Duo of Don'ts

My friend ke first introduced me to the idea that literature makes us feel less freakish alone according to, like, somebody famous (cite, ke?).* I agree with this, though usually it tends towards large, meaningful insights. But, maybe also trivial things. Like, finding my peculiar gastronomic aversions repeated in a novel. I know, I know, nobody normal hates celery and onions. It's crazy talk. OR IS IT? Check this passage from Remembrance of Things I Forgot  (not a great read, but moderately entertaining):

I definitely feel a little less freakish and alone now and will the next time I try to explain to someone that, no, celery doesn't just taste like nothing.

*Also, this is exactly what my friendship with ke does, too. Makes me feel less freakish and alone because there's somebody so simpatico in the world.

The tag doth protest too much, methinks

Marshall's now sells bow ties. This is both great (cheap purveyor!) and slightly distressing (they're that popular now?). Also, this diminishes the chances that I will not, in fact, turn all my liquid assets into haberdashery. I mean, it's bad enough that I just had to buy yet another tie rack to accommodate my bow ties. Surely I do not need a discount enabler. So far, I've only bought two, which I think shows remarkable restraint. I should treat myself. With something other than yet another bow tie.

At any rate, I got the first tie home and then noticed the tag on it. It claims three things about the accessory I just bought, to wit:

That's right: Relaxed. Colorful. Cool. I'm pretty sure that only the middle adjective there is objectively true. Though, I suppose it is more relaxed than, say, black tie. Yet, most people do not, I think, associate bow ties with the free-and-easy set. 

But, what do y'all think, does the tie I'm wearing there actually count as Relaxed. Colorful. Cool.?

Dear Wegmans

So, I'm a fan of your grocery. No, really. You've got class, as they say. Plus, your prices are generally lower than Price Chopper, which is nice but also delightfully ironic. I mean, sure I could without the brick floors. You do realize that people are pushing shopping carts over that, right? You do know the sound that shopping carts make on bricks, don't you? It feel sometimes like I'm not so much pushing a cart as standing along side a rocket launch.

But, I'm getting off-topic. Here's the thing: chewy brownies are, for lack of a better term, a thing. Thanks to the world of box brownie mixes, there's a standard for what "chewy" brownies are like. They are dense. Moist. Fudgy. They taste almost, though not exactly, undercooked. If you'd like, I'll make you a pan and let you try them. Why do I bring this to your attention and offer you, a corporate supermarket, a basket of home-baked goodies? Because, clearly, you are misinformed.

You see these "Fudgy & Chewy Mini Brownie" you sell? They are neither fudgy nor chewy. The crumb is all wrong. They're also quite dry. In fact, I'm going so far as to claim they're actually not brownies at all. They are topless mini cupcakes. And I say that as a lover of both the fudgy and the cakey brownie. But you're not dealing with cakey brownies here. No, these are straight up chocolate cake.

I'm rather disappointed in you. Not least because chocolate cake doesn't really go well with the ice cream I bought. I mean, yeah, cake and ice cream is a classic, I get that. But if I what I really want to do is create a sort of fudgy-orangey composite in my off brand creamsicle ice cream, cake just isn't going to cut it.

So, please, from here on out, please rename this product so that others do not fall prey to the lie. Because, this time, it's cake. The brownie is a lie.

sic semper procrastinantibus

A couple of Sundays ago, I turned the corner onto my street to see that, almost overnight, the leaves had turned. One tree in particular sported leaves that I'd never seen before. The green didn't turn that bright Crayola five-crayon red. Nor did they fade into that washed out yellow that reminds me that everything, everywhere ends while also hinting that, at least this time, it's all temporary. No, instead, there was an entire tree full of white peaches.

Do you know this fruit? Its skin is almost, but not quite bright white, but not mixed enough to be called cream. The top, though, is a rich, vibrant red and, right where the two meet there's a faint halo of yellow. That is what the leaves looked like. An entire 30-foot tree full of them. I thought, I should grab a picture of that, but I was coming home from Church and was snacky.

I had the same thought the next couple of days as I turned home again after my jaunts to school or out shopping. But I couldn't get my act together to snap a photo. Then, last Sunday, they were...gone. As in, Saturday night there were some on the ground, but it was still mostly full but the next afternoon, not a single leaf on the tree. I missed my shot, it seems.

