Tuesday, January 31, 2012

fyi (or) at a new site

It probably won't affect most of you, but for your information:
This blog can now be found at  
(instead of the previous sarah-huff.blogspot.com)

This is in further efforts to make the site easier to find and reference. Now you can tell all your friends more easily, AND they don't even need to know my name to remember the name of the blog.

Also, I kinda dig those 3 f's in a row. Don't you? Seems like a design opportunity.

p.s. the linkwithin widget below each entry will be out of commission temporarily while the site catches on to the newness. (or something like that...)

Monday, January 30, 2012

3 Reasons I Love My Local Public Library

1. The VHS selection in the Children's Area.  Perusing the shelves in the Children's Video section of the Tipp City Library is like time-traveling to my own childhood. Today, I came home with a fistful of old videos. The clear, plastic cases are scratched to a dull grey with hand written dewey letters and numbers on the beaten spines. I marked several for-later-rental, Mighty Ducks, Ninja Turtles, and some Shirley Temple numbers to name a few. Today's take-home winners were: Pollyanna, Angels in the Outfield, and a Huff Family favorite: Sarah Plain and Tall

If you aren't familiar with the latter, you should be schooled. The film is based on Patricia Maclachlan's Newberry and Scott O'Dell award-winning children's novel of the same name. It is about a woman from Maine who moves out west to become a companion to a lonely widower and his two children. Made for television by the Hallmark Hall of Fame, the movie features a young Christopher Walken as a soft-spoken, heart-broken farmer and Glenn Close as Sarah, an independent (and plucky!) romantic with a penchant for poetic descriptions of daily life. This was my introduction to both actors, so you might imagine my surprise when I found out Christopher Walken was not usually cast as a kind, quiet, rural gentleman. In my heart, he's still just a sweet lil' leading man.

Images of Walken and Close in "Sarah Plain & Tall"
2. You can sit and read for free without ever buying a cup of coffee.  I like a coffee shop as much as the next girl, maybe more. But I'm a thrifty booger that hates to spend money on things she can easily make at home. Still there is one thing that you get at a coffee shop for which there is no homemade facsimile: a sense of community. Even if you don't speak a word except to order a cuppa-jo, there's a homey togetherness feeling to a good coffee shop. An ambiance that makes the overcharged bean juice worthwhile. Except, that you can get all that for free in a good library. Big picture windows, rocking chairs and couches, surrounded by words penned over hundreds of years of human thought. The perfect place to finger through magazines to which you can't afford subscriptions.  

3. All are welcome. Men and women old and young all frequent the library. And, yes, maybe the purpose of the facility has changed. Mainly, there is less book reading and more movie rental. But the institution remains important to the area. It is a place to receive information about taxes, local history, and it is a public space- often, the only one with a free gathering place. Today, as I finished a book on a couch in the front of the Tipp Public Library, I witnessed: elderly men and women chatting over the contents of their reading list, a quilting group, teenagers flipping through periodicals, and a clutch of pre-teen boys sneaking snacks out of crinkly brown paper bags. There's something beautifully old-fashioned about a Library, I hope that others see their charm and importance as I do. I would hate to see them stage out of our societies with the influx of a more digital world. 

On a side note. When I left the library this afternoon, I found a slip of paper folded over and wedged in my car's driver's side window. I had a note written in slanting cursive. It reads:
1-30-12, 3PM
Hello. What year is your Saturn? Does it burn oil? Mine is a 2000 SL2. It burns oil!! 
         Phyllis   (She signed her full name and gave her phone number.)
Though the note is charming -in a small town way that would have been creepy in a big city- I am not sure what to do with it. Should I call this stranger and exchange notes on our oil leakage? My car does, in fact, leak quite a bit but there's nothing to be done about it at this stage in its life. Do I call and tell her that? 

I imagine this sweet, old woman who saw my car thought that, if I had been in ear shot, the coincidence of our similar vehicles would have lead to a nice conversation. Probably, she is in need of a conversation today and I understand that sentiment. I can truly empathize. I have said only a few words out loud today. Most of them were to myself. These past few months living on my own have helped me gain quite a bit of insight into the solitary life. I'm surrounded by friends for a good portion of my week, so this isn't a call out for sympathy, just an acknowledgement of God teaching me new lessons daily. 

