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July 2008

Routine: night

Dinner is easy. We still haven't unpacked pots, pans, or utensils so R brings home salads. I halve V's cherry tomatoes to go with her grated cheese, cucumbers, and grilled chicken. R and my salads seem small - our cherry tomatoes are halved for us and there's not a lot of chicken. Irritating.

Even after eating out, there are dishes to wash. Sippy cups, snack holders, a coffee travel mug. So I get the dishpan while R takes V outside in just her diaper to jump on her toddler trampoline. It's practically the ultimate freedom for her, jumping half naked in the afternoon sun. I hear her shrieks of joy and R's laughter as I begin to wash. Standing at the sink, I try to come up with a plan for where to put things in the kitchen. It's a big kitchen - large enough for the buffet I ordered to store the dishes - but there is minimal cabinet space. I decide that this is our year of living smaller. I'm going to pack away the bigger plates and use the smaller ones. We'll pack up most of our rather large coffee mug collection and just keep our absolute favorites out, like the one from South of the Border, SC, and the "Don't Mess with Texas" mug.

I want a utility shelf for the back porch. Cans will go on the top shelf, bulk items in the middle, and art supplies will go on the bottom so that V can reach them easily. I have big plans. I want to get a small, folding table that I saw at Sam's Club for her to do art on. It can stay on the back porch with the washer and dryer and we'll fold it out when she needs it. I want to get a little tablecloth for it for the tea parties. Not sure where to put the kid-sized chairs though. I'm thinking of the tea set I have packed away for V that she hasn't seen yet. I don't think I can wait until October to give it to her for her birthday. I got a vintage one-cup teapot on ebay and a set of espresso cups and saucers. It's going to be fabulous fun.

V and I hung a bird feeder earlier in the day. She spread seeds around the yard so the birds can find the feeder. Another baby job. I want to get at least one more feeder and a birdbath. I want V to start learning her birds, to hear their various songs, to start noticing the details.

These are the things I think of while I'm happily washing dishes. I've been looking out the kitchen window for the brown hare that has been dining on the clover in the backyard the past couple of days, but he's not around today. But I'm not worried; he'll be back.

Read "Routine: morning" here.

Read "Routine: noon" here.

Routine: noon

I grab a slice of plain bread for V as we head out the door to the park. We're in a hurry because I want to make sure she has at least a full hour to play before we have to come home for lunch and her nap. She eats half the slice on the way there. This is the first time we've been to a park in Johnson City. There are many parks to choose from here, but I was happy to find that the one that sounded like it has the best playground is less than four miles from our house.

On the way I see many houses that would be beautiful if they just had a little sprucing up. I also see a log cabin, some cute new houses facing the railroad tracks, and lots of mature neighborhoods with lovely brick ranchers. I want to live in one of those neighborhoods.

The park does not disappoint, and I kick myself for not bringing my camera. It's good that I didn't, though. I wanted to be fully present for V while she plays in this new, unfamiliar park. There's another mom arriving just as we get out of the car. She has twin boys and a younger girl. They head over to the part of the playground that looks like a train, where two other sets of moms and kids are already playing. They all know each other. There's a woman with a child and a dog at the big playground area, but the girl is a good two years older than V and V ignores her in favor of a bright red swing.

We check out all three of the play areas and both of the swing sets. I notice that there is a really good walking trail, made even better by the full view of a verdant, pillowy mountain range. Yes, I'm going to miss our other park by the lake, but this is a suitable replacement. I just wish it had some tree cover for my delicate Scotch-Irish skin.

Eventually, all the families find their way to the big play area. There are three slides, tons of ladders, lots to see and do. I smile. I look kindly at the children and speak sweetly to my own. I try to look friendly. No one talks to me. No one talks to V. They talk to each other of vacations and vaccines, of shopping and what they're making for dinner. After half an hour, they all get together and sit on the wall under a few young trees. It's snack time. Sliced grapes and sippy cups come out. Cubes of cheese. Crackers. V and I have the playground to ourselves for a few minutes.

