Interlude: Best Birthday Ever

I celebrated my 37th birthday this past weekend. I was struggling with it for two reasons. First, for half the year I thought I was turning 36, and for the remainder of the year, I was convinced I was going to be 38—so it was a literal struggle to remember how old I am. Counting up from my birth year doesn’t help because I’m terrible at math. So I usually just get Paul to tell me my age.

Second, 37 is really, REALLY close to 40, which is the first “older” age when you’re a kid that you can’t actually ever imagine yourself being. I still can’t. I think I’m mentally hanging around 32. While I was explaining all this to a friend of mine, she pointed out that nobody in her family ever knew the ages of either of their grandmothers, and she remarked that it’s just as easy to turn younger as it is older, so I decided that for this year, and maybe the next three, I’d just be 35.

Team Rocket getting ready to go to Bonsaicon

Team Rocket getting ready to go to Bonsaicon

The Kids at Bonsaicon

The Kids at Bonsaicon

My birthday was perfect: I didn’t get to sleep in (ahem, Kate), but my nephew and his girlfriend were up visiting so Paul, Netto, and I enjoyed a nice breakfast with them. I opened presents, we finished up our costumes, Netto and I visited my sister and niece at an anime convention and admired all those fantastic costumes, Paul got his Ragnar weave, we trick-or-treated with our closest friends, and we spent the evening with my brother and sister in law at a Gatsby-like party (not Gatsby-themed—more like, there was this elusive wealthy dude who wandered through the massive crowd of people he didn’t know looking for something or someone, which upon reflection was probably not Daisy but instead his missing tchotchke, since how can you possibly have a house full of strangers and not get your stuff stolen?). The following day, my family gathered at our house and we had fried chicken and cake and I opened even more presents, and then the evening was spent watching Disney movies with my boys and my bestie (and her boys and her ween), all of us cuddled in a pile of pillows and blankets.

Paul gettin his Ragnar braids

Paul gettin his Ragnar braids

Awesome Green Arrow Costume made for Netto by my mother-in-law

Awesome Green Arrow Costume made for Netto by my mother-in-law

Me as Katniss Everdeen; Netto as the Green Arrow; and Paul as Ragnar Lodbrok.

Me as Katniss Everdeen; Netto as the Green Arrow; and Paul as Ragnar Lodbrok.

Green Arrow, Katniss, and Ragnar like to party together

Green Arrow, Katniss, and Ragnar like to party together

Katniss on the Iron Throne, or, Worlds Colliding

Katniss on the Iron Throne, or, Worlds Colliding

Our Tribe, all snuggled up

Our Tribe, all snuggled up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But let me tell you about these presents. My bestie, siblings, and in-laws showered me with all the things I love: kitchen gadgets and décor! Hair, makeup, and bath goodies! Shoes! Accessories! Books! Champs! Dishes! And lovely cards with heartfelt sentiments. I felt spoiled and pampered. They did all this on top of coming to visit—I love having a house full of my favorites.

This was enough. It was truly more than enough.

And then my mom did this: She gave me two quilts. The first is a baby blanket my grandmother hand-stitched at the age of 90. She gave it to my mom to give to me when we had our first child. Though we do not—and will not—have a baby, we do have our first child, our exchange student Netto. If any child is worthy of the presentation of this quilt, it is he. Netto is kind and thoughtful, gentle and giving; he is funny, and curious, and so, so intelligent. He is everything we could have wanted in a child, and we’re so lucky to be hosting him.

The quilt my grandmother made for our first child

The quilt my grandmother made for our first child

The second is a quilt my mother made of my late father’s shirts. On it are appliquéd three white doves. The dove is at once a symbol of the Holy Spirit, of peace, and of ascension. It can represent atonement, sacrifice, and the suffering of others. The dove is a great navigator and messenger. It is pure. The three doves, for me, represent the past, present, and future.

A quilt made of shirts my father wore.

A quilt made of shirts my father wore.

They form a triangle—the strongest bond—over the fabric that once cloaked my father’s body. With his death came great sacrifice and suffering—and, perhaps, a sort of atonement. The doves remind me that he is protected but free. I will blanket myself in his clothes, which are in turn blanketed with peace and purpose and the promise of good things to come.

This was enough. It was truly more than enough.

And then Paul and Netto did this: I was given 4 gifts. The first, a sleek laptop case because Paul understands how I appreciate a good bag. The second, an album of exchange memories—only a third of the way full—from Netto. On the inside cover, a picture of the three of us hugging, and a quote from one of the sweetest movies: “Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten,” because we will never forget Netto and the memories forged with him.

Inscription on the photo album from Netto

Inscription on the photo album from Netto

The third, a bottle of perfume—a scent unique for me, created in secret, in our home, by Paul and Netto. It’s a musky blend of sandalwood, lavender, rose, and ylang ylang—earthy and exotic and something I would have absolutely chosen for myself. They know me so well, they understand my senses. They named it Juntos—Portuguese for “together,” because that’s what we are—their gift for the strongest sense, an oil for my skin, a fragrance blending with my own so that I can walk in bloom of us.

My perfume, Juntos, in an Egyptian Glass Bottle

My perfume, Juntos, in an Egyptian Glass Bottle

And the fourth. Oh, the fourth. When Paul and I first met, he carved for me a bear out of soapstone. It is representative of us and our journey together. Every time we witness a major event, a milestone of sorts is to be attached to it. The first was an arrow, representing the beginning of our relationship. For nearly 16 years, the bear went without another stone—not because nothing happened, but because life happened, and we neglected the recording of time.

This year, Paul and Netto gave me three stones: A crescent moon of alabaster, a heart of heart-pine, and a triangle, carved solely by Netto, of soapstone. The moon represents the loved ones we lost, the time we had with them, and the fact that they’re always with us—like the moon—just out of reach; the heart is for the present—our union, our marriage; and the three sides of the triangle represent the three of us—a new family, the strongest bond, the future and all the adventures we will have and the memories we will make. All these stones were placed in a wooden box, given to me by another exchange student Noor, that is covered in carvings of Arabic words for mother.

