Thursday, June 30, 2011

It Getts Better. The Senate Says So.

You know, I really do try not to get (too) political on this blog. Which is a blatant lie, based on this post, & this one, & maybe this one. Oh, & don't forget this one. BUT STILL.

Also, I sort of hate YouTube. When people send me links ("OMG, funniest thing everrrr, I swearsies!"), I never get around to watching them, which only serves to make me feel like a Luddite when I can't keep up with their jokes later. YouTube is way too much of a time-suck, & I can't multitask if I'm watching a video or twenty. (Says the girl who blogs on her lunch breaks!)

Anyway, I digress. This video isn't about politics, even though its done by politicians. And its message supersedes my general dislike of YouTube.


If you're taking bets on whether this little number brought me to tears, I bet you won your bet - enjoy that money! Or actually, maybe you didn't win, because anyone who knows me at all would put money on my crying over this, so perhaps your bet was a draw. In that case, I'm sorry I'm so predictable.

A million thank-yous to Delaware's Sen. Chris Coons, who spearheaded this video, & to my senator, Sherrod Brown, who appeared in it, as well as to all the brave senators who spoke in this video on behalf of equality &, you know, general compassion.

Also, based on this video, I would like for Sen. Mark Udall to adopt me & be my father. Please? Anyone? Just me? No? Come on, he's awesome. And super fatherly. Right?!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Awkward Cupcakes

Hey, did I mention that Nathan came home from deployment? He did! And when he got here, I was ready & waiting with some homemade goodies, including a pretty sweet pennant banner, which is still hanging, & these strawberry lemonade cupcakes:

What you can't tell is that those cupcakes actually read "WELCOME HOMF," which sounds vaguely German, because there were not enough E's available on the sheet of candy letters. Still, it was better than my first attempt at a welcome message, which looked like this:

Yeah, I think that error was a little bit more noticeable.

And then I ate a bunch of the leftover candy letters. And regretted it.

In keeping with the awesome cupcake theme, I made Sprinkles red velvet cupcakes for a BBQ I hosted last weekend while in Ohio. I wish I'd thought to take a photo when there was more than one cupcake left in the pan, as it would've been slightly more giggle-worthy. Alas, these desserts were so delicious that they temporarily blurred my blogability senses. Anyway, these cupcakes look distinctly like a part of the female anatomy, which did not go unnoticed by my guests.
 

Not on purpose, I swear! Apparently Sprinkles is a big, famous NYC bakery. How come no one ever accuses the Sprinkles folks of making boob cupcakes?!

Katy Perry, at least, would be proud.

As Charlie Sheen Would Say, #Winning*

You may recall that 22 days ago, I posted about a magazine subscription giveaway generously sponsored by ValueMags.com. Over the course of the last three weeks, I've realized one of the key reasons why I so rarely do giveaways: I forget to end them. So now, three weeks & one day later (thanks for your patience, ValueMags.com people), I have blessed you with an awkward video of me & my ginormous feather earrings as I announce the winner.


Yeah, thanks for that stellar screenshot, Blogger. Anyway, I swear it was all on the up & up:
 
 

Expand away, friend! 

*God, that phrase is so overused. Please forgive me, readers, for I have sinned, but how could I pass up the only valid opportunity to use such a passe hashtag from a crazy man?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Like Buttah

I just got back from nine days in Ohio, where Nathan & I spent most of our time eating (which is business as usual for me). As a result, I am pretty sure I'm about two grilled cheese sandwiches & one bacon-date milkshake away from a coronary.

Speaking of coronaries, some friends indulged my ritual request to consume waffles after closing out the bar one evening. So consume waffles we I did! Toward the end of the 2am-ish meal, three small cups of condiments sat atop our table: syrup, butter & mayonnaise. (That was not mine, I swear - Nathan had a BLT!) I told my friend Peebles I'd pay for his meal at Melt Bar & Grilled if he'd down one of the three available condiments... & he chose butter.