After an hour and 10 minutes, I tell V it's almost time to go. She wants to swing one last time in the red swing. A little girl runs over to us. Her name is Allison and she's 8 years old. She wants to push V's swing. I don't want to, but I let her. Then Allison wants me to watch her slide down the pole, so I do, telling her good job! Next she wants V to go down the slide with her. They do this several times. At one point, V is climbing a ladder. She's wearing her new favorite shirt - a gray Mickey Mouse t-shirt - with khaki shorts and brown tennis shoes. Allison asks me, "Is she a boy or a girl?" I want to tell her to look at the pink flowers on her shoes. That's how you can tell for sure, by the shoes. Instead I say, "She's a girl."

After being manhandled down the slide a few times, V looks like she's had enough. "Time to go home, sweetie!" I say. V looks at me thankfully and heads toward the car without any of the usual protests. Allison looks at me like I'm a jerk for taking her doll away from her. Sorry, it's time for lunch.


After lunch, V performs one of her new chores while I start the dishwashing - putting fresh water in the cat bowl. "It's a baby job!" she says excitedly. The things that I need to do for her that she would rather do herself, like trimming her nails, I call "mama jobs." She's thrilled to have her own jobs to do now: watering the cat, sorting socks, holding the dustpan. She saunters off to pet the cats in the bedroom while I finish the dishes. I look out the window into the yard and think of the new things we have to buy: lawnmower, weed eater, hedge trimmers. I can't wait for the new sofa to arrive, the new headboard, the buffet for the eat-in kitchen. I'm excited for all the new mama jobs I have to do.

Read "Routine: morning" here.

Please remember to replace the speaker on the post when you leave

Guess what we found in Bristol, TN?

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The Twin City Drive-In. The internet says it was built in 1949 and that the original owner's grandson runs it today.

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It's a thing of beauty, ain't it? We are so there.

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I've been to one drive-in theater in my life. My parents took us to see Star Wars at the drive-in theater in our town. That area today has a Honda dealership on it.

Routine: morning

R gets up at 5, showers, gets ready for work. At 6am, he wakes me for my shower while he sits and watches old Mickey Mouse cartoons on YouTube with V. After my shower, I make breakfast. Today it's peanut butter sandwich and coffee, plus Very Vanilla for V. The bread is cold because we're keeping it in the fridge, away from the ants. The pb is cold because it's natural and has to be refrigerated. The coffee is hot, thankfully.

After breakfast, R gives us kisses and leaves for work. I clear the table, putting the dishes on the counter. I set V up with all her Cars cars and she sits happily on the kitchen floor, zooming them around. The only dishwasher in this house is me, so I get out the plastic tub I bought to wash dishes in. My grandmother did it that way and I thought I'd try it. I like it. I put the dirty dishes in and fill it with hot, soapy water. I use the washrag our neighbor in Knoxville crocheted for me, and I look out the kitchen window at the green, green yard. My view is so full of green, I can only see a little bit of sky and just a glimpse of the neighbor's white house. I wonder how much of it I'll be able to see in the winter when the green is gone.

As I stand there in a rhythm of swishing, rinsing, and putting the dishes in the rack to dry, I listen to V as she plays. "Oh no! Lightning Queen is all the way to the edge!" she cries. She calls him "Lightning Queen," despite my attempts to explain that his name is McQueen. "I'll save you!" she yells, and she scoops the car up, hugs it to her chest, and starts the scenario all over again. This, I think, is exactly the way I hoped it would be.

After pouring out the dirty dishwater, I rinse the washrag and use it to wipe the table and the countertops, just as Grandmama taught me. Then I get V ready as quickly as possible, and we head to the park to play.

Read "Routine: noon" here.

Free rice

I came across the site FreeRice this morning. If you like words/meanings, it's a fun little game to play - the site gives you a word and you click on the meaning. The wonderful twist is that for every word you get correct, they "donate 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program to help end hunger."

For more info on how/why to play and who keeps track of all the grains donated, read their FAQ.

