Best damn day of the year!

Happy Halloween!

I’ll post more after my Russian midterm is over – send some good luck my way around 10:15 this morning, that’s when the test starts!

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happy weekend!

The weather has taken a turn for the worse in these parts, and fall is rapidly coming to a close.  The leaves are far more plentiful on the sidewalks and in the streets than on tree branches.  Maine now faces the inevitable coming of another snowy winter, and the only thing left to do with fall is enjoy what remains of it.

Here’s what my cozy couple of days off have looked like thus far:

These last two pictures really prove my point about the end of autumn – we saw our first snowfall today.

Dissenting Pharynx

Alright, so.  All of my optimism regarding my busy schedule, all of my suppositions that things would slow down?

Guess not.

I fear that my upcoming Russian midterm will be the death of me.

Life has only managed to get more hectic in the past few days, and I seem to have hit a wall.  Running between school, work, and home has beat my immune system to hell and I now find myself sore, grouchy, and approaching illness.  Today I woke with the familiar feeling of swollen throat-meats and knew it was time to increase my vitamin-C quotient.

Teddy tried to lend a hand but his cyrillic script is just awful.

All this amounts to is that I’ll be spending my Halloween firmly planted on the sofa with a bucket of treats.  (I am 100% pleased with this plan).

I need to rest up and regain my strength so I can power through until the end of the semester.  I have fantastic and amazing plans for winter break that include the most decadent brunch in New England and an appointment with Portland’s best tattoo artist, Cyndi Lou of Squid and Whale, to embark upon my chest piece.

Thus, I will keep my eye on the ultimate prize of snowy winter days spent catching up on sleep and having fun.  Until then, I need to take steps to make myself feel better.  Step one?  A big batch of comforting veggie chili that i’ll be making tomorrow.  My belly can’t wait!

Final thought: Is it just me, or does this look sort of wonderful:

Aha! An outlet for my thrift shop addiction.

There’s so much going on right now – it’s pretty great, actually!  I’m busy with school, house rearranging, and starting the Etsy shop.  Additionally, I’m chairing the History Students Association and last night had my very first French Club meeting.  We went out for dinner and drinks this week and I really enjoyed myself.  It’s not often that I go out nor am I adept at making friends, so I was glad to have a reason to socialize with people I may otherwise be too shy to do so with.

So about this Etsy shop.  Oof!  As it happens, cleaning, caring for, and storing a shop’s worth of items takes a lot of time and space.  This realization was the catalyst for our recent home reorganization project.  I decided that we were in dire need of an animal-free room in our place.  I love my furry friends and hate having to limit their access to our home, but animal hair is a constant issue in this apartment.  Thus, to keep items for the shop in pristine and pet hair-free condition, Josh and I have cordoned off one of the rooms for use as a storage area.  It’s currently housing all of our clothes as well as the items to be put on Etsy.  Josh found this clothing rack on Ebay, which is going to make organization infinitely easier.  I think it will eventually become a bit of a getaway spot for me when I need some alone time at home – it’s so clean in that room!

I hope that this Etsy project works at least a little bit.  It’s been progressing like molasses lately because of other commitments, but life should be slowing down a little soon.  If the skies would clear up and give me a little sunshine, I could go out into the woods and take the most lovely photos of all my things!  But until then, alas…

Apple Funday

What’s to do on a lazy October afternoon?

Josh was recording with a friend, so Teddy and I took a drive to Orchard Hill Farm where we procured some delicious Maine macintosh apples (and a couple of apple cider doughnuts, of course).  I was determined to log some hours in the kitchen turning my apples into something much less healthy.

Between work, school, and dog parenting, I’m left with little time for creative kitchen endeavors.  Thus, when I’m fortunate enough to have an entire day to myself, I like to spend it at home performing my favorite kind of science experiments (the delicious kind!).

