Sunday, March 17, 2019

Being Thankful Is SO Inn

Last week flew by. FLEW! And it's a good thing, too, because THIS week is spring break, and I don't think I would have made it through last week without that carrot dangling in front of me. 

As if that weren't thanks enough, here are ten more things of thankful:

1. I'm currently sitting in the living room of my Person's home in Nashville. We are both in our jammies, and we are writing a bio for her for her new job. Besides my family, she is the only person I am ever 100% myself with, and I am so thankful I have her.

2. Terri, my Person (you know, the friend who knows where all the bodies are buried), and I went on a little girls getaway to an inn about 70 miles outside of Nashville. Terri had visited there the weekend before on a whim, and I am SO THANKFUL she did!

3. This inn we went to was in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee. After the Civil War, the healing powers of the town's mineral springs attracted visitors, and the town once boasted 9 hotels and 12 boarding houses. The boom ended after World War II with the advent of modern medicine and better automobiles and roads. There are still three hotels in the town, and we believe we found the very best one, Armour's Hotel.

From armourshotel.com


4. Seriously, people, if you want to take a step back in time, go visit this place! The entire place is decorated with antiques: furniture, pictures, memorabilia, knickknacks and collections. Think the Christopher Reeve movie "Somewhere In Time." There are vintage touches everywhere, one of my favorites being the ladies hats hanging on the walls. It made me feel warm and comfortable inside to be there, like visiting a beloved elderly relative's home, and I truly did not want to leave.

My pictures are not good, but the room
was lovely and so comfortable!

We were in the "executive suite" so we had
a sitting room and bedroom.

Downstairs hallway. Can you see all the
antiques and collectibles?

The kitchen. It reminded me of my
great aunt's kitchen (but much
bigger). Very homey.


5. We were the only ones staying there the first night, and we got the undivided attention of the staff (which consisted of the owner and the chief cook and bottle washer, as my mom would have said). It was like we were royalty!

Samantha, who cooks, cleans, blows leaves,
and who knows what else (she IS Wonder
Woman) whipped up this sandwich and
salad for us when we finished our
mineral baths and massages.


6. We took mineral baths in big, claw-footed tubs. The "mineral" is mostly sulphur and smells absolutely disgusting, especially when hot. The smell almost cancels out the positive aspect of the delicious hot bath experience, but not quite, so it's a thankful. Plus, we followed up with a massage, so total win.

Ready to be spoiled!

7. Winter is having to be pushed out kicking and screaming, and spring is in no hurry to get kicked, so the walk we took on Saturday afternoon was a chilly one. Across the road from the hotel is part of the "Quilt Trail" that runs through two parks in town (by the way, "town" is about a thousand people). Painted samples of quilt blocks are posted on a walking path with explanations about each pattern. The walk took us by a covered bridge and along a lovely little creek, and in spite of the cool wind and the refusal of the trees and flowers to come out of hibernation, the sky was the most gorgeous shade of blue you could ever imagine. Spring CANNOT be far away with a sky that blue!



Covered bridge that goes over
Salt Lick Creek.

Look at that sky! Completely
unfiltered and not retouched.


I'd be lion if I said it wasn't a lovely weekend.

Or a bird brain. Only a bird brain would
not enjoy this place!


8. The park had a teeter totter. A real, honest-to-goodness teeter totter. Nothing modern about it, no safety features, but a teeter totter just like we had on our school playgrounds as children. 

I took the seat with the big
ol' crack in the middle,
because I'm that good
of a friend!


Show off.

9. We did not fall off the teeter totters, and believe me, dismounting is not what it was when we were 10! Side note: we did not pee our pants laughing, either.

10. While our trip to the inn is over, my visit to Nashville is not! A few more days of much laughing and much eating await!

Be ever thankful.

Ten Things of Thankful

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Look What I Found! Thankfuls!

One of my favorite exercises in my blogging history was participating in the Ten Things of Thankful blog hop, because no matter how bad the week, there was always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for. Er, for which to be thankful. Oh, sometimes you had to dig VERY DEEPLY to find ten things, but they were there if you took the time to look for them.

