So last time, I mentioned how we are going to be remodeling and moving into a house. Work began last week (and btw, that roof replacement I brought up? Yeah, that was actually ceiling tile replacement in one room.) While I worked on removing outlet covers and switch plates to prep for the painter to come this weekend, J worked on ripping out part of the kitchen cabinet in order to replace a pipe under the sink. That's when he discovered this:

Yes, that is mold. A moldy, rotten area of drywall, to be more specific. So not only do the pipes need to be replaced, but the drywall and part of the floor as well. In order to do all that, more of the cabinet had to be ripped out and our counter top had to be removed as well. Luckily, thanks to J's uncle, what we thought would be a huge crisis turned into more of a minor setback. Plus, we get a new counter top out of it.

I will get to resume my menial tasks this weekend while J works on the more complicated stuff. Next up? Removing wallpaper. I will try to contain my enthusiasm for what is (according to the inter-webs) a horrible job.


Project remodel is about to begin!

I'm back with some exciting news and a new direction for the blog. The bf and I are moving into a house! This is extremely appealing for a number of reasons. First of all, I haven't lived in a house since I left for college. I've spent pretty much my entire adult life in apartments or duplexes. Second, there will be 2 bathrooms in the house. In our place now, there are 3 people and only 1 bathroom. This is troubling in any case, but even more so with one of those people being a teenager. Plus, all women need an extra bathroom, right ladies? Third, and perhaps the most exciting reason, we will be renting the house from a relative, so it will be like owning a house without having a mortgage or being responsible for any catastrophic repairs. It's the best of all possible worlds.

This house was lived in for quite a while, and from all appearances, it was not very well cared for. Which means there is a lot of work that needs to be done. A LOT. Luckily, our landlord is taking care of the major issues and we are handling everything else. We aren't making any structural changes or anything, but otherwise, it's a complete remodel. Flooring replacement/refinishing, painting, fixtures, appliances, yard...the works.We have a long road ahead of us, but I think the end result will be AMAZING! The bf, of course, is freaking out, but I'm just excited to get started (it probably helps that I'm not focusing on the financial aspect of this project--if I did, I would just have to lay down for a while).

There are a few major things that have to happen before we can get started (like the roof replacement that is beginning today), so I'm not sure exactly when we will be moving in. But I hope to share the process with you, dear reader. Surely it will be much more entertaining to read than my usual drivel.


Road Rage

Almost three years ago, I moved across the country from California to Georgia, and I drove the whole way by myself (well, my cat was along for the ride, but I was basically on my own). I'm one of those odd people that really enjoys long drives, so this was not a horrible idea to me. In all honesty, that 4 day drive was really one of the easiest I have ever had. I ran into very little traffic, the weather was good, the directions were clear (read: I did not get lost)-- all in all, a good trip.
Since I've been back in the south, living in both Tennessee and Georgia, I've noticed a phenomenon that I rarely experienced in sunny SoCal-- drive-by flirting. I drive a Honda (a nice, boring sedan) and I'm a normal, reasonably attractive (so I'm told) woman in my mid 30s, so not much about me is going to attract a lot of attention of the freeway, or so I thought. I cannot tell you how many times I've been hit-on while driving since I've been back. Truckers honking at me, guys keeping pace with my car so they can wave or mouth God-knows-what to me, excessive staring, etc. It's really weird. I don't really understand the purpose. Do they think I'm going to pull over and give them my number, or worse, go off somewhere with them?

This never ever happened in California. There, everyone kept their eyes to themselves (or their cell phones or newspapers) and no one ever tried to "catch my eye" while driving. Of course, there is a widespread problem with eye contact there anyway, but that's a whole other issue. In TN and GA, though, this seems to be ongoing problem. Who does that? One time, on the way to visit my parents when I lived in Nashville, a guy kept pace with me and would casually look over from time to time. Then, when he took his exit, he smiled and waved as we parted ways. I'm OK with that. It wasn't creepy, and he wasn't being lewd or ridiculous, so I didn't mind. But many, many other times, it's been the opposite-- gesturing, waving frantically, tongue wagging, truckers doing a double take when I drive by and then trying to keep up while doing all number of things to get my attention.

I just can't believe men try to cruise women on the interstate. Is it just me that finds this bizarre? Do men really think that works? Are there women that do that to men? Maybe there's a whole culture that I'm not aware of, one where people meet in their cars on the road and hook-ups or relationships are born. I think I'd prefer not to know. I just like to mind my own business, keep my eyes on the road, and rock out to my iPod. So if you see me out on the interstate in my little purple Honda, just keep your eyes on the road, buddy-- it ain't gonna happen.


