June 25, 2008

Yummy, yummy eggs

Last night Allen fixed us some wonderful omelets for supper. There are plenty of times when Allen will chop, and I'll cook. Omelet nights are the reverse. I chop, and Allen is one who really makes all the yummy happen. These were Allen's first attempt a recreating an omelet he had at Kerbey Lane Cafe in Austin -namely their baked potato omelet. For these Allen and I used 3 baked red potatoes, 8 sliced of crumbled bacon, approx. 3/4c chopped green onions, aged Australian cheddar, and a total of six eggs for our two omeletes. Plus various seasonings of course. They were so good. To make them you sprinkle the bacon pieces and chopped onion on the eggs as they are cooking in the pan. Then after you've flipped it you add pieces of baked potato and cheese and fold over. As to seasonings a sprinkling of salt and pepper beaten into the eggs is sufficient. I like to add red pepper, but Allen can tell you I'm a cayenne junky. As to temperature, times, and flippablity I can say very little. Allen is the egg genius in the family. I mostly just scramble 'em with cheese. Not only were the omelets very good, the leftovers scramble up wonderfully. Today I scrambled up the leftover green onions with half a red potato lightly sauteed in butter, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Very satisfying with a slice of whole grain, 3-seed toast spread with coconut oil.

I love it when Allen cooks for me.

Blog friend, blog friend where have you gone?

One my blog friends, Elisa, is taking down her blog soon. Fortunately I have the privilege of knowing her in real life, so it's not as though all is lost. Her announcement just made me realize how much I like having lives written down in words. They become like favorite stories I can turn to again and again. When I'm tired, lonely, don't feel I fit in, mad, or even outrageously happy I can turn to these lives like turning pages in a book and find the comfort and camaraderie I seek.

For instance, while giving her blog a farewell read I came across a post in which Elisa blogged on her seeming disconnect with her culture as a young, single woman. From my vantage point I want to say "No way, hosea! You have the perfect single life -cooking, gardening, friends and pesto, Sunday morning bike rides to Starbucks, that glorious bike, walking distance to the botanical gardens!?!?1" Like I said -perfect single life. But there are all these reasons why Elisa didn't feel like she fit into the role. There are all these reasons I feel like I don't fit into my role. Why it shouldn't be the same for people around me I don't know. But I made that assumption. Then I stumbled back upon that blog post and found what a ridiculous assumption it was. Maybe other people feel the same way? Maybe I should stop projecting? Just a thought.

Anyway, it's been a wonderful trip reading her blog till now. I'll miss it.

June 24, 2008

June 20, 2008

Blueberry muffins with a twist

I made these muffins on the occasion of our pastor paying us a visit this afternoon. Since I didn't want to have to make another grocery run this week I was to find aNamaste muffin mix in the pantry, blueberries in the freezer, and an orange in the fridge. And thus were born orange blueberry muffins. I mixed up my muffins as per instructions adding 1 1/2 cups of frozen blueberries, the zest and juice of an orange, and half a cup of sucanat (a minimally refined sugar) since my mix didn't have the sugar added. I must say they came out very well. The orange gives them a bit of an interesting twist. Our pastor ate three which I take to be a compliment. I also cut up a cantaloupe, but since Allen and Tom pretty much ignored it I got to eat the whole thing by myself. Yummy.

June 17, 2008

another peek at grad school

Every once in a while I have a peek at what might have been and find that there are some really interesting graduate programs out there. Unfortunately none of these were ever on my radar back when I was graduating from college, and now that I have the perspective to appreciate them I don't have the money. Well I never had the money. It was only my stipend that allowed me to attend grad school in the first place, and we can all see how that turned out. I fairly hated the place. My favorite part of going to school was the walk from our apartment to my eight o'clock class. The rest of it...meh. One day I sent in a few e-mails and submitted an application to be withdrawn from the university. That was that. Some days I still wish it could have worked out. My parents would have been a lot happier with me, and it would have fulfilled a dream of mine. But I have to ask myself, "what really matters here?" If I expected that a piece of paper would earn my parent's approval I have only to remember my own college graduation to know that's not true. That one B I made the summer before my sophomore year sort of nixed that on my mom's side. Talk about growing up with perfectionist tendencies! For my own sake, education was so completely ingrained in my psychic that I would have worked myself into the hospital for a piece of paper signifying completion of a program I intensely disliked and whose philosophies and shibboleths grated my weary and bleeding soul. Hardly a satisfying accomplishment. I know these things, and yet it's still the death of a dream. It was a very cheap, second-rate dream, but it was all I could afford at the time. Sometimes I wonder whether that shabby, much abused dream of mine will ever come back to me -the part that really was mine I mean and not just the fears and urgings of my parents. It seems like it must still be there somewhere in my passion for writing, books, and the well-informed imagination. I just don't know anymore.