We remain in disagreement about which condiment was the better choice. I say a shot of syrup would have been the most painless way to go; he insists butter was the clear frontrunner. (We can both agree that mayonnaise was never an option.) And yes, we are 16 years old. I dared my friend to eat butter. And he did. And I made a photo collage of it.


Later that week, my pal Anthony blasted through a long-standing two-hot-dog barrier at Happy Dog, a magical place I've blogged about in the past. Though many of my friends have, in the past, claimed to be able to consume more than two, friend after friend has failed in the actual attempt. But not Anthony, who blazed through three & didn't even complain of intestinal mutiny or claim boisterous victory.

My friends are machines.

Also, in assembling this post, it becomes painfully, stomach-achingly (no, really) clear that I need a new hobby. Like, say, exercising?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Impending Fiesta?

Spotted on my mom's kitchen counter, explanation unclear.


Such is the life of a children's librarian. Props & costumes are not uncommon!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How I'd Love, Love, Love to Dance With My Father Again

Has it really been 16 years? Can it possibly have been that long since I saw his face, heard his voice, laughed at one of his impossibly cheesy jokes? Have I been The Girl Without a Father for 16 years of my life? At this point, he has been out of my life for much, much longer than he was in it. The pain should have subsided, yes? It shouldn't hurt anymore, not like it sometimes still does. But who gets to say how things like a father's death "should" feel? Maybe this is exactly how it should feel.

I did not know my father well enough to know whether I am anything like him. He was known for his sense of humor, & I like to think I have a bit of that in me. I know that he didn't like big dogs or tomatoes. I remember how much he loved "Home Improvement," & how he teased me for being unable to make that guttural throat noise that was Tim the Toolman Taylor's signature. I know that he once received three speeding tickets in three counties in one day & that he didn't like motorcycles because one of his childhood friends died riding one. I know that he could identify a car by everything but color just by seeing the shape of it underneath a tarp. I know he had funny nicknames for neighbors he secretly disliked & that carrot cake was his favorite dessert. I know that he had a handshake strong enough to be the subject of a eulogy & that he was my uncle's partner in viewings of Sylvester Stallone films. I know that he always wore a foam fish head on Halloween & that he once came to my Odyssey of the Mind competition in a wheelchair rather than miss it altogether. I know that when his high school friends were playing varsity sports, he was working an after-school job to support his family & that he later dropped out of college to financially support his alcoholic father.

I don't think about him as often as I ought to, but I feel his absence daily & deeply. I think of him when I see a shiny, old car drive down the road, top down, with a happy old man at the wheel. I think of him when I eat at Swenson's, the local drive-in where he took me after dance practice for a grilled cheese & an ice cream sundae. I think of him when I could benefit from fatherly advice but am unable to identify what that might have looked like, had he lived long enough to provide it. I wonder what he would have thought of adult-aged me & what sort of father-daughter relationship we might've had. Of course, I like to think we would have been close, but who can say?

I can recognize that I do not know who my father was, not really. But I know that he was a good man who didn't deserve the end he met - does anyone deserve to waste away like that, to succumb to cancer & leave behind a young wife & small child? Yes, I know that he was a good man who, 16 years after his death, is missed every day, in every way. His headstone reads, "One of the good guys," & that's exactly how I like to imagine him.


"A song for a heart so big, God wouldn't let it live."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Redneck Disney World

At the southernmost tip of the great state of Maine lies a magical place known as the Kittery Trading Post. When you Google this mythical land, the subcategories that show up include "shooting accessories, "ammunition & magazines," "hunting clothing & footwear" & "archery," which should give you a feel for where this is going.


This moose greets you at the entrance. Similar moose greet you at the other entrances - because this place is freaking huge, multiple suburban blocks long & three floors high, so as far as I can tell, there are approximately a bazillion ways to get in. I once asked an employee for directions out & when I said, "I came in near the big moose," she asked, "Which one?" But lest you think this cadre of moose complete the KTP's taxidermied troops...