Day 17- Pretty much over this blog challenge

So I'm more or less officially over this challenge business. I'm not excited about any more topics from either challenge list. I guess since I wasn't adhering to the challenge too closely anyway it doesn't really matter. Perhaps I'm actually not interesting enough to create my own topics. That would be a major bummer. I guess until I decide to quit the blog challenge for good, I will make an effort to come up with more topics.

I've decided that in order to come up with new topics, I need revert back to a time when we used to have to create topics in a real (meaning not virtual) conversation. This means, naturally, that it's time to go back to the bookstore. Early on in my bookstore days, before the economy forced us to cut schedules, we would often have 3-5 people per shift in our department. On nights that were slow, we used to try to come up with fun topics or lists to discuss. So I will rack my brain for some of those time passers to use here as blog topics.

One fun topic was Top 5 Beatles songs. I absolutely LOVE The Beatles, don't you? Frankly, I don't think I know anyone who hates them, and if I do, I may have to reevaluate my relationship with that person. The Beatles are really the cornerstone of modern music. The themes of their songs are timeless, and there is just so much diversity and depth to their music. There are so many Beatles songs that I absolutely love, so it's very difficult to choose. The first 4 haven't changed since that long ago discussion at the bookstore. Number 5 is the only one that seems to change depending on when you ask. So without further ado, my top 5 Beatles songs (in no particular order):

"Come Together"
This is such a weird song. I heard it all my life, as my parents had most of The Beatles catalog on vinyl and cassette, but I really got into it in high school. My bff Melissa was really into writing poetry at the time, and (I think) listening to a lot of Aerosmith. She would write poems and pass them to me in class. As a result, I was the recipient of a number of fantastic original poems. However, she also tried to pass off a few that weren't hers as her own. One of them was "Come Together"- the Aerosmith version.I busted her immediately since I was familiar with the Beatles version. Seeing those crazy-ass lyrics on paper reminded me how cool that song really is. "Come Together" is one of my all-time favorites, and probably one of the coolest songs ever.

"Happiness is a Warm Gun"
The first time I heard this was in dance in high school. Ballet Tennessee was doing a collaboration with our dance company, and their big production was a Beatles medley. I didn't get to participate (unfortunately), but I at least got to experience watching it. The production was diverse, strange, and exquisite. I had never heard this song before and had no idea what it was really about. But I fell in love with the song and subsequently, the entire White Album. This song is on one of my random playlists on my iPod, and I never skip it when it comes on.

This one is, hands down, one of the most beautiful songs ever. This is another one that I really remember from the dance production back in high school. I may have heard it as a child, but I didn't recall it before dance. It's just such a beautiful, honest love song, and I adore it. I think this one may even be my top Beatles song.

"Yesterday" has always been one of my favorites, even as a child. It's so sad, and so simple. I remember some point in junior high or high school when I was going through something (who knows what, at that age), I listened to this track over and over again  (I bet I was rewinding the cassette). It just said everything I felt at the time.

"All You Need is Love"
This one doesn't always make my top 5 list, but it does at the moment because it's fresh in my mind. This is one of those songs that I never really thought a whole lot about growing up. That is, until I saw Ewan McGregor sing it in Moulin Rouge. I couldn't get over the clear beauty of his voice singing those words. After that, it became a ring tone on my phone. My love for the song gets rekindled every time I see Love Actually, when it's performed by a pop-up band at the wedding near the beginning. It's such a sweet little tune.

There you have it. My runners up that sometimes rotate into the top 5 include Revolution, Helter Skelter, Across the Universe, A Day in the Life and Twist and Shout. I heart The Beatles.


Day 16- Favorite TV Shows

I love TV. Not just lately, since it's gotten so much better. I've loved TV as far back as I can remember. I loved it when I watched Sesame Street and Mister Rogers daily. I loved it when I watched Pinwheel on Nickelodeon in the afternoons. I even loved it when my mom put on Days of Our Lives and Another World while she was ironing. Watching Saturday morning cartoons was an absolute ritual, shared with my brother while I ate cereal and he recorded the audio on tape with his boom box (yes, I'm serious- we would listen to the audio playback of our favorite episodes in the afternoons when there was nothing else on TV). I love to watch, read about and talk about TV, and I always have.