But, this post isn't entirely about Autumn foliage, though I could go on and on about it. This missed photo op reminded me of that situation where you think, "I should talk to so-and-so, it's been a long time." And then you don't, and then it becomes a longer time and then that makes it awkward. So you put it off, which means a longer time and even more awkward. And then, eventually, it gets to the point where it's just too much to try and connect without bringing up the weird gap, which there really was no reason for. And then, if you're me, you remember that you don't even really have a good excuse for taking so long. In fact, even if you did touch base, you'd have so little to say that it'd make you wonder about what, precisely, you ARE doing with all that time of yours.

Which is kinda what I'm feeling like about my blog here. I've never been a super prolific poster, but then I dropped off and I tried feebly a couple of times to get back in the game, but never really seemed to be able to. But, I'm going to try and keep going. After all, Petra really wants to save endangered blogs. And I have a hard time saying no to her. Well, no to anybody, but especially to people who I still, after years, am eagerly trying to impress.

So, I'm going to be posting stuff, I reckon. I warn you, though, it'll be pretty mundane, as my days are almost indistinguishable and go like this: Sleep in later than I would like. Go to class. Come home. Read something that I understand only about 40% of. Question my decision to do grad school. Burn dinner. Watch five hours of Netflix. Stay up too late.

It's not a wild and crazy ride around these parts, that's for sure. But I'll make it look snappier. And funnier. And much less tv-riddled. Or, at least, that's my Thanksgiving resolution.

Happy Armistice!

So, it's a homemade (tatted) poppy. And it doesn't really look much like a poppy at all, other than the red and the vaguely flower-like quality to it. But there you have it.

Oh, and I know I've kinda fallen off on here. But I'm coming back. Promises.

Donner und Blitzen

When my sister and I were in Kentucky, she kept demanding that she get to see a thunderstorm before we left. Not wanting to disappoint her, nature obliged. In spades. Instead of a thunderstorm, we got Noah-like rains as we drove down to Nashville. It was really a bad scene, with absolutely no visibility and constant radio warnings of the current location of the storm and the direction it was heading. Unsure of what to do, we pulled off the freeway and waited it out. We felt much better when, after pulling off, we say even locals had the same idea. It passed relatively quickly and we got on our way.

Last night, here in Elyria, OH, there was another thunderstorm. I had not, however, called it down from the heavens like she had done. Instead, I was fitfully sleeping in my hotel room when a long, bellowing rumble of thunder woke me up at 1:00am. This is bad, especially considering I had finally coaxed myself to sleep a half hour previously. The storm was not nearly as drenching as the one in Kentucky (at least it didn't seem so from my room), but it was loud. Mercy, was it ever loud.

This post, then, is to say this: Thunderstorms, you're on strike two. Keep your nose clean or else you're out. For good.

looking backward, looking forward

I am currently one week either direction from pretty serious milestones in my life. Last Tuesday, I hit the twenty year mark as an official member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's strange for me to think about how little I remember of that actual day. Though, I remember much more about that day than I do about the day four years later when I was ordained to the Priesthood. These events didn't really stick in my brain. I'm not sure what that says about me. I mean, part of it is just that I don't have a particularly strong memory for personal events. But that's not entirely true. I remember quite well my ninth birthday party, or the birthday where I was given two fish as a present by my older sisters (though I could not, in fact, tell you which birthday it was).

My life has not passed away as it were unto me a dream, but I am a lot hazy about details. Things get better later on. I remember quite well being ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. I came home the night before from my summer at Berkeley with blue hair. My bishop practically demanded that I dye it out before standing up to be voted on by the congregation, something that still bothers me. I also remember other spiritual events quite well. A random evening reading the Book of Mormon, my patriarchal blessing, a particularly powerful Sunday School lesson. It's these events, the minor ones, the ones that we don't mark with a family meal or a lot of hubbub that have most knit me into being a Mormon. Which is not to say that 20 years ago, my dunking and confirmation had no impact, just that I'm alright with not remembering the details. God was in those details. That's all that matters.

