Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why my Cat Hates Holidays...

Have I mentioned that I have the best cat ever? I realize that is like a parent saying that they have the cutest baby, but still. Look at that! She is the equivalent of the guy that is so secure in his masculinity he can dress impeccably, discuss feminist literature and then rush off to ballet rehearsal. She is such a sass bag but never feels the need to prove it.

We finally decided to get some pictures with the pets in their holiday get-ups. Really, what is more funny than animals in people clothes? Nothing.
Bennet was a little confused and annoyed by the Santa hat but that was only cause there was an elastic strap under his chin. Once it was on and settled he was fine with it. Lizzy, on the other hand, is always the tricky one. She struggled at first, but after the second attempt she realized that we weren't going to give up. You could see the wheels turning in her little cat brain.

It was like she said, "Fine, if this is going to happen here is how it's going to go down. Get this stupid thing on my head. Put me down where ever you want cause it is throwing off my equilibrium, and I will stand still for 5 seconds. No more, no less. Then I am
peacing out and we won't speak of this again. Understood?"

And that is exactly what she did. I swear that cat didn't move. It was almost unnatural. I am not sure she even took a breath for those 5 seconds. She just sat there looking as irked as a 13 year old forced into an ugly Christmas sweater. I got 3 or 4 shots off my camera, then she shook off the antlers and we didn't see her for 10 minutes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Post of Plugs

I have been in the kitchen a lot. There has been excessive amounts of cooking and baking in our place. For example I made from scratch chocolate chip cookies in record time Saturday evening. I went from pulling ingredients from the pantry to on the cooling rack in less than 20 minutes, total, bake time included. So between that and the new running habit Nick and I came to the realization that we should probably be paying a little more attention to what we eat.

This made me a little nervous. Total red flag. You see Nick is an avid Internet researcher AND a scientist at heart. So when some guy who claims to be a doctor provides theoretical data supporting his new book and this book outlines some unique concept that sounds like a could potentially be healthy, like, I dunno, the benefits of steamed cabbage or something silly, he eats it up. All buyer beware out the window h
e just sees an interesting experiment to be tested. Plus, so much of what you find are actual weight-loss diets. I am not obese, I do not have major health issues, I do not need some dramatic life change sort of thing. It would be like giving chemo to someone with a sunburn. I am pretty sure if I started putting dramatic restrictions on my diet it would do me more harm than good. Also, I can imagine nothing more annoying than counting carbs or calories or fat grams or whatever on everything I eat.

So Nick does his Internet research and I don't particularly encourage him. He finds some information on raw diets that he gets all excited about. He explains to me that when you cook vegetables all the nutrients get cooked out of them and there is a certain percentage of raw food some Dr. suggests you eat. I explain to him
that he makes a valid point and that I could have told you the same thing and I am not a Dr. so perhaps not that informative and not very well-rounded.

Then yesterday he is like, "Hey can we go to Barnes and Noble? There is a book I read about that I want to get. It was written by a Dr. and it is called
Eat Right for your Type" The word diet wasn't used and it sounded like "type" might refer to body type or lifestyle so I was intrigued. Once we got to the bookstore Nick explained that it actually referred to your blood type. He said the Dr. that wrote it had some interesting ideas on how your blood chemistry effects how your body processes food and exercise. He's all lit up with the idea of learning how to eat to benefit your body on the molecular level. I am just thinking this sounds like a kernel of truth wrapped in a bunch of crap, wrapped in hard binding and an embossed book jacket, then sold for $30. We find this book, which is hardbound by the way, and Nick asks what my blood type is and starts reading. He learns that, based on my blood type, instense exercise won't benefit me as much as yoga and meditation. I find that hard to believe but something I could jump on board with. Then Nick says that according to the book I should be a vegetarian. Now I am a Midwestern girl that refers to bacon as nature's candy and would probably slash some one's tires for a good steak. In fact, I don't even order steak unless it is at a reputable steakhouse to avoid the risk a being offended by a less than pee yourself good steak. So yeah, that book got the axe. We did however find two other books that I am super pumped about.

The first is Healthy Cooking for Two (Or Just You) by Frances Price, RD. Ms. Price is a dietitian who was also a food writer and restaurateur. So think well rounded meals that don't taste like cardboard and are complex - pg. 199 is Fettuccine with Lemon-Walnut Scallops & Asparagus. AND in portions that don't leave us with leftovers for the rest of the week. How delightful! I plan on trying it out this week.

The second is a book by Dr. Gillian McKeith called
You Are What You Eat. Dr. McKeith is a holistic nutritionist who has a TV show by the same name as her book in Europe. From what I can tell it sounds like What Not to Wear only she invades your fridge and not your closet. I started reading it today and, I will admit, it is a bit much. Since she is holistic there is a sort of food as medicine paradigm, which I can accept, but my first thought was "Holy Smokes, as much as I would love to learn to cook with algae, I cannot afford to shop at Whole Foods this much." But it has some really great and really thorough information in it. What I really like about this book is that it appears to be very well-rounded, she explains how it is healthy to eat complex carbohydrates, and proteins, and fatty acids. I am totally OK with anyone that says nuts and avocados are good choices. Also, she encourages you and gives you guidance on getting to know your body and hence learning what nutrients your are lacking and what you should be eating. There are like 3 pages of poop analysis, I crap you not. Pun intended.

Finally, while on this series of shameless product plugs I have one more to make. Several people have asked how the whole running thing was working out for me. While it has become a little harder to be as committed due to the holiday and all the rain that has past through the Charleston area recently I am still running. However, I am sure I would have lost interest by now if it weren't for the GPS watch Nick and I purchased back in June when I actually started running a little. For as much as I criticized Nick earlier in this post, I have a similar hang-up. As incompetent as I am in the arena of all things mathematic, I am a total sucker for statistics and analysis. I came fairly close to
failing honors algebra 2 in high school cause no one could explain to me a practical application for the quadratic equation so I became confused and bored, but I totally aced my physics class a year later cause I could analyze the equations as they happened. So when my friend Stephanie told me about the Garmin Forerunner (I have model 405CX) I had to look into it. This thing has a heart rate monitor, stop watch, calorie counter, pacesetter, and GPS which means the watch also tells me how far I have been running. Then I can come home wirelessly transfer all that information to my computer and see my run plotted on a map, graph my heart rate and speed and then archive all the info so I can track my progress. It was expensive, like buying a Garmin and a watch at the same time, but totally worth every penny.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Annoyances of Being a Nomad

Generally I consider myself as a "glass half-full" sort of person. Someone who really is willing to put up with a lot, and I do mean A LOT, of crap. Did I mention that my husband lost his debit card by leaving it in an ATM machine AGAIN last week? So yeah. I am patient. And if anyone asks about my little stint as the wife of a naval officer I generally respond with an impassioned speech about how awesome it is. The pay is good. I get to travel. They move all my stuff for me. If Nick leaves I get to have time to myself, act independently, do whatever I want. So it's like a the Hannah Montana version of single vs. married. But in all seriousness, there are some major annoyances. This is one.

