Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring Fever


I never really understood what that phrase meant, at least I never spent any time contemplating it. Wikipedia gives this definition:


Spring Fever, a term describing common psychological symptoms occurring in the Spring season.


I guess Spring Fever means different things to different people. I've got it. Whatever it is. I want to take off work, go rent a cottage in a little bed and breakfast town. I want to wear flip flops and walk to restaurants instead of driving. I'd like to sit on a front porch with a notebook and a glass of iced tea for hours on end. I'd also like my current bout of writers block to end.... but I'm fairly sure the front porch/iced tea solution would nip that problem in the bud as well.

But for now I'll just be thankful for the warm weather, the roses blooming in the yard, the twilight walks with Mabel as she makes ever honest attempt to eat the ducks by the lake. I'll even be thankful for the local swans, even though I'll now walk an entire block just to avoid them. I'll be thankful for smoothies from TCBY and the fact that it's light outside until 7:00.


Thank goodness it's spring, because I was seriously on the verge of trying this.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mis Hermanas


I've thought a lot about these girls the last couple of weeks. It would seem that each of us, in our own way, is going through a major life transition. Our circumstances are as different as night and day, but it's ironic that we each face a giant change, and at the same time are trying to find a way to deal with said stresses in a sane and rational manner.

Obviously, that might be a stretch for the three of us.


We all spent a lot of years fighting, or simply not caring about each other. I'd have to hold up my guilty hand on the last one. It wasn't that my little sisters were monsters (at least, not all the time), but I was so much older than them I just didn't care. I wanted them to unclench my Barbies and get out of my room. I just wanted to be left alone.


And then I went to college. Thank heaven. I was out of the house, away from all signs of family. I shook the dust off my feet, packed my Martha Stewart plaid bed set and scampered into the sunset.


But then something odd happened. My mom's weekly phone calls updated me to their ballgames, their teachers, their friends. And I realized I was sadly out of the loop. And horror of horrors, their little lives were going on just fine without me. I think maybe all oldest children feel that way, that little clench of stress that maybe their younger siblings will forget about them. That the family unit will just adapt, reform into something new, something that doesn't include you.




So I started making phone calls, sending the rare letter or card. I tried my best to stay in thier lives, keep up with them. And after a few years, I was shocked to find that I actually liked these two girls. And they weren't kids anymore, they were interesting, completely unique adults that I might want to be, gasp, friends with.


Of course we still fight. Goodness knows NOTHING in this world can be more apocalyptic than a sister fight (although I suspect those fights prepare you to scrap in the real world better than any book or after school job). You know what I'm talking about. The shrieks, the thrown objects, the buttons pushed. But even after all that, I'm so thankful for them.


I'm thankful for the decapitated dolls, the destroyed Ramona Quimby paperbacks, the biting, the cup-fulls of decaying craw-dads mysteriously appearing in the bathtub (another story for another time). I'm thankful because without these two girls, my life would be so horrifically boring.


And, without them, I'd have nothing to write about.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Makings of a Good Weekend



Putting away all my sweaters and filling the closet with summer clothes. Wahoo.




New succulents.





A happy husband playing in the garden.





Spotting a man with funny goggles.




Checking the mail and finding one of the best Country Home magazines I've seen in a long time.


Yep, it was a good weekend.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Workin' It


When we first bought our humble abode a few years ago, the prospect of a yard thrilled my heart. I was kissing goodbye the awful concrete parking lots outside my apartment window, the nights filled with trying to potty Mabel on a leash (while she got distracted and tried to eat the ankles of passers-by), the daily whiffs of the apartment complex trash dumpster which was placed strategically upwind from my car.


But I just didn't grasp how much work this is. People I tell you, when I win the lottery there are a lot of things in my wish list. Going to Europe. Building a little office cottage in the backyard. Lasering the permanent blue circles under my eyes. But first and foremost, I'm hiring a personal landscaper/shopper.




It isn't that I don't like yard work, that I don't like digging in the dirt and planting things and being outside. I love all that. But I tell you, put me in a giant nursery with tons of plant choices and I go a little bonkers. I buy random, non-matching plants. Red gardenias with pink begonias? Why not? I develop temporary amnesia, forgetting that most of my yard is in the shade and buy sun-loving plants. For example, this past week I almost bought a lime tree. What in the world would I do with a lime tree in my tree-covered shady yard? See what I mean?

