Saturday, October 06, 2012

Top Ten Things I Learned from my Father

For my Dad's birthday this year, in lieu of a fancy gift, (because who wants a fancy gift anyway--okay, don't answer that) I'm writing a little essay, an essay that's a month and change late. An essay about the top ten lessons I learned (but don't always in all cases heed) from my Dad. 

Number Ten:  Take care of your shoes.
I don’t really do this. 

And, I’m sorry.

And I know I should be. 

Especially in the case of expensive boots.  Y’all know how I love my tall boots. And when they fall apart for lack of oiling and polishing I’ll be sorry. DAMN sorry.  My father, on the other hand, held a shoe polishing party every Sunday afternoon.  Wingtips were hauled out and inspected.  Strong smelling polish assiduously applied.  Thorough and enthusiastic buffing ensued. 

The shoes. They always looked good.    

Number Nine: For GOD’S SAKE, know your multiplication tables.

I was not a problem child in terms of my school work. Ahem. Grades were not an issue, really, and so my Father stayed largely checked out of my scholastic situation UNTIL: 

multiplication tables. 

Once he learned multiplication tables were upon me, it lit a parental fire.  Starting with my two’s, grilling sessions were held each night.  Once I became reasonably proficient, I was randomly grilled.  Ultimately, races were held with his adding machine.   I needed to demonstrate the ability to come up with the answer faster than the machine. 

Once I could do this reliably?

He could go back to Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Forever.  

Number Eight:  Never use regular boring old words when a pithy phrase can be substituted.

That’s not just a big pothole in the road.

“Bridge out!”

The guy wasn’t just nervous.

“His butt was working buttonholes.”

That person didn’t just spend way too much for that insert major purchase: [house, car, boat].

 “He has more money than sense.”

  A girl is not simply unattractive. 

“She’s so ugly she has to slap herself to sleep.”

They person isn't big or large.

"He's/she's big enough to hunt bear with a switch."

You're not flat broke, you're...

"Financially embarrassed"

You get the picture.

I believe it's safe to say I’ve mastered this skill. At least to a certain degree. 

Number Seven:   Chew with your mouth CLOSED.

I spent my entire childhood wondering why my Dad was so obsessed with me doing this and my entire adulthood being embarrassed for and wanting to slap the shit out of those who didn’t learn this important lesson.

Hear me now believe me later: there is no substitute for table manners. Tell all your friends. 

But especially tell your kids.

Number Six: It’s all relative.

I’ll never forget, during my starter divorce (cringe), when I was enumerating to my Dad the egregious wrong that had been perpetrated upon my poor defenseless person as a result of the marriage from which I now sought to extricate myself, what he said. 

And it was this: 

You think the situation is really bad because, in your experience, it’s the worst thing that’s happened to you.  But it isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened.  And it’s not even the worst thing that ever will happen.
Can I just say?

I get that now.
Oy vey.

Number Five:  Car Maintenance, Car Maintenance, Car Maintenance.


(I’m very good about changing the oil.) 

Number Four:  Debt is BAD.

Get a low interest rate.  Pay it off as quickly as you can.

 Number Three:  Be skeptical.

The ol’ if it sounds too good to be true?  It probably is. 

My Dad is a skeptic, people. 

Nowhere was my Dad’s skepticism more in evident than in church.  Oh, he went, don’t get me wrong.   He himself was brought up in the church and I think he felt duty bound to warm a pew on Sundays.  But it was way more a sociological study than a religious exercise in his case.  Annoyed first of all that it meant forgoing a Winston for a sizable chunk of time, and second of all that, well, let’s face it, there were more than a few pompous asses in evidence, my Dad spent his Sunday mornings Observing as opposed to Believing.

Albeit fairly quietly.    

But it set the clock ticking for the inevitable collision:  the Pastor would eventually have to pay us an in-person visit and ask my Dad that age-old, dramatic question. In a voice aquiver with righteous concern, brotherly love, Pastorly emotion, and religious fervor,

“Do you know where you’ll spend eternity?”

At which time Dad was forced to point out,

“No.  And neither do you.”


Not…THE TRUTH, God's sake!  ((cringe!)) 

Anything but that!

The battle for Jesus that followed there in the living room on Truman Drive, the space we hardly ever sat in, the room with a floor clad in glorious golden shag a full inch in length (I ought to know I vacuumed it enough),  was arduous, hard fought, and at least an hour in length (I was a youngster at the time, it seemed to me to go on forever).  The Pastor would eventually throw out all the tools in his big bag of Jesus:  bible verses, fear of hell, peer pressure, prayer, pleading, ye olde Roman’s Road, what I’ve now come think of as the “Patrick Swayze Argument”:
Jesus is like the wind.  ‘Cause you can just FEEL him! 

The one thing the Pastor didn’t have in his big bag of righteousness was this:  proof.    

As my Dad put it,

“Unless you’ve ever had a conversation with someone who has managed to die, go to heaven, and then somehow reappear, the truth is you don’t know where you’ll spend eternity.  And you’ll never know.”

This sort of bare naked truth was clearly not part of the Pastor’s everyday reality.  He was unused to thinking of his sizable Sunday morning congregation as “one thousand voices all singing together about a heaven they have no real reason to believe exists”.

That is not how the Pastor viewed his world.

But he had to at least glance through the lens of reason on that day.

