something. I don't do that, though, because if my cupboards are not filled with things, then I'll just stop at Wendy's on the way to the grocery store and spend $6 on one sandwich and fries. So that's why I have to keep my pantry stocked. Do you know how many chicken sandwiches you can make for $6? I'm not totally sure but realistically speaking, I'd guess about four. But, let's be serious. If you're craving a spicy chicken, you're craving a lot more than spices on your chicken. When I'm craving a spicy chicken sandwich I'm craving nostalgia. And in that case, go get your Wendy's.

Anyway, even though I am an avid grocery shopper, I'm pretty bad at sticking to a list so I tend to shop like this,"I'm out of milk and eggs and I have no more apples." Then I just start grabbing things that I tend to enjoy and when I get home, then I figure out what to make with all of them. It's a gamble but sometimes it works out magnificently. One thing to keep in mind when it comes to grocery shopping is that you want to spend as much time around the perimeter of the store as possible. That's where you'll find the freshest ingredients Fresher ingredients = fewer preservatives, better flavor and more vitamins. Meat, seafood, fresh baked bread, cheese, vegetables, dairy: all of the food groups. Hooray!
That doesn't mean that shelf-things are bad things. There are certain items from the middle of the store that I always keep on hand those things are:
Rice, canned beans and tomatoes, (though apparently there's stuff in canned food that will give you cancer or something--so if you don't like cancer, you can research that and come up with an alternative. I, personally, am a little bit tired of running away from cancer and so I have taken a "casually avoid" approach to the whole thing. Also, I tend to not buy a lot of canned foods for the simple fact that they make my groceries very heavy and squish my other stuff) your favorite pasta shape (I personally like rigatoni) jarred pasta sauce (for nights when you're feeling super lazy) and chicken stock. You can pretty much go anywhere if you already have these things in your pantry. So buy those things and then pretty much anything else that you like from the edges of the store and you'll be able to make a meal--I promise. So lets get into it.

So, you're hungry or bored. Probably you're mostly bored and not yet hungry but you figure you'll probably be hungry at some point, later. Step one: Survey the scene!

I looked in the pantry and saw things like beans and rice and taco shells. I looked in my fridge and saw this big green pepper and thought about how my mom used to stuff peppers with rice and taco meat and cheese and bake them. It was pretty much my favorite thing ever. But I only have one green pepper. So I decided that I was just going to take all of the ingredients that you would put into a stuffed pepper and put them all into a casserole. That's the same, right? No, I don't know what all goes into a stuffed pepper but I know what kinds of flavors I like. I don't have any taco meat but that's okay. I've been trying to eliminate at-home meat intake anyway, lately. So we'll make up for the protein in other ways. There's tons of protein and other healthy things in black beans and I also have a mystery protein source that I will reveal when we get to it.

Step two: Get to it!
As with most things in my life, my philosophy on cooking is fake it 'till you make it. Don't know how to cook? Pretend. I recommend pretending like you're on a cooking show. That's what I always do. Because I'm always cooking alone. And if you're not cooking alone, you can still pretend that you're on a cooking show because you probably have an audience. You say things like, "I'm doing this because ____" and that makes you more aware of what you're doing and why you're doing it. That's important because you remember what works and what doesn't.
I know that I'm going to put rice and beans and my green peppers and onions and tomatoes all together. I know that I'm really going to want that rice to be cooked because uncooked rice is inedible. So cook the rice!
Here's how you cook rice:

1 part rice + 2 parts liquid
A. Bring to a boil.

B. Turn the burner down to low and simmer for, like, 20 minutes or until it's done. You know it's done when you taste it and it's edible.

Secondly, I know that the rice is going to be the main portion of the dish and I want it to be super flavorful. I used a coffee cup as measuring tool. I put in one cup of rice, one cup of water and then one cup of salsa. That way it gets a little tomatoey and spicey. But experience has told me that won't be enough flavor. So I stood next to the spice cabinet and dumped in any spice that smelled like it could be tacoey. I dumped in salt and pepper and garlic and cumin and red pepper flakes. Then I stirred it up and let it cook the way rice cooks. Had I any cilantro, I would have added a friggin ton of that as well. After the rice was done cooking, I dumped it into a big bowl and put it into the fridge to cool it down. I did that because experience has told me that if you keep it warm and then put it into the oven, it'll keep cooking that whole time and it will get really gummy. No one likes that.