Gift from Noor: Egyptian box with Arabic words for "mother"

Gift from Noor: Egyptian box with Arabic words for “mother”

My heart is full. My boys are the best. My family, both blood and otherwise, is my rock.

So I’ve decided to be 37 this year. It’s been a good year. The best, really. So good, I may even be 37 for the next three.

The bear and my stones: the moon, heart, and triangle

The bear and my stones: the moon, heart, and triangle

Hobby #7: Crafts for the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

No, sillies, not Christmas! Halloween is the best holiday! Not only is it my birthday and it’s as if everyone is celebrating (costumes! candy! contests!), but Halloween is that time of year when people pull out all the stops to scare the ever living crap out of each other. And I love it.

We were in NOLA a few weeks back celebrating a cousin’s birthday, and those people are for real. It’s pretty much Halloween town. Skeletons and spiders EVERYWHERE.IMG_1887 - Copy IMG_1889 IMG_1853 - Copy

Now, you’d think that having a Halloween birthday would make be the baddest witch ever, but I’m actually pretty lame: I can’t watch scary movies because they give me nightmares; the thought of going into a haunted house will send me into a fit of anxiety; and I’ve never—not ever—decorated my own house or yard. I’d say don’t judge, but I realize the depth of the responsibility one has by having a Halloween birthday, and I know how miserably I’ve failed and how I’m giving a bad name to my fellow Scorpios.

So I attempted to make it up this year by doing the thing that terrifies me most: crafting. And I did it just in time for you to see the results but not have enough time to make the projects for yourself before boo-day. You’re welcome.

Why, you might ask, would I ever do this? Well, because we have a kid now.

Wait, what?

Yeah. We’re hosting an exchange student from Brazil. His name is Netto, and he’s pretty much the best kid ever. They don’t celebrate Halloween in Brazil, but that didn’t stop Netto from being obsessed, so I had to step up my mom game and give him an experience that, as he would describe, promised to be “so American.” We haven’t figured out yet if this is a compliment or not.IMG_1765 IMG_2057

We decided to make some Spooky Spell Books and Dementors. The Dementors were Netto’s idea because he’s also obsessed with Harry Potter (ref: him being the best kid ever). I won’t go into the minutia of how to make these badass crafts here—I’ve put instructions for the Dementors and the Spell Books on my Digressions page. But I will tell you this:

The most important step for making these crafts is getting Paul and his mom, Paula, to actually make them for you. They are far more talented than you will ever be, and the end result will make Martha Stuart sweat. I was pleased to learn that Netto is much more like me than he is his (adopted) father: he loves the idea of crafting, but that’s where it ends. What he lacks in execution he makes up with enthusiasm, so I’ve decided to offer him a position as my official at-home-hobby assistant. Which means until June, Netto will actually be doing my hobbies while I blog about them. Or about him. Or maybe the chickens. Point is, I’ve outsourced hobbying.

I’ll post pictures of our costumes later, but so you know, our family theme is “bows and arrows.” Paul decided we had to get real bows and arrows, which I’m pretty sure will effectively ban us from all public places:

  • Netto is going as The Green Arrow (another of his obsessions). Paul’s mom is making the costume, which means it will be cos-play worthy and you will be jealous.
  • Paul is going as Ragnar from Vikings. And he’s going FULL Ragnar, meaning he’s shaving the sides of his head and getting a Viking mullet-weave. He’s also made a super heavy, professional prop-worthy shield, because this is Paul, and he can’t do things on a small scale. He also got a real (really sharp) battle axe because he clearly wants us to get kicked out of bars and put on some sort of terrorist list.
  • I’m going as Katniss from Hunger Games, pretty much because I already had all the clothes that make her outfit. Reason # 473 why I’m the worst Halloween baby ever—I’m slack about my costumes.

Anyway, Happy Halloween, y’all! Enjoy the crafts for next year. Wishing you lots of candy and cadavers. Xoxo

IMG_2073 IMG_1957 IMG_1765 IMG_2053 IMG_2048 IMG_2036

Hobby # 6: Getting a Hobby

Goodness, it’s been a while, and so much has happened, but alas, not so much hobbying. First, we decided to host an exchange student for nine months, so I’m counting fretting and nesting as a hobbies. I’ll probably log our adventures here, or maybe not. I have no idea.

Second, my awesome sister who is completely supportive of my whims and doesn’t seem to understand I have little-to-no follow through sent me this fantastic book, Get a Hobby. I fully expect it to save my life.

I took the quiz, and it told me I was dexterous, independent, patient, and technical. I’d agree with all but the patient part, which is largely why I’m not crafty. I’m suspicious, too, of the dexterous designation, as I really only know how to type with my fingers. But ok! Let’s discover new hobbies!

The book lists 101 hobbies—some of which I’ve dabbled in*:

  1. Astrological charting (Like, ALL my orbs are in Scorpio, so watch out, betches!)
  2. Birding (chickens count; I watch them all day long)
  3. Collecting (sure, my mom forced me to collect butter pat dishes, but at least it was something; betcha don’t even know what butter pats are—ha!)
  4. Composting (was really just throwing organic matter into a pile and consequently breeding soldier fly maggots that the chickens went nuts over, but still)
  5. Crochet (anticipate a post on this one)
  6. Docenting (was actually a part-time job in college, and I never really offered any info to museum visitors but instead fell asleep on the upstairs gallery couch)
  7. Doll house building (my dad and I build half of one from a kit; we gave up at the point where you have to glue on each stupid individual shingle)
  8. Journaling and blogging (woo!)
  9. Mushroom hunting (ok, we joined a mycological society and fantasized about forays but never actually went; got the newsletter, though, so it counts)
  10. Photography (I once took a class in college and did a project in middle school; this counts, too)
  11. Needlework (I’m pretty sure I did a cross stitch once when I was 10)
  12. Rubber stamping (my grandmother was in to this for years, so summers when I’d visit, we’d make pretty stamped envelopes)
  13. Seed trading (to be fair, this was when Paul was into urban farming, so while we didn’t exactly trade seeds, I did help him shell a bunch with the ultimate goal of trading)
  14. Soap making (this is legit, y’all; I for real can make soap, and it’s awesome)
  15. Species protection (I’m counting my months of nursing our chicken Butterball as this; she was certainly not like any chicken I’ve ever met, so yeah, species)
  16. Tarot Card Reading (hit a little too close to home and had to stop before I freaked myself out)
  17. Urban animal husbandry (I’ve kept 2 of my 4 chickens alive; PLUS, they’re well dressed)
  18. Vegetable and herb gardening (though Paul took the lead, I nursed seedlings and planted and watered and harvested our veggies)
Chicken butts: proof of life and successful husbandry.