Two years ago we bought our car shortly before Christmas, so now we have moved to Charleston and we get our invoice from the state of Washington for the renewal of our tags. Here is where things get confusing. You might want to get a sheet of paper to start a flow chart. Nick, being a member of the military gets to choose his state of residency AND his license doesn't expire. So he can legally drive around with his Washington license as long as he likes. BUT since somehow his paperwork got lost or was never filed, for tax purposes he is still listed as a resident of Kansas. Now, rumor has it that we can keep our car registered in Washington based on Nick's status. But I am not sure how one goes about doing that when we no longer have a Washington address. Also, since I cannot legally keep my Washington driver's license and since we have both our names on the title they ask for both our license numbers and I feel a little weird and confused about listing my new South Carolina license number on the tag renewal for Washington. So I am all like let's just get South Carolina tags cause, I don't know, that just seems like the right thing to do. We live here now, no jerk cop is going to pick on us for having out of state plates, AND since our mail had to be forwarded from Washington, to California, to South Carolina we didn't get this invoice until like two weeks before the tags expired so time was of the essence.

So I start the process of getting this all taken care of. I go online and find a form that exempts Nick from property tax. Super. Then Nick comes home all jazzed about this new act Obama just passed, which to the best of my understanding states, if Nick is a "resident" of Washington then I can be too cause, hypothetically I am only moving around to be with him. Get it? Ok. It's a federal act, so basically a general law that states are left to enact however they see fit. So I go online and find an information letter from the Dept of Revenue of South Carolina that states as a part of this act South Carolina says that any property owned by spouse or jointly owned with service member will be given the same treatment as if owned by the service member. So that says to me I should be exempt from property tax as well. Cool. Then I note the a caption at the bottom of the image of the document stating that South Carolina hasn't posted this on their official website yet. Awesome, just awesome. AND the document image is good enough for me to clearly read it on the screen but not good enough to print out. So now I have to go down to the treasurer's office with no documentation. (And, by the way, this is like day two of this whole ordeal cause I went to the DMV only to be told that I had to pay property taxes at the treasurer's office which is all the way across downtown.)

So we get our exemption form all signed and head to the treasurer's office, who tells us we actually need to go to the auditor's office down the hall and THEN come back. So we head there. We confuse the girl behind the desk with this mystical form with a notary style stamp on it from the legal office on base and then I mention this new act. And I don't sound like an idiot. I mention that I found a recent document, from their department, it wasn't posted to a website, part a new federal act, mentioned the act by name, yada yada and these office trolls look at me as if I have just told them that I can talk to fish and I have decided to start worshipping kitchen appliances as gods. The gal helping us just explains she doesn't know anything about it but she will call her supervisor only in time for her cubicle neighbor to speak up and tell her to get off the phone and assure me that I am wrong. She thinks there is an act that protects me from property tax when he is deployed. That must be what I am thinking of. I assure her that this was a very new act passed within the past month. She, again, snidely assures me that I am wrong. At this point I am fuming. I had wanted to bring some paperwork with me but I wasn't aware that it was totally my job to inform them on what was new at the state department of revenue. I can tell we are getting no where so we paid our $90 dollars and then go all the way back to the DMV to pay another $40 to get our plates. The DMV? Shockingly friendly and efficient. The tax offices? Can totally eat it. And I mean it. Makes me really motivated to figure out this whole new act and move my "residency" back to Washington so I can remain a "non-resident" here. Seriously couldn't give a rat's ass about my $90, I just hate being treated like an idiot riding on the coat tails of my husband.

The real fun of all this is I have yet to find some major concrete source of information on all of this. I am certain it is written down in some policy book somewhere. But I don't know where that is AND I am positive it is written in some crazy legal jargon that I could only manage to choke down with a bottle of tequila but then I wouldn't remember any of it so what good would that do? Thankfully, I have a wonderful lawyer friend who has helped me through some of more confusing points. (I love you, Stephanie, please be patient with me.) As well as a veritable barrage of really awesome and equally snarky wives who have had to deal with even more crap by virtue of being around longer.

So in case you are keeping score at home. Nick pays taxes to Kansas, has a Washington license, physically lives with me in South Carolina where I am a resident and have a driver's license. We have one car plated in South Carolina, one plated in Washington, insurance for South Carolina and somehow still receive a friggin' tax booklet from Connecticut every year. Freaks us out every time. We haven't lived there for like 3 years! We don't owe them any money. Why do we still get booklets! Damnit! Obnoxious, right?

Now hopefully I haven't accidentally admitted to some tax fraud or other infraction I was totally unaware of on the Internet. If I don't post next week, just assume that I have and that I am imprisoned somewhere.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Calorie Overload Euphoria

When we started looking for places to live in Charleston we had given up the ghost on finding a location like the one we had in Seattle. And we haven't. However, with every week that passes I feel a little more at home and a little more convinced that we made the right choice in where to live. Tonight was one of those evenings.

As it is Monday Nick and I met our friends Mike and Amy for Monday wine and fondue at the little shop in Avondale. We are regulars there now. That really is the great thing about that neighborhood. There are neighborhood regulars. People that show up for the wine tastings, I am just as likely to run into at the coffee shop and so on. One of the ladies we run into every Monday brought in pumpkin bread today for no reason. There was wine and free melted cheese in a pot. Really, how can you ever go wrong with dipping bread in melted cheese? That's right, you can't. Then we overheard that the girl who works with the shop owner every Monday (her name is Nikki) also works at the
Glass Onion, which is this little local restaurant about 4 city blocks down the road. We had already planned on getting dinner there so we asked what we should order. And does Nikki tell us about signature dishes. No. Cause they don't have any. Cause their menu changes daily. Instead she tells us about the dishes for that day, which meats were the best and the freshest etc.

Naturally, when we arrived we could do nothing but order everything she suggested: Grass-fed beef fillet with green beans and mashed potatoes, spinach salad with fried oysters, scallops with fennel gravy served over grits, and a bottle of Tempranillo. Let's just say, at this juncture in my life there are few times where I feel compelled to eat to the point of pain. Tonight I got home and sat, almost moaning, on the couch for about 2 hours. Worth. Every. Second. Let's start with the grass fed beef. I have never particularly bought into the whole organic movement. Sure, it is a nice thought and all, I understand the health arguments and the economic arguments, but in terms of taste, unless it is a tomato you just plucked from your garden, there isn't much of a difference. Grass-fed beef is a whole different ball game. Maybe it is just the grass or maybe you are tasting the happiness and freedom the cow gets from grazing. Either way grass fed beef is like the quarterback to the standard beef's towel manager. The salad included spinach that was hearty and fresh as well as oysters, that were fried, you just can't go wrong with that. Finally, the scallops were nothing but three tender medallions of sweetness that almost cured every hang up I had in life. They sat upon a bed of gravy and the creamiest grits I have had. Really, the texture could have been confused for mashed potatoes. It was like eating a cloud. We finished with a chocolate pecan torte that was prepared that morning by our wine shop girl. Something really nice about knowing who made your food, right?

Best part? The restaurant is run like a cafe. Totally low key. No fancy menus or plates or waiters. No lighting that is too dim to read the menu. No expectations to keep your voice down when you are all but screaming about how good your dinner was and no judgments when you gorge yourself to the point that you are leaning back in your chair moaning like a victim of a stabbing. There were even crayons to color the butcher paper on the table. Score.