Did his shoulders seem a little stooped as he was ultimately forced to accept defeat and head back out to his brand new expensively appointed Lincoln Continental (purchased for him as a birthday gift by his deacons) after shaking hands and stepping off the golden shag, never to return? 

I think they might have.

I can still see the Pastor that day now, through the panes of the big bay window, heading off down the driveway. 

Only now my mind adds a quiet phrase,

“girl, BYE.”  

Number Two:      WORK

As explanation:  WORK.

And the Number One Lesson my Dad Taught me: 

[While sliding with him driving an out of control Mustang driving on a Midwestern road that had frozen into a solid sheet of ice, as I cringed in terror and braced myself in anticipation of the impact that was sure to occur at any second…]

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, Bizzy!”

[Yah, we didn’t wreck.]
HAPPY BELATED SIXTY-SECOND BIRTHDAY TO MY DAD!  I'm trying not to sweat the small stuff.   

(And--don't tell me-- it's mostly all small stuff, right?)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Falling for Fall Creeks Falls in the Fall (Sorry 'bout that.)

Heading out

And so I am back from Fall Creek Falls Tennessee. I had hoped to write about the trip much sooner upon arriving home (September 23rd), but as I may have not mentioned here, I am once again working full time and in school full time. It is a pattern for me to be either utterly unoccupied or obligated every minute. Either way is actually fine with me for some reason.

Camp Pippa, FCF (click for larger version)

For anyone who might not be my three regular readers, this camping excursion would be our second in a new/old somewhat renovated pop-up tent camper named "Pippa" and this trip follows on Pippa's recent maiden voyage (in August) to the nearby camping paradise of Land Between the Lakes more commonly known as "LBL" some thirty miles southeast of here on I-24. For this trip, With a week off work, the original plan was to take Pippa pretty far afield and camp in or around the Smoky Mountains, but alas, I could not weasel out of my (three hour) Tuesday night class. This meant we could not set out sooner than Wednesday morning, and so after a considerable amount of research, we settled on Fall Creek Falls as a destination, some four hours away. As it happens, Nashville marks midpoint of the the trip. 

Despite our earlier difficulties with the dreaded trailer backing (related classic quote, "THERE'S  SOMETHING WRONG WITH THIS MOTHERFUCKER"), we got Pippa positioned in only three tries. 

Down from a high of twenty-seven thousand. 

We were quite pleased with the uncommon levelness of the campsite, practically on the bubble. This couldn't possibly have been a coincidence considering the drastically uneven terrain of the park. Thank you, park planners! We're also becoming wildly efficient with Pippa's set-up and breakdown, and I predict we will achieve McGuyveresque-level proficiency by our next trip. We keep forgetting to time ourselves until we're half way through the process, but we can certainly get the job done in under an hour start to finish and that's including setting up and breaking down everything else (like camp chairs, stove, blah, blah...). While still not the easiest task, cranking (har) has become considerably less difficult thanks to an enthusiastic lube job by a tragically misguided and smitten mechanic who shall remain nameless. Said smitten mechanic spent quite a while, I'm told, up under Pippa's business smearing grease on all the cranking mechanisms (no extra charge of course. *wink!*).

Since we arrived on a Wednesday, we had our whole section of camp to ourselves, certainly no one on either side or behind us. Thrilling, to say the least.  After setting up, we still had daylight left to burn and managed our first visit to the eponymous Fall Creek Falls.

The view from the top of Fall Creek Falls.
 While I can tell you, with certainty, that the picture above is of Fall Creek Falls, that's where my ability to name and recognize falls on sight ends. We would hike to at least four more falls, likely Piney Falls and Cane Falls, Cascade Falls, and (other?) Falls, but since there wasn't (thankfully) a banner sign draped across each of them, I don't know which one is which.  I can tell you that the Fall Creek Falls gulch you see here is two and a half football fields deep and we resolved to hike to the bottom first thing in the morning. Right after...

The makings of breakfast burritos: onion, peppers, corn.

The MOST wonderful PART of the trip!  Camp breakfast! 
This is the little-used camp stove that came with Pippa that I spoke of in my last camp post. While Pippa is fifteen years old, I'm not sure anyone ever hooked up this stove before we did. It works like brand new,  running  off a propane tank that is stored inside the camper. A hose is threaded through a hatch to power the stove. The only thing even very rustic about it is that the burners must be lit with a match. Otherwise, it cooks as well as any indoor gas range.

Essential camping gear: your own personal squatch tee.
Except everything tastes better outside. Have I mentioned?

The only way FCF State Park could have been any more lovely would have been for us to be there a few weeks hence for fall foliage. As it was, the weather was PERFECT, 70s to 80's during the day and 30 to 40 degrees at night. That may sound a little brisk, but it's really nothing a puffy vest, a campfire, and a roasted marshmallow can't cure. Though we brought a heater, once still and covered in the camper, it was actually perfect sleeping weather.  Though I will say it was a bit of a chilly hike to the potty, some 150 feet or so away. It was the price we paid for having our camp well away from the knot of what I call "friendly campers" or people who want to camp up each other's asses and chat with strangers, of which I am most certainly NOT one (surprise!). I generally pre-bring people with me that I like to talk to. 

Perhaps most importantly, the showers were clean enough AND there was plenty of hot water to be had. While I've evolved quite a long way as a camper and outdoorsy person, you won't find me pooping in a hole of my own digging nor sponging off with wet wipes as a means of cleaning myself nor wearing stank absorbing clothes (though I'll admit they are ingenious) as a matter of necessity any time soon. Nope. 