My other milestone, the one coming up in a week, is one I'm not really looking forward to. Next Tuesday, my little Honda Civic and I will get on I-80 East and head out of Utah. About four days later, we will (god-willing) roll into Syracuse, my home for at least the next two years.

When I was applying for grad schools, all the possibilities seemed so shiny and alluring. Then, I got some rejections, so that shut down some choices. Then, some acceptances. I made a decision largely based on financial pressures, and am still unsure if it was the right one. Regret, even preemptive regret, is a constant for me. I'm not sure about moving 2,000 miles away. I'm not sure that I'll survive those winters, with their 120 inches of snow. I'm not sure I'll be able to hack the whole grad school thing. I'm not sure I'll even still like studying religion when I start doing it for realsies. I am sure it'll be hard meeting new people. I am sure I'll be stressed about money. I am sure that new places means the chance for new problems. I am sure that I'm going to miss so, so much about Utah. My family. My friends. My jobs. The comfortable familiarity of the roads and the restaurants and the rocky horizons.

I don't doubt that I'll survive. That it's not the worst decision in the world. But, man, it's going to be hard to drive away in a week. Here's hoping the drive goes well and the future better. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go back to silently panicking about my lack of preparation.

Money's for spending

I. cannot. stop. spending. money.

Here's the scenario. Because it's summer, I have more time to work. Because of that, I get these kinda astoundingly large paycheques. Well, large for me, not large in absolute terms. I sort of know that I should be saving this money in preparation for that whole moving-across-the-country-and-not-having-a-job situation. But, I can't do it. I just want shiny things, instead. Or soft things. Or pretty things. Or candy. My spending habits are reaching alarming levels.

To be fair, I've probably only spent about $300 in the past week. But still.

It started with these shoes, which I actually bought two weeks ago:

I was actually looking for a pair of black semi-casuals. I definitely did not need more brown shoes. But they were on a good deal! Slash, I could totally become a much less formal person, right?

Next up was my purchase of more bow ties. I don't even want to talk about this, so we'll just move on to the Red Balloon toy sale. Once a year, the store holds a sale where everything is 20% off. My nephew has a real obsession with this brainteaser thing I have and I was hoping to find something similar for him to play with when he visits my house. I found something. But I also found a large plastic bee, a card game, and a set of regular plastic playing cards. I restrained myself on some things, but not enough, clearly.

Then, last night, my friend twisted my arm while inside Banana Republic to buy two v-neck sweaters. This brings my total count of that type of clothing up to 29. Twenty NINE! Of course, I'm now bound, practically, to buying one more so I'll have an even thirty. Granted, they were crazy cheap for wool and cotton/cashmere, but still. Oy.

After that, the same friend totally was no help at keeping me from buying art prints. Art! I don't even have walls! I bought two prints from Pretty Little Pixel at the Arts Festival. You should check out one of the ones I bought here. I can justify this because I'm leaving Utah soon and this will be a cute little reminder of my hometown. See, this is how it works in my brain. This is part of the problem.

Then, today, I thought about that ark. The one I posted about here. It wasn't for sale last time I checked, but I went back today and it was. Goodbye, 125 bucks!

Then, I almost, almost, almost, almost bought these cufflinks:

I mean, otters? Cufflinks? Me? It's a perfect storm. However, I don't have a French cuff shirt. Or I didn't. I bought one on my lunch break. But, I still haven't bought the links. Which is silly. What am I going to do with the shirt without any cufflinks. But, I just can't bring myself to spend this money.

Which, I guess indicates I can stop spending money. But only for a minute. I'll probably cave by tomorrow and buy them. I need someone to stop me. Forcibly remove my cards form my posession, give a strict allowance, scold me for spending these money. Or, alternatively, I need to completely rework my approach to personal finances and be ok if my account doesn't have that huge, ridiculous cushion that makes me feel comfortable. I am perplexed and sickened.

But, as a bonus, I am perplexed and sickened around pretty things at least. And I've had some tasty food, too. So, maybe you shouldn't stop me. Not yet. Give me a couple more weeks, then you can start reminding me that I don't have a place to live yet in Salt City or that moving is going to cost more than I'm expecting or that I'm going to be working less than I am right now later in the summer because of family stuff. Or, you could just let my interal monologue do that. He's pretty good at beating me up over things like this.

