Thursday, April 30, 2009

April is the cruelest month.

Except when April ends, that means May begins and it means that all of the stress that is April is done.
We turned in our old keys tonight and we're in our new place.
I'm flying home for a couple of weeks Monday morning.

Life's a-okay. How about you?


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A little more about me.

I'm not a huge meme person, but this one looked really cool. I love a good visual piece, especially when it's quite accurate in capturing an essence of "me."

DIRECTIONS:

- Go to Google image search.
- Type in your answer to each question.
- Choose a picture from the first page.
- Use this website (http://bighugelabs.com/flickr/mosaic.php) to make your collage.

QUESTIONS:

1. What is your name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What is your hometown?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. What is your favorite movie?
6. What is your favorite drink?
7. What is your dream vacation?
8. What is your favorite dessert?
9. What is one word to describe yourself?
10. How are you feeling right now?
11. What do you love most in the world?
12. What do you want to be when you grow up?


New digs

My favorite part about moving is making a place my own. Today, I finally feel like the pieces are coming together. We made the decision not to put our bed back together because we don't think we'll be here long enough to justify it, so our mattress is on the floor. It looks really nice, surprisingly, as I also hung one of my tapestries on the pole between the bedroom and the living room. It looks almost like a luxurious get away. 


It's low quality, of course, being from my computer, but you get the idea. 

One of the reasons that I love making a place my own so much is that it gives me a sense of peace. I'm a cleaner when I'm stressed, so having a place that's clean and put together makes me feel less stressed. The summer between my sophomore and junior year in college, I spent a summer living in one of the dorms at Northwestern University since I was a Teaching Assistant for a summer program at the school. I remember one of the other folks staying in the dorm, one of the head administrative people, came into my room one evening and told me that she always loved walking by and peeking into my room because it just exuded calmness and creativity. I thought that was about the best compliment ever -- while the rest of my life may be one grand disaster, at least I live in a cool looking place, right?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BEDA licious.

Listography of the day.

+ My kitty is home
+ We are almost all moved into the new apartment
- I had intentions of leaving awesome comments for my BEDA buddies today, but it didn't happen. It will, ladies
- We have to clean the old apartment still
+/- I am genuinely tired. I have not slept well lately.
- Lamest. Blog. Ever.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Our new addition

Erik came home from work today with our new baby: a mandolin!

One of the guys he works with gave it to us, and it is beautiful. I'm excited to get back on a string instrument. I've a guitar back in the basement in Chicago with a broken string, but I think the mandolin will be a welcomed friend in our household. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend check-in

We got a dreaded phone call about 12:15 last night about Mason and how he needed surgery immediately; things weren't looking good. After a lot of sweat and stress, they called back half an hour later and said he looked better and they were holding off. Phew! Today he's doing better, but he'll have to be there a bit still. Argh! I'm missing my kitty.

We're trying to get as much moved today as we can but lordy, it's stressful. We've gotten a few loads over and have a few more to go. We're going to take the cat over tonight and let her wander while we do some unpacking. I'm not unpacking entirely, since I'm hoping we really won't be there too long and we'll be back in the midwest.

In happier news, I wanted to share another of my favorite poems. I love Jane Kenyon, and it was this poem that introduced me to her. In 11th grade, we had to do an obscene number of presentations -- which ultimately was good for me -- but one of them was about Thoreau's Walden. We had to choose a poem to recite and tie into our memorization of the famous lines of his piece. I fell in love with this one and tied it into the story of butterfly woman, who lived in the giant redwoods in California.

Killing the Plants 

That year I discovered the virtues
of plants as companions: they don't
argue, they don't ask for much,
they don't stay out until 3:00 A.M., then
lie to you about where they've been....

I can't summon the ambition
to repot this grape ivy, of this sad
old cactus, or even to move them out
onto the porch for the summer,
where their lives would certainly
improve. I give them
a grudging dash of water – that's all
they g
et. I wonder if they suspect

that like Hamlet I rehearse murder
all hours of the day and night,
considering the town dump
and compost pile as possible graves....

The truth is that if I permit them
to live, they will go on giving
alms to the poor: sweet air, miraculous
flowers, the example of persistence.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

A long Friday and Saturday


My poor little Mason has been sick the last couple of days, throwing up all the time. Last night, we took him to an emergency vet to get him checked out. The techs at this place treated him well, but we didn't think the vet was giving him good options besides just getting an xray (read: $$$). We took him home over night and watched him since he was acting so much better at the vet. 

After he continued being sick, we brought him back in early this morning. The tech knew right away what was wrong -- and it wasn't what they suggested last night. We were immediately told that this was an emergency situation, and among hearing the diagnoses and the problems, we were confronted with a bill the price of a semester's tuition.

We talked it over and went ahead with it. There were a few different potential outcomes, from an overnight and some fluids/iv and medication to a full out surgery complete with anesthesia. Of course, since I'm not employed and Erik makes just enough to pay rent and groceries, we're less than thrilled; however, Mason's my baby and still a very young cat. We'll figure it out.

When we left the vet, I lost it. Being confronted with both the scary news and the scary bill at once is terrifying. 

However, our luck changed after we got home. We decided to go grab lunch to get our minds off it, and on the way there, we got a call from the vet that he was doing amazingly well after she did the first (read: less expensive and scary) testing. I had called home to talk with my mom and apparently one of her cats had the same condition which made me feel a little better (read: we're not bad cat owners). So now knowing he didn't need the surgery was awesome.

I just hung up again with them and he's apparently eating now and doing very, very well. Thank the lords, right? What a scary weekend, with our plans now entirely in the air. 

If all continues going well -- and the vet who helped us this time was very optimistic -- he can come home soon. Even though he's been out of the house only about 10 hours, we miss him, our little butter ball. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

My weekend.

12 books due at the library Monday that can't be renewed + Wednesday's looming move out deadline + 8 yards of fabric and bondable web + a sick kitty + a messy, messy desktop on my computer + personal project and web projects to kick start and complete = my weekend which WILL be fun regardless :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

When I grow up...