June 16, 2008

Sick and tired....

...and just about as happy and satisfied as a girl can be. Allen and I went dancing tonight with the gang at Just Gotta Swing. I kick step, rock step, triple stepped myself just about sick with the exertion and heat, and then I charlestoned on some more until my feet got too heavy to move. When we left I was tired, literally covered in sweat from head to toe, and feeling like someone had punched me in the gut I had danced so hard. Of course part of my sore tummy could have been me trying to digest an apple while I bounced around to the sound of "fried green tomatoes." Note to self: eat earlier before going to dance. But gosh I had fun. Allen and I learned another charleston variation. He gets better as a dancer all the time. I got to dance some with Jered -our local lindy hop guru. I tend to be a pretty uptight person about some things. I want to know the rules and follow the rules 'cause doing that means being a good girl, and being a good girl is safe. Lindy though. If you get too uptight about the rules you sort of miss all the fun parts. As anyone will tell you about dances like lindy and swing, messing up confidently and with flair is all part of the dance 'cause nine times out of ten if you screw up boldly it will just end up looking cool. On the other hand if you do everything perfectly but have the heart of a wee cowering mouse you'll look horrible no matter how well you dance. In a way that's good training for me. So many times I followed the rules (or tried to) just so I could be a good girl and not get yelled at. Guess what. I got yelled at anyway. I still tried to follow the rules though because rules are good. They separate the good from the not good, and I really, really wanted to be good. Not good was scary. Now I still think rules are in general good to have. I'm no anarchist. But I'm thinking more about the rules. It's in the little stuff like not apologizing profusely and pathetically for forgetting to take the steak out of the freezer to thaw for supper because me being a good girl doesn't hang on a piece of steak anyway. It's also in the little stuff like letting my hair down and dancing without obsessing so much about whether or not I get the steps right. It's about being just a little more confident as a person who can do things and be things without constantly looking over my shoulder to make sure I'm appeasing the ghostly Powers That Be which still tend to haunt my life. It's about being Natalie.

I'm on to you Brian

It occurred to me to play around with putting a black background on my blog. Let me tell it makes photos POP! Pretty awesome really. Too bad I'm not a black blog sort of girl :) I'm telling you, Brian, I'm on to you. It's the black blog that's doing it :D

Seriously, Brian is an awesome photographer who ain't even on the same continent as me photographically speaking. You should check out his blog if you haven't.

A church and a garden

These are actually from two different days, but unfortunately if I went strictly by days some days would have 20 pictures and others 3. For my posting sanity I decided to even things out a bit.

This is St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Charleston. We got there just as the sun was getting low in the sky, and striking the most wonderful tones from the stonework. Pardon if the colors are off. I've been trying to adjust the colors as I go to recapture the vivid tints I remember from that afternoon. Unfortunately I'm still rather new at all this.

I loved the dimple details in the stonework, and nice wrought iron fences get me every time.

Hmm, yeah I think I got carried away with the color values. I still love this close up. That church simply soared.

And a pretty shady side yard with the sun behind. We went at the perfect time. The days were warm without being too hot, and the nights never got so cool that we really even needed an extra blanket at night. I hope we can go back to Charleston again sometime.