Chicken butts: proof of life and successful husbandry.

Others are just sort of things you do in life, but if it’s published in a list about hobbies and you can count them as such, I’ll take it:

  1. Beachcombing aka summer days
  2. Deep frying aka the first thing you learn to do in the south after saying “y’all”
  3. Drying flowers aka the euphemism for killing my plants
  4. Knotting aka tying your shoes
  5. Lego building aka childhood
  6. Paint by numbers aka childhood
  7. Stargazing aka summer nights
  8. Treasure hunting aka childhood
  9. Whittling aka what I’m doing (mentally) those nights I can’t sleep

And then some others are all WTF:

  1. Bell ringing. If, by this, you mean being in a hand bell choir, well then fine, my mom made me do that. But otherwise, what does this mean? That you’d just have bells on you at all times and would ring them when the urge strikes? You certainly wouldn’t gain friends this way, but perhaps you could use this hobby to drive people away?
  2. Dumpster diving. I’m pretty sure being homeless isn’t a hobby. Neither is living in Portland.
  3. Falconry. This would actually be cool, but my chickens would have words with me, as would my BFF, who totally has falcon bait for a dog.
  4. Miniature wargaming. I’m not sure what this is either, but I feel like it’s just a glorified and infinitely creepier game of chess.
Falcon Bait

Falcon Bait

But I did get some good ideas:

  1. Beer brewing: I probably won’t do this, but I may try to find friends who do. Or at least friends who do beer drinking. Which is all of them. My friends are lushes.
  2. Bonsai: Paul totally took over this when I suggested it; and we both promptly forgot to water the tree seed. But at least we agreed on a bonsai pot.
  3. Book arts: I think this is that thing you did in elementary school art class where you marbleized cardboard and bound it to paper? If not, it’s what I’m doing anyway.
  4. Ice sculpture: Really, I just want to purchase and sit next to a giant block of ice because IT’S FREAKING HOT AS HADES OVER HERE.
  5. Making preserves: Because my mom can teach me.
  6. Pottery: Because there’s a place down the street that offers classes.
  7. Puppetry: Because I want to freak out all my friends.

I DO have my next hobby planned, and it’s not even on this list! AND my mother-in-law has agreed to help me with it. Stay tuned—I’ll post it eventually. xo

*The grammarian in me wonders if I shouldn’t have put, “some in which I’ve dabbled.” The everyday me told the grammarian to shut up.

Hobby #5: 50 Shades of Slack

Remember how I said I’m competitive? It’s true, I am. But I can’t stress this enough: I’m also super slack. The other night in the hot tub, Paul said that this summer would be his “Summer of Painting.” He was sort of down on himself because he also hoped it’d be his “Summer of Writing,” but he’s afraid he won’t have enough time to devote to both. To which I replied, “You can’t have all the hobbies. Why don’t you let me write, and you paint.” Because seriously, WHY DOES HE HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING?

So Paul, because he, too, is competitive (but knows I’m terrible with follow-through). said “How about this: I won’t write if you produce 50 pages. But your blog doesn’t count. It has to be something of substance and it can’t be about chickens in tutus.”

WTF Paul? Chickens in tutus is substantive. MY BLOG HAS 12 FOLLOWERS! Clearly I’m doing something right. So I immediately started negotiating:

  • Does it have to be fiction?
  • Can it consist of writing prompts I get out of a book?
  • Are we talking handwritten pages or typed?
  • Because if it’s the later, I need some formatting parameters: Single spaced? Double? Standard margins? Serif or sans serif font?
  • And if it’s the former, nobody–including myself–will ever know what it says. But if it’s handwritten, where should I write? On a napkin? In a journal, and if so, what size? You see how complicated this is?

He wouldn’t commit to an answer, so this is a call for help, y’all. What should I write? Give me some parameters. I want to see Paul’s challenge and raise him 50 pages of “I Told You So.”

Thanks, friends. xoxo

 

Hobby #4: Writing Letters To My Younger Self

3/15/15

Hey, you, skinny girl with great skin: Listen up, it’s me—your older, slightly fluffier self. I figured you could use a little guidance from you, since you probably won’t listen to anyone else. And since you probably don’t want to hear it all at one time and think us a nag, I’m going to give you advice in doses. I know you won’t take it, but hear me out.

First, a lot of bad shit will happen, and that’s ok. It makes you stronger. I know that’s cheesy, but it really does. It gives you perspective, but mostly it deepens your compassion. A lot of good shit will happen too, which will also give you perspective and deepen your compassion. In essence, you will grow, and love, and grieve, and learn. I don’t actually think you should change anything; so my advice is, in effect, don’t take my advice. But if I wanted anything for you, it would be that you become confident sooner, so here are some things that you might want to know.

  1. Don’t date that dude. You know the one.
  2. Wear the bikini. You look great in it. The phrase “muffin top” hasn’t been invented yet, but I assure you, you don’t have one. Plus, YOU’RE IN YOUR EARLY TWENTIES, so geeze, just wear the two-piece.
  3. Don’t get that perm. Any of them. You were meant to have straight hair. Accept it.

