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Happy holidays from our cat house to yours!

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Hey, welcome to my BIRTHDAY!

For the first time ever, I’ve dreaded its approach. Why? Because there is no longer a buffer year between me and 30. Yup, as of today I am 29.

I’m a firm believer in aging gracefully, but for months now this one has been nagging me. I polled friends who are also approaching 29, and they confirmed that this number has gotten under their skin as well. After periodically panicking over the past few months as I counted down my birthday’s approach, during the week leading up to it I’ve finally accepted it. It’s okay. I certainly don’t want to go back to being 21 (ugh) or 25 (ick) again, so I’ll take age if it means I get the life I have now. I’m head over heels for my husband (and our pack of animals), and I feel totally at home in my degree program, which makes me feel so much better about my career and the future in general.

So… Hello, 29. I’m glad you’re here. I may be so glad that I’ll decide to turn 29 again for a few more years, but I plan to age with grace and style. And probably bourbon.

(Image source)

When we were in high school imagining the future, it was hard to comprehend where we would be in ten years. What kind of jobs would we have? Would we be married with kids? Would we have been sucked back in to our old hometown? All we knew was that graduation was imminent and that we would escape to college and all its freedoms soon. In that strange time of celebrating and saying goodbye to friends we had seen every day, some of my friends flatly stated that they would NEVER attend a high school reunion. Four years was enough, thankyouverymuch, and there was no need to return. But personally, I knew that I would go back, not to brag or boast but to sate my curiosity. I wanted the captions at the end of a high school movie where you learn which high school sweethearts were still together, which classmate became something unexpected or inevitable.

Despite that incredible certainty, that sureness that I would never miss the chance to see old friends (who I surely wouldn’t have gone years and years without seeing) and check up on old classmates, I’m doing homework and writing to you from my couch in Texas instead of going to a Homecoming parade right now. I’ll probably be doing more homework and watching football instead of attending the reunion tomorrow. It’s been four years since I’ve seen any of my high school friends, and before that it was another two or three years. My parents moved away from that town, and even when I have been in the area I haven’t seen anyone because they spread across the country much like I did. The people I want to see the most aren’t making it back for the reunion either, but even though they’re not there without me, I still feel like I’m missing something big. WE should be there, reminiscing and laughing about our 17 year old selves.

I’m sure I could have found a way to be there despite being a busy grad student who’s trying to save money for a big trip next year, but for some reason – for many reasons – I didn’t. So here I am, listening to the Drive-By Truckers sing about Alabama’s problems, and missing it.

Did you / will you go to your reunion? Why?

P.S. The pic is from our senior picnic and includes me, two very good friends, and the casual friend who got us in SO MUCH trouble  – anonymized via photoshop)

P.P.S. Why yes, we are wearing flower garlands, thank you for asking.

I am currently relearning what it’s like to juggle courseloads, but this time with house and pets and husband in the mix as well (not necessarily in that priority order). Last week was particularly crazy because my parents were heading into town for Labor Day weekend, lots of people were joining us for a holiday dinner last night, and I still had all of those summer cleaning projects left to wrap up before the house would be guest-ready. So what did I do? I worked myself sick, of course. Nothing like making yourself sick before it’s even two weeks into the semester, right? Luckily after getting tons of sleep and then finding a bar stool to cook from (and putting my family to work on prep for last night), I pulled it all off. Woo!

My apologies if posts are few and far between this fall, but I’m hoping that once I get into a routine I’ll have some time to set aside just for talking to yall.  Hope you enjoyed the long weekend!

This past May I didn’t think much about it being 10 years since high school graduation. Sure, it was weird to get the invitation to the reunion that will be this fall, but I didn’t spend time reminiscing about the good old days.

But right now I’m going back to school, and as I get ready for my first class tonight I can’t help but think of when I started college 10 years ago this month. I can’t for the life of me remember anything about my first week of class, but I have vivid memories of packing up my car (with the help of the boyfriend who I thought was THE ONE at the time), driving down with my family, setting up my room, and meeting the friends I had made at freshman orientation, the friends who are still some of my favorite people. That first fall was fun and exciting and traumatic, full of late nights studying at Waffle House, of hiking down 3 flights of stairs into a creepy basement to do laundry, of going to class in pajamas, of sitting on the dorm steps with one of my best friends until all hours, writing and talking and writing some more.  I doubt I’ll be able to make it to the 10 year high school reunion thanks to my current classwork, but if there were a leaving for college reunion? If I could spend a weekend sitting on our favorite step and reminiscing with those dear friends? I’d be there in a heartbeat.