I need supervision, someone to go to the nursery with me, smack my hand and say, "No, you don't need a palm tree. Focus Liz. Go look at some spray for the black spot on your roses."

Me (confused eyes), "I have roses?"


So that's what I'm doing with my lottery money. Hiring a personal nursery shopper. And then immediately after that, I'm lasering those circles. Don't laugh, I'm not kidding.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Won! I Won (and I never win)!


Yesterday I got a present in the mail. I won a drawing over at Jane' s Apron for a fantastic apron and little book. See? Aren't they adorable? Thank you Julie! I was beyond ecstatic to win, because as I said in the title, I never win.


I'm the bearer of bad luck. Usually when out of the ordinary things happen to me, they involve bad stuff.

Gallbladder stones at the freakishly young age of 21 when I weighed 115 pounds?

Check.

Not weighing 115 pounds anymore?

Check.

Giant cockroach crawling up the inside of my jeans, causing me to fall down and sprain my wrist? In front of people during a fireworks show by the lake?

Check.


But yesterday the tide turned.



And has anyone ever had such a hard time taking a picture of themselves in the mirror?


Let me tell you, in a house with no full length mirrors, this photo session stumped me. Oh well. That's my bathroom, and behind me in the corner is my bottle of Kroger brand shampoo. It's official. I have no secrets left.

Thanks again Julie! I love the apron (and the book)!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hi-Ho Hi-Ho


OK, back to the office. I'm off for some much needed work for the next few days. Much needed, not necessarily much-wanted, but either way... it is happening.

In the mean-time, let me leave you with this. Man oh man. That little wet spot on the floor by the computer, yeah, I'm blaming that on Mabel's bladder. Not mine.





I really wanted to NOT get sucked into these books. I wanted to revel in snorting my literary nose (yeah, I'm not sure how that works either). But I cant help it; they are fascinating. These books totally sucked me in. Congrats Stephenie Meyer... that is NOT an easy fete. BUT, I'd still like to say, for the record: Edward, just bite her already.

Sleep


This morning I woke up at 4:00. But of course, that's probably because last night I watched the final episode of Rock of Love (I know, I know, I'm ashamed) and went to bed. As in went to sleep. The last thing I remember was sitting on the bed, watching Jon and Kate Plus 8 through droopy eyelids. So by four this morning, I had had plenty of sleep. And if you're wondering about those 'nights without TV,' this wasn't one of them.

I sat at my desk for a while this morning, listening to the mocking birds and realized, "This isn't so bad."

I actually like getting up early (when I've had lots of sleep, that is). The house is quiet, the birds chirping, Mabel curls at my feet and it's downright peaceful. It made me ponder my sleep schedule. This past Sunday, our preacher pointed out that our grandparents' sleep cycles were in tune with nature (he had a whole sermon where it made sense, trust me). It got dark, they went to sleep. Sun came up, they woke up. Simple enough, right? Sure.

I know for certain that I suffer from insomnia from time to time. I'm such a light sleeper these days, anything wakes me up. And I've read about this on some of your blogs, in addition to talking with people at work about it. What's the solution? Should we all be going home after work, eating a meal, and then... flipping out the lights? Whew, I don't know about you, but that makes for some seriously short days. And my night owl of a husband would lose his mind.

I often joke that our house is open 24 hours. Mabel stands rabid guard during the day, barking at all of our poor neighbors (we luckily live on a street where a lot of our neighbors are home during the day). Matt is awake until all hours of the night, and I'm up at the crack of dawn, sometimes before. But in our little 24-hour Waffle House, we get pretty tired. What's the solution? I have no idea. But if I keep going to bed this early, I'm going to have to start recording all the HGTV I'll miss.


Monday, April 21, 2008

We Made It


Whew. After a very rainy, very chilly March, I think we've finally turned the corner. I wish every weekend could be like this one; perfect yard weather. Of course it would have been nice if life had slowed down long enough for us to have paused for a second. But everyone understands that. Doesn't it feel like weekends whiz by in one big earth-tilting fast forward? We went out to dinner, worked in the yard, and had a small-group dinner at our house. And then, I woke up. Monday morning. Wow. But, it was wonderful while it lasted.