I've been keeping a mental list of things I really want to do/have when I grow up (code for, when I am working and Erik is working and we are a two-income family). Do you keep such lists? Mine includes the following:
  • Taking an art class
  • Begin writing my book
  • Become fluent in Spanish (that would fall under taking a few more classes)
  • Join a book club
  • Watch more movies from our Netflix subscription
  • Get real furniture (and second hand is totally okay, as long as it's real, moderately sustainable furniture)
  • Grow a garden
  • Bring a puppy home
  • Digitize my family's history (this coincides with one of my long term life goals)
  • Be active in my community in some capacity
  • Become much more active in keeping in touch with people in my life
  • Own a treadmill and/or stationary bike
  • Tutor and mentor community youth
  • Develop an incredible collection of art at home that no one else has 
  • Write a family cookbook that explores our history and life milestones
  • Build a nice professional set of clothes. What I have now is nice and appropriate, but I have not shopped for myself in months and I have not invested much effort in building a sustainable, timeless collection
  • Time to visit my friends and family spread throughout the country
What are your grown up aspirations? I like to think I'm not too idealistic, but, what I'd really like is happiness, health, and strong, committed relationships with the people in my life. We've always been a very simple family, and we've never been a family of haves [nor have we been of the have nots, since we've almost always had our basic needs met]. I kind of want to keep it that way. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth resolutions

Admittedly, I'm not the most eco-conscious nor eco-guilty people. I live in an eco-friendly city, but I'm not one to put enough effort into doing things that contribute to a greener planet, and it's not just because I'm lazy (I'm not). It's sometimes a matter of not thinking about it enough. But I think Earth Day is a good time to think about environmental resolutions. 

When I graduated from Cornell, I signed the graduation pledge. I certainly haven't forgotten about it. I still have my card and the bookmarks I made to promote the cause. As soon as I am employed with an organization, I hope to be able to contribute to that employer's green side in simple and effective manners. But the pledge is also personal, and I think it's easy to forget some of the simple ways that I already do think consciously about my environmental impact and the ways I can do better.

First and foremost, there are things Erik and I do do that take into account the environment. All of our light bulbs are  compact florescent, for example. We don't buy bottled water because we have a perfectly good tap and filter. We have one car because I rely on public transit in Austin. We buy our groceries at the local chain that is close to home, as well as mostly filled with products that are moderately local. We have few lights in our place and only turn them on when needed (or I end up doing it when someone forgets he doesn't need the kitchen light on when he's in the living room). When I lived more centrally and on my own, I only used recyclable grocery bags since they were easier to carry. We are also big believers in donating our unused or unwanted stuff to Goodwill, saving it from landfills and allowing it a second life. We use environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies that don't add to the chemicals in the air. Lastly, Erik and I have been committed, as I mentioned in an earlier post, to reducing our collecting of stuff. 

We know there's a lot more we can do. 

As of today, Earth Day 2009, we're pledging to do better. What we can do to improve our planet is so easy, but it's also easily overlooked. Some of our resolutions include: 
  • Recycling our empty cans -- as diet coke drinkers, we often throw the cans out because recycling them requires a lot of effort on our part living in an apartment complex. But it's not impossible, and it's something so simple we CAN do.
  • Bringing our reusable bags to the grocery store -- I did it before, but since we use a car now, we don't think to do it. 
  • We're cutting cable, reducing our electrical use of a television.
  • Eating seasonally -- I have a wonderful cookbook that focuses on eating foods that are in season, and it's something I'd like to try. As convenient as it is that we can get blueberries any time of the year, there is a major environmental impact on that in terms of transporting and growth.
  • Reusing broken or old items in new ways. 
  • [here's your tmi] Actually using my diva cup rather than having it there and relying on tampons
  • Purchasing items with the least amount of waste
All are simple but are effective some how, even if it's effective only because it reduces our load on ourselves. 

What are your eco-resolutions? What are you doing to help motha' Earth?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Feeling like Alexander.

I will not be blogging today. I am blogging to say I will fail at being a successful blog participant today. Blog, blog, blog. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stressed (no desserts here, please).

It's going to be a busy, busy week. Erik and I decided we want to be totally out of our place by Sunday. To do that, we need to keep packing and moving, including making some more donations and trips to the dumpsters outside. 

I've taken on a new personal project, to be blogged about soon. I'm the mistress of the personal project, and I need to get all of those things together and better organized so I can be more effective. Clean your house, clean your computer, clean your projects, right?

This week, I hope to eek out a little poetry. I also have a blank canvas here just begging for my attention. We have a space in the kitchen, and now it just needs its masterpiece.

I'm getting very excited about an upcoming trip. Erik and I are heading up to Chicago so he can get registered for school and we can figure out where to set sail for a couple of years. We're shocked with ticket prices, too. We had to fly up at the same time last year and tickets were $300 each way; we decided driving, even with the expensive gas prices and hotel stay, was cheaper. This time, they were under $100 each way. 

...This post brought to you by being uninspired. I promise something more exciting tomorrow! Monday is not my day today for creativity. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunny Sunday

I am in love with the painting I finished last night. When I first began it, it kind of bothered me but as it grew, I began to really dig the images and I am in mad love with how vibrant the colors turned out. 

I am an artist of color and shape. I believe in using and manipulating shapes and colors to allow the image and vision to emerge. It sounds lofty, but I've really come to believe that when you do art, there is a reason and purpose behind it (even simply to tell a good story). Mine's simply shape and color. There is a story here. Can you see it?

The first real painting I did for pleasure was one that's traveled with me since senior year of college. My roommate was taking an art class and shared her canvas and paint with me. Again, shape and color tell the story. This one's got a lot of angles, but I like to think it's a woman in a parka on a park bench. Maybe you see something else. 

In entirely unrelated news, it's volunteer appreciation week at the place I volunteer. The only snag in it is that all of the events happen during the week; I happen to be a Sunday volunteer, so unless I make the effort to go in for my free Panda Express, I miss out. Fortunately, I work for such wonderful people, I got my appreciation today!

The library assistant brought me a big, bright sunflower. Just looking at it makes me so cheerful and happy. 

Perhaps more exciting than the sunflower was the compliment a patron shared today. She had asked me to get in touch with one of the nurses, and I said I wanted to make sure I was calling the right extension. I asked the la, who told me how to do it. I called it and handed the woman the phone. When she hung up she told me that was great customer service. Plus one on the happy points.

So a few minutes later, her son wanted to play a game on the computer. He was having trouble getting it to work, so I went over and walked him through getting it started on another computer through a mirror site. It got up and running and he was able to play. The mom not only thanked me, told me I gave great customer service, and said it was so rare to find, she asked the la if she was a volunteer and when she said no, she told her how great I was in being helpful. The la, after we had earlier discussed my 5 months of unemployment and rejection, asked the woman if she would hire me, and the woman said she'd not only hire me, but for that treatment, she'd want me to be helping run the place. 

