Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Yes, I'll take Jimmy Fallon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt for Christmas, please.

I like to try new Christmas candies each year. Here is a sampling of what I've made thus far. If you'd like the recipes for any of the following, just let me know. 
And for what it's worth...
My favorites: gingerbread biscotti and the mint shortbread cookies.
Coconut almond cookies
 Chocolate truffles rolled in all sorts of unhealthy stuff
 Mint shortbread cookies and gingerbread biscotti
 Brownie truffles setting up in the freezer
 Peppermint serving plate
 Snicker doodle blondies
 Step one of the chocolate bark
 Finished product
 Brown sugar cookies with brown sugar icing

Oreo truffles

I know they aren't carols. I know they aren't sentimental. I know religious undertones are nowhere to be found. I don't care.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I want my own Institute of Slow Information.

A couple of weeks ago, I included an excerpt from Vivian Swift's travel journal, Le Road Trip, in which she describes the "colors of Paris" in thought-provoking and artsy ways like "gray without melancholy." I decided to do something similar for my hometown.

*Purposeful rust - the color of still-functioning antique farm equipment and my dad's barn roof in certain shades of light

*Subdued hazel - the quiet color of hay fields, the river, and the eyes of several people I care about

*Patchwork blues -a stippling of shades that somehow create continuity in the lake, the library mural, and hand-stitched quilts
Additional excerpts I absolutely love...
"Travel Tip: The term is in situ --in the land of origin. We travel to put ourselves in situ, in a place where we belong.  The feeling that one was born in the wrong place is an ancient and universal experience, such that I suspect (a) it is part of our human DNA; and (b) is why our kind are born wanderers.  We travel to find the place where we can recognize ourselves for once.  Be on the lookout for that jolt of unexpected familiarity in a foreign land: that's how you'll know you are in situ." 67

Throughout my travels, I have had only a few moments when I thought, "This just feels home-ish to me. I could live here." Who knows? Maybe I could, maybe I couldn't when it came down to it, but I do think "it says something" that the rather rare thought even crossed my mind. Those places included Wallingford, Vermont, Seattle, Washington, and Prague, Czech Republic.  Ultimately, however, the place where I have most recognized myself, the place where I have felt like the "best version of me," the place where I never expected familiarity after the passing of eleven years, was exactly where I am now. 

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." - Douglas Adams
Talking to a tapestry owner  in Bayeux about new threads, "This counts as one of the best conversations I've ever had in my life." 71

A few conversations I consider my "best"...
1. a 30-minute phone interview with Brandi Carlile in which we talked about everything from the colors in her kitchen, to what constitutes a "good Christmas," to the names of her many animals, to how she takes her coffee, to her lingering frustrations toward organized religion

2. a brief, and frustrating-at-the-time, conversation with my dad in the Turner Farm living room on a random winter afternoon a few years ago: I was talking about an "ideal job," and how taking the opportunity would help me "in the long run." His paraphrased response: "True, but Liza, you have to make enough to live on.  It's good to dream and want more, but you have to provide for yourself in the meantime." CLT was always supportive, but he also kept me grounded. By example, he encouraged self-sufficiency and reminded me that sometimes we just have to suck it up and do the hard stuff, the stuff we don't necessarily want to do.

3.  an ultimatum-based conversation in an ice-cream parlor that involved me clearly articulating what I wanted, what I could give, and what I couldn't; it wasn't a conversation that yielded a triumphant end, but it was a conversation I look back upon with pride.  I didn't give in when it mattered. I held on to what I knew was most important.
"Next Life: My embroidery studio on the Main Street of Bayeux will be just one part of my Institute of Slow Information. I will also teach letter writing, listening, miniature portrait painting, and the art of doing one thing at a time." 71

I want my own Institute of Slow Information.  I want to spend days writing letters to Caroline, taking painting classes, working on my great-grandmother's quilt tops, learning how to bake sourdough bread with my mother, reading every book that is stacked on my nightstand, and writing a book, the likes of which I like to read. 

If you haven't checked out Bill Guffey's new studio, I definitely encourage you to stop by. His artwork is beautiful, and has heart, and will surely impress you.  The building renovations he and Kelly did themselves are equally impressive.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Project updates and other such piddling...