A sartorial eulogy

Up until about two years ago, I hadn’t worn jeans for probably seven years or so. Nor had I bought a pair since…ever? I think it’s true to say that I’d never bought a pair of jeans, but if I had, it was years and years previous.

My aversion to wearing jeans is sorta complicated. Part of it is that I don’t find denim all that comfortable a fabric. It’s stiff and heavy and never dries if it gets wet (the last a real problem for spill-prone people like me). Also, jeans are what cool kids wear and me, definitely being not cool, figured it’d be better to not even try. Since, lack of effort is cool, right? Also, at age 17, I had a job at which jeans were first discouraged and then, with a slight promotion, explicitly prohibited. I also tend to only have one register of clothing, that of an oxford and chinos, with the recent addition of a tie. I like feeling like I’m dressed for practically anything I might find myself in. I am neither overdressed for casual scenarios nor underdressed for that awkward moment where you walk into a restaurant and realize that the clientele is a bit more done up than you anticipated. I'm dressed for work and for the theatre and for just flaneuring about town. And we all know how tricky it is to be constantly prepared for those last-minute debutante balls you get invited to.

Of course, I’m not dressed for all occasions. Chinos and oxfords don’t really make for the best duds if you need to suddenly run a distance or dash through tangled underbrush. Though, the only imaginable situations in which I’d be doing either of those on a whim are grounded either in emergencies or the apocalypse. Which is to say, if they arise, my habiliments will probably be the least of my worries.

But, two years ago I needed a pair of jeans. I needed them because I was attending a demolition derby. Of course, being me, the obvious spot to shop for these jeans was Banana Republic. I actually managed to find two great pairs of jeans for a combined total of under 30 bucks and had a delightful conversation during checkout with the girl ringing me up.

It went something like this:

“Did you find everything?”

“Yep, just needed the jeans. I don’t own a pair and I’m going to a white-trashy event, so I clearly Banana was the best choice for that.”

“What, are you going to a demo derby or something?”

“Um, actually? Yeah.”

So, I’ve owned these jeans for the last two years. I’ve worn them somewhat rarely (purchasing them did not really answer my other neuroses mentioned above), but I really like them. A lot. I think they’re flattering and, well, isn’t that a sufficient reason for liking them? I suppose they fall more on the comfy side of things, too. So, imagine my sad face when I discovered they have a hole forming. In the crotch. I don’t think I’m tough enough or sufficiently disheveled to pull off the ratty look. I’ve tried looking for new jeans the past few times I’ve gone out shopping, but nothing’s the same. None can live up to my now deteriorating pair. It looks like I’ll be going back to my pre-jean days.

Farewell, jeans. I’ll miss you.

Why I should not be allowed to work in public service

I sometimes, like regularly, have a problem with saying things that I probably should have kept to myself. I worry about this a fair amount, but obviously not enough to do much about it. Which means I keep blurting things out without thinking. Fortunately, they rarely get me in trouble. Take today, this conversation at work today while helping a woman probably around my mother's age select a book on cd. We were walking towards the section of books on cd because she wanted one that was available for pick up today.

Me: "What kind of books do you typically like?"
Her: "Oh, all kinds. I like silly books. I just finished one that had a bit too much of a mystery. I don't like things with too much horror. [beat] Nothing that will keep me up at night."
Me, glancing a couple of titles by Jackie Collins: "Well, I see we have some Jackie Collins books, but those might keep you up for different reasons."

At which point, thankfully, she laughed. And so did I. Then, I turned beet red. I'm guessing my propensity for blushing in these sorts of scenarios is what saves me from being a creeper. Because, I'm not a creeper, right? And, blushing is always charming. At least, that's how I'm going to imagine it.

So much straw

I have, ever since I stumbled on them and nearly died from cuteness, been looking for an excuse to buy one of St Anne's Pixies. But none ever arose. Or rather, I couldn't justify to myself the expense.

But look at them! They are so adorable!

Which is to say that the graduation gift from my brother, and assembled artfully by my sister, is pretty much the greatest thing ever. Behold:

That is St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of (among other things) scholars*. The little sign in front is a purported quote of his. After spending years and years pouring all his energies into attempting to intellectually argue for the existence of God, he had a vision of some sort. He stopped all his work right then. When asked why, he said, "It seems like straw to me." Or, since he was a Catholic priest in the 13th century, he said (or was reported as having said--did peeps honestly just speak Latin to each other?) "mihi videtur ut palea".

