everyday life, Uncategorized

It Has to Exist

At least that’s what I keep telling myself. The house we are looking for surely exists…

This one smells like Petco. This driveway is too slanted. This one is next to the sewer plant. This one is on the wrong side of town.

All things I said while house hunting. And will continue to say until an offer is accepted.

For the last 2-3 months we have been looking at houses in our hometown and I honestly thought it would be easier than this. Imagine that. Renting an apartment is so easy. I’ve lived in 3 different apartments in 3 different cities in 3 years. I don’t ever complain about the floorplan and each has had a completely different layout with pros and cons of each. I thought that finding a house would be kind of similar.

I guess it’s just something about a 30 year mortgage instead of a 1 year lease that makes you care a little more.

Things I want a house for: grilling outside, having a dog, attempting a garden (small and with plants that are tough as nails), so I can paint the walls, have a garage, but mostly so I don’t ever have to move all my crap again…at least not for a while.

We found a really cool house from the 70s with a huge stone fireplace, sunroom, walk up BAR and hot tub. I was sold after I saw the bar. I mean think about that conversation piece. There was no space for a kitchen table but who needs a kitchen table when you have a walk up BAR? Anyways, apparently in the 70s people used the toilet and brushed their teeth at the same time. Which in the 2000s we do not do-needless to say we didn’t get the house. But if I ever have the resources to build a custom home you know a walk up BAR will be included.

 

 

 

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Word-less Wednesday #2: Sunrise Commute

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A pocketful of fabric swatches/That one time I stole Winterfresh gum

I don’t know why I feel I must confess this on the blogosphere…but alas, I have something to say: One time when I was about 4 years old (I may have been 5, but that’s too close to the age of responsibility) I was at Hobby Lobby with my mom. No, that’s not the confession. Continuing–We were in the check-out line and you know how they have all those delicious candies right up at the very front so that you’ll make a last minute purchase?

Well, I decided that I needed some Winterfresh Gum. I know, I know. What kid chooses Winterfresh gum over skittles or starburst or any sort of chocolate? Heck, even tic-tacs sound better. Anyways, my mom said she wouldn’t buy me the gum. I knew how to fix that, I’d just swipe it. Swipe as in–Swiper, no Swiping. Only I did swipe. I swiped that 5-stick pack of Winterfresh gum right into my pocket and out the door. I can’t remember if my mom ever found out about that gum, but I’m thinking she did.

winterfresh

This is the exact gum I swiped. Yes, it was only a quarter.

While I’m on the confession wagon, I should add that I love–more like used to love–free stuff. If we were at the State Fair I would go around and collect all the free pamphlets I could. Why? I have no clue. I never read them. But I would collect them and then a few months later when I was more mature I’d think to myself–why? Why am I hoarding loads of information about home remodels and insurance? I’m only seven, for goodness’ sake.

Only it didn’t stop there. My mom loved home decorating (should that have I hyphen? I dunno) and so we’d always go to fabric stores (see where Hobby Lobby came in?). I was bored, naturally, so I found something to collect/hoard. By the time my mom was done making her purchases we’d get in the car only for her to find my pockets stuffed with fabric samples. Why? Again, I can’t answer that. I had blankets. I wasn’t needy for clothes. No, my jeans didn’t have holes in them. I just liked being able to have something for free.

Nowadays, my love for free stuff has morphed into more mature gratuitous odds and ends. I have a new rule that I only accept/take something that’s free if I can and (this is the big piece) WILL use it. Pens, pencils, coffee mugs, frisbees, clip-magnet things—-yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Samples at Sam’s Club— double yes.

Phew. I feel much better now that you know the real me.

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everyday life, Uncategorized

Getting Lost and Finding My Spirit

Wanderlust. I think that’s what they call it. And I think I have it. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted nothing more than to travel the world (as if that’s an easy thing). If I made a bucket list it would include little more than all the countries I want to visit, foods I want to eat–authentically, sights I want to see, and cultures I want to experience.

1. Sweden (Ikea comes close…but not close enough)

2. Italy (Wine and pizza are as close as I’ve gotten so far)

3. Laos (Sticky rice, laap, it’s all nice, but where’s the Mekong at?)

4. Scotland (Red hair, don’t care)

5. Japan (I don’t know where this one really comes from, but all the pictures of the cutesy things in Japan make me wanna go…oh, and the tradition of it all, that too.)