Would a zoom help? And maybe some big red circles to help you identify each dead animal? OK, here you go:


Yeah, I don't even know what some of those are. Is that a mountain goat? And that's just one wall! Kittery Trading Post is a veritable Where's Waldo of formerly living forest creatures.

But if formerly living forest creatures are too creepy for you - though I can't see why they would be - KTP also sells the cuddly creatures featured below. This is also a great way to prepare small children to their futures as expert marksmen.

The Foursquare reviews of the Kittery Trading Post are largely positive &, I assume, largely written by hunters & archers. I think I'm on Scott K.'s side:


But three floors is room for a lot of crap, which I have taken great pains to thoroughly explore. KTP specializes in actual hardcore outdoorsy gear, with the second floor almost entirely devoted to camping gear, kayaking equipment & the like. Because I am one of life's least outdoorsy individuals, I have yet to explore this area, but I have put lots of effort into checking out KTP's many tchotchkes, which is Yiddish for "crap that accumulates dust on shelves." If there's one thing I like, it's tchotchkes. Here's a smattering of some of my favorites:


At KTP, it also becomes obvious that these Mainers really embrace their Northeast roots. Just about everything in the store screams, "ALL WE HAVE IN THIS STATE IS MOOSE & LOBSTER & TOTAL WILDERNESS!"

But KTP is more than just a souvenir haven for Maine-bound tourists! It also sells items of great practical use. For example, if you're a lady cowhand in search of a new pair of overalls to wear while mucking in animal dung all day, KTP has just the section for you:

And you'll need shoes for all that dung-steppin', so don't forget to stop by KTP's shoe section*, where you can go hog-wild over the latest style of Dingos. Next wall over: UGGs. I kid you not.

If you fancy yourself a homemaker who values locally sourced foods, you'll love KTP's fascinatingly excessive selection of jellies & jams, stocked with everything from classic Strawberry Jam to the naughtier Spiced Rum Butterscotch Sauce to savory choices like Roasted Garlic Onion jam.**

And if you've got an unsightly hitch on the back o' yer truck, KTP can help you cover it up... with even more sightly plastic hitch covers in the shapes of feathered & furry friends! Turkeys, for example. And coyotes, but you have to pronounce it "KI-yotes," please, like the locals. And, um, buoys, for all you animal-haters out there who still want to cover your hitches in style. God, I've never used the word "style" so liberally in my life.
 

If you want to know the truth, I'm mildly obsessed with the Kittery Trading Post. OBVIOUSLY. It really is like redneck Disney World, but without the princesses & excessive branding. It's the Country Bear Jamboree come to life! At least they own it:


And in case, at the end of your visit, you're feeling overwhelmed by the dirty sin of consumerism, just stop by the bathroom on your way out, where your friendly local evangelicals have left reminders for you of Jesus's love. Atop the soap dispenser.




*Full disclosure: I bought a pair of discounted Sperry Topsiders here.
**Let's face it, this shiz is delicious; I can't bring myself to hate.

Monday, June 13, 2011

You Can Do it, Put Your Back (Brace) Into It

I have a lot of stories, I guess. After I wrote that post about shaving my head, I realized I have plenty of interesting stories to tell - and what better outlet?

This is the story of the time I was a turtle.

I'm not kidding, really. Of course, I was never an ACTUAL turtle (sad), but I had a lot in common with them - namely, a hard outer shell. At age 10, I had x-rays to determine whether I had bronchitis. "Well, you don't have bronchitis," the doctor told me, "but you do probably need a back brace."My scoliosis was so severe & my spine was so twisted that if it wasn't addressed, I could expect to be deformed by... well, age 26 or so. (Cue retrospective gratitude.)

Less like this...
If you've ever read Judy Blume's "Deenie" or seen Rumer Willis in "The House Bunny" (wow, those two references are different...), you probably have a mental image of nerdy, glasses-wearing, stringy-haired me wearing a metal contraption complete with headgear. Though having a back brace sucked, I was fortunate enough that by 1996, technology had advanced such that headgear has never been a part of my life, & at no point could you stick magnets to my torso.