These are the things I was worried I wouldn't be able to find again. Between the tourist infested downtown with all the boutiques I can barely afford to step into, much less buy from; or the restaurants downtown, which I love but can be crawling with moms from, like Missouri, with their embroidered sweatshirts, grumpy kids, and husbands wearing trucker caps (and not in the ironic sense) who just want to go eat where Rachel Ray ate; and the strip malls in the suburbs that have the grocery store, target and that one random Chinese restaurant that may be good but you are a little scared to try; it is very easy to loose sight of what a little urban space can feel like. It is the businesses that are doing what they do out of a vocation and doing it well enough to be successful in a place not buzzing with accidental business. It is the people that you run into frequently enough to rate a smile of recognition, or know what their usual coffee order is. It is the feeling of actually being a useful cog in the motions of economy instead of mere drop of gas in the tank. I feel like we have found our secret Charleston and I couldn't be happier about it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Accidental Acquaintance

I met and chatted with one of our neighbors the other day. I had just come back from a run and was taking Bennet out really quick before taking a shower when our neighbor, Jeannie, noticed Bennet and had to come say "hi."

Now I have always had a somewhat, um, modern approach to having neighbors, with a few exceptions. That approach is basically this. I will give you a courtesy wave in passing, make small talk with you if we are caught together in an elevator, learn your name when the time and place requires it, and if it appears someone is breaking in I will call the cops. It wasn't always this way. These behaviors, like so many of my behaviors, have progressively gotten more introverted and anti-social while I was working retail. Few things will make a general disliking of the human race the rule, rather than the exception, faster than watching a mom ignore her kids running laps around the store because she is too busy on her bluetooth (I realize the irony in being to busy with the little device that leaves your hands free to...I don't your kids) or helping another mom find a runway look for her teen daughter who is clearly tanning herself to death with mom's encouragement. Now that I am no longer in that environment I am trying to turn over a new leaf.

I only talked to Jeannie for a few minutes but I am already intrigued and, in a way, humbled by her. Even though she is the proverbial older lady that just wants to talk. I am, seriously like catnip to that genre of older folk. I don't know what it is about me but if I go to church and there is an old lady there that wants to mumble incoherently about nothing of consequence they will just gravitate towards me. And I will smile and politely nod and even enjoy the conversation until I have smiled and nodded to one too many statements that I didn't understand even after saying "Pardon?" two or three times. Then I get nervous, like there is going to be a comprehension test later or something, and I start looking for a way out. Jeannie is not like that.

She caught me while she was outside paying the guy that comes by every week to wash her 1998 black Cadillac. How perfect. And she is in this zip front nightgown with sea creatures printed on it and a terry cloth turban style wrap on her head. Then she started to speak and, my gosh, this woman sounds like she just walked out of the
"Garden of Good and Evil." I could listen to her speak all day. To get the full effect of this dialogue you really need to read this out loud and when you do really open your throat and speak from your throat and not your nose.

Jeannie asks me, "Is that a cohrgi. Why my fihrst huusband and ah had a cohrgi yeahrs ago when we live in England. Ah cahn still hearah the lahdies now with theirah british accents saying, 'oh thoose are the dogs the queen has.'"

I felt like a mint julep should have just magically appeared in my one hand and a paper fan in the other. We continued chatting for a few moments. For me it was small talk, for her it was a very TV digest version of what must have been a very eventful and, in seemingly many cases, tragic life. For example, there was a husband who was killed in a POW camp after like, I think she said 7 years, longer than McCain at any rate. Amazing. What is even the appropriate response to hearing a story like that? What she must have gone through! And that was just her first husband. My mind just reels at the idea of where she has been and what she has seen. Cause someone who was married to an Air Force pilot and lives in England doesn't just settle down into everyday housewifery, right?

But, I guess, that is the thing with people. The really interesting ones, the ones that can really teach you a lesson are not in a secret location. They are hiding in plain sight, you just have to be willing to listen.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Von Trapp family Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. Nick and I finally got back from Maryland last night at about 12:30. Worst. Traffic. Ever. Seriously, a trip that was supposed to take 8 hours took almost 11 hours. It should have taken longer but I was past the point of nagging my husband about his tendency to speed and merely kept my mouth shut.

We had a great weekend with Nick's family though. I love visiting my in-laws but I am always just totally spent by the time we get home. They are not restful people, but that is why I like them and, in a way, why I married my husband. There is always screaming and chaos and confusion and changing plans and completely hysterical laughter. It is quite a pleasant shock to my persona of ruthless German efficiency.

On Wednesday we were about 2 hours away from the DC area when Nick just starts giggling to himself. I, of course, inquire about this. He responds with, "Well, you know how my mom sorta gets the jump on us when we show up," (Which is absolutely true. I don't know how she does it but every time we visit she is outside screaming before we have even turned off the car.) Nick continues, "well, I was thinking about how funny it would be if we could sneak in."

So within a few minutes Nick is on the phone with his brother (Mathieu), who is out at the moment so Mathieu calls the house to have one of Nick's other sisters stealthily unlock the door leading into the basement. Then at about 8:30 my mother-in-law calls Nick to check our progress on the road and Nick starts in with this huge melodramatic, "Oh Mom, there is so much traffic. I think there has been an accident or something. We are totally stuck it is going to be a while." Which, true to form, she immediately checks traffic on the Internet and calls Nick back within about 10 minutes explaining that she "found the accident" and they had just cleaned it up and surrounding traffic was starting to move again. Nick started to get a little nervous about being able to pull everything off.

My mother-in-law is pretty much a maternal mystic. She is the type of mom that could simply wake up in the middle of the night and know one of her kids, no matter where they are in the world, are in trouble. Nick joked, "I don't know if we can pull this off. I half expect her to be at the basement door when we show up and I'll ask 'Mom, what are you doing here?' and when she is done screaming about us being home she'll answer, 'I don't know, I just had a feeling I should come stand by this door.'"

About 30 minutes later we arrive in their neighborhood and very carefully pull up to the culdesac, lights off, all Von Trapp family style and park a few houses away. We open our doors just enough to turn on the dome light and just in time to see my father-in-law cross the street. We both freeze and slowly duck behind the dash. As soon as the coast was clear I grabbed the cat bag and Nick grabbed the dog and we dashed across the pavement and out of view behind the house. We tiptoed around back to the door leading into their basement and carefully snuck in. With Nick leading the way we made our way to the stairs and Nick crept to the top unleashed our dog, Bennet, and let him slip through the door. We heard my mother-in-law start to scold their dog for barking when she stopped mid-sentance and screamed "BENNET!!! How did you get in here? Where are they?" At which point she comes tearing around the corner, laughing her head off, to find us and scream and laugh some more.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chemistry at home

Last night Nick and I made chocolates. I had been preparing for this all week, well, sort of. I had been doing some Internet research on the whole process, ingredients, etc. However, I did that really cool thing where you read "make sure you don't get baker's chocolate" but somehow in imprints in your brain as "you must get baker's chocolate" so I end up grabbing like 2 packages of it. Bottom line is my kitchen now has like 10 cups of unsalted stick butter, 3 packages of bakers chocolate, 3 bags of chocolate chips, a quart of heavy whipping cream, chocolate flavored almond bark, white almond bark....basically my kitchen is a diabetic nightmare....and it is awesome.

So last night, being as I don't have the skill or equipment to start tempering my own chocolate, Nick and I decided to start by using the chocolate almond bark as our shell...totally idiot proof....and focus on experimenting with our filler.