Part of free tickets included entrance to the Magnolia Garden Plantation. It's rather expensive if you decide to stop by sometime. They do have lovely gardens even though very little was blooming at the time. The house is very nice if you like that sort of thing. Personally I've seen lots of historic houses over the years and probably wouldn't spend the extra money for a house tour ticket again. Apparently they have one of the most photographed bridges in America, which for some perverse reason I failed to photograph. This is a view off the famous bridge though. Not sure about that cross in the distance.

And this is part of what was once the first formal garden in South Carolina. Hard to think Charleston was once brand new and a few miles out was something of a wilderness where hardy young souls brought their brave wives out to grow rice and attempt assemble their scraps of civilization into a semblance of European elegance.

This is actually one of my favorite pictures from the whole trip. I don't know if that spanish moss fell or was placed, but I think it's one of the most charming pictures out of the lot.

Coming up next pictures from out sunset cruise. That will either be a really long post, or I'll break it up over a few days. I have so many favorite pictures from that group it will be hard to pick.

June 13, 2008

Just when you think you're doing great...

So I've been doing a lot better about keeping the apartment clean and keeping my spirits up lately. Considering my tenuous relationship with work those tend to be one in the same. I have a little chalkboard that I use to write up my to-do lists. It definitely helps me in biting off manageable, satisfying pieces of housework. Making great big slash marks through my completed tasks is fun. I also feel just the teansiest bit green doing so knowing that I'm not squandering money and resources/landfill space on my daily lists. Not a big deal exactly, but I suppose it's partly the mindset that matters.

Like I said, I've felt pretty good about all this, but lately I've been battling the tired and grouchies in a big way. And before anyone hints at anything let me say it's exactly the wrong time of the month for that -whichever one you mean. From talking to my mother-in-law it seems like underneath all this progress I've been making I've been doing more than a bit of burden bearing on the side, and it's really been weighing down my heart. As some of you know I don't have the best relationship with my parents, and I really don't get to see them much. My mom pretty much ignores I exist, but Dad will talk to me when the opportunity presents itself (like us showing up at graduation and such). Really it's for my dad that I seen to be carrying this burden. And by burden bearing I don't mean the useful sort that you can do much about. Well, I can pray, but I'm afraid I tend to forget that prayer is actually does storm heaven and therefore don't do so much of it. Nope, this is the good old heart crushing kind that consists of standing around with your hands too tied to do much of anything. You see my dad has diabetes, which can in time turn into all sorts of things if they aren't taken care of properly. Being an herbal girl I have very different feelings about what constitutes "properly." I could reel off a list of things my dad eats that he shouldn't and another list of things he could do to feel better that he doesn't. It's that age old woman's cry "If I had the feeding of him...." But I don't. And I'm not going to unless very drastic things that I don't wish on my family were to happen -and even if they did I probably wouldn't. Ok, so I can't go see him, can feed him, can't really influence the way he eats 'cause Mom sure as heck ain't listening to me. (To be very honest she'd likely say she was just returning the favor, but that's neither here not there right now.) And that's just the physical side of things. I've lived in that family. I've seen the junk, and I've been detoxing ever since. The sheer amount of brokenness that masquerades as a close, loving, evangelical family is staggering. That's not to say we weren't all those things, but we were all that and a lot more. Writing this, the last thing I want anyone to think is that I'm just pointing fingers at my family. I'm not. I'll be the first to recognize that both my mom and dad came out of vastly more broken circumstances and did what they could with what they had. It's only that here I am enjoying peace and happiness way beyond what I ever even dreamed was possible....and they don't get it. To them I'm the rebellious child who, scorning family ties, decided to make her own way. I almost feel like a character Plato's Allegory of the Cave. If you haven't heard it, it goes something like this. Once there was a group of people who lived and worked in a cave. This was their whole life. All they could see of any other world were shadows thrown against the wall by the dim light far away at the mouth of the cave. The people down there used to make up stories about the shadows -where they came from, what they were, and what they meant. Then one day, despite much jeering from his peers, a youth determinedly made his way out to the mouth of the cave and out into the world where the shadows lived. Once there he found a world so different from the one he expected, from the one he came from, that he was amazed. After living among them for a time and learning, the youth decided he must journey back into the cave and tell his friends and family of the wonders he had seen in hopes of persuading them to make the journey out into the shadowlands with him. All the way back he planned out the stories he would tell them, picking the most convincing details, selecting moving and vivid anecdotes. But when he got there and began to tell his stories all the people around him began to laugh at him. Not even his family would be believe him when he tried to tell them of the beautiful country he had found. The mocked him all the louder. Finally with a heavy heart the youth realized that he couldn't persuade anyone to return with him and made his weary way back to mouth of the cave. (My apologies to Plato for this crude retelling.) Somehow, by the grace of God, my eye were opened to a few things that I would love to go back and tell my family about, however they aren't so very interested in hearing them. It hurts with regards to my dad especially because he always seemed more sympathetic with my trials. Even though he really couldn't do anything, he always seemed to understand a bit better. Maybe also in a way he seems as trapped as I did. I suppose the thinking goes, "If I could help Dad, then Dad could help Mom, and everything would be ok." Only I don't see way for that to happen. It gets pretty heartbreaking at times with my hands tied the way they are. Sometime it's literally feels heartbreaking -like I have a heavy stone weighing down on my chest and bruising my heart. That's why I'm writing about all this. For me to write is to think and get things worked out a little instead of leaving everything to simmer inside my head. If I could bear some of their burdens and actually help my family out it would be different. As it is, the only thing that I can do to any purpose is pray. All the rest is simply a piling on of emotional bricks that can't help them and can only hurt me. Somehow I have to open my hands and say, "Even if something happened to Dad that in an ideal world I could have helped to prevent that's not my burden. It's theirs. Even though I would have shared it with them. They didn't want me to, and it's still theirs and not mine. Even if they were to somehow try to blame me, it's not my burden." Then I have to trust that if there really is something I can do that God will bring it to my attention.

