Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Did It

I love lists. I'd try to find a way to communicate strictly in them if I could. It's how I get stuff done. It's how I keep myself on task. It's how I remember the things that I have to do and even the things that I want to do.
At work, once all of the regular, has-to-be-done-without-question work is done, I make a to-do list. Otherwise I'll just sit there and stare at people. It's not that there's nothing to do. There's plenty to do but my brain needs a tight reign from time to time.

Yesterday was my day off. I especially need to-do lists on my days off or I'll never get anything done. A lot of people probably think that's the whole point but on days when I just sit around and stare at Pinterest for 8 hours (yes, that has happened--mostly), then I look around my house and I feel pretty bad about myself. So yesterday I went nuts and wrote up a massive to-do list. It looked like this.

To Do Today 11/29/2011
  1. Start the day off right with a healthy breakfast.
  2. Fold up the couch.
  3. Clean up the coffee table.
  4. Take out the garbage.
  5. Wash out the kitty litter pan.
  6. Finish the dishes.
  7. Wipe down the counters.
  8. Do one load of laundry.
  9. Put up the Christmas tree.
  10. Mail bills.
  11. Listen to This American Life.
  12. Shower.
  13. Paint Finger Nails.
  14. Watch New Girl.

Don't judge my to-do list. Some times you have to mix in the super easy and fun things with the stuff that you don't want to do. It tricks your brain into thinking that everything is fun. And you can listen to This American Life while you do the first three things on the list. Which is what I did. But, guess what, when I woke up this morning, my list from yesterday looked like this:

To Do Today 11/29/2011
Kiki: Protector of the Tannenbaum
  1. Start the day off right with a healthy breakfast.
  2. Fold up the couch.
  3. Clean up the coffee table.
  4. Take out the garbage.
  5. Wash out the kitty litter pan.
  6. Finish the dishes.
  7. Wipe down the counters.
  8. Do one load of laundry.
  9. Put up the Christmas tree.
  10. Mail bills.
  11. Listen to This American Life.
  12. Shower.
  13. Paint Finger Nails.
  14. Watch New Girl.

I even did some extra things, like cleaning all of the clean laundry off of my bed so that I would have somewhere to sleep. And making soup and french fries to feed to Andrew and Ryan.

Also, it should go without saying that in order to put up the Christmas tree, one must first listen to Christmas music. More lists!! Yes, but Christmas music is the frickin' worst. And I will stand by that. It's terrible. All day at my job I have to listen to Britney Spears singing "Santa, Can You Hear Me?" And Justin Bieber doing a Christmas duet with Usher. That really ruins it. But I wanted to be in the mood so I went to Spotify and put together a playlist of very nice Christmas songs that, in moderation, are so nice.

So, because my Christmas tree is up and my house is clean enough to satisfy me, I leave you with this. My absolute favorite version of my absolute favorite Christmas song.

PS This is my second most favorite Christmas song.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

People are, Really, Quite Beautiful Things

I'm watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I've seen it before, years ago, but I'm re-watching it. I'm only a few minutes in but I'm struck by this guy's character (and the delicious soundtrack). He's so shy. He wrote in his journal, "why is it that I fall in love with every woman who shows me the slightest bit of attention?" And when she was trying to get his attention on the platform, waiting for the train, he kept looking away.

And I was thinking about how this is the opposite of the kind of men that we are told to love. Growing up, we are told to seek out men who are strong and passionate. Men who take the lead and make the first move. Anything else will leave you pitiful and unsettled and unsatisfied.

But there are men in the world who are shy. There are men in the world who spend a lot of time in their heads and not a lot of time saying things. There are men who don't know where they're going or what they're looking for and should they be turned away on that account? Does he have to have his life figured out if I don't have my life figured out? Is that fair? Doesn't that just pass off the hard work onto him?

I have never had a crush on the type of man who is directive and stern and opinionated. I tend toward the shy, introspective types and I thought that was wrong for a really long time. It's not. I've recently found myself quite a bit in love with a pretty shy fellow. And you know, nearly everything he says to me is valuable. Some of it is BS but even that is nice.

 There are women in the world with various personalities. Some of us are wild and impulsive. Some of us are quiet and passive. Some of us are quietly impulsive. But we're all different and we are all full to flowing with personality and value and humanity.

And men are like that too. Because humans are really quite beautiful things.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Temporary Remedy for Twenty-Something Existential Dread (with recipe)

After a long day with a bout or two of momentary, couch-ridden self-pity, maybe a little bit of traditional, twenty-something existential dread, and a dash of money woes, what does a girl need more than a glass of Cherry Coke and a warm chocolate chip cookie? Nothing. There is no cure other than that just described.