I decided my apples would be best put to use in a crisp.  I modified this recipe from JoyofBaking.com.  I like my desserts terribly sweet and was slightly aghast that the original recipe called for only three tablespoons of sugar in the apples.  Additionally, I add copious amounts of nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice to almost everything I cook this time of year.  My version of the recipe looked more like this:

Topping:

1/3C old fashioned oats

1/2C all-purpose flour

1/4C granulated sugar

1/3C light brown sugar

 6 TBS cold unsalted butter, cubed

a few dashes of salt

lots of nutmeg

a dash or two of cinnamon

however many pecans I threw in – 1/3C I think!  (omit if your loved ones are allergic or risk being known as a jerk)

Filling:

8 medium size macintosh apples, peeled and chunked

juice of 1/2 lemon

1tsp lemon zest

1/3C granulated sugar

two tablespoons pure maple syrup

I don’t get very fancy with my dessert preparation, but here’s a summary of steps I took:

– Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Grease an 8X8 glass baking dish with oily substance of your choosing (I used cooking spray).

– Mix all of the topping ingredients.  I used my fingers to mash and grind the components into a crumbly texture.  A food processor could be used, but then you’d have to wash more dishes (and no one likes more dishes).

– Mix all of the filling ingredients.  You could try adding all sorts of deliciously flavored things to the apple filling – I chose Maine maple syrup, but was slightly disappointed with the lack of maple flavor in my finished product.

– Spread the apple mixture into your baking dish, then spread the topping mixture evenly on top.

– Pop into the oven for 30 – 40 minutes

Wondering how to kill time when your apple crisp is in the oven?  Here are my recommendations:

Pre-game for your baked good with snacks.  I chose these tortilla chips, which was problematic, because they’re quite tasty and I ate a few (hundred?) too many of them.

Read your favorite blogs – Girl and Closet is one of mine!

Alternatively, take adorable pictures of your pet.

But don’t get too distracted from baking!  When your crisp is looking golden on top and bubbly ’round the edges, it’s time to take it out of the oven and let it cool for at least 30 minutes.

(I really stress this last instruction about the cool down – if you get over zealous about apple crisp consumption like I did and eat it right away, you’ll burn your tongue!)

Burnt tongue aside, I was quite pleased with the result of my lazy baking afternoon.  I don’t have finished product pictures because I was far too concerned with getting apple crisp in my tummy right away.  I spent the remainder of the day watching trash television on my computer interspersed with bouts of academic and/or domestic productivity.

Speaking of academia, I have been so busy with school lately.  I’m glad to be so inundated with assignments, though – I would be worried about the quality of my education if I had a surplus of free time whilst enrolled in so many credit hours.  At the risk of jinxing myself, I think I may be finally getting into the swing of things at school.  This semester had rough beginnings, but I hope I’m past all that and can focus on finishing up this degree.

In the midst of school and work and Ted care, Josh and I rearranged our house.  There’s lots of great reasoning behind the change, but I’ll save that for another post.  For now, here’s a poorly lit preview of what one of our new bedroom walls looks like:

More to come soon!

I Remember Halloween

This weekend I think I’ll hunker down in my newly rearranged apartment with some autumnal treats and my favorite creepster films.  I would consider myself somewhat of a scary-movie connoisseur, and this time of year is perfect for scratching my constant horror itch.

I’ve chosen ten films that I feel to be uniquely frightening.  Absent from the list are movies with an excess of gore (by today’s standards, at least).  I prefer my scares subtle, and I appreciate when filmmakers take the time to carefully craft tension.  They span decades and horror sub-genres, but all of the following films are scary enough to make me sleep with the lights on.

10.  La habitación del niño (The Baby’s Room), 2006.

Such a fun surprise!  I wasn’t expecting much from this Spanish-language selection from the Films to Keep You Awake film series.  Ghost stories are not typically my favorite, but this one managed to capture my attention and even scare me enough that I watched much of with my hands secured in front of my face.  The family on which the story centers is charming and I was really rooting for them, which speaks to Álex de la Iglesia’s purposeful character development.  Unfortunately, I made the mistake of watching this one at home alone while Josh was working an overnight shift and barely slept a wink that night!