Beginning the hike to the base of Fall Creek Falls. This wide, stepped path in no way represents  90% of the trail which was narrow, knotty with three roots, and a heavy dose of rocks ranging from boulder-sized on down.
The hike to the bottom of the falls was steep as one would expect and, while wearing my hiking boots is far more often than not a fashion statement, that certainly wasn't true of hiking FCF Park. While hiking/climbing back up is harder on the muscles and more winding, heading down is scarier because of the very real possibility of grandma taking a header to the bottom.

I'm very happy to report that never happened.

Looking  back.

Looking down.

The base of FCF.

We were rewarded at the bottom with a beautiful view and a nice sprawl on a huge, flat rock thoughtfully placed by the Almighty (orsomethinglikethat) at the bottom for just such an activity. Eventually we had to give it up, though, because for some unknown reason there were... "other people" (?) on the trail.

We found it convenient between wilderness adventures to eat out only at lunch time at the one restaurant that necessarily monopolized the FCF meal-time trade located in the (state-run) hotel. The building had the "executive inn syndrome" meaning it looked like a prison. The dining room was cavernous, could have easily seated hundreds, and, in the midst of a Forest paradise, was inexplicably dotted with a bazillion fake plants suspended from the soaring ceiling (?). I have nothing good to say about the food, which was served buffet-style, and included way too much iceberg lettuce, sadly. Everything was labeled with calorie content (?) and cooked within an inch of its life. The carrots melted in your mouth. Literally. I will say I was delighted to discover a passable chili-like substance offered up day #3.   

Also, not sure what's up with this: (?).

We suffered our first wildlife attack on Night #2.

Ye olde raccoon.

My romance with raccoons, much like my first marriage, was short lived. It went something like this:

Stage One
"Oh, look! A raccoon, isn't he he ADORABLE?"

Stage Two
 "Ohmygod! Raccoons are attacking camp! We're all going to die!"

Stage Three
(Raccoons amuse themselves by sneaking up behind my camp chair in the dark until...)
(They do this repeatedly always resulting in...)

Stage Four
"If you'll pass me that lighter fluid and a match? I'm pretty sure I can herd that sumbitch into that storm drain and blow him straight to hell. Not kidding. "

In the case of the FCF attack, "someone" (me) repeatedly suggested to "someone" (not me) they MIGHT want to lock the food filled cooler in the truck for the night (bears, anyone?).  However, "someone" (not me) has taken to amusing themselves by engaging in raccoon warfare by leaving the food cooler in plain sight but bungee cording (with 19 bungee cords) the lid closed so the coon is driven mad by the inaccessible, yet tantalizingly close, supply of snacks.

We lost our hamburger to this little game. A perfect nasty little coon print pressed into the ground chuck.

I was, however, ASSURED the coon did not touch anything else in the cooler.

And how do we know this, you ask?

Because "somebody" (not me) actually claims to have actually heard it the very first time the coon's mangy disease-ridden little coon hand touched the cooler. In the dead of night. While the hearer was only seconds before asleep. With the cooler, of course, being located outside the camper.

Why, yes, people are frequently wakened by the sound of a coon hand hitting plastic.


Day two found us at the riding stables. We met a friendly older married couple from Georgia who, as we were getting signed up, enthusiastically clued us in to the knowledge that Friday night was "Seafood Buffet" night back at the fake plant dining room. I wincingly nodded, imaging the man enthusiastically tearing into limp, overcooked shrimp and thousand year old crab legs following an iceberg salad smothered in Thousand Island dressing.  
Mr. and Mrs. Crab Leg

We had to sign so many liability release forms that I imagined them saddling up a mighty  steed I would be charged with the responsibility of managing, but "Hank" was in fact a mild-mannered fairly disinterested brown horse on the short side. Any remaining apprehension I may have had about riding evaporated as I watched the stable worker swing her four-year-old daughter onto a horse, sans helmet, and send her off on the ride with us.

We may not have ridden to the hounds, but it was lovely just the same.

This may or may not be "Elvis"
Once we returned, and better than the ride, almost, was the fact that they told us we could visit all the horses in their stables if we wanted to. There must have been twenty or more of them in all shapes and sizes. We spent as much time petting (or trying to pet) all the horses there as we did on the ride.  I have a terrible fear that these kinds of "amusement" animals aren't treated well (too much "Black Beauty" as a child), though I saw no evidence of this and we had all kinds of fun giving them some love and attention.

The dreaded interspecies crush.

Back at camp that night, we experienced our first real bout of adversity when the loons at Camp 217 decided to listen to a little preachifyin'.  On the radio? Recorded? No idea. Problem was, Camp 217 wasn't satisfied to have just their own souls saved and ponder the implications of hellfire and damnation all by their theirselfs. They figured, I guess, that all us heathens at camp that night needed a dose of proselytizing. And so, for the better part of an hour, we were all treated at top volume to the booming, paranoid ramblings of some preacher or another. Recall, also, that our camp was located somewhat more remotely than the others so I can only imagine how miserable it was for the majority of everyone else, located as they were much closer to the madness.

We considered our alternatives...complain? have a conversation with 217? as we sipped delicious ice cold beer by the campfire and the rantings of Preacher X (?) continued to insult the night. 