This trip to college won’t be the same. My first turn through grad school certainly took me by surprise, as I spent two years focused only on schoolwork while I dealt with a school and a town I couldn’t stand. But this time won’t be like that either because I’m married now and not moving off to start somewhere new. I’ve got my hubs and some pretty awesome cats and dog to come home to, and I have a few more years of school and work and life under my belt. It all feels pretty good this time.

Wish me luck!

Six years ago today I moved to Texas. As a matter of fact, that was also a Friday the 13th! I wondered at the time if the date might be an ominous sign, and during my two miserable years in the uber-conservative college town a curse didn’t seem unlikely. At the time I intended to power through my Phd and get out, which would mean that I’d be out looking for a tenure-track position now. Instead I hightailed it out of town with a Master’s, killed a little time, sold a lot of textbooks, married the best Cajun husband ever, and now I’m back to school again. I dug around for pictures from the past few years to share here and suddenly realized that the only pictures I could find from my first two years in Texas were of graduation. Sorry, yall. But you’re in luck: thanks to my three years as a wandering textbook rep my collection of Texana pictures is huge. I never carried my camera with me, so you’ll have to suffer through the awesome cell phone picture quality. Enjoy!

Plainview, Texas, is full of cows. Well, lots of Texas is full of cows, but Plainview is full of painted cows that advertise for the Dairy Queen, the car dealership, etc. I love them.

Yes, that says Moonopoly, and appropriately enough it sits in front of the bank.

Speaking of cows: Stephenville, Texas, has more cowboys per capita than any other city (at least according to their signs), and a cow statue downtown advertises their milk sales. (I promise this won’t ALL be about cows. Really.)

I also see some amazingly strange bumper stickers.

Lots and lots of bumper stickers concerning the superiority of one’s political beliefs. I will admit that I do see bumper stickers for the left end of the spectrum on occasion, but they are definitely in the minority.

The billboards are also pretty awesome. As if naming a restaurant Big Fatty’s wasn’t enough, they come up with the “El Farto Grande.” I’m afraid to ask just what that might be.

Speaking of “afraid to ask,” if you don’t know what a calf nut is, I don’t want to be the one to tell you. If you’re really curious, it’ll be cross-referenced with “Rocky Mountain oyster.”

This, my friends, is my all time favorite strip mall ever. Don’t you want to run in and pick up some guns or crossbows while you’re out for donuts?

On my Mom’s last visit, I took her to visit South Fork Ranch, of Dallas fame. We discovered on our tour that they only used this house for external shots and they used special camera tricks to make the house look bigger and the swimming pool appear twice as long.

Austin is an oasis of cool and funky in the midst of central Texas. Hubs would love to move there, and I can understand why.


But the best things I’ve found in Texas? Other than Cajun hubs, this is also where I found my pup dog, Bella (who I SWEAR was named long before I ever heard of Twilight).Texas also gave me Dorian Gray (aka Dory, aka the cutest kitten in the world), who immediately latched onto Bella despite her feelings about cats (they were previously only for chasing, barking at, or cowering from).

We also have two other cats. Have I ever shared them here? Oh dear. I’m a BAD cat-stepmama. Meet Bailey and Emma.

Did I just disappear for a couple of weeks? Oops. Since we talked last, I’ve spent a weekend in Houston with some of the husband’s relatives and their 5000 dogs, grown totally sick of summer heat (the high hasn’t been below 101 in days… I may melt), bought a new (used) car (a Matrix christened Neo, even though I can’t stand Keanu), handed over the company car and a ridiculous stack of boxes full of books and files and supplies to the new rep for the publisher, met the prof who I will be TA’ing for the next year, and given up my last weeks of freedom before school starts to early TA work. I have a huge list of things I wanted to accomplish before my summer of unemployment ended, and less than half of them have been checked off. I’m home today and should be chugging through the list while I can, but it’s so much nicer to sleep in and relax instead. Besides, I’ve been attacked all day by needy animals who have been spoiled to me being home this summer and now want a week’s worth of attention to make up for me being on campus the past few days. It’s nice to be needed 🙂

I definitely like the prof who I’m going to be working with — she’s energetic and passionate about her job. And she has asked me to start early so that I can pick the brain of her TA who’s about to graduate. I’m losing some summer project time, but I get paid. Who can argue with that? I spent most of my week pre-grading research papers, which would have taken a lot less time if my brain weren’t trained to MLA standards instead of APA (to which my goofy husband said “I prefer ABBA” ). I’ve spent the past few years on my feet all day every day, running around campuses and talking. This week, I sat at a desk. For hours. With no window. Staring at a computer. This will most definitely be an adjustment. But… I’m excited. Really excited. Some very cool opportunities have popped up in the past few days (maybe some funding? maybe a trip?), so it feels like things are moving in a really good direction.

Have a good weekend!

Because we fully expected our year old wedding cake top to taste like damp styrofoam, I decided to make some anniversary cupcakes based on the ridiculously yummy ones served at our wedding.

We had a traditional bride’s cake, but instead of a groom’s cake we had a spread of goodies. Is that showing my southern side? Do you even know what a groom’s cake is? If you’re not from a groom’s caking part of the country, this would be a more fun cake to give people a choice besides the big white traditional one. It’s typically chocolate, and if you’re lucky made into a crazy theme shape. For example: someone found my blog by searching for “bryant denny stadium groom’s cake” and I once went to a wedding with a World of Warcraft cake.

We didn’t get to eat much at the wedding, but they packed up a picnic basket with goodies for us to take with us for a late night snack. Our #1 favorite thing was the Caramel Mocha Sea Salt cupcakes. WOW. So for our anniversary I knitted together a collection of blog recipes into some incredibly good cupcakes. We may need to make these for every anniversary for the next 50 years. And possibly for family get-togethers too. And birthdays.

All you need are this chocolate cake and this mocha frosting. Then drizzle some caramel sauce on top (yours won’t look as weird as mine because you won’t run to the CVS at the last minute only to discover that they only sell half and half, not cream, which will then make your caramel go wonky because of the difference in fat content), sprinkle a bit of sea salt, and stick a chocolate covered espresso bean on top. SO GOOD. And I won’t even tell anyone if you cheat and make them with a cake mix, a tub of frosting, and a jar of ice cream caramel. Promise.

After the sappy love overload of the anniversary, I apparently had used up all of my good karma and proceeded to have a really crappy day. A holy cow, there’s a $5000 fraudulent charge to my credit card bad day. And of course the bad day snowballed. Once it starts to go bad, every little thing seems terrible. That car cut me off! The grocery store is out of the on-sale steaks! The whining was getting bad enough that even I could tell it was ridiculous, so I bought myself flowers. Do you ever go out and buy flowers just for you?  I highly recommend it. Don’t wait for someone else to bring them to you. Even incredibly thoughtful guys may not think to get you flowers when you need them, like for an anniversary or a terrible day, or a terrible day following an anniversary (ahem). And you also shouldn’t have to have a significant other just to have something to brighten your day.

I don’t spend a lot on big fancy bouquets (obviously). I just buy flowers that make me happy and that look like they’ll last more than a day. If I had a green thumb like my mother or my grandmother, I would just go out into my garden and cut flowers to put in a vase, but I haven’t yet conquered the “cutting” garden. My herb garden could take over the world, but thyme and sage don’t have quite the same decorative effect.

So GO! Buy yourself some flowers. Add some pretty to your day. Make yourself smile.

(photos by author)

On Sunday, the hubs and I celebrated our first anniversary! It’s hard to believe it’s already been one year since we stood in a garden in front of our friends and family to say our vows.

I’m maintaining some degree of anonymity on here, so you only get teaser pics. Sorry! These were taken by my incredibly talented sister-in-law, aka mother to the best nephews ever.

I saw countless debates on wedding blogs about whether your wedding day should be the best day of your life. I understand the feeling that life shouldn’t be OVER after a wedding, but I will say this: the day we married was my best and happiest day so far. It wasn’t perfect, but it felt beautiful.

We didn’t go on a big trip (somehow that happens when you quit your job to go back to school), but we had a wonderful time celebrating our first year of married life. We went to our favorite brunch spot for eggs benedict and mimosas, exchanged gifts, got teary eyed over cards (okay, maybe that was just me), ate crazy good anniversary cupcakes, and then had a delicious anniversary dinner. I went with the traditional first anniversary gift of paper: I spent a lot of time crafting him a card similar to this one, and then because he’s a huge comic book fan I got him his own custom comic book cover from In Toon. His super hero name is now The Amazing Cajun, and I’m sorely tempted to make that his new blog nickname. I had no idea that he was going in a similar (but even better) direction with my gift: a custom piece of art showing us on our wedding day surrounded by sketches of special wedding mementos. Yes, I completely melted.

At the end of the night, we braved the top wedding  cake tier (this pic was taken after being smooshed into a box by the catering people and then spending months in my maid of honor’s freezer, but before being chopped small enough to transport in my suitcase last time I went home). It looked pretty ugly, but we were shocked to discover that it tasted GOOD. Isn’t year old wedding cake supposed to be stale and horrible?

Thanks for putting up with my sentimental ramblings! I hope you have lots of love and beauty in your lives this week.

Twitter Updates

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