So I figured since I churned out a few batches of cookies for my own wedding and they turned out pretty good, I might as well offer up my services to the cousins, especially ones having small weddings where my dad’s doing almost the entire cookie table. She was hesitant to ask, since we’d just gotten done with our own wedding, and I was like, “Nah, it’s all over. Nothing left to do.” So when I had some free time, I’d throw a batch in the oven until we ended up with a few dozen of a few different types of cookies.

So, my attitude towards baking is sort of indifference. I’ll admit now that I’ve done it a couple times, I’m more confident and enjoying it a little more, but I am still definitely not the type to bake just, like, for fun. I love the finished product, though, and even though I did it for my own wedding, that felt more like another part of the planning–I wanted people to like them, sure, but it was low on my list of concerns that day. This time, though, I’d walk past the cookie table and see how things were going. And part of that was friendly(ish) competition with my dad. Since all of the cookies were made by just the two of us, with the exception of some from Eat N Park, we were each insisting we made the better cookies.

And competition part aside, the wedding did have an element of being a bride versus being a guest. It wasn’t even a matter of, say, comparing the two weddings–it was, “Ah, it’s nice to show up, eat, drink, & have a good time rather than put the whole shebang together.” And don’t get me wrong, my wedding was fun and I wasn’t particularly stressed, but it’s still a lot to do and being a guest was a nice change. And for me, at least, there’s a difference between being a wedding guest before you getting married and being a wedding guest after. Maybe by the next one, it won’t matter, but after I got engaged, I was thinking about things differently, wondering what I’d do for my own, and after, you’re well familiar with the cost and logistics.

It was a nice wedding. My cousin was technically already married, having done it last December because he’s in the military, so this was more the big party. I’ve said this before–I have kind of a strange attitude about marriage, particularly for a newlywed, but one of the better things about it is feeling loved by a 150 people, not just one, and really celebrating. Maybe “it’s a fun party” isn’t the best pro-marriage argument. Then again, maybe it is.

So this was a church ceremony, a gap while they took pictures, and then dinner and dancing. This is where the non-Catholic weddings always get me, because no matter how aware I am that we’re one of the only ones who have a whole big, long ceremony, I’m always surprised to go to a wedding that’s like 20 minutes late. But I appreciate a ceremony that gets to the point, and again, I say this as a bride who not only had a full Catholic mass but also paid for the choir to sing. Like I said, strange attitude.

We spent the downtime at my parents’ house, and by then, it was a Duke-less house, which was strange and sad and just not the same. I’ll talk about him more another time, but of the three dogs we had, Duke was the one I was closest to and the one whose loss stung the longest and hardest.

The rest of the evening was partying, and we stayed until the DJ stopped playing and had ourselves a good time. Paul and I dusted off our dance moves, and we’ve resolved to go back to dance classes–eventually. They were expensive, but I’ve found another nearby studio where we can pay like 10 bucks for individual lessons and I want to at least get us in there by the spring so we can look smooth for the next wedding. We ate a lot, we drank a lot, we had a good time and spent the night at my parents’ house. Brandon’s old room is now a guest room, and it’s where I spent the night before our wedding. Granted, I didn’t sleep much, but it’s a nice, cozy room, and Marriage Advantage is being able to sleep in the same bed at our parents’ houses now. I never pushed that, even though we’ve been living together for a few years. Marriage has a way of legitimizing things, for better or worse.

We’d wanted to spend the next morning in the mountains, but the weather wasn’t great for it and we kind of slept in late. So we stopped at the mall and then ate hibachi instead.

Saturday 9: Monster Mash

Unfamiliar with this week’s featured song? Hear it here.
1) In your younger days, did you ever trick or treat while dressed as a monster or ghoul? Not that I can think of–I might’ve had a costume as a toddler where I was a devil, albeit an adorable one, but my Halloween costumes tended to be less scary.

2) Do you enjoy being frightened by celluloid boys-gone-bad, like Michael Myers (Halloween) or Jason (Friday the 13th)? In terms of slasher movies, not really–they just don’t do it for me, for whatever reason. I think it’s that I just don’t find them particularly interesting.
3) When you were a kid, did you ever TP a neighbor’s house or indulge in any other Halloween acts of vandalism? (Don’t worry, the statute of limitations is up.) Nope.
4) Will you be attending any Halloween parties this year? If so, will you dress up? Maybe. We were invited to one, but it’s Sunday night and that’s a work night. We’re also stopping by both sets of parents’ houses, and that tends to suck up the whole day.
5) Can you see any Halloween decorations as you answer these 9 questions? No, because I didn’t put any up. There’s no room in this little apartment. Check with my next year, when so help me God I will have either a house or better apartment.