It's really the small things that make your entire mood and day turn around. A nice painting, a pretty flower, and a wonderful compliment made today a wonderful Sunday.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rad weekends.

So far, this weekend's been pretty great. 

Although the weather was not in our favor for the weekend, we used a little free time and dry time to head up to Ikea last night. We picked up a few more yards of fabric to finish up curtains in the new place, and then we had a delicious dinner at the Cracker Barrel. Before doing any of that, though, we went to Hobby Lobby and met our lucky day -- we were hoping to pick up some acrylic paints and canvas and it was all on sale. 

After dinner we spent a few hours painting. It was so relaxing and wonderful to have a nice creative outlet for a few hours. Part of the painting interest came because we needed a little more art in the new apartment. I'm a big believer in not owning art that everyone else owns, so what I have is a little of everything. I've got a couple of wonderful drawings I bought from a guy at Pike's Place in Seattle; a couple of photographs from a woman I met at the Maker Faire in Austin; a couple of photos from graduating seniors at Cornell selling from their shows; and finally, some of my own paintings. It's nice to add a few more of our own work and it's interesting to see how differently Erik and I are in our styles and visions. 

We slept in this morning, and since I got up before Erik, I got about an hour of reading in before we both showered and headed to the library. That place is an utter zoo on Saturdays because our city cut its Friday hours, and it makes me both excited and sad that Saturdays are so bad -- excited because people are obviously using the library and sad because people are obviously using the library but are being deprived of more time in which to do so. It overburdens the poor people working at that branch who already don't seem thrilled to be there. Alas!

After the library, we went back to Hobby Lobby and picked up some more canvas since it was on sale and we have plenty of paint left over from last night. We then did a trip to Target for a dvd (I've suddenly decided I wanted to try the 30 day shred workout) and Good Will for 2 bags of donated goodies. A lovely and healthy Japanese lunch was in order, and I picked up a salad for dinner tonight, too. If there's one thing I will *really* miss about Austin is the wonderful fast food Japanese we have here that is actually good for you. Yum.

Toss in some more cleaning, as well as some blogging and reading, and plans for more painting and a movie tonight, and so far, we're off for a winning weekend. I'll report back tomorrow, of course, but for me, the weekend is only Saturday since I volunteer all afternoon on Sundays. I have *the best* volunteer gig in the world, and I've been there for a whole year now. When we move, that's another place I will definitely miss more than anything. 

If you're curious, right now I'm reading The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubas III. Yes, it's an Oprah pick but I actually didn't know that until I picked it up. My best friend recommended it to me, and so far, I'm digging it. 

While the sun has decided to come out from hibernation, so has the humidity. We're going to be hibernating instead.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Excuse this lame [AWESOME] cop out.

I'm not sure I'll get my proper blog out tonight simply because Erik and I are painting over a couple of well-deserved homemade screwdrivers (you know the kind - no orange juice so you make orange crystal light). And since it's national poetry month, I thought I'd leave you with one of my favorite poets with one of my favorite poems. His style is SO different from mine yet it absolutely captives me and makes me want to write this way. The images and pictures are just very, very ... happy. Content. A feeling that while you live as a voyeur, you're really excited to have witnessed.

Couple at Coney Island

It was early one Sunday morning,
So we put on our best rags
And went for a stroll along the boardwalk
Till we came to a kind of palace
With turrets and pennants flying.
It made me think of a wedding cake
In the window of a fancy bakery shop.

I was warm, so I took my jacket off
And put my arm round your waist
And drew you closer to me
While you leaned your head on my shoulder.
Anyone could see we'd made love
The night before and were still giddy on our feet.
We looked naked in our clothes

Staring at the red and white pennants
Whipped by the sea wind.
The rides and shooting galleries
With their ducks marching in line
Still boarded up and padlocked.
No one around yet to take our first dime. 
-- Charles Simic, Night Picnic 2005

[And as a total aside, I'm VERY excited about my BEDA buddies. Hello! :)]

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Crafty (& proof of my cheapness)

As I've been cleaning out the old apartment, I've stumbled upon some old gems. Things I've put in places that are labeled action needed, but as of now, no action has been taken. I swear some day I will do every project that I intend to do.

Today's find was from my wedding. Whenever I tell people I got married in Las Vegas, they assume it means it was quick and lonely. Not so much. We actually had an awesome wedding surrounded by both Erik's entire family and my entire family, as well as many of our close friends. We kept our guest list small, and we were incredibly lucky to have had 40 people show up to celebrate with us. 

The big reason I chose Vegas was because of how low stress and high on fun it'd be. I also knew I could keep it quite inexpensive. We found the perfect place to do it, and we had to actually have very little input on the way that the wedding would work. Aside from a few minor glitches and disappointments, we were so thrilled; we knew these small things were so unsubstantial and insignificant, and really, quite funny looking back.

Something that drove me nuts the entire time of planning was finding the right invitations. As much as I love my friends and family, there was no way I was spending $20 on invitations for each one of them, especially when I thought they all looked tacky, ugly, boring, or like every other wedding invite I had ever seen.

I decided to make my own.

After debating for eons about whether or not to send a "save the date" invite, we decided to go for it simply because we were having a wedding outside of our home states. Plus, we were getting married on a Thursday evening (hello, discount and hello people needing only to take 2 days off work to enjoy a 4-day weekend in Vegas!) so we wanted to give people plenty of time. 

Our wedding colors were red and black. Not coincidentally also the colors of playing cards. We added a honey colored yellow, too, to make it less stark and more weddingesque, I suppose.


With the help of one of my bridesmaids, a few hours, and a few trips to local crafteries, I made the perfect save-the-date cards myself. They were small, and we included magnets on the back. The total cost to do it myself was SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than paying for tacky ones. 

Since those were so well received, I decided to go ahead and do the actual wedding invitations myself, as well. After a little bit of drama on the paper -- I had chosen a different design but could not acquire enough of the apparently retired style -- I was able to find something that spoke well to what we were all about in this wedding -- fun. Everyone invited received one of these pretty pups except for our wedding party. I don't have any remaining pictures of what theirs looked like, but the background paper was not the same, and it was instead bright blue with cowboys all over. I was moving to Texas and all.