9.  Scream, 1996.

My brother and I lost hours of sleep over this movie when we were kids.  The subsequent sequels may have been lousy, but Scream is modern slasher perfection.  The clothing, vernacular, and pop culture references featured date the film as solidly 1990s, and all of the supposedly high school-aged characters are played by actors in their late twenties and early thirties.  Still, Scream stands alone in that it is one of the few decent horror movies of the 1990s and what I consider the only decent slasher movie of that decade.

8.  Ils (Them), 2006.

Perhaps this type of isolation horror scares me because I dream of country living.  Them was precursory to The Strangers, and both films are similar in that they follow couples in country homes as they are attacked by strangers in the night.  Writers/Directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud gave me the mounting tension I was hoping to uncover in this movie and I’m so happy I stumbled upon it one afternoon.

7.  The Descent, 2005.

It’s hard to talk about The Descent.  This movie scared the bejesus out of me.  I don’t think I’ve ever shut off a movie early due to fright, but I nearly couldn’t finish this one.  Like The Baby’s Room, The Descent is outside my typical tastes in horror – but not because it’s a ghost story.  Oh no.  The Descent is the karmic result of my laughing about the concept of C.H.U.D.s for so long.  What are these creatures of which I speak?  They’re Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.  A series of movies was made about them in the 80s with hilarious results.  1980s C.H.U.D.s: silly and not at all scary.  The Descent C.H.U.D.s: Mind-blowingly scary.  The movie starts with a group of thrill-seeking women preparing for a cave diving trip.  Poor planning and hubris combine to turn the trip dangerous, leaving the women trapped in a cave system with no known escape.  Add hungry C.H.U.Ds and watch as the women are hunted and consumed.  And it all takes place in the dark.  I hear the sequel is just as terrifying, but I haven’t mustered the courage to watch it just yet.

6.  Rosemary’s Baby, 1968.

This one makes it on my list primarily for its overall eerie tone.  From the start things are uneasy and almost awkwardly played out.  The events unfold in such a way that one can never be entirely sure of what’s happening or who is to blame.  I am obviously in love with Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes as the simultaneously adorable and calamitous couple.  Modern films have attempted to capture similar Cassandra-complex female leads and failed, but Farrow played the archetype expertly.  Lastly, I must join the legions of movie fans who rave about the film’s final scene – it’s quite unsettling and perversely satisfying.

5.  Night of the Living Dead, 1968.

The first time I saw NOTLD I was nestled on a couch with friends in the middle of a thunderstorm.  We had been playing basketball at a playground and been caught in a downpour.  The group dashed to a nearby friend’s house where we attempted to dry ourselves and decided to wait out the weather with a movie.  The storm killed the power at some point and we sat, sticky with sweat in our damp clothes, eating grilled cheese sandwiches by the light of black and white zombie mayhem.  It may have been my best horror film viewing ever.

4.  The Shining, 1980.

Creepy kids, man.  The Shining has some of the most frightening children in it.  If the maladjusted, tow-headed psychic boy wasn’t enough, Kubrick had to throw a disturbing set of ghostly twins into the film.  The Shining made me thoroughly uneasy my first few viewings (what is that bear/dog creature all about!?), and I still get goosebumps when I watch it alone.

3.  The Thing, 1982.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a list of best scary movies that didn’t include The Thing.  Firstly, Kurt Russell is at his best in full-bearded, Antarctic glory.  Also, my favorite di-a-be-tes spokesman, Mr. Wilford Brimley, costars in this isolationist sci-fi thriller.  I am a devout Kurt Russell fanatic and love him in anything, but he’s much less tongue-in-cheek in this film than in most of his others.  Tension builds between characters and there are implied questions about human nature, survival, etc.  There’s a much-discussed remake in theaters right now that my brother and I have plans to view as soon as we can.

2.  House of the Devil, 2009.

I can’t rave enough about this movie.  Firsly, Ti West is a directorial genius for being able to so perfectly recreate an early 80s-era horror film.  The cast is ideal – Tom Noonan, you creepy bastard! – and the plot simple.  It’s stylistically perfect.  I can’t find any flaws in House of the Devil – it’s terrifically creepy and gave me everything I ever wanted in a scary movie.  I am wholeheartedly in love with the main character in this movie – check out this video of the adorable dancing she does in the movie!