I stress Nick and I due to the fact that Nick is really getting into this whole thing. Th
e kid was a chemistry major so he is just eating up all this information I am getting on the Internet about the make-up of different types of chocolate and how it reacts to heat and so on. His eyes are just lighting up with the idea of playing with heat, melting solids into liquids, trying to maintain a certain temperature, and the idea of not just blending things together but altering their essentials.

s first round we decide to try filling our shells with nutella, straight up, and experiment with a dark chocolate cointreau truffle. Results were promising. While the nutella proved to be delicious it was a little hard to work with so next time we plan on trying to develop a nutella truffle. The cointreau truffle, however, was damn good. So good, in fact, that Nick took a finger of it while I wasn't looking and just screamed, "SHIT!" I was startled and thought he had lit something on fire or at least spilled the whole saucepan on the floor. He just looked at me wide-eyed and said, "Erika, this is really awful and you aren't going to like it. I am just going to have to take this whole thing to work tomorrow and I'll just take care of it myself."

So here's how we did it:

You need -

1 pkg dark chocolate chips (get the good stuff - check the ingredients and make sure they use cocoa butter and not vegetable oil)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup Cointreau

Start by heating the butter and chocolate chips on low heat, stirring constantly until completely melted and smooth
Stir in cream cream and liquor then stir aggressively to thoroughly blend.
Leave on heat and firmly stir for a few additional minutes to burn off a little of the alcohol
Remove from heat and move into fridge to cool for roughly 30 - 40 minutes.
Check truffle and stir frequently.

For filling chocolates you will want to use the truffle while still malleable. If not filling chocolates the truffle will set into a moldable solid form. While I haven't tried this yet I have a little extra in the fridge I intend to form into balls, dip into Cointreau then coat in unsweetened cocoa powder.

Surprisingly easy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Well, I am still running. I realize that it has only been like 3 weeks, but that is still an accomplishment for me. Usually by this point I have already gotten bored or frustrated and given up, or at the very least have started rationalizing my way out of running on 5 of the 7 days in a week. It isn't habitual yet. I still usually stall my run by like a half hour or so and I really have to make myself do it, but they are happening. I think, for me, this is all the power of structure. AND to add to the accomplishment we have finally hit the point where Nick is spending entire days at work so I have to make myself go run solo. Which, I know for some people, sounds like a total drag. I have friends who run and gossip at the same time and that is not how I work. I throw my ear buds in and then completely zone out and if you try talk to me, well, lord help you cause my wrath with reign down on you like fire. Nick learned that the hard way:
"Hey, Erika, how you doing? You feeling ok? Is this a good pace?"
"Shut the hell up and leave me alone."
Thankfully Nick doesn't take things personally and he has a great learning curve. I also got new running shoes. Here they are: They are so deliciously gaudy. I love it. I mean really what is better than running shoes that are primarily a shade of pink that totally assaults your eyes, right? They actually make a difference too. I really thought that this whole emphasis on the right shoe was just you know, Nike propaganda or whatever, but I really noticed a difference with the new kicks vs. my old worn out sneaks that were to wide for the nubs at the end of my legs most people call feet.

I have been running a circuit around our apartment complex which is actually built on a nature conservation area. There's a bald eagle that lives here so, boom, nature conservation, no more building. I actually have this secret fantasy that they were planning several more buildings and the powers that be were out surveying when suddenly this majestic eagle just flies in and lands in a tree and just hangs out there like a squatter in an old building and everyone just looks at each other and then the complex owner screams, "Damnit!" and throws his blueprints on the ground in a rage.

So, yeah, there is way more wildlife I have to deal with while running than I ever experienced near our place in West Seattle or downtown San Diego. The other day I noticed a dead squirrel in the road. Just dead, not hit by a car but like he had a little squirrel heart attack. So then every time I passed that part of our complex I had to focus on controlling my breathing and not puking or going into one of those little girly squirm-seizures I get as a result of seeing something gross all the while chanting in my head, "Don't look at the squirrel, don't look at the squirrel." There are also two small ponds with fountains on the property, both have signs warning that alligators MAY live here. It took me like two weeks to get over that and not slow down completely eyeballing the pond every time I passed half expecting some giant 10 foot gator to make it's way stealthily out of the 20ft pond to attack me on my jog. However, my biggest concern presented itself early this week.

As I was making my circuit I came upon the eastern portion of the complex and lo and behold I spot this mythical eagle that lives on the grounds. It is up in the air, soaring, looking all patriotic and like something out of a video designed for a civics class. Then I realize that this thing is circling. Now I don't know much about birds of prey but what I do know is that falcons are smaller than eagles and you still have to be trained to keep them and wear protective gear cause they could maim if not kill you. My logic was that this eagle is much bigger than a falcon so it could probably do me some serious harm. And, let's be honest, I am in the middle of my jog, an activity at which I do not excel. So I am still jogging, although I have slowed my pace, and I have my eyes on this bird the entire time. What does one do? I am already winded and this thing has friggin' wings so I certainly couldn't out run it. If it came at my I wouldn't have the first clue as to how one defends oneself from a bird of prey and then on top of that it is an endangered species so if I killed it, even out of self defense, how much trouble would I be in? I aired this concern to Nick when he got home and he laughed and promised me that I was to big for the bird to attack. I don't trust it though. Hitchcock could have been on to something.

Today the eagle wasn't out. There were no wildlife sightings until I saw a little lizard climb our mailbox. However, something else happened to me while running. I was running my last set and Vampire Weekend's song
"A-Punk" shuffled up on my playlist. For those of you who may not be aware this particular song by this most awesome band is on guitar hero 5 which Nick and I have been playing excessively. So here I am jogging and I hear the beginning riff of this song and like Pavlov's dog suddenly my left hand is on the fretboard and my right hand is on strings with my thumb plucking the rhythm. So sad.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Erika shakes her fist a little.......

Ok, I really didn't want to go this route on the blog but this week really laid the final straw. So here goes:

Now, it should be said that I don't
hate Charleston out of principle. In fact, I would recommend a visit or even living here to almost everyone I know. I, however, feel like a fish out of water here. There really is no other way to explain it. It is a like being in another country for me. The culture, the social expectations, the dress code all make me feel like a foreigner in my own country. And I think that is what makes it so hard. This should be "home" to me, but it isn't. And I had hoped that maybe we would move here and I would be pleasantly surprised to find that I love it here. That it was simply that our first year of marriage was hard cause it was our first year of marriage. That I was so upset cause I could barely land an interview the first time and when I did the guy interviewing me told me point blank I was going to have a really hard time finding a job cause, "Charleston runs on a good ole' boy system and if you don't know anyone here you are going to have a hard time." (No seriously, that actually happened.) Or that we just didn't make enough money to enjoy ourselves. While all of those things are true, and certainly effected our first year here, I maintain that I am a square peg being hammered into a round hole.

As such, there are a few things I need to get off my chest. First, as crazy as it sounds, I felt more comfortable driving in California than I do here. California drivers are as aggressive as they come but at least they have their head in the game and (for the most part) aren't
too thoughtless or inconsiderate cause you never know who might have a serious case of road rage. Not so with Charleston.

Evidently, Charleston has not caught up with this whole "no cell phone while driving" thing cause it is perfectly routine to get caught behind someone exiting onto the interstate 10 miles below the speed limit cause they are texting or have their phone glued to their ear. But that isn't even the worst of it. There is a startling lack of traffic signals in general so it is like vigilante justice on the roads. A couple days ago I went to grab some groceries and got caught in line for a stop light in the right hand lane. Now I drive a Mini Cooper so the front and back end of my car are very short so I usually end up leaving extra room between myself and the car in front of me. Well, during this particular stop the two old bats pulling out of the drive at Walgreens (on my right) decided that there were just enough INCHES to sneak between my car and the SUV in front of me. (So few inches, in fact, that I had to throw the car in reverse.) Then they stopped in front of my car and waited for a window to turn left. Now everyone close your eyes. Imagine you have just caught your child trying to stick a fork in a light socket. Now imagine your face as you yell, "What the hell are you doing?" This was the face and the words I was mouthing at the two old ladies as they passed me. And I know they could see me cause no one had tinted windows and they were close enough I could tell you what prescription glasses they were wearing.