In other news, Mabel and the couch have made some tiny bit of progress. Let me stress, tiny. During my Sunday afternoon, break-neck house cleaning session (because you cant have 15 people over for dinner without some serious cleaning), I beat the couch cushions into an upright position. Then I spritzed them with febreeze, which made Mabel snort in disgust. She paused in front of the couch, eyeballing the newly fluffed cushions with interest. I held up my hand and said, "MABEL NO." She hesitated again, turned around and plopped on the chair instead.



I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Writing Stuff


Thank you to everyone that has asked about the book and writing stuff here lately. I really, REALLY appreciate the encouragement and emails.

Thank you also for the sweet offers to read my manuscript, but I'm sure you'll all understand when I say that I'm keeping that to myself for now. I've been asked a few questions on how to find an agent, what to do, etc. I'd like to stress that I'm a complete newbie. I've never published anything, or even known anyone that published anything. But, in my limited experience, I've found the Agent Query website to be super helpful.

It gives great advice and links for writing a query letter and includes a fabulous agent database. You can search agents by genre. I cant stress how helpful that is. I was at one time searching on another website (not so good) and nearly sent my young-adult book to an agent that represented a lot of erotic literature. Yikes. So yeah, getting the genre straight is VERY important.

I also recommend the Mrs. Snark blog. The blog itself is finished, the incognito-literary-agent stopped writing around this time last year. But, her archives are a treasure trove of tips. It's also a treasure trove of '"squirm-in-your-chair-because-she-zings-you-right-between-the-eyes."


Other helpful links:
Absolute Write Water Cooler
Agent Turn Around Times
Preditors & Editors

For the most part, I've found that inspiration finds me when I least expect it. When I'm picking my fingernails or listening to My Chemical Romance (my sisters insisted they are the 'best' but I'm still debating it). Inspiration happens when I allow myself some downtime; snack breaks on a bench outside with Diet Pepsi and Welch's Fruit Snacks. Downtime when I'm searching online for video clips of the Twilight movie. You know, really important life stuff.





In other news, I came across this photo a couple of weeks ago. Yeah. I thought you might laugh. That's me (in all my bleached out, black rooted glory) and my future hubby. We really were stylin' on that 1999 Friday night.

This was one of our first dates, to Chucky Cheese to be exact. I remember this date specifically, because during dinner Chucky Cheese came around hugging all the college girls at our table. I got groped. Yep, Chucky's big paw right on my chest. Ahhh.. memories.





Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Swan Who Chased Me


Isn't this a lovely scene? That's what I thought during my early morning walk. The breeze wafted past me, heavy with spring flower scents. The morning air was pleasant, the joggers smiled in greeting as they passed. It was heavenly. Until I met this guy.

Let me preface this story with a little setting build-up. I live in neighborhood built around a series of lakes. This means two things; freezing cold walks in the winter when the wind blows over the water and ducks. Lots and lots of ducks and geese and of course, the occasional swan.



So, during this particular walk, I had my camera. My intention was to snap a few photos of the surrounding wisteria, such as this. Its in full bloom, and the azaleas cover the lawns in pink and red and white (except for my yard where our newly planted boxwoods look tiny and pitiful).




I walked for a while and spotted this guy. I was very excited. There are only two swans that I know of, and I was lucky enough to have my camera. Off down the banks I went to get a few photos. And that's when it happened.

Swan here spotted me. Now the following events were probably just a misunderstanding. Walkers very often carry bread to feed the ducks, and I should have given Swan the benefit of the doubt. Surely when he spotted me coming close, his thought process went something like this, "Look, it's an early morning walker. Cool. I bet she has bread. I'll go get some."


But, in my mind, it played out something like this:

I see Swan.

Swan sees me.

Swan quickly paddles out of the water.

Swan is much bigger than I thought.

Gee, Swan moves pretty fast for a big old bird.

Swan's beady little black eyes and sharp beak are aimed right at me.

Wait a minute. Maybe I should back up.

Swan is getting closer.

I'm running backwards up the bank.

I fall, nearly crushing my precious camera beneath my weight.

I get up, running full speed now, leaving Swan behind and praying that no joggers saw my lack of gracefulness as I brush the gravel off my butt.