We did nothing, in the end. The crazy leaking out of Camp 217 and polluting the fresh air around it was pretty palpable, honestly. Peering over there through the darkness at their campfire made me shiver. And not from the cold.   

Can I help you?

We discovered what might well be our favorite FCF hideaway the next day: Buzzard's Roost. Located at one of those marked scenic vantage points, you have to take a short hike below and around and down a trail to get to the actual point, but the breathtaking vista AND 3G's made it well worth the effort. Almost nobody else ever went to the trouble to go beyond cheesing it up at the photo spot. 

Here's a shot of it from a distance.

What little Facebooking we managed took place here because, for the most part, there are no G's to be had elsewhere at FCF. (Which is, I guess, kinda the point? Even if it seems a little excessive). I spent some time laid out on the rock at Buzzard's Roost wallowing in the luxury of all 3 G's, my head propped on the binocular case, my butt tucked into a gentle indentation in the rock, obviously once again engineered by nature for this very purpose, the banjo picking strains of "Rocky Top" echoing in my head, wondering if Tennessee is, in fact, the most beautiful place on earth.

It was that day.

Lookie! An unidentified falls! PWETTY!
Thursday night brought all sorts of fresh hell to the campground...PEOPLE.  And backing in their camp trailers IN THE DARK!  Show-off bastards.

Although, I'm happy to report they did occasionally run into things. 

And I know this because I've taken to sipping beer by the campfire and smugly watching people back in their camp trailers now that we're genius and can do it in three tries. Anyway, the dreaded PEOPLE brought their dreaded kids, one group of which took to "blood curdling screaming" as a means of amusement. Haha!  Yah!  Good times. And I would have been really mad too.

Except that I was distracted from all my problems by the sudden emergence of a skunk from the woods. A big, wide, kind of silvery one likely driven from his lair by, oh, I don't know...maybe (I'm guessing) BLOOD CURDLING SCREAMS?  He looked none too amused and while we thought surely he'd deviate from his course of heading STRAIGHT FOR US, he did not. Unperturbed by us jumping from our camp chairs and waving our arms about, he continued his steady progress in our direction.  I suppose if I had any sense, I would have tried a blood curdling scream of my own (and I'll admit to briefly wondering if there was any way we could possibly herd him to camp 217), but I was too frightened by my extensive knowledge of skunk spraying gleaned entirely from that one Brady Bunch episode.  You know the one, right?  Where everybody has to take a bath in tomato juice and they STILL stink?

TWO falls.
Not a fate I want to experience. We shut ourselves up in Pippa and the skunk was gone by morning. 

But Friday would blow us a a much iller wind than skunks or screams.  Because Friday was the day the plague of JeffChrisandDrew arrived. 

Along with sharing the beigest and most middle class American names possible on the planet, JeffChrisandDrew were all decked out in North Face and heinously ugly Teva "show your whole damn ungroomed manfoot" sandals. And I would know this about JeffChrisandDrew because they rolled into the camp RIGHT NEXT TO ours. Worse still than JeffChrisandDrew and their manfoot sandals was what they brought WITH them.  You see this coming, right?

Their five kids: Loud, Louder, Loudest. Oh, and the twins, Bitch and Moan. 

The forest!

Not one of these kids was over the age of five.  Not. One.  All boys.

Clearly, JeffChrisandDrew, at some point, had taken leave of their senses.  

 While the kids screamed and cried and, especially, bitch and moan (in pull-ups, no less) bitched and moaned, JeffChrisandDrew went about the exhausting business of pitching THREE tents on ONE campsite, corralling five kids, and making endless trips to the bathroom (which, recall, is rather far away, especially if you're an unreliable toddler). Once unfurled and set, the tents left JeffChrisandDrew and loud, louder, loudest, bitch and moan about five square feet to stand in although, helpfully, one kid was often dangling from the top of a short pole on the site. I'm telling you, that place was like the Superbowl during hurricane Katrina.

A hot screaming desperate mess.

The descent to the bottom of (Cascade?) Falls

We were never so glad to set out for another day of hiking as we were on JeffChrisandDrew day.     
Suspension bridge over (Cascade?) Falls. Only six people at a time could cross.
 And I'm happy to report we found FCF was otherwise as serene and lovely as ever. 

Cascade Falls (?). You can see the suspension bridge over the falls at the top left of the photo. Also, if you click for a larger version, you can see the swimming family dad just to the left of the falls.

 The hike down to Cascade Falls was perhaps the steepest thus far in a land of very steep hikes. There was listed in the guide a hike so steep it required one to actually cling to a cable, but we opted to save that excursion for another trip. 

As an aside, at the base of these falls, we found "the swimming family" stripped down to their bathing suits. This was a family with a mother and baby in a sling and a father and their two, perhaps 7 and 9 year old daughters. For some reason the Dad and daughters felt compelled each time they encountered a body of water, to strip down to their bathing suits and wade in while Mom photographed the whole bizarre unseasonable process. This though it was rather too cold for it and, er, nobody else was doing it? 

We first noticed the swimming family the day before shivering and balancing precariously on rocks in a stream on one of the trails, but finding them wading about at the base of Cascade falls among prominently posted "NO SWIMMING" signs was a little shocking. The Dad was coaching the girls (who were clearly nervous and freezing) from slippery rock to slippery rock to nearly the actual ROARING falls and back again. I spent some time pondering what the Dad's overall message to these kids might be?  

