Monday, August 29, 2011

Australians Make Bluegrass...well, that is new?

I consider myself mildly cultured; I don't assume that stereotypes are always accurate (i.e. that people who like country ARE country), but I respect the fact that they exist for a reason. If it didn't have a high prevalence rate, then it probably wouldn't be a part of the collective set of "probable truths." An example: techies are smart. When was the last time you met someone who has attended a LAN party in his youth, and that person wasn't a competent sort of fellow? Point made.

Back to the topic at hand: I have traveled; I have a nice array of books (stop snickering friends: understatement is necessary here!), and I think they provide some insight into the world we live in, and the diverse people and attitudes that make it up. All of this together makes me feel pretty good about myself! ::little grin of contentment:: But then, a new combination of characteristics pops up and surprises you! And it forces you to recognize how very little you can predict the ebb and flow of popular culture.

Appreciation of Lady Gaga's Meat Dress
Cowboy Madonna
The phenomenon that is Dancing with the Stars
The effects of Space Jam on an entire generation of my peers (I still have that soundtrack on tape...)
Japanese culture's obsession with Paris Hilton

Ok, these are admittedly very extreme examples. But they explain the "idea" of what I am getting at. Smoosh two things that you think are in direct opposition with one another together...and you get something that has some incredible lasting power. As it turns out, I was just WAY out of the loop and there is a whole culture dedicated to "newgrass". Both in the States and among the Aussies ::sheepish blush of ignorance::

I was the very appreciative recipient of some comp tickets to see a recent performance by the Australian native band, The Greencards. They were free, it was at an adorable outdoor venue (interpret as tiny), and I thought, "Sure. I never go to concerts anymore. It could be fun! And because I am always working, let's network!" How silly of me. I was not prepared  for the musicianship that confronted me; the trio of Aussies and an American (the fiddler was MIA!) controlled their instruments with an incomparable grace and competency. Not only were the strains haunting, lively, and impossibly complex by turns, but the band members were so well synced that the impromptu "battles" between guitar and mandolin seemed a natural extension of the melodies. It wasn't until the sweat was dripping from foreheads and the mandolin player cursed at a missed chord that anyone in the audience knew that we were privy to a friendly display of competition.

Mandolin, Kym Warner; Bass, Carol Young; Guitar, Carl Miner; Fiddle, Tylar Andal (missing)
The venue was intimate, and so the performance was intimate. But the lead singer was a dear, and she quite literally fostered a conversation with the audience. I think the die hard supporters were actually directing the song choice at one point (but as a new listener to the progressive blue grass and observer of the band's kinetic energy, I just can't be sure). The Greencards are now independent artists; once supported by a label that helped foster their popularity, the band apparently chose to seek fan support and creative license in order to make the music they so loved. And while I cannot support the idea of a "lonely island" all of the time--after all, the desire to stand alone or defend one's territory in my professional field is the quickest way to lose a war by "attrition"--in this case, I am thrilled with their decision. Sisterita and I have listened to the album 3 times in quick succession. And when payday comes...can we say purchase plan?

Highlights of the Brick by Brick album:
Tale of Kangario, Loving You is the Only Way to Fly, Heart Fixer

Help support this talented ensemble, and connect with them on Facebook or by their website.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Inaugural "A's & B's of Brunch"

Let's get the requisite mention of today's grand episode out of the way--after all, I was probably the only blogger on the east coast time who skipped mentioning the 5.8 earthquake. Today, Hurricane Irene attacked the Eastern seaboard, stretching her winds and sleeting rain from Carolinas to Massachusetts. Were the skies ominous and black over our mountains? Yes. Did the mum topple from its new hanging post (we JUST bought the thing, bah!) and bust its pot? Yes. Did some rain drops "SPLAT!" their way across our car windshields. Why, yes, yes they did.

But that did not stop life from continuing on. I PLANNED the inaugural A's & B's of Brunch! and we were going to honor it!!! Sisterita even agreed to contribute with a flourish of enthusiasm, by cooking some incredible fare! So, a stupid weather system was not going to threaten my plans. That's right Irene: you just mosey on along. Flooding? You take that right on back to the Atlantic! (But seriously, prayers for those experiencing flooding!)

Dollar Store Flutes!!!
 Sisterita and I did not intentionally try to honor our Floridian upbringing--but I think the mimosas and self-made home fries we supplied may have inched our gathering into the realm of "a hurricane party." We didn't have Cheetos--an essential to most hurricane parties, but by that logic Mom should have been electrocuted again. And, well, I don't think I am open to the latter event...I mean can a woman have lightening come after her FOUR times in one life?!? Frankly, best pre-planned hurricane shindig I have ever been responsible for!