The crappy parts of wearing a back brace were as follows:

  • I started sixth grade, the time when two area elementary schools came together for the first time, as The Girl With the Back Brace. In case middle school isn't difficult enough.

  • I had to wear it 23/7, which left me just an hour sans plastic, designated for showering. At this time, my home was not air-conditioned, so I spent summer nights sleeping in sausage casing in 90-degree weather. Ideal, I know.

  • The brace sometimes squeaked when I breathed, which was particularly awkward during tests & in homeroom, when absolute silence was required. Though I often used this as an excuse to request that I be allowed to remove my brace (rebel!), my homeroom teacher instead asked me to sit in the lab, sequestered from the rest of the class, so I could squeak in solitude.

  • There were airholes in the brace, designed to help keep me stay comfortable (ha). My friends, the tricky, middle-school-aged devils they were, memorized the locations of these finger-sized holes &... stuck their fingers in them. And their pencils. (This sounds sadder than it is, I swear. They are still my friends.)

  • I had a bad habit of getting my armput region stuck between my brace &... whatever else was around. My bed, the wall, class desks, you get it. This resulted in constant bruising of my back-fat area (though I was, at age 12, thin enough to be sans back-fat - ah, those were the days). Also, rashes. Enough said.

  • I've fallen & I can't get up. No, um, really. I once fell on the ice & slid underneath my mom's van & had to do my best not to choke & die on fumes while I waited for my mom to discover me & help me up. So back to that turtle reference. Get it now?

...& more like this.
In 1996, my orthopedist determined that my back brace wasn't working. COOL! A year in a back brace for no reason! Over holiday break, I underwent spinal fusion surgery to surgically straighten my spine, thus banishing the back brace to the corners of my closets &, eventually, to the trash can.

I'm straight now, mostly, though I have a two-&-a-half foot scar & still suffer from chronic back pain. Perhaps most astonishingly, the Girl With the Back Brace turned out to be pretty normal, not a traumatized former freak of nature. I can't say I remember that back brace fondly, but in some twisted (no pun intended) way, I'm thankful for the experience. How many people can say they've literally come out of their shell?

But I still hate turtles. Those bastards.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Keep It Classy, Portsmouth!

    In case it's not bad enough that your license plates bear the worst state motto* in the union...



    *I take that back, actually. Maryland's motto is "Manly deed, womanly words," and California's is simply "Eureka!"

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Granite State of Mind

    Things New Hampshire doesn't have:


    Mixed bag, huh? But our state drink is apple cider & Jumanji was filmed here. I can get down with those.

      Thursday, June 9, 2011

      In Case You Were Thinking of Stealing My Car...

      Greeting from Starbucks, which is currently serving as a safe haven for me & about 20 others in hiding from a severe (& severely rainy) thunderstorm.

      I'm lucky this weather didn't happen yesterday around this time, when I picked up carryout Thai from a nearby restaurant. After making conversation with the owners about how pleased I was to find good Thai food outside of D.C., I returned to my car with my chicken kaprow... & discovered I had locked myself out. My keys sat on the passenger seat, taunting me.

      Thank goodness for that AAA membership my grandmother gave me as a Chanukah gift. "Someone will be out within 45 minutes," the woman on the phone told me. Tail between my legs, I slunk back into the restaurant, explained what had happened, & asked if I could eat my to-go meal at a table. I dumped my food out of the carryout containers & into real dishes, my first solo meal in a restaurant that doesn't have wifi. What an undignified entry into the world of eating alone.

      When the locksmith finally came, he was... well, not a locksmith. He yelled "Are you kidding me?" at least 10 times - I counted. He also griped that my car, a late model Honda Civic, is the most difficult car to break into - as though it were a bad thing. I suppose that, under the circumstances, it was a bad thing, but that's certainly not a problem I typically mind having.