"Girls! Wear your bathing suits at all times!  Whenever you see a body of water... STRIP DOWN! WADE IN! CONQUER IT! Find a slippery rock and cling to it with just your toes! You'll be a better person for the experience!"  

Back at camp, things with JeffChrisandDrew had not improved.  Several of the children were in full "I want my Mommy" meltdown crying stage and the others were beating the hell out of each other with sticks. The squealing, screeching and squawking continued until nearly 10 pm and we were awakened at six o'clock sharp the next morning by the musings of Loudest, who picked that pre-dawn moment to try and have a top volume discussion with his father about his favorite song at a location that sounded to be about three inches from our sleeping heads.

From there, the cacophony began anew and the demon spawn of JeffChrisandDrew tuned up for another day of misery. I fixed a delightful breakfast as the squealing and screaming grew louder and higher in pitch and intensity with each passing moment. Just when you thought it couldn't get any louder?  It did. When Loudest took to shout/screaming at the top of his lungs, I'd had enough. Plugged my iPod into the truck speakers and rolled up the volume on some Notorious B.I.G. until we could no longer hear the pandemonium emanating from camp super dome over the smooth song stylings of Biggie Smalls.


JeffChrisandDrew, in their first wise move of the weekend, decided it was time to take the kids out for breakfast (lucky for all those unsuspecting bastards at the restaurant, eh?!) and we decided to break down camp before they could return. Truth be told, we'd considered going home then anyway and it was as good a time as any. 

Not gonna lie. I can hardly wait for our next excursion!
(Is there something wrong with me?)

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Saturday, September 01, 2012


Chicken chili topped with shredded sharp cheddar cheese, along with salsa verde, and good old fashioned Premium saltines.

I'm starting a new job next week and have recently become obsessed with the idea of the creatively packed healthy lunch. Okay, well, at least marginally healthy. And a tad creative. Honestly, just about anything one can bring from home is bound to be a better choice than the crap available at your average drive through. And it's certainly more cost effective.  I'm trying to concentrate mostly on whole foods though I don't think I'll ever get over my cracker/carb obsession. Also, I would like to work toward making dinners that easily translate into delicious, lunch-friendly leftovers like you see above.  

I hope to chronicle my efforts here as I go. Provided I keep up with making the lunches (and working and going to school and everything else), the documenting shouldn't be a problem, obsessed as I am with photographing my food.  

The lunches you see here are packed in divided 3-compartment Ziploc containers and ready to go into the freezer until Tuesday. My newly acquired lunch obsession definitely extends to and is even heightened by the number of cool, compact, handy, eco-friendly lunch container choices on the market these days.

I mean, really, it's all about the accessories, people. 

I am tempted by Goodbyn and their hip containers especially the bynto box and the mix and match set. Doubt if one could go wrong with Rubbermaid Lunchblox. I love love LOVE the Citizenpip "Soup to Nuts" kit, especially since it includes containers for liquids (iced tea from home!) and a (tiny!) fork and spoon.  Then there is the lunch tote, which definitely appeals.  A girl can never have enough bags, after all. Although I do have to confess to having at least one lunch tote already, actually the cutest lunch tote in the world:

I just kind of want to squeal when I see it (the leaf zipper pull?).  In some ways, it's too small to be practical, but there will mos def be days when it will work and I will be thrilled.  It's a "skip hop" lunch box and I got mine at Target.

I'll leave you with the recipe for the Chicken Chili pictured above.  I used all the ingredients listed except I cooked my chicken breasts in a little olive oil with garlic and shallots then fork shredded it and added it to a dutch oven where I had assembled all the other ingredients, and simmered it all for an hour or so and served.  DELISH!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance.

Decided to take to the streets with my exercise routine this morning and hauled out my bike.  It had two flat tires and I decided rather than cursing the situation, I'd concentrate on enjoying the fact that manually airing them up substituted nicely for weight work on my arms.  

I couldn't resist stopping and snapping this photo on the overpass along the way. I had to wonder, since I've always heard going under a train is good luck, if standing over one constitutes the opposite.  

Let's hope not.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rydell 4-EVER! At Maiden Alley Cinema's 11th Birthday Bash/Costume Party

You know how it sometimes kind of sucks to live in a small(ish) town? Where there's little opportunity, John Cougar Mellencamp? Where everybody kind of knows everybody? 

But, then again, sometimes, something happens that's just so damn much fun partially because it's a small town. Where everybody kind of knows everybody. And if you don't know everybody you kind of think you do. Or should.


Let's just say the Maiden Alley Cinema's 11th Birthday Bash/Costume Contest was just such an event. 

Movie People.  Gotta love 'em.
Danny Zuko, a Pink Lady, Sandy
Honestly, it's not like I need a lot of encouragement to dig out my "Grease" CD, listen to it obsessively for a week, and throw together an ensemble from Rydell High. Really? It's the most.  To say the least. (Word to the wise: crinolines go on LAST. Ahem.) As I mused on crackbook the other day, somehow I still know every lyric and harmony from the Grease soundtrack, but have no real recollection of what happened Wednesday.

Hopelessly devoted (and shiny).

Not that I care.

I read an article not long ago that discussed some recent research that indicated listening to the music of one's youth has a major depression lifting effect. While I'm happy they did the research, all they really needed to do is ride along with us in our costumes on the way to the party as we sang along

Stupid, ridiculous, giggle-snorting happy. 

And that's before we started drinking...

...and giggling some more at the world's most fabulous movie get-ups. You see here H. I. & Ed with little Nathan junior in his car seat, the infamously hard-won Huggies, and --look closely-- a copy of Dr. Spock's "Baby and Child Care". These two won the costume contest and, damnit, I have to admit, they deserved the award even as wonderful as our costumes were.  (Danny Zuko sneaked into a lot of photos. He's very gregarious.)    

Nice guns, Holly Golightly! I'm happy to say this particular Holly clearly did not have a case of the Mean Reds and was but one of a large contingent of Hollies in Ethan Allen sponsor, Kenn Gray's, entourage. Not only did Gray treat us to a flock of Hollies,

but he won the tablescape contest with the Tiffany theme. 

Timing award to Heather Anderson here.  After all it is Shark Week.

It may be simple, but I love Love LOVE this Shaun of the Dead costume from demon baby (wolf pussy!) creator, Cory Green.  Hi, Danny. 

And then? I, like, ohmygod! Ran into my old jacket worn by Valley Girl, Lily Shapiro. I'm so totally sure!  I actually owned this stonewashed fringey nightmare back in, maybe, the late eighties? It required very big hair, a vat of Bud Lite, two packs of Marlboros, and irresponsible decision making at every donning.  What can I say? It was a very demanding jacket. I hope Lily can bear up under the strain (and resist the call of the wild better than I). 

Event originator and MAC Executive Director, Landee Bryant aka Billie Jean. She's everywhere. Also? She dyed her hair just for this costume. That's dedication, people.

Miss Scarlett O'Hara, y'all! And in Miss Ellen's portieres.  Also? Team: Open.  You gotta pay the taxes on Tara somehow, after all. Fiddle dee dee! 

Could I love this Elle Driver costume a little more?  I don't think so. Apparently, she hangs with Ed and H. I.  Small world!

And just when you think these partygoers can't get more inventive?  In rolls Lars and his real girl . No small feat as this is an "upstairs" party.

There were so, so many more you guys. But I had too many Red Stripes to keep up. Just remember, kids, it doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's what you do with your dancin' shoes.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Design Find: Vintage Taylor Smith & Taylor Boutonniere Dishware Set

I was poking around a consignment shop yesterday looking for possible clothing items for a costume I was putting together (more on that later) when I literally stumbled across a couple of boxes containing the dishes you see pictured above. It's not an unusual pattern, in fact it's one I've actually seen many times before and liked for the combined elements of mid-century and that super yummy interior turquoise, though I would normally prefer a more geometric and less floral pattern, given a choice. 

What made this find unusual are the many serving dishes that were included with the set. These I'd never seen.  I nearly plotzed when, first thing, I pulled that coffee pot (carafe?) from the box and the tiny lid was with it and intact.  Then, the tiny sugar bowl and lid.  It actually gave me that light headed thready heartbeat feeling and I had to sit down on my butt real quick on the floor (I was already squatting and it was hot in there).

Next came the casserole dish and lid which caused me to break out in the cold sweat of desire and set me to digging around for the price.  TWENTY-EIGHT dollars, friends.  For 62 pieces. Luckily, this was a shop where I'm always selling my own stuff and a quick check of my account gave me another $14 to work with.  Got the whole shootin' match for $15.68 (that's a quarter a piece if you're counting which, of course, I am).  


I have not written much about it here, but I have for the last year or so, been delving pretty heavily into the world of thrift and consignment. If you're not aware, it is a world that is booming in this economy.  Booming, but still always with treasure to be had. I shudder to think of the hundreds of dollars of clothing I threw away at the Salvation Army in years past. Not that it isn't a deserving organization!  But, dang.  Sell, sell, sell, girls. Jewelry! Shoes! Purses! (And buy low!)

The manufacturer's mark found on the underside of each dinner plate.
While I can Google an approximate a value for almost every piece in the Boutonniere set, I find the carafe/coffee pot piece nowhere (not even available for reproduction as many pieces are).  The closest thing I can find to it is this; what they are calling a "carafe" or pitcher. I would love to know what the "pitcher" or coffee pot (?) I have is worth. Please do message me if you have thoughts about this.

Otherwise, I've learned that the original large set was made up of NINETY-EIGHT pieces.  It included an exhaustive list of items like tiny salt and pepper shakers, a vase, this sweet little cake and pie server, and what they're calling an "olive boat" or sometimes a "relish tray". Most sources put the time of manufacture and sale of the boutonniere dishes in the late 1950's.    

The diminutive size of most of these dishes is but another huge (har!) thrill for me.  The "cereal bowls" of which I have nearly a full (dozen) set are perhaps big enough to hold less than a cup of cereal and a similar amount of milk. Not to mention the itsy fruit/berry bowls and tiny "bread and butter" plates (for what my mother says they used to call "light bread"). The dinner plates are much larger and  quite serviceable as is everything, really, given a small enough portion size. The glasses may have been part of this original set as well, though I have to confess I really don't find them appealing looks-wise (and there were none included in the boxes I bought).   

Once I got the dishes home, I removed another more modern set of dishes from the cabinet to make room for them and then decided to turn around and sell the newer set. Hence, there is a very good almost certain chance I'll actually make money on this deal.  

As is, I plan to really use the boutonniere set for the time being, though I may sell them in the future at some point. I spent the rest of the day smugly running the less delicate pieces through the dishwasher and later that night slipped easily into the deep, dreamless sleep of the thoroughly satisfied bargain huntress.     

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pippa's Maiden Voyage (and a birfday party)

Nikki May's photo.
It was a very special week last week.  For one, there was a birfday in the offing, and, for two, Pippa's maiden voyage began the day after the big partay. 

I'm not always one for going "all out" for birthdays, however, that said, I was inspired while perusing this month's Southern Living by this make ahead Tex-Mex menu and recipes.  I made everything listed except the Hibiscus Tea (who the hell needs tea when you have tequila?) and, yes, I'm saying I went ahead on like a nutball and invited five people to eat dishes prepared from heretofore untried recipes.  I would trust no one but Southern Living to such a culinary extent, and once again, I'm happy to say my confidence was not misplaced. (But, let's be honest, my fallback position would have been to step up the tequila service enough so no one would notice had there been a last minute food mishap.)

Another Nikki May original.
With a Tex-Mex menu set, a natural Mexican theme emerged. And you know how I am about a "theme".  The whole thing suddenly screamed: GET A DAMN PINATA THIS INSTANT! MAKE EVERYONE (including yourself) WEAR SOMETHING STUPID ON THEIR HEADS!

Artiliciousness ensued. 

We're not fancy around here, so my tequila shakers were mason jars and they worked quite nicely for this purpose. The original idea was to enjoy the Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream Pie dessert in the hot tub, but this plan was quickly nixed by the weather who heard I was having a party and quickly whipped up a driving rain (haha!) coupled with 54-mile-per hour winds (wee!) on the heels of the biggest drought in years, just for laughs. 

Not that anybody cared by that time. The pie ate quite fine at the table, thankyouverymuch. That's a cinnamon graham cracker crust, by the way, spiked with red pepper flakes, making for a combination of hot/sweet that is quite uniquely delightful, I must say [insert Ed Grimley hop].

TenaciousF, the killer frog who took up residence in the Casbah and environs this spring and has been known to stalk the hot tub and enjoy chillin' in the grill.  We found him indignantly clinging to the glass storm door after the party clearly annoyed that his invitation was lost in the mail. Guess who snapped this uber cool photo?  Where, I ask you, would this blog post be with her? That's right, nowhere. 

Eventually, after all that food, booze, and frog terror, we went unconscious. This meant, of course, that Pippa's maiden camping voyage, set for the next day, would happen none too early.  The important thing is it did still happen. And it wasn't just us this time, we decided we'd try out, not only the pop-up, but the dogs as well. 

HA, yes!  Dogs!  Because we don't already haul enough shit to the campsite. We need more crap, cosmetics, cooking gadgets, complications and supplies.  We need to add a layer of fur, hysteria,  unpredictability and slobber to the mix. Damn it, we need more stuff to worry about! That's Vance Shepherd (a suspicious Katrina rescue) on the left, and Tallulah (a spoiled purebred) on the right. 

See that look on Vance's face?  The look says, 

Clearly, they've brought me to the campsite TO KILL ME and they think I don't know it.

But I digress.  Here is a shot of Vance enjoying the unbearable lightness of interstate wind in his face on ride to the campsite, before he realized we were taking him there to die. Unfortunately, before we could set about brutally murdering the dog, we had to do something much, much worse. 

We had to back the freaking camper into place.

Friends?  If you've never backed a trailer into place, I envy you.  Because something happens when you hitch a trailer (camping or otherwise) to a vehicle.  And I'm too stupid to know what that something is.  But whatever it is, it means that turning the steering wheel (when in reverse gear) has an effect on where the trailer goes that is completely random and unpredictable. 

It has the effect of causing people to invent completely new cuss words. I'm not the least bit happy to say our camper backing (we took turns being completely ineffective) skills, or lack thereof, provided the entire campground (apparently full of people who have mastered the art of trailer backing) with a good half hour of fun and entertainment. People were standing and pointing. Telling their friends, even!

Good times!

Of course, we'd rather die choking in a pool of our own blood than ask for help.  And so we didn't.  And we eventually backed that bitch in place.  All by our own selfs. That accomplished, we set about our next fun and exciting task.  Unfurling the pop-up.  

Ever cranked a thousand year old pop-up?

It's like a team of snickering invisible body builders oppose every click and turn of the rusty, wobbly ab-busting handle.  Again, this is a task that requires inventive tag-team cursing. And beer. And hiking boot stomping.  BITCH!

DAMN IT, is camping is fun or what?!  LOVE IT!

And so, not a minute too soon, just as our supply of super offensive cuss words was exhausted, the very first Camp Pippa was established. In the late afternoon of a breezy August day, on the banks of Lake Barkley, amidst the swaying trees, and apparently not too far from a tribe of screaming monkeys in residence deep in the woods just to our north.

I have, unfortunately, been dismissed from my original post of Fire Keeper, prohibited from touching the fire biscuits, and I'm told accelerant is no longer among our camping supply inventory. 

[Note: lie]

I'm at a loss to understand how keeping a raging fire going even in the drippiest of weather is an actual MINUS in a camper, but there it is.  I really shouldn't think a few singed eyelashes is that big of a deal in light of our constant need for comforting warmth and protection from flesh hungry coyotes and rabid monkeys after sundown.

I'm going to have to go ahead and say our campfire on this trip was what I'd consider paltry.   

I do continue to be in charge of chow and so, before nightfall our first day, I made the long (five minute) trek to the grocery where the Jeff and Emily IGA gave it to us up the butt for some bacon, biscuits and sundries, as is their tradition. By the time I returned, Pippa was glowing with reassuring electric light and the air conditioner [insert chorus of heavenly angels] was humming along most efficiently.  We enjoyed the world's most delicious ham sandwiches at our picnic table as the monkeys screamed in the distance and the dogs cautiously sniffed out the limits of their new territory. We quietly cussed a man we watched expertly back a boat trailer into the campsite next to ours (first try! motherfucking show-off!).

Nightfall at illustrious Campsite #6.  Always reserved and never camped in.  Our campsite is the one immediately to the left (#8).  On the water, but not nearly as fabulous a vista as this. Apparently, we shall never camp here despite our repeated requests.  Nor, apparently, will anyone else. We visit often and perch atop the table and watch the turtles sunbathe and blue herons sweep across, just skimming the water, and of course sunrise/sunset. 
Our first night in Pippa was noteworthy (other than being cool and delightfully tick-free) only because poor Vance Shepherd decided that his murder was clearly going to take place in there.  At bedtime, Tallulah hopped in eagerly enough, but suspicious Shepherd was having none of it. He planted his front feet wide apart and dug in at the door.  No way. No how. Was he going willingly to his demise in the camper-o-death. Coaching, encouragement, commanding, ordering, and threatening all failed to budge the dog.  Even lifting his back end only caused his front end to become more fixed and stationary.  Finally, we would resort to (you guessed it) more cussing, and brute force. 

Helpfully, the monkeys lent their screams in the distance.

After a mighty effort, Shepherd landed in the camper where he immediately noticed, to his great surprise, rather than a giant doggie meat sausage grinder, his own soft bed from home.  He hopped in and gave us a look. 

Yah, whatever.  I still don't trust you people. Go away.      

I was initially concerned that Tallulah would launch into her glass-shattering bark alerts at every twig crunch and falling acorn while in the camper, but the constant drone of the air conditioner had the unexpected effect of drowning out, for the most part, all outside noise, thus allowing both dogs to sleep without hearing much of anything.  I woke the next day to a misty cool morning,  and found Mr. Expert Backer next door had gone off to fish with neither dog the wiser. I initially thought the noise of him leaving early would send them into a bark alert frenzy; but for the a/c noise, the entirety of LBL would almost certainly have been made aware of The Situation.

Sunrise at Camp #6.

As it was, I had to actually wake the dogs for their sunrise potty.  Tallulah deemed the entire camp her toileting area.  She located the the epicenter of the site and then, after a leisurely stretch, promptly deposited a moist shit half the size of herself in the gravel. 

There is a drop-off just beyond the table that is, essentially, the shore of Lake Barkley.

I wish I'd gotten a good photo of the camp cook stove on which you see me here frying up the bacon!  It is a three-burner gas cook top that runs on propane and is every bit as convenient as any such indoor device. It came with Pippa and, despite its age, was obviously rarely used.  As delicious as waking indoors to the smell of frying bacon is, I put it at twice as delicious a scent experienced at camp. This is doubly true for the cook.  I love to whip up a camp breakfast for some reason (who am I?). I no longer fry real bacon at home. Turkey bacon is as good as it gets around here--fat! cholesterol!--but camp calls for the real thing. 

Shepherd observes some morning fishermen as we took in some fresh air on a bench just outside the OK Corral.
With our arteries properly clogged, it was time to try to counteract that with a multi-mile morning walk. We set out with the dogs to explore the rest of the campsite that, despite us having camped there twice before, we'd never gotten around to walking in its entirety.
Just beyond the drop-off of our campsite. The edge of Lake Barkley.
The area we camp in is considered "primitive" despite each woodsy, shaded camp having running water and electricity as well as bathroom and hot shower facilities within easy walking distance. We walked some of the areas that aren't considered primitive, basically, that amounts in some cases, to monstrous RV's circled in a parking lot in the piteous sun on the waterfront.  I came to think of, and refer to it as, "The O.K. Corral" because it was absolutely a modern-day circling of the wagons.  That is, if your wagon costs $100K and has satellite TV. The people here aren't as interested in "getting away from it all" or "getting back to nature" as they are in meeting other campers and drinking a beer or fifty with them. Or at least that's my perception.  We were hailed and stopped many times as we strolled through by campers here who wanted to admire and pet the dogs and talk to us out of sheer friendly curiosity.

Not surprisingly, Shepherd is walked on a leash as he is likely to try to escape from his death sentence at any moment, but Tallulah is trustworthy (and mommy spoiled) enough on such a walk to be largely off leash.  She generally sticks close to the pack, but is also, in the end, a smaller dog with short legs.  While us big people and Shepherd can cover long distances, this is harder for Tallulah, especially given her tendency to walk not only forward, but also to dart nervously back and forth, thus adding half as much again to any distance we cover. 

Do you sense I'm getting at something?

How about I just cut to the chase:    
We found this at a really crappy flea market in Eddyville (sorry, Eddyville, but it really IS crappy).  It's a fairly high quality stroller, but was for some reason stripped of its baby seat cushion making it perfect for a fur friend ($8!).  Tallulah prefers to stand, obviously.  Chariot-style.

So, yah. 

I'm THAT person.  

My dog has a stroller.