[To be fair, my first attempt was my first weekend as a freshmen in the USF dorms, in the wake of Charlie and in anticipation of Ivan...and well, a third system. The name escapes me. The point is that I was armed with nothing more than goldfish, LOTS of toilet paper thanks to Mom's Sams's card, and some diet coke. Oh, and I was trapped with strangers. Yeah, it was fantastic. ]

I had two reasons for throwing the brunch: first, because I am obsessed with cutesy, girly domestics. But we all knew that. The second was to sort of "close out" a chapter in the lives of some of my dear friends. I have never mentioned it here before, but last year I held a position as an AmeriCorps*VISTA supervisor. Well, three of the ladies recruited for that program have now finished their first full year of volunteer service. With that achievement (people, you have no idea the sacrifices the AmeriCorps volunteers, through whatever branch they serve, make in order to improve the nation. Official shout out HERE!!!), we don't rightly know what is next for everyone. So, it seemed only fitting that the inaugural brunch at Chez Sandidge double as a reunion of faces and friends. And there was the added benefit of being able to pilot our official "brunch fare" to a friendly group not prone to judgement!


The FAMOUS, FABULOUS homefries. Sisterita is a genius. All I had to do, Gentle Reader, was monitor over and stove temperatures! Culinary brilliance....
I think Sisterita and I had a pretty successful affair! We had some easy listening/old rock'n'roll playing on the speaker system, a veritable FEAST of food, lovely company and some sparkling mimosas. Laughter, stories, catching up. It was a pleasure! Books were even exchanged! I can't tell you if they were the highlights, but a clarinet that haven't played in about 8 years was given new life, as was our keyboard...and the afternoon culminated in the inexplicable doning of various sized hats--Kentucky-derby-worthy floppiness to a Blossom-esque feather-adorned dome top--by three complete silly ladies. We just...well...we...oh, we just liked them!

Things we learned for the future:
  • Must find a more efficient buffet style; this is tricky, young 20-something. You need to create "flow". Now, what that is exactly, I still don't know.
  • Have the cream and sugar in small serving tins. Bah! Hostess-ing 101!
  • Have a playlist ready to roll before the guests arrive. Dur!
  • Wake up an extra 30 minutes early to get to the Farmer's Market (not because you necessarily need to buy anything, but simply because carrying that little "green friendly" shopping bag around will make you feel more accomplished about the coming if it was an essential bit of multi-tasking.)
  • Do not begin pre-heating the oil too early...uncommon mistake, but in an effort to be efficient, these sorts of mishaps happen.
  • Pre-route the natural, "let's move to the living room" moment. You would think this would just happen. But sometimes you still need to make that announcement of sorts. Who knew?
  • Buy Sisterita flowers for being an awesome cook!!!
[I feel that some of you may be disappointed that this post will in no way humiliate Sisterita or I...sorry? I am sure that we will make up for that in NO TIME.] 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Can we say overkill?

I realized this morning that one should never try to write when at the mercy of a migraine. Why? Well, if you count--and I did--I made 11 various literary and pop culture references in one post. ELEVEN.

Were they related artists or topics? No. Were they even in the same artistic field? No. In one post I managed to reference the Golden Age of Hollywood (twice), indie rock music, a cartoon character symbolizing the evils of capitalistic adulthood, and a much loved children's novel. And then there were the completely random (and fairly illogical) references to Austin Powers and exploding Elizabeth Hurley robots.

So, new plan: don't write when: a) in pain, b) taking medicine, c) after a burglary scare, or d) if you have so many literary references floating in your head that a simple reading could turn into fodder for a drinking game. i.e. Oh look! Movie reference! Take a shot. Oh look! Book reference. Start the waterfall!


...I couldn't do it. I went back to clean up the post in question. It physically hurt to have it out there. So, now it is just long winded. But it won't cause alcohol poisoning. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Paranoia & Plastic

I realize that most people who read the title are going to think I am about to start harping about recycling. Or start with a long list of the ills associated with plastic water bottles and their relationship to cancer. But no—that would be logical. And if you came HERE for that, I both pity you and think you are a dear for thinking me capable of such a thing!

At approximately 5:33 PM, Sisterita began her tour-de-force! No, she didn’t start baking with frenzy or cleaning like a woman possessed. She didn’t even start with her fantastic humor that I adore so—no, her tour-de-force was a series of high adrenaline mishaps. A series of adorable, not terribly harmful, but incredibly ridiculous “huh?” moments. And because I don’t want to throw her under the bus…we both have these fits, but today it is hers that takes center stage. Sorry Sisterita: you’ll forgive me soon enough. Maybe I’ll have another wardrobe malfunction for you to guest blog about.

::sly smirk:: ::pauses: :::briefly contemplates another slit skirt:: ::begins hyperventilating:: ::small convulsions of terror begin and pass in quick succession::

Ok! Enough of that. Moving on!

No the tour-de-force refers to a-butcher-blade-of-death and flaming plastic rib eye steaks.
Yes, I know. I want to read more too. Don’t worry, I took pictures.