You know I usually hear about this kind of thing in the context of a mother and her child. I have to sort of wonder how I ended up here. Well I can see the road, but I still wonder why this road why this struggle. Anyway, I may end up posting some more about this over the next few weeks. It's sort of what's going on at the moment.

June 12, 2008

Carriage Ride around Charleston

In exchange for sitting through a promotional spiel we got free tickets to several pleasant excursions in and around Charleston -including a carriage tour of the area. I think next time though we're going to have to walk because even carriage pace is too fast to really see much less capture much of the place.

This the inn where Col. Robert E. Lee stayed at the time of one of the Charleston fires. He actually saved the inn by ordering wet linens to be hung in the windows facing the fire. At that time of the year the linens were actually wool and were actually quite good protection. Unfortunately time and neglect did what the fire couldn't, and there was no Col. Lee to save it this time. The current inn is actually a reconstruction. It's still pretty though.

Due to the zoning regulations that govern historic Charleston you won't find any modern convenience stores or gas stations. You will, however, find little mom and pop operations scattered around the district.

This is one of several beautiful, large houses on the tip of the Battery overlooking Charleston Harbor. One of them boasts a pair of pigs guarding the entryway. The owner is actually a higher up in the Piggly Wiggly chain -possibly the owner.

Just one of the many houses in historic Charleston. I absolutely loved the masses of confederate jasmine growing up around these old homes. The flowers are so delicate, but it has a ripe, lazy scent that just hangs in the air all along these old streets.

After our carriage ride we went and walked through Battery Park. It's dotted here and there with statues of various people and events important to the history of Charleston. Dixie.

In the middle of the park they have a large, elevated gazebo. Every direction you look the tall pillars and arched roof frames another beautiful old live oak.

And here's a statue of General Moultrie.

June 11, 2008

God gets scary

I've been poking around a few of the church-friend blogs on my list. Apparently a very special man just died. I don't know how he died; I couldn't pick out his picture, but I probably stood in line to receive communion with him. I may have even shaken his hand on Sunday evening. Now he's gone though, and a woman I don't know but probably take communion with is left a widow. They're my family, and now he's gone.

Sometimes our God is scary.

June 10, 2008

On to Charleston

Well, I've finally gotten around to posting more pictures from vacation. There are from our first afternoon in Charleston area. We stayed at a very nice county park on James Island. If you ever want to camp and see Charleston I highly recommend it. You can set up your tent and listen to the bullfrogs and birds, when when you want to head out you're only 15 minutes from the Battery. I loved it. I only wish I'd taken more pictures.