I return home in shame.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shopping


My sister and I went shopping. She told me I had to go to a new store with her, that it was fabulous and the prices were cheap. We ventured past the food court and I stood uncertainly in front of said store. I raised a skeptic eyebrow, gazed at her and said, "I'm not going in there." The store name was Forever 21, but spelled out in very cool, chic roman numerals. Gag. I'm not 21, nor have I been for sometime. Groups of girls clustered in and out of the doorway, giggling and fluffing their 15 year old hair styles. No thank you.

I whirled around to go back to Ann Taylor and Rebecca grabbed my arm, "Come ON Liz, you'll like it."

I shook my head as another group of Hollister'esque teens bumped past me, "No, I won't."

But alas, she was right. And I did.


The store is big, loud, and has lots of fun, different clothes. I grabbed a $10 dollar sundress that would be perfect over a pair of jeans and decided to forgive the offensive, youthful store name. Forever 21, ha. I grabbed a few more items and stood in line for the dressing rooms. There are chandeliers everywhere, which paired with the cheap clothing seduced me into acceptance of the teen atmosphere.


Even the dressing rooms were fabulous. I proceeded to try on clothes. This is a ritual I try to do as little as possible. I hate dressing rooms. Inevitably the lighting is bad, the clothes sized too small (at least that's how I console myself). It's hot, lots of girls are cackling and talking; it's a hen-fest in closed quarters. But I managed to find two things I loved and scuttled quickly to the register.




While at the register, I noticed these gals. Since when did mannequins come back? Has anyone noticed that? I thought I had been vaulted back to 1993. For the last ten years our mall-front windows have been mannequin-less, until now. They're everywhere, even in Victoria's Secret front windows. I guess everything comes back around, even being 21.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Epiphany


"If I don't cook, the kitchen never has to be cleaned!" she muttered to herself as a light bulb illuminated the inside of her foggy, spring-cleaning brain. "No more cooking," she vowed as she stumbled over a mop and out of the kitchen, forever.


Prom-O-Rama


The bathroom was a veritable hair product advertisement.


I helped with makeup. Kind of.


It took every member of our family to figure out how to pin the flower.



Prom was a success. At least in my opinion. But as you can see from these photos, we sisters tend to involve ourselves. A lot. Poor Rachel.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Let Me Off This Merry-Go-Round


Whew, I'm tired. I spent yesterday clenched with tension over the storms we had. I'm sure some people think me a scaredy cat, but I've been in two tornadoes and witnessed the destruction of my home town in February. When it comes to giant, whirling twisters, I don't fool around.

The tornado sirens went off yesterday afternoon. I had just taken my Lean Cuisine out of the microwave when I heard the high-pitched shriek of the alarms. I headed to the basement of the building and settled in on the concrete floor. None of the rotations touched down. Truthfully, I've about had all the spring storm fun I can stand.

I'm off to witness the goings-on in prom land this weekend. I'll be back Monday with some pictures. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Getting Cleaner, Sort Of


It's raining here. No, I mean really, really raining. The lakes are full to the brim, people's patio sets are nearly floating off the boat decks. And today is supposed to be worst for severe weather. I wasn't too concerned until a friend called to tell me she heard that local meteorologists were keeping their children home from school. Yikes.



In other news, the house is getting cleaner. At least in the general sense. I'm officially going to team up with a friend for a yard sale, so I'm scouring shelves and closets. The sale-pile is growing large in the guest room, and I cant tell you how wonderful it feels to get rid of things. Matt is even enthused, planning on selling some of his 'man things.' Hopefully, I'll use some of the money to get a jump start on some spring projects.


Until then, keep your fingers crossed that the severe weather really isn't that bad today. After all, I'd hate to have done all this cleaning to just have it blown away in a tornado. I'm joking. But not really.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spring Cleaning and Swarming


Spring cleaning. It always begins with the best of intentions. I make a list, wake up early on a Saturday, drink some coffee, open a few windows to hear the birds outside, and get to work. I'm enjoying myself, puttering around, cleaning out the closets, doing things in order. Somewhere along the way, usually about three hours later, things go awry. That's when I took these pictures.

You see, three hours into my spring cleaning session, I usually swarm. 'Swarming' is my grandmother's term for going into overload. Freaking out. Sitting down in the middle of a newly mopped floor and vowing to your husband that everything you own is about to be sold in a yard sale.