1.  Halloween 1978.

My one true film love, Halloween.  It will always be first on my list of favorite films, scary or otherwise.  Modern horror is based on the success of Halloween.  For thirty-plus years, filmmakers have been attempting to capture the same frights that John Carpenter was able to in this movie.  It never ceases to frighten me, but what I appreciate even more about Halloween is its strong basis in urban legend.  Hunted babysitters are standard horror fodder these days, but weren’t always.  I’m thoroughly intrigued by what a society’s folklore says about its communal values and Halloween is such a flawless example of folklore in film.  (I would love to write a paper about it!)  Additionally, Donald Pleasence is the best as the cautionary Dr. Loomis.  Halloween is just  great.

Alright, alright, nerd fest over.  Soon I will be posting pictures of our apartment because we just rearranged the entire thing – our thrift room is now our music room, our old music room our bedroom, and the thrift room has been moved into our former bedroom.  When I say “thrift room” I am referring to the space Josh and I have dedicated to the goods we will be posting soon in our new Etsy shop!  We’ve curated a fun collection of oddities from around southern Maine and are in the process of carefully cleaning and photographing them for the shop.  There’ll be lots to post about very soon!

Je rêve de la campagne.

I daydream quite a lot about buying a house in the country.  I find the pastoral scenes just minutes from Portland envious.  On drives to our new favorite doughnut/apple/squash/bread/maple cotton candy stop, Orchard Hill Farm, we happen past lots of historic salt box houses with decaying barns.  I’m so impatient to live in a farmhouse!

Nova Scotia is my ultimate goal. Judging from what research I’ve done on Canadian real estate, there seem to be an abundance of affordable houses in rural NS.  Canada is also appealing because the chilly climate closely resembles that of where I’m from.  I might get sick of winter’s dreariness, but I love being cozy and can’t wait to snuggle up in front of a fire in my Canadian farmhouse.

One place I’d really like to live is this former church.  How eerie and fun it would be for Halloween!  I would probably get too scared of things going bump in the night, but perhaps with a surplus of night-lights…

Oh, Halloween!

I haven’t had much time to get into the spooky spirit this month.  Still, I’ve managed to keep my offensively plastic Jack-O-Lantern candy pail full with sweets and keep two tiny Halloween lanterns lit every evening.  I could stand to watch something scary tonight and fill my belly with pint-sized treats…except that Josh is at work all night tonight and I would scare myself stupid if I watched anything very creepy while all alone in this apartment.

Lastly, I have boot concerns.  These are not woes I care to have, but if I seek warm feet in the upcoming seasons, I will have to put some effort into finding a decent pair of footwear.  I stay true to my Maine roots and sport classic Bean boots for the bulk of winter, but my current pair are in dire need of repair.  L.L. Bean has a lifetime guarantee on all of their products, so because the seams on my boot heels are coming undone, I can carry them into the Bean retail store in Freeport and exchange them for a brand new pair!  Quality and good business practices can still be found in retail, you just have to come to Maine.  (It’s the way life should be, or something.)  Either way, it’ll be a bit of time before I make the short trip to Freeport and I’d like to have an alternative footwear option this winter.  Thus…

boot chart!

I’m not a fan of spending money on shoes nor do I care to purchase footwear new.  However, being 5’11 with feet to match makes thrifting for shoes very difficult, so footwear is one of the few things I’ll allow myself to buy brand new.  All of the boots shown were found from lurking around on Amazon.com, and are all under $200…(1. Ariat Women’s Iona Boot, $201.90.  2. OTBT Women’s Astoria Motorcycle Boot, $189.88.  3.  Clarks Women’s Orinocco Jump Boot, $175.00.  4. Yin Women’s Brown Knee-High Boot, $190.00.  5. Tretorn Women’s Langta Rubber Boot, $64.00).

The pink boots are happening for me because my old wellies split open, and I’ll pick another pair for traipsing around in the woods with Teddy!

New and fun pictures to be posted soon (once a camera cord is acquired), so that my readership (Brian, Josh, and Mom) can once again be enthralled with photographs of my fascinating life!

