Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Modern Craft - It Ain't No OxyMoron

This last weekend marked an important passage of time. On Friday, I attended my final wedding of the 2011 summer season. (Though there are still a couple on the the horizon for the rest of the year.) The couple in question: Brittany and Jeremiah Lewis. They are a fantastic pair- hilarious, kind, attentive friends- both of whom I met through church. They are part of my small group "family", a rag-tag group of 20/30 somethings with little more than age and Jesus in common. (That's enough. We love each other!)

The Lewis's (I always get a little frazzled when making a name that ends in "S" plural.) are a fairly modern couple as far as style goes. They like clean lines and fresh design. Brittany, of course, was a gorgeous bride. In fact, I have never seen someone look so perfect in person. It was like a wedding gown model had stepped out of a magazine. Jeremiah mostly looked stunned. But he also rocked a white pin stripe suit and looked unbelievably good doing it.

I had intended to do a handmade gift for them for quite some time but kept putting off the designing stage. Mostly, I think I was worried that the final product would be too kitschy for their tastes. But I found the perfect modern frame at Target. It has both black and brown on it so it would go with almost any decor, and there's room for different pictures to cycle in and out of it. 

I got the place-holder pictures of the couple off of Facebook. Oddly, they are always standing in the same order. I guess they are creatures of photo-staging habit. The same goes for the picture I got from their wedding so I could show you their duds. (Their monogram, however, needed to be in the reverse order. JB is much nicer than the alternative. Not wedding gift appropriate.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

There's a terrible rumor going around that the United States Postal Service is soon to become just an entry in history books. The USPS has been losing its foothold in the market of necessities since the advent of the internet. As mail's successor, email, becomes a side note in correspondence -usurped by social media and text- the postman is nearing full-on extinction. A recent report noted that 3,700 offices were slated to be closed in the coming months. There are whispers that the 236 year-old independent government agency will breath its last breaths in 2012. I am not sure of the reality of this threat, but the prospect makes my heart very heavy.

Recently, after a lapse in friendship for almost 10 years, I began a letter correspondence with a high school friend. We had one catch-up phone call in which we shared the readers digest versions of the last decade and then determined that we we'd try the pen pal route. The letters come and go about monthly and cover topics like Bach, beer, philosophy and family. We don't spend much time reminiscing, rather sharing whatever is on our minds at the time and answering the open-ended questions from the others last letter. We spend 7 hand written pages just "talking" uninterrupted. What conversation gets that kind of attention? After the first exchange, I started checking the mailbox more regularly -sometimes greeting the postman on the front steps- just hoping for a hand-addressed letter. It's romantic, even though it's not. I'm in love with the correspondence.

I'm reminded of the pen pals I used to keep as a kid. Somewhere in my attic is a box of letters from my cousin, Carie, signed with hearts over the "i"s and multiple post scripts. We lived thousands of miles apart -she in Montana and I in Kentucky. We never spoke on the phone and saw each other only a handful of times over 15 years. In these letters we wrote about school, broken bones, and most importantly, boys. (Significantly, it was in our letters that I first heard wind of her now husband. Of course, the first mention of him was when we were probably 13! Gosh that's cute.) We never said much of any depth, really, but through only the occasional letter we built a friendship close enough that I was a bridesmaid in her wedding in 2005.

There's just a difference in potency between an internet correspondence and "snail mail" (But seriously, what snail could travel cross country in 3 days?!). I think one part of it is self-editing. I don't know how other people do it, but I prefer to hand-write letters. Even if it's chicken scratch. Honestly, I think the charm of deciphering someone's personal font is half of the fun. So there's only one "draft" of the letter. After I lick the envelope, I never read it again. The only remnants of the words I write are my pen pal's return letter. Then, I see myself through the lens of his response. 

Gmail has backlogged 10 years of instant messages for me that I can search and peruse. I don't have to remember a thing. But, a letter that doesn't leave you isn't a letter. A letter is a gift, it has to be given away. (What's that Michael W. Smith song? "Love isn't love- til you give it away..."

Anyways. I'm trying to get back into the swing of using the USPS more frequently. It shouldn't be just for delivering sweepstakes and bills. Maybe we can start a new trend? Bring back pen pals. (Hipsters should dig it. They're into vintage, right? Nothing's more American Vintage than the USPS- Ben Franklin was the first postmaster!)

Start by writing your grandma. She misses you. So does your postman.

If you're looking for a way to utilize an even more antiquated means of communication, check this telegram service: I received a surprise telegram from a dear friend last year and it made my month. The look and feel of the package is legit. (They have a package for wedding announcements, too, with little RSVP tags. It might be just a little too hokey and impersonal for me, but it's still pretty sweet.) Overall, still more expensive than a regular letter.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Terrific Trio - Job Search, Salsa & Beerjitos

Lately, my time can be measured in job applications. I have 6 resumes and cover letters floating around in cyberspace right now. There was a promising position for which I had several interviews but I haven't heard from them in some time so I'm assuming the worst. Basically, life is in flux for me right now. I am ready to find a job that can fund my life but gives me flexible evenings for the things I love: food, friends, family, music and crafts. There are boxes that have been gathering dust in my parent's garage for almost 2 years now. I am simply ready to unpack my life.

Beginning that process is hard. There aren't a million me-shaped jobs out there and there are so many people applying to each of the jobs I am. It's easy to feel down, but I'm pressing forward.

Today, feeling a little bummed about job things and a little tired from a busy weekend, I only finished one job application. BUT I took some steps to inject a little sunshine into my day. The past few days have been much like a Minnesota August: 70's and sunny, blue skies. Hard not to love. I took a few "screen breaks" today to sit on the porch swing and play the piano.