6) While Halloween is most popular in the United States and Canada, and isn’t really celebrated at all in Japan or South Korea. How would you explain our Halloween customs to a visitor from another land? I’d probably just say you dress up and people give out candy, then do my best to answer their inevitable questions.

7) “Monster Mash” is one of Halloween’s most played songs. Are you happy to hear it every year? Or does it set your teeth on edge? I’m indifferent, I guess. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. I don’t really mind hearing it, because I do like songs that set the mood for a season. And no, that does not mean starting Christmas music November 1.
8) This week’s featured artist, Bobby “Boris” Pickett, started as a stand-up comedian who incorporated his imitations of Boris Karlof and Bela Lugosi into his act. Can you impersonate anyone? Not really. I mean, maybe, but it’s not like there’s one I do particularly well or that I’m, like, known for.

9) Dick Clark was an impossibly young looking 33 in this week’s featured clip. Are you often told you look good for your age? Not good, but young. I’m 28 but can probably pass for a few years younger, although I have noticed I get carded a little less when I drink. But I have a theory that the wedding ring is a tip-off and that sometimes, your demeanor and the drink you order can clue in the server as to whether or not you’re underage.

Friday 5: October 6 through 10

  1. The first week of October is National Customer Service Week in the United States and Kenya. Where have you received especially good customer service? I’ll use my most recent example–I use a locally made sugar scrub because my skin is shit, and they have these like tiers where you get different rewards for spending so much money. And naturally, having shitty skin, I’m at the highest tier, meaning I get a free gift with every scrub plus coupons after I spend so much money. I get $10 off. Thing is, I also subscribe so that I’m automatically charged and shipped a new scrub, and you’re not able to apply coupon codes to that. Instead, they refund you the amount of the coupon if you ask. So I asked, they asked me to confirm, and I’m getting 10 bucks back in my account.
  2. The second Saturday in October was National Tree-Planting Day in Mongolia. When did you last do anything resembling tree-planting? Man, probably when I planted raspberry bushes in my parents’ yard in college. And now unless I happen to be over during raspberry season, which is very short, I don’t even get to enjoy them.
  3. October 4 was World Animal Day (the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals). What’s an obscure animal you know a thing or two about? I don’t think I know anything about obscure animals.
  4. October 6 was National Poetry Day in Ireland and the United Kingdom. What’s a line of poetry that springs to mind now that you’re thinking about poetry? I think of a few lines from some of my favorites, but the one that popped in first was “Monroeville, PA” by local poet Ed Ochester. I can recite it from memory–it’s very, very short–but I’d rather link it and let Ochester have the honor of entertaining you with it.
  5. What’s in your pocket? I’m not wearing any pants. But if I were, it would most likely be nothing. Typically, only my phone goes there, and it’s only for a hot minute.

As always, from Friday 5.

Paul and I always talk about wanting to hang out with people more, and it figures that a couple weekends now, when he’s hung out with coworkers he’s starting to get friendly with, I’ve been balls deep in articles with looming deadlines. But I was able to make it out to do an escape room with his boss, his ex-wife, and one of his friends.

The ex-wife bit very well could have been weird–they’re newly divorced, we’re newly wed, and they decided to split up because they’d been fighting a lot and didn’t think it was good for their kid. Smart, I think. She marched right up, smile on her face, and said, “Hi, I’m the ex-wife,” and that was that. Clearly, they still hang out, and despite the initial few seconds of awkwardness meeting her for the first time, it was fine. Sometimes people are better as friends, and that’s fine.

They’re seasoned escape-room veterans with a great track record of escaping, and Paul and I–plus his boss’ friend–were newbies. I mean, the basic premise isn’t hard to figure out, but this room in particular only had a 13% success rate, and watching experienced people do it showed just what a puzzle the whole thing is and how you have to pay attention to every little thing. We did pretty good. I mean, we didn’t make it out, but we were so, so frustratingly close. We had about two or three steps to go before we made it in the hour allotted.

I talked about how hilarious my family would be in one. My dad would probably not be much help and my mom would laugh and make fun of him the whole time, entertaining us all–and so that’s how we decided it’s a good trip to take for Brandon’s birthday in a couple weeks. Hopefully, we make it out of that one.

We’re hitting the end of my long string of events I bought tickets for, unfortunately.

The beginning of the month brought Eddie Izzard, who was in town more for a small book tour than comedy. But Eddie being Eddie, he was still funny and charismatic, talking a bit about his life and reading from his book and showing pictures of himself of people and places he was talking about. I’ve always enjoyed seeing him, so even in a smaller setting not necessarily dedicated to comedy was fun.

Paul’s sister Emily’s birthday was a few days later, and at some point, I suggested that if we didn’t get invited out for it last minute, we ought to celebrate with her our damn selves. She had the following Monday off from school, so she was home for the weekend. So we picked her up and took her out to lunch, which ended up being hibachi since she wanted sushi and it’s the only place we could get it in the area on a Sunday. We followed it up with a visit to their grandfather in the hospital, who was in for some internal bleeding. He was better than he had been a few days prior, Emily said, but of course he wasn’t thrilled about being in the hospital. And since Sarah’s working there now, we managed to just miss her–she had just gotten there right after we left.

In the meantime, I’ve been plugging away at articles for AXS, plus wedding thank-you notes. I got a few out at a pretty good pace, impressing some relatives in the beginning, but the pace has slowed. I’m still doing okay–modern etiquette is three months, meaning I still have time, but I do wish I’d made more progress than I have, especially as I’m keeping organized by depositing money after the thank-you is done.

Saturday 9: Voices Carry

Saturday 9: Voices Carry (1985)
Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

This song was chosen because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Please share this link to The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Let’s spread the word that there’s help out there.
1) In this song, a woman is “hushed” by her lover. When were you last told to “keep it down?” I can’t remember. I have a feeling my mother was involved, though.

2) Her lover tells her tears are something to hide. Researchers tell us that crying can be good for us, because by releasing emotional stress, it lessens physical stress on the cardiovascular system. Are you comfortable crying infront of other people? No, I hate crying in front of other people. I think it makes me feel exposed. But I also cry very easily in movies, so it kind of just happens and I have to keep my sniffling quiet and hope no one notices. But the most famous example of this failing was I cried in the theater at the end of Brave, and when the lights went on, my brother yelled, “Are you crying?!”

3) In this video, the woman makes a scene by speaking up in a theater. Today theater goers are more likely to be disturbed by a cell phone ringing or its screen illuminating. Are you careful to turn your phone off in the theater, church, etc.? Yes, and for fuck’s sake, unless you have a very good reason as to why you may need to be contacted, everyone else should, too, especially in quiet environments like that where people are there to pay attention to something. I hate being bothered by a cellphone in a movie theater or the actual theater. I paid to enjoy something, and cellphones are a distraction.

4) When this group, Til Tuesday, was still struggling, Cyndi Lauper was already a star. Cyndi offered to record this song, which would have brought the group some fast cash, but only if they agreed not to record it themselves. Obviously they didn’t take the deal. Tell us about a time you took a risk on yourself, and it paid off. I think my whole choice of major and career was a risk. I majored in English, knowing jobs were scarce, but managed to find one, plus I write on the side. Of course, my husband’s income helps, but even on my own, I was doing fine. Well enough to stand as proof that you can make it work.

5) Til Tuesday’s lead singer, Aimee Mann, went to Open High School in Richmond, Virginia. This charter high school is dedicated to helping students become “self-determined thinkers and learners.” Do you recall your high school as permissive or regimented? I went to a Catholic school, so it was fairly regimented. We got away with what we could.
6) Aimee has been on the road through 2017 and, like most artists, sells tour merchandise. Her line includes reusable tote bags. Do you bring your own bag to the grocery store? When we remember! We have reusable bags and we love them, but when we first got them, we had to get into the habit of using them. And sometimes, we still forget.

7) Aimee has tried her hand at acting and appeared on Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. From Dracula to Barnabas Collins to Lestat, vampires are a popular culture staple (especially in October). What do you suppose accounts for their enduring popularity? I think vampires are the sexy monsters. Most other Halloween monsters are more grotesque, but with the exception of things like Nosferatu, who’s a creepy motherfucker, vampires are human, and they’re often portrayed as creatures who are alluring and interesting. Dracula had a very sexual aspect to it from the start, and that’s never really gone away. And I think the immortality aspect intrigues people, too. There’s a darkness to the whole thing that’s interesting and creepy, but not necessarily scary.

8) In 1985, when this song was popular, Bruce Springsteen was at the top of the charts with Born in the USA. A massive commercial success, Born in the USA has sold more than 15,000,000 copies in the United States alone. Is it in your collection? It is not. I’m not sure I’ve listened to the entire album, but I know I like some songs–I’m just not sure I like enough to want the whole album.

9) Random question: In which race would you do better — the Iditarod, with sled dogs in Nome, or speeding in a car at 200+ mph at the Indianapolis 500? Probably the Indy 500. As much as I’d love to be in a race with dogs, I know I’d hate the cold, so being in a fast car suits me much more. And the speed probably would be exciting.

Friday 5: More (and more) Questions About Buildings and Food

  1. What’s the best layered food? Lasagna. It combines so many things I love.
  2. What’s the best rolled food? Sushi.
  3. What’s the most recent cuisine you’ve tried for the first time from an ethnicity not your own? So my best friend lives about an hour away from us, kind of on the other side of Pittsburgh–we pass through the city to get to her house, unless traffic is bad, in which case we take the long away around. But anyway, every year, for one week in August, a park near her town hosts International Village, an international food festival with booths from tons of different countries. It’s a little simpler than it sounds, just because a lot of the countries have overlap in what they eat and they kind of present a very simple example of the cuisine, but that’s probably partly out of necessity because it’s not like a booth in a park gives you a lot to work with in terms of cooking. I try to avoid the temptation to just eat, like, haluski, lo mein, tacos, and rigatoni and branch out instead, and it did help that this year seemed to have more variety. I tried Filipino pancit, a noodle dish that kind of reminded me of a stir-fry. And because I love pasta, I thought it was great. Come to think of it, my favorite foods in other cuisines tend to be that culture’s take on pasta.
  4. What’s a food that scares you? Honestly, I’m not sure that anything does, aside from the really, really adventurous and obscure things–I’m talking meat sourced from unusual parts/organs of the animal, insects, stuff like that. I am a vegetarian, but even if I weren’t, I’d be willing to try almost anything. I willingly tried escargot at a pretty young age, and I always say that should I travel to another country, I’d be open to at least tasting dishes with meat in them to get a sense of that cuisine. Obviously, vegetarianism is important to me or else I wouldn’t do it, but I also think it’s important to experience other cultures.
  5. What’s something you eat solely because it’s good for you? I have my weaknesses, like the previously mentioned pasta, but other than that, I actually like eating fruits and veggies and do a decent job of incorporating them–I definitely don’t get as much as I should, but I’m not eating trash, either. But I will say the one thing I eat on occasion, usually with other things, is avocado. I don’t like it, and I think the hype around it is stupid. It has no flavor. It’s overrated. But you throw it on sushi or a sandwich, whatever. Not like it’s changing the flavor of the thing, so I’ll tolerate it.

As always, from Friday 5.

I wish I had more opportunities–and free time when they come up–to go to more writer-centric events, so making it to a reading a few Fridays ago was pretty great.

One of my professors from college released a new memoir and did the release party on a Friday night. It happened to fall on what was supposed to be my last Saturday shift for the month, but since I’d switched someone else over the summer so he could go look at a wedding venue, I accidentally planned it well when I had him take my last one, freeing my morning up to party hard Friday night. I’d say that’s clear sarcasm, but we did actually go down for drinks. Anyway.

We started off with playing traffic roulette, trying to see if we’d make it to the general area with enough time to stop for dinner, but I had to eat something–if we couldn’t hit PF Chang’s, it was gonna be Steak ‘N’ Shake or something. The timing was such that we’d either just sneak in before the Friday night crowds or hit them at their peak, and fortunately, we made it before and got served, ate, and got out of there pretty fast. The downside was my phone wasn’t doing great at giving us walking directions to the damn place, and it’s a good thing everyone was still hitting up the wine and cheese and the reading hadn’t started.

This is also where worlds collide–since Paul’s youngest sister, Emily, is going to the same school for the same major, and currently has that same professor for a memoir class. So we had a fun time sharing that with her, and then we actually met some of Emily’s classmates and friends. If it wouldn’t have been hardcore backtracking and kind of a pain in the ass, we actually would’ve taken Emily with us, but it was really impractical. But it was cool to talk to them, even though they’re several years younger. I got to be the older, employed person with an English degree saying, “There are jobs.” And I’ve said this before, but hanging out with writers, especially in a situation dedicated to the craft, is so nice and refreshing. I’ve got my circle, sure, but it’s cool to be in a bigger social situation and be able to talk about writers and pieces and things with people you know appreciate it on the same level.

All of the readings were great, and you should check them out: Rich Gegick, who doesn’t have a book yet so I’m linking his Google results, Nancy McCabe, the star of the evening Lori Jakiela, and her husband, Dave Newman. We bought every book we didn’t already have.

Afterwards, we went downstairs to Voodoo Brewery for some drinks with Emily’s friends, where I enjoyed a really good, smooth mojito and Paul tried–and quite enjoyed–the mead.

Saturday 9: Chattanooga Choo-Choo

Saturday 9: Chattanooga Choo-Choo (1941)
Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.
1)  Chattanooga is Tennessee’s fourth largest city. Have you ever visited Tennessee? If so, where did you go and what did you see? I have not, but I would like to!
Since Glenn Miller’s recording of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” was awarded the first-ever gold record, we’re going to devote the next questions to your firsts.
2) What was the first award or accolade you ever won? From what I can remember, I won some little awards in dance classes.
3) We know about your blog. But which was the first social media site that you posted to? (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, MySpace …) I think it was MySpace in high school, but I do think it kind of depends on how we’re defining social media, because I have accounts on journaling websites that predated MySpace.
4) Where did you go on your first plane ride? Orlando, to Disney.
5) Tell us about your first cell phone. It was a brick, and it was one of my mom’s old ones that was prepaid. It actually didn’t last very long–the prepaid plans then were terrible and I didn’t really use it much, and I think it was a couple years before I got another phone. Still prepaid, but looking back, honestly, there was no need for us at that age to have anything fancier. I’m at a point where I’m debating how much I even really want my iPhone anymore.
6) Tell us about your first tattoo: Where is it on your body? Where did you have it done? What does it depict? It’s a little heart on the inside of my left wrist, done at a parlor of questionable quality that was a dual craft store/tattoo parlor called Crafty Tats, the kinds of place one only finds in a small town. I wanted to change it to something like this before my wedding, but I got too busy and it never happened. Still on the to-do, list, though, and my youngest sister-in-law wants a tattoo, so you know I’m gonna be the cool, edgy in-law who goes with her and either makes those changes or gets something new or both. I’ve been wanting a second one, but I’ve been going back and forth on what I want it to be.

7) How old were you when you had your first piercing? Six. I had my ears pierced.

8) What had you been drinking the first time you suffered a hangover? So I have superior genes and almost never get hung over, even when I’ve been really drunk. But I can think of a couple of times when I’ve felt really shitty the next day, and the very first one
9) Was your first ticket for parking or was it a moving violation? Oh, both of my tickets have been for speeding.

Friday 5: Dear Old Golden Rule Days

  1. when did you last raise your hand to be called upon, to get someone’s attention, or in response to a “how many of you…” question? or heck, for any reason at all? I have no idea. It’s obviously been a while. My guess it was a “how many of you” question.
  2. when did you last have to do anything akin to homework? I write for a few different websites in addition to my full-time job, so that’s pretty similar. Aside from being paid for it, of course.
  3. when did you and your friends last go outside to play? My husband and I occasionally walk on a fitness trail in town that has these exercise stations, so probably that. If that doesn’t count, then probably out in the woods over the summer, even though that was more cooking over a fire and drinking.
  4. how’s your penmanship nowadays? Terrible. Always has been. I was tempted to dictate wedding thank-yous to my husband for this reason, but I’ve been doing them.
  5. among stuff you periodically eat, what reminds you most of your lunches in the school cafeteria? Oh, I still eat peanut-butter sandwiches somewhat regularly, although that wasn’t really a cafeteria food. And I discovered a couple really good brands of fake vegetarian-friendly meat, so I’ve been eating a lot of fake chicken sandwiches and chicken nuggets for lunch.

As always, from Friday 5.