Confession: not participating in the Ten Things of Thankful for, oh, ages and ages, has resulted in me not doing that weekly tally of thankfuls. Let's see if I can make amends:

1. I entered a little writing contest sponsored by the Department of English and Philosophy at our local university. That, in itself, is worthy of its very own Thankful, because I haven't written ANYTHING in nearly a year.

2. So that little writing contest? I won first place in my category.

3. I was not the only entry in my category. I don't know how many there WERE, but there were at least three, and that's good enough for me. You can read my entry here, if you would like....

4. Big Wheel Day, the BEST day of the preschool year, was on Friday. We set up the gym to look like a little town, with a bank, McDonalds, hair salon, grocery store (you get the idea), and the kids ride tricycles or big wheels around a track, stopping at the different centers along the way. I've always said the day I couldn't ride a big wheel would be the day I would retire, so it looks like I'm in for another year:




5. This weekend was Mom's Weekend at my daughter's sorority at the University of Arkansas. We had a lovely brunch at the sorority house and took a cake decorating class during the day, then, since it was Mom's Weekend at my nephew's fraternity as well, we got to spend time with my husband's sister and her husband. We don't see them often enough, and we need to remedy that.



6. My daughter and I tagged along with my nephew and sister-in-law to a party held my my nephew's fraternity at a local bar. So yes, I went to a frat party this weekend! And it was funnnnn!!!



7. When my husband and I got home from Fayetteville this afternoon, and as I carried in a load of stuff from the car which included my puffy coat, my purse, and a large Diet Dr Pepper, I bent over to set the purse on a table, I poured my drink all down my coat and onto the floor (Lewis, one of our kittens, took a hit, too). When I started the clean up process, I found that there was not as much on the floor (or Lewis) as I thought, but that was because I had managed to FILL MY PUFFY COAT POCKET with Diet Dr Pepper. Where's the thankful here, you ask? My coat was machine washable!

8. Daylight Savings Time started today. Some might see that as losing an hour of sleep, but I see it as gaining an hour of daylight and I'm happy. Or I am until tomorrow morning, when it's dark as pitch when my alarm goes off, and I'm tired and cranky from losing an hour of sleep....

9. Today is my husband's birthday. I kind of like him a little and was happy to celebrate it with him.



10. He is older than I am.

Bam!


Ten Things of Thankful

Friday, March 8, 2019

I'm No Pioneer

Know how to jump start a neglected little blog? Enter a contest, that's how!

Last weekend, a friend posted about a writing contest sponsored by the English and Philosophy department of our local university that was in conjunction with their Robinson Crusoe week (thanks, Marsi). The prompt was to write a fictional journal of desertion and survival based on the story of Robinson Crusoe. Each entry had to depict a human in an isolated or deserted situation. It had to reference a lion, real or metaphoric (the college mascot is a lion and there's something about a lion in the book), and it had to "smoothly" incorporate one of the following phrases from Robinson Crusoe:

     "There was exactly the print of a foot - toes, heel, and every part of a foot"
     "In about a year and a half I had a flock of about twelve goats, kids and all"
     "I have no clothes to cover me"
     "How like a king I looked"

My only real problem was the only thing I knew about Robinson Crusoe was the line from the "Gilligan's Island" theme song.

Did that deter me? It did not.

I entered the contest on Sunday afternoon, 20 minutes before the deadline, then received an email on Wednesday that I was a finalist and would I read my story at their gala on Friday night. Now, it certainly entered my mind that there may not have been a huge number of entries, particularly in my category of community/alumni/faculty/staff, and I think I'm probably right on the mark about that, but there were at least two other entries, because tonight, at the gala, they announced a third place winner, a second place winner, and a first place winner and IT WAS MEEEEE!!!

Do I look nervous? Because I am.