<3!

Happiness came in a 40lb package.

I’m unsure how I’ve failed to write a single thing about my best friend in the world, Theodore Roosevelt.

I first saw Teddy on Petfinder.com in March 2010.  At the time, Josh and I were looking for a place to live with friends of ours.  The timing was perfect and we found an ideal space that was happy to allow a small dog.  (In all honesty, I would have changed my circumstances to accommodate the dog – he was the most perfect and adorable creature I had ever laid eyes on and that remains true today.  I had no choice but to adopt him!)

Seriously, who could say no to this face?

Teddy was listed for adoption by an animal rescue group based in the south.  He was in a foster home in Alabama after being saved from a small town called Center Point.  Teddy had been stray, living with his mate and their three puppies.  After several complaints from townspeople, the sheriff of Center Point decided the only reasonable way to take care of the strays was with a shotgun.  He scheduled time on a Wednesday to eliminate the little homeless family.  Fortuitously, a local animal welfare group heard about this and on the Sunday before Teddy and his family were scheduled to be hunted and put down, a group of truly kind souls hit the streets of Center Point.  They located the dogs and scooped them up using some special equipment, thus saving five lives.  (I still get pretty emotional just thinking about this.  The idea of someone hurting Teddy pushes maternal instinct-esque buttons in me that I never knew I had before I adopted him).

To make things more lousy and complicated, Teddy was found without his left eye.  He underwent several procedures while in foster care to close the socket and drain it of remaining fluid.  He was also found with broken teeth and scars – all on the left side of his tiny, adorable head.  What happened is a mystery, but I can tell from the way Teddy cowers around tall men that someone treated him very, very badly early on in life.

Teddy makes a fantastic study-buddy.

Josh and I submitted pages of paperwork to the rescue group, Friends of Retrievers Rescue.  After a couple of phone interviews, we were approved to adopt and began the process of getting Teddy to us.  He was driven by an animal transport company from Alabama to Windham, New Hampshire.

Looking fly in his winter coat from Muffinhead Dog Jackets!

It was a week’s worth of waiting from when we were approved to adopt Teddy until we could pick him up in New Hampshire.  My excitement that week was tantamount to all of the anticipatory birthday and Christmas thrills from my entire life (combined!).  We arrived in New Hampshire to meet Theodore on May 8th, an overcast Saturday.  The Park-and-Ride pickup spot was full of other adopters (which made my heart swell!  I love people who love animals).  The transport van pulled up and everyone gathered by the sliding side doors.  Inside were stacks of crates containing nervous looking dogs.  Spotting Teddy was easy – he was in the front row.  He looked so much smaller than I had imagined!  He was the second dog to be released into owner custody.  We put on his new leash and the first thing he did was bolt towards a flock of little brown birds on a nearby patch of grass.  He hopped around, enjoying his freedom from the crate (Teddy detests confinement more than the average dog), then settled into the car with Josh and I for the ride home.

Hanging out in the blanket fort room with Josh.

Since that day, Teddy has been the best friend a girl could ask for.  He loves to cuddle and share snacks with me.  He is a bit neurotic like me, and we have developed a pretty strong codependency.  I could not have asked for a better companion.  I adopted Teddy at a time when I had few friends and lots of stress – he has made dealing with those troubles infinitely easier.  It’s damn hard to be sad with a 40lb pup slathering your face with messy dog kisses.

Ted’s first time playing in the snow!

This isn’t to say that dog ownership has been easy.  A few months after adopting Ted, we found out that his eye socket was still producing tissue to fill the empty cavity.  This caused swelling and pain in his non-eye, and required over $2000 worth of diagnostics and surgery.  He underwent a complete inoculation in October 2010.  Seven short months later, and Teddy was diagnosed with heartworm disease at a routine vet visit.  He just finished treatment for that at the end of this past summer.  His love of non-dog-friendly sweets has prompted a small handful of trips to the emergency vet.  He is terribly inconvenient, occasionally eats out of the garbage, harasses my cat, and has awful-smelling flatulence.  I hate walking him in extreme temperatures (which we have plenty of in Maine), and I hate sweeping animal hair from my floors every day.  BUT – I readily do all of these things because Theodore pays me back 100x with unconditional love.  Each and every hassle of dog ownership is absolutely worth it.