      As he attempted to break into my car, the restaurant's hippie hostess ran outside: "Next time, go down to the 7/11 & ask a bum to help you!" she advised me. "They're the best at that sort of thing!" And then she ran back inside. Hysterical advice, honestly, considering it was totally unsolicited & unexpected, & also because it seems totally unlikely that A) there are many car-jacking criminals lurking around the sleepy town of Kittery, Maine, and B) there will be a "next time" that I lock myself out of my car in that exact spot.

      "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" the AAA technician shouted again, this time more angrily than before. As if to indicate that it was, in fact, kidding, my Civic burst into loud alarm peals. I took what was left of my chicken kaprow & made my way home, my dignity only slightly damaged & my appreciation for AAA wholly renewed.

      Wednesday, June 8, 2011

      Typical Midwesterners: A Guide (Pt. 1)


      One of my favorite quotes is from the notoriously creepy yet talented actor John Malkovich, who once said, "I'm very much a typical Midwesterner, and I don't think the condition is curable." Amen, John. Me, too.

      But what is a "typical Midwesterner"? What characteristics make someone so Midwesty that they can never be cured? For one thing, I should note that I have no interest in curing my Midwestiness - but if I were looking to downplay my roots, where would I start? I spent last Saturday with a New Hampshire-born friend who's lived in Boston for the better part of the last decade, & our conversations about the many differences between our native lands got to thinking about what makes me so distinctly not from any other part of the country.  

      I've come up with a few things, & I know there are about a million more. This is a part one of an ongoing list. I welcome your additions & insight.
      1. To Be or Not To Be?
        My D.C. coworkers had a field day making fun of me when I once told them, "This document needs edited." Apparently that is not acceptable - and even I, with all my grammatical superiority, had no idea. I say things like, "The lawn needs mowed" and "The dog needs walked" all the time, a turn of grammatically incorrect phrase that is unique to the Midwest and maybe even to Ohio. In fact, when I applied for a job at the University of Akron, I spotted this "error" multiple times within the job description & application. I'm told that if you omit "to be," you have to turn the word into a gerund, for example, "The dog needs walking." I write this way, but I would never, ever speak this way.

      2. At the Drive-In
        Everyone's heard of drive-in movie theaters, which have mostly fallen by the wayside with the progression of, you know, it not being the 1950s anymore. But do you have beer drive-throughs where you're from? I'm told this is a strictly Midwestern phenomenon, but it's one I sure do like. Stay in your car & drive through the little tunnel attached to some gas stations, where an attendant will come out & take your order, then round up whatever it is you're looking for - a case of Miller Lite (see #5 on this list), Cheetos, gummy bears... Bringing a whole new meaning to "fast food" & a whole new level of convenience to small-town potheads.

      3. Eatin' Good Better in the Neighborhood
        When I first moved to D.C., my meals of choice included spaghetti, chicken fingers & mozzarella sticks. Yes, at age 23, I boasted the palate of a very picky third grader. Can you blame me? Though it seems to have improved as of late, the suburbs of the Midwest aren't exactly known for their culinary prowess. Growing up, my go-to restaurants included Applebee’s, Olive Garden, Damon's & the late Bennigan's (R.I.P.), which didn't allow for a great deal of palate expansion. It's only now, four years later, that I can claim to like Thai food, sushi, even - gasp! - Indian food without feeling like an imposter. I now make a concerted effort to eat at locally owned restaurants when back in the OH, but sometimes the Midwesterner in me just wants an Applebee's quesadilla, no shame.

      4. Stranger Danger
        I'll never forget the first time I visited New York City. At age 11, I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, & so suburban that I thought pigeons were pretty. (See also: IDIOT.) While touring the city with a friend who was a New York native, she caught me smiling at a passerby. "Did you just smile at a stranger?" she yelped. "Never smile as a stranger here. Do you hear me? Seriously, never." To this day, this is a piece of advice that I still follow... except when I'm in the Midwest, when smiling is still my favorite.