Incident One: Paranoia, Blades, and the history of the Corkscrew as a defensive tool

My first glimpse of Sisterita today was the tip of her nose and some wide eyes. She was leaning into my bedroom. No, not in a Gene Kelly of Singing in the Rain kind of way. It was like one of those asses-out hugs: you lean with your chest toward the person, pat their shoulder awkwardly, and then SNAP! back to attention? Yes. That is it! That is the position.

Let’s set the stage; apparently, I didn’t answer my phone. My migraine-ending nap is to blame—REM was happening. Phones be damned. But, after several unanswered calls and finding my car in the driveway, Sisterita assumed I was being a jerk. So, waltzing in and calling my name she is ready to give me a piece of her mind, “Why didn’t you answer? How am I supposed to plan dinner? What about the gym? You said you didn’t feel good, how I am supposed to know you didn’t lose consciousness???”

Or something along those lines.

See I was interrupted while seeking the comfort of the Sandman. She noticed me open my eyes—but she didn’t blink for a few seconds. Just stared at me with this owl-like patience. As if, what, I was a maniacal robot that just looked like me?! Yep, a self-detonating B-Verbose look-alike.

After asking me a few questions about why I was lying in bed, she straightened up. Her hands were demurely resting behind her back. In true sister fashion, I communicated my confusion about her behavior through a series of facial expressions:

Step 1 – B Verbose opens both yes. 
Sisterita translates: she is alert.
Step 2 – B Verbose lifts her head for a good view. 
Sisterita translates: She has noticed that I am standing weird.
Step 3 – B Verbose raises an eyebrow. 
Sisterita translates: Ok, I am acting really weird and need to explain. 
Here I go, in the most dramatic and flourishing wave of gestures possible.

Ok, so you weren’t answering. And I was nervous. And you said you didn’t feel good, so I thought you were really sick. But then you didn’t say anything when I yelled from downstairs. And so I started thinking that you weren’t alone. And the chain on the door broke remember?! And then I started thinking someone was here who wasn’t invited. And so I grabbed the KNIFE to protect us!!!!


At which point she raised this lovely, shiny blade from behind her back. Even paused in her super speed explanation for dramatic effect. If she wasn’t so adorably concerned for me and so very relieved, she might have looked like the next co-star on Dexter. As it was, I just giggled at her. Because she kept explaining…

And, well, remember when we were little? And you would find the door unlocked when we got off the bus, and we would be scared, but I didn’t want to have the knife and check the closets first? So you would take the knife and then I would take the corkscrew? And we would go through the whole house?! Well, I couldn’t find a corkscrew but I found the butcher knife. Any guy burglar in here was going down!!! DOWN.

Secretly, Gentle Reader, I kind of wished she had found both. Because who doesn’t want their own  knife-wielding champion waking them up from nap time in the supposed-defense of their honor?

Non threatening Corkscrew
Sisterita did prove, regardless of her intentions that we have evolved in our defense tactics. I have a feeling she “graduated” to the more grown up self-defense tool of the knife and tried to copy some gangster movie while stealthily climbing the stairs. Or at least I hope she did. 
 Corkscrew => Big Sister to Protect Her => Knife
 I should mention that if we actually had a burglar, there are strategically placed MACE sprayers….are you ready?…“big girl” firearms in the house. And yet, we still go for the butcher knife.

::sigh:: You just can’t fight years of training.

Incident Two: How Paranoia Distracts and Results in the Burning of Plastic Rib Eye Steaks

Ok, incident one navigated. I come downstairs, Sisterita is doing what she excels at: preparing steaks for dinner. Yum. I am glad she has this skill down, because I am still interviewing husband material to satisfy my need for well-grilled food in the summertime. And in the interim, she does a fine job!

Scene shift: Well, the table is being set. We are humming along. We didn’t have to assassinate a burglar! Yes! All is well with the world. Oh, and there is the black cloud of smoke in the kitchen…

WAIT! WHAT?! Why is there black smoke?!?!

Commence panic. Sisterita screams (not hysterically, just sufficiently) and runs to find the source of the problem. It seems in the course of her kitchen prep, and possible post-non-burglar-scare she set the plastic wrapped rib eyes on the eye of the stove….and turned the wrong eye on. And our friend Kitchen Disaster came to visit.

You know, we are fairly smart girls. She is probably the most possessed of common sense of anyone I know. But sometimes, we channel some Ramona and Beezus something FIERCE.

Also, someone should probably tell me where to buy a fire extinguisher??? ASAP.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Business in the front, and party in the back… and I’m not talking about a mullet...

 Today's installment is brought to you by guest blogger, the incomparable, incredibly funnyand yes, she is poised to humiliate meSisterita! I, B-Verbose, do take credit for the formatting and hyperlinks...but, well that isn't really all that impressive, and seriously, if you don't laugh out loud at her writing style, you are a slimy snivel-y snail.