I found this quilt top in my grandmother's attic over the summer. My great grandmother, who we referred to as "Gramma," had hand-stitched it, using pieces from various shirts, dresses, and other fabric scraps.  I fell in love with it and asked Mama if I could have it.
I had big plans....none of which actually involved me trying to quilt the thing myself.
Nevertheless, if you remember from a Pillow Book post over the summer, the ladies at the library convinced me that I should do just that. What an awesome idea in theory; I mean, how much more meaningful would it be if I could do it myself? 
And so...I was all over it initially.  Vickie made a trip to Wal-Mart with me to help me pick out the batting, thread, and sheet I wanted to use.  We brought the supplies back to the library, laid it out and pinned it the very next day. ....
Four months later, I actually picked it back up, and started working on it (thanks to guilt trips by those same wonderful library ladies).  And within one week, I shockingly had it finished. 
 Laid out my backing, batting, and the quilt top
 To be honest, this (pinning it) was probably the most frustrating part.  Once I actually got started with the tacks, I enjoyed the project.

 This is a tack.
 Each tack is roughly four inches apart.
I've always loved making these ornaments.
A dozen clear, glass ornaments from Hobby Lobby - $4.00 
 Collection of squeeze paint I've kept from various projects
 Study break
 Decided I would drain the ornaments in this expensive tool
 Very complicated and strategic process: squeeze paint in, cover lid with paper towel, shake and swirl, drain.
 Let them drain overnight and then turn right side up and put the "lids" back on
 I used some of my Dad's flannel shirts for a blanket last year. I used the leftover fabric to create "hangers."
Finished product
A Christmas project for Isabella
 I painted the bench, which I'm considering to be her "reading nook," and used more of my Dad's shirt fabric to make pillows (along with the pink fleece material from one of Lucy's old Halloween costumes:))
 Pillows are about the extent of my sewing skills.
On the back side of the bench, I wrote a secret message (a line from a poem I wrote for her 2nd birthday).
"I wish for you a world of possibility, of never-ending stories, a world filled with your very favorite books.
I wish for you days of pretend, days of dress-up, days of hidden reading nooks." 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tough call, but I believe I'll take numerous trips to Paris over poisonous berries.

"Road trip: those are still the two most inspiring words to vagabonds and couch potatoes alike; after all, the great American spirit was forged by road trippers from the Pilgrims to Lewis and Clark to the Dharma Bums. Le Road Trip combines the appeal of the iconic American quest with France's irresistible allure, offering readers a totally new perspective of life on the road. Le Road Trip tells the story of one idyllic French honeymoon trip, but it is also a witty handbook of tips and advice on how to thrive as a traveler, a captivating visual record with hundreds of watercolor illustrations, and a chronicle depicting the incomparable charms of being footloose in France. Armchair travelers, die-hard vagabonds, art journalists, and red wine drinkers will all find something to savor in this story." - Review, goodreads.com

Road trip, vagabond, great American spirit, irresistible allure, iconic quest, witty handbook, captivating visual record, incomparable charms, red wine drinkers...One of my greatest hopes is to write a book one day both inspired by and reflective of this most perfect of combinations.  If a product of numerous trips to Paris or Prague rather than an Into the Wild journey, all the better.
If you've read this blog much at all, you are well aware of my obsession with all things Vivian Swift. I love her wit, her confidence tinged with self-deprecating hilarity, her slightly Bob Ross-esque illustrations (by the way, I saw in a magazine yesterday that there is actually a BR teacher certification program), her ability to tell a story, her willingness to say things others might deem irreverent and blasphemous, but that remain unequivocally funny (but not mean-spirited), and her appreciation of the little things that make her happy. 

Despite this adoration, however, her most recent book, Le Road Trip, has cozily rested on my bookshelf for months, the hidden nook it has occupied since April.  I had pre-ordered it.  I was so excited when I picked it up at the post office. I have read reviews and her blog religiously since early spring.  Why the wait then to even crack the cover? 

I don't really know the answer to this, but I assume it has something to do with me considering it the "perfect last bite," the literary "Christmas morning," the "saved-for/long-awaited/much-needed vacation departure" (the one in which I would be wearing something totally hip like the stuff I pin on Pinterest, but don't actually own).  Sometimes the anticipation is where inspiration is found.  Sometimes it is hard to start something we don't want to inevitably end.  Sometimes the quest is the irresistible allure. 