Xoxo,

Me (you)

P.S. You’ll be pleased to know we stopped tucking our t-shirts into our jeans.

Hobby #3: Convo Heart Cheesecakes

Inspiration Convo Hearts

So, as predicted, I’m super slack about hobbies, and my absence for the later part of 2014 and the first few months of 2015 has only proved this. BUT I SWEAR I’ll do more this year, really. I’ve actually half-started 4 hobbies, which is pretty impressive, considering my track record. 

The problem is, Paul’s really stepped up his game. Beyond creating beautiful paintings for his art classes, he’s really taken to this whole knife making thing, and they’re AMAZING. Point is: his hobbies have thrived, while mine have fallen to the wayside. He makes me look bad. So I’m going to step up my game.

Oyster knives with spalted tamarind and Damascus steel, geeze.
And Paul’s painting of an oyster shell. How can I compete?

I know you’re thinking, “By stepping up your game do you mean learning how to make a new cocktail?” Why, yes! Yes it does. Though not today. One of my overarching 2015 hobbies will be “Actually Making Shit on My Pinterest (AMSOMP),” so stay tuned for lots of mediocre recipes and possibly some crafts that look nothing like those of the Martha Stewarts who make them.

The first installment of AMSOMP is just in time for V-day, or as we like to call it, Balentime’s day. You read that right. I’m going to make super cute, convo heart shaped mini-cheesecakes because I love mini things, I love convo hearts, and Paul loves cheesecakes (because he’s human, despite his ability to do everything better than everyone else). 

AMSOMP#1: Convo Heart Cheesecakes

Here’s the link to the original directions, but I’d be totally offended if you followed those and not mine. 

  • Buy some cute-ass heart shaped silicone molds. I surprised myself by planning ahead and ordering these in January; I’ll be selling them at our next garage sale if the cheesecakes turn out terribly.

  • Buy some convo hearts and a bottle of champagne. (I also bought some V-day themed red wine).
Got these on Amazon.
V-day appropriate booze.

Cheesecake Ingredients & Supplies

• 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (15 squares): I had 16, woot! • pinch of cinnamon: done • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted: of course I had butter; I’m not a barbarian • 16 ounces (2 blocks) cream cheese, softened: alas, I only had feta, bleu, and parm • 1 cup sugar: yeah, got this • 3 large eggs: go chickies, go! • 1 pint (16 ounces) sour cream: I needed this but only because we eat SC all the time • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract: done • food coloring – pink, purple, blue, green, yellow, and red: ok, so I had red, yellow, green, and blue, but because I went to first grade art class, I know that red and blue make purple and that pink is just a lighter shade of red—so I’m not buying those colors • Other Supplies Needed: basic crap in your kitchen plus a fine-tipped paint brush, of which we have hundreds because Paul is an art supply hoarder. NOTE: These cakes need a water bath, so make sure you have something you can put your molds in so they’re immersed halfway up in warm water. Pyrex casseroles do the trick. Recipe lady recommends warming water up in the holding pan in the oven as you’re pre-heating, and this seems reasonable, so I’m not gonna go rogue. She recommends some other stuff about the water bath blah blah blah, but I lost interest.
  • Find a recipe for cheesecake you like, and scour your kitchen for ingredients. I used the one on the side bar because the first rule of AMSOMP is nobody talks about AMSOMP following the actual Pinterest instructions.

  • Pour yourself a glass of champagne. Get yourself in the mood (for baking, you pervs). I was given some fancy Tiffany flutes for my wedding, but I did not use one of these, because I’m not insane and I knew I would break it with the hand mixer.
Super-cute plastic won’t break.
  • Put some raspberries in the champagne for V-day color.
Pretty!
  • Pre-heat the oven per your recipe’s instructions (probably 325 degrees), and put your bathing Pyrexes quasi-filled with water in there to warm up.

  • Make the graham cracker mixture for crust. Look up a recipe. The one above makes WAY too much crust and it doesn’t call for sugar, which is fine. I also didn’t think it called for enough butter, so I put in another tablespoon or two. I crumbled the crackers up in my new Ninja, AND IT SCARED THE BEJESUS OUT OF ME. Ninjas are supposed to be subtle. This thing is nuts.

  • Take a sip of champs.

  • Put about a tbsp. of buttery crumbly mixture in each little heart and smoosh it down. The recipe didn’t say this, but I baked mine for like 5 minutes (since the oven was pre-heating).
Crumbly stuff.
Crazy Ninja.
  • Make your cheesecake. This recipe called for a crapton of sour cream, which made me nervous, so I read the reviews of the original recipe and everyone was like, OMG cook it longer than what it says or your cake will be a puddle. Noted.

  • Divide the cake mixture into 6 bowls. Recipe lady had 6 same-sized glass bowls and 6 adorable tiny spatulas because I swear she bought those supplies just for her pictures. I happened to have 6 different colored Fiestaware bowls, but alas, I’m short on tiny spatulas and had to use spoons.

  • Color the mixtures to look like the convo-hearts. Recipe lady says to use 4-8 drops of color, but I only used like 2-4, so I don’t know what she was talking about. Paul came home at this point and offered unsolicited advice: Cheesecake is yellow-ish, not white, so keep that in mind when mixing colors. In essence, when mixing red and blue to make purple, you’re really mixing red, blue, and yellow, so you may want to go a little heavier than I did on the dye to compensate for yellow-impaired colors.
Super creamy cake batter.
I tried to match the six convo-heart colors.
  • Fill your molds up all the way (I divided the colors evenly in a very OCD kind of way), put the molds in the warm bath and DO NOT BAKE FOR 20 MINUTES LIKE RECIPE LADY SAYS. Bake the cakes like you would a normal cheesecake, for 45 minutes.