Preface + Easily relatable protagonist + Amazing vindictive antagonist + Climax + 
Pertinent moral and/or life lesson + Conclusion = GREAT story

(all parts mentioned above) +segue for a sequel = AMAZING story

Confession -  formulas make me weak at the knees…

B-Verbose has been asking, begging, PLEADING for a guest “blogger”. Although much in tune with verbosity and grammatical excellence, I have been overcome with hesitance. Typically a sound reason rears its welcomed head. Example(s):
I’m too tired.
Tonight, well, I’m just not feeling it.
Nothing I have to say is complimentary.
In all honesty, this enchanted day has been quite surreal. Work was more of an adult-sized playground than socially acceptable. The local antique store advertised a majestic mirror for $39.99 (and needless to say I took full advantage of their blindness and misjudgment). A traffic jam halted traffic  (in an otherwise quiet town). Thus, upon unlocking the red door that marks the entrance to my home, and carrying in the daily “steals” purchased for decorative purchases, I poured a small tasting of wine and prepared for dullness.

B-Verbose is a goddess among women. This terminology (which is not used often enough) is perfectly applicable to my “big little sister”. As a 5’ 4” bombshell with red lipstick and killer high heels, B-Verbose stops traffic in the best of ways. Married women are envious, single woman stand hopeless, and I… as the loyal little sister… remain her biggest cheer leader and P.R. gal.

I couldn't find Jim Carey in the Mask...
Every woman NEEDS a little black dress- every woman DESERVES a killer black skirt. There is nothing like a 1940’s silhouette to:
  1. Accentuate the backside 
  2. Empower the inner dominatrix
  3. Make middle aged men stop in their tracks and shout the cartoon-wolf like “AAAH-OOOOOO- GAAAAAAA”
But remember, Gentle Reader, with great power comes great responsibility!

Climax: A personal favorite of mine, for obvious reasons

Confession... unlike B-Verbose (who has the Cadillac of filters albeit no common sense), I am a “say what I think” sort of lady. The big red “Stop” or “Abort” button of life has been broken since ’93. Accordingly, after traffic jams and spontaneous purchases, I unlocked the door of our humble abode with one thing on the mind:
Finish decorating the bathroom quickly as to make way for wine and wisdom by 8:30 pm.

Keep in mind, Gentle Reader, yours truly is the oldest 22 year old (in a figurative sense) to ever grace the planet earth.
As the amazingly priced mirror from 1961 is being prepped for exhibition in the dining room, in walks B-Verbose. The door opens, the clouds part, and the birds chirp as always in moments of “fairy tale” entrances. 

Me: “Blah blah blah, blah blah.”
Her: “Blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah.”
Me: “You are going to HATE me. Turn around, shut up, and let me take a picture.”
Her: “What’s wrong? Is there something wrong with my outfit?”
Me: “If by wrong you mean your seam has busted and your ASS is EXPOSED, then yes, maybe there is something wrong…..”

The slit skirt...that WAS in the back!
Dear Lord, as always, thank you for the sh*ts and the giggles!
Very few pictures were captured. Hysterics ensued, tears formulated in green eyes, a full on “pity-party” commenced on the kitchen floor. As a result of the “wardrobe malfunction” texts were sent, calls were made and threats were exclaimed.
If anybody, ANYBODY, noticed but DIDN’T say something, I’ll NEVER forgive them. My ASS was exposed at a non-profit kickoff event. I could die, I WILL die, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

:: insert yours truly pouring wine into  a glass, passing it to the victimized party, and making rap song references to lighten the mood::
Little in the middle, but you got much back.
My Anaconda don’t want none unless you’ve got buns hon.
Big bottom girls you make the rocking world go round.
BEND OVER THAT ASS TOO FAT (personal favorite, dur)!

Ladies should invest, focus on, and fully inspect themselves in full length mirrors before leaving home… and Sir Mix A Lot should make a song about the ritual of it all.

Some say Delta Burke. Some say Ginnifer Goodwin. The world, however, is dead wrong. B-Verbose is the Elizabeth Taylor of our time. Instead of violet eyes, hers are green. Instead of multiple husbands, she’s holding out for the one worthy of her attentions. Non-profits, married men, and lesbians alike, WATCH OUT. If she can stop traffic in a black skirt, just imagine…..
Lord have mercy, baby’s got her blue jeans on!

Tune in next week for:
You Say Summer Dress, I Say Indecent Exposure!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don Expo: My Enchanting Encounter with Il White Board

This is a love letter. Make no mistake, my heart has been stolen. But to understand my current state of devotion, you must first understand my history….

Yes, you read the title of this one correctly. No, it is not tongue-in-cheek humor. And before I move on, Gentle Reader, let us be completely open with one another: I am a true academic at heart (translation: proud dork), and yet you still read my posts. So, please set the judgment aside and let’s focus on discussing the succession pattern of my expo board addiction. In all its dry erase glory!

