Change overload

I love South Carolina. Love the herons that fly behind the house, love the Carolina pines, love the warm weather, and of course love the beach. The decision to move here has been overwhelmingly positive. (And I didn't even mention Cheerwine and fish shacks and the delightfully quirky Southern ladies!)

That said, today was a little more change than I wanted. Nothing big, mind you, just one small thing after another until I found myself in the Food Lion parking lot thinking, "I just want to go home!" As someone who prides herself on embracing change, I was surprised to find myself chafing against it.

Everything worked out in the end (as it usually does). The new groomer does things differently, but Ernie ended up looking great. I couldn't find exactly what I was used to at the grocery, but I'll make it work. Traffic here is a little different, but it's nothing I can't handle. Who knows, some things may even turn out to be better.

Still, I wish we had technology that would make it possible to live in SC but pop back to Indy when my psyche needs a break - something along the lines of Star Trek's transporter beam. Then I could drop Ernie off at his normal vet, swing by Trader Joe's for some goodies, grab a kebab in Castleton, and be back on the beach before sunset. That's not too much to ask, is it?

Image courtesy of Marvin01


Pimp your ride: Girl-car edition

Even Snowball isn't this girly ...


The $8 experiment

One upside to moving is that it forces you to sort through everything and makes clear what you do not own. In my case: a back-up pair of glasses.

Last fall, my dad ordered a pair of glasses from Zenni Optical and said they were a great deal. He claimed that I could get a pair of basic prescription glasses for only $8.


Since my glasses normally run $200+ per pair, I was skeptical about a pair this cheap. $8 is the cost of two lattes or a cheap t-shirt. At the very least, I assumed the selection at that price would be limited and/or scary.

Wrong! They have well over a hundred frames at each price point ($8, $9.95, $12.95, and $15.95) and many cute styles, even in the $8 section. I favorited a few pairs, narrowed it down by size, and settled on a pair of red cat's eye shaped frames. I figure for $8, I might as well have some fun.

Since shipping is only $5 for the entire order, I decided to add a pair of black Jackie O sunglasses for a whole $12.95, tint and all.

In searching for reviews about Zenni, I discovered that there's a whole world of discount internet eyeglass sellers. Not everyone has them for $8, but even at $19 or $39, they're a steal compared to the traditional options. Some sites even allow you to upload a picture and "try on" frames before you order. Who knew?!

My glasses should arrive in about 2 weeks. I'll post results when they get here. Stay tuned!

Photo by Grace


Retro photos for the iPhone impaired

I do not have an iPhone. This isn't a fact that would bother me were it not for one thing: Hipstamatic.

Hipstamatic is an app that mimics the results of low-quality toy cameras of the past. Translation: it takes some really groovy retro photos (and costs only $1.99!).

Since one wee app doesn't justify an iPhone purchase, I've been looking for ways to get Hipstamatic-like results during post-processing on my Mac. GIMP was moderately successful once I got past the (steep) learning curve, but the process was more time consuming than I wanted and the results were good but not stellar. There are a few options for Lightroom but nothing entirely satisfying. Since I don't use Photoshop, I can't speak to the quality of the actions available for it.

I tried several Polaroid knock-offs with varying degrees of success. Often these come with limited choices and strong color casts that yielded sometimes-interesting / sometimes-awful results. My favorite of the clones was Poladroid which I found to be fun and easy to use. You simply drag a jpeg to the icon, wait, and a Polaroid emerges. Rather like the real experience I remember from my childhood (only with less shaking).

Here's a sample image I created with Poladroid:
The top contenders to mimic the Hipstamatic seem to be Toycamera AnalogColor and CameraBag.

Toycamera offers the most control with 7 processes, 2 lens options, and the ability to add flare and Polaroid framing. You can adjust 9 additional variables including blur, contrast, color, and noise. It's essentially a mini-Lightroom aimed at creating toy camera results. While you can achieve striking results, more is demanded of the user in terms of experimenting and choosing well.