Little shared moments mean so much to so many. I am so grateful for the multitude of friendships I have. I am blessed to be a part of a large community, but not everyone is so surrounded by relationship. As I walk my day through and entwine with other lives on the way, it is important that I make every interaction, with strangers and friends alike, one that communicates respect and love and inclusion.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Adventures in Cincy (and) The Pink Chair

On Monday, I went on an excursion with a friend in Cincinnati. I had only visited the city briefly before for a concert, and was glad to have a tour guide who knew the city a little more intimately. It was a grey day with winds forecasted up to 50 mph. I was in need of an adventure. And an adventure we had.

First stop was lunch at a great little diner called The Bluebird Restaurant. I like to think myself a sort of Reuben aficionado. I tend to order them where ever I go and compare. The issue is that I never really remember which ones are good and which aren't so good. Let it be remembered that this was a good one. Plus, it came with these awesome hash browns that had scrambled eggs mixed in with the potato shavings. Whodathunkit? And for lunch! The flavors were probably assisted by the cute vintagey surroundings and sweet attentive waitresses. Check out the individual jukeboxes at the tables!

Much of the day we spent tooling around the city via car. It was chilly and there was lots of ground to cover. Perhaps on another day we would have hoofed it, but this was just right as it was. My chauffeur was kind enough to slow down whenever he sensed my camera raising for a photo opp. Excuse my through the-dirty-window photography.

And check out this crazy building that looks totally flat! I am not convinced that it was even wedged shaped. I think maybe it was a Harry Potter-esque facade for something very magical. But the sign just says, "Church of Christ". Hmmm. 

Again, we learned the lesson that museums are not open on Mondays. (I have learned this lesson too many times. You'd think it would stick by now.) But made the most of it by troopsing about in the gardens beneath the Cincy Art Museum. There was a large reflection pool there. I found some saturated osage oranges floating in one end. They looked beautiful, like summer fruits, out of place in the dingy water. 

The day culminated with a impromptu (which was kinda the theme for the day) venture into an enormous Goodwill store in a Cincy suburb. Whereupon, I found the perfect little pink chair to accompany my teal couch and yellow furniture in my cozy little -colorful!- living room. It was only $20 and just barely fit in my car for the ride home. Meant to be!

My new piece of furniture reminds me of a storybook I grew up with. "A Chair for My Mother" by Vera B. Williams.  It's a sweet story about a family who lost all their belongings in a house fire. As a child, I loved the story for the bright splotchy paintings and the details of imagery. As an adult, I can see that there is a serious nature to the story. One of heartbreak and trials. A community comes together to restock their home, but it is still left to the family -grandmother, mother and daughter- to take the final steps to recovery and purchase a big comfy chair to put their feet up in. It's a story about regaining self worth after receiving charity, and about recovering from loss. 

As I collect the pieces of furniture in my home, I hope they will last and that they will become family heirlooms. I know that I sometimes struggle with putting too much weight on the importance of things. I love the design and the beauty of craft and construction. And when you keep a house by yourself, your home kind of becomes your family in many ways. But it is good also to remember that the spaces are only made important by the moments and memories shared with people in them. I would never wish to lose my things to disaster, but I'd like to think I wouldn't be lost without them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Single Homemaker (or) Juice for 1

There are a lot of blogs out there. Blogs about cheezeburgers and blogs about videogames and tons of blogs much like my own, about pretty things and pretty moments. Still, there's an obvious trend amongst the crafty homemaker blogs. So many of the blogs I follow are the anecdotes of wives and mothers. They are homemakers, in an awesome and traditional way (I have nothing against mommies and wives). But  I'm also a homemaker, sans a husband and sans kiddies. There's a market for a lady like me in the blogosphere. I'd love to see more of us out there. Where are all the single ladies?!

This has been a busy week filled with lots of social outings and innings. I think that I am really becoming comfortable in my skin as a lady who lives on her own. AND I came up with a fix for a single lady issue I've been struggling with. 

Whenever I drink juice, I always cut it 50/50 with water. (I'm sweet in nature, but not-so-much in the tastebuds.) Some years ago, I started just keeping a frozen juice container in the freezer and simply spooning out enough mix for a glass at a time. This works fine for the heftier plastic containers that you can snap the top back on, but the cardboard and aluminum can rolls present a sticky problem. 

