9/29/10

Birthday Cake

Why did I spend a Tuesday night making a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting?

Because today, Melissa Overmyer graces the world with another year of life!

At the beginning of our friendship: (L-R) Hannah, Melissa, Carissa, Erica, Me

5 things I love about Melissa:

1. The inevitable wink that comes with her smile.
2. Her Black-Irish heritage.
3. Her motivation to go to the gym... rain, snow or shine.
4. Our mutual appreciation for ridiculous television.
5. Her love of kids, which makes her the best babysitter.

9/26/10

Home


We are a family that relies heavily on tradition - so much so that my 49 year old father still receives a Mickey Mouse lunch box filled with his favorite snacks for his birthday, a tradition that dates back to his elementary school days. Christmas has an almost eerily redundant agenda - starting with "the Santa gifts" and ending with a complex and often absurd rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas". If my grandparents ever came to visit without bringing scotcheroos (a completely delicious dessert of chocolate and peanut butter) we'd assume that they'd forgotten a bag in the car. Point being: it just doesn't happen.


To support these traditions, we're also a family that relies on order. I recall going to the dentist when I was about 12 years old, concluding an appointment and opening my planner on their receptionist's counter to schedule another. The receptionist laughed and said, "Oh my goodness, you're just like your mother!" This confused me. I may have gone to a small private school, but I was fairly certain that everyone carried a planner. Wrong. We're probably one of a few families that had a strict "chore chart" - decorated, functional, and hanging in the kitchen. We might be the only family who has their bacon standing in neat little rows at brunch. We're definitely the only family who considered first initials when choosing names only because overlapping initials would confuse the labeling of appointments and extra-curriculars in The Planner.


But I love these things. I love all the crazy, quirky qualities that are unique to my family. As I've gotten older, these qualities have become even more discernible and appreciated.


This weekend Blake and I made a trip back to our Connecticut hometown to celebrate another year for my father and brother and to remember a life well-lived in Blake's grandmother. With some sadness and a great deal of joy, we left remembering the people that make up our idea of "home" - whether in memory or in presence.
Blake, Grandpa and Dad out flying the "fleet".
Blake's true initiation as Dad's son-in-law.

In his element.

Blake has completed his initiation. He now receives his own plane.
I feel like he should be wearing a cap and gown in this picture. Nonetheless, you can see the pride in his eyes.

All four of my grandparents: Grandaddy, Grammy, Grandmum & Grandpa
Once again, you can see that we don't have name duplicates.

9/22/10

Poetry

Lately, I've been really enjoying those few moments when my assignments stray from the prose and enter into the much-contemplated and enlightening world of the poets. Even as I sat reading the biographical information for T.S. Eliot, I thought "I'm enjoying this...maybe more than is acceptable for a homework assignment."

You, too, should enjoy this section of T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men", which deals with post-war Europe, the Treaty of Versailles and Eliot's personal life. It's one of my favorite so far.

V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

9/20/10

Interruptions

Today, I stumbled upon two wonderful interruptions to my ever-lingering to-do list.

The first: this book, which not only lists gemstones in the cutest way possible, but also has the most stunning illustration I've ever seen. Not to mention an important lesson about the value of a moose and learning to love yourself.


Second: check out this adorableness. A little odd, I'll admit, but a completely legitimate distraction nonetheless.

9/19/10

A Visit to Boston

I started writing my previous blog post with a completely different intention. Thus the need for two blog posts in one day. Wow. I'm really impressing myself.

So, aside from yesterday's birthday escapades, Blake and I drove into Boston for Free2Walk and a cousin-visit.

Free2Walk is an initiative with Not For Sale, an organization that I have been involved with (minimally) for a few years now. Not For Sale campaigns to raise awareness and end the global slave trade with support from various sources - from students to government officials. You can check out their website here. Free2Walk is one branch of Not For Sale that raises funds and informs the public. Blake and I were tour guides, leading groups around Boston to reveal how past slavery relates to modern day slavery, what abolitionists are doing to put an end to the injustice, and what others can do to help.


After the walk, we had lunch with my wonderful cousin, Lee, who is in his first year at Emerson. I'm pleased to report that his dorm room is clean, his roommate is nice, and he seems to be enjoying his classes. We're so proud of you, and we're so glad you're only 20 minutes away!


Friendship


In the quieter, less stressful moments, I am made aware of the incredible blessing of friendship.

For the most part, I lean toward independence. I value solitary walks, quiet reading, and time to reflect. I think my having a blog goes to further that point. In fact, I go a little crazy when I don't have "alone time". Of my girlfriends, I was probably the least likely to get married young. It goes to show that God has an interesting sense of humor.

