City Folk

Dear Old Friend,

I am truly humbled today. I have heard such nice words from a couple of people in the past week and I finally have time to reflect upon them.

My boss and some of my friends have told me how highly everyone at work speaks about me. I am just being myself. I’ve always been self-conscious and when I was younger I was very shy. After going to Italy, living on a farm, and going to a huge university I have gotten to know myself pretty well and I am so proud to be me. It just makes me happy that I’ve found people who appreciate me, too. I feel so lucky.

Of course, there are some people in the 100+ person training class that I never talk to, but that’s to be expected. There is no possible way that I could get to talk to everyone even in six months. I am just so impressed each and every day with the quality of the people I am around at this new job. I enjoy listening to all these people’s interesting stories and perspectives. I learn so much from them and I feel so reassured in my decision to move to N.C. because I get to spend my time with all these lovely people.

The thing about this program, however, is that it is a technical program. Most people who get technical degrees grew up in cities and live their lives like they do in Palo Alto, California or New York City. This means  that they are, in fact, city folk.

I used to live in suburbia and it was awesome. I grew up there and I had the most wonderful childhood with awesome friends and amazing neighbors. I wouldn’t have called myself a city folk though, because my dad was constantly hosing us off outside because my brothers, friends, and I would always come back muddy from playing in the creek.

Then we moved to the farm and I fell in love (finally) with being outside and getting a little dirt under the finger nails. I’ve been gutting chickens, building trenches, and throwing hay bales. I love every minute of the farm and I wish every day that I could be back there. The farm definitely squashed every last bit of whatever city-folk was left in me.

Even my university was in a rural area so the apartment life wasn’t like it is here. Here, I live in a fancy complex next to millionaire mansions. IT’S CRAZY. (Come visit me, these houses look like they’re from Beverly Hills, seriously.) Anyways, I’m lucky because I still have a little yard and a huge porch. My friends at work live in tall apartment buildings with a little porch and no yards. They live there because they’re in the corporate housing for the training program. Most of them are from the North. New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, etc…

I’ve traveled up and down the east coast and I love both the North and the South, but I really did fall in love with being “farmy” and “southern.” People at work ask me to say “ya’ll come back now ya hear” and other typical southern-isms like that all the time. They think its cute or funny and I agree with them. This is a very typical city folk thing to do. When I was in California in the cities there they asked me to speak in my southern accent, too.

Now here’s the whole point to my story…these people live in cities in the North and many of them don’t partake in many activities that I do. Many of them don’t like horses, dogs, or cats. Most of them have never planted anything and what is a mind-blowing fact to me…the most amazing thing about these people is…most of them have NEVER BEEN HIKING.

So, today I took three city-folk hiking! Woo Lordy! Did I open a can of beans! I didn’t realize what I had gotten into because I hadn’t been in that situation…ever. These people didn’t know what to do if a bear walked by, didn’t come prepared with a Leatherman or something similar, and they were really concerned about not having hiking boots. It’s central N.C. it’s pretty much flat…sneakers will work just fine, I told them. It just amazes me sometimes when people who live in cities (and this is definitely not all people who live in cities or urban areas – let me be clear) don’t know how to change a tire, take care of an animal, understand that different plants need different sun, or that you should always, always carry a small set of tools in your car and a Leatherman because you just never know what will happen I just didn’t know how they lived. How can you get through the week without a Swiss Army knife or some simple rope? I use items like that, or good-ole duct tape ALL THE TIME.

It was a very interesting hike and a long, long story, but you’ll be happy to know that four miles later they had survived! They also had…fun.

To make a long story short and to not bore you with details, my mother said it right: “Sounds like the Farmer’s Only commercials…’City Folk just don’t get it.'”

I did have fun and I’ve never laughed so much in my entire life. They even said they would go hiking again! The best part was, it was sunny and 65 and I was outside. I love my job, but I miss being on the farm and being outside every day. City folk just do not get it, sometimes.