My solution? An old glass soda bottle and a liquor pour spout. Half a "shot" of juice is plenty sweetness for my drink. (The cutie pie glass adds a little extra saccharine, though, doesn't it?) Just take what you need and refrigerate until the next time. 

Any nifty "fixes" you've discovered in your happy homemaking adventures? Do share.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kitchen Cupboard Soup (and) What Made Milwaukee Famous

Thursday's as good a night as any to make a big batch of Kitchen Cupboard soup. (I know it's Saturday now. Don't nitpick. I'm a couple days behind, here.)

Kitchen Cupboard Soup is a Huff family tradition. Dad's version usually includes a can of pre-fab veggie soup as a base and then random cans of veggies from the Huff larder. I like to spice up the tradition with some fresh veggies and a brothy base.
This batch of the stuff included
  • carrot
  • onion
  • chopped garlic
  • frozen spinach
  • some hot garden pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • Original Mrs. Dash
  • Lawry's Seasoned salt
  • beef broth
  • macaroni noodles
  • flour, milk & butter for thickener
(Spice at every step and taste regularly.)

Sautee carrot, onion and garlic at bottom of big pot. Add spinach when things start to smell good. Keep cooking until the frozen water on the spinach has disappeared and the pot is starting to brown a little. Add water and scrape that good brown stuff off, this makes a nummers veggie broth. Cook down. Add beef broth and noodles, cook till noodles are looking good, add thickening agent, cook down more to desired thickness. Oyster crackers a must. And, had I had it on hand- a heartier beer would have been nice along with it.

To accompany the  mid-week cooking, a little mournful country by a legendary musical cousin-lover. If you were paying attention, you might have noticed that I got this album the other day in my big Monday record splurge.

You saw it right, that's Jerry Lee Lewis (the whole lotta shakin' fellah) looking real velvety and serious. This was a fun find, full of great country songs. It's a different side to the artist I thought he was. Of course near everything I knew I had learned from the 1989 movie "Great Balls of Fire" (starring Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee and a very young Winona Ryder as his tiny cousin-wife) which evidently only covers his early life. He still toured in 2009. Talk about longevity! 

The album introduces a particularly great song: "What makes Milwaukee Famous (Has made a loser out of me)" . Which does a particularly good job at some charming (boozy) product placement. I hadn't done much thinking on the partnership between the music and advertising industries before. Had I thought of it, I would have pinned it as a newer trend coming along with the advent of hip-hop and rap consumerism. (Comon' Air Force Ones?) But it seems that we've been buying up on behalf of our tunes for ages. And rap doesn't have the corner on the market. (Have you heard Red Solo Cup yet? I mean, really.) 

We Americans just love our stuff. So much so, we define ourselves by our products- by how we buy. Whether it's Jimmy Choos or Chuck Taylors, Chef Boyardee or Annie's Organic. And if we really like something in America, we write a song about it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Record Day! (or) Dating Myself

Today, after an morning of taking it easy and finishing some mailing prep for the 2012 Huff Family Reunion, I decided that it was high time I took myself out on a date.

I gussied myself up- then took off some of the eye makeup I put on. (Cat eyes are too gussy for errands, it seemed.) The agenda was unclear upon take-off but eventually I hit up, the library, and Urban Ava in Tipp City (a little boutique I had heard good things about. It was cute, but I didn't find anything I HAD to have. I'm too frugal for most boutiques.) Then I went to the Oregon district in downtown Dayton. (I really am starting to love this little city.)

After ordering my favorite, a Kali Latte (featuring... CURRY!) at Press Coffeeshop, sat with a new book "Nom De Plume" (a book of vignettes about authors who used Pseudonyms), journaled a little and enjoyed the customers coming in and out of the little shop. Afterwards I hit up the new (6 months old! How did I miss the boat on this one?) record shop, "The Record Gallery" AND stopped by Omega, too. I went a bit overboard with my purchases.

But I only spent $15.00 TOTAL on all this music! THIS is why I love records. (Amongst other reasons...) I like music that other people either have oodles of, or don't want at all so I can generally get it pretty cheap. I can't wait to spend some time cleaning and listening to all these albums. I suppose some house cleaning and food-cooking is in order. The instrumental albums are especially good for that. 