Decked out in his Halloween costume a week after having his inoculation.

There are many incredible dogs like Teddy waiting for people to rescue them.  The number of dogs being euthanized in high-kill shelters each day is startling, and I wish more people would consider adoption before going to an animal breeder or pet store when searching for a companion.

I really don’t think anyone could find this level of adorability in any dog other than a mix-breed!  Lab/Chow/Pit never looked so handsome!

Perhaps the best family portrait of all time.
Adorably gangster?
Hilarity in the kitchen!
After this was taken we headed home for snacks and snuggles.
The perfect dog.

If you are considering bringing a companion animal into your life, please consider adoption.  There are so many incredible animals waiting for loving people to rescue them.  Start at Petfinder.com – there you can find every kind of companion animal in every area of the country!  I would be even more pleased if folks would take a minute to peruse the website of Friends of Retrievers Rescue, the group that saved Teddy.  If you’d like to help but can’t adopt at this time, FOR Rescue is constantly in need of donations to help feed and medicate their animals.

Oh, one more thing!  If you’re interested in the exceedingly cool jacket that Teddy has, check out Muffinhead!  Josh’s friend, Emily finds various clothing items while thrifting and up-cycles them into dog coats of all kinds.  Teddy loves his winter jacket and we’re hoping to pick up a Muffinhead raincoat for him soon, too!  It would come in handy now, given all the rain that Maine has been subjected to of late.  Speaking of, I’m going to go enjoy this overcast weather with a cup of tea and my Dedalus Book of French Horror!

Enter: Cozy Fall

I am pretty spoiled.  Josh is making me breakfast in bed…again.  On today’s menu are breakfast sandwiches of egg, soysage, smoked gouda, and spinach.  All I have to do is lay in bed listening to music.  (Also I am the washer of dishes here, which is how I am absolved of breakfast making duty).

An important note about the breakfast sandwiches: today they are made on a loaf of bread baked by my brother, Brian (alliteration!).  He frequently experiments with different bread recipes and I think his most recent effort is his best yet.  I wish I was as patient with kitchen experimentation as he – I often give up on baking projects after my first failed attempt.  Lucky for me I have a brother who loves baking delicious things!

School is stupidly busy and not particularly fulfilling this semester.  I keep trying to increase my motivation to do well, but I’ve only managed to perform to my usual level in one of my courses.  In my science and language courses, I feel like I’m flailing a bit.  I hope to use some of this weekend to get ahead on my studying.

Josh and I stumbled upon some surprising treasures recently.  I’ve been picking up all sorts of good thrift store finds and flea market baubles, but Josh hit the antique jackpot.  Enter the Estey Folding Pump Organ.  We were at Cliff’s Antiques for the first time in a while.  It was a slow Friday morning and Josh found an amazing pump organ with a $475 price tag and a broken bellow.  He resigned himself to a life without the expensive instrument and we continued to browse.  When we were checking out, one of the women working mentioned that she saw Josh looking at the organ.  Josh explained that because of the broken bellow, he simply couldn’t justify spending so much on it – and the woman responded by lowering the price to $150!

I didn’t understand what an amazing opportunity we were given.  Josh and I have been doing a fair amount of research on Estey Organs, and they’re quite remarkable music machines.  Josh was able to determine the age of ours by checking the serial number against a database – it was made sometime between 1912 and 1915!

Now our house is full of even more music, and the myriad of instruments at home is making me wish I had the ability to play any of them.  At least I can enjoy the sounds Josh has been creating.  For now I’m going to go enjoy the breakfast sandwich that he just made!

Because I have neither photographic evidence of the organ nor my delicious breakfast, I leave y’all with photos completely unrelated to today’s post:

Soaking up the start of fall at Evergreen Cemetery.

Thanks for the delicious green beans, farmer’s market!

Josh, having been impressed by an ATM that dispenses $5 bills.

View from my little booth at work.

More to come soon – as soon as life slows down!.