It's funny now that a lot more of my friends have been getting married or have been planning weddings. I continue to tell them that it's truly not worth going into debt over nor is it worth choosing to do something stressful. My wedding was incredible because I spent so little time worrying about it or planning out how it could be perfect. We didn't even have a place for dinner figured out until a couple of weeks beforehand, and we told all of our guests about it about a week before they left. Everyone had the opportunity to go, have a mini vacation, and only had two commitments to attend. Sure, we did a lot of other things but none of it was scheduled; my bridesmaids and I were swimming in the hotel pool just a couple hours before the ceremony and honestly, who cared that I didn't spend hours on my makeup or hair? No one would remember that anyway.

I often think about how I'd love to go into business making invitations. There's an abundance of ugly and expensive out there when there really needn't be. I think I'm an exception, though. I think most people have a dream and an image and they can buy it. Me? My memories are in the fact I got to do it ALL myself and make it entirely my own. I hope some day someone wants me to help them do it, too. 

(I assure you my invites were not this crooked. This is thanks to the marvels of technology and my desire to scan and edit photos quickly rather than accurately).


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Painted.

We finished painting the bathroom! I'm really excited by how it turned out. If you remember, it was entirely sunshine yellow and looked like this:




And now, after some elbow grease, a few tears, and a little blood, we have a much more soothing and friendly room of rest that looks like this:





There's Erik giving his excited face. 
I'm VERY pleased with how it turned out! Much nicer and cleaner than before. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Who're your online friends?

Do you have online-only friends? Of course you do. I don't think I know anyone who doesn't have friends they know ONLY from the internet.

Do you remember the days when that was weird, scary, and considered dangerous?
Me, too.

And you know why?
Because I had so many awesome online-only friends with whom I am still friends with to this day and with whom I STILL keep in touch with on a regular basis.

It began my freshman year in high school (1999-2000). We were using America Online when I stumbled upon this great AOL-only site called "The Amazing Instant Novelist" (AIN). You can Google it and find out all about it, the creator, and other things. But I digress.

Within the AIN was a website called "I Was a Teenage Writer," (IWTW) specifically geared for teenagers who loved writing. IWTW was made up of a number of message boards, spanning from poetry to prose, politics to philosophy, and just about any and every thing in between. The purpose was for teens to meet other teens who liked to write and liked to think. I quickly met tons of wonderful people, and I quickly coveted an opportunity to work as a moderator on the site. Moderators had wonderful AOL screen names that looked like this: NOVeL YourNameHere. These folks had the responsibility to make sure all posts had some sort of response, feedback, or other action performed upon them. The point being to cultivate a real community within IWTW by ensuring everyone felt included. 

During my sophomore year of high school, a contest opened up for the chance to become a NOVeL on the site. Contestants had to have been active users of the site for a given time, as well as write an essay about American Politics. Fortunately for me, I won, and I had the awesome opportunity to be a NOVeL. 

Those were great times. I had the opportunity to be a NOVeL with some good writers around the country. I knew them not only for their writing, but I also knew most of their interests, career goals, college dreams, and full names/addresses. Those were times when it was scary and dangerous, of course.  But IWTW opened up great opportunities, as it was a way to hone one's writing, learn about new ideas, and perform community service. Likewise, because some of the members of AIN were publishers in the online and print world, there were publication opportunities -- one NOVeL got to edit a collection of teen poetry that featured a number of our NOVeLs and site users. 

Fast forward another year, and enter COPA. If you don't know what COPA is, Google it. What happened to this wonderful, safe, and encouraging IWTW community fell apart because all of us operating as NOVeLs were under 18 and subject to the rules of COPA. The site was disbanded, we lost our "titles" and responsibilities, and perhaps most disappointingly, we lost our safe and supportive corner of the online world.

Many attempts were made to keep us afloat. Because there were a couple of folks over 18 helping with IWTW who were pioneers in the digital book era, they set up communities on the greater web. One of those sites is the now defunct Teen Writers Dream, which, if you Google, you find many references to still. In an attempt to maintain its teen users, AIN set up a new teen corner, and all of us old vets were given the opportunity to rename it and make it fresh. Sadly, Graffiti on the Wall just never lived up to the IWTW site. 

Although we lost our community, it amazes me that nearly 10 years later (holy cow..) the core of us NOVeLs still talk with one another. Most of us are still LiveJournal users (and almost all of us began using LJ as soon as IWTW fell to pieces), many of us are connected on facebook, and when we get the chance, we meet up when we're in town. While I was in Denver in January, I went to dinner with a couple of former IWTWers who I hadn't met before. 

It blows my mind to think that I've been an internet user for about 11 years now, and it further astonishes me that I'm friends with people I met that long ago. Although it's never the same as knowing someone in person, we've all grown up together digitally, and I think forever, we're going to be keeping in touch with one another. One of the NOVeLs set up a facebook group recently, and it's interesting to see how people's paths have crossed, and it's nice knowing that there are people who are always looking out for you and making sure you're still out there doing well. While we're no longer NOVeLs, we've still got an awesome community. 

And it's totally possible to miss people you don't know personally. 
I don't think this is something people who never build friendships online can understand but I think it's something that my generation will be experiencing and dissecting in ways that are yet unseen. 

Monday, April 13, 2009

Random things about me

I thought that today would be as good a day as any to tell you some of the most random bits of personal information. I expect my loyal readers to do the same (I think I have 2 readers, so I can officially say "readerS").

1. I don't eat red meat. In my house, we only ate white meat, and we never had real bacon. When I went to my dad's house and my step mom made it one night when I was 9, I asked her what it was. We had only ever had turkey bacon. Much as I like bacon now, I still prefer turkey bacon.

2. I'm missing a front tooth. This has been the source of many fun stories in my life. I took Spanish in high school, and for two years, I had the same professor because I really, really liked her (and switched to her course the second year). She overheard me talking about this once, and I had to go up to her, open my mouth, and count my teeth for her. Then she believed it. My front bottom tooth just never grew in.

3. I cannot sleep under a sheet. I can only sleep when there's a fitted sheet and a comforter. 

4. I'm a total morning person. 

5. It wasn't until my iSchool friend FORCED me to learn that I figured out how to work a dishwasher. For 24 years, I lived in the dark, and when the thing malfunctioned in October, I gave it up again. I've used a dishwasher exactly 3 times in my life now. 

6. I've lived in 5 different states. 

7. In high school, my English teacher used to ask me for book recommendations. 

8. I played interscholastic badminton in high school. While I was good at singles, I was a killer doubles player. I had the same partner freshman year all year, and then she quit half way through sophomore year when I got a new partner. My new partner and I stuck it through two years, and we walked away with a few medals. 