Nick came back from the standard Navy brief outlining the basic tenets of don't drink and drive and don't drive like a moron and was SO creeped by THIS presentation he point blank told me, "Umm so basically don't drive anywhere unless you have to."

Point two: shopping carts. Seems petty, but really is exemplar of attitude toward customer service. This has become a pet peeve of mine within the three weeks we have lived here. Few people put them away. It makes me crazy. Driving through the parking lot at Costco is like taking on an Olympic ski slalom. Carts everywhere. There are cart corrals. They are clearly visible. NO ONE USES THEM. This isn't just a Costco thing either. I went to the grocery store last week and people were just leaving their carts in the middle of the exit, 5 ft away from the cart line up. Really? How hard is it just to slip your cart in with the others. So I took my time while balancing my grocery bags on my arms to put a couple up, audibly huffing and puffing as other people walked through the exit. Yeah, that's right. I have become that chic. Oh, and in the past month I have had to send Nick back to two separate grocery stores to exchange dairy products that had been left on the shelf too long. (After which I deduced that all the employees were too busy putting carts away to take those expired items off the shelf, of course, of course.)

It feels good to get that all said. Phew. And I will admit, maybe...if you get me liquored up and in a really good mood, that I am saying all this out of frustration. Like the kid who hates his math teacher cause he doesn't understand the subject.....Or maybe not.

Despite all my kavetching it shouldn't be said I am not having a good time, cause I totally am. (I just have to shake my fist once and a while.) I have totally retreated into the kitchen. I have been cooking up a storm. In the past few weeks I have made re fried black beans from scratch. Tonight we made deep fried zucchini. I have also started on my quest to learn to bake in a way that would just blow the minds of you and the person sitting next to you. I made cupcakes from scratch and even rocked myself some lavender icing. That's right. I own a mortar and pestle and I kicked some lavender into gear and made some of the most delicious icing you might ever have. Up next, I am tackling home made chocolates. I am just waiting for my molds to come in the mail.

Beyond my own resourcefulness Charleston has more than represented. I have found two really delightful wine shops. One has wine and cheese tasting on Mon and Thur for $5 and the other has wine tasting for $1 on Fri and Sat. (For those of you doing the math that leaves Sun, Tue, & Wed without a cheap tasting.) Remember sometime last month I mentioned the truffled tater tots? Yeah, they were everything I would have hoped for and more. I will be learning to replicate those at home.

Now that I have vented a little off to bed. Tomorrow I run, design some address cards (fingers crossed), do some laundry, plan some meals, then hit Avondale wine & cheese for some wine and fondue...mmm wonderful fondue......

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dead Bug

I was going to write some random little post about my weekend today but then something huge happened today. I killed my first roach.....ever.

Since I got married and have frequently been without my husband at home I have forced myself to learn dispatch flies, spiders, silverfish etc. Thankfully though I never had to kill a roach. We didn't have roaches in our place in Seattle (between that and the lack of mosquitoes it only further verifies my conviction that Seattle is one of the best cities on the planet). We did have a few roaches in our first Charleston apartment however I had either let those run back into the wall and then buy roach baits later or I even let our cat kill on once and then I made Nick discard the little roach remains when he got home. Otherwise I just ask Nick to kill them and I don't have a history of asking very gracefully.

One evening after we had been married and living in Charleston for several months Nick had gone to bed and washed up to hit the rack about 20 minutes later. As I was washing my face I saw what looked like a hair on the counter next to the little toothbrush holder. I went to brush it away but it wasn't there anymore. So I moved the holder and found that the "hair" I saw was really the antenna of a roach. I full on screamed. Like the type of scream straight out of a horror film. Then I ran into the bed room. Nick had already leaped out of bed from a dead sleep. When he tells the story he explains that my scream was so blood curdling that he fully expected to see me dead or at least without an arm. I told him there was a roach in the bathroom so Nick, still in nothing but his undies after being in bed, pulls on his black work socks and combat boots, grabs some raid, another random aerosol can, and heads into the bathroom to put some hurt on the roach. It was classic. We talked about it later and I said I understood the Raid and the boots but I didn't understand the other can of cleaner. He said he thought he could use it to beat the roach if things got real bad.

So skip some years later to this past Sunday. We are getting ready to hit the rack again when I step into our kitchen with the lights off to put a water glass on the counter when I see something scurry across the counter out of the corner of my eye. I suck in this huge gasp and Nick comes running again and I head into the bedroom to try and forget that I just found a roach on my KITCHEN COUNTER. Sadly the roach was to quick for Nick and it retreated to the cabinet from whence it came. Naturally, I called the leasing office and luckily for me their pest control guys was schedule to come by today. So this morning he came by and sprayed the kitchen and seriously no more than 10 minutes after he left I spy a roach crawling out of my kitchen. I froze. Do I try kill it or do I let it go about it's business? Maybe the cat will get it? Finally I scrambled to grab our can or Raid, took a deep breath and started spraying. Little jerk was fast but finally after about 4 or 5 missed shots I got it once. But it just started running in circles cause it was stunned and disoriented. So I went in for the final blow and unleashed holy hell on that little bug. Once it flipped on its back and its legs stopped moving I promptly squealed like a little girls and danced around in circles shaking my hands like I was trying to shake water off them and immediately called my husband. He didn't answer his phone so of course I called my dad. I didn't even say "Hi" I just blurted out, "I just killed a roach, what do I do?" He just laughed.

After staring at the little corpse for a few minutes I finally gave up the ghost and grabbed a dustpan, gingerly scooped it up and made my way to the trash. Here's hoping that the one roach was a fluke and we don't see anymore.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I Heart New Mexico

Let's start this post by explaining that since, I would say college, I have been traveling with the fervor of a nutritionist's child discovering candy for the first time. My parents, for reasons of their own, never really did the family vacation bit. (Which I always found a little odd considering they both came from a generation of road trips, campers and national parks.) However, as an adult now, I will totally go out of my way to see some place new. Nick and I once traveled space available via the air force and actually opted for a flight that was both longer and landed in a different state because we could score a 4 hour layover in Iceland. That's right. I said "score a 4 hour layover." Cause my thought was, why opt not to go to Iceland when we could go, even for four hours on a military base that was being shut down. That layover is easily one of the most memorable and impressing travel experiences to this day. But that is a whole post worth for another day. My point is, with travel, as with life, it is so important to be open and conscious of the opportunities that fall before you. To know that, even though it may be hard, it may be unexpected, and it may seem a little odd, it is an opportunity that could pass you up so you best buck up, put on the big girl pants and hit it head on.

This past weekend I went to Santa Fe, New Mexico with a good friend of mine from college. Her name is Nicole. The reason we went there really boils down to nothing more than we had never been to the southwest. (Although, I must give serious props to my mom for recommending it.) It was amazing. And as with so many of the trips I go on I find that, against the background of a new place, I grow a little as a person and become a little more grounded in who I am and who I want to become. And because I really can't think of an eloquent way to link these anecdotes together here are a few highlights in list form:

I heart Georgia O'Keefe. Lady was original and amazing. If you want to know a little more go here. AND, according to the docent at the museum, she never felt totally at home in South Carolina either, nice to know I am not the only one.