This picture was taken off the fishing pier at the park. They rent bike pretty cheap at the campground, and most every night (and some mornings) Allen and I would ride our bikes around the various loops. One loop went along the salt marsh for a ways. At one place they have a lovely hanging bench swing just perfect for watching the sunset with your favorite hubby.

The reason why the previous picture was so dark and this picture is so wet is that only an hour or so after we'd set our tent up a great big storm blew through. We ended up racing it back to our tent thinking we'd hop in the car and head to town until the storm blew over. When we went to hop in the car, however, we discovered that while the car was unlocked we hadn't a clue where the car keys had gone. Allen went out in the pouring rain to hunt all over for them. It wasn't until he had come back and was leaning over the door talking to me that he looked up and found the keys on the roof of the car right where one of us had set them while pulling camping gear out of the car.

Here's a picture I took on the way out of the park after the storm. It's hard to catch the light just right after a storm when you still have dark clouds frowning on one half of the horizon and heavy golden sunlight pouring through on the other. We went kayaking on this little lake one morning for about an hour. They have some poky little creek areas around with lots of overhanging branches for hiding under. Allen and I raced. I won, but I thought my arms where about to fall off afterwards.

And here is our first taste of Charleston proper. This was taken from the walk along the Battery.

June 6, 2008

Who I am when I'm not who I thought I would be

So about a year and a half after leaving grad school I'm still trying to figure out who I am and what I'm supposed to be doing with myself. Growing up school and career where the big things. I grew up homeschooled with a stay at home mom, and yet the vast majority of my training was directed at making sure I got a good education and was ready for a career. Since I enjoyed learning that really wasn't a problem. All professions considered I really did think I'd prefer teaching at the college level since it seemed to be an admirably independent and scholarly pursuit. I liked the idea of being able to teach my favorite books to young adults and helping to forge and inform their imaginations. But, unfortunately that dream crashed and burned in the light of academia where the modern shibboleths are even more pronounced than one may imagine. So now here I am in a place unimagined by me some years earlier -without a career, kids, or higher academic attainments. Some days I can still hear my mom saying "and what exactly do you have to show for yourself?" Considering the state of my bedroom.... I've learned so much, but so much of it can't be quantified. I'm having to learn who I am when I'm not being defined by other people. I'm having to learn to do those housewifely things that my mom never really bothered teaching me, and it's not always easy. I'm having to learn to be comfortable in my own skin without surrounding myself with a wall of superficial attainments. It feels pretty naked sometimes. What I did justified who I was. Upon reflection though that's exactly opposite of what Christ teaches us. Apart from Him all our good works are filthy rags without one hope of justifying us. But with Christ and through Christ our works (done in humble obedience to Him) become the natural outworking of our justification. Odd how I never saw that before. It explains a lot though. You have to be who you are before anything you do can really have any value. I suppose that's why it feels like I've been a bit stripped down lately. I'm still slowly learning who I am and what that means to the things that I do. I'm still not sure who I am when I'm not who I thought I would be. I'm not sure of the larger purpose in my life right now. I'm still lacking that overarching goal that drives us beyond today into a sea of tomorrows. In some ways I miss it. I don't want to sit back and get lazy because I'm not sure what to do next. I suppose this is where I start reaching out in different directions -growing until I find the daylight.

June 4, 2008

midweek and all's well

Had a job interview today for a substitute teaching position. Really have very little clue as to how that went. Everyone was very pleasant of course, and I think I spoke well. It just depends on what what they want. Not having much classroom experience of course is a negative, but we'll see how they feel. I suppose I'll get a call in a week or so. At least it's not a traditional school, so they're used to bringing in people without a terrific amount of formal training.

Health class starts tomorrow which means I need to get my ducks in a row around here. This week started out pretty exhausting for me for some physical and emotional reasons. Haven't quite gotten back up to speed yet.

Tomorrow or Friday I may post some more vacation pictures. We'll see how my day goes.