      5. Real Midwesterners of Genius
        Let me be clear: Everywhere else in the country is not the Home of the Original Lite Beer. Beer drinkers only tap the Rockies at backyards bonfires & bars with $1 drafts, which I should note, don't seem to exist in non-Midwestern cities. As a Midwesterner trying to adapt to a foreign (read: non-Midwest) city, you must drop all sentimental attachments to watered-down brew & develop an affinity for a more respectable drink of choice. If this means you must become a liquor lover, so be it, but you may not order a lite beer in good conscience on either Coast - and by “may not,” I mean “must not, if you want to keep your dignity.” Safe bets include Yuengling, Stella or Sam Adams, or only frequenting hipsteresque bars that serve PBR in a can so that you can get away with being a Midwesterner everywhere - & even looking kind of cool for it.
      So tell me: What makes your home region unique? And are you jealous of our beer drive-ins? And how did this list end up being so beer-centric...?

        Tuesday, June 7, 2011

        "I Never Want to Drink Anything That's Not Lemon Juice."

        Have you ever heard of flavor-tripping? I've been wanting to do it for a loooong time. And yes, I recognize that it sounds illegal. The New York Times assures you it's not.

        My friend Joey bought "miracle fruit" tablets online, & though it sort of felt like we should be taking them at a rave while wearing glow-in-the-dark necklaces, we set up shop on my mom's back porch & prepared to trip. Our spread of foods came from the 24-hour Midwestern Mecca that is Sheetz & entailed, in part:

        The instructions told us to let the tablets dissolve on our tongues. "THIS IS PROBABLY X," the Paranoid Future Jewish Mother section of my brain screamed. Needless to say, there was much skepticism:

        I don't know what sort of packaging X comes in, but I suspect it's more like plastic baggies & less like cute Asian flowers:

        And so we began, though not without trepidation:
        This is my Trepidation Face.
        And then... we ate! In truth, we were a bit disappointed in the strength of the miracle fruit tablets - which is to say that they weren't particularly strong. But the effects were still noticeable. Let's do a line-item analysis, shall we?
        • Glazed chocolate donut: Tasted just like a glazed chocolate donut
        • Guinness: Less beery, but certainly not the chocolate shake the New York Times promised me
        • Gummy bears: WAY TOO SWEET
        • Pineapple: Pineapple
        • Warheads: Shockingly unsour. Gimme another!
        • Limeade: Very sweet. No hint of sour. No hint of the gross way limeade typically tastes.
        • Lemon juice: Even sweeter. Please refer to title of post. I want, I want, I want. All of the times.
        • BBQ chips: My favorite chips tasted like cardboard. Do not want.
        • Salt & vinegar chips: Freaking amazing. I usually hate this flavor, but I had to refrain from my urge to nom the entire bag.
        • Tabasco sauce: Lingering spiciness, but by no means unbearable
        • Peanut butter fudge Oreos: Peanut butter fudge Oreos. No complaints here.
        • Blue cheese: Blue cheese. Complaints here.


        The verdict: Worth a try, but I'd like to flavor trip again with the "right" foods on hand or the actual berries instead of just tablets - or maybe in a professional setting, like at the flavor-tripping parties hosted in big-city bars (D.C., I miss you).

        Additional verdict: When I do it again, I will bring a vat of lemon juice. And also a pound of Tums. Those are for later, though I do wonder how they'd taste while trippin'...

        Journalism Is a Terminal Condition (Plus, a Pretty Cool Giveaway)

        This post is generously sponsored by ValueMags.com, but, as always, all content, wit & wisdom is my own.

        I'm a counter. I'm forever look back & counting how long it's been since X, how many years since Y: almost 16 years since my father died, almost 10 years since I graduated from high school, almost one year since I began dating Nathan, just over one year since I left my first (awesome) post-collegiate job. Sometimes I look back through my old Xanga sites just to see what I was doing on this day five or six years ago.