9. I was [and to an extent, still am] a troublemaker. In junior high school, a group of friends and I created a website that mocked our junior high and the teachers. It wasn't mean spirited, but instead a total lampoon of the place; it's still talked about to this day! Unfortunately, it was one of those Angelfire websites, so it is long gone.

10. I've overcome about every obstacle possible in terms of statistics. I came from a divorced family and an absent father; I was a first generation college student; and I grew up very poor. I often think about how grateful I am to be where I am today because people took chances on me and because I worked hard despite the odds.

11. I do not have taste receptors for bitterness. 

12. I am not a big fan of chocolate. At all.

13. (Though a lot of people know this, there are still so many people who don't)...I got married in Las Vegas, and I would not change that for the world. Planning took an hour on the phone. I hand made all of my save the dates and invitations, and all of my family and good friends came out. That was the best week of my entire life. 

14. Gambling is the reason I was able to go to college, and whenever people get angry or frustrated at the casino industry, I get very, very frustrated. Casinos put people to work and casinos allow people who would otherwise not have opportunities for education to get it through taxes and scholarships.

15. I used to play flute. When I was in elementary school, it was my DREAM to play french horn. When I got to junior high and started french horn, I HATED it. It was too big, bulky, and the spit valve turned me off something fierce. In 6th grade, I changed to the flute and outplayed those with a year more practice. Then, in high school, I took up tenor saxophone because the fingering was the same as the flute, and they needed a second tenor. I miss playing some days. 

16. I didn't fly for the first time until I was 21. Now, at 24, I've flown more than most people fly in their lifetimes. I LOVE it. 

That's 16, and that's enough for now. I have a post in the works about something very, very cool I did in high school. 
What makes you different or unique? 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A very Texan Easter.

I'll save my religious conviction post for another time, but I thought in the spirit of today's celebration (for some), I'd share my very excellent Easter adventures.

Erik and I were racking our brains today, and we realized that neither of us has been home for Easter in 6 or 7 years. In college, it seemed that Easter never fell over spring break. Easter consisted of homework, celebrating with the families of friends who lived in the area, or otherwise less-than-family-centric events. 

Since coming to Texas, we've spent Easter in two very different -- yet fun -- ways.

Last year, we called up our friend Laurel to enjoy a trip to New Braunfels, where we visited the infamous Snake Farm. Infamous because if you've ever driven on I-35 in Texas, it's advertised like no one's business. We looked at some incredible snakes, longhorns, peacocks, and monkeys, and then we went into the petting zoo and checked out the 1,500 pound pig, the goats, the rams, and the llama. Although we were impressed, we wanted more, and we followed that trip up with the Texas African Safari. There, I had the chance to feed a zebra, who put his entire head into our car! 

After that, we drove back up to Austin, where we met up with a bunch of other classmates and I had my first authentic Indian dinner (besides the naan I purchase from the Whole Foods on occasion, which hardly counts) at the Clay Pit. I got to try many delicious things.

As in any Austin celebration, we ended with a trip to Amy's for some ice cream.  All in all, it was a great Easter with some fun people and some new adventures. 

This year, we took it way easier. We'd planned a second trip down to the Snake Farm, but because the weather had looked dicey all week for today, we decided to forgo that plan in favor of sleeping in, reading, cleaning, and putting in some more work at the apartment. We finished up all of the trim in the bathroom, as well as some touch ups. All we have left is a little touch up on the trim, and then our painting in the new place will be done, done, done! 

After getting home from painting, we cleaned the kitchen top to bottom and made a delicious home made taco dinner. I love making tacos at home, rather than getting them at any of the wonderful Mexican and Tex-Mex places here, simply because I can't find anywhere that makes them the way I prefer them: with ground turkey. I don't eat red meat (there's your random fact for those of you collecting those!), and I don't particularly care for chicken tacos. We made that, indulged in some sugary treats (no peeps, since we only bought one package and those were gone this morning for breakfast), and now we're wrapping up our celebration by cleaning the car and cleaning off the desk and coffee table. I sold both of them for a cool $40, making me a little richer and with fewer items cluttering my life. 

I've digressed, but this is to say, Easter is a great holiday if you celebrate. But if you don't, you still make it special in your own way. Our way happens to be with snakes, zebras, paint, and a lot of elbow grease. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

How to eat a peep.

With Easter coming tomorrow, I thought I would share the best way to enjoy peeps (which, if you're interested, is the best sugary treat choice on Easter according to dieticians).

Step one: Purchase your favorite shape and color. My choice this season was a package of pink bunnies. I prefer the long flat ones to the shorter fat ones.

Step two: Open the package and eat one or two. Make sure you rip the package ALL the way open to enjoy your one or two peeps.

Step three: With the wrapping wide open, place your peeps in an airy area of your home. I am always a fan of the top of the fridge, though this year they made it to the top of the printer.

Step four: Leave them there over night and up to two nights.

Step five: Enjoy your slightly stale, but utterly delicious, sugary marshmallow treats. 

There is, in my opinion, nothing better than the slightly stale peep. I think that the fresh out of the package peeps are too sweet and too chewy. With the slightly stale factor, your peeps have more character, less chewiness, and all of the sweetness they should. It just takes a little fresh air to bring them to full force.

Thanks for joining me on the latest installment of my life as a food snob. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Picture me happy

Are there things that just make you happy, regardless of what mood you're in? For me, it's this photo:


I took it my senior year of college. It's a photo of the sun setting, September 5, 2006, taken from the back seat of a car. A bunch of us were driving down Highway 1 in Mount Vernon, IA to Iowa City to grab dinner at a sandwich joint. The air was crisp and fresh and the sunset was just perfect.

Whenever I get down, which I've been a lot recently, I dig up things like this and just reminisce about good times. I try to remind myself it'll fall into place again eventually, even if it feels like I've lived a pretty wicked nightmare the last couple of years. 

How can you feel sad when you see such natural beauty and just sit and reflect? I dig it. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How do YOU destress?

Last night, my husband and I finally figured out where we will be in August (or sooner, depending), and after feeling like we had the weight of our shoulders on this decision until he officially hit the "accept" button on the offer, it was like a wave of relief. He event sent me an email this morning saying all he feels now is elation and excitement. We sent an email to some of our closest friends and called our family to share the exciting news.