My list is pretty diverse (I think) and certainly is in line with pop culture. I'm going to try to stick with my all-time favorites. These are shows that I come back to again and again or talk about often. There are shows that I absolutely love that aren't necessarily on the list, like Alias and Golden Girls (don't hate!). Those didn't make the list simply because I can't list every single show or this would go on for days. There are also shows that I am in love with right now (Homeland! The Walking Dead!) but am not ready to put in with my all-time faves. So here, in no particular order (other than the top 4, which are my ultimate faves), are some of my favorites:

Sex and the City
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Top Chef
The Cosby Show
The Daily Show
The Colbert Report
Saturday Night Live (select seasons, of course)
Three's Company
The Office
So You Think You Can Dance!

I'm fairly certain I'm forgetting a few really important shows, since I'm trying to keep the list short-ish. Maybe I can revisit in another post, or do a Shows I Love post that will include all of my forgotten gems.


Day 15...too far behind to catch up

So I'm weeks behind, as it's January 28 and I'm only posting Day 15 now. Part of it is I'm not inspired by the topics lately. Most of it is time management, which means I'm back in an obsession with Angry Birds and everything else is taking a back seat. I suspect I may fall completely off the wagon and stop the challenge altogether. In any case, Day 15 is this:  put your iPod on shuffle and list the first 15 songs.

This should be amusing. One of the primary reasons I rarely shuffle my iPod is sheer volume (I have 5471 songs on my iPod) and the possibility of some really weird or jarring music mixing together. I have just about every genre of music you can think of in my collection--classical, jazz, blues, rock (classic, alternative, hard...you get the picture), rap, R&B, country, bluegrass, holiday, comedy. Unless I can just shuffle a particular genre, I really don't like to mix n' match- I don't want Marilyn Manson coming on after Beethoven or Too Short following up the Beatles. I prefer my mixes to be intentional, thank you. But in any case, here goes:


Ha! This is gonna be good:

1. Play the Game- Queen
2. Fill Me In- Craig David
3. Criminal (live acoustic)- Fiona Apple
4. Grid Iron Rap- Method Man
5. La Goualante De Pauvre Jean- Edith Piaf
6. O Death- Ralph Stanley
7. O Holy Night- Nat King Cole
8. Pack the Pipe- The Pharcyde
9. When The Last Time- Clipse
10. Five to One- The Doors
11. Author, Author- David Sedaris
12. Yay Boy- Africando
13. I Believe- Frank Sinatra
14. Mississippi- JJ Grey & Mofro
15.Vivo En El Monte- Papi Oviedo

See what I mean? It starts out looking like it will be a pretty good mix, until  you have Method Man and Edith Piaf back to back. The other problem is the Christmas music, which doesn't fit at all. This was actually a fun experiment, and I was pretty tempted to go all the way to 20. Perhaps I will use this topic as a filler to amuse myself when I'm out of posting ideas. Anyways, back to the iPod for more shuffling fun.


Day 14- Death row meal

Well I'm now officially WAY behind on the blog challenge business. But since I'm not actually adhering to the challenge guidelines, I guess it really doesn't matter, does it?

Today's topic is an interesting one. A bunch of well-known chefs actually wrote a whole book about this- a book I have yet to read, but am dying to have as a coffee table read (and because I'm practically a celeb chef stalker).

As much as I like to think I'm a foodie, I really haven't had an opportunity to try very many "foodie" type items. So the food for my death row last meal is all regular stuff. After giving it a lot of thought, I have to go with my favorite type of meal.

Breakfast is my favorite type of food, hands down. I love to go to breakfast and brunch, and I like to eat breakfast food any time of day. So I would have to have a sampling of some of my favorites. A waffle from Waffle House (of course), a breakfast burrito from The Only Place in Town in Sierra Madre, CA, crispy bacon and grits from Hominy Grill in Charleston, biscuits and gravy from Cracker Barrel, a Bloody Mary from Le Richilieu hotel in New Orleans, a mimosa (with expensive champagne) and coffee (with chicory, naturally) with cream and sugar.

I would of course also require cereal, my comfort food/snack of choice. A small sampling of some of my favorites, along with some cold 2% milk, will do. I'd outline my favorites here, but my adoration of cereal is epic enough to deserve its own blog post.

Seem like a lot? Who cares, it's the last meal I get to eat, right? I can be as gluttonous as I care to be. Luckily, there is slim chance that this will ever come to pass. Anybody hungry now? I could go for some breakfast.


Day 13- One thing I do everyday

There is definitely more than one thing I do everyday. Plenty of boring stuff, like brush my teeth, wash my face, drink coffee, etc. I feel like this topic should be about one thing other than your daily routine that you do everyday.