In the beginning, there was Expo Board.
He was beautiful. A successor to my hand written notes and charts stuffed inside my Franklin Covey planner book. He was a virtual work of art in the realm of organized color, geographic lines, and ideological progression. Why the latter? Well, when I sit down to organize a “board”, I imagine it is similar to the way an animator plans a story board… 

If you didn’t take my statement about loving expo boards seriously before, now you KNOW! This is a craft.
 Action Steps
Story Board
Expo Board
The idea is created.
What, oh what, will my short comic be about?
I need a bit of organization in my life. Oh! Look, an expo board.

The themes are developed.
What grand obstacles will the characters face?
Which categories of my to-do list or calendar will be featured?

The plot line is fleshed out. Graphics take shape!
Scenes develop as pen hits paper. Characters get faces.
The list is given headings and sub-headings! Woot!
The denouement arrives.
The storyline wraps with a funny quip or character action.
The list is prioritized, given color, starred and “approved” for maximum efficiency.

Example of a film storyboard
Expo Board lived a happy life. Standing 24 in x 36 in, with silver framing, he provided a repository for all of my great ideas and accomplishments! He arrived during my tenure at my first post-college job, and kept my world happily spinning on the ever-organized axis of Pre-Planning. On many occasions, and to the never-ending amusement of my co-workers, Expo Board would travel home with me at night. We developed a very intimate relationship—not quite as intense as my relationship to my makeup drawer, but a very co-dependent one. When I left post-college job, there was a ceremony for the handing off of Expo Board*; I felt confident that I was leaving it in very competent and invested hands. Lit-Lover Friend (I struggle to find an apt name here), as we will call her, was excited to be given the responsibility of ownership, and I have it on good authority that she was a good steward of his utility.

For some time after that, all during the “major life change” discussed in post One, I was content to use a small 8 x 11 in expo. A mini, emergency board. Effective, but not nearly vast enough to house all of the major life goings-ons and need-to-finish projects of my daily life. But I was (fairly) content.

Then one day, the incredible happened. I was reminded by the very same co-workers who used to mock my dedication to Expo Board that my eccentric affection for the white surface area was indeed a legacy: Bae posted this love letter. It is the first love letter that Expo Board has ever received, and I can promise you—as we discussed the matter at length in purple dry erase marker—that he was very, very honored. In fact, if his “pink” color pen hadn’t been running low, he might have blushed at the flattering portrait of himself painted into the FaceBook universe for all the world to see.

Expo Board < mini expo < Love Letter Board

As you can imagine, my own emotional investment in the universe of the dramatic Expo-topia was beginning to get out of hand! I was consumed with the terrifying thought that I was keeping some very talented “expo” from his or her true purpose in life: to provide structure and meaning in a rainbow spectrum of colors. 

And who was I to DO such a despicable thing?! 
Was I not the one who inspired others to give their expos the respect and gratitude they so rightly deserved? Do they not organize our lives, designate our household chores to various roomates, and provide a doodle-zone for over-active children? Well, of course they do! 
And with so many expos ABANDONED by their manufacturers, just waiting for a home and a steady hand in penmanship, how could I ignore the call to seek out a lonely, new expo?!

Don Expo
In the end, Don Expo found me.
He was sitting in a corner, just facing me with a sort of resigned apathy. One moment I was rifling through files, desperately trying to figure out a better organizational system then my multi-subject notebook, when he caught my attention. He was cool, aloof even.

I looked up, and my green eyes met his white surface. He was original, he was tall, he was broad—and I was smitten.

He stands 6 ft x 2 ft, has silver framing, and doubles in utility as a rolling cubicle door. YES. He blocks the onlookers with his deceptively boring gray front panel, as he flexibly moves around my little nook like a sparrow in mid-current flight. He moves. Don’t you see?! He adapts to my life, but does his own thing. He might even pay a visit to our neighbors on his own once in a while! Best. Friendship. Of. My. Life.

While the font is quite small, Don Expo is impressively shouldering the responsibilities of my duties as a grant writer, GAP team member, patient (a few Dr appts on there), and girly-girl. His magnetism also makes for ideal color accessorizing in the form of the colored dry erase pens. I am as giddy typing this, as I traditionally am on Christmas morning.