But in the mean time, we're forgoing a total renovation of the new apartment in Austin. Rather, we're going to finish up the bathroom and look for someone to take over the lease when school comes around again. Saves us time, money, and energy that we can invest in living it up here while we're still living here.

Coming with the move, though, is the utter dislike I have for moving. I hate having stuff and things that clutter up our lives. When we moved to Austin, all of our belongings fit into the back of his car, as well as four or five boxes we mailed down (those things being paper or cloth, not anything fragile or important). When we moved from the small apartment to the one we're in now, we had accumulated so much stuff. It makes sense, though, since much of it was furniture, dishes, towels, and other such household goods we didn't have a reason for in college.

But now comes the knowledge that we'll be moving twice within the next six months, and one of those times will be across country. With that, I'm ready for a full out purge. It's my goal to reduce our stuff by 1/3 right now. Erik works for a Major Donation Place in Austin, and they're running a promotion to collect as much stuff next weekend as possible. I'm going to pitch in and try to donate at least 4 bags of stuff. We don't need it, and we know someone somewhere can benefit from it. Likewise, it reduces our stuff load, making the move easier. Moreover, it reduces our stress because it reduces the stuff that clutters our lives. Simplify, simplify.

Although it sounds daunting, I'm really excited. Cleaning is my ultimate destress. Since we made such an important decision last night, it feels natural to thrive off that energy to do the declutter and purge. Plus, with spring here, it's even more of an impetus -- although, certainly, what I consider "spring" begins in about December in central Texas.

How do you destress? Do you have "stuff" impeding your life? Maybe there's a correlation. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Brought to you by Hawaii

I'm not in the blogging spirit today, but I thought I'd share with you my current read.

I love Brennert's style and writing. He's gotten a lot of acclaim for his first novel, Moloka'i, which happens to be one of my top ten of all time. I'm excited to finish this one, as I'm already 100 pages in and loving it as much as Moloka'i. Good historical fiction!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lambast the poet

In junior high, high school, and for most of college, I was a huge writer. Poetry was my medium, and during my freshman year in college, I felt like I'd finally hit a good place with my writing. My style changed and over the course of the next couple of years, I had definitely figured out my voice and style. 

My senior year it all stopped when I got caught inside my head about a number of things, including my point of view, my goals, my inspiration, and perhaps most importantly, the label of poet itself.

To me, there's a lot of weight to the term, and there are many different images that come with the notion of "the poet." I don't associate myself with it. I always feel weird when I tell people who don't know me very well that I love to write poetry, and that I am not a poet. Because I'm not. I'm not a wordsmith, word artisan, language crafter, or any other variation on that tune. I write poetry, but I am myself. 

As I've gotten older and have read more, both poetry and fiction, I have really begun to understand the other aspects that tripped me up senior year -- my point of view, goals, inspiration. I think it takes reading a lot of poetry and reading a lot of criticism of it to gain that understanding. As much as I'm a believer that anyone can write if s/he wants to, I think that to be a strong writer or effective writer, it really does take understanding what you're doing and why you're doing. In learning what you are doing, how you're doing it, and why you're doing it, you learn how you can progress, how people are receiving your work, and how best to respond to the inevitable questions that will come when you share your work. 

Moreover, it makes you a better reader. You can cut through the poetry easier, and you can best understand what's going on and why. Not only that, but you can lead others through challenging pieces, and you can (try) to forge a connection between the reader and the work and perhaps even lead the non-poetry readers into appreciating the art. Poetry is easy to dismiss because it is an art form; fiction is, as well, but fiction is better received by the reader because it's well taught and because it's much more aware of its reader. That's not to say it's an issue of genre because poetry comes in endless flavors, but, readers are better led to their tastes in fiction than they are in poetry, at least initially.

All of this is to say that I finally figured out what it is about my poetry that makes it mine and makes it its own entity. Perhaps it was swearing it off for a couple of years and removing myself completely to understand wholly why and how I do what I do. It's stepping back from the idea of the poet and poetry and steeping oneself into writing and style as things separate from our labels of type and genre. 

I don't try to mimic or imitate, though I love to bend and attempt similar exercises as some of the well-regarded poets. I do try to understand what they're doing and the effect it has on me as a reader. Heightening my awareness of the writing removes the poet from the poetry, and it sharpens my total understanding of language and images and purpose and goals.

And now, I'm back to writing poetry again. I'm not sure it's as smooth a transition as I'd like, but the mere fact I can do it again and understand what my purpose and goals are is an achievement. I'm still hesitant to share widely, though anyone who asks is certainly welcome to it. My reservation, of course, being that those who don't know me and my passion for writing will too quickly judge it as poetry from a poet. Rather, it's writing in the form of poetry from me. Likewise, I'm still struggling with finding my critics - the ones who will tell me when I'm full of crap or indulgent - something that is shockingly hard to find in a world of people who want to be poets and create poetry, rather than people who want to write and grow as writers. 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sewing for the clueless.

When we signed the lease to the new place, we were told we'd have to get our own curtains since the ones in there were of sentimental value to a previous owner. Not a big deal. We thought we'd go to the store, pick up some cheaply, and move on. Oh contraire! The windows in the apartment aren't a normal size, and purchasing curtains is very pricey when you're picking up 8 or so.

The next logical step was for me to put on my craft prowess and do it myself. Although one of my goals this year is to learn how to sew on a sewing machine, the lack of sewing machine in my life makes it difficult. How do you make curtains without a sewing machine, you ask? With a little elbow grease, you can do it. Just note, too, that you can make them lined if you want, but because I used white fabric and take care to make things look even, I didn't.



Tools:
- fabric (style and size to your taste and needs)
- bondable webbing
- ribbon
- an iron
- scissors
- measuring stick/tape

First, pick your window. I purposely chose one that was a little differently sized. Once you pick one, measure the length and width of the window. Then, measure the fabric, ensuring you leave between 6-8 inches extra both length and width wise from the window itself (you'll want it to make two panels and to tie back, as well as ensure the curtain rod will fit at the top). Cut your fabric, and don't worry too much about cutting a perfectly straight line. 



Then, set yourself up at a clean, long table or ironing board. You will want to put your fabric face down. Have an iron at its highest heat setting ready to go.


Next, make yourself a fold that will be large enough to slide your curtain rod through, plus an inch or so of slack to be safe. Make it as even as you want, though since it's at the rod end, it probably doesn't matter if it's not perfect.


And iron the fold you've just made. It makes the webbing much easier to iron in the next step if you pre-iron. 