Until next time,

Your favorite hiking-gal

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I went to Eno River State Park. It’s thousands of acres of beautifully-kept trails that aren’t too difficult. I also went on Saturday with some not-so-city folk which was relaxing and lots of fun. I also brought my DSLR. It was nice to take some pictures again.

Lake Effect

Dear Old Friend,

In my last post, I was talking about how purchasing all of those material items made me so happy. What makes me even happier is that I could buy a plane ticket to go and see my favorite guy. All those that know me, though, know that every time I leave the house I step into an adventure. This trip was no exception.

It started out as a perfect day. Everyone was giggling with happiness at the office. We were all going to get away for the weekend to the North to the South and to the Bars! There was nothing in our way but a mere eight hours of work. Some people left early to catch their flight, but I had faith. I truly believed absolutely nothing was going to go wrong because I was going to get to see my boyfriend. Nothing was going to stop me.

Well, it was five o’clock and I was out of there! My friend Dave and I even had enough time to try a quick BBQ place near my house (It was so YUM!) It was 6:15 PM and my flight was at 7:23 PM. God gave me all green lights and I got to the airport in less ten minutes. The Honda may have been happy to have a vacation for the weekend because her old transmission didn’t give me a single kick the entire way. Thanks, Honda…I think.

As soon as I stepped foot on the shuttle stop I got a notification that my flight was delayed. I smiled. I felt that whoever is watching over me was just making sure that my plane had a safe window to fly out. There was impending doom somewhere in the forecast, but who knows anymore with those inaccurate suits on the Weather Channel?

I got through security with plenty of enough time to sit at the gate well before 7:23. That is the blessing about small airports. Everyone working for the TSA is very efficient. Don’t ask me why that is, I don’t know and I didn’t care. I was on time for my plane. Sometime past 8:00 PM I was squeezed onto a tiny plane, in the air, and half asleep on the way to see my man!

Well, as with movies and all air plane rides I fell asleep. I woke to the captain telling us we would be landing in Cleveland soon. I kept dozing in and out doing my normal count down for how we should be landing. Except, the landing gear did not drop at my usual interval. Instead, the plane pointed back towards the sky and pushed forward. What was weird was that no one seemed to notice. Eventually, the captain finally mustered up the guts to tell us, “Well, uh, sorry about this, but we are headed to Detroit.” Someone loudly yelled,

“SHIT!”

I smiled. I could feel the powers of the universe telling me that everything was going to be fine. We obviously weren’t landing in Cleveland because it was dangerous and the impending doom was nowhere near Detroit. I told the woman next to me, who was complaining, that it was probably my fault. I got very serious, “Everywhere I go, I always bring the weather with me.”

She got very serious, “Everywhere I go I bring the weather with me, too.” We laughed! We were the only two smiling people on the plane. She was happy because she was now two hours closer to her final destination of Toledo and I was happy to be in one piece.

When we landed they told us to deplane until they figured out if Cleveland would be an option tonight. Well, it wasn’t. So, they cancelled the flight and gave us free hotels for the night. I called my Dad who asked me what kind of scotch would I be drinking and I called my boyfriend who said this,

“Well, I’ll see you about 1:30 AM. I’m coming to get you.”

A salt-covered jeep with a sleepy and cold knight in shining armor arrived at my hotel at 1:40 AM. He’s always a little late, but that’s his style. Plus, he drove through the lake effect and saved a pastor who had run off the road on his way. Casual. But, like I said, that’s his style.

My boyfriend and I finally slept after a bottle of wine helped us fall asleep in those bleachy, starched sheets. Everything in Detroit felt salty and dry from the weather.

We were happy to be on the road again early in the morning.

Four hours of bonding time in the soft-top jeep. I held onto these beautiful tulips he arranged in a bouquet for me all by himself. (He said tulips were supposedly for old people, but now that I’m twenty-one I am now an old people so they were suitable).