I also made a batch of my famous (ha!) salsa which is really kinda more like a relish. I like to include as many fresh veggies in my salsa as possible, so it tends to be different everytime I make it. Today, the veggie line up was:
  • Roma Tomatoes (5 diced) from my yarden
  • Green Pepper (1/4 cup diced) from my yarden
  • Cucumber (1 cup diced) from a friend's garden
  • Corn off the Cob (1/2 cob) local leftovers
  • Yellow Onion (1/4 cup finely diced)
  • Garlic (1 tsp chopped)
  • Lime Juice (1 tbsp)
  • Red Pepper Flakes (2 dashes?)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • Basil (3 dashes?)  My basil plant's still recovering from a recent Italian meal.

And what could go better with homemade salsa than a tasty fresh yarden mint mojito? I got a bottle of cheap rum at the grocery a while back with this exact moment in mind, but I kept forgetting to get club soda for the finishing touches. But I didn't let that stop me. My solution? A beerjito. (Alas, I am not the first to coin this term or this drink, but I did THINK it up on my own THIS afternoon- so, whatever.) Basically it's a traditional mojito:

1) Muddle fresh mint in the bottom of the glass with sugar and lime juice
2) Add some rum and then
3) Instead of a splash of soda add beer (cheap and light is my beer of choice for this recipe)

I've been told by a bartender friend of mine (who, coincidentally, HATES when people order mojitos at his bar because it's time consuming and creates a domino effect of more mojito orders) that the trick to a good mojito is to not muddle too much because then you get those nasty lil' green bits. I, personally, like to chew on the mint leaves as I drink and they're nummier when whole and not gooey.

I will definitely have one of these again. A great summer drink with a sweet, but not too sweet, flavor and a pretty adorable look. Don't you love how the mint leaves look in the beer head? 

I'd be remiss not to mention these awesome glasses. These were favors from the homebrew toast at Sinda and Niko's wedding in July. Pretty much the cutest thing ever. Here's a close up of the story of the Tichols-Bonks moniker.

Don't start your worry engines. I'm not saying a drink is the solution to a down day, but this one was a pretty fun bandaid.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

You Can't Inherit an E-book

I watched this new kindle commercial the other day. The e-book ad tactics are now edging for a different corner of the market: paper book "hold outs" like me. Die hard book readers (even those, like me, who don't pick up a book as often as she should) who love the heft of the spine, the flutter of the pages, the dusty, musty, sweet breath of a book. We're fighting the good fight, trying to keep publishing and book arts alive. Even without the kindle the publishing world is struggling. Newspapers are barely breathing, let alone poetry chapbooks.

I was struck with the way in which the girl in the commercial was so easily swayed by the sheen of the screen. She seemed like such a push over. But I'll admit, I might consider an e-book. They're easy and little and, I have to admit, shiny in a new toy kind of way. And I could deal with not dog-earing pages. I could manage without the wrist strain from reading War and Peace or Goblet of Fire in bed. There are aesthetics of books that, though I'd be sad to lose, I wouldn't DIE without.

But, there is one convincing argument I haven't been hearing amongst the hold-outs: you can't inherit a e-book. In 20 years who, besides the same geeks who keep a drawer full of floppy disks for prosperity's sake, is going to pick up a 2011 kindle at an antique store? Electronics don't have staying power. They upgrade every month, constantly changing and improving on the last version. An old ipod is just landfill fodder, but my record collection is something I can pass on.

E-readers ruin the community experience of a book. Used to be, the natural course of reading went something like this. A person would:

1) read a book,
2) feel moved or especially entertained by it and either
3a) add it to their library as a trophy or to revisit at another date, or
3b) pass it on to someone else who they were reminded of while reading the book.

All you can pass on to a friend after reading an e-book is a recommendation or a gift card for a free upload. You can't pass on the underlined sections, the tear-stained page, and you can't write a note inside the cover. You won't bequeath a first edition e-book in a will. What charm is there in inheriting a library of books you can't hold in your hands? No list of names on an old checkout card. No makeshift bookmarks that fall out of the pages like secrets: a polaroid, a grocery list, a fiction-pressed flower.

I'll stick to the real thing for now, even if it does mean packing one less pair of shoes in my vacation luggage. It's worth it in the end.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 Things I'd Rather Do (than write a cover letter)

Xs indicate those tasks which I was unable to persuade myself to put off until later.

1. Take photos of a little pillow I made out of my first attempt at embroidery. (an unfinished project sent to my mother as a birthday present several years ago)  X

 2. Walk to the bank and deposit my paycheck.  X

3. Stop in at the Farmersville antique shop. It has no name but it does seem to get frequent new additions. Learn the proprietor's name is Dave and his grandparents were from Hazard, KY. Small world. Purchase a fancy new 5 ft long necklace and some other things.  X

4. Take glamour shots of my teeny tiny town.  X

5. Take pictures of a necklace I made out of some antique shoe clips my mother gave me early this year. (She is not sure if they were my grandmother's or my great grandmother's.)  X

6. Blog about my procrastination problems.  X

7. Mail a care package to a friend with gifts from the antique shop. (I would have done this today, too but the postman had already made his rounds.)

8. Make salsa from the fresh romas and green pepper I just picked from my "yarden" (yard garden!). **EDIT- as of 7pm I did this instead of working on those dumb applications as well. X**

9. Try my hand at recreating a ruffly front shirt I saw the other day. (I made a quick sketch so I wouldn't forget how it was put together.)

10. Pretty much anything else in the world short of maiming myself.

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