  • Breathe and remind yourself that Pinterest is setting you up for failure.
You should probably make your molds be EXACTLY the same.
Ready for baking.
  • After your cakes have baked long enough to become firm, let them cool, then—this is important—dump the water out of the Pyrexes and wipe them down. Put the molds back in the Pyrexes, cover them, and freeze them for two hours or overnight. I almost put the Pyrexes in the freezer with the water and would have been very unhappy to discover my cheesecakes frozen and stuck in their ice mold.

  • Get in the hot tub. Finish the champagne. Go to bed.

  • In the morning, take two Advil and drink a large glass of water.

  • Take your molds out of the freezer and pop the cakes out. As they thaw, they’ll form condensation on top, but don’t fret—this will dry, and when it does, you can attempt to write convos on your hearts.
  • To write the convos, use your fine point brush and some red dye. Paul, knowing that I have the worst handwriting of any human being alive, suggested I get a practice cheesecake to write on. I think he suggested this because he wanted even more cheesecake, but I agreed. He also wanted to show off his fancy painting skills and asked if he could “try” a word on the practice cake. As you can see, my REDRUM looks psychotic, like it was, in fact, written by a crazy person, whereas Paul’s REDRUM is all nice in neat, like it was written by a crazy person.

At this point Paul gave me even more unsolicited advice: Steady your writing hand with your other hand to lessen the shaking. He then asked if he could paint some of the words on the hearts and it was suddenly clear to me: Paul’s trying to take over my hobby. I painted 6 hearts and let him do the other six because, at the end of the day, I want to give some of these away and take credit for the cute baking as well as the flawless font.

A 3-year old did not write this.
P’s vs Mine. I think we know who the winner is.

And so, here’s the final result, pictured next to the “inspiration” originals:

Aww, how cute!
Ok, cute enough!

The cake was really good—recipe lady was right. It was creamy and fluffy, and it tasted NOTHING like actual convo hearts.

Wink. I mean it, WINK!!
All together, now 🙂

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Making cute things is fun.
  2. I should never, ever, ever attempt projects where I have to write.
  3. I seriously need to do the photography hobby soon because iPhone and iPad pics just aren’t cutting it. The colors are way off.
  4. Even though this was my hobby, and even though Paul tried to take it over in the end, I realized that the collaboration was nice. I welcomed his advice (and only rolled my eyes once), and I suppose if I’m ever going to share a hobby, it can be when the theme is love.

Happy Balentime’s, y’all.

Interlude: 15 Reasons Why I Don’t Have Hobbies

Here’s why I don’t have hobbies: I ain’t got time for that s%*t. So far, 2014 has proven to be one hell of a year, and I’m really sort of amazed that Paul and I have kept it together. We’ve had some great ups and terrible downs; we’ve had a total of 10 plan/event free weekends, and since we’re only on the 10th month, you can see how the math works out.

I realize it’s not the end of the year, so I may be jumping the gun on a “reflections on 2014 post,” but I’m afraid if I don’t post about it now, I’ll run out of time—time which is supposed to be spent on new hobbies.

The detailed list of our year-to-date is below, but to summarize:

  1. We finished renovations on and moved into our new house
  2. We planned a wedding and got hitched
  3. We lost 2 people very near and dear to our hearts
  4. We lost 2 pets who made us smile every day
  5. We will have gone out of town 21 times
  6. We will have thrown or been thrown 4 showers, and
  7. We will have attended 4 weddings and
  8. 3 bachelor/bachelorette weekends
  9. I have worked full-time
  10. While playing tennis twice per week and, in the near future,
  11. Taking French lessons twice per week
  12. Paul has run his construction business while
  13. Going to school full-time (and making straight A’s); on top of that he has
  14. Managed 13 rental properties, two of which had renovations completed this year.
  15. And of course there are the holidays and birthdays—because we both have large families, these are many (and very special).

So I want to collect my thoughts now—I want to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going, both metaphorically and literally. I want to carve out mental and emotional space for learning and growing, and to do this, I need to wrap up this year and begin setting it aside.

It’s been a phenomenal and tragic 9 months. The overlying theme has been family and friends. They are what make us strong and keep us going. I want to give 2014 the credit it’s due so I can take a deep breath and make way for new year—one that’s sure to be filled with lots of love, lots of travel, and lots of random hobbies.

I also want a record of what’s happened this year so I can refer to it for strength, memories, and inspiration. Here’s our calendar of events; read it if you want to vicariously experience our exhaustion.

January

  • Jan-May: Paul in School.
    Paul’s a giant nerd and won’t settle for anything less than a high-A.
    So he works diligently and assigns himself ridiculously complicated projects.
Snow Day! View of the yard from the hot tub.
Snow Day! View of the yard from the hot tub.
  • I Ran the “Shrimp and Grits” 5k in North Charleston: This was done while slightly under the influence of vodka, because I’m that good (celebrated a good friend’s b-day the night before and danced a little too late). Was worth the effort because was rewarded with shrimp and grits.
  • January 29: Snow day!! This is HUGE in SC, as we rarely get snow. The whole state shuts down and everyone freaks the eff out. Paul and I got in the hot tub.

February

  • Feb-May: Kourt on 2 tennis teams
  • Feb 5-9: Work trip in Detroit; stayed a few days to party with fam.
  • Feb 15: Sexy Lady bridal shower thrown by my best-ies; got tons of awesome . . . stuff. The theme was French: lots of crepes, lots of champagne—perfect!
  • Feb 25: My sweet dog, Piddy died. He was my first dog, and I still think about him every day. Such a good boy. He went out eating a doughnut and steak, as he would have wished.
 
Sexy Ladies
Sexy Ladies

March

  • March 8: Moving weekend; we have way too much crap.
  • March 10: Paul’s dad, Jimmie, admitted to hospital for 6 weeks, 1 of which was spent in ICU.
  • March 13: Traveled to Charleston and back for my sister’s birthday.