We saw Detroit and Cleveland and all the large, blinking yellow signs of Ohio and all was well. The jeep got a quick rinse of the salt and a fill up and we were in Pennsylvania. As soon as we crossed the border the Erie Lake Effect started. A wall of snow came from the north and destroyed all visibility. A turtle train of cars meandered their way forward in the right lane. The mighty jeep charged East in the left lane. That is the best part about having a jeep with big tires and a good driver…and a whole lot of luck…and the insurance of a winch…and, oh it goes on.

The good driver was actually very nervous, but we had the same attitude. We were meant to be together this weekend and nothing was going to stop us from having fun! We arrived in Erie, PA an hour later happy to be in one piece.

After a well deserved shower my boyfriend, his roommate, and I bundled up to go out to lunch/dinner. We had some fancy drinks and a whole lot of food. Steaks, chicken, and brisket. The waitress used us to trick her manager into thinking we were under age, which was really funny. It continued to snow all over Erie. Where Virginians would be safely inside their homes clutching a slow-cooker of soup and some bad TV and where North Carolinians would be desperately trying to keep their fireplaces a flame, the people of Erie were driving around like business as usual.

It was incredible how these people were driving in the snow! They were shopping, they were dining, and some were even jogging!

We eventually went home and drank gin tonics with the salty, pickled beets that my mom gave to my boyfriend to eat. Try it sometime, I think we found the next best chaser. Pickled Beets.

Saturday was a sleepy day because my boyfriend had a slight fever. Once we figured out brunch, we went to the mall to do some shopping since fevers and snow-boarding were out of the question. I bought him a leather jacket because the wool over coat was just simply, not him. We had the best burgers from Fuddruckers and then got matching hats and deer skin gloves after we annoyed the man who sold guns at the hunting store.

It was a glorious afternoon! Later that night his roommates, his friends, and I all went downtown to the night life of Erie, PA. Three bars, a game of pool, a couple of shots, and a hour of dancing and we were telling the Uber driver of our adventures. One of the bars had free, hot popcorn. That was the best part.

On Sunday, my sweet boyfriend walked to the store and bought ingredients for pancakes. My favorite! He made me a beautiful breakfast for lunch. I miss his cooking so much, so this was the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day. We then went to see Lake Erie. It was a beautiful day outside, sunny and a whopping NINE degrees. The whole of the great lake was entirely frozen. I’ve never even seen the little pond on my parent’s farm freeze over before! It was an incredible sight. We later saw Deadpool (which was pretty cool) and went to bed early.

Monday we hung out around the house, got some soup for lunch, and he took me to the airport. Thank goodness I switched my departure to the Erie airport. This flight got delayed, too, but by doing so we hit the perfect window to avoid the impending doom that was Winter Storm Olympia. This happens to me a lot while traveling. Just as I bring the weather with me, I always manage to dodge it on the way back.

My connecting flight was also delayed in Detroit, but that just meant I had more time to gaze at the beautiful tunnel inside the Detroit airport. Look it up, it looks like the Northern Lights! Eventually, I got on a brand-new plane where it was so high-tech that passengers couldn’t figure out how to turn on their reading lights. What a beautiful country we live in!

I made it back to Raleigh by 11:15 PM. I smiled. What a glorious trip. All of the traveling hooha was worth every second I got to spend with my favorite guy.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

XOXO,

Your favorite snowy adventurer

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View from the Jeep during the Lake Effect.

A Green Text Box Angel

A most beautiful, wondrous, gorgeous text box appeared on my corporate account. It is green and glorious. There is such a small amount of money in there right now, but I am full with pride. I still wish that I could hide it all under my mattress like a pirate or a cowboy, but this little green box is magical. This beautiful web application somehow will turn that tiny dollar amount into something more impressive. One day, hopefully, it will be a number that looks more like a welcoming face at the gate of retirement. A number that reads more like the words “You’re going to be okay.” Security in life feels pretty good, even if it is only enough to buy groceries for a week. They call this number a four-oh-one-k.