I read so many blogs about backpackers who travel constantly for about 3 months at a time. They seem so carefree, happy, and worldly. They’ve seen things that I could only dream about. They’ve met locals and tried exotic foods. I want that.  Or do I? I think I want that, but then I’m not a risky person. The riskiest thing I did last week was throw a banana peel out the car window. I don’t even think that’s considered littering.

Be fearless

Be fearless

But then there was that one time a month ago that my husband and I packed up and moved away from our hometown for the first time in our lives. Only about 2 hours away, but leaving friends from elementary school behind, familiar hangouts and restaurants, and our parents wasn’t easy. We had grown exhausted of the familiar surroundings. We would go on little drives in the evening hoping to get lost and have to guess our way home.  Never happened. We had lived there so long we couldn’t get lost. Everything was familiar.

Is that what wanderlust is? Is it seeking the unfamiliar? Is it a reaction in your spirit against the comfort and complacency that comes with familiarity?

Since moving here we have taken several of our evening drives hoping to get lost. And we do. No we may not be backpacking in Laos or taking siesta in Spain, but we do get lost. We try new restaurants, we see new scenes, we rely on each other for company and adventure.

Go places. Do things. Refuse to be complacent.

Go places. Do things. Refuse to be complacent.

When I really think about backpacking or traveling to quench my wanderlust, I realize that it doesn’t take a plane ticket to do so. Wanderlust, for me, is a rejection of complacency. It is a seeking of adventure on a daily basis wherever I find myself. Maybe it’s a change of scenery, like moving out of your hometown. Maybe it’s trying something new like volunteering or career change. Maybe it’s meeting new people. Maybe it’s as simple as taking a different road to work.

Whatever it is for you–I hope you seek it out. If you’re feeling like every day is the same and life has lost adventure: Seek the unfamiliar, dive out of your comfort zone, and revel in adventure.

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Tying on blessings {A kon kao perspective on her Lao Wedding}

Alternative titles: One of these kids is not like the other, Hennessy Nights, and Sticky Rice-Sticky Thighs

Reading Noony’s post was the motivation I needed to get on here and spill some words.

I’m a lover of all things culture and being married to a first generation Laotian-American makes me a participant observer for life. And I’m not complaining. Through the six years we’ve been together I’ve been to several Lao New Year’s celebrations, more Lao parties, one Lao funeral, and my own Lao wedding.  Sometimes I forget that my husband and I are from different cultures, but it’s at events like these that I definitely remember that he’s Lao and I’m not. My family would never order a whole roasted pig for a celebration, never grind anything using a mortar and pestle, never hack a coconut properly with a cleaver, never eat fish sauce, never eat tripe (I should include that my family is not adventurous at all in the culinary department), and never ever never eat baby duck eggs. Also, my family would never be able to sit for hours at a time the way Laotians do at the temple. Not possible.

Over the years I’ve come to respect, love, and cherish this culture that my husband comes from.  He wasn’t born in Laos, but his family preserves Lao culture as best it can in the diaspora. While spiritually the temple might not hold the most meaning for my husband, we both love to go to the temple for Lao New Year and be immersed in Lao culture if only for a few hours. Some of my favorite things about Lao culture: the nop, a slight bow with hands folded (Noony, correct me on anything), utmost respect for elders, taking shoes of by the door, communal meals/food on the table all the time, sense of duty to maintain tradition, and last but not least, mangoes with sweet sticky rice.

One of the best experiences of Lao culture was my own Lao wedding and because I found some pictures of our Lao wedding ceremony I’ll take this opportunity to post them before I forget. Let me just say the Lao wedding ceremony involved a week-long preparation by many many family members which involved cooking literally non-stop, cleaning up my in-law’s house and backyard to host the wedding and gathering supplies for the wedding. It was so humbling the way everyone pitched in to prepare for the wedding. The night before the wedding we had a party and some Hennessy shots. Lots of dancing, eating, and drinking. The morning of the ceremony, which was supposed to start at 10:30am, I woke up early and got ready for a good hair pulling/tender-headed session with the lady who does Lao wedding hair. My eyes were watering the entire time. I guess she isn’t used to Lao brides of the red-haired variety so she only had fake black hair to use. Once I had my scalp pulled in every direction imaginable and had my make-up done, there were at least 5 women helping me into the sinh/ Lao skirt, putting the belt on, jewelry on, and safety-pinning everywhere.