While it was cooling down, I chopped up my green peppers and onions and tomatoes. I asked myself, "Self? Should I saute these things before I put them into the rice and stuff?" Self answered with, "Um... let's not and see what happens." I didn't saute them for a few reasons, the first reason being that when my mom stuffed her peppers, she stuffed them raw. Also it's easier to not add an extra step and I like the way that fresh veggies crunch. So I didn't. That's all. You could cook them if you wanted to. NBD.
Also, experience has told me to rinse my beans. You don't always have to rinse your beans but for this purpose I did because, in the past, I've not rinsed my beans and they made my food all gummy again. Hot rice + un-rinsed beans = a gummy mess. I just know that. I only know that because I've made "mistakes" in the past. You'll figure it out while you're faking it.

So, I put everything together with the rice that has cooled down a bit and I was thinking that it would need some type of sauce to run throughout it to bind it together and add a little extra flavor. At first I thought that salsa would do the trick but I used a lot of that for the rice. Hmm... what to do. Look in the fridge again. What do you see? I see a tub of greek yogurt.
Have you ever tasted plain Greek yogurt? It's terrible. Have you ever tasted fat-free sour cream? It's friggin Greek yogurt. You know what makes fat-free yogurt edible? Salsa. So here we go. Mix all of the yogurt into the salsa. Trust me. Sometimes things that don't taste great on their own are just delicious when you mix them together. Like... I can't think of any examples right now but there are tons of them.

So, essentially, I just took all of the things (and I crumbled up some left over taco shells--I don't know why. Texture? Color? Whatever) and stirred them all up together and then put them into a prepared baking dish ("prepared" means that you Pam'd the hell out of it so that it doesn't stick and make clean-up a horrible task). Then I thought it should probably have cheese on top but I don't have any sprinkle cheese. So I cut up slice cheese and laid it all on top like that. And I baked it. Since it was all ready to eat, anyway, I mostly just let it bake until I couldn't handle it anymore. The rule in my house is that when you can smell it, it's probably done. That usually works. It worked for me, anyway.

Step three: Eat it! If you don't like it--then you should probably figure out what you didn't like about it and then change that part. If you don't know what it is, call someone who cooks. They'll be able to tell you. Probably. You can email me. Once I emailed Hilah. She got back to me. It solved my problem and made me feel really cool. It's good to have friends who know how to do stuff.

Now I'll attempt to write the recipe for what I made, in case you want to make it too.
1 coffee cup of rice
1 coffee cup of water
1 coffee cup of salsa
Spices that I did not measure: fresh garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, cumin.
(Make the rice)

1 green pepper
1/2 red onion
1/2 tomato
1 can black beans (rinsed)
(You could also add corn or green chiles or anything else you like)
Crunched up taco chips

1 little tub-thing of sour cream (or greek yogurt or ranch dressing or... I don't know, whatever you want)
Probably a 1/2 a cup of salsa

Mix all of those things together. Stuff it into a caserolle dish. Top with whatever random cheese you have in your fridge. Bake it until you can smell it.

The end.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

More, Please.

The other night I brought my most recent Netflix acquisition to my friend's house along with some cupcakes. After Chinese food and beer happened, we watched the movie but, let's get real, we didn't really watch a whole lot of the movie because there were six people, Chinese food and cupcakes all in the same room. There was mostly talking going on. Which is fine. Movie was background noise and also it filled and gave excuse to those inevitable lulls that happen in conversations. I was actually really pumped to see this movie, though, so the next day I watched it in my apartment with nothing to distract me except for continuous text messaging which is infinitely more manageable.

For starters, what drew me, initially, to HappyThankYouMorePlease was the music. I'd heard that Jaymay had done all of the original music and that was enough to grab me. I'd been a fan of hers for the past few years. She has such a happy, honest, attainable sort of a sound that I like a lot. Storytelling and song singing all combined--I like that a bunch. I first heard and really, really liked Gray or Blue (because it resonated with me a lot at the time and even now I still sing along with the same enthusiasm that I ever did when it comes up on shuffle) but everything else just gets better and better. So, anyway, I figured that any filmmaker who loved Jaymay enough to let her do most of the music, must be on the same page with me when it comes to things like the human condition and lighting and character development and all sorts of things that go into making a movie a favorite for me. What I'm saying, I guess, is that, Josh Radnor, if you Googled yourself hoping to find a well written love letter of flattery, then I guess this might be the place to find yours.

I have been on the look out for realistic films lately. That is films about things that could actually happen--have actually happened to me or to people that I know. Films with characters that I can relate to and who resonate with me. I watched The Exploding Girl maybe a year an a half ago (The Exploding Girl and HappyThankYouMorePlease have a mutual cast member in the most excellent Zoe Kazan) and I found myself overwhelmed with the reality of it and I've been looking for that ever since. I'm going to be using that word a lot, "reality". Maybe I'll be able to think of another one by the end of this but maybe I won't and you'll just deal with it because we both know you're free to leave and I'll never even know.

I didn't mean it, please don't leave me!