        Graduation day! (Please ignore my facial fatness.)
        This summer marks four years since I graduated college. It seems impossible that I've been gone for that long, that I've only seen one of my best friends a handful of times in that period. Sometimes, it seems impossible to believe that I'm not a journalist as planned, that I don't write professionally, that I'm not a reporter or an author or a grantwriter or a blogger (the "real" kind, you know...). Instead, my life took a path I never expected, sending me into the worlds of religion, communications, politics & all sort of other things I never planned or trained for.

        My degree is in Magazine Journalism, & if there's one thing I miss from college (aside from the friends & the youth-granted permission to drink like a fish), it's working for student media. In college, I wrote for the student newspaper, a respected & award-winning campus daily, & eventually held the position of assistant news editor, which I actually preferred to reporting. I also copyedited for a campus magazine called The Burr & was the managing editor of Fusion, yet another award-winning campus publication, this time a glossy quarterly focused on sexual minority issues. I spent most of my time in the newsroom or on my laptop, doing what I liked best: writing, writing, writing.

        It was 9/11 that cemented my decision to major in journalism. Cliche, I know. But watching the second tower fall as a chipper blonde newscaster reporter looked on in horror but never lost her composure, I knew what I wanted to do. What's sort of ironic about this is that my real goal was to work for one of two publications, Family Circle or People - neither of which, of course, was likely to report on anything quite as emotionally heavy as 9/11. I was sometimes embarrassed of this ambition, like when I took a summer class in DC with political wannabes & intellectual types who wanted to change the world. When I announced my career aspirations to the class, I consoled myself by telling myself that even head honchos need relaxing reading material.

        Obviously, I do not work for a magazine. Or a newspaper. Or any other sort of legitimate, professional media. Instead, this blog is my primary outlet, along with a few side projects I contribute to with some regularity. I could be more proactive than I am about seeking out writing opportunities - and I could really stand to reconnect with my old magazine habit instead of just day-in, day-out blog reading. Don't get me wrong, I like you guys, but my life is a better place when Glamour is involved.

        It's fitting, then, that a representative from discount magazine site ValueMags.com recently asked if I'd like to host a giveaway to my readers. As someone who used to subscribe to upwards of 10 magazines (sorry, Mother Nature), my answer was a hearty "yes." So in commemoration of my almost-four-year graduation anniversary & in recognition of my deep & abiding love of magazines both trashy & heady, I present to you a simple but rewarding giveaway: Comment on this post to be entered to win a magazine subscription of your choice. And yes, that includes everything from the usually-a-billion-dollars People to specialty publications like Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine.

        Go forth & indulge in casual reading material, friends!

        Monday, June 6, 2011

        This is Why I'm Not a Fashion Blogger (A Review & a Photo of Me Wearing Leggings Almost as Pants)

        I read a lot of blogs. Funny blogs, food blogs, feminist blogs, other blogs that cannot be identified with an adjective beginning with the letter F. But the subject of this post can be: fashion blogs.

        Yes, I subscribe to a handful of fashion blogs & find myself usually impressed/sometimes disdainful (dude, some people have bizarre taste) by others' style & their dedication to photographing themselves with regularity & posting their outfits online for the world to judge. This spring, a representative from online dress company Shabby Apple offered me the opportunity to review a dress of my choosing from the company's website, & though I'm the furthest thing from a fashion blogger, I thought it might be fun to play one for a bit.

        On top of that, I dig Shabby Apple's values. The company donates 5% of its net dress sales to Unitus, which supports women's work in India by providing them with microcredit loans. Some of these women's stories are featured on Shabby Apple's website, & I found myself reading through all of them. I heartily approve of fashion with a conscience!

        Then came the tough part: dressing myself. I initially chose the Kenya, a camel-colored faux wrap dress that the Shabby Apple rep assured me "looks good on every single person I've ever seen wear it." It seems I was the exception to this rule. I took photos, but they're basically NSFW with all the cleavage spilling out; you do not get to see them. Suffice it to say, I did not look nearly as ethereal as this model:

        The Kenya was quickly sent back from whence it came, & I moved on to my second choice, the Da Vinci, from Shabby Apple's new Roamin' Holiday Collection.