In my case, one thing I do (or at least try really hard to do) everyday is read. I just feel better with a book in hand, or at least nearby. I tend to get frustrated if I can't figure out what book I want to read or if I can't get into the one I'm currently reading. I'm a magazine junkie as well, so I'm also happy to get in a little magazine time. Even if I can just sneak in a few paragraphs here or there, I feel like my day is better if I get to read a little. And if I get a big chunk of uninterrupted time to read? Ahhh, heaven!

Day 12- A quote you love

I'm a collector of quotes. I love how quotes can perfectly capture a feeling. I have a notebook filled with quotes, as well as a folder in my email. Sometimes if I see a quote somewhere and am unable to write it down, I will take a picture of it with my phone.

It's difficult for me to select just one quote, but here it is:

"It takes a certain, rare revolutionary spirit to abandon one's home and family, however bleak the conditions, and hurtle oneself into the unknown."- Marisha Pessl

This quote is from a book, Special Topics in Calamity Physics. The book garnered huge buzz at the time of its release, and aside from a super cool title, the book itself was only OK. I did, however, collect a number of meaningful quotes from the novel.

This particular quote is special to me because I feel like it captures the beginning of my journey to California. I decided to move to LA for acting (go figure), so I planned the move about a year in advance. I was 23 at the time and I knew exactly 1 person in LA, a college friend, so I absolutely was "hurtling myself into the unknown". Moving all the way across the country to a place I wasn't familiar with seemed like no big deal at the time, probably because it was not a unique story in a place like LA.

Looking back, though, I realize that it was a huge deal, and that's why this quote resonates with me. "Rare revolutionary spirit" is not something I thought I possessed at that age. I was (and still am) "Miss Responsibility", so a drastic move like that was out of character, in a way. It became even more clear what a huge step that was when I found out later just how many of my friends and family did not think I would actually go through with it. I finally started to see what a monumental thing I did at such a young age.

10 years later, I called upon that revolutionary spirit again when I moved back home to GA. I talked about moving home "at some point" for several years. I finally decided that 2010 was the year to do it, and once I had that in my mind, I did it. I'm not sure I would have the guts to do anything like that again, but at least I have my quote to remind me that I had that gumption not once, but twice in my life.


Day 11- Childhood teddy bears

This seems like a fun and silly topic to blog about. As a child, I had many, many stuffed animals that I adored. I had a trio that lived on my bed full-time: Mousie, a gray mouse that played a lullaby when you wound him up (and the only one that had a name); a brown, skinny bunny rabbit with tall, floppy ears; and a bear that had a noisy little ball tail and some flowers sewn to her head (while the bunny and bear didn't have names, I apparently was certain about their sexes).

As much as I loved my little bedtime trio, nothing came close to my affinity for my Blue Blankie. I was given a blanket as I baby (I assume), and it soon became the most coveted item in my possession. It was blue and made out of a thermal material, so it felt nice and cool when it was laying out on my bed. I referred to this object exclusively as my Blue Blankie- not my blankie, not my blanket or (God forbid) my security blanket. It was my Blue Blankie, by God.

My Blue Blankie would accompany me to the living room on occasion, especially when it was time for Saturday Morning Cartoons. Blue Blankie was also very comforting when I was sick. But no place or time was more important to have Blue Blankie than bedtime. I literally would not- could not- even think about going to sleep if I didn't have Blue Blankie in hand (or wrapped around my arm or neck). If I didn't immediately see Blue Blankie, I would frantically tear through the sheets and blankets (where Blue Blankie was normally wrapped up) until I had it in hand. It was a deep, satisfying friendship that I was loathe to give up. Seriously.

Due to the normal wear and tear of schlepping a blanket around the house, Blue Blankie had to go through some changes as I grew up. It started getting pretty ripped up, so at some point, my mom sewed a quilted backing and a ribbon border on my Blue Blankie. Crisis averted! Blue Blankie was able to survive a few more years. Once it became too ripped up to deal with, my mom convinced me to retire Blue Blankie by providing me with a brand new one. I'm not sure why this was acceptable, as I was 11 or 12 by that time (yes, you read that right) and it wasn't the same shade of blue. But accept the new Blue Blankie I did, and our companionship continued. Into adulthood.