And sometimes we just sit down, forget about the sadness we may feel when it's over, and relish the incomparable charm of the actual experience.
Probably my favorite passage thus far...

What is the official color of Paris?
A. Gray Without Melancholy, as in the sky on a typical overcast day in the Ile-de-France.
B. The honey color of the morning sun warming up the Oise limestone exterior of the Louvre.
C. The quicksilver surface of the Seine in the wake of a Bateau-Mouche.
D. Mansard Blue, the color of Paris rooftops with the sound of an Edith Piaf record playing in the background.

All of the above"  (27)
"Gray without melancholy"....oh, that's good. 

Take some time this weekend to think about how you would describe your own town or your favorite vacation spot. 

The Catbird Seat in Nashville is not a French restaurant.  However, when I imagine French cuisine, I think of beautiful presentations, small decadent bites, and a fundamental ethos that eating is not just about consumption, but an appreciation of the food culture.  If you find yourself with a particularly fat wallet one week, I encourage you to try this somewhat hidden Nashville gem.  I have to admit, it is a pretty amazing experience.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lucky girl.

A month of status updates...

Nov. 1: I realize most of you don't care what I'm thankful for. I also know we should be mindful of gratitude everyday and blah, blah, blah. Too bad. Facebook is narcissistic at the core and it never hurts to remind ourselves of all the good in our lives.

On this first day of the month, I'm thankful for authors who say something that makes me want to be better or live more fully or think about something in a new way.

"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." ~Mark Twain

Nov. 2: This sounds like I'm being facetious, but I'm really not at all...
I'm honestly thankful for the way Facebook has allowed me to get reaquainted with- and see the wit and foolishness in- old friends I haven't seen in a while or those I only knew by name only. I laugh so much everyday because of people like Kevin Griffith, Brandy Groce Pruitt, Jessica Cossel, Becky Ballard, and Brent Burris.
Nov.3: I'm thankful for parents who showed me how animals, both stray and pet alike, should be treated; for my 12 cats, none of which are here because I thought, "man, I'd really love some cats."; for my beloved dogs, Lucy and Willie, who have been my best friends for six years; and for a community where people know the names of most of my herd. 
Nov. 4: I'm thankful for secret-keepers, "good luck" text senders, surprise mid-race cheering sections, and for those who would've been there if they could have/I would have let them. Most importantly, I'm thankful to have been raised by a father who would've supported me and whose own work ethic motivated me to keep going and a mother who didn't get too mad when I told her only when it was over.

Oh, and I'm thankful I didn't die either.
Nov. 5: I'm thankful for the man and father my dad was, for the 30 years I had with him, and for the person he inspires me to be.

Love and miss you today and everyday.
Nov. 6: I'm thankful for my niece, Isabella Morgan. I love her little southern accent, one that seems thicker when she's doing pet voices. I appreciate her masterfully endearing combination of foolishness and thoughtfulness. I enjoy trading silly faces with her at Jones' as her mother tells us that is isn't good manners. I'm inspired by the way she'll dance, greet waitresses and store employees, and play pretend with reckless abandon.
She just makes every day better.

Nov. 7: I'm thankful for friendships in the unlikeliest of places; and for people who, by all logical accounts, I would disagree with on every issue, but who I just adore; and for those many miles away who still find ways, through letters, cards, emails, and texts, to make my life so much better.

I'm just grateful for the wildly diverse group of people I'm fortunate to call my friends.
Nov. 8:  I'm thankful for fireplaces and coffee. I'm pretty sure one of the reasons I sleep so little is because I'm just excited to get up, start coffee (don't knock Folgers...have you tried the vanilla biscotti "gourmet" version? It's delicious), sit in front of the fireplace with Wendell and watch MSNBC (just pretend that says Fox News, Neal Poindexter).