After cleaning out the record stores I hit up Lucky's and the Century Bar with some good pals before calling it a night. Dayton, you done me right. Still, the next self-date will need to include staying in. My budget can't afford to keep spoiling me like this.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Enjoying Myself (and) Cheapo Cooking Review

Today, after waking up to a blood red throat and a dizzy head, I called in sick to work. My first full sick day since starting my job in September. But it was totally necessary. I've been sleeping poorly lately, and I'm starting to realize the need for one more resolution. Be content to relax and enjoy time by myself.

I have always had a need to be wherever the action is at. In college, I used to struggle with my homework if I could hear any socializing going on within earshot. Facebook has amplified this anxiety in a big way, giving me an international perspective on what I am missing. Lately, since living on my own, this trait has risen up again. I have troubles falling asleep, feeling more separate from friendships and people as I "habitate" rather than co-habituate. 

I'd consider myself a pretty independent girl. I've learned ways to be happy in my single life, but I still tend to prefer the company to solitude. I need to learn new ways of enjoying time by myself (and without screens). A couple summers ago, a poet named Tanya Davis, and her filmaker friend, released a youtube video on this very matter. It's a beautiful testament to the enjoyment of one's own company. 

Today, after forcing myself to sleep through most of the day, I started work on a gigantic crossword puzzle (748 clues!) my uncle sent me from the Christmas Cleveland Plain Dealer. In years past, it has been a tradition to attempt the puzzle over my annual Christmas-time visit to their home. Because of an odd Holiday schedule, I wasn't able to make it up North this year. I was so pleased to find the puzzle tucked in between sheets of tissue paper in their gift to me. Too big to hold in my lap as I watch TV, I'm forced to sit at the kitchen table with the newsprint, sipping on some coffee, spinning some Bob Dylan on my turntable. The resolution? Set aside more time to hang out with myself.
Later, I was craving a little home-cooking smell without any of the effort. A quick perusal of my cupboards came up with an envelope of just-add-milk Peach Cobbler Muffins from Mayberry's Finest.

The products kitschy design and TVland endorsement had more to do with my purchase than my belief of it's tastiness. But Eatin' speaks louder than words, I suppose. The muffins are moist and tasty. I especially like the crusty tops. I think I may attempt a quick and easy cobbler and use this mix as a topper for some  peaches and blueberries.

Either way, it's worth a buck to have one on hand. Cook it for the full 15 minutes or more. I think the "peaches" in the mix make the muffins look browned before they really are.  

Happy cooking! Whether you're enjoying your own company or the company of others.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Craft & Flick (or) Return of a Meal Sack

Last night, after mentioning in conversation for the umpteenth time that I intended to someday recover this old beat up lampshade in my living room I decided to take immediate action. So I spent a couple hours doing what I like to do best: 2-hour craft and a movie. I have troubles focusing one just one thing, sometimes. So when I'm crafting I often like to have a movie playing even if I'm not really watching it intently. 

The movie in question? Drop Dead Gorgeous, one of the best (and first?) mockumentaries ever made. Featuring a slew of funny actresses and a cut-through beauty pageant. The lead role, however, belonged to the State of Minnesota. Which explains (I get it now!) why I was really homesick for Minneapolis today. Just really wanting some hot dish, bars, and maybe a frozen lake and a few "ehs". Yah, you betcha.

The craft of the evening? (Pretty much unrelated to the movie, besides the county-chic style.) Flour/grain Sack lampshade cover! The lampshade actually was an accordion style lamp from which my mother had removed the accordions ages ago. When you're covering it, the lampshade's state really doesn't matter. Don't buy a new one for this project. Dumpster dive or shop for one at a thrift store. 

After searching through my fabric for the perfect material (this umbrella pattern from Alison's wedding gift was in the final 3) I stumbled upon this awesome old meal sack my aunt gave me this fall. (It still had grain in the corners that I had to shake out into the snow!) I simply ripped the seams out of the bag, and then draped it over the lampshade as I might on a dress form. Instead of pinning it into place, I hot glued. I'm sure there's a more mathematical way to approach the project, but that's not how I do things. (There are tons of tutorials on the topic online, of course.)