Checking that last paragraph to make sure I did, in fact, say adulthood? Yes, dear reader, I did. While Blue Blankie no longer left my bed, it was still a mainstay throughout my teen years. There's a picture of me sleeping in New Orleans on a trip with my parents, and there's Blue Blankie laying across my face. I was probably 16. When I went off to college, there was no need to worry about hiding Blue Blankie from my dorm roommate- it was Melissa, who had her own "Softie" (I'm pretty sure the fact that we both had blankies is the primary reason we became best friends). I didn't even hide Blue Blankie from my first serious boyfriend, who moved in with me knowing that he would be sharing a bed with a blankie.

As I got older, my Blue Blankie got more and more threadbare until eventually, it was a much smaller square of fabric. By then, it was more of an issue having it around since I would have boyfriends over- I was, after all, in my mid-20s. I finally got the point where I had to choose--I couldn't have a security blanket if I was hoping to get married someday. So one day, in a cutthroat purge, I was done with Blue Blankie. I was shocked that I was able to give it up without looking back, since I had clung to it so adamantly for my whole life. Keep in mind, I did this while I was living in California, so I'm pretty sure this happened less than 10 years ago. I still have my original Blue Blankie stashed away (I think), and I look forward to someday having a child of my own and introducing her to her own Blue Blankie.


Day 10- Something you're afraid of

I've fallen even farther behind, so I'm doing 2 posts in 1 day.

This is an interesting topic. One of my quirks is that I have a number of fears, both rational and irrational.

Like a lot of people, I am afraid of heights. I used to not mind heights at all. Roller coasters, tall buildings? No problem! At some point, though, I went completely in the opposite direction. Now heights are my mortal enemy. No roller coasters, no ladders- I don't even like heights in movies. I'm fairly convinced that my fear of flying has more to do with my fear of heights than anything else.

Another popular fear I have is needles. I hate shots almost more than anything, and I can't even watch someone get a shot of TV. Blood? Fine. Gore? No problem. But show a needle going into an arm and I have to cover my eyes and look away until I'm certain the scene is over.

My most serious fear is death. I just can't believe that at some point, we are all going to die. Yes, I know that makes no sense since we know from birth that death will happen. But I just cannot stand the idea. I'm sure some of my fear comes from the fact that I don't have a belief system I subscribe to, so maybe that's something I need to work on.

Now I don't really consider myself claustrophobic, but I may have a touch of it because I'm afraid of elevators. Perhaps this one is a bit of claustrophobia combined with my fear of heights. Taking an elevator higher than 1 floor makes me extremely nervous. Make it a glass elevator where I can see where I'm going and I become a basket case.

The "irrational" fear I have that amuses most people if my fear of public bathrooms. Now this is not a germaphobe thing or revulsion at how gross most bathrooms are. This is a "what if I'm all alone in this creepy bathroom and someone comes into the next stall and murders me" fear. Sound stupid? Well, have you ever seen the movie Copycat or the crummy slasher flick I saw when I was little where someone got hooked from the next stall? Not so irrational now, is it?

Day 9- A favorite picture of your best friend

I like this topic. I'm very fortunate to have a number of really great friends, 4 of whom I consider my "best" friends. Yes, I realize that I am misusing the term "best", since there are 4, but I feel there is nothing wrong with considering more than one person your "best" friend. All 4 of these people are very different, as are our friendships, but they are the people closest to me and I consider them all family.

Melissa and Angie

Melissa and Angie are two of my oldest friends. Melissa and I met in 7th grade and have been thick as thieves ever since. We've lived together more than once, and even though we are currently on opposite sides of the country, it's still as though we see each other every day. Angie and I met in 11th grade when we both worked at Baskin Robbins. We were well-acquainted for a while, but we didn't become really close until we were roommates in college. Two marriages and two kids later, Angie is still like a sister to me. Both women have been on hand for a number of adventures, some involving all 3 of us, and these women are truly my sisters.
Tim and I met when we were both working at Vroman's Bookstore about 10 years ago or so. I was a supervisor and he started working in my department. At the time, I thought he was kind of weird and a bit of a slacker. That all changed after a party he had at his house. Tim got rip-roaring drunk and was carrying on. The next time I saw him at work, he apologized for "anything he might have said", and our friendship was born. Tim was a founding member of what we referred to as "TheVromies Secret Circle". There was a group of us that would go out often and have drinks and act stupid. Eventually, the Vromies dispersed, but my friendship with Tim remained, and he became my favorite drinking buddy. We've recorded music together, gone walking around the Sierra Madre foothills together, meditated together, and shared many a beer together. My friendship with Tim is living proof that men and women can truly have platonic friendships.