After you've ironed the crease, measure out the webbing to reach end to end under the fold. I found it much easier to actually do this in pieces. Instead of cutting a long piece of webbing, I cut 2-3 shorter pieces. 

Next, you will want to put the webbing as the center of the sandwich between the fabric you just ironed to a crease. Since this will be your seam, you will want to make sure you've left yourself enough room between the top of the webbing and the top of the crease to slide in your rod. This is why it is a good idea to have a little slack room - having more space for your rod to slide in will give the top more movement and make it easier to slide your curtains open. Your webbing will likely be closer to the edge of that fabric rather than near the fold you ironed. Once that's in place, iron the sandwich you've made. 



Voila! You've just made the top of your curtain without sewing a thing. 

Once you're confident that the webbing is holding (and it does it very quickly), you can make the long sheet into two panels. If you want to keep it one long curtain you can, but you will likely make something that isn't as flow-y or moveable. If you're having trouble with the webbing sticking, make sure your iron is clean and at its highest setting. I had stick problems when I had it set at 3 or 4 rather than 7 or 8.

Start the process of creating two panels by folding your long sheet in half length-wise and cut it in half. Again, you don't have to be perfect, but the smoother and straighter the cut now, the less you have to perfect ironing later.


Now, take one of your panels and put it back on your flat surface. You will cut a small slit directly beneath the top of the curtain (where you have just made the seam). This allows you to more easily fold and iron down the side.

Like the top, you will crease a seam. Since you are doing this simply for aesthetic purposes, you can make them if you wish or you can stop your process here. I like the clean look, so I prefer to "sew" the sides. The size of your seam depends entirely on your window's width, and if you left a couple of extra inches (as in step 1), then you can make your seam anywhere between 1/4 and 1 inch. Fold and iron. 

Again, cut and insert your webbing. If you're making a smaller seam (which I did on the other side of this panel), you will definitely want to cut your webbing into smaller sizes so that you can ensure a smooth iron/seam melding. 


Repeat this process on the other side of this panel, as well as on the other panel. Do not do it on the bottom of either of them, though, without measuring them precisely. I chose not to do the bottom at all, since the length ends up perfect (see the step where you cut the large sheet in half) and it allows more movement. If your bottom end isn't perfect for some reason, you can fix that after you hang them up with some simple scissor snips.

Grab your curtain rod now and slide your panels both on. Since you've left slack room, they won't fit on there without bunching at the top. That's what you want!




Finally, hang those puppies back up onto the window. Check the bottoms to make sure they're even enough for your taste and preferences, and either leave them be, alter, or iron on a bottom seam.

Ta da! You've just made yourself a set of curtains without sewing a thing. And since you're making them, they can be altered to any length, shape, size, or design. You can pick up some ribbon, too, or add in a wall hook to tie back the curtains when you want to let in the sunlight, since you've actually created two panels. 


Total cost
Fabric: $7.99/yard (my window here required about 1.5 yards)
Ribbon: $2/spool for the pricier stuff
Bondable web: $2 

Much cheaper, much more customizable, and more satisfying by doing it yourself. And you don't have to feel too guilty about changing them when you wish!

***

Sunday, April 5, 2009

East sider!

Erik and I are out of our current lease in less than a month which is both exciting and unexciting. Exciting because we aren't hot on the place and unexciting because we aren't keen on the whole moving process.

But we lucked out and found the perfect place in a quick search a couple weeks ago. As soon as we saw it and learned that we could do anything to it that we wanted to do, we were sold on the place. We're really excited to be moving closer to where Erik works, too, as his commute now is long by our standards. Maybe the most exciting is the fact we're only 1/2 a block away from the cafe that does $2 Shiner Tuesdays. But I digress.


We had the chance to go do a walk through today and Erik and I began patching together plans for how we want to jazz this place up. We've got some awesome bones to work from, and we've got an incredible yard just ripe for composting, gardening, and flowers. 

It's got the feel and size of a first small house, and since it's not part of a sprawling complex like the place we're in now is, it's even more home-y. It's quite an inspiring space, with endless possibilities. I'm very excited to get dirty and sweaty making it something spectacular and knowing when we leave, we've added some value to the place. We think we're getting it for a steal, considering how much flexibility we have in our lease terms, as well as our decoration abilities.

Although I'm ready to get out of Texas, I'm also excited to find a way to invest time and energy into something creative. My writing's been on a two year hiatus, and perhaps through the ability to put that creative energy into something physical, it'll reemerge mentally. 

It's a constant struggle, the creative spirit. But perhaps this is where it'll spark again, both for myself and for Erik. I think part of feeling unaccomplished and unsatisfied lately is the inability to get our creativity and spirits in a state of flow. While blogging helps get writing going, it's not quite what I'm needing. I really think it's the physical expression now -- I'm drawn to the painting, the crafting, the design -- and perhaps through that, I'll tap the book/poetry/story writing spirit again. 

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The town line's far away & he won't sleep for days


Last night Erik and I went out downtown, which is something we tend to avoid doing because it's expensive and not really our scene. We'd decided a couple of weeks ago to see Yonder Mountain String Band while they were playing Stubbs since I'd heard it was a great place to see a show and we liked YMSB a lot. 

We headed downtown early - the website said the show would begin at 7 pm, which actually meant that the doors opening at 7 and the show would not actually begin until 8. We got excellent parking and took in a wonderful BBQ meal at Stubbs beforehand. 

We got into the venue pretty early, too, and took a good spot to relax a bit before the show began. We'd both had a drink with dinner and were feeling it (getting old isn't fun). 

The first act was Tom Schneider, who was really good for an opening act. We're usually not big into whoever opens but I'm glad we made the effort to go down early and see him. 

Yonder was so cool live. The music is pretty great recorded, but I really dig the long, extended versions of their music. Admittedly, Erik and I don't know a ton of their songs, but it didn't really matter. It's bluegrass folk at its best, with lots of wonderful mandolin and banjo play. I love the songs that stretch for 6, 7, 10 minutes long. It's hard not to dance, and it's really a lot of fun watching everyone getting down like mad. Who cares no one can dance when it's too fun not to want to?

The stage show and lights were great and fit the mood perfectly. Very enjoyable.

After they played "On the Run" for 10 minutes, they took an intermission (and who wouldn't after that long of a run?). We decided, too, we were tired and old and we'd head home for the night to relax. We're getting over the need to stay at things the whole time to enjoy it, particularly when it means you're standing for 4 hours straight. 