I know how difficult it is to write characters and I have got infinite respect for Radnor for the simple fact that he did an insane job of executing it nearly flawlessly. Early in the film, Sam Wexler (an aspiring novelist--what NYC-based-film would be complete without one) is in a meeting with a potential publisher. The publisher is talking to him about his main character. He says something along the lines of (and forgive me for not getting it perfect, I've already returned the movie in the mail) "Your main character is kind of ambitious and kind of charming and kind of just kind of." As a person who has studied stories, I knew that this was a clue to pay attention to the characters in the film because they, or Sam's character at least, will not be wholly one type of person. And he wasn't. He's charming when he wants to be--when he wants to turn it on. He's indecisive and impulsive and totally unfamiliar and clearly just navigating the latter part of his twenties blindly like the rest of us. Like me. What a relief.

Meeting the characters in the film happens a lot in the same way that you meet people in real life. You get your initial impression out of the way and then make room for the real deal. For example, when we meet Annie, my first thought was, "And this will be the woman who is Sams foil. Shell be full of depth and wisdom because she has health issues--and because in the trailer, she was the one dishing out the advice about gratitude and what not." But it really doesn't take long to realize that, sure, she is full of wisdom and kind words and strength in some places but she's also broken and weak and totally in need of encouragement as well. Just like everyone else. It's just like in your every day life. It's just like with your friends. If you look at the people in your life, you'll notice that there isn't anyone who exists simply as the lovable fuck-up or the charming straight-shooter. Because there is depth to humanity but so often in films and books, that's what we are delivered. A typical romantic comedy doesn't have realistic characters--no one with whom you'd actually have a meaningful relationship in real life. But in HappyThankYouMorePlease everyone is just like me and just like my friends and you can see that there are struggles and there is value and they are all working hard at being good to and for one another. I like that. It makes me feel validated. Thank you. More, please.

Another thing I learned, through this film is that in New York, you can drink beer outside in the daytime and the night time. All of the times!

Dear Josh,
I like you, do you like me?
XOXO -Libby

Friday, July 1, 2011

Add a Room to Your Home for Nineteen Dollars or Less

One morning you will wake up and realize that your bedroom does, in fact, look like this:It's not like you weren't aware of it for quite some time. You know that it's not pretty--that's why you keep the door closed when people come over. It's not a lovely thing at all. Despite the effort that you've put into other rooms in your home, making them lovely and homey and into places that make visitors inevitably say, "it's so cute!" You're not being arrogant--it's a fact. That's what everyone says when they walk into your home. Grown-ass men have used the word "cute". And you don't mind because you tried to make them say that. For the most part. You don't have a huge attention to detail at all so nothing's really straight and there are dust bunnies in the corners. All in all it's "cute" though. Despite the rest of the apartment, your bedroom happens to be a room that houses your bed and your laundry (primarily dirty) and you decide that today is the day that you're going to assess the bedroom situation. So you start cleaning.

You start cleaning but that gets boring really quickly. Cleaning is not fun. And even though you're cleaning and a clean room is nicer than a gross room but you still are not pleased with a lot of the things happening. You bought your bedspread 2 years ago at a garage sale. You never really loved it but it was in excellent condition and a reasonable price so you bought it and tried to live with a pink, flowered bedspread. You are a girl but you are not a terribly "pink, floral" type of girl. But it worked. Until just this moment. So instead of cleaning, you're determined to make your room much more neat. You head to the thrift store and to Walmart.

Nineteen dollars and 12 hours later and you have a totally different space. "Totally" is a little bit excessive but it is different. You remember that you have a cream colored duvet cover that you haven't used in years. It takes a while for you to find it and when you do, you remember that it was intended for a twin bed. But you have a full. You decide to go with it and in the end you're actually really pleased with the way it looks.

At Walmart, you buy two tension rods, one bag of curtain clips and five dollars worth of navy blue sheer fabric. With the help of a friend, you put them all together and perch them in the windows. Borrow a hammer and hang some of the art that until now, you've always wondered how you will hang without a hammer. Bring in a different lamp, the one from the living room, and a rocking chair that no one ever sits in and voila. You have a new bedroom.

The four pictures on the wall are a series of greeting cards that your boss gave to you after she fired you from your first grown-up job in South Dakota. As much frustration that you still taste for that period of your life, you still really love those cards. They feature prints of Native American artwork that was drawn on, essentially, scrap paper from what appears to be an accountant's office. Each of those picture frames cost $.95.
You don't want to hang out in any other room, all of a sudden.
In the morning you will bring your breakfast into your bedroom and eat it while you blog.
You can eat your breakfast in bed because you are a grown up.
You can eat pink cake for breakfast in bed because you are a grown up.