My manager awkwardly reminded us that we have been officially working for the company for a month. What a strange time we are in that we celebrate these tiny anniversaries. (You know what I’m talking about…those silly teenagers toasting to their three and one half month anniversaries) However, I cannot complain. Every fiber of my being is so full of pride. In a month I have earned enough money to purchase many of my first big purchases.

  • One washer/dryer set
  • A new working-girl wardrobe
  • A new QUEEN mattress
  • A window door for my cat

How wonderful it is to live in a country where I can afford such things. I am so humbled. Each time I write a check or swipe a card my heart aches for my hard-earned cash. As soon as the washer/dryer and mattress were delivered, I spent a few moments just gazing at them in their amazement. When I look at them I can literally see each dime and dollar as building blocks that make up these material items. The glue that holds these dimes and dollars together are the hours I’ve put in through research and learning at my new job. It is the effort that I put into improving myself. All of the moments I force myself to be a better listener and a better leader.

The best thing about everything I have bought so far is the fact that everything is American made. I am a huge supporter of bringing manufacturing back state-side and I couldn’t be happier with the quality or the price.

I am so proud. I am so full of happiness these days that the happy tears come often as I overflow with joy. I was even joyous when I did laundry this time. Five loads of laundry. What an incredible month!

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Two of the most beautiful American-made pieces of cleaning glory and they are all mine!

Twenty-One

I turned twenty-one on the twenty-first day of January of the twenty-first century. That, is really cool. However, it was a very anti-climactic day. Here’s a recap.

6:00 AM Wake up, feed cat.

7:00 AM Wake up again and rush around to eat breakfast and get ready for work.

7:10 AM Lose one eye contact.

7:12 AM Unable to find glasses.

7:25 AM Drive to work with one contact.

8:00 AM Continue to work the entire day with one contact. Nothing interesting or special happens. The feeling of Sea-sickness sets in right around lunch. My friends and I plan to go to dinner in downtown around 6:00 PM. This time was subject to change. One contact is bad in the day time, but I wasn’t so sure I could get away with it at night after a few drinks.

5:15PM Receive letters from my grandparents and a package from my mother with bills and my brand new credit card. Happy birthday to me!

This is my very first credit card. I am afraid to touch it. In fact, I completely re-organized my wallet so that it had its own little spot because I didn’t want the credit card to taint more than it had to. For the record, I. Do. Not. Believe. In. Credit cards. I despise the system and wish we could just pay in cash. That is actually how I have lived my life thus far. Twenty-one years and life was swell, but, now I have to buy a car. Car dealerships won’t let one buy a car without proper proof of “pay-you-back-ness.” How stupid.

Anyways, I went downtown and went to a Mexican restaurant for tequila shots. Then we went to a very fancy bar where the drinks were just as fancy. After that, we went to a young-hip bar and these two hippies sang me a song. I had a mule something there, but it was too loud for me to understand what my friend was ordering me. It comes in a copper cup. It has ginger in it. As a ginger, I love anything with ginger in it. The last place we went to was a Speakeasy. Very creepy, very cool. It was in a basement. I had some nasty whiskey, of which I did not finish and then my friends and I frolicked back to our cars at 10:30 PM because we had to go to work the next day…we thought.

SNOW STORM. Correction, ICE STORM. Let me tell you something about my birthday. Every single year- ever since I can remember – it has snowed on my birthday. Whether it be for a few minutes or all day, it has always snowed. For the most important birthdays like my eighteenth and others there has been some kind of magical snow storm. Well, now that I am in North Carolina, where they don’t get snow, I got once nice ice storm for my birthday. My training class even got to work from home! That was actually pretty horrible because we had to listen in on a conference call for about three hours. After that we got to listen to yet another conference call for another three hours! That night the storm was so bad that I was stuck at my house. I went exploring, I watched movies, I cleaned the house, and that was about it. Walmart was closed by the time I got there so I couldn’t get a bundle of firewood to test out my fireplace.