2. Chocolate is like mother's milk to my friend, Nicole. Leave it to her to find the Chocolate walking tour in Santa Fe. First night day we are in Santa Fe we are all crazy jet lagged and ate dinner super early so I thought we should go find some chocolate for an evening snack. There is only one place left open after 6. It is called Kakawa Chocolate. Being as we have been in town for about 4 hours and have no idea where anything is I called the shop and reach one of the owners. His name is Peter. He explains to me that he has never given on foot directions and it is a little confusing to find on foot. I won't toy with anyone's intelligence by going through a play by play of 20 minutes of wandering, but I will tell you that I made several phone calls to Peter, he actually called me AND texted my phone, and at one point he was telling us to head down and alley and across a parking lot at which point I started to wonder if he was hunting us down to shank us in some dark corner of historic Santa Fe. But I am trying to have more faith in people, cause generally people are guilty til proven innocent in my book, and I don't like giving up. So on we trudged. Cold, tired, jet lagged. Finally, we found the place. What a gem! The chocolate was worth every wrong turn. Peter graciously gave us cups of chocolate on the house and a fantastic suggestion for lunch the next day.

3. Sunday we visited a couple national parks. The first of which had several old Native American cliff dwellings. So gorgeous. Went through a guided hike with a park ranger then continued the hike on our own. Now the ranger had explained there was a spot called the "alcove house" that was very pretty but up a series of ladders so if your are out of shape or have issues with heights, probably not the thing for you. Now my friend has a paralyzing fear of heights so she was like "I'm out" right away. And I thought man, that sounds like a lot of work and I'd have to do it by myself. Maybe not for me. But as we got closer there were little informational signs with artist renderings of the spot and you could see the ladders and the hike up. All I could think was man, I am going to be so pissed if I pass this up cause I was a little nervous. So on I went. Lone wolf. First ladder of like 20 pegs. A few feet rounding the cliff face in steep stairs cut into the rock and 8 inch wide "trail." Second ladder of about 30 pegs, another wind around the cliff face. Third ladder, about 45 pegs. Another small trail and finally the last ladder about 10 pegs. While the view and the native site above was beautiful and impressive in it's own right, it was made more special by the effort required to get there. With each ladder peg you are sort of forced to think about the age of the cliff, and what it must have been like to live there, and how damn athletic these people must have been. I will totally admit to being winded at the end of the climb and despite having no pre-existing qualms with heights I almost freaked on the way down the biggest ladder. My hands were shaking and I have very slight bruises on my shins from clinging to that ladder for dear life.

Overall, a wonderful little getaway. Very much needed, in fact. Originally, I sort of felt like a crazy person thro
wing together this vacation so shortly after moving but as we have unpacked and Nick has started going to work I was having trouble grounding myself. A new city that wasn't really all that new, no real plans, no idea where I am going to be tomorrow much less next month, really easy to loose your sense of self amidst so much uncertainty and traveling has always made me more comfortable in my own skin. This time, like all the others, was no different.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Running as a Metaphor

It finally happened. I had that day. The day all twenty somethings (and I guess maybe a few thirty somethings) have where they realize their bodies are not what they used to be. You find yourself thinking things like, "Remember that one time in Germany when Ashley and I totally took out that whole bottle of Jager in one night and it may as well have been water?" or "Gee, there was that one time in college I finished a whole pint of Oreo fluff in like 2 minutes, after lunch, and I was still hungry." But now you find yourself looking at a single shot of Jager and thinking, "man, I will probably regret this in the morning" or you finish off that Oreo fluff and not only are you stuffed but you also know the Oreo fluff will add to that mysterious fluff that has been sneaking over the waistline of the designer jeans you bought about a year ago. This is all clearly hypothetical of course. Yes my friends, those days are gone. Those beautiful days when all your calories were eaten away by the mere fact that you were young, busy, and going off an average of 5 hours of sleep a night, maybe. Which brings me to the heart of this post.

As a person that has always believed in prevention and nipping things in the bud I thought, well, I have two options. I could start dieting and counting things like carbs or calories or fat grams or whatever but my sincere love of food and my lack of basic math skills ruled that out immediately. That left option two. I need to become one of those people that work out and like,
really work out. As in not the way I have been working out for the past, oh, ever. Traditionally, I have been about as good at working out as a cat is at opening a screw top jar. I'll bat it around with my paw and knock it over. I may even bite the jar a few times, but the end result is always the same. I get bored, find a blanket, and take the world's most awesome nap.

So Nick and I have started running. Why running? I really don't know if I can answer that. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that it is free, or because it is solitary activity that prevents me from having to elliptical race the guy next to me in the gym, or because its the cool thing to do (all the celebs are running marathons now), or maybe it is because I have this uncanny knack to choose the hardest possible option and then beat myself up when I don't kick ass the first day as I have always hated running (the term every fiber of my being comes to mind) and I have always sucked at it.

(Ok this is a total non sequitur but it needs to be mentioned immediately. For the past two weeks my darling husband has been playing some really awful "Star Wars" game for PS3 obsessively. Just now he hit pause, sighs deeply and throws his head in his hands. I asked him what was wrong. He throws his fist down on the coffee table and says, "There is no way they could have that many storm troopers in reserve. It's just not realistic." There. It needed to be shared with the internet.)

So, running. In true Type A form the first thing I do is go online and find running nutrition information and a whole program for beginners to build a running base. "It's great to learn, cause knowledge is power!" So we started on week 3 of the program, which puts me at about the same skill level that I was when I was in 5th grade. And it should be noted that I was a really slow 5th grader. (I was the kid that stomped everyone in the flexibility portion of the presidential fitness test but virtually failed at everything else.) Thus far we have completed two runs successfully. I say successfully because with the first run we tried to start on week 4 of the program which was, evidently, more than I could handle. It was bad. There were tears. It was one of those really great moments where the running simply becomes symbolic for everything that could be wrong in your life at that very moment. It quickly spiraled from "I can't even run a full mile" to "I don't have a job" to "I have no direction" to "We are back in Charleston and not Italy or Japan or Hawaii" and I can't be sure but I think "I never got a pony for Christmas" probably ended up in there too. Nick, in his totally unconscious quest for sainthood, talked me back from the metaphorical edge and reminded me that all the embarrassment and the feeling of failure just comes with the territory of doing something new. Then he made me dinner.

So what have we learned? This move still blows and I am still dealing with that in my own repressed sort of way. And being all motivated about the move was great when I wasn't in the trenches. But all that motivation is pretty hard to find when you are "in the shit" so to speak. But like running, I think the key is getting over that first hump where you are convinced all the neighbors coming home from work are watching you run and thinking about how pathetic you look. After that, it is all downhill and I may not get my college metabolism back but I'll probably end up a better person for it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Do you have to be a jerk about it?

This post has been a long time in coming. And I have a feeling that there will eventually be more posts just like this one. You can file this under, "Hey, you don't need to be a jerk about it!"