3 Ladies, 1 Saturday In Greenville

• 6 bloodies • Cheese & bacon grits • 2 lobster rolls • Bacon • Brussels sprouts • Salmon & fried grits • Goat cheese lemon curd chese cake • 3 Coffees • Pimento cheese dip • Truffle fries • 2 bloodies • 2 Mimosas • Guinness • 2 white wine • Diet coke • Curried fries • 6 mimosas • 3 jerky Sticks • Bottle of Blenheim’s • Caramel vanilla cream coffee • 2 salted caramel chocolate cupcakes • Salted caramel banana pudding • 2 beers • 3 Jamaican beef patties • 1 lg soba beer • Lg carafe sake • Seaweed salad • Fatty tuna roll • 12 nigiri • 3 Bottles Pinot noir • 5 meow meow beans • Garlic knots • 3 slices pizza
  • March 14: Tybee weekend for St. Pat’s with friends and fam. Paul earns nickname PUI: Paul Under the Influence after successfully falling out of random person’s pick-up truck without spilling his beer.
  • March 21: Greenville weekend with my two best-ies (see sidebar of Saturday’s consumption and be jealous (or afraid)).
  • March 29: Tennis team surprises me with tennis themed bridal shower and a super awesome cake!!

April

  • April 11: Charleston for the night for seafood at my sister’s.
    Our family, because they rock, likes to get together regularly to steam large batches of shrimp, blue crab, and oysters.
  • April 19: Fancy Lady bridal shower thrown by my future cousin-in-law and aunt-in-law.
    Got all the serving pieces Paul could never want. Was fantastic.
Super Awesome Tennis Cake!
Super Awesome Tennis Cake!
  • April 24: Old Crow Medicine Show concert in celebration of Paul’s b-day. Paul dances like a hillbilly because that’s the only dance he knows.
  • April 25 weekend: Paul’s b-day weekend. He goes camping with the dudes, consumes moonshine.

May

  • May 3: Ran the “Crawdaddy Dash” 5k. Occurs to me that I only ever run races if shellfish are involved.
  • May 16, 4-day weekend: Bachelor/Bachelorette Party on Tybee Island: Best. Weekend. Ever. Tybee does a “Beach Bum Parade,” which is essentially a giant water gun fight on an island. Will definitely become a tradition.
  • May 24: Wedding Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner. Wonderful food, heartfelt speeches, lots of love, family, and friends. We’re the luckiest people ever.
  • May 25: Weddin’. Best. Day. Ever. Paul dances like a hillbilly.
  • May 26-May 31: Mini-moon in Nashville. We found the Tardis and ate a crap-ton of hot chicken.
I think the girls won the fight
I think the girls won the fight
Dudes at the beach
Dudes at the beach
Good lookin' bunch
Good lookin’ bunch
We found the Tardis!
We found the Tardis!

June

  • June 8: Paul’s grandmother, Mimi died. She was such a sweet and caring woman, and she left a legacy of the best collard greens & mac and cheese you’ve ever eaten.
  • June 11-12: Mimi’s wake & funeral.
  • June 19-22: Kourt goes to CT to see her niece graduate; Paul goes to Folly Beach to hang out on a boat. 
They grow up so fast . . .
They grow up so fast . . .
Bahamas Junkanoo Parade . . . Someone is behind you!
Bahamas Junkanoo Parade . . . Someone is behind you!
Paul's all up in front
Paul’s all up in front
Whoa, baby, whoa!
Whoa, baby, whoa!

July

  • July 4: Spent the holiday weekend in Charleston with P’s fam. We cooked out and played board games. The girls won, natch.
  • July 12-19: Bahamas week with my awesome cousin and her awesome husband. We learn the meaning of fulcrum, get “blotto in the grotto,” and consume our weight in Sky Juice.
  • July 26: Folly Beach weekend with a good friend and her family. Purchased a sarong and still have no clue how to wear it. 

August

  • Aug-Dec: Paul in School; continues tradition of over-complicating assignments to “wow” his professors.
  • August 8 weekend: Paul goes white water rafting in West VA; Kourt goes to Charleston to hang with sister-in-law. We beach it.
  • Aug 22: Friend’s bachelorette party in Myrtle Beach. Arms were sore from holding them above my head for 4 hours while dancing. Realize this is my punishment for being a horrible dancer, yet insisting on doing it in public anyway.
  • Aug 24: Go to Charleston for brother’s b-day. Watch slideshow of siblings’ early years in the 60s and 70s. Find the best picture ever of my sister Kara, as a baby, going down a slide, back when safety was optional.
  • Aug 29 Weekend: Paul goes to New Orleans accidentally during Southern Decadence to “buy a sailboat” with a bachelor and two other friends. Hangover IV ensues. Kourt goes to her godson’s 2nd bday party. Cuteness ensues. 

September

  • Sept-Nov: Kourt on 2 tennis teams.
  • Kourt kindof on a kickball team.
  • Kourt begins French lessons in preparation for next summer’s trip to Provence.
  • Sept 6: Super pretty garden wedding on a plantation. Paul dances like a hillbilly.
  • Mid-September: Paul’s dad collapses and is admitted to ER then ICU and dies just days later. I could write a book about Jimmie—about his character, his boundless love, and his strength. I could write endlessly about disease, and loss, and grief, but that is for another time. For now, know that the world lost one of its greatest men and that those closest to him have holes in their hearts that can never be filled, though they’ll be patched with memories of his love and his laughter. At his wake and funeral, we are reminded how much he was loved, and how much of an influence he was on every person he met.
  • Sept 20th weekend: Trip to CT for the Big E with sister and cousin, followed by the sweetest most intimate backyard wedding in St. Louis. Paul dances like a hillbilly. The Big E is a giant fair for all the New England states where you can get Connecticut cigars, Vermont flannel, Rhode Island oysters, Massachusetts clam chowder, and Main Lobster Rolls. Puts the SC State Fair to shame with our pork-chops on sticks, though to be fair, we’ll have MC Hammer this year, while the Big E only had Darius Rucker. So ha!
Jimmie Crusin' on Lake Murray
Jimmie Crusin’ on Lake Murray
Jimmie At Our Wedding Rehearsal
Jimmie At Our Wedding Rehearsal
Jimmie Back In the Day
Jimmie Back In the Day
Jimmie At Paul's Brother's Wedding
Jimmie At Paul’s Brother’s Wedding