Here are samples processed with Toycamera AnalogColor:
CameraBag is a simpler system. There are 10 filters, 3 black and white and 7 color. Other than cropping and adding borders, your primary means of control lies in how you choose to layer the filters atop one another. While this can yield great results, I often found myself coming close to the image I desired and wishing I could make small tweaks in contrast or color to achieve it. This program gets points for authenticity since it better mimics the "take what you get" nature of inexpensive cameras. However, I found it frustrating to come so close at times and be unable to get the exact image I wanted.

Here are samples processed with CameraBag:

My verdict: those experienced with post-processing (and the control freaks) will probably enjoy ToyCamera AnalogColor more. Those who want simplicity and the ability to achieve Hipstamatic-like results with only a few clicks will find CameraBag to be a good option.


"I walked in with you alone. I'm walking out with you alone."

Two words: Get. Kleenex.

Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Thanks to Kat for sharing the link!

Zen and the art of bubble wrap

Moving stinks.

Like, really stinks.

I thought boxing everything up was bad until I got to the part where I have to unbox everything. (I don't know where this stuff goes! Who do you think I am, Martha Stewart?)

There is, however, one upside to moving. One small ray of light in the dark sea of crates.

Bubble wrap!

The happiest part of the packing process was when I got to sit on my kitchen floor and mindlessly wrap dish after dish, sealing each with blue painter's tape. Unlike the rest of my to-do list, it was a clear task. Simple, straightforward, and with neat and tidy results.

It was meditation without the sore back.

Plus, hearing a hundred little pops each time Ernie trotted over was music to my ears.

While the unpacking experience is a bit less Zen, stomping bubble wrap is far cheaper than breaking dishes to vent frustration (like when I can't find the tv cable or my sandals or pretty much anything else I made a point not to lose).

So for all of the moving tips out there - packing necessities last, labeling your boxes, blah blah blah - the best one is this: invest in bubble wrap. Lots and lots of bubble wrap.

Your sanity will thank you.

Photo by ElizabethGreen


The Swanfather

I was worried about two things upon moving to South Carolina:

1) Alligators - particularly ones that eat shih tzus for dinner

2) Snakes

These are rational enough fears given that a gator was found in the pool of a neighborhood we considered and that there are five kinds of venomous snakes in the area.

As is typical in my life, my fears were misdirected, and I was oblivious to the real danger at hand. In this case: swans.

Yes, I know. Swans are beautiful. Graceful, elegant, and all that. What everyone fails to mention is how nasty these birds are. I don't just mean temperamental; we're talking full on aggressive. When it comes to "fight or flight", these birds pick fight and relish it.

I didn't think much when I first saw the swans swimming in the canal behind our house. I assumed they'd do their thing, we'd do ours, and life would go on peacefully.

Then on the night of August 17th, I noticed something large ... and white ... and angry staring in the window.

Ernie and Nelson ran to investigate and were issued several hostile warnings letting them know who was boss around these parts. (Unfortunately, Ernie doesn't speak hiss, and he remains under the delusion that he made a new bird friend that night.)

The swan hung around for a good 10 or 15 minutes. Maybe he expected to be allowed inside for a visit and a sample of our tasty little mammals? I didn't know, and I didn't want to find out.

When he finally left, we noticed a steaming black present on the patio. The whole thing was like the scene from a mob movie where the new business in the neighborhood is paid a visit and politely but firmly informed how things are going to work.

The meaning was apparent: don't mess with the swan mafia.

Message received, loud and clear. I've since taken to walking Ernie in the front yard and keeping alert when I spend time on the patio. I've noticed they do swim-bys and pause to stare at the house every afternoon. I was outside during yesterday's and found myself making a mental calculation of how quickly I could make it inside should they dart up the bank.

Gators and snakes? Child's play.


They go together like chicken and waffles

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love chicken and waffles and those who have never tried chicken and waffles (but will surely love it when they do).

A dish with a long history, chicken and waffles was popularized by Roscoe's chain in Los Angeles and pops up frequently on menus around the country. I first sampled the dish at Maxine's Chicken and Waffles in downtown Indianapolis.