I cannot tell you where this new expo/B-Verbose collaboration might lead: it is possible that I will walk into the office and never see Don Expo again. But, I fail to see how I will ever find another of his caliber, in this or any cubicle-based universe.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Not-So-Harrowing Tale of Trespassing

Note: Please, Gentle Reader, do not suddenly indulge the notion of illegal activities as a result of this tale. The truth is, we probably deserve to be caught. Names have been altered to protect the writer. ;)
Before I continue, let me admit that this is not legal, but no more threatening than walking into the frame of a house in the middle of construction (or so I am telling myself)--Sisterita and I visited the House. The one we have idolized throughout our entire youth and adulthood. Every thing you are about to read is 1/3 dreamer, 1/3 planner, 1/3 strategist.
Built turn of the 19th century, the House is a majestic, 30+ room mansion, with three guest cottages, a pond, field, barn (stables burned I think?), incredible property that we have been in love with since we were 3 and 5, respectively. In between the local cities, right off the interstate, there is plenty of room for carving running paths, horse trails, a festival area for wine expos, etc. Or just got lost in the beauty of the Blue Ridge area.
We have had probably 80 conversations about wanting to buy the property by the time we are 30 and turning in into a premier resort and B&B. When we were 10, we just wanted to own it and put up a huge Christmas tree. As we got older, the plans evolved! [Though to be fair, that plan still has merit!] 
The location is ideal for a destination style lodging: right on the twin rivers for summer outdoorsy people, hunting grounds everywhere in the fall, historical sites GALORE and Civil War reenactments around, 40 minutes from a metropolis, and 20 minutes to a quaint, historic hamlet. And we have always known that it would take a lot of time to build a reputation for the business, so we have toyed with other on-property ventures that we could tie in with other local businesses ( garden nurseries, renting the grounds to equestrians, holding weddings, etc.). Starting with two easy ones, and adding one on every other year.
Of course, all of those conversations (we had even drew up a mock business plan of sorts) took place without ever having been inside the main house. Oh, and without having any money of course. So, we are talking a delusion-worthy Flight of Fancy. But the purchase price keeps falling.  And one day it will be low enough for us to get a loan that will cover renovations, and we will have become succesfull enough to make it work! Our uncles painted it and so we knew that it was incredible, with guest suites and a library. After having gotten inside....oh my goodness. 
I must give credit to Sisterita: she indulged a romantic inclination to walk along the property one day. She was alone, enjoying the day, thinking and communing with the animals...because this is obviously a scene from Snow White. The important, LIFE ALTERING, moment came to happen on a whim. She just tried a door .And it opened. To this...

Sorry for the perspective...The Entrance Way.
The opportunity prompted a furious, half-sick run through the enormity of the house. According to her, she then ran through it with her heart in her throat, hoping the cops wouldn't show up but that she would have time to see it all! She related her tale to me. And, well, of course I was green with envy. So, we discussed the risks, and decided to return. Our adventure went something like this:
Backs the Hyundai into some brush on the back of the house. Both occupants scan the horizon for alarm.
::Girl #1, strategically dressed up so as to be able to play the I'm-In-The-Market-And-Successful-Businesswoman-Should-Anyone-Show-Up (me) gets out::
::Girl #2 bounds for the front door. Stealthily listening for alarm bells and watching for Big Brother cameras::
G1: OK, I unlocked this extra spot just in case. Remember, be ready to run. But don't leave me...I locked you out of the car."
G2: OK, I am taking off my heels and carrying them.
Pause for Terror when the door squeaks open.
G1: This is my favorite room...
G2: Oh, My. God.

The main and second level are in fairly great condition:
Large sitting area on the first floor
Lower level: Entrance hallway with mirror doors on back and front, front sitting room, large meeting/bedroom, a reading room/office, just room, dinning HALL, bar area room, kitchen (not industrial friendly alas!). You can tell the previous tenant (retired wall street exec) lived on those levels and opened it up to his family (same with one cottage--the other 2 look rough).
Stairwell and Alcoves on the Second Landing
Basement: Needs some work to control dampness, but the walls were in good shape. Old servant style massive woostove/kitchen downthere with work benches, counters, 4 sinks. Could definitely (if electrical work was accomplished) by turned into an indistrial level kitchen. A curved room that opens into a front-of-the-house sitting alcove/garden. You could so rig a pottery workshop in there!

Third level Hallway. Bedroom at the end are mirror images.
Second level: 6 Guest bedroom suites with chimes to summon the help. We also found the cubby cabinet that contains all of the individual skeleton keys for the suites. Almost every room has an operational fireplace, clawfoot tub, it HAS been rigged for internet, though it seems to be on a radiator heating system. Only two showers in the whole house. One drawback for the modern visitor. 
Third level: The third level needs WORK.Set up for the children's nurseries and the servants of the house. There is one split bathroom (shower on one side of the hall, mini toilet on the other) and 6 bedrooms up there.  3 larger, as if for the younger kids, governess, and butler; and then 3 that were definitely for the maids. Small cubes of space. Walls were in rough shape (not holes, just haven't been painted or wall papered in 40 years).  
Three Cottages: 2 level, window air units (ugh), kitchen, bath, screened porches, and at least 2 bedrooms in each. Ideal for onsite living staff (hospitality manager or maintenance), the office (reservations, business center, the recreation center for the place on one side), or for year round renting to help with costs!
Third level, it also...felt lonely. I could feel some vibes up there. Not hostile (I know I sound insane), but like it was forgotten. We keep feeling like if we turned around fast enough we would see a ghost. So, of course, we started to introduce ourselves to the "inhabitants" and tell the house how much we loved it, what we would love to do, etc. And I am telling you, the house seemed to lighten up. Really. The sun roof (on the upper level) suddenly filled the hallway with light and things just lightened up. I don't know. We felt like the house was as sad to see us leave and we were to leave it.
Anyway, that is my not-so-harrowing tale. Kudos to little sister for being brave enough to find it open on her own the first time, and then doubly brave for daring to go back with me! 
....We realized as we were leaving, that the alarm system was blinking "Disarmed Chime: Alert!".....