After sorting through packed coat closets, sweeping up ten thousand dust bunnies, and throwing my hands up at the thought of cleaning out my kitchen shelves; I swarm. I look around and realize that a true spring cleaning session would involve so much more than a Saturday afternoon. It would take weeks.

Weeks to scrub every inch, throw out all the unworn clothes, miscellaneous 'gifts' that accrue over the year (after all, who really uses that many self help books or bath salts?). Weeks to paint the kitchen table, re-frame some artwork, visit the nursery and plant the flower beds. Simply weeks. And all I have is a lousy Saturday afternoon.

Am I alone in this? I hardly think so, but the self-defeating voice in the back of my head (she sounds somewhat like an elf who's sucked too much helium) whispers to me, "You're the only one, everyone else has clean houses and perfectly scheduled projects."

And then I proceed to drink.

I KID.

But it's hard. Hard not to swarm, to find a cleaning balance that doesn't kill you, yet let's you relax and enjoy your home. I'm still looking for mine. But last Saturday, I drew my toe in the sand. I completed half my spring cleaning list, and the rest will just have to wait. After all, it's only April.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Perfect Dress


This past weekend my youngest sister hunted for a prom dress. She didn't browse, or search, or survey. She hunted. I use the word hunt because as every woman knows, finding the perfect prom dress is serious, serious business.

I will admit, it's been years, over ten years actually, since I went to prom. Whew, nothing like putting that into words to make a girl feel old. But, in my decade long absence from the prom scene, nothing much has changed.

There are still rows and rows of the most horrendous, encrusted, cupcake gowns. Now, I love a little sparkle and fluff as much as anybody, but sheeze. Some of these cream-puff dresses make the skinniest of girls look like walking Macy's parade floats. Maybe it's a southern thing?

But my youngest sister is a vintage gal. She shops for shirts in thrift stores, cuts them up, restitches, sews on antique buttons. Obviously, poofy rhinestone a-la-Dolly-Pardon gowns did not make her happy.



She looked stunning in this purple gown. It was my favorite, but as you can tell from the hands-on-hips stance, she wasn't sold (note the girl in the back with the low cut lavender dress... whew, she was coming OUT of that gown).

In the end, this dress was the winner. It had a very 1940's Rita Hayworth feel, and she was overjoyed to find something that looked 'old.' Note my mom and sister's faces in the background. Did we look tired? Yeah, we were. But it was all worth it to find the perfect dress.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Houses for Sale




As I've mentioned before, I check out online house sales just to spy other's decorating styles. I found this lovely little kitchen and had to share.


On another note; thank you all so much for your fantastic suggestions on my desk and retaining wall. I'm probably going to paint the desk eventually, but I'll hold off for now until I feel strongly about it. And as for the retaining wall, I think I'll take some of your suggestions and power wash it first. I love the idea of boxed plants on top hanging over, so later in the month I'll visit the local nursery and start that project. Thank you all so much for the great ideas!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I Just Wanted Some Fruit



I stopped by our neighborhood Wal-Mart this morning on my way to work. I just wanted some fresh fruit for a snack this morning. I don't know if anyone else feels this way, but Wal-Mart produce is gross. There were little flies in the salad section, and the fruit looked like it had been kicked around on the floor. No thank you.


I made a vow to myself last week that I would replace all cakes/candy/ice cream with fruit. I have to have some kind of sugar in my diet, but I thought, "At least I can be healthy about it." But after gazing at their sad excuses for healthy eating, I decided I'd rather forage from the office vending machine. And then, to add a smidge of salt in the wound, I remembered taking this picture in New York. My kingdom for a handful of grapes right now. Well, maybe not my kingdom. But definitely all my spare change.



Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Projects


I have several projects I'm considering tackling this summer. The first is my office desk. But I thought I'd put it to a vote first. Should I paint it? It's such a small space anyway, and I thought that painting it white would open things up even more. But what about wear on the top? I'm not a fan of pencil marks and scratches, and I do a lot of projects on that. Any thoughts?



This is the second thing I'm considering tackling. I use the word considering here, because I'm not certain. I have no idea what to do with this retaining wall in the backyard. I don't like it, but it gets so much wear and tear from the weather that painting it would probably be pointless. I could grow ivy on it, or some other climbing plant. Does anyone have any ideas about this? Ive been stumped on this since we bought the house.