After I was ready we processed out the front door and around to the backyard. Normally the groom processes to the bride’s family home, but since I was at Daniel’s family home I processed with a large posse. On-lookers may have thought there was a CIA sting going on. At the backdoor, two Lao elder-women held up a belt where my Mother-in-Law “bartered” for me to be able to enter the home. Then, Daniel and I sat down and the ceremony was underway. It involved eating rice and boiled egg out of a stranger’s hand (oh, the things we do for love), chanting, and finally having guests file by one-by-one and tie white string around our wrists while giving us blessings and well-wishes for a happy marriage. Some of the best wishes I got were advice from elders. I love this tradition and think it’s way better than signing your name in a card–instead the guests speak their wishes to the bride and groom. There was so much food…so. much. And it was 90% homemade. Like I said, so endearing and humbling that our family and friends came together to make our Lao wedding possible. Guests stayed basically all day. There was karaoke, dancing, eating, drinking, and lounging around. I am so thankful and happy that Daniel and I got to experience this part of Lao culture and share these memories with the ones we love.

Procession to back door

Procession to back door

"Bartering" at the door

“Bartering” at the door

Ceremonial photo-op

Ceremonial photo-op

Eating from a stranger's hand

Eating from a stranger’s hand

So. much. food.

So. much. food.

Speech time

Speech time

Moving the ceremonial flowers/candles to our room

Moving the ceremonial flowers/candles to our room

Tying on blessings

Tying on blessings

More delicious food

More delicious food

Shots! Shots! Shots, shots, shots, shots!

Shots! Shots! Shots, shots, shots, shots!

A wedding fawn

A wedding fawn

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Le Honeymoon

Although Daniel and I got married last year, we just took our honeymoon this year for our first wedding anniversary.  Like the Jamericans we are, we visited Ochos Rios, Jamaica for 5 glorious nights.  Because we had many family members who came from out of town to our wedding we didn’t just want to jet off the next day for our honeymoon. And even thought we definitely aren’t the richest people in the world (probably not even Bill Gates is by now) we knew that if we didn’t take our honeymoon now, we probably never would. 

When we were first flying into Montego Bay it was apparent that Jamaica is a lush, foresty, mountainous country. I guess in my head I pictured it more hot and sandy. Once in customs I thought I had lost a very important document and would be stuck in Jamaica forever. My face turned super red and then the lady at customs told me even if I had lost it they could give me another one….Needless panic, one of my best traits. The transfer from Montego Bay to Ochos Rios was quite the cultural experience simply because I haven’t left the country in 3 years. There were goats everywhere along the side of the highway ( I use “highway” loosely here).  Probably about 2/3 of the buildings and houses we saw were unfinished (we were later told by a tour guide that this is due to 25% interest rates on loans). Once at the hotel we discovered that the couple who got off the bus at the last stop mistook our luggage for theirs. Luckily we got our luggage later that night.  Also, it was about 7:45pm by the time we arrived at our hotel and we still wanted to walk by the ocean.  The sun set very early in Jamaica so it was dark on the beach.  We were walking along when out of nowhere we heard, “Hey! Wanna buy some smokes?” I grabbed Daniel’s arm and told him we should swiftly get the H outta there. A security guard overheard what was going on and told us that the locals are separated from the resort’s private beach by a fence and not to worry–that guy was just a local trying to sell some “smokes.” Pretty sure that means Maria Juana.

The second day/first full day was our first anniversary.  We spent it by the beach, swam in the ocean, and enjoyed the swim-um bar. The beach was very clean-very little seaweed, no jellyfish, and the water was warm. It was about 88 degrees each day and cloudy.  The staff was friendly and eager to talk with the tourists. They also had a fancy chocolate cake dessert with “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate waiting in our room.  Probably the fanciest gift we’ll ever get for our anniversary, Gracias Jamaica.

The second day we did a tour to Kingston, the capital city. The tour included a stop at Juicy Patti-a Jamaican fast food joint that serves fried tortilla-like pockets of “beef” (again, used loosely). The “beef” was seasoned pretty good and we didn’t get sick so I’d say it was a win.  We also toured Bob Marley’s home where he wrote “Three Little Birds.” Did you know that Bob Marley was the victim of an assassination attempt? I did not.  But now I’ve seen the bullet holes.. it really happened, ya’ll. I’m a Bob Marley fan and reggae fan in general so I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, minus the fit as many people as we can in Bob’s house part. We also ate d-lish-us ice cream at Devon House. Other than that I wouldn’t recommend spending your money on the Kingston Tour.

The third day we sat out by the ocean, but this time I had a brilliant idea. Let’s forgo the lounge chairs in the shade and get tanned! I have red hair and freckles and Scottish/Swedish blood and not the tanning gene.  What a great idea. We got totally burned, but only on our front side. It is now 3 weeks later and my shins are peeling. That’s how I roll…or peel. We ate dinner at Moonstone Italian that night and it was pretty good.

