Meme Return.

The wonderfully bloggerific Katie sent me the Meme challenge on May 29, 2011. It sat at the bottom of my inbox waiting patiently for me to gear up and start blogging again. And so, I begin anew.

Katie explains Meme here in her blog. I still don’t really get it. But, listing out six quirky things about myself I get. Six, my friends
and family could confirm, is just the tip of the iceberg.

1. I have an aversion to chewed gum. Specifically, chewed gum that has been placed by its chewer into a torn piece of paper/napkin/paper towel/gum wrapper and placed ANYwhere but the garbage (i.e.-pocket, purse, and—ugh the tabletop or plate). Witnessing this act absolutely makes my skin crawl. This aversion really extends to any chewed or crumpled or peeled paper product being placed in my general line of sight. I am the first to admit this is weird. And I have no idea when it started or why. But I do know that the biggest mistake I ever made was telling people about it. They use the knowledge to torture me and enjoy the process. They cannot even fathom how much it kills me. Please, everyone who loves me, I beg of you to stop.

2. I love to fold laundry. Doing laundry in general gives me great satisfaction, but the folding, oh the folding! The warm straight-from- the-dryer feel and smell. The methodical way of folding each item to then reach the pinnacle of the process—the sort.  I love to sort. Always have, always will. There are few things in this world that make me happier.

3. I sort my M&Ms by color before I eat them (see #2).

4. When I stand in front of a sink barefoot I always, without fail, stand on the outer edges of my feet. I don’t know why I started, and I don’t know why I can’t stop. But there it is. Watch me next time; it’s creepy.

5. Sometimes, when I’m reading, I read aloud. To myself.

6. I still use my fingers to count. Almost all of the time.

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Inspired.

Often caught up in the same-old same-old day-to-day, I love when I stumble upon things “regular” people are doing that make me smile, inspired, or both. Most of my happy stumbling accidents occur through the blogosphere, which makes me laugh about how I used to think blogs were dumb. Not so, former un-enlightened self, not so.

Here are the two that dropped in my lap today. Oh, and I put “regular” in quotes because, in all honesty, these people aren’t really all that regular. But, at the end of the day, they’re people, just like me, and they put their pants on one leg at a time, too, as the old saying goes.

#1. Every Thursday I get GOOP’ed by Gwyneth Paltrow. I know, I KNOW-she’s not the regular gal up the block. But, she inspires me. She’s a renaissance woman through and through. Sometimes her GOOP’ed articles frustrate me because she promotes really expensive products, restaurants, shops, etc. that are out of reach for 99.9% of her audience. But, all the same, I think (without having met her) there is a level of genuine-ness there that transcends her fame. And the way she talks with such admiration of her late father tears my heart out and makes me smile from ear to ear all at the same time. She has a new cookbook out (which I hope to someday own), inspired by cooking/eating with her dad. There is a line in it that is not only the way one should cook, but the way one should live. As you might have noticed, I’m a big quote person, and this may be a new favorite motto:

“Invest in what’s real. Clean as you go. Drink while you cook. Make it fun.
 It doesn’t have to be complicated. It will be what it will be.”

2. These folks aren’t really your typical Joe, either. The father figure in this video is the cinematographer for the documentaries Helvetica and Obejectified, among others. The kid is his son. This is just such a random, geeky science-y project that a father and son researched, built, and tested. Pretty cool stuff. Enjoy: Homemade Spacecraft 

These are just little reminders of the capacity we carry as human beings. And despite all the nonsense happening at every turn these days there is goodness, intelligence, whimsy, and wonder–in abundance–all around us.

Simply Delicious.

My roommate and I checked in on our neighbors’ cat last week while they were away. That cat seriously pooped more than I thought possible. Just sayin’.

Anyway, as a thank you, she made us chocolate-chocolate-chip cookies. Now, I pride myself on my cookie making and am a tough critic when it comes to other people’s homemade creations. BUT. These were, by far, some of the best looking (not a speck of brown on the bottom!) and best tasting cookies I’ve had in a long while. Each bite had me thinking–did she buys these, or make these!? They had a slighly homemade taste and texture–but also a slightly storebought-ness to the taste and appearance. 

I ran into her on the bus today and, after telling her how I made myself sick  because I couldn’t stop eating them, she spilled the beans on both the recipe and the secret to their aesthetic perfection.