Friday, August 12, 2011

Practical or Pretty?

Today, I realized my mother brainwashed me. Yes, I said it. I caught myself actually hesitating about purchasing a piece of furniture that I, quite honestly, adored. The kind of purchase that you are sure you will never regret, but which you cannot totally justify. I hesitated why? Because I wasn't sure it was sufficiently functional.

Really? ::slow blink:: I am still a little appalled that I have deviated so far from my habits of college. Well, by that and the fact that I have less disposable income NOW then I did as a college student. 
 "Oh, reality. How I long to strike a more agreeable contract with you! How about this: I make a wish, you grant it? Really?! You agree? That is fabulous! Thanks XOXO."

Let's be honest here: I work in nonprofits. It is rewarding in all sorts of unexpected ways. I serve my community, I work with incredible people, I get to try my hand at projects that in the business sector I would be too "green" to yet attempt...oh, and I work for the Girl Scouts. So I get cookies. [Yes, I know you are jealous.] But I don't get a lot of moolah. So, during month one of new job I have been very careful. The back account is getting low, I need to rebuild the nest egg, etc. Blah blah blah. I need a few things, some of which are captured by the following list:
  • Bookshelves (on which to house my 9 boxes, one trash can, and one suitcase stash of books)
  • A media shelving system of some kind. Locked cabinet? Open face glass? Quoi? Ce n'est pas si simple qu'on croit!
  • An area rug for my bedroom..which I can't buy until I decide the color scheme. 
  • And...ready? A DRESSER!
I had a real one in Florida. Mahogany, double tiered, 5 drawers. In college, I had the super stylish plastic faux organizers. Confession: I still have a few. Now I am faced with the inevitable problem: I need to start throwing my money into possessions of use. Alarm clock? Yes. New scarf? No. Side tables? Yes. ANOTHER piece of art? Ugh..really? Dresser? Definitely!

Option 1
Option 1: Functional.

Otherwise known as "practical", long lasting, multi-functional. And a reasonable $129.

My problem is this: I want some pizazzzzzz!

My bedroom will have dark furniture, some charcoal fashion sketches, perfume bottles, and pillows galore. The furniture needs to reflect that dedication to whimsy as well!

Then we have Option #2:  The Old, Painted-So-the-Wear-Is-Less-Noticeable Piece with PIZAZZ
The surprise find at Old Salem Mercantile. ::sigh:: I shouldn't even write where I found it...someone will likely fall and love and go back to purchase it before I can! Alas! This older model has two unfortunate qualities: first, it is a little damaged (though the paint covers most of that), and the drawers slide in and out with all the grace of a ballet dancing llama in an evening gown.

Now, for the GOOD, FABULOUS parts of the piece!
It has a reflective chandelier secured to it. It is light teal ::girly, flirty sigh of happiness:: It speaks to me. It would match the silver and crystal mirror I found! And the white cast iron bookends! And the reclaimed lampshade! And it is only $75! That is sooo much cheaper than option 1.

...I mean, right?
So, do you see the problem? 
Moi, la petite faux Parisienne qui adore l'image et le bleu et tout les choses qui montent la, elle l'acheterais. Voyeuz leur ici. *

And then there is the chic who works 7:30-5:30, drives an antique yacht posing as a car, and whose computer is rapidly approaching the era of Second Operating System Replacement.
[Notice the not-so-subtle fonts I chose for the different personality types...]
Solution?! Could I buy both?! And then the moms of the world would be proud that I own a functional item, and I would still have the pretty! Hmmm. Glitch...yep, there it is...on the horizon by the computer cemetary just in the distance there...I literally don't have that much cash to spare. Zeut alors. 

*Disclaimer: Any observed use of a foreign language should be interpreted with due caution. The writer is not responsible for any grammatical errors that may assault the Reader's sense of order. The writer has not, in fact, had a conversational partner or French correspondent for nearly 5 years.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Um...The one where I found a GEM of a note showcasing my insanity circa 2007

 I love finding evidence that I am not only high maintenance, but also quite possibly OCD. Yay for old writings!