The finished project is really quaint and I'm pretty pleased with my productivity. Next project? Perhaps cutely camouflaging air conditioner covers. More likely, craft room storage. (And a movie, of course.)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The 5 Senses of 2011

Upon the turning of the new year it's fun to look back and consider 2011 as a stand-alone increment in my life. Soon enough I'll think back on it only in terms of the whole year. But as it is happening, it's the months or weeks that feel overwhelmingly full or important. The completion of certain tasks, the passage of a holiday or anniversary. As I grow farther away in time from those events they meld into memories of the year - eventually the decade. The littler measurements of time passage go so fast. What is a second, minute or hour? What can you do in an hour anymore? Watch an episode of a tv show? Make dinner? Even days can seem tiny. I almost wonder sometimes why we still measure time in days, they pass so quickly. Like the poor, copper penny, a day doesn't seem to be worth much anymore. Is this proof of the "inflation" of time?

Memories seem more vivid when they're tied to a sensory experience. I thought I'd throw together some 2011 highlights themed by the 5 senses. I think it will be good for me to be able to look back at this post someday and quickly be reminded of the meat of 2011.

A year of transition and discovery. A lot of my new perspective is figurative, some of it is more literal.

Family Moments. The most awesome benefit of living in Ohio is my proximity to family. As a result of my move last October I have seen tons of family on both sides of the tree. Beyond the obvious bonuses of being around my parents and my sister's family more often- I'm especially grateful for the time I've spent with: my mother's parents in Columbus, my cousin who returned from Kenya this summer after 3 years away, and my Aunt and uncle in Cleveland. My ability to see family with more frequency is changing the way I love and understand my family.

Beginning of a new country- South Sudan. Sure, I didn't see it happen, but I felt close to the excitement and progress as it happened. I served at an overnight camp for the children of Sudanese residents of Dayton as they bussed to polling places in Tennessee and Dayton. It is a beautiful thing to see the world as community rather than vastness.

New York City. At long last, I visited NYC. It begs a revisit, as I was a chaperone on this trip and much of my attention was directed to keeping track of ten bobbing teenage heads in a mega crowded city. Still, an exciting step. Especially when I realized that the big apple isn't as big and scary as my imagination was making it out to be.

Sarah's First Christmas Tree. I know I just went on about this. But it's really special. Not to mention that the new apartment, living away from home again thing is still news.

As an audiophile, it's tough to wheedle down the entries in this section.

The Fort Choir. Singing in the church choir with my dad, directed by one of my good pals. It doesn't get too much better. Oh wait, it does when you sing hardcore energetic gospel worship at a church conference full of tired old Methodist preachers. 

Lily says "Sarah". my neice's first attempts at saying her aunt's name. "Say-yuh". Totally darling. She only spent 4 months slying shaking her head "no" instead of saying it.

2011 New Music. This year I was introduced to a little new favorite music (resolutions for this year include discovering more new artists in 2012) I should mention the Avett Brothers, Ryan Montebleau and Gungor. Biggest album of the year for me? "Barton Hollow" by The Civil Wars.

Since moving away from the "big city" and to Dayton, I'm still learning the new tastes. More discovery of great lil' food joints in 2012.
Dayton Food Wagons. Caribbacanas after a garden work day. Go Cupcake at a feminist bash. Fressa on a moment's notice.

Press Curry Coffee. I'm not the only one who loves this coffee shop. Itty bitty Dayton's teency tiny independent coffee shop got props on a recent Zagat survey.

Skipping rocks, climbing hills, shaking hands. Touch shapes emotion in ways words cannot.

Holding Baby Ella. I was the lucky first visitor in the delivery room after my friends' baby was born. I have had some very important non-related "aunts" in my life. It is really special to be one to someone else.

Summer earthquake. While working 13 floors up in a skyrise in downtown Dayton I felt the dizzying effects of a earthquake centering out of Virginia.

Wrestling with the nephews. I'm not brawny like their daddy, but I love that I can toss the kiddos around. The three of them are all adventurous and brave. They loved to be tossed and tackled. They go through cranky pseudo-teenage phases, but sometimes they still let me cuddle up with them on the couch, too.

Smells make memories that seem to sneak up on you, so it's hard to collect a few memories of 2011 scents on command. I'll take a stab, still. 

Gas and oil on cold winter mornings. My car leaks both. I especially remember this smell on morning drives to Sinclair Community College in very early 2011.

Farmersville Harvest. This was my first rural Ohio fall. I learned what soybean harvest looks, feels, and smells like. At other moments later in fall, a second smell- fertilizer.
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