1. She uses parchment paper on the cookie sheet (Noted. Will never do it the other way again.)

2. It’s a super complicated recipe:
1 box chocolate cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
chocolate chips

Say what?! I know. I KNOW. I couldn’t believe it, either. Go out, buy, and try these. But I recommend being coy and saying it’s a “secret family recipe.”

Suitable Substitutes.

I have been a blogging slacker. Part no inspiration, part work & life busy-ness. So, for any loyal readers still out there, I offer up some of my personal favorite blogs to tide you over while I get my blog train back on track. Full disclaimer, I am not breaking any ground here–these blogs are well-tred ground. But, they are for a reason so if you don’t already know of them, enjoy!

My GoogleReader list is rather extensive and a lot to keep up with, so here are just a few of my favorite “professional” bloggers:

Joy the Baker: Her writing style is fun, witty, and playful and the recipes she posts look fantastic. I’ve only made a few (grapefruit scones), but am going to try the brussel sprout salad this weekend and oh dear me oh my I die for the day I have time to make this: Holy Grail of Goodness Thanks to Katie B. for leading me to Joy!

Dooce: I am neither mother nor wife, but Heather’s account of her life as both just crack me up. I appreciate her honesty above all. I think this has been my favorite post so far: Toothfairy

Young House Love: These guys just make me want to love ’em and hate ’em all at the same time. They are both so dang cute with the cute baby, cute dog, and cute house. Cute cute cute. Sometimes it makes me want to barf. But for the most part, I like them and some (not all) of their decorating and DIY ideas.

The Pioneer Woman: She’s all over the place these days, but Ree makes being a housewife/mother scooping cattle dung in the middle of not-a-mall-within-hours Oklahoma sound like the best possible life. Oh, and plus her dog SLAYS me.

Now, please don’t blame me when your productivity plummets.

The Wheels on the Bus.

Almost a month since my last post. Shameful. The good news is, this means I’ve been busy. The bad news is I got out of the habit. So I begin again.

“Good morning, young lady, how are you?”

This had been my greeting every morning for nearly a year now. It came from the cheerful and peppy voice of my bus driver. I was reflecting this morning about the people we see every day who become constants in the commuter routine. So constant they nearly go unnoticed–until they disappear. And the absence leaves a gaping hole.

There are two constants in my morning commute: the Mr. Miyagi-look-alike pigeon feeding homeless man who stands against the Borders between K and L and my bus driver. Route 61. I never learned his name; he never learned mine. But he created a consistency and dependability to my day that I never knew I really enjoyed.

I knew the day was coming; he gave weeks of warning.  Something about a new route, split shifts, shortened schedules, and reduced pay. I wasn’t ready, though. Not ready at all. Mr. Bus Driver had to be the friendliest, most upbeat driver in all of Virginia, if not the United States. Generally, I am skeptical of the uber-happy. Too saccharine. Too sweet. Makes me twitch. And, admittedly, the first few weeks on the route he kind of drove me crazy. But somewhere along the way I was lulled into his kind words and reliable one-liners. Quite simply, he won me over.

Perhaps it was his consistency. He was a man to be counted on. He always arrived on time, creeping away slowly if a regular had not yet boarded, fearful of leaving anyone behind. The one day he arrived too early–leaving many of us to walk–he apologized personally to each of us as we boarded the bus the next day. He broke the rules by stopping wherever you were to let you on if you flagged him down.  The value of this kind of consistency in the morning cannot be overstated.

His one-liners while easing the bus into the metro stop became my favorite part of the commute–which would he go with today?! Would it be “The weather is great out there. Let’s be great with it,” or  “Have a great day! Say hi to President Obama for me,” or his old standby, “Go out there and make the world a better place.”

New Mr. Bus Driver started today. The sadness among the 7:49am commuters was palpable. It went unspoken but understood that a key part of our commute was missing and would never be replaced. The new driver seems nice enough, but a bit quiet for my taste. I think he muffled a “have a nice day” following my “thank you” upon exit. In fairness, he doesn’t realize the legend he succeeded. He has no way of knowing the proper response to my morning thank you is: “stay beautiful, young lady.”

I said it silently to myself, but it wasn’t the same.

Rando.