Confession: I have an obsession with checking the “freshness” of everything. My greatest irritation appears in the form of wet and forgotten towels on the floor. My second greatest irritation wears a nasty perfume: that of smelly food in the fridge. Honestly, I like CLEAN. I don’t mind disorder, but CLEAN is a subject on which I am unable to negotiate standards. I need to smell April Shower freshness and feel crisp ironed lines. And if I find yogurt passed its expiration date, it finds the waste basket.

To date, only my sister has every caught me indulging in my “freshness” obsession (which, you will discover shortly, has become a source of paranoia). In fact, I think she caught me smelling the laundry she had finished for me...I felt she had waited too long to dry them, and may have allowed them to sour. ANYWAYS...
I was sick last week, and left by myself to watch Blockbuster rentals and scrounge around for anything with Vitamin C in it, I decided that a little OJ would be a nice way of easing my irritated throat. At the risk of sounding pretentious and not a little ridiculous, I will describe the setting:

The kitchen was dark, save for the light coming from the refrigerator (which was only partially blocked by the milk and ketchup). After noticing that the expiration date was that for that VERY day, I was overcome with the terrifying idea that there could be mold growing in the juice. Well, I had to investigate. I clearly wasn’t going to smell it…I had no sense of smell at the time. So, instead I tried to peer down into the little hole and look at the surface of the juice. I was careful not to jostle the carton, believing somehow that the “tricky” bacteria might sink or get sloshed long enough for me to be fooled and imbibe the beverage, consequently contracting food poisoning. Refusing to turn the real light on and risk waking up my mom, I tried to hold the carton under the fridge light in order to get a better glimpse. After 2 minutes of sheer madness—yes, I acknowledge that this was momentary madness—I decided that the juice was safe.
My next move: I shook the juice. 

Glitch: Overcome with happiness at discovering no mold, I never replaced the cap.

Result: I splashed the kitchen floor and myself in orange. 

Second result: My mom woke up and demanded to know why I was shrieking in alarm.

Reasons Sisterita (still experimenting with her identity tag for NTN?) should agree to contract cable

  1. TrueBlood on HBO. I am not ashamed to admit that I am addicted. And it is several weeks in, and I have not been able to drool over Eric Northman once. 
  2. TCM Summer Under the Stars. Shirley MacClaine. Jimmy Stewart.  Cary Grant. Marlene Dietrich. Seriously, I am driving to Granny's. She will feed me southern style food, hand me my very own afghan, and sit up all night with me watching some fabulous acting, ground breaking cinema...ok, ok...really we are going to drool over attractive old movie stars!
  3. Bravo. Oh, stop judging! Who isn't secretly a huge fan of the crazy women of Jersey Housewives or Flipping Out? I mean Zola?! Jeffrey Lewis, you have one saucy housekeeper on your hands.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

With this inaugural post, I have overcome my 20 month trend of procrastination!

Well, it sure took me long enough. I was 17 the first time I realized that others were blogging; did I join the circus of online over-sharing? Why of course not! What kind of girl do you take me for? But I wanted to. That anonymity, the language options, the freedom from drafting thesis statement after thesis statement...oh, it sounded glorious. But it required delving into the mysterious land of the internet. Which, most of you will now assume I am a relic (translate: too damn old to count), was terrifying. Email, oh yeah, I rocked that. With some ridiculously pretentious username, like scarletpearl (Hawthorne fans, anyone?). Oh oh! I figured out AIM! It was a proud day, I tell you. But a blog? I am a perfectionist, and we do not like to launch ourselves into situations with more than two unknown elements. And the blogsphere was just one large "uh?" So, I justified putting my curiosity off indefinitely. Mission: success!
Then, roughly two years ago I started craving a vehicle with which to complain. Yeah, I said it. I wanted nothing more than to be able to share with some nameless reader the trials and pains of growing into a non profit career for the first time. And dammit, I wanted that nameless reader to give me a proverbial "pat on the head" and accept my need to just be disappointed, confused, and petulant about life. The truth is, I am one of the most optimistic people you will ever meet...only you won't, because that is the point of this thing isn't it? But the early early twenties were rough; I was just out of undergrad, living in a new state with no friends, bursting with energy and lacking in know-how, and realizing that my interests and skills were outgrowing my surroundings. Insert major life change. I quit my job. I studied and thought very seriously about law school. I ran away across state lines and got a few friend "fixes". I burned through my savings and struggled to figure out the next step. Then, lo and behold, reality kicked in. "Self, you need money. Because, well, the Ramen is getting low." So, I took a part time job at a grocery store. "Uh, hey self? Some very cool projects are floating through your radar." So, I dabbled in nonprofit consulting, and loved it. Then, the grand coup d'etat: new job with an incredible organization, and the cherry on the sundae was a new lease with SparkNotes (little sister) in our very own town home! Casa de Fabulous-ity.