I read my story last, after the winners of the college division and the high school and younger division read theirs. I told the audience I was only used to reading to 4 year olds and I might need them to come up and sit on the floor in front of me, criss-cross, applesauce, but I found my groove and made it through and it felt pretty good. Afterwards, one of the organizers told me they wanted me to go last because my story had such a great punchline. THEY LIKED ME! THEY REALLY LIKED ME! 

(By the way, they had other Robinson Crusoe-related activities all week, including pottery making and goat petting, but I couldn't go to those because work.)

They didn't let me keep the goat.


So here it is, and yes, it's based on a true story. Would you expect anything else from me?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I'm not what you would call high maintenance, but I'm no pioneer, either. I don't camp. I don't like to sweat. I hate bugs. I hate snakes. I could not hit the broad side of a barn with a ball if I tried, nor could I catch that same ball, tossed easily to me, even if it had glue on it. 

I'm the last person you would expect to find here.

I'm the last person I'D expect to find here, too, yet here I am, sweating and miserable and utterly alone.

It's dark. So very dark. I look up at the stars, each closely guarding its glow, and none of the light makes its way to where I stand in the oppressive stillness of the night. Something flies past my head, so close that I can feel the sound of its wings beating, and I cover my head with my arms and cower until I'm sure it is gone. 

"Step out of your comfort zone," my friends told me. "You might find out it's fun," they said, and I believed them, for they were right; I DID need to step out of the safety of the life I had built for myself, but they were also very wrong about it being fun.

I take a tentative step, then another, and feeling bolder, I take a third step; the ball of my foot meeting with nothing, and I feel myself falling, falling, arms flung out, until I hit the hard, damp ground. I lie there, not moving, barely breathing. My heart is pounding and everything aches, and I wonder how long it will take before the scavengers find me and pull my body apart like a lion at the zoo tears into the meat thrown to him by the zookeeper.

While I'm lying on my bed of hard-packed mud, I take inventory of my body, wiggling a toe here and a finger there, and as the sound of my breathing quiets, the pounding of my heart lessens, I can hear the sounds of the forest around me. Twigs break and fallen leaves crackle as something moves stealthily around the clearing where I lie. A deer, perhaps? Or worse? A bobcat or a bear would not be unheard of in this area. A snake? Don't they sleep at night? Is it a snake?!

The moon has risen since I began my journey of precisely three steps, and a sliver of moonbeam, filtered by the dense growth of trees, has reached the ground around me. I painfully pull myself to a sitting position. My knees and the heels of my hands took the brunt of my fall, and not only can I see they are caked with mud, I can also make out the indentations in the ground which mark their point of impact. I get to my feet, my body hunched, as I try again to walk, led by the muted light of the moon. I shuffle my feet, not wanting to lose contact with the earth again, and my eyes scan the ground before me. I am on edge, barely breathing, as I place each foot carefully, one after the other, when unexpectedly, there was exactly the print of a foot - toes, heel, and every part of the foot, directly in front of me, the toes pointing to the right. Someone else has made this trip, recently, it appears, and for the first time, I feel hope.

I turn in the direction of the footprint, using it as my compass, and I follow it, follow it like a hound dog on the trail of a coon. I catch a glimpse of a partial footprint periodically, sometimes just a heel, sometimes toes dug into a soft spot in the mud, and moments later, the moon high in the night sky, I see the outline of a small structure. Dear God! 

I make my way to the structure with urgency, fumble with the door, and step inside. Something tickles my face, and I bat at it, sure I've encountered a spider dangling from a silken thread, and find instead a string. Pulling it, the tiny structure is illuminated by a 40 watt bulb. There. There is my salvation, for I have finally found the outhouse on the grounds of the rustic camp where I have volunteered to be a counselor. And as I avail myself of the facility, I vow that I will never, ever leave my cabin in the night again without a flashlight.


Thanks, Robinson!


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Z is for Zeta


Last letter. Last Pinterest Challenge. 

I thought about making something out of zucchini. Meh. I tried to find a craft, but all I found was Zentangles, which are very cool but which I did a couple of years ago (you can see how I accidentally drew a vagina on the Zentangle drawing I made for the post).