Ali and I also met at Vvroman's. I had already worked with her brother and sister for a while, and the youngest of the Keyes kids followed in their footsteps and came to work in my department. Ali is quite a bit younger than me (8 years, to be exact), so I didn't expect us to have much in common. Ali became my Saturday morning opening buddy at the store, and that's where our friendship was forged. We talked about anything and everything, including the cute guy that came to the coffee shop every Saturday (what ever happened to Coffee Guy?). Ali is very much like a younger version of me, and I'm not sure anyone else in the world understands me as completely as she does. We've laughed and cried together, been there through new loves and break-ups, nurtured each other's feelings and offered tough love when needed. I was there when Ali started seeing her good friend Daniel, and I am so proud that I will be there in September when Ali and Daniel walk down the aisle.
I'm so thankful to have these wonderful friends in my lives. There are many others that I am very close to and could write a whole book about (Erin, Nick, Minnie, Guinevere, Justin), and I have to say that there is nothing better than sharing your life with great friends.


Day 8- Traveling

Now that I've boasted about how much I have blogged, I've fallen even farther behind. Oh well, the whole process is the point, not the timeline, right?

Today's topic is a place you've traveled to and where else you want to travel. This is a great topic for me, as I love to travel. I've been extremely blessed to have traveled quite a bit in my life, both as a child and an adult. I've been to 6 countries (I think) and many cities, both foreign and domestic.

My most recent adventure took me here:

Great Guana Cay, Bahamas, August 2012
My uncle and aunt have a home on Guana Cay, and they were generous enough to host my bf and I for a week last summer.  It was the most lovely, relaxing, fantastic place. Every day was full of sun, surf, drinks and laughter. And cracked conch. I got to swim with squid and rays and hold a starfish. We are so hopeful that we can go again soon.

Here are some of the other places I love and hope to visit again:

New Orleans, 2012
New Orleans is a special place for my family. My father grew up there, my brother was born there, my dad and stepmom and also my sister married there. So far I think I've been about 7 times and counting. What's not to love about Nola? The music, the food, the wild people, the freedom. It's truly a place where all you can do is just soak it all in. And have lots of cocktails.

NYC, 2008
This was my first real "grown-up" trip. A friend and I flew out from CA for a long weekend and were fortunate enough to stay with a friend. I was only there long enough to get a little taste (and to be glad that my childhood dream of living there was never realized), so I'm eager to spend a little more time there. I went before the 9/11 memorial went up, so it was very heavy seeing the cavernous hole in the city and other remnants of that day. It's also a city so full, which is something that I'm really drawn to.

This is the only photo in this blog that I didn't take. I went in 1994- pre-digital cameras, of course- and I haven't gotten around to scanning and uploading my photos. Paris has been my dream city as long as I can remember, and she did not disappoint. The sights, the sounds, the food! It was even better than I dreamed. I was only 17 when I went, so I'm desperate to go again now that I have some sense.
Here are some other places I'm interested in visiting, in no particular order:  Chicago, London, Venice, San Francisco, Hawaii, Ireland, Austin, Cuba, Miami...I could go on all night. I dream of one day becoming a citizen of the world, and I would, of course, bring my blog along for the ride.


Day 7- What makes you happy

Hooray, I blogged for 7 days! Yes, I'm aware that today is the 9th, so I am behind by 2 days. Considering that I'm not sure I even blogged seven times before this challenge, it still counts! Now on to the topic...what makes me happy.

I'm a very easy person to please, so many a thing makes me happy, often ridiculously so. Cereal, coffee, macaroni and cheese, baby animals and rainbows are some simple pleasures. Curling up- uninterrupted- with a good book is heavenly to me. My niece laughing, my fiancé smiling at me, dinner with my family...these things bring me unparalleled joy. A sweet note or text or comment on Facebook. Sharing a drink with my best friends. The list goes on and on...what can I say, I'm a pretty happy gal?


Day 6- Pet Peeves

I love this topic. I am a very opinionated person, and as such, I have strong views on many things. Which means I have a lot of pet peeves, and I love to talk about them for some reason. Seriously, I could go on and on about them. Instead of selecting one pet peeve and waxing poetic about it, I'll just start a little list. Maybe I will add a few tidbits of explanation, or maybe not. I am certain, however, that this list will not cover all of them. And yes, I am aware that some of these make me a judgmental bitch, a weirdo or at the very least, quirky in a not-so-flattering way. So here goes...enjoy!