How good was it? Good enough that we had our engagement dinner at Maxine's. It took only a handful of bites for our perplexed families to understand why.

For the uninitiated, chicken and waffles is the pairing of fried chicken with waffles and syrup or, in the case of Maxine's, peach butter. Each bite is a study in contrast - crispy and soft, savory and sweet. While your arteries may not thank you, your mouth definitely will.

What brings chicken and waffles to mind was learning that today is National Waffle Day. I unpacked the waffle iron that I barely knew we had and will fire it up to make a batch for dinner tonight in celebration.

While I've never made waffles at home before, the dish deserves better than Eggos from the freezer section. I'm even thinking some honey butter is in order. This has the potential to supplant Thanksgiving as the best food holiday of the year.

Happy Waffle Day!

Photo by Nate Steiner


Dream on

I have what one might call an active dream life. I dream vividly, nearly every night, and wake up clearly remembering (and feeling!) what was going on.

Normally, I enjoy the bizarre output of my subconscious, especially on those rare occasions when I experience a lucid dream and can take control and do whatever I want (inevitably this means flying - dream flying is AWESOME).

One experience that I don't enjoy is called a false awakening. Thankfully, these are rare, with the last instance happening a few nights ago.

For those who haven't experienced a false awakening, let me walk you through my latest one:

Step one: Have nightmare.

Step two: Awaken from nightmare. In bed, at home. No problem, right?

Step three: Go about your day until something terrible happens (in this case, someone jumping through a window).

Step four: Awaken from nightmare. Bed, home. See where this is going?

Step five: Cycle back to through steps three and four until you're convinced you're losing your ever-lovin' mind.

Step six: Wake up. Bed, home. But this time you know to check! Go about your day looking for any sign that things are amiss. In my case, I noticed my husband was sitting in a chair we don't own. The jolt will cause you to ....

Step seven: Wake up. Check reality. Probably fail. It took me three times once I knew what was happening. The second time, I caught it because the stones on my wedding ring were wrong. The third because I couldn't read something I should have been able to.

Step eight: Scream "WAKE UP!" and try to force yourself out of the dream and back to reality.

Step nine: Wake up for real (hopefully). You can usually tell when you have snapped out of the dream, but I always do a little reality checking anyway since the other awakenings seemed real when they were occurring. Once life passes the "test", breathe a huge sigh of relief.

What the steps don't capture is the awfulness of the experience. Not only is there a sense of foreboding and often a scare with the false awakenings, but there is also an enormous sense of powerlessness. You are trapped in your dreams, and your force of will isn't strong enough to shake you from them.

I always have trouble going back to sleep once I'm "free" since I don't want to risk it happening again. Finally, I do go back to sleep, and then I can go years without another occurrence.

Of course, for all I know, I'm dreaming right now.

Illustration by kaneda99


Just what every woman wants ...

An embellished strap-on burqa! Someone tell me this is a hoax.


Actual conversation with my husband: Lawn edition

Me: Did you get the lawn mowed last night?

Husband: Yup.

Me: Wow. I'm surprised. I thought it got dark on you.

Husband: Nope, I got it done.

Me: There were geese in the back. Maybe they were eating the trimmings.

Husband: Oh, I didn't do the back.

Me: You didn't do the back?

Husband: Nope.

Me: What about the sides?

Husband: Nope. Just the front.

Me: Just the front?

Husband: Yup.

Me: That's not getting the lawn mowed.

Husband: Yes, it is. The front's the important part.

Me: (long pause) So you didn't really get the lawn mowed.

Husband: If you make dinner and there's no salad and dessert, can I say that you didn't really make dinner?

Sigh ...


Goin' to Carolina

Apologies for the lack of blog action lately. We've been knee deep in a move (two weeks to move two houses 800 miles - EEEEEEK!), and I can barely form a coherent thought, let alone a blog post. In the meantime, enjoy a little James Taylor, and I'll be back soon with some marvelous Carolina misadventures.