And what's a girl to do when there are no sweets to be found in the house? She makes her own chocolate chip cookies. And what does she do when she has no chocolate of any kind at her immediate disposal? She shoves a tenner in her pocket, walks to the gas station on the corner and buys two bags of Hershey's Milk Chocolate Drops. Have you tasted these? She's keeping them out of sight until the recipe tells me to throw them in.

Oh, also her kitchen is a mess and she made a promise to herself and her boyfriend that she would have her kitchen cleaned by 9:00 pm (not because he cares about the state of her kitchen, but because she needs someone to be accountable to--not that he would even hold her accountable but it would give her an excuse to feel the inevitable embarrassment if he came home from band practice and it turns out that she's still not cleaned the kitchen).

Can she clean her kitchen whilst simultaneously making a small batch of chocolate chip cookies while photographing it for her blog all by 9:00 pm? We'll find out. I will need Ira Glass' help. He always helps me to focus.

This episode of This American Life was really exciting. Okay, "exciting" isn't the right word. It was quite heartbreaking. But it held my attention as if it had grabbed my face.

It was difficult to do much of the cleaning but I did get to the important bits--that is the counter space next to the oven. Also I was out of eggs and I forgot about that until I'd reached the point of no return. So I went downstairs and asked my brother and sister-in-law if I could have two eggs. Adam said, "Yes." Arryn said, "Sure." Amos (who is now three-years-old and was sitting on the floor looking, happily, at his Maisey book) said, "No. I need to eat dem." I said, "What?"
"No, Beebee. I need to eat dem."
"But I need to borrow these eggs so that I can make some cookies."
"Ooh, I yike goo-kies!"
"Yes, so if you'd let me have two of them, then I will bring you one in the morning. So can I have them?"
"I guess so, Beebee."
I love that guy. We high-fived it out and I left before I could answer his question about why you'd need eggs in cookies.

When I put the batter into the fridge to harden up a little bit before I scooped it onto cookie sheets, I got some dishes done. But it's hard to listen to This American Life while you're running water and sloshing it around so I tried to be as quiet as possible. Then Andrew came and we ended up talking about--God only knows what. So I didn't do a ton of dishes done but I did get the most important things washed. Coffee cups, forks, spoons, plates, bowls. All that, of course, while making a brand new and more current mess.
But doesn't that mess look delicious? I promise that at the point of this blog's publication, that mess has been eradicated. But I can't say that there aren't a few pots and pans still waiting for a soak in the jacuzzi that is my kitchen sink. That is to say, no, my kitchen is still not clean.

I can say that all I needed was just one cookie and just one glass of milk and just one big laugh with my brother and just one kiss and just one good night's sleep to take care of those overwhelmed feelings. It's incredible all of the things that can get into a brain to start to eat holes into itself--but how little it takes to push those out of your mind for a little while.

Shortly after this photograph is taken, spill the entire cup of coffee, narrowly
missing the electronics. This step is optional and, frankly, kind of annoying.
And then breakfast is delicious. One chocolate chip cookie with 20% Coffee Mate Peppermint Mocha and 80% coffee.

So I made these cookies in a method that I've never used before but I'm going to do for as long as I make cookies from here on out.  The recipe that I got is from this blog--but I'll include the recipe at the end of this post with my own notes, said to melt the butter and then cream in the sugars and then later the eggs (one egg and one egg yolk). Everything about this recipe said "don't get too fluffy, cookies, we want you to be dense and chewy." And it totally worked out that way. Which is awesome because that is my favorite.

Eric Wolitzky's Chocolate Chip Cookies (Eric Wolitzky from Top Chef: Just Desserts Season 1 fame, I guess. I haven't seen it but if I'd known this show existed, of course I would have watched it.)

1 1/2 sticks butter (Melt this butter--I did it in the microwave but I'm sure if you got creative, you could think of tons of less efficient ways to melt butter.)

1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar (no one said these cookies wouldn't kill you)
 Put all of these things in a bowl and cream them together until they're just combined. To get the perfect texture of dense and chewy, excess air is your enemy. But, you know, mix them together well.

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Put all of these things in a separate bowl and whisk them together.