We came home and vegged the night away. Pitch perfect Friday, if you ask me. And our Saturday? Abso-freaking-lutely perfect. We took a drive up to Ikea to pick some fabric for curtain making and took in lunch at our favorite guilty pleasure place. 

Being in Austin is great for the live music, of course. I've taken in more shows here than anywhere else I've been. Perhaps it's part of getting older, too, but I'm more willing to give it a go here, even if I don't know a musician's catalog or who they are. I'll miss it, I think, but I suspect wherever we end up in a couple months, we'll still have that sort of spirit with us. 

Sorry to subject my loyal reader to a recap of my awesome life, but I got the chance to take some cool photos, so I had to show them off, right?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Re: Friday

Do you get juvenile at the thought of Friday?
Does your blood pressure drop significantly and your body suddenly drop 50 pounds and your hair and clothes fit and look perfect?

Maybe you suffer from my Friday syndrome.

You know the one.

All week, you hope your hours fly by and all day Friday you sail the high skies knowing that you have a weekend of endless possibilities ahead of you. And it only gets better when someone reminds you of an awesome obligation you have for the weekend of which you've completely forgotten (check!). The feeling is downright J. Alfred Prufrock.

I'm perfectly content with the knowledge it'll either be full of things to do or full of time to relax. But this weekend, oh this weekend, I am so ready!

I love the warm sun, the fresh air found no where else except Austin, the greenery, the breeze. This weekend's about a little Texas BBQ, some live folk music, painting our new place, and the slow, easy pace of the south.
I've always loved my Fridays, but there's something different here than there was in college. Less partying, less drinking.
A slower pace.
I dig it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

This American Life.


I think I've admitted my addiction a few times, but in case you missed the memo, I have a problem with taking photos of my cats. And why not? I don't have children nor a job, and, well, digital photos are free to take. Plus, since my cats talk and blog (he's a little behind on it, but, he's been busy), it's only natural I want to make sure I capture them at their finest.

About a month ago, Erik and I came into a windfall known as our tax refund. I exaggerate, of course, about the windfall, but we figured it was enough to splurge $25 on a kitty condo for their cat escapades. What a great ROI we've experienced, too.

With the spring in full bloom here in Central Texas, it was only natural for us to pull out the bird feeder, too. Last fall, we had a regular pair of love bird cardinals, a handful of bluejays, and the sparrows. We've had our romps with the raccoon, too, but that's a story for another day. But with the spring and the bluebonnets and the baby cardinals also comes a new patio friend: Mr. Squirrel.

And boy, do I love Mr. Squirrel.

First and foremost, I love squirrels, period. After living in the most shady housing project on the campus of Cornell College (and by shady, I mean THE BEST, may it rest in pieces), I became good friends with a few funkified squirrels. There was the all black squirrel, which we gave a name and subsequently forgot. Then there were the regular fair weather squirrel friends who came when they knew there was food to be had. And then there was my favorite: the one who would bark non-stop on my fire escape at ALL hours. My roommate and I would bark back, naturally, but it was then that I came to really appreciate the fact that squirrels are flippin' hilarious animals. The darn thing was always mad at me for living quite the life up in section 8 while he had to fight with the other squirrels for a piece of the pie.

Well, in a moment of brilliance on my part (I say with no shame) I moved kitty condo from its residence beside the cat food bowl to in front of the patio doors. And boy, the investment returns went up, up, up!

Fast forward to two days ago. Two cats lounging like they would in the condo are suddenly confronted by Mr. Squirrel. And Mr. Squirrel is a talker. And the cats are also talkers. Hilarity ensues, naturally.

Hours of entertainment, digital memories, and all thanks to a little $25 investment. Thanks America!

(No, your eyes don't deceive you. I still have a pumpkin from Halloween AND lights from Christmas up on the patio. I'm a little bitter Erik won't let me keep the lights on, but I compromised in being able to keep them up).


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wherein I admit my fat kid tendencies

I'm a pizza snob.
I won't deny it.

But that's what happens when you are:
a) Italian (...okay, Sicilian, but close enough);
b) from Chicago; and
c) of two generations of Italian restaurant employees.

So that said, I have to say I am sorely disappointed in my non-Chicago pizza experiences. Four years in Iowa left me with two pizza options (well, three at one point): the royally-inspired Pizza Palace and the neighboring town's place, Paul Reveres. Much to your confusion, I'm sure, I am here to tell you that the Englishman actually knew a heck of a lot more about a quality pizza than the local Palace, but that's not saying too much. Englishmen should not take up causes in the Italian's specialties. A trip to other parts of eastern Iowa broadened the choices to Bob's Your Uncle, Zoe's, or Naso's. Still nothing to write home about (especially since home was Chicago, where all I got was laughed at when I mentioned a dinner courtesy of Mr. Revere).

Moving on to Texas, I've got a couple more options -- we've got the Pizza Hut, the Dominos, and the other chains dotting Austin's landscape. As much as this city thrives on its independent businesses and eateries, pizza is one place they don't have much of in the way of non-chain choices. There is, of course, Gatti's pizza (with its own Playland!) and Austin's Pizza, the only place that can even moderately come close to good pizza.

A perfect pizza can come in many, many forms. It comes down to a simple equation, really:

1. A good crust, be it paper thin, average, or thickthickthick
2. A memorable sauce
3. The right ratio of cheese to sauce to toppings
4. Fresh, ripe toppings.

Some of those I associate with would also include in that list an appropriate grease to cheese ratio, but in my (not so) humble opinion, the pizza should have as little grease as possible.

If you're Chicago bred or have had the experience of eating in any of the many wonderful pizzerias, you can place bets on places like Enrico's, Gino's, Girodano's, Aurelio's, and others to fit the bill each and every time. In Iowa, you just hoped the garlic bread or cheese sticks would fill you up enough before you judged the quality of the pizza. And in Austin, it's always hit or miss. Tonight, for example, our wheat-crust-pepperoni-and-sausage-with-ranch-sauce-on-the-side pizza from Austin's Pizza was spot on. The Gatti's from a year ago was such a miss that the one and only time I ordered from it will be remembered not for the pizza but for the fact the woman I ordered the pizza from told me about how she wished she were in Chicago (she must've been disappointed, too). Not that it was bad, and it certainly outdid the chains, but, it was also just that: not bad.

All of this is to say that I've uncovered the real secret to the perfect, fat-kid satisfying pizza: Giving your restaurant an Italian name.