I randomly searched through Pinterest, and one thing led to another and naturally, I wasn't even LOOKING for a "z" project anymore when I ran across a previous search for sorority crafts.

I happen to have a daughter in a sorority at the University of Arkansas. Her sorority happens to start with a...

Z!

Of course, I couldn't find any DIY crafts; pretty much all I was coming up with was Etsy products, so I decided to make my OWN project, and if you're looking for an easy sorority craft, I've got one for you.

I bought some wooden (or maybe wood-LIKE) letters (and I am fortunate that my daughter's sorority doesn't have a pi or a phi or a delta in it and I could get the letters at a plain ol' craft store), a fresh bottle of Mod Podge (who really uses up a bottle of Mod Podge before it dries out, anyway?), a couple of sheets of pretty scrapbook paper (only needed about half of one, but better safe than sorry) and a bottle of craft paint that matched the paper.

I traced the letters onto the scrapbook paper and VERY VERY CAREFULLY cut them out with my VERY VERY SHARP craft scissors. I sprayed the backs of each paper letter with repositionable adhesive spray and then stuck them on the letters, making sure there were no bubbles or wrinkles in the paper.

See me utilizing the straight edge of
the paper for the top of the T?
Work smart, not hard!


I turned the letters jelly-side down and used a VERY VERY SHARP Xacto knife to trim any paper that was past the edge of the letter, then flipped them back over and painted a thin layer of Mod Podge over the paper.

Truth: when the Xacto knife scraped
the edge of the wood instead of cutting
the paper, it set my teeth on edge.


VERY VERY THIN coats of Mod Podge.


Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

After about the fourth coat of Mod Podge (I let each coat dry about 20 minutes before applying the next), it occurred to me that I had not painted the edges of the wooden letters, and that was a rookie mistake, because then I had to paint them VERY VERY CAREFULLY so I didn't get paint on the paper.

Ugh. Idiot.


While the paint dried, I added one more coat of Mod Podge.

And it was done. I had a craft that was just as pretty as anything I might have found on Etsy:




I took the letters to my daughter this morning, and....

SHE LIKED IT! HEY, MIKEY!

This is probably one of my favorites, and it's not even a real Pinterest win. Just a win! She even asked if I would make a set of them this fall to give as a gift when she gets her "Little"!

And thus ends my 2018 A to Z Challenge.

Peace out.



Friday, April 27, 2018

Y is for Yeast


You know, I'm about worn out from Pinterest projects, so I looked for something easy (I hoped) and delicious (I hoped) for Y.  

I love bread. And if you don't love bread, too, then it means we can't be friends, unless you ask for extra bread and give it all to me instead. I buy yeast by the pound. By. The. Pound.  Do you know how much one of those little packets of yeast at the grocery store weighs? I don't, either, but I know there's only 2-1/4 teaspoons of yeast in one, and that can't possibly weigh very much. Fun fact: I keep my yeast in a late 1970s Tupperware container that belonged to my mom.



Anyway, here's the Pinterest pin:

http://www.lifeasastrawberry.com/
easy-crusty-french-bread/


The recipe swore it only took two and a half hours to make this, with the caveat that the FIRST time might take a little longer, with all that recipe reading you had to do. Stopwatch set....

In my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer (a wedding gift and 25 years old this summer), I proofed the yeast with a teaspoon of sugar and some warm water (for you non-bakers out there, proofing is feeding the yeast a little sugar and giving it a nice drink of warm water, and, if the yeast is still alive, it repays you by getting all foamy and ready to go to work. If it doesn't get foamy, throw it out and buy fresh yeast, because you are no longer baking yeast bread and instead will end up with something that resembles a floury stepping stone.

Next, kosher salt and flour was added and stirred with the dough hook until the dough gathered itself into a ball. The dough hook was then removed and the dough ball lightly floured, then turned over and the bottom floured as well. Then I covered it with a tea towel (my friend's 90+ year old mom makes awesome tea towels and I am the lucky recipient of several of them that I use when bread baking) and left it to rise.