In the past week, I've spoken to a few of these girlfriends about marriage and how it's changed my life. The funny thing is - it hasn't really. The hardest thing has been deciding whether or not to write "Stephanie Bittner" or "Stephanie Walker" on my tests (given that I haven't yet legally changed my name). Of course, I now have to wear earplugs, initiate any kind of cleaning, and set the alarm clock. Small things have changed, just as they would with a new college roommate. But being married isn't like dating; it's better. I know that I'll be with my best friend for the rest of my life. This hasn't changed my life drastically, it's only made life more... real.

Aside from the best "best friend", I've also appreciated those relationships which are commonly overshadowed by newlywed life. This past week, we had Heather and Brian over for fajitas and apple crisp. I had lunch with one of my most trusted confidants, Rachel, who was also one of my bridesmaids. I might have gone for walks with Melissa on 3 of the 5 weekdays.

So yesterday at my friend Abi's 22nd birthday as we were wildly dancing to hits from the 80's (the deejay had an odd collection), I thanked God for girlfriends, husbands who let their wives have fun with these girlfriends, and His saving grace from the life that I would have chosen for myself - one of complete independence.

9/13/10

Creativity Feeds the Chef

If you can't be a good cook, at least be a creative cook.

I need to stop kidding myself. Cooking is beyond my abilities.

Some things I can do...
I can knit a decent-looking scarf.
I can write you a great poem.
I can hold my own on the dance floor.
I can burp a baby.
I can read multiple novels in a day.
I can shop til I drop.
I can carry on a conversation for hours.

I'm telling you right now: I could not cook you an edible pork chop, meatloaf, or chicken piccata to save my poor, direction-following, best-intentioned soul.

Exhibit A, B and C (created by yours truly this weekend):

Cran-raisin Pancakes (later topped with crunchy peanut butter)

Honey Bunches of Oats Pancakes

Apple-Banana Pancakes

9/11/10

Autumn, let's be friends.

I'm an autumn kid. I love slipping out of summer shorts into a nice pair of jeans. I'm a fan of plaid. I enjoy a drive through New England as the leaves start to change. I don't hate school (shhh... I love it). I freak out as soon as the local orchard opens its "Pick Your Own" apple season. Seriously, I'm a sucker for anything autumnal. I'm even pretty obsessed with the word.

But I'll get to that...

First, the school/work week.

I spent the large majority of my week inside reading fabulous literature from the modernist period (a brief, delightful dinner with good friends Heather and Melissa smooshed in there somewhere), stopping in the Admissions Office to work, and casually browsing the library for children's books - which I devoured. Why children's books? Because I'm taking a Children's Literature class. Why? Well, a variety of reasons: partly because I needed a 2-credit course, partly because I might go into publishing, and partly because reading simplistic literature is a huge relief in my day.

Reading children's literature brings me back to some old-school favorites. Most notably The Boxcar Children books, American Girl novels, "Love You Forever", "Strega Nona", "The Little Engine That Could"... I could go on forever. But, for the sake of time, I will recommend the long-time most-requested of my older sister and I, "The Best Little Monkeys in the World".

Best. Book. Ever.

Back to autumn.

I could smell it in the air this morning. I opened my closet and caught sight of my plaid shirts, fluttering in the early September breeze. It was tantalizing. Those cozy shirts, which had mocked me all summer long, were beginning to look more relevant. But today I didn't do it. There's nothing worse than bringing on the plaid season earlier than is socially acceptable. Plaid rides a fine line between "comfortable lover-of-autumn" and "crazy lumberjack". I didn't want to risk it.

Instead, to get my fall-fix, Blake and I went apple picking and hiking. Tonight, we might even make caramel apples.

Autumn is officially on.


9/5/10

Concord, MA

As life will probably only have us in the Boston area until the end of May, Blake and I are determined to make that time count. This means embracing everything - beach days, Portsmouth, Newburyport, Rockport, Halloween parties, the Topsfield Fair, etc. Most of these things involve outdoor activity, so we're even more pressed for time. Of course, a few activities on that list will fall by the wayside. Not this weekend, though.

I am equally obsessed with the historical and the literary, so our natural first destination was Concord. Blake had been to this great town as a child, and appreciated it as only a distractible, basketball-loving, video game-playing twelve year old can. He recalled that he and his brothers spent the day chasing their mother with salamanders to provoke an early departure. God help me if I ever end up with five boys.

This time around, I think Blake enjoyed it more. Probably not as much as I did, but I couldn't possibly expect someone to enjoy Concord to that extent. From the time we got to the Minute Man National Park to the time we left the Old North Bridge, I don't think I stopped saying, "Can you imagine?!" and "Blake, the Red Coats were here!" Remember Will Ferrell in "Elf"? Yep, something like that...

Here's the inevitable picture reel:

Minute Man National Park

Fiske Hill

Home of Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and Margaret Sidney

Yes, I am about to pee myself in my excitement

Walking around the park

Old North Bridge

Blake on the bridge