Now, crack one egg and the yolk of another egg in with the butter and sugar. Cream those together, too. Not too much. (Let's get real, if you do mix it "too much" it's not the end of the world, your cookies just might be a little bit cake-ier than I, personally, like them. But when it gets down to it a chocolate chip cookie is a chocolate chip cookie. Just like the old joke about pizza and sex. Even when it's bad it's still pretty good.)

Start adding your flour mixture a little bit at a time. Mix until it's all incorporated and no more. Add a little more. Mix until it's all incorporated and no more. Add a little more. Mix until it's all incorporated. And repeat until most of your flour mixture is gone. You might use it all. You might not. I don't know how to describe when you've got enough. Can I just say "you'll know"? Maybe you won't. I don't know--when it looks like cookie dough? Not too squingy? If you pick up a ball in your hand and it sticks to your fingers a ton, add more flour. If it doesn't but it does kind of puddle out a little bit--that's ideal. This is confusing. I just want to say that you probably can't screw this up. It's chocolate and butter and sugar and then you're going to bake it all together. Just follow the instructions and go in faith, my brothers.  Wait, you're using a mixer to do all this, right? Because if you're just using your arm, it's gonna get sleepy.

The recipe calls for 10 ounces of chocolate chips but I used 2 king sized bags of Hershey's Drops and cut those big bits in half. I like dark chocolate for eating but I like milk chocolate in my cookies. Stir in the chocolate of your choosing and sit it in the fridge while you wash your coffee mugs and let the oven preheat to 325.

I used a regular spoon to scoop out some bits, roll them into balls and then put them onto a cookie sheet. Use a few fingers (your own, borrowed fingers may work just as well) and squish them out a little bit. Don't grease the cookie sheet (every. single. time. that I make cookies, I always have a little panic attack at this point and think, "Do I spray the sheet? Do I not? I'm not gonna." And that is usually the right answer.). Ideally you'll use parchment or silpat to line your cookie sheet but let's get real here. I can't afford that crap. So, I fit about 9 cookies on each sheet. But my sheets are kind of smallish and also I wasn't totally sure how much they would spread.
If you bake them in my oven, you want to leave them in for about 11 minutes. But they get a really good golden-brown on them and if you're attentive, you'll know when they're through. A secret that my mom taught me--don't bother checking until you can smell them. This might not be a good rule of thumb, though, if you have a cold or live in a gigantic house or if you are my friend Timmy who was born without a sense of smell.

Was that okay? Did I cover all of the bases? My recipe made 18 big-ish cookies. I am going to go take them down to my nieces and nephew as promised. Aunt Libby brings cookies at 9:30 am. I'm the best.
Also, remember that you can't ruin them. Unless you burn them.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Libby The (Mostly) Tongue-in-Cheek Style Guru

I'm still reading the October issue of InStyle. The one with Katy Perry with her stupid pink hair* on the cover. I just can not wait until the whole world embraces the brunette and doesn't let go. It's going to happen. I'm still reading it because I love magazines a lot. I love them so much and then I bring them home and I flip through and look at the pictures and read anything that is written in a fake-handwriting typeface and then I put it on the coffee table and forget to read the articles that I really did want to read. But today, I started cleaning my house. And by that I mean, I put a few things into a garbage bag and then found this issue and decided to read some articles.

There's an "article" called "Inside the Files of the Super Stylish" where someone asked "ten top tastemakers" a bunch of questions and then wrote an article in the easiest and most-fun-to-read way. Q&A! I love a good Q&A. It's why I've considered getting a subscription to Interview for four years.

Of course I feel like I'm more than qualified to join the ranks of Vera Wang and Zoe Saldana when it comes to answering questions about how to be stylish and fashionable. What gives me that credibility? Yesterday at Walmart, a woman came up to me and said, "You're a fat girl. I'm a fat girl. But you always look awesome and I look stupid. How come?" And I gave her the best style advice that I could come up with on the spot: I shop the clearance racks at Target and Old Navy.
So... obvi I'm totes the man for the job. Let's QA, shall we?

What's something you hated but now love? Skinny jeans. A few years ago, when I was still in college, Deanna** would wear these incredibly slim fit jeans with her big chunky sweaters. She looked gorgeous and edgy and gorgeous. But I was certain that she was the one in seven-billion who was Audrey-Hepburn-enough to pull that off. I was afraid that everyone was going to start wearing skinny jeans. And they did and not everyone looked so bad, after all (some people did look bad but as with anything--you have to do it right). No one looks as good as Deanna--but they don't all look horriffic. I even just bought a pair that I like to wear with ballet flats and my own big, chunky sweaters. I don't want to appear to be a copy-cat so I have to wait five years to start following trends.
Also, pink. I really used to hate pink but I'm starting to appreciate it. Though I take it in masculine ways--like a men's button down shirt with jeans and flannel boots.