As an individual recovering from 7 years of working in the retail industry I have become a little particular about customer service and exceedingly empathetic towards employee abuse. The latter being far worse than the former. Let's face it, if you get awful service somewhere you at least get to speak with someone in charge, get a company phone number to call, or at least know you can take your business elsewhere. However, if you are the employee being verbally abused all you can do is take it. If you get lucky you can call over your boss to take the heat. If you are unlucky you are the boss and the person who is angry doesn't understand the structure in corporate America and wonders why they can't speak directly to the owner of the business. Then they get really upset when they learn the only way to speak to corporate is through a 1-800 number with a teleprompt menu. All the while they are still yelling at you over something that you either can't fix, you can fix but would get you into trouble, or was simply a miscommunication and an honest mistake. There really is no quicker way to ruin a perfectly good day and squash your basic human dignity by knowing all you can do is lay back and take it like the proverbial whipping boy.

Yesterday Nick and I went grocery shopping. As we were checking out I happened to overhear.....well no there was no happen to overhear about it........cause it was that obnoxious level of loud you use when you are just on the verge of yelling but you don't want to cause a scene, so you pull it back a little but your voice is still loud and forceful enough that everyone around you hears anyway... So as we were checking out I hear the woman behind me talking about Baby belle Cheese. I love cheese so my interest was piqued. Sadly, the frumpy crow and equally squawky husband behind me were not touting the deliciousness of the snack-sized cheese wrapped in wax. Instead, they were berating the poor cashier for how expensive they were. They claimed to have found the same cheese at a competing grocery store for $3 less.

Now I appreciate frugality just as much, if not more than, the average 20 something with an armload of debt. But would it really have been so hard to simply say,"Oh I am sorry, we don't need the cheese. Could you please take that off?" and then wait til you were on your way to the car to say to your husband, "Hey, this was clearly more expensive than the other store. We should just shop there from now on." I mean really. How hard would that be? Instead this woman kept going on and on about the damn cheese. And violently rummaging through her purse. Then hurumpth "this place is so expensive it is just ridiculous." Then more rummaging. "It's how much? Well, I don't need that cheese. Take it off. I am never coming here again." Then her yappy purse dog of a husband pipes in with, "Did you get the Capri Sun at the bottom of the cart? I told you about that as soon as we got up here." Well off course the cashier forgot the Capri Sun you asshat! You and your wife have made this poor little 16 year old with the minimum wage, mind-numbing job so uncomfortable that if this same scenario played out in her bedroom this morning she probably would have forgotten to wear pants. I understand that your groceries were more expensive than you wanted. Ours were too. We too plan on doing our shopping somewhere else. But really, do you have to be a jerk about it?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


WE MADE IT! We are here. We have an apartment. We have stuff. We have cable, Internet, a new TV console, wine, beer, a limited amount of food in the kitchen and a new sleeper sofa being delivered tomorrow. And for those of you reading this blog I am rewarding your patience for this newest entry with these photos:
Now, I realize that these are far and
away not the highest quality photos I have ever taken. The battery on my Canon is going dead and it is on the list of important random things we have yet to find in boxes. (Also on that list is the turntable for the microwave. All our kitchen boxes have been opened....can't wait to see where that thing ended up.) But seriously, how awesomely pissed is that cat?

So lets talk Charleston, shall we? Nick and I get into town late on the 14th. We have a room reserved at a Sheraton in the northern part of town. Now, while the northern part of Charleston is not generally regarded as a "garden spot," the hotel we are staying at is near the fairly new outlet mall and the airport. So it is one of the nicer pet friendly hotels we have stayed at. We check in, find the closest entrance, park the car and start to unload the overnight items and the pets. As I am scurrying to the
door with our dog, Bennet, I am approached by this guy that looks like Jeff Daniels circa "Dumb and Dumber.
"Jeff Daniels": "What kinda dawg is that?"
Me: "It's a Welsh Corgi."
"Jeff Daniels": "Ah've neever seen a dawg laihk that beefore.
Wee've got our dawg heere too. Hee's a peet buul. Man, hee's only seven months old and hee's aready fiftee pounds."
Me: "Wow, umm, have a good night!"
As I hustle through the door I realize he is following me to the elevator. I walk faster hoping against all odds that I could make it to the elevator fast enough that I can call the car and hop in before he can join me. No such luck. As he slips in with me his kids, a pudgy blond boy with glasses and a frizzy haired girl wearing a belly baring tye-dyed tee, join us. They are holding take-out bags. Bennet is sitting at attention in his non judgemental dog-like way hoping someone will notice him and give him a scrap.
"Jeff Daniels": "Hee's smellin' yer dienner. Eef that were our dawg wee'd just hafta let 'em go tuh town"
I suddenly have images of snots the dog from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" having my little dog for a snack. Thankfully, I got off on the 4th floor and they stayed in the elevator for a longer ride. My first thought was, "Well, shit. We're back."

I will admit, despite a good showing by the local color on the first day, I was still happy to finally be here and get in our apartment. In fact, after we finished with our apartment paperwork and got our keys one of the leasing agents said, "Welcome Home," which is a tactic I am sure is in every playbook for leasing agents everywhere, but I still caug
ht a very small lump in my throat. Under normal circumstances that lump would have been a little bit of vomit, but this time I had been without a place of my own for 3 1/2 months. So I feel the Oprah moment was deserved. And, in case you are wondering, our new place is a 2 bedroomed, lots of cabinets and counter space, tons of closets, kick-ass screened in patio, thing of glory! Of course that also means we have to readjust to living in suburban Charleston. For example, our home in Seattle was two blocks off the main drag in West Seattle. Shopping, coffee shops, bars......well here: See that picture? That is Nick cleaning off mystery spots on our couch. We had no idea they were there until we got our couch back from storage. What are they? I don't know, but I have a few ideas. We will just say some stuff went down in that wonderful little 1 bedroom in Seattle. (And Crystal, in case you are reading, you should know it all went down on our furniture, rugs, and easily cleaned linoleum.) That stuff went down because we were the people with the city apartment and therefore frequently had had overnight guests after we stumbled home. Those days are gone. Nick and I did a timed coffee run yesterday. HALF AN HOUR!!!!!!! It took us half an hour to reach the nearest Starbucks, not even get out of the car but do the drive though, and get home.

To also be filed under readjustment is learning how to get anywhere. Yesterday we went out an bought a Charleston Road map so we could study it. I realize this seems silly but you wouldn't think so if it was you who spent the last 3 days making a turn on a road you thought was the correct state highway but wasn't. To add to this confusion Charleston apparently likes to honor their dead by naming streets after them but then ran out of streets so they just started renaming portions of streets. This has lead to us shaking our fists screaming "WTF, Charleston?" on more than one occasion. For example, hwy 61 is also Ashely Rivers Rd. Off that is Paul Cantrell Blvd which turns into Glen McConnell Pkwy. Intersecting with Paul Cantrell is Tobias Gadson Rd which turns into Orleans St......I think. This is all from memory. And the best part? These streets are all in our part of town, which is fairly underdeveloped, which leads me to believe all these names happened after the rest of the country discovered the ease of use of the grid and numbers system. Thanks, Chucktown!

While on the mention of underdeveloped. There is also a startling lack of highway lights in our neck of the woods resulting in the mini cooper doing a little off-roading last night. A good portion of suburban Charleston commerce is built off a system state highways and frontage roads. So the ability to make a good u-turn in this town is a must. Last night we were trying to hit a grocery store and Nick takes a wrong turn. The speed limit is like 55 mph so all the locals are going like 70 mph. So the combination of the speed and zero lights on the road means we miss the first two turn around points and turn too late for the third putting us squarely in the grass. Which, I guess is still a step up from the first time we got lost in Seattle and Nick ended up driving over a corner of sidewalk.