October

  • October 1: My favorite chicken, Butterball, dies from eating too many rocks. Crazy bird had my heart. Read more about her here. 
  • October 11: Octoberfest in Cola! Followed by Jam Room music fest and people watching at the Bonzaicon Convention downtown.
  • Future-Cast, Oct 15: Going to the aforementioned SC State Fair; is debatable whether or not we’ll actually see The Hammer. Personal goal is to watch barrel racing.
  • Future-Cast, Oct 18 weekend: Going to mountain wedding /camping in NC. Looking forward to Paul dancing like a hillbilly—and hoping that because we’ll be in the NC mountains, he’ll finally fit in.
  • Future-Cast, Oct 31: My bday!!! (And Halloween.) Thinking we’ll either be Marky-Mark and one of his backup dancers or Daenerys Targaryen and one of her dragons.

Future-Cast: November

  • Debating throwing a Clue-themed dinner party. If I do, will naturally be blogged about as a hobby because party planning is a hobby, right?
  • Nov 5: Going to the Coastal Carolina Fair in Charleston. They actually still have freak shows, and I can’t WAIT to see the snake lady!
  • Nov 16: Throwing a baby shower for a super cute friend.
  • Nov 20: Going back down to Charleston for a friend’s wedding celebration. Guess what? Paul will dance like a hillbilly.
  • 27: Turkey Day. Have decided run the “Turkey Day Run and Gobble Wobble” 5k in Charleston even though there won’t be any shellfish. But there will be shellfish at my sister’s house for our even better than Thanksgiving  tradition of
  • Super awesome family seafood night on Friday the 28th.
Butterball and The Pid
Butterball and The Pid
Don't you wish your family could roast like mine?
Don’t you wish your family could roast like mine?

December

  • Dec 5: Will throw our very own oyster roast, co-hosted with my best-ie at her house because she’s super.
  • Dec 19 Weekend: Going to Asheville for Biltmore at Christmas and relaxing mountain weekend with the fam.
  • And of course there’s Christmas, which means parties and presents, baking and charity, family and friends, and light festivals and candle-lit services. I cried a little typing this.

And when 2015 rolls around, we’re bringing in the new year by skiing in Colorado.

What a year; what a ride. I’m just about ready to get off this train though, and maybe next year, we’ll stick to a more reasonable schedule. On second thought, nah 🙂

The next post will be a hobby, I swear. xo

Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus

Fair warning—this one will be long. So if you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s the short of it: Vodka was involved, and I put my chickens in a tutu.

Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus

And the long of it:

Let’s go back three years . . . We were living in a great house in town, on a ¾ acre lot (that’s HUGE for in-town). At the time, Paul’s hobbies were urban-farming focused: He took beekeeping classes; got a greenhouse (and proceeded to store tools in it); dug a catfish pond (and managed to keep most of them alive); and created a 1k square foot garden (highlights: purple okra, Black from Tula tomatoes, and sweet potatoes). He also insisted we get some chickens, mainly, I think, because he wanted to build a chicken bungalow.

Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus

I had no feelings one way or the other about getting chickens—much like I feel about most of Paul’s hobbies, I didn’t think this one would alter my life beyond the extra stuff: the coop (and, as it turns out the  poop—lots and lots of poop), the feed, and the . . . the . . .I don’t know. I didn’t know. 

Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus

What happened in the end is we got four additional pets (well, three now because one died and we replaced her with a TERRIBLE HEN and promptly gave that one to our real estate lawyer). And I’m ridiculous with pets. I love them too much, and I had no idea this would carry over to the chickens (aka “the girls,” or “the chickies”).

Most people who keep actual flocks think I’m nuts for sure. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I certainly didn’t want to become the crazy bird lady, but I did. I fell in love with the little peeps and have spent the past three years spoiling them because they are infinitely stupid, and they make me laugh every single day. Except Butterball—she gives me hell, but I digress. (If you would like to as well, here you go.)

Flash forward to a few weeks ago. I had long been planning on making tutus for the girls. I wanted to do this not because I think chickens should be dressed up (they shouldn’t—they should run around and scratch, and take dust baths, and eat bugs), but because I wanted to warn Paul of the dangers of his hobbies; I wanted a physical manifestation of potential consequences of his seemingly endless actions: “See!! You wanted chickens, I ended up being the chicken tender (ha, because I tend to them, get it?), AND LOOK WHAT IT DID TO ME!! I PUT THEM IN TUTUS!!”

But I wasn’t sure when to do this hobby because in the end, I’m super lazy about hobbies. It just so happened that, because Paul is NOT super lazy about hobbies, he had invited some friends over for craft night. You read that right. Paul invited friends over for crafts.

 

Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus

I knew I would need vodka, and that I had to plan a meal (another digression—my buffalo-style take on Chicken Kiev (I do realize the irony of my cooking chicken the night I made tutus for my own, but I can assure you, these were pasture, free range, humanely slaughtered birds from a local farm run by the nicest people you’ve ever met; and they were delicious—the chickens not the people)).

Mike and MacKenzie came over with their hobbies, so I had to come up with one of my own, lest I look like a simple drunk—so I decided that now was the time to make a chicken tutu. Mike was making an LED mood light of sorts—a panelized thing that would hang elegantly on a wall and judge other lights for not being as cool. And MacKenzie and Paul were mounting paper using this reversible conservation method with linen backing and some other stuff I didn’t ask about (Paul’s latest hobby is vintage label and poster collecting, and he’s now mounting and framing them; I don’t mind this hobby so much as paper, in general, takes up little space, and the final products make fantastic gifts).

Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
 
 

But I had to do some research because I had no idea how to make a tutu. I can’t sew, so I knew anything complicated was out, which led me to a Google search for “no sew tutu.” I discovered they’re essentially giant pew bows (Traci and Kecia, are you reading this?!?! I made giant pew bows!!).

What is a pew bow, you ask, and why am I so excited about them?

Well . . . I got married this past May, and my amazing cousin Traci was in charge of the flowers. She took it upon herself to also create beautiful decorations for the sanctuary and reception hall, among which were lovely tulle bows to mark the family church pews. 

But here’s the best part: The week before the wedding, at an amazing bachelorette weekend on Tybee Island, Traci asked my sisters and me to help construct the pew bows. And my sister Kecia, without seeing them and only hearing us discuss them, thought were talking about our nether regions—she heard pube-o, not pew bow, and figured we’d come up with a new slang term for “the forest.” 🙂 So there’s a special place in my heart for pew bows, and I was delighted to extend them to a ridiculous hobby.

Now, I realize that most people will NOT make tutus for chickens, but I do know that my lady friends might, in fact, want pew bows or tutus for daughters or daughters’ friends (or maybe even for themselves for a Halloween costume). Because this is a learning experience for us all, I will detail how the pubo-s I mean pew bows I mean chicken tutus were made:

  • First, get some tulle. I had a bunch because, as noted before, I just got married. Some online sources say to use certain thicknesses, but I wasn’t about all that, because I didn’t want to go into a craft store. Plus, I figured ivory tulle would make lovely, bride-like tutus for the girls.
  • Second, measure your chicken’s “waist.” I couldn’t find my cloth tape measure, so I grabbed a chicken and used some string. I wrapped the string around the chicken’s middle and noted how long the string was.

    I then cut a piece of pink ribbon (because I thought that would be pretty with the ivory tulle) to the length of the string (which was cut to the length of the hen’s circumference), and used this as the belt for the tutu.
  • Next, I cut the tulle into strips. Again, online has all kinds of guidelines based on width and length, but because I’m lazy, I just guesstimated how long I wanted the tutu and doubled the length. And I made the strips 1-3 inches wide.

    So, for instance, because I wanted the tutu to be about 8 inches, my strips were 16 inches long. Really, they were as long as the bolt of fabric was wide, because again, I’m lazy, and didn’t want to measure. I cut a bunch of strips. I don’t know how many exactly. Just a big ass pile.
  • After that, I took the strips, folded them in half, and did a sort of loopty loop around the ribbon. I’m sure there’s a technical name for this, but in essence, I pulled the tulle through a loop of itself over the ribbon.

    And I did this over and over again until I had a ribbon full of tulle. Actually, I stopped mid-way and considered just making chicken bridal veils, but figured it’d be nearly impossible to keep them on the girls.

  • I then trimmed some of the pieces so the floof was of varying lengths, and voila, a tiny tutu! 
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
 
 

Here are some pictures of the final product and of the girls modeling it. I included one of my grandmother holding a duck.  I Like to think that this is where I get my love of birds, though I’m pretty sure this bird was about to be dinner.

Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
 
 

I’ve also included Paul’s final product–Wodka, how appropriate. Also, check out the video of us putting the tutu on the hen.

Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
 
 
 

Some final notes: Chickens, in general, don’t like tutus. Butterball (the white one) freaked the eff out. She ran around like—and I apologize for this—a chicken with her head cut off, and I felt terrible for putting it on her. Spike (the black and white one) sort of jumped around a bit and seemed really annoyed. Tiger (the brown one), on the other hand, seemed to like it. Perhaps because she’s already floofy and understands and enjoys the ohhing and ahhing from her admirers. She also probably liked it because I gave her snacks, and snacks are her favorite.

Hobby #2: Chicken Tutus
 
 

Hobby #1: Blogging

Beachin' It--that's a hobby, right?

Beachin’ It–that’s a hobby, right?

Hello. My name is Kourtnay. And I am not a hobbyist. Nor am I crafty. But I AM competitive, and I like a challenge, so it’s on!

Recently my husband, Paul, remarked that I need an at-home hobby. Paul has a million and one hobbies, and I’ve always sort of let him be the one who makes stuff and does interesting things. Plus, I don’t want to be responsible for bringing into the house random hobby-related items that will eventually live indefinitely in our attic.

To clarify—I do have hobbies: I like to read; I have a jogging partner, and we pretty much jog every week (sometimes once, sometimes three times—we’ve even run a 10k!); and I play tennis. I suspect Paul doesn’t consider reading an at-home hobby, perhaps because I don’t make time for it but instead do it when I have extra time. And of course jogging and tennis aren’t done at home, which is how this all came about.

Because besides jogging and tennis, I go places a lot. Mostly it’s away on girls weekends or down to Charleston to see my family. (While doing some hobby research to come up with things I plan on pursuing, I learned that travel planning is, in fact, an at-home hobby, so Ha! To be fair, I always thought it was just considered screwing around on the internet, but apparently this, too, is an at-home hobby, so yay, I can do that.)

I think Paul’s suggestion that I need an at  home hobby isn’t a comment on my needing something to exercise my brain grapes, but rather a way to get me to spend time at home with him because he lurves me and wants to spend time with me. Aww.

Fittingly enough, Blogging is an at-home hobby, so About This will also serve as my first post—my first new at-home hobby. Don’t tell Paul, but I’m secretly excited about becoming interesting. I’m excited about the adventure and about learning new things, and I hope you’ll enjoy sharing the adventure with me!

Some disclaimers:

  1. Again, I’m not crafty, so many of these hobbies will fail, and I’m ok with that.
  2. I’m also not a photographer (but one of my hobbies WILL be learning how to use my Nikon!), so you’ll have to bear with iPhone pics for the time being.

If you think of a hobby I should try, Contact Me 🙂