What's the best style advice you've ever received? "Never make your house wear something that you wouldn't wear on your body." This is why you'll never find roosters in my kitchen or wallpaper borders and inspirational phrases filigreed across my wall. Because it's tacky--some much more tacky than others. I have cream and gold velvet chair, off-white, crepe curtains, and a picture frame covered in deep, green feathers all in my living room. Would I wear those things? Probably. But not all at once.

Do you collect anything? Not really. Not on purpose, anyway. When I first moved to McPherson, people started giving me little owl figurines and now I have tons of them in little bits of my house here and there. Also, I've started to develop quite a collection of my dear friend, Joshua Monaghan's artwork on my mantle. When I lived in South Dakota, I said that I wanted to start collecting local art from every place that I've lived. So far, so good.

What one item should every woman have in her closet? White v-neck t-shirts. They make everyone look cool and clean and classic. They go with everything. Not only that but they're sold in three-packs. That way, some day, you might drive your super-pregnant sister to the hospital to be induced and you stop at Starbucks on the way and instantaneously spill 74% of an Earl Grey latte onto yourself. Then you still have two more t-shirts left to ruin. (In this picture I am wearing the aforementioned ruined, white, v-neck.) Also, the thing about white t-shirts is that if your base is pretty basic and classic, you can build up with those cheap, trendy items that you'll only wear for a few weeks before you realize that they're completely insane. Like patterned tights. Or body glitter.

Who's your style icon? Zooey Deschanel, obviously. She is 100% the reason that I cut my bangs and 88% of the reason that I started parting my hair down the middle. Which--I might add, people freakin' love. At work, one day, I was wearing my bangs pulled back into my high-pony and a co-worker specifically requested that I wear my bangs down the next day.
Michelle Williams on her off-day. She makes me seriously consider going blond. And, of course, Adele. But I kind of want to be like her in all of the ways. Confident. Sexy. Chubby. Witty. Classy. Quiet. Vulgar. Gorgeous.

What's your secret cheapie? Wet and Wild eyeliner and nail polish. It's so cheap that you can go nuts and experiment with weird colors just to see how it looks--plus the eyeliner smudges big time which is a good thing. Once you find one that you like, go buy something more quality. But I don't leave weird colors on my nails very long so I'm not going to bother spending $8.50.
Let me tell you about the difference between me and anyone instide of InStyle Magazine. My answer was an item that costs $.99. Vera Wang said, "Swatch watches" which retail for about $50.00 and she says that since they're so cheap you can buy one in every color. What the hell, Vera Wang? We live in different worlds.

What's your fantasy purchase? An old farm house about 15 minutes outside of a decently sized town. Maybe in Oregon? It will have a porch on which I can sit in the mornings or when it rains in the evening and there will be peonies and lilacs in the back yard.

What's your favorite:
Beauty product? Cetaphil face wash. I first heard about this regarding infant eczema and decided to try it. I thought that I might regret this gamble but it turns out that it is a secret thing that I'll never ever give it up. It's $13 for a bottle--which is a huge amount of money for someone who's not Vera Wang. But it lasts forever and it is completely worth it.
Hostess Gift? Yeah, I'm not sure I've ever brought a hostess gift because what's a hostess? Is it something you bring to a party or strictly for someone who lets you stay at their house? I don't know. I like to think that I'm the kind of person who would bring flowers. I love getting flowers. Love. Getting. Flowers. So I really would like to give them to people. I will never give anyone carnations and will only share those cheap-ass daisies in the rarest of circumstances.
Accessory? I like to wear scarves for everything. It really dresses up that aforementioned v-neck and the skinny jeans that I've already convinced you to buy (I get mine from Ye Olde Navy because I only buy cheap things--even full price, $40 for jeans is kind of debilitating for me but Vera would buy four in every color and probably treat them as disposable). The other thing about scarves is that the really fat ones can be used to cover up your gigantic Earl Grey latte stain.
Comfort food? Mrs. T's Pierogies. Stylish people do most of their shopping in the frozen food section. Also, avocados make me feel calm and soft and happy.

That's enough for your stylish and trendy advice. I have to go sleep with a cucumber relish smeared across my face.

Love, Libby.

*For the record, the photographs of Katy Perry contained within this issue are gorgeous.
**Yeah, click on that link. Deanna has a delicious blog.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth,--

The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity