Ghosts of Christmas Past

The attic apartment with Emma. And Table Cat and Haroun. Life there was often louder than life now, living alone, but it was also full of peaceful moments. Watching television on the couch. Finishing book after book. Napping with the cats. Here I was finally finishing the Niccolò series in the glow of our prickly tree.

That year, I had two trees. There was also the little Fraser fir in Detroit, with only one ornament. We kept it until my boyfriend's roommate demanded it be removed for the umpteenth time. Something about fire hazards. She obviously didn't get that it was the tree, not the expensively reupholstered midcentury modern couch, that made the room.

Can't Escape the Greeting Card Business

I started making cards on my family's computer with Print Shop Deluxe, operating under the name Marisa Cards, Inc. I used Print Shop's convenient "coloring book" setting to print them with our painfully slow black-and-white printer, then colored them in with markers. After I got my first digital camera, I switched to photo cards; but by the time I got to college, I was drawing them by hand again. Not that I'm very good at it.

Last December, I tried pretty hard at cards and gifts. Though I purchased the birthday card (what a face on that cat!), 
I included this generous coupon for my dear Rachel, with a simplified but perfect rendition of my  living/bedroom, if I do say so myself. (She cashed it in not once, but twice this year! : )
The Christmas card for Rachel and her family was simpler, and possibly an inside joke with only Emma and my brother and not with Rachel, and certainly not with her family (who can remember when I started singing these lyrics), but anyway, I got a kick out of it. And I was missing my Peepers-kitty; he'd only been gone a couple months at that point.
Here's Mr. Pepys, my dearly departed golden tomcat.
Then we have the masterpiece, conceived of almost a year before it was created. Haroun's taco truck.
Many of us true cat-lovers believe fervently in elaborate facets of our felines' personalities that are, well, impossible. (Like Holly's tricksy French cat, Charlie, who told her husband "Mazel Tov" was French for "Happy Birthday!" Hilarious!) We have rich inner lives. 
My boyfriend insists that Emma's younger cat, Haroun, is a taco salesman. On many a late night, he has wished for a plate of Haroun's tacos.
"May all your dreams come true," read the card. (Yes, the close-up drawing is a bit freaky.)

This year is different. This year, Rachel opened her mail to find this puzzling piece of paper.
Merry Christmas! Happy birthday! You live in Florida now, so I am drawing cute-but-bizarre flamingos all over! Happy Fourth of July -- I only have red and blue pens in the office!

Rachel called this card "fantastic," "truly one of the best." Still, I hope to do better next year.

The Past 24 Hours

I watched the documentary about Charles and Ray Eames on Netflix.
I didn't do the dishes.
I got a full night's sleep.
I ate granola for breakfast.
I read about Anne Hathaway and Sheila Heti on Wikipedia.
I did the dishes.
I balanced my checkbook and paid my credit card.
I ate apple pie.
I walked to the restaurant and checked my schedule on the way to the office.
I took a trip to Probate Court.
I sorted the weekend's mail.
I typed a memorandum.
I went back to Probate Court.
I chatted with Jeff for a while.
I entered the revisions for a purchase agreement.
I walked home and talked to Ali on the phone.
I ate a turkey and gravy sandwich.
I read about the Icelandic economy and its recovery.
I looked at apartments on Craigslist using the handy new map feature.
I didn't go to yoga.
I read about the future of diaries/journaling.
I read about Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts in Switzerland.
I read about Scientology.
I read about the classical music industry.
I read a lot of things today.
I downloaded Skype so my brother could send me music.

What about you?

Old Story, Getting Older All the Time

One of my best friends is married. Lots of people are on their last year of grad school, or done already. On their second or third post-college experiences. They have jobs. Some of them have jobs that they want, or jobs that might get them the jobs that they want. Others, like me, have the jobs that they have. I have two jobs. I recently dropped one and picked up a better one; I keep reminding myself that this is proof that I am in control of my life. But I do not have a plan. I do not have an inkling of a plan. There were reasons I chose the things I did. I picked a school, then I picked some classes, then I picked a major, and within four years, I brought it all to an officially successful end. But somewhere between freshman orientation and college graduation, the dots stopped connecting.

Welcome to November

Those days of yellow and orange and red (my favorite) are past, but it looks like it should be a sunny weekend. What more can you thank November for?

(A: The darkening of days that means the holidays approach, whatever produce is still showing up at the farmers' market, being a scapegoat for your actually un-seasonal unhappiness.)

I do savor the moments like that one, heading home in the afternoon, looking up after I cross the busy street and realizing everything is gold. I also feel the cold and dark threatening to shorten my days, which already feel short from work and inaction and being too into being asleep when I was previously asleep.

I think that the plan is not to try to paint a beautiful life on this blog, not right now.  I think my boyfriend and maybe most people, if they ever hear it, are sick of the November shtick. But here in this blog, let's all agree (that's me, agreeing with me) that November can be really hard. But so can October. So can September, and August, and July. I've been taking baby steps, and they don't really go anywhere, but I'm going to try harder to get on track. November, life kind of sucks, but I'm also not giving in.

So, a plan for Friday.

Alarm goes off, leap from the bed and into the steamy hot shower.
Get dressed. Eat. Spend a quiet, calm, thoughtful morning with myself. Pack bag. Eat lunch. Go to work (don't be late). Eat dinner. Go to work. Go to bed.

A plan for Thursday 11:59pm: go to bed!

I Want

a loaf of bread
2-5 apples (get me through the weekend or the week)
new red lipstick (lost mine)
a borrowed iron
the will to hem my curtains (hinges on iron)
donuts and cider
$20 to get through the week

That's all I want this weekend, at least that's tangible/measurable (if the curtains are hemmed, the will was there).

Paying back student loans, it turns out, saps all your extra money. No paid sick or vacation days kills the possibility for extra money. Life, friends, is boring!

 My brother's baking bread today, so hopefully by tomorrow I'll have some. Free, and so delicious.

I'm going to the cider mill tomorrow, even though the money was spent yesterday on mulled wine at the new beer garden and Strongbow and cheddar ale soup and ravioli, split with Emma. A beautiful evening followed by a lovely date with cocktails and pizza and a tasty s'more.

As for lipstick – red lip gloss forever, I guess. It's been running out for a year, but never actually does.

Identity Crisis

I hate blogs.

That's not true. I hate my blog.

I hate my blog because it's inconsistent. It's been around for over four years. Most of the early posts are pretty bad, though they served their purpose, which was keeping in touch with friends while I was abroad. More of the later posts are acceptable, but many of them are months apart, and there are still crappy ones. Just write something, I told myself. Get it going again. Occasional bad posts are okay when they're hidden by a flood of content. They're not so acceptable when, like this one, they are one lonely dot on a sparse timeline.

I hate my blog. That's not true. I'm just frustrated. It's been so long, and for what?

Maybe it's time to start a new one. Almost three years ago, I was thinking about renaming the blog, since I was no longer an occasionally-itinerant Landstreicherin in Europa. Then again, I only had a few months of college left, so I would be moving somewhere, maybe even traveling again. Back then, I was applying to teach English in Austria through the Fulbright Kommission, but that didn't work out so well, leaving me without a plan at graduation. (My application got lost in the mail.)

I moved to Grosse Pointe, and was not a tramp, but an outright, sedentary bum. Not a cent of income for four months.

Okay, not a bum. I went to Ann Arbor every weekend to see my boyfriend, and then I moved to Ann Arbor and got my surprisingly long-term restaurant job and commuted to Detroit every other weekend and then some.

But now, it's two years from then, and I haven't even moved in over a year, and my blog is pretty much dead.

Thought of the Day: Internet/Sauna

Thought of the Day: 
I am incompatible with the internet* life.
Oh no, I'm incompatible with modern life!
I'm doomed!

Can't ever seem to finish the tasks requiring the internet, because there are always more. More importantly: lost count of how many days in a row I've had a headache. I had the same headache for over three days. By now, I don't think I can claim it's the same headache (day five? day six?), but I'm writing this from hour 4 of ibuprofen. Maybe by hours 6-8, as the ibuprofen wears off fully, I'll feel that same dull agony and recognize that it never truly dissipated.

More computer never equals less headache.

Alternate Thought of the Day:
I love saunas! Even though it's been 90 degrees out forever!

*Why is this still officially capitalized? Please explain.

Porches, Painfully Obvious

I have a summer dream, and that dream is porches.
ALI AND DREW, MARRIED, RELAXING ON A PORCH. This is a really good porch, by the way, at a truly lovely hunting-lodge style home in the woods of Georgia, south of Atlanta. Any of the below would be great on this porch. Photo courtesy of Ali's cousin Katie.

The Hairpin is out for the weekend. The Circuit Court and County Building here in Washtenaw County, Michigan, have a four-day Memorial Day weekend thanks to a furlough day. I'm down to one out of four attorneys and no calls lighting up the switchboard, I've got my sunglasses open on my desk and a stomach clamoring for lunch.

It's almost dinnertime. Remember when I had a porch in the canopy of downtown Ann Arbor? Emma and I ate twenty-four pierogi at our first meal on that porch. We had a graduation cocktail party for Emma in the wind and chill of late April. Later, they passed a bottle of Jim Beam Black around in the dark until it disappeared. We had a welcome-home party for Emma after a summer of Yiddish on the East Coast. Meg and I drank a bottle of vinho verde on that porch after I got home from Detroit via Amtrak, two hours late or more. We sweated and sweated and finally escaped the heat at a nearby bar.

So many breakfasts of scrambled eggs and orange juice, while the bumblebees bumbled into the sliding glass doors, bump bump bump. I never knew a bumblebee could be so loud.

A porch, a table and -cloth, the evening sun. Sunglasses, eventually pushed up onto your head. A pitcher of water, glasses. Bread and cheese, burgers, whatever, I'll take it. Just give me some carbs and some fat and a drink, and some smiles.
It was my birthday on the porch, once, on a Thursday evening almost a year ago. Basil gimlets, uh...attempted Singapore Sling? Blood of Christ? Something red.

When the sun sets, candles. I buy so many candles in my attempts at being a girl, and use them so rarely. I don't have a porch this year, not really. Candles don't really work in the wind, also, but that's what lanterns are for!

It's five, goodbye, office, goodbye, internet.

(I have a lot of summer dreams. Beware.)

Salt Tooth

I need some new snack ideas.

Or maybe I should have just bought a new box of stone-ground wheat crackers when I was at Trader Joe's two hours ago. Three or four crackers and a few slices of cheese is an entirely reasonable snack, especially accompanied by a little fruit. Lately, though, with the demise of my fancier cheese (1,000-day gouda, so hard, so salty, so good), I've turned back to my old habits. Butter just goes so well with these crackers. Just three buttered crackers, just tonight, not so bad.

Just two more buttered crackers. Two more.

Every night.

And so today I told myself, no more stone-ground wheat crackers right now. Butter is too addictive.

Now I am bereft. I need a little salty snack to finish the day; lunch was too big to warrant dinner. Frozen custard around four was too everything to warrant anything.

Perhaps popcorn. Made with at least a quarter-stick of melted butter. That will show my non-cracker buying self!

(Emma and I went to Somerset and Birmingham for Important Wedding Preparation Errands. Namely eating pizza and browsing Anthropologie's sales rack and housewares--Very Important. Now you know.)

Hot Beef

Emma:  I think I'm going back to the part of my life where I try to not eat flour
 me:  oh SADZ
 Emma:  I know
except for like a treat
 me:  i was trying to give up a thing or two every week
like, sweets 
 Emma:  it makes it easier to be less hungry
 me:  or snacks
or alcohol
but not all three
but i couldn't even pick one
or decide if a smoothie was a sweet
so i gave up
and then i had a hot beef sandwich at the sidestreet diner last night with my parents
the fakest white bread plus roast beef so good covered in such good gravy the whole plate
and a big scoop of delicious mashed potatoes in the middle under the gravy
and then a scoop of my mom's potatoes
and a corner of my mom's sandwich too
and then three bites of peach cobbler covered in whipped cream with cinnamon on top
oh my god
can this be a blog post?
 Emma:  that sounds like a bob dylan song

Catchup Day

But not really. There is never time to catch up on Sunday, even if I get off work at six instead of eight like today. The past week held me up in different ways. Last weekend (not the one that is currently ending) was fun, friend-filled, and action-packed. No time to blog.

Last Friday we lit candles and drank Riesling and listened to music. Saturday, I worked out at the Y for the first time, wearing my stinky old wear-to-the-restaurant sneakers. Then Maraia came to visit from Kalamazoo; it was the first time we'd seen each other since the summer, I think. Impromptu burger for lunch with the boyfriend—this should happen more. I went shopping for some essentials, like a new external hard drive that (probably) works (unlike the first attempt, which would not format to Mac) and running shoes! to use at the Y, now that I am a member. I made apple cinnamon muffins, watched some more of the Wire (for the second time) with the urban planning people, then went out for a coworker's birthday part three or four or who knows what.
This is not that club. This is the KGB Wodkabar in Freiburg, and the lights are pretty. Plus, no crowd that night. But I thought you might want a photo.
I learned that I hate places that are clubs or like clubs. I was not surprised to dislike the atmosphere, the crush of bodies and the strangers/unwanted dance partners that appeared out of nowhere, but I was surprised by how quickly and how acutely I hated it. While waiting in line (I had forgotten that places like this have lines on Saturday nights, because that's not the kind of place I generally choose to go), I looked, then stared wistfully across the street, where I could see the lights of a brewpub, the Jolly Pumpkin, twinkling through the wintry scene painted on its windows. I've never been there, but I know they take care with their drinks and you can probably have a conversation.
I really prefer conversation. But! Saturday was good. Birthdays are good. Experiences are experiences.

Sunday was work work work, comme toujours, but then it was impromptu post-work beer with Emma, and Important Hand Cream and Unimportant Subtle Goldy Nail Polish Purchasing time at CVS on the way home. ("Because You're Worth It" is the color's name. Barf, L'Oreal.) I also brought my second and final pair of wear-to-the-restaurant, stinky sneakers to the restaurant, which is to be their final home before they meet the fate of my even older, stinkier ones that already lived there. Those, I plopped into the trash, and everything was good.

This week, a cold put all my plans on hold. I was sick on Monday. I was sicker on Tuesday. I was less sick on Wednesday. Unpleasant to miserable to hoarse-sore-voiced. But friend, boy- made a pot of chicken soup just for me, even though he'd just done it a week ago. I've had eight bowls of chicken soup this week, and that was a definite perk.

Then I was okay on Thursday, and Emma and I worked out before having cheap yummy dinner at IKEA and splitting a beautiful little slice of the Daim cake, the one with an extra layer of cream just under the chocolate coating. Then it was impromptu drinks with Caitlin time—surprising, but so satisfying. Friday involved a nice post-work hot-chocolate chat with Jessie, and her delicious chocolatey pretzel treats, and I was in a great mood. Saturday, we'll talk about later, with photographic displays of deliciousness and fishiness—but not the tilapia I ate for dinner. For now, suffice it to say that a trip to Detroit was joyfully made, the sun shone, and I had terribly persistent sniffles and sneezes. Sneaky second sickness-wind! Sunday, today, I wasn't late for work. The weather was so perfect, though, that if I'd run into Louis the Cat on the way there, I might have quit like I wanted to last time I saw him on the way to work on a Sunday.

My nails are very golden and I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of a great person with ice cream in his arms. Or something like that.

Buying Extra Calories

was followed by this:
and this:
(Emma's pancakes were stuffed with honey and oats and almonds and brown sugar and amazingness.)

Unfortunately, we didn't use the facilities today. I was on a tight schedule (now I'm at work! blogging!) so there wasn't really time to change into workout gear and break a serious sweat and all that. And all I'd had to eat so far was a banana. Breakfast celebrated the days, weeks, months of fitness to come.

I'm excited. Part of me even wants to go back tonight (if I get off work at the restaurant before 8:30) and face my first go with an elliptical in over a year and a half. Part of me thinks that can wait until tomorrow/until I get new sneakers. But I know it has to come soon. Momentum! Building momentum is important. Wish me luck.

A Year of Carlessness

It's been a year and a day since I wrecked "my" car—spinning out from some black ice in the fast lane on I-94, ending up three lanes over and down the hill and smashed into a harmful, helpful tree (at least I didn't end up in the creek!).

I survived, obviously. I survived the crash, which is the important thing. Then I survived the carlessness. The car connected me to my boyfriend, living then in Detroit, endless miles away (okay, like 42). Then the car was gone. But he got a car. I took the train. Sometimes the train even showed up when it was supposed to! (I was unlucky in that my most frequent train-riding coincided with the Norfolk Southern debacle resulting in "up to 90 minute" delays. On top of the already frequent 1-3 hour delays, come on, guys, get with the future. By the time MDOT decided to buy those tracks—at which point I assume they stopped fighting and making people late on purpose constantly—we were together in one city.) Sometimes the train showed up at four a.m. and I was in bed and I don't remember how that affected the weekend anymore—so obviously, we survived.

And my fridge survived, too. I walked to buy all the frequent groceries at the co-op, even though it's more expensive. I even ate peanut-butter pitas for lunch for a few months, and was sort of forced to buy organic. Kroger and Trader Joe's and all the rest became always-communal adventures, which is mostly fine.

My bike, already a frequent companion while in Ann Arbor, rose to new heights. My boyfriend's apartment on the other side of (central) Ann Arbor didn't feel far away. There was no faster way to get from job A to job B, except maybe a moped. Then the rain and snow and ice came, and everything is now half an hour apart on my ever-plodding feet, but it'll be okay. I got a puffy coat with a fur-lined collar as well as fur-trimmed hood (all fake of course), and me and my leggings under my jeans with my wool socks and snow boots and everything else? We regularly walk 60-90 minutes in one day and love hate survive are okay with it partway through most walks. (Remember that time I said I was sick of first person plural? Probably not, that was three-plus years ago. Anyway, this appears false because I was 'we' with my car, and my cats, and friends (girl- and boy-), and now even with my clothes.)
Look at that fur collar and that Fishbowl-glare. It's the best I can do on such short notice.
Like anything else that breaks or you break up with (mainly the latter), you forget what it was like to be together. I don't think about it that much. I'm a girl without a car. I manage, and I also sort of hang onto people and jump at every chance to be a real suburban consumer (not that I really want to be that). I was never the person with an entire backseat of dirty clothes or old books or even just CDs. I had my ice skates and sometimes a sled or winter boots in the trunk, yes, yet I didn't live from my car. I mainly only used it to buy groceries, pick up roommates, and drive to my parents or my boyfriend. It really belonged to my parents, or technically to them but really to me, and so I acted like my parents and I kept it cleanish and called it "the Accord" to all interested parties (i.e. parents, brother).

But the car was part of me. (And ten minutes ago, I knew exactly how; then I forgot.) It wasn't just the hours I spent sweating in it in the hot heat of air-conditionless summers, or the nights I spent singing in it, driving when I should have been sleeping. It wasn't just the relationships it maintained, the road trips, the reluctant goodbyes. Oh, right, of course, the reason Americans Drive Cars and stand in the way of beautiful public transit like that of Germany, which I miss every day—it was the freedom. The freedom and the feeling of power that the freedom granted me. I could work until 11:30 on Friday nights and still wake up with my boyfriend on Saturday morning, even though he was in a different city. You could propose the idea, I could offer the car and probably drive most of the way. I guess I liked performing feats as well as making plans all on my own. Though the distances haven't changed, without my own car, people and places are farther away from me. And that stinks.

But—we all already knew cars were more dangerous than planes or trains or most things we encounter on a day-to-day basis, right? Drew totaled the car he used to (literally) live in, Ali flipped over in her SUV last winter, I crashed my car, Ali hit a deer, Emma only has one actual headlight and one functioning side mirror, and on and on. But I was reading about sunscreen, and then I was reading about the safety of the HPV vaccine (which is safe, duh), and then the bubble for likelihood of dying in a car crash was WAY BIGGER THAN EVERY OTHER DANGER-BUBBLE. (Except cervical cancer, that bubble was also very big and that is why you get vaccinated.)

Trains, people. We need a ton more trains.

Tiny Food

January: The Month of Tininess? Tinyness?

No. But, maybe.

The other day I felt kind of sick, so when I finally got around to eating something for dinner, I got out my smallest nice-looking bowl--a red ramekin--and filled it with leftover mac and cheese. It was lovely. It wasn't actually that small of a portion, though. Smallish, but not crazy if it had been just one pile on a plate with three or four different things, instead of just a clementine. I think. It was really more than a few days ago, I don't remember!

(Here comes the first internet-glimpse of my cooking/eating area!)

When I reheated my leftover Chinese food from the weekend, using two ramekins seemed the most logical. Neither the rice nor the chicken and broccoli would get overcooked while trying to heat the other fully, and it wouldn't let a lot of steam out--important for rice.
And it was cute.
Cute red little ramekins and tasty food make me happy. And are good for portion control, maybe.

Okay, you're right. Time for a better post. Soon!

Desk of Tiny Things

The exhausting process of purchasing and wrapping presents, cleaning and cooking in a house of invalids (this year, both parents), and celebrating Christmas is over. The brief relaxing spell that barely came is gone. The New Year's journey and revelry has passed. All the out-of-town guests are flying back to their homes and universities. I'm back in my bedroom, back to sleeping in my own bed, after those busy itinerant weeks.

Let's the start the year off right with a post about my Desk of Tiny Things, because that is relevant and fascinating.
It is relevant. I finished eating those clementine wedges mere moments ago. Little bit of orange on a little blue plate on a little white desk, next to a little bit of tips. To tell the truth, three dollars is a decent tip-haul at my restaurant, which is not full-service, but in the land of tips, three dollars for one night is tiny.
Rachel gave Emma and me tiny glass creatures for Christmas. Mine is the penguin, a popular choice because I love them. (Ali gave me a festive penguin travel mug.) The alligator or crocodile or whatever has silly warts on his snout to go with his goofy eyes.
Fox fox foxy fox—named by his creator, Emma (the person who named a respectable feline "Table Cat").
He's the best needle-felted Christmas gift I've ever witnessed. Look at that tail.

Time to venture out into the wild world of grocery shopping, but first—happy new year!