A few random musings…

1. Remember this post? (Scroll to the bottom to “Fear Itself”) Well, it’s been four months or so, but I’m proud to report that I can (sort of) do headstand. Woop! I’ve been using the wall, so I’m not yet 100% there, but I’m getting closer and gaining confidence.

2. My half-marathon training (see here) is going along better than anticipated. Aside from the week I was sick, I have been following my training schedule to a T. I feel fantastic and have been working my work-outs successfully into my life. Last night I hit up both Happy Hour AND the treadmill. And Monday I had a 4.5 mile treadmill run so in the zone…I don’t think I’ve ever felt better running. I’m attributing it to the amazing Mumford & Sons album I was listening to.

3. Because said training is going so well, I’ve dropped weight wtihout really trying. Though, I guess working out 6 days a week constitutes trying… This has actually been an annoyance because my pants and skirts no longer fit, and I had to go out today and drop more money than I wanted on pants I basically already own. BUT. On the flip side, I followed that up with a visit to Hello, Cupcake and bought not one, but TWO for my dining pleasure. Take that, waistline.

4. I will be volunteering throughout the next few months as a Posse Foundation writing coach. I will meet my “scholar” on Wednesday, and I’m really excited. Posse is a fantastic organization, and I’m really happy to be able to use my skill set to help a deserving student be ready for college. More on this to come, I’m sure.

5. Just found out that my beloved Foggers will be cruising through the DC metro-area at the end of March on account of her new fancy-shmancy position. My friend duck just quacked.

6. You know how people say that if someone tells you you aren’t something or can’t do something enough then you begin to believe it? I feel like no one ever talks about when the opposite is true. When you’re told over and over again that you have a trait that perhaps you don’t fully possess. I am coming across cryptic, and I realize that. Just interesting food for thought. Because we all can’t be everything and do everything. We each have strengths and weaknesses and that’s the beauty of it. Just because a certain trait is desirable doesn’t mean that if you don’t have it it’s a terrible thing. Thought about this a lot yesterday…getting outside perspective on one’s personality is sometimes an extraordinarily valuable thing.

Song du jour: “Sigh No More,” Mumford & Sons

Just Ducky.

 

It is time to talk about the ducks. The ducks being the duck theory of life that my dear friend Foggers and I concocted years ago,  most likely while I was relaxing cross-legged on the floor of her cube at Chubb Insurance. At this point we were both well past the point of having any fear of higher Chubb authority.

The duck theory goes like this.  In life, we each have about five ducks representing key areas of importance in our lives. The five ducks are: health, career, love, family/friends, location. The goal, the Holy Grail of life, you might say,  is to get all of these ducks upright and, alas, “in a row”…now here’s the hook :at the SAME TIME.

Over the years and miles apart, we’ve always checked in on each other’s duck situation. And I think we were both somewhat convinced that having a full pond of upright ducks was a near impossibility. Got a great new job? Terrific, but you’re boyfriend is about to dump you! You see how it might go. Not having all your ducks in a row by no means means life sucks. It could, but most of the time, the upright ducks are enough to keep you paddling along pretty contently. For example, at the present, my love duck is confused and sinking and my career duck is sucking mud at the bottom of the pond, but my other three ducks are going along swimmingly, boastful and proud, and that’s enough to hold onto for me. Those other ducks will someday find their way to the surface, eventually.

I explained this theory, albeit using Swedish fish and after a bottle of wine, to some friends over dinner one night. Wouldn’t you know it, at that time my friend had all of his ducks in a row. Incredible. I think I texted Fogs that night to spread the shocking news. A person with all ducks aligned and upright–who was the foreign creature and how did he crack the code!? We thought perhaps this was a flash in the pan, never to be seen again. But, I’ve got news.

Last night, during a lovely catch-up with my fellow duck theorist as we were going through the exciting new events in her life–promotion from a lousy position and  moving in with her boyfriend–(we realized that at this present moment, all of her ducks are in a row. This is me whispering so as not to jinx it). WOOHOOOOO!

So it can happen. It does happen. And because it happened to her, a fellow duck hunter for years, I know it can happen to me, and for you, too.  Some ducks you have more control over than others, but just know that having them all up is a  special occurance and a time to be treasured.  If you should find yourself in such lucky duck waters, appreciate every moment seeing all their beaks smiling proudly and give a little victory quack.