        This model must be a bazillion feet tall, because this dress came damn near my ankles. And the drop waist, designed to cover stomach baggage, made me look like I was unsuccessfully hiding a pregnancy. Perhaps these are both signs that the dress was too big - but I was too embarrassed to ask for yet another return! Instead, I asked my mom to hem the skirt & shorten it to a wearable, non-Amish length.

        Except the material was stretchy & flippy, & My Mom The Master Seamstress perhapppps overestimated the size of my ass, & so my lovely, free dress instead became, um, a tunic of sorts. Definitely not a dress anymore. Definitely not a wearable length. "Try it with leggings!" my mom suggested. So I tried. And... well, that looked stupid, & I oppose the wearing of leggings as pants. But did I mention that I'm wearing it today anyway? I can't pass up free clothes, guys, even if they're of questionable taste when all tailoring is said & done. And sometimes ugly stuff is comfy stuff.

        Basically, though my interactions with Shabby Apple were largely positive & both dresses were, in theory, quite nice, my experience confirmed that I would make for a terrible fashion blogger. If I had to photograph myself daily & post it for the blogging world to see, I would probably die of embarrassment & poor photography skills.


        I also apparently make for a terrible fashion wearer. Clearly, I cannot dress myself. SOS, Stacey & Clinton. Please send help.

        *Thank you to Shabby Apple for providing me the opportunity to review this dress. I'm really sorry I effed it up.
        *Credits as follows: Dress-turned-tunic, Shabby Apple/my mom; necklace, Send the Trend; sandals, Steve Madden; leggings, Target; shame, my own

        Sunday, June 5, 2011

        A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

        I am notorious for waking up early on weekend mornings... & then promptly falling back to sleep. Quite often, I think, "Today I'm going to get up & go to the farmers' market/brunch/the Unitarian Church/the grocery store/ANYWHERE THAT'S NOT MY COUCH," & then I return to slumber, only to wake up past noon. I've not yet reached that point of adulthood where I consider 9am to be "sleeping in," though I'm still hopeful that such a day will come. Eventually.

        This morning, however, was a pleasant anomaly. After two particularly restful evenings, I awoke at 9:30am & decided I would, in fact, get out of bed. AT NINE-THIRTY A.M. This is seriously unheard of. And beyond that, I also decided to leave the house, making today something like one in a gabillion.

        It was a gorgeous afternoon, & I spent it wandering downtown Portsmouth, checking out the scenes & enjoying the day. Though I recognize that this post is a bit of a change from my regular hilarity - and humility! - I thought I'd show you how pretty Portsmouth is so that next time I whine that I don't love it here, you can remind me, "BUT, KATE, IT'S REALLY PRETTY!" You don't have to use caps, though, please, or else it will feel like you're yelling at me. Those were just for emphasis on my part.

        Without further ado, I present to you "A Taste of Portsmouth: Unfiltered."


        It was the perfect day for exploring, 65 & sunny, which made for sweaters-and-sandals weather, my favorite. And of course, I still got sunburned.

        After much, much rain, spring has finally arrived! The result of our torrential downpours & near-tornadoes is lush greenery. Nevermind that cement, the prevalence of which has nothing to do with excessive rain.

        I don't like boats. But I do like trying to determine what I'd name my boat, if I had one. (Which I wouldn't, because I don't like boats, but still, sometimes I like to entertain Joey & Pacey fantasies, OK?)

        And then I stumbled upon this little cemetery, where the oldest gravestone was dated 1652.
         

        The engravings on the headstones were just fantastic, really Dia de Los Muertos-esque. When I die, can someone please make sure that I get one of these suckers? Like, maybe the one on the left? I want kids to hold seances around me, "Now & Then"-style.
         

        And then I found this:

        Say it ain't so, Sam!
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