Seriously, can you imagine anything better? He is totally getting pride of place in all my future interior decorating.

*There is not, to my knowledge, a patron saint of the over-degreed. But this is pretty close.

Come, Let Us Anew

I have a tendency to misread things pretty astoundingly. Such as this. Another example is in the hymn "The Spirit of God". I always heard the line "the knowledge and power of God is expanding" to mean God is gaining new knowledge and power. I'm guessing that the standard way of reading that one is that people's knowledge of God and his power on the earth, thanks to righteous restorationists, is increasing.

But I like my reading. I like it because it points to this awesome idea in Mormon theology, that God might not have all the answers. That he might still be learning. That there really might not ever be any end to truth. This idea is one of the gladdest tidings from Cumorah imaginable.

I forget that there's glad tidings at all a lot of the time. I get mired down in this and that frustration, these and those irritations, reminders of how I don't fit in and, in the words of another hymn, "many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without". But, there's so much that's good and beautiful and true in the gospel. So much.

These musings were sparked, in part, because today is Mormon New Year. 181 years ago, a little group of people got together with only hazy notions of Mormon ideas, mostly centered around a book that this dude claim he translated and a desire for a total restoration of Christianity. They officially formed a church, re-baptized people and started down a path that would lead, very directly, to today. To me here. Not that I'm a culmination of anything, but still.

I have my ways I mark Mormon New Year. You have cupcakes for Jesus. I wear a t-shirt proclaiming some sort of positive Mormon message. I spread the news of the holiday in general. You greet others with "Art thou a brother or a sister?". But this year, I'm going to do something a little bit different. I'm going to make some new years resolutions.

In a way, this is like another tradition my family has, the Jesus stocking. Every Christmas Eve, my family gathers to read the Luke 2 account and then write down, secretly on 3x5 cards, the gift we're going to give to Jesus that year. These cards get put into a tiny, soft white stocking that is hung alongside all the other ones. I typically don't remember what I write down and am always sorta surprised the next year when I see what I had promised (because, purpose is but slave to memory). Not that surprised, though, since my card has said roughly the same thing since I was about 13.

I'm not really sure I'll remember much better the resolutions I make in April than the ones on December 24th or early January. But, I think it's a good idea. And one that will help me live up to the hope I have to someday be the person whose knowledge and power are expanding. Maybe it'll happen. Maybe.

Flat, fat and puffy

The day before Lent, if you're from the Mediterranean or South American worlds (or even other parts of Continental Europe), means a raucous good time fueled by alcohol. If, however, you're from the the British Isles, it means pancakes. Because that's, apparently, how you tie one on in England. Knowing me, it should be obvious which manner I choose to celebrate in.

So, here's my breakfast from today:

Growing up, we rarely had regular pancakes. I'm not sure why this is. Instead, we typically ate "flat pancakes". That's what my family called crepes. My parents excel at making these paper-thin and perfectly browned, something I have never been able to manage. My dad seemed particularly skilled on this front (he is also preternaturally talented at slicing apple very, very thin. Translucent, even.) I remember flat pancakes with incredible fondness. Getting them right as they came out of the pan, slathering them in butter and liberally sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar and then rolling them tightly. I could eat them as quickly as they could be made.

In later years, I learned, somewhat alarmed, that people put other things on crepes. I have tried this a few times, but neither jam nor nutella nor anything else satisfies me in quite the same way that the blend of pliant pancake, runny butter and crunchy sugar does. It never occurred to me that eating crepes with the regularity that we did may not have been typical, in that way that whatever your family does when you're young seems wholly natural.

Regular pancakes, or as my family called them fat pancakes, have always left me feeling slightly disappointed. They're not crepes, is really their problem. They are also much more work than what we ate even more regularly than crepes: puffy pancakes. I understand other people call these German pancakes, but I prefer the description of the peaks and valleys created as if by magic while they bake. There was always, at least in my mind, a sort of strategic battle for the corners of the pancakes, where the edges were crispiest and the butter pooled under the fold. Getting that piece was a little taste of heaven. And doing so required pacing yourself so that you'd be gong for seconds at the ideal point to take it without looking greedy.