People who smack when they eat (also people who chew with their mouths open); animals wearing clothing, particularly prissy little dogs wearing sweaters (no, it's not cute, no matter how cute your dog is); women that have high-pitched baby voices; twins that dress alike (or couples, families or any other groups of people that do it on purpose but aren't part of a team or other official group); nail biting;  bad posture, especially on tall women who are slouching to make themselves appear shorter; poor grammar (your instead of you're? Don't even get me started!); lisping, especially when it's an adult; people who use made-up words but think they are real (supposably anyone? or acrosst, perhaps?); people that don't respond when you say hello or how are you? (this is a customer service pet peeve); being interrupted or talked over while I'm speaking (this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine, and I always seem to be surrounded by friends or coworkers who do this); people who are rude to servers, cashiers or other people in customer service positions....

I think that's enough for tonight, so I'll just leave it at that. For now.


Day 5- What song inspires you?

Oooh, this is a tough topic. Not because I don't know what song inspires me, but because there are so many that inspire me that it's nearly impossible to select just one.

Anyone who knows me knows about my love for music. My passion for music rivals my passion for books--this blog used to be called "Music Room", after all. For me, music is not just a sound in the background. It is absolutely at the forefront of my life. Music has the power to transport me, uplift me, mellow me out, pump me up. I'm a lover of nearly all genres, from classical to rock, from jazz to bluegrass to hip hop. There are very few genres I can't get into.

I'm really into making play lists on my iPod. I really enjoy putting together songs in a very specific way and slapping a snappy title (I think) on it. One song that continually pops up on my play lists is "Homecoming", by Kanye West and Chris Martin.

Let me first talk a little bit about my feelings about Kanye. As a celebrity or icon or whatever he is, I can't stand Kanye. I think he is immature, arrogant, and an all-around ***hole, at the least based on how he presents himself. Maybe he's a good guy, but he sure doesn't act like it when there's a camera around. Musically, however, he is a revelation. As a hip hop artist and producer, almost no one can touch him. He is so talented it's ridiculous. He has the ability to put sick beats behind complex rhymes, and I can't get enough of it.

"Homecoming" is my absolute favorite Kanye joint and probably in my top 5 hip hop songs of all time. Why? It's not just beats and rhymes, it's melody. It's a hook sung by Chris Martin. It's a love letter to Chicago, Kanye's hometown. The beats are soulful, the lyrics thoughtful. It makes me feel happy, nostalgic and ready for anything. How many hip hop songs can do that? Very few, my friends. This is everything I want in a hip hop song, and it's almost hauntingly beautiful. The first time I heard it, years ago at a poker party, all I could think about the rest of the night was this amazing song. Now, this song comes up again and again during my life. Everytime it comes up, I stop and listen intently, mesmerized.

"Do you think about me now and then, 'cause I'm coming home again. Maybe we can start again." Yes, yes we can.


Day 4- First Jobs

So today's topic (and yes, I know I'm a day behind) is first jobs. I starting working when I was 16, and my first job is very common amongst first-time workers- Baskin Robbins. When I was in high school, I was part of a trio of best friends with Renee and Melissa. We had classes together, hung out during and after school together, and talked late into the night on the phone together. We three had many adventures together.

Renee started working part-time at Baskin Robbins in our junior year of high school and naturally, Melissa and I followed suit. I knew this would primarily be a summer job for me, as I was already busy with dance class and other activities during the school year. I began in May, and while I was a little nervous, I was used to working in a team environment and taking direction from adults, so it wasn't too overwhelming. Plus, scooping ice cream, making shakes and decorating cakes isn't exactly rocket science.

We had the best time working that summer. For starters, I was working with my two best friends, so what could be better than that? The owner's two daughters worked there, along with a few other young women (yes, it was an all- female staff). The great part was that the owner left everyday in the late afternoon, so we were more or less left to our own devices for the rest of the shift. Keep in mind that the majority of the staff was 16 or 17 at the time, plus we got a free scoop or shake every shift. We had a ball that summer, scooping ice cream, shooting the shit and messing around. It really was a great first job.

I had to quit shortly after I started my senior year of high school that fall, and not too long after, the owner decided to close her franchise. I feel lucky that I had such a great first working experience, and I think it really prepared me for all the jobs I worked after that. I also learned that having access to more than 31 flavors everyday can be a very dangerous thing.


Day 3- Book review (yes!)

Yippeee! This topic is right in my wheelhouse, as I am a bibliophile, former bookseller and all-around book nerd. I love talking about books and sharing my passion for reading with others. Which book to select, however, is a dilemma. Do I choose one of my favorites, one that is current and a hot topic or just my most recent read? Decisions, decisions. (This is a great problem to have, by the way). A quick glance at my bookshelf on Goodreads (look it up, it's a great site for readers) reminds me that I read a lot of great books in the last 2 years, which makes my choice even more difficult.  