So, I got up early and did that on Saturday! I also bought my first case of beer. The cashier laughed at me because it was obvious that I had never bought any beer before. I still felt like I was doing something illegal. So that night I was still stuck at my house and I roasted marshmallows over the fire. That is a whole other post in itself.

On Sunday, I paid bills and got my life organized. I looked for a car and more exciting things like that. I am still afraid to use my credit card.

Over all, becoming twenty-one was just like moving out on my own. It happened that fast. Every day is still an adventure, and now these adventures can involve alcohol. Yippee!

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The two to three inches of ice that coated all of central North Carolina.

 

 

Back to Bake-ics

Ha. Ha-ha. Bake-ics! Basics…don’t worry, I’ll give you that pun free of charge!

Anyways, the point of the day is that I am back in the kitchen! Ever since I went to college I have been trying to eat more at home than out at restaurants. This is for a few reasons:

  1. Eating out is EXPENSIVE.
  2. Eating out is…EXPENSIVE.
  3. Eating out usually has lots of random ingredients that usually aren’t good for you.

But, mainly that expensive part.

Throughout my 3.5 years at college I have gotten pretty good…at baking. I decided that I like to cook in one manner: throw everything into a bowl, mix it up, add heat, and hope it turns out O.K. Oh yeah, you also want to avoid burning the dang dish.

Well, I got really skilled at circular banana bread. This was basically what I lived on one semester when I was really poor. I was making hardly $200 every two weeks living in a town home that cost $600 per month or more to live at. I also didn’t have the luxury of someone helping me with money every time I needed it, so I lived off of the cheapest thing I could buy. Bananas and flour. Perfect-o.

Now- now, however, I am an adult! I can do anything! The world is my oyster! This line of thinking led me to try baking with something new- something that I’ve never baked with before. Today, I chose lemons.

Whoa! That was a bad idea. Mostly, because I love lemons and I am usually over  zealous with the lemon juice. When you’re over zealous with liquids in baking– sh*t goes downhill very, very suddenly. Long story short of me trying to navigate my poorly-planned kitchen (three hours of navigating) I had accomplished the following:

  1. I burned the first crust.
  2. I had two batters that were runny.
  3. I thought extra poppy seeds would be fine.
  4. I let the heat out of my oven three times.
  5. I got flour everywhere (as usual).
  6. I prevented the cat from spilling a gallon of batter.

I made thirty-three weirdly small lemon poppy seed muffins. These were actually very good, but they did not rise very well.

I also made one circular (because I don’t have rectangle 9-inch pans) pan of lemon bars. This dish was sort of burnt and a weird color and had a lot of holes in it. The holes reminded me of a pancake that needs to be flipped. They look like lemon bars an alien would bring to a party. When they cool maybe they’ll look better; or they will look better in the trash tomorrow.

Either way, I had a blast playing in my kitchen attempting to bake.

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Muffins never let me down. They’re usually super easy to make and will turn out edible even if they don’t rise well. Happy Tuesday!

Butterfly

I woke up this morning and decided to sit with someone I hadn’t talked to yet at lunch. There are 100+ people in my training class, so it is a little daunting to try and make friends with everyone in the first week, but I was going to try my best!

When we eventually got around to lunch though, I noticed that habits had already begun forming. You could see familiar groups like the Popular Girls, the Cool Guys, the Extra-Cool guys, the Silent Geeks, and the Randoms. There were also the Loners, but they were more difficult to spot. I found it so ridiculously interesting that these groups were forming after only four days at work. However, this happened to me at every event in life. I was surprised in middle school, high school, and even college. Luckily, I got to experience sitting in with many of these groups throughout my life for some reason or another. Trust me, I really don’t know how that happened as I really am a huge introvert on the inside. (HA!) I truly have to break out the work boots to muster up the right amount of courage to be outgoing enough to participate in society.