I thankful for little things like this that start my morning right...and for the great job I get to go to afterward. 
Nov. 9: I'm thankful for the relationships my sisters, mom, and I have. I honestly don't know three people who are funnier, willing to be more foolish, or with whom I'd rather be around. Trust me, what you see on here is only the half of it...we're even more ridiculous than it seems. 
Nov. 10: I'm thankful for Terry Staley. Because we find the same things funny, because we can acknowledge "it is what it is," but still have a lot of joy in our lives, and because we "solve" the world's problems every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I know how lucky I am to call her "friend"....AND that when lightning inevitably strikes me in that library office, she's surely going down with me. ;)
Nov. 11: I'm thankful for friends who know what 16-year-old Cumberland County Friday nights were like, who waded in creeks and jumped on hay bales and went roller skating with me, whose mother's kitchen I know like my own...and who have become even better, more authentic friends since we've gotten so incredibly old:)
Nov. 12: I'm thankful for those 45 minutes of my life I got back when I decided go ahead and turn "Magic Mike" off and not finish. I would one gabillion percent choose Conan over any of those fools anytime.
Nov. 13: I'm thankful for little things - whether it's a project, book, or TV show - that give me something to look forward to and make the workday more fun.

Sorry, Zach, it's not the UK game...new episode of New Girl and a checkerboard to work on tonight!

Oh, Nick, how I love you.
Nov. 14: I'm thankful for really pretty things that, when I take the time to notice them, make me smile. I'm fortunate to live in such a beautiful place.

Did you all notice the frost flowers this morning?!
Nov. 15: I'm thankful for Caroline Kraft...and Centre College for bringing us together. Who knew that the girl in pigtails (she had been at dance team practice) standing in Yerkes 306 in the fall of 1998 would be the same girl I would travel all around the world with 13 years later; the one people in Cumberland County would recognize in Houchens because they've seen her picture so much on facebook; the one who would remember Dad's birthday two years after he died; the one who knows where mugs are at both my house and my mom's; the one who karaokes 9 to 5 with me at my sister's wedding reception; the one who has enjoyed coffee with me at cafes all over Chicago; the one I absolutely consider my family ...?

Actually, I should've guessed it...the white, mid-calf socks and jean shorts we were both wearing that day had to be indicative of something special.

I'm thankful for best friends.
Nov. 16: I'm thankful for those kicks in the pants that remind me to get over myself. Situations may suck, but I can choose to not have pity parties.
And for homemade bread and the perfect cup of coffee.
I realize those make no sense together.

Nov. 17: I'm thankful for authors/books that have inspired me this year to try more, work harder, laugh more often, or take more time to self-reflect, but not take myself too seriously.
Nov. 18: I'm thankful for wonderful in-laws-by-extension. My sisters have happy lives, supported and loved by great guys with families who have opened their arms to all the Turners. I'm glad to be tied to the Morgans and the Edwards.

Plus, they sure can dance.
Nov. 19: I'm thankful to have grown up on such a beautiful farm and to still feel so content and in awe when I walk it now.
Nov. 20: I'm thankful for those memories that keep me from being bitter about waking up at 3:30 am fairly often. Thanks, CLT, for beating and banging around the kitchen in the pre-dawn hours nearly every morning. I'm pretty sure: 1) those are the best biscuits and gravy and eggs I'll ever eat. 2) JNT did a lot of cussing under her breath between 4-6 am.
Nov. 21: I've never understood the "I'm glad [insert bad thing] happened because I learned [xyz] or it led me to [xyz]" mantra. I can't think of one bad or sad thing that has happened to me that I'm glad about; that would seem to give that person or that circumstance too much power. What I am grateful for, though, is self-respect and strength, products of growing up in a household where I saw it and where it was expected, that allows me to not stay bitter; to still see potential; to laugh at those people who foolishly ran from awesomeness.;) That's right; I am apparently incredibly arrogant at 5 am.

I'm grateful for pride, and "not like the kind in the bible that turns you bad." (And as always, I'm grateful for the Avett Brothers;))
Nov. 22: I'm thankful for thoughtfulness without motive; for kindness shown to those who don't see it very often; for unexpected stories that brighten my day and make me so very proud; for a mother who happens to be the best person I know.
Yesterday, a woman in the library and I were talking about elementary schools. One of the first things she said was, "I remember picking kids up from school and seeing your mother stand at the buses and hug every child and tell them she loved them. That was probably the only time of the day that a lot of those kids heard that." It almost makes me cry even typing it on here. I know we joke and make fun of each other on here, but I hope everyone knows how proud I am to be Jackie Turner's daughter. 
Happy thanksgiving, all.