All those annoyances aside I am really optimistic. We found a great locally o
wned coffee shop (dirty chai is my new favorite drink), a lounge that looks like it fell out of downtown Seattle (it serves truffled tater tots), and a liquor store with a GREAT selection of imported and micro brews near by.....well a 15 minute drive, but that is our new "nearby." Now all we need to do is find a good bakery (I have high hopes for this place we have been passing called "Rococo") and we will be in business!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

We Visit Home and Have a Dramatic Coffee Trip

Still making it across the country. We have been staying with my parents for the past few days which has been really nice. My parents have never been the type to make a huge ordeal out of us coming home. A few days before hand my mom calls and asks us what kinda of deli meat we want and, "Oh yeah, Nick likes pumpkin pie, right?" My mom and I make at least one obligatory trip to the mall five minutes from our house and discuss what shops are new and what went out of business. Every time we go I always can't help but feel like she is a little disappointed when I don't buy anything, despite all the discussion on being thrifty and saving money. Should I purchase something, the flood gates open and she repeatedly goads me, "You could always buy that throw pillow, it would look perfect with the painting you just got." But, in all fairness I do the same thing to her too. I believe in most "anonymous" programs this is called "enabling."

Nick and I were also able to meet up with old high school friends and their respective spouses, who I consider high school friends as well; not only for the ease of categorizing the people I know, but also because they are that damn cool. Few things in the world are better than having drinks with people you have known since before you were old enough to drink, legally or otherwise. It is one of those things that makes you realize that getting older may not be so bad because there are a few things that don't change, they merely become variations of the past events. And yes, this becomes particularly clarified when you all gather and have a drink while watching "Dawson's Creek." A show you remember watching with your best friend and turning to each other afterward and comparing each plot twist with your own life(although devoid of the copious sexual escapades...we were good kids). No, I am not above admitting that. There is one of these shows for each generation, at least ours had
overly advanced vocabulary and syntax. So there.

Lastly, something awesome happened this morning. Nick and I had an imaginary standoff with a slim Asian family. Let me explain. My husband is one of the most offensive drivers in the history of things with wheels. Had he been around during the days of horse drawn carriages he would have taken the blinders off the horses and trained them to attack oncoming buggies. This morning we went to Barnes and Noble to procure some coffee and an audio book for the last half of our trip. We found a woman getting into here car to leave at the end of the first row of the whole lot. Nick approaches but is a little late in turning on his blinker so a tan Volvo approaches at the same time. Nick starts strategizing out loud the best angle to swoop in and snag the spot before the Volvo can even hit the gas. Because Nick would probably have the skills to drive an SUV through the narrowest alley in Europe while breaking the sound barrier and come out without so much as a scratch; he snags the primo spot with ease. As we reach for the door handles the Volvo stops and idles behind our car for a few moments. Shit. We pissed off the wrong people. We sat still hoping there wouldn't be some over-caffeinated, over-empowered, and over-stressed guy in business apparel rapping on our window to scream at us for 5 minutes. The the Volvo moved on, to park, in the loading zone adjacent to the Double shit. At this point we are both convinced that some overweight guy in a trucker cap and sweat stained t-shirt is going to hop out, grab the baseball bat from his trunk and start huffing and puffing his way towards us. We sat. We debated whether we would have time to make it to safety inside the populated book store. We sat for probably about 5 minutes. Finally, two skinny Asian kids with glasses and laptop bags hopped out of the back seat and walked past our row of cars and hopped into the car they were meeting two rows behind us.

Tune in next time when the Roas run scared from leaves blowing in the wind.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Of Truckstops and Knick-Knacks

Nick and I have officially started our trip out east. Today ends day 3 of travel. Really, this is our favorite part of the whole process. Something about just being in the car and on the road just works for us. There really is a romance of simplicity to it. You have one goal, few ways to procrastinate, the necessity to cooperate with your travel partners, and an endless number of unforeseen obstacles that could find their way into your itinerary. And really, let's be honest, it is inevitably those obstacles and surprises that make our trips memorable.

Currently, we are in Dallas ending the pioneering portion of our trip. Starting
tomorrow our trip the rest of the way east will revolve around visiting various family and friends. However the past three days we have been on our own rockin' it out from San Diego across the desert of the southwest. Probably one of my favorite regions in the country. Just beautiful. And while I was fully aware that I was in "desert" region I did not realize that there are parts of this country that have full out desert dunes. Yeah, like no joke I just fell into the Sahara, giant velvety foam looking dunes. Amazing! I made us pull over at the nearest rest stop to take pictures. It was here at this truly primitive rest stop with no picnic tables or running water that I also stumbled across this little gem: Yes. That is a sign reminding your that car theft is wrong and includes a hot line. I am sorry. I could have sworn there was already a hot line for reporting car theft. I learned it when I was 3. The phone number is 9-1-1. "Hi, police. I need to report a car getting jacked." Having a separate hot line just seems excessive and confusing, doesn't it?

We cont
inued passing through Arizona and started coming across these billboards for "The Thing". Now I am a huge sucker for roadside attractions. You heard right. If there is a huge jack-a-lope, or a potato chip that looks like the Madonna (or one that looks like just Madonna for that matter), or the world's largest collection of garden gnomes within 10 miles of the highway I will beg to go. AND it is a well known fact that the farther out the billboards start the more awesomely bad the attraction will be. So after an hour of: "The Thing: see the desert mystery", "The Thing: and get a Dairy Queen Blizzard", "The Thing: and Handmade Pottery" and finally "The Thing: and Southwest Jewelry" I was dead set on exiting at #322. Admission was a $1 for my husband and I; it was worth every penny we paid to the two old cashiers with 10 teeth between them. Spoiler alert: The thing about "The Thing" is there is no thing but instead, several things. Three long, open, aluminum shacks encompassing the trailers behind the truck stop where, I'm assuming, the employees lived. These shacks were filled with an extensive collection of stuff that defies description of genre or value. A few favorites of mine included: an antique Roles Royce that Hitler may (or may not) have ridden, a collection of torture themed sculptures, and a mummy with no description of how old it was, where it was found, or even if it was real.

However, the climax of our trip thus far happened late last night. At about 10PM we were working our way through western Texas. We had gone through one last border inspection station about 30 minutes earlier and Nick decided that he needed a caffeine fix so we pulled of the next exit to a truck stop near Van Horn and "The Plateau." Now I have procured gas and taken a leak at various truck stops all over this great country of ours. And while cleaner than some this stop took the cake by being the SKETCHIEST TRUCK STOP EVER! As we walked in we were greeted by a $54 three foot figurine of a cougar across from a relief in reverse of Jesus. I got nicely ogled by a big, burly, guy with a sweet 'stache, trucker cap, and a ponytail that was longer than I have ever been able to grow my hair. He was playing a virtual slot machine as he watched me walk into the bathroom and I thought, "Great, tonight is the night I get Jodie Fostered." However, upon entering the ladies room I was distracted by the sign above the sink noting that there was no potable water...charming. Then as I entered the stall I spotted a nice little scribble: "For a good time call your mom so that she can slap some since into you." JACKPOT! I couldn't wait to tell Nick about my little find. As soon as we are in the safety of our little car and turn to him:
"Guess what I saw in the bathroom!"

"A guy shitting out little balls of cocaine? Cause that's what I saw in mine."

"How do you know?"

"Some guy was in the can with an empty grocery sack set out at his feet. I don't know what else he could be doing."
Checkmate. Nick wins. There isn't a possible bathroom wall typo that could compete with that.