Now, these social groups that get formed are justified a little bit because of the variety of topics that each group talks about. The Geeks will talk about computers or bitcoin, the Popular Girls will always talk fashion, and the Loners will read the news or watch YouTube videos. That is simply, how life is. Stereotypes exist for a reason, people. HOWEVER, maybe I am one of the few that think this way, but I’m very interested in a vast number of topics. I like to learn about art, programming, make-up, guns, food, and so much more. I’ll even grin-and-bear a conversation between surgeons when the thought of “people guts” really makes me cringe. This is just another part of who I am.

Back to what’s happening at work. I was telling a coworker of my plan for lunch and they were shocked. They told me they weren’t extroverted enough to do that and they preferred to stick to the same people as day one.

No, no, no, no, no, no! We are real adults! We need to overcome all this stereotypical nonsense and embrace the uniqueness of everyone! This is crucial in the real world because you’re always going to be on a team with a variety of people. You will, occasionally, not like everyone on your team, but you should at least respect them for who they are and for what they can bring to the table.

No, I’m not singing chum-bi-yah. I’m just saying, it would be nice if we could all appreciate that every person has something to bring to the world and we really should try to allow ourselves to learn from whatever skill or talent or story that is. Some people will break this rule and be a murderer or something terrible like that and I am not excusing them, but that is something to also be aware of. There are bad people in the world and we must do our best to do good and hope those bad people magically stop doing bad things. I know we are still far from word peace, but if we could at least start to appreciate those who work with us or go to school with us, even if it is just one more person that would be a huge start. Invite the Loner to your table or ask to sit with the Popular People. The worst that could happen is they scoff and say no. You’ve got nothing to lose.

XOXO,

Your newest social butterfly.

**The butterfly image is from here. A photo contest that I did not win. It is not my photo, but it is beautiful.**

New Town, New Pizza

Even though the RTP is only 132 miles away from my parent’s house, the changes in the flavors of food are striking.  One of the main topics among the people I am around constantly now is FOOD. Where is the best BBQ? Where is the best beer? Where is the best…PIZZA? I’ve met tons of people from New England, Illinois, and those who have traveled the U.S.A. and the world. Now, where is the best pizza you may ask? Not in North Carolina. That is the response that I usually receive. North Carolina (not the REAL Carolina, which is, apparently, South Carolina…which I learned about today) has good BBQ, good beer, french fries, and more good BBQ. Pizza, however as told by all these Yankees, should be left to those above the Mason-Dixon. More specifically, pizza should be left to New York. In fact, they were even more specific than that! The fine and delicate art that is the construction and science of pizza pie should be left only in the capable hands of New York City. Wow.

So, what is a twenty-something to eat if all the pizza is taken out of the equation? If I was my older brother, I wouldn’t be eating hardly anything. He basically only eats pizza. I have always cooked a lot of meals at home and most are not pizza dishes, but it is always nice to get off of work and go get a hot slice of pizza. Well, in normal “me” fashion, I decided I shouldn’t settle for the reviews of all these hundreds of people. I’ll be that one person who must decide herself.

Today, the fourteenth day of January of the sixteenth year of this twenty-first century, I have declared war on this North Carolina pizza nonsense!

I began with Blaze Pizza down the road from my apartment. It was in the style of Chipotle or Subway where you get to create your own personal-sized pizza.

Thin crust. Spicy garlic sauce. Mozzarella, shredded. Ricotta. Pepperoni. Italian Sausage. Salami. Artichoke Hearts. Black olives. Fresh basil. Sea salt.

For $10 for that and a “blood orange lemonade” life was good. I was happy. It was everything I ever wanted. Everything was cooked well. Ingredients looked pretty fresh and were nice and tasty. Maybe my taste buds aren’t as sophisticated as those up North. More testing later in the month is necessary. Even I can’t eat pizza every day.

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Blaze Pizza Leftovers. 11-inch pie and I only was able to eat half. But, it was delicious.