Puffy pancakes, I'm pretty sure, were the first thing I ever made on my own. There are, therefore, ground zero for my love of making food. I remember vividly discovering that the recipe for flat pancakes and puffies was identical (6 eggs, 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk). Back then, it seemed like a beautiful lie. How could the same materials produce such obviously different products? I'm still not entirely sure how this works, but it does. Which is why every time I make a batch of puffies, I am always awed when I pull them out of the oven.

For me, then, puffies are a wonderful way to kick off Lent. I'm saying, "Here, God. Here's the eggs, and flour and milk of my soul. It's not much right now. But, take it. I'm sure you'll make it into something delicious and magic." Here's hoping that's true.

Not so much a flood as a really big stockpot

Of the many, many things I like, there are some common themes.

I like things made out of wood. I like things that are described, accurately, as "miniature". I like toys. I like Noah's Ark.

So, what if there were something that combined all of this? Well, dear reader, behold:

It this were also somehow scented of rising yeast, I would probably die upon contact with it. From sheer pleasure overload.

It is from Etsy. Since somebody should buy this for me you can do so here. Or I could just buy it for myself. Except that I keep spending money I don't have. And, spending 125 bucks for one toy seems a bit excessive compared to the 10 buck books I keep buying (as if I need more books! Sigh...) [Also, the Trojan horse is totally adorable, too!]


My older brother and I text a fair amount. I mean, not a crazy lot, but more than the average bear. We're not in the thousands of texts per month category. Yet. But, it'd be weird to go a day without sending a few messages back and forth. Part of the reason why we text so much is that I find him totally hilarious. I'm not sure what he's getting out of the deal, but me? I'm enjoying myself. For instance, I give you the following two exchanges. I think I might post some of these sort of regularly, not least because they are awesome. But also, my phone can only hold, like, 12 texts so having them here will lighten the electronic load while keeping them in remembrance. I'll try to avoid ones that involve complex, acronym-riddled inside jokes.

Me: I just had a Little Debbies Snack Cake for breakfast. Because I am a champion.
Bro: Did u wash it down w/ a cold beer?
Me: Actually, used the leftover diet coke from mcd's yesterday.
Bro: Nice! Isn't it cold in just wife-beater though?

And just from yesterday:

Me: Surely pitas are not beyond the limit of a reasonable grocery store? Why do you not carry them fresh market?
Bro: Hahahah. U r such an eltist! Just have meat and spuds!!
Me: Am making lentils and potats in coco milk...i am not helping my case am I?
Bro: Hahaah. Is your beret color coordinated w/ bowtie?
Me: Please. Am wearing a top hat. Obviously.
Bro: And tails?
Me: Tails are out this season.

Ideal morningscape

Every morning since late December, I wake up to this:

This image (thanks, mediocre camera and bad photo skills!) doesn't really do it justice. But it's got these lovely textures to it, including the white, which is soft and flannelly. Just like repentance should be. Wait, what? you're saying, repentance? Yep. It's a version of the Wordless Book. And also one of the best Christmas gifts I've ever gotten.

Thanks, friend!

Wearing my personality on my collar

On Saturday, I bought six more bow ties. Six! This brings my total up to 32. Which means, even on the longest month, I could wear one a day without a repeat. Of course, I have yet to reach the magical 52, which would make it possible to wear a different one every Sunday (though, since there are two Sundays that are conference and at least two more that are freebies, i.e. Stake Conference, maybe I only need to hit 48?).

I love bow ties. Not only does it blow mind of other people that I could master the knot, they also allow a handy shortcut into understanding my personality. For instance, just since Friday, people have pointed to my wearing of a bow tie to indicate the following:
  • I must be Mormon
  • I have bad taste
  • I have aspirations to academia
  • I am a pretentious jerk
For this last one, all it took was my friend to make the claim and then stare meaningfully at my bow tie when asked what would give him that impression. It's so convenient that I can broadcast these things about myself nonverbally. It saves everybody so much time. And don't worry if you're about to connect me and bow ties and some other trait. It's all true.