Dough obligingly gathering itself into a ball.

Ready to be tucked into a tea towel so it can rise.


After an hour, the dough was flopped out onto a floured surface, more flour was sprinkled on top, and the dough was shaped into a round loaf, then turned upside-down and laid in a well-floured, small mixing bowl and covered with the towel again. 

Much sprinkling of flour in this recipe. 


Floured again and in the small mixing bowl
for its last rise.

While the dough sat and cogitated, I turned the oven on to 460 degrees F (a strange number, I thought, because we tend to bake things in 25 degree increments) and put a dutch oven in the oven (same one used to make the stove top chocolate cake last week). The dough was then tipped out of the bowl back onto the floured surface, then gently laid on a square of parchment paper (for ease of putting it in the now VERY HOT dutch oven), The lid went on and into the oven it went for 30 minutes.

Shaped and ready to bake.


And in the (very hot) dutch oven,
ready to pop into the oven.

Ohhh, the smell as it baked! Trust me, it was heavenly.

After half an hour, the lid was removed, my husband pulled the parchment paper out from under the loaf, saying I didn't need it any more (I refrained from saying BACK OFF, BUDDY, THIS IS MY PROJECT), and it went back in the oven for another ten minutes, which I thought it didn't need and my husband, Mr. I've Made Bread In The Dutch Oven Before, said it did, and OF COURSE, I was right, because the bottom was a little browner than I personally like.

Isn't it simply lovely? And plenty brown enough?

It was supposed to cool for 20 minutes, but as my family has proven repeatedly in this Challenge, they are incapable of waiting for food to cool and want immediate gratification, which leads to cakes sticking in the pan and taffy burning your hands and bread that is ENTIRELY too hot to cut, but I did it anyway.



And it was delicious.

And it was pretty easy.

And it took three hours.

And I'm going to make it again. Soon. Often.





Thursday, April 26, 2018

X is for eXtremely Creepy Baby - A Sequel


You do ONE creepy Pinterest project, and you are branded for life.


My herb garden.


If you haven't read C is for Creepy Baby, please do, right now....

I really loved that project. Not THAT creepy, in spite of what some people say (namely, the ones living in my own house). My planters are on my kitchen windowsill, happily growing basil and rosemary out of the tops of their heads. It's fun. It's quirky. It's a conversation starter. (It's also in the background of several pictures illustrating my A to Z posts.)

Then friends started sending me stuff like THIS:




How could I resist?

The Pinterest pin I found is actually a link to a video on how to make a doll nightlight. I needed a doll with a porcelain head, a nightlight, and an extender for the nightlight. That's pretty much it.


http://www.markmontano.com/2012/07/
doll-head-night-light-diycreepy-fun.html


I ran by the DAV thrift store and had my choice of at least half a dozen porcelain head dolls. I picked this one:


She's had a hard life. My mom would have
said she was rode hard and put away wet.

Once home, the first step to making the nightlight was to remove the hair from the doll. Looking at her looking at me was worse than the trusting looks I got from the Peeps I used  to make Rice Krispie treats for "L is for Layered Peeps."


Her eyelashes fell off after taking a direct
hit from the Goo Gone.


Way worse.




That's better....

After I got the wig off, and after I tried to put it on Nora's head for a picture and she flipped it back behind the work bench in the basement and I don't know if I'll ever be able to reach it to retrieve it and some day, that bench will be moved and someone will think there's a dead animal with a pink bow back there, then, THEN, I had to get the glue residue off the head. I accomplished this with Goo Gone and VERY CAREFUL scraping with my utility knife.








Once her head was clean, all I had to do was put the nightlight in the neck hole and plug it in. I'm not going to lie here. The light doesn't fit in the neck hole perfectly like the one in the video, and I'd like to know how many thrift store dolls that guy went through before he found the PERFECT fit, but it fits good enough for now. I'm going to get my previous partner in crime, a/k/a Daddy, to help me secure the nightlight safely, because, guys....

I NAILED IT.





Mike drop....