Best to just go with the last book I read, which was Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. This book is about a young girl coming of age at the same time as a catastrophe begins to unfold upon the world. The Earth's rotation begins to slow, causing shifts in the globe as well as shifts in humanity. Meanwhile, 11-year old Julia is dealing with the normal struggles of growing up. Now typically, I don't prefer end-of-the world books or movies (too scary), but I loved this book. I think the reason I enjoyed it is the catastrophic global events were just the backdrop of a real, human story rather than the main plot line. Julia could have been any girl in any time learning about life; it just so happens the world is changing at the same time.

This book is a beautifully, yet simply written story of ordinary people living in an extraordinary time, and I loved it. I look forward to see what else this new author has in store.


Blog challenge day 2- Nicknames

Hey look, I'm posting again! After wasting a ton of time revamping the layout (and even the name) of my blog, I decided to start my month-long blog challenge. Yes, I am aware that the title of this post says Day 2 and not Day 1. I'm bouncing between a couple of different challenges, depending on the topic. One of them did not have anything specific for Day 1 and the other said to introduce yourself. Since this is not the first day of school, I decided to skip the introduction and blast off with Day 2. The more "official" challenge had a very thought-provoking, deep topic, which is much less fun than the other one--nicknames!

Now I do not have a name that easily lends itself to nicknames. With a name like Alanna (pronounced 'Uh-lay-na'), there's not a whole lot that can be done with it. My parents opted for typical cute daughter nicknames (Queenie, Tiny Dancer, Baby Doll, etc.), and my mom actually had a made-up name for me (which is not really a secret but I'm not going to discuss it here). They both often just dropped the first 'A' from my name, which is what a few people here and there still call me. Mostly, though, they just stuck with calling my by both my first and middle names, Alanna Leigh. This combo is pretty much what I think of as my real name (and it's my stage name too!)

In school, there was really nothing else anyone could call me, since so much time was spent just learning how to pronounce and/or spell my name correctly. One time in 3rd grade, my best friend called me "Miscellaneous", which sort of works, but I was so shocked and upset by it that I went home and cried to my mother. I briefly had the nickname "Legs" in high school, but that was only amongst my fellow flag-twirlers in color guard. I also got (and still do) the occasional "Kirby", as do nearly all people with this last name.

I didn't get a real nickname that stuck until college. A guy my best friend was dating started calling me "Laney" for some reason, so the two of them kept that up. Later on when I lived in California, I started using Laney as my bowling name, since you absolutely have to use a nickname of some sort on the scoreboard (it's a rule, look it up). I happened to use "Laney" a few times when bowling with a group from work, so a few people there began calling me that, too.

These days, there are about 4 or 5 people that alternately refer to me as both Alanna and "Laney". The young daughter of the friend that helped create the nickname refers to me almost exclusively as "Aunt Laney". The funny thing is, I have become really protective of the nickname. I rarely tell people about it, and I never introduce myself that way. I actually get very suspicious and annoyed when people who don't know me as Laney start calling me that without authorization (as a number of people from my old job felt compelled to do). I'm not sure that anyone in my family is aware of this nickname at all, so I feel really weird whenever my friends or boyfriend bring it up in front of my parents or siblings.

So there you have it--my first blog challenge entry. Fascinating, no? Just be thankful it wasn't on the serious topic.


Happy New Year!

Hey look, it's only been 3 months since my last post! Progress!

So it's New Year's Day, 2013, which I assume is the day everyone is posting their resolutions to write their novels or blog everyday or whatever. And I suppose I could join them and write some long missive about what I learned last year (earplugs work!) or what my hopes are for next year (more sleep!). But I know how I am about that sort of thing- lazy.

My goals for 2013 are more abstract than real resolutions. Yes, I want to be healthier, eat better, work out more, do some yoga and meditate, but I'm trying not to confine myself to anything too concrete, lest I fail before January is over. So here are my thoughts for the new year: love more, be more, do more, but take it easy and go with the flow more. To that end, I am going to try to be gentle with myself and say, write more, but not try to force myself into it every day. I've decided that a few blog challenges may help, so I plan to start there and see what happens. Maybe I will blog every day, maybe once a month, if I'm lucky. I also dug up a questionnaire about reading that struck my fancy, so that may work its way into this blog as well.

So we'll see how it goes. I'm going to try to practice a little optimism and say you will certainly hear more from me this year. Perhaps I will actually hear from you too.