Barely unpacked

Barely unpacked - meaning that we have not at all unpacked. I have worn the same clothes for the past four days. I think the dryer will be working tonight. Or tomorrow. By this weekend, for sure. I need to go through the box that says "Maya's clothes," but I haven't gotten around to it yet. My friend Jen emailed me recently saying how much she hated packing. Well, I hate unpacking even more. Probably because R packed just about everything himself (my poor baby! after this whole experience, i will tell you that he is a prince. a joy. a perfect husband.) and so I have no sense of where anything is. We just got internet today - TV comes on Thursday. I have no idea what's going on in the world and it makes me itchy.

This is what my life looks like right now.

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But it also looks like this:

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I got a yummy new upgrade to my 50mm lens. Can you tell? I'm loving it. It's a 50mm, f/1.4. I'm going to sell my 1.8 at some point soon. As soon as we finish with the unpacking. And I catch up at work. And catch up on my emails. Soon.

Granddaddy's maple

granddaddy's tree

Yesterday I was packing up my desk (hey! it's finally clean!) and I found some old photos. This picture I scanned in was taken in 1996 with my old film camera, a Pentax K1000. I remember when my grandfather planted it - he planted two, one on each end of the yard. When he planted them, they weren't even as tall as we kids, and we spent the afternoon jumping over them, which I'm sure made my grandfather crazy. He was very proud of his yard and I'm sure he didn't love our football games and general shenanigans on his front lawn, tearing up his grass. In the next year, those trees grew taller than the house.

You can see a bit of the house, the beige brick, the white awnings with red stripes. I was just thinking about the windows of that house the other day. Our new little rental was built in the mid-1940s, about 10 years before my grandparents', and when I went through it I realized that all the windows were new. I wondered what the original windows looked like. At my grandparents' house, there was a crank that turned the window to open them and they swung out instead of lifting up. The window lock was a curved latch that always reminded me of an elephant trunk.

You can also see my grandmother's camellia bushes - those are the three really tall ones in front of the porch, if you can make those out. They're kind of dark. To the left of the porch was monkey grass that I was always afraid of for some reason, and on the right, which isn't shown in the picture, was the area where I used to love to play when it rained.

The last little detail I notice in the picture is in the window on the left. I have no idea what you would call it, but there is one of those round pieces of plastic that magnifies things when you look through it - like people used to put on their van windows in the 70s. My mom got it for my grandfather, and he put it there so that he could see when the mail truck came. Just thinking of that kind of makes me sad. Whenever there's a big change in my life, I start thinking of my grandparents more. Maybe because things rarely seemed to change there; they were my rocks. Now my life seems to change drastically every year. Our new home, as I've said, is very, very small. It's too small. But what really sold me on it, besides the gorgeous hardwood floors, is that it was the owner's grandmother's. With no dishwasher and big bushes of blackberries and raspberries in the yard, I can see myself washing dishes in the evening and canning jam (no, I've never made jam before). I may not ever be able to live in that house on Springtree Road again, but maybe I can find a connection to my grandparents wherever I am.

Johnson City

Ok, it's a wreck of packing and living here and I just want to escape. How about a trip to a small town?

My favorite style of house has to be Craftsman. To me, a Craftsman house just looks like home. Know what I mean, jellybean? Of course today's Craftsman homes are usually either in dire need of repair, or so expensive I can't even think about it.

But I can drive around and try to capture a bit of their essence. I'm up to the challenge. I'd set a spell on any of these porches.

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I hate that the sky and roof in this next one is all blown out, but I'm posting it anyway because the actual house is darn near perfect!

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I have hardly had a moment to look up information on our new hometown, but I'm sure I'll get to it eventually. We will be living just a couple of blocks away from these beauties, in a much, much smaller, not anywhere near as grand, home. But you won't hear me complaining.

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Here are some photos of the downtown area. I hate that the sky and parts of the building are blown out, but sometimes you just don't have time to fiddle with your settings. I don't anyway. R was driving, but it was going by pretty quick! Still, you get the idea. There was also what appeared to be a second bridal shop at the end of this block. I thought that was interesting to have them both so close together.

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There are also several beautiful little towns in the surrounding area, including the oldest - and most haunted - town in Tennessee. I'm very much looking foward to doing some exploring. We'll be moving a little bit here and there, but the big event is on Saturday. Fingers crossed that I'll have my internet up and working on Friday. Wish me luck!

"Real Food"

If you ever happen to find yourself hungry in Johnson City, Tennessee, you could do a lot worse than to eat at Cootie Brown's.

Cootie Brown's

I've been there twice in the past month and I can't wait to go back. They have a lot on the menu, including some interesting vegetarian options I'd like to try, but so far I can't get past the Caribbean pizza. It's a thin crust with spinach, jerk chicken, artichokes, portabellas, mozzarella/romano, mangoes, pineapples, mandarin oranges--and it's drizzled with more jerk sauce. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. I know it looks like a mess here, and it is--a mess of fantastic goodness. The artichoke and mangoes and jerk sauce all together just make it for me! Help me, I'm swooning.

Yummy Caribbean pizza

The atmosphere is laid back, baby.

The chairs at Cootie Brown's

And the key lime pie! I know I said I'd found my favorite key lime pie back in June (I also said we were going on a diet. ha.)--but there is a new contender.

Key Lime Pie

Not too tart, but very rich - so far I have not been able to finish a piece. If you know me at all, this will make you laugh. Maya does not share dessert (though neither does R)!

It's almost as much fun outside Cootie Brown's too.

Outside Cootie Brown's

Cootie Brown's sign

I really wanted to take a picture of this sign at night, but that didn't happen. I wil try again later.

This little joint makes me weak in the knees. It's craziness hits me in the happy spot in my heart and sends it spinning.

Behind Cootie Brown's

I believe it's part of another store, but it is behind Cootie's too. Of course, you know when I was in Johnson City I found some time to drive around and look at some houses (I've also visited a small town near Knoxville called Loudon, but since we're busy trying to pack in the midst of everything else, I haven't gone through the photos yet). It's past my bedtime now, so we'll see those tomorrow. Right now, I'm going to indulge in some sweet key lime dreams...

The Tie

There are many things I think about doing, but there are not so many of them that I actually do. Writing is one of these things. Sometimes snippets of conversation or ideas on an interesting situation will pop into my head and I'll think, Gee, I should turn that into a story. But I never do. So I really admire those who get up early (or stay up late!) and write. And rewrite. And rewrite again. And then put their work out there for others to enjoy. I'm also lucky enough to know a couple of people like that. One is my friend Shelli.

I'm so happy to say that Shelli has won a short story contest! Susan Breen is a writer and writing teacher. She also has writing contests on her site. Shelli has won the latest contest - the prompt was to write a short story starting with the sentence, "Why are you wearing that?" She's done a great job and, believe me, I could totally see myself in that story! Fortunately, we've recently had a similarly happy ending.

Check out The Tie.

A change would do you good

We're moving, finally.

To Northeast Tennessee. What's in Northeast Tennessee? I'm not quite sure yet, but I do know this:

This is the tree that's in the yard of the house we'll be renting. Do you know what kind it is? I don't. It has little green berries on it.

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These are the blackberry and raspberry bushes in the yard.

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They are tasty.

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This is the neighbor's crabapple tree that borders the yard. I'm not sure I can keep myself from picking a few.

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This is the view from the picture window in the living room.

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This is V, doing a dance in her new bedroom that she wants to paint green.

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This is my very, very bald tire that R is getting fixed as I type. My car only has 26k miles on it, so what the heck?!

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This is a really cool structure behind my new favorite restaurant. Wait till you see their key lime pie.

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This is a rolling hill on the way out of town.

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And these are the Smoky smoky Appalachian Mountains.

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That's all I really know right now, but when I find out more I'll be sure to tell you.

Traveling down the road

Am I the only one who loves looking at the old barns and farmhouses as I'm traveling down the highway? I love thinking about who lives there, how long they've lived there, how they make their living, and if they think the old barns and structures are as fascinating as I do.

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I love to see houses with a freshly planted garden - reminds me of my granddaddy.

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Am I the only one who sees silos and thinks of the movie Witness?

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Ok, Tennessee is just beautiful. That's all there is to it.

Tomorrow, we're going to see a man about renting a house. More to info come...