The fourth and final day there we hiked up a waterfall- Dunn’s Falls. If I would have known that you hike UP the WATERFALL instead of next to it like people who want to live, I never would have signed us up…and paid to do it. Alas, we lived and didn’t chip a tooth so I guess it was fun, minus the pebbles in my chacos every other step. After that, and because we hadn’t had enough thrill for the day we rode the Mystic Mountain bobsled (look it up!) and ziplined through the forest. We loved ziplining. It was much better than hiking up a waterfall. But, then again, isn’t anything better than hiking up a waterfall? On the way home our bus driver obliged our request to stop at Scotchy’s, a local smokehouse that sells wonderfully amazing jerk chicken. We ordered half a chicken and 2 festivals (like a cornbread stick) and ate with our hands on the balcony of our room admiring the beautiful view of the mountain.  It was one of my favorites.

We also played tennis with the resort tennis pro and got lessons 2 days.  The Jamaican humidity is much worse than the humidity in the Southern state where we live. I could barely hold the racquet I was sweating so bad. Still worth it.

Overall, Daniel and I made memories to last a lifetime. We relived our wedding day and reminisced about the best day of our lives.  Hopefully, we can make it a tradition to wake up on our anniversary in a new destination every year. Oh, and it’s not a stereotype–Jamaicans really do say “Ya, mon” to everything.

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7QT: Snow Cones, Donuts, and Mai Tais…Not in that order.

1. We are moving to a different city/state tomorrow.  Eeek! I have lived in this same small (relatively small-70,000) town my whole life.  I consider myself more of a “city” person so Daniel and I wanted to explore life in an unfamiliar place.  Complacency has a way of snuffing out the wonder and excitement of ordinary life.  So, in the spirit of kicking complacency here we are–moving about 2 hours away. The first time I’ve ever lived anywhere other than this “small town.”

2. I don’t know if I said this last week or not, but if you ever think you’re “low maintenance” or “slightly minimalist” pack all your belongings. Pack them and then look around at all the items you haven’t used or could do without.  I’d say about 60-70% of our belongings get used regularly..maybe even only 50%. Moving has been a reality check–no, we’re not “low maintenance” in case you were wondering.

3. The USA is still in the World Cup with a tough match on Sunday with Portugal. Which reminds me–I love soccer so much. I started playing at age 4 and then on a traveling team at age 11. At age 14 I quit soccer because we got a new coach who made us bring our running shoes to practice. If there’s one thing that I do not like to do it’s running. So I quit. I took up tennis instead. The court’s smaller = less running. Oh, and you don’t have to have 21 other people to play tennis.  But I still love soccer. I remember the glory days of my soccer-filled youth. I have fresh in my mind the feeling of kickoff at the first game of a tournament.  Early morning, slightly chilly, dew on the ground, excitement in the air, my stomach would always fill with butterflies and I could never eat breakfast. Then, the whistle blows and we start running down the field and our jerseys would be blowing in the wind.  I’ll never forget it.

4. I’m interested in genealogy and I always try to guess what nationality someone’s last name is.  It’s also interesting to hear all the different countries that make up a person’s heritage so I’ll share mine.  From what I know so far, my maiden name Kirkland is Scottish of the Maxwell clan. My father’s family has Scottish and Native American heritage (again, what I know so far). My mother’s side has Swedish, Belgian, and German ancestry. Imagine all the people that had to be born and come together so that I would be here today.

5. Snow cones are in season! Last summer I didn’t eat a single snow cone. Yesterday I had my first snow cone of the season and I’ll definitely be back. I had Cactus Juice, a mix of mango, pineapple, and blue raspberry. So delicious!

6. For some reason donuts just came to my mind. I’m getting a hair cut today so maybe I’ll grab a donut afterwards.  That’d be a nice reward for not crying during the hair cut. Even thought I haven’t done that since I was 2. But alas, still a reason for a donut.

7. Last night we went to a Japanese hibachi restaurant, though we never dine at the hibachi-just the regular seating. Daniel ordered a bottle of sake and didn’t finish it all so we put it in my purse and snuck it out.  That’s probably the riskiest thing I’ve done in a while.  It probably helped that I had a quite strong Mai Tai so I didn’t care too much about being “risky.”

Linking up with Team Whitaker

Mai Tai- mai favorite

Mai Tai- mai favorite

Handsome with his sake

Handsome with his sake

Our view from the restaurant patio

Our view from the restaurant patio

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