Day 2: Where {I} Want To Be

What a loaded question.

Where do I want to be?

I want to be sitting in the cool sand, just after sunset. Watching the stars come out over the horizon. Staring out into the murky Carolina coast waters, letting the breeze push my hair wherever it wants to go. Just hearing the waves, nothing else. Daydreaming, probably. Or just letting my mind be blank, for a little while. Staring, and listening.

I want to be driving up to the most random CVS location, in the middle of nowhere, one evening. About to meet my first hedgehog. Unaware, but hopeful, that he would belong to me. Ecstatic just to hold him.

I want to be taking my first steps out from underneath of a train station archway, letting my eyes adjust to the Florida sun glinting off of early 20th-century, small town Americana. Smelling the bakery, just a hint. Listening to the laughs, the talking, usually the multiple languages. Flashing a big smile and getting a dozen in return. Hearing the music, wherever it’s coming from.

I want to be crouched behind a set of rising seats in a black box theatre, hidden right behind the unsuspecting audience. I want to hear one of my favourite monologues, mouthing it along with the actor onstage, watching the stage lights. Feeling safe and at home, with people I know and a place I could walk blind (and sometimes have to, and have.) There’s a lot of trust, there — and the anxiety fades.

And hey…I’ll get to do one of those, tonight.

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air:

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great Globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on,

and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

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Day 1 : The Best Parts of Fall

(Disclaimer: I’m going to try a 30-Day September blogging/journaling Challenge, in an attempt to…well…revive? De-stress? Live? Wedding planning is not for the weak of heart, my friends.)

The Best Parts of Fall:

  • Scarves
  • Big, roomy sweaters
  • Boots
  • Pumpkin-spice everything (I’m not even sorry)
  • the jewel-tone colors coming back
  • Less pressure on having a “beach body,” whatever that means.
  • Less sweat
  • Apples
  • Apple Cider
  • Apple Cider donuts when going to an orchard with friends
  • back to school, for some
  • Butternut squash soup
  • White chicken chili
  • Leaves turning color
  • Halloween prep
  • Halloween
  • Halloween decorations
  • Halloween costumes
  • Watching Hocus Pocus
  • other Halloween movies
  • Did I mention Halloween?
  • and…oh, yeah. I’ll be getting married this Fall. So there’s that. 😉

 

Fragile Beauty

Duke -F ragile Beauty

This magnificent creature is Duke. His name is short for Prospero, Duke of Milan. I had to distinguish because, technically, I’ve had another betta sort-of-kind-of named Prospero. I called him Perry, however.

But I digress. We’ll get to Perry later.

Duke is a Multi-coloured, Dragon-scaled (possibly Pineapple?) Halfmoon Betta. I rather suspect he is Over-Halfmoon, actually. (That is to say, has a caudal spread larger than 180 degrees, when fully flared. Also known as really everloving large fins.) Why do I tell you all that? Mainly to say that even I’m lost on the four BILLION (possible slight exaggeration) color and tail designations on betta fish. But it’s almost necessary, because they come in so many different varieties. Each variety has its own specifications and details, but then a lot of bettas don’t quite fit in a label too well. Duke doesn’t, in a lot of ways.

In fact, the way I got him is a good example of that. I bought Duke at a local PetCo. I was debating between a pale orange delta tail (I do love the orange ones quite a bit, and have had several) and a  black-with-electric-blue-spots halfmoon when I saw Duke, sitting in a different part of the store. I immediately abandoned the other two back to their shelves. Plus, this new little multicolor boy was in a cup labeled “veiltail!” That meant that instead of either $7.99 or $14.99, he was going to cost me a whopping $2.99, and even that was before my PetPerks discount.

Of course, after I got him home and in a larger bowl…it became incredibly clear that this little fish had been terrifically mislabeled. Veiltail he was not.

I would know — I’ve owned 30 betta fish.

You heard me. 30. I ended up creating a text document to keep track of them all. The list is as follows:
Miss Bluebell [deceased]  ((blue))
Scarlet I-IV [all deceased]  ((red))
Gaston-Josèphe (Gaston) [deceased] ((red/green))
Louis-Auguste (Beast) [deceased] ((bluegreen))
Athaliah (Demon, Satan) [deceased] ((red, female))
Leonidas (Leo) [deceased] ((Red/Blue crowntail))
Reginald (Reggie) [deceased] ((orange))
Jasper (Jazz) [deceased] ((green/pink/purple/orange))
Prospero/Periwinkle (Perry) [deceased] ((blue and white))
Albus [deceased] ((yellow and white))
Erik [deceased] ((red))
Omega ([deceased] (navy and yellow))
Haku [deceased]((white, a little pink))
Reginald II (Reggie) [deceased] ((orange))
Charlie Chaplin Mischa (Charlie) ((black-blue and white, delta)) [deceased]
Beau ((purple/pink/red)) [deceased]
Calcifer ((white/blue/red crowntail)) [deceased]
Orsino ((red)) [deceased]
Reginald III (Reggie) ((orange delta tail)) [deceased, dropsy]
Banquo ((white delta tail)) [deceased]
Oberon((blue/turquoise/clear halfmoon)) [deceased]
Reggae ((peacock blue half-moon)) (Dec. 20, 2011-Nov 7, 2012)[deceased]
Reginald IV (Reggie) ((orange delta tail)) [deceased]
Mystery Betta Baby ((??)) [deceased]
?? ((White veil tail)) (Nov 6, 2012 – ?) [deceased]
Tabasco ((red-orange veiltail)) (Nov. 4, 2013-April 2014) [deceased]
Duke Prospero of Milan (Duke) ((teal/coral/multi, dragon scale rose petal half-moon)) (July 22, 2014 – ??)

Mind you, Bluebell and the Four Scarlets were all in my childhood. Gaston was purchased during my college years. (Incidentally, the first time I’d ever written and used one of my own checks was to purchase him.)

The poorly-named Miss Bluebell was my first pet. He was named by my mother, and none of us learned about the whole “the big bettas with pretty tails are all male” thing until much, much later. Well after Miss Bluebell’s death.

Betta Fish Funeral

This photo is from Miss Bluebell’s funeral. Let’s take a moment to appreciate my long-suffering father, seen here, who is clearly trying not to crack up laughing at this impromptu fish funeral. Bluebell was buried in a paper towel, outside of our apartment’s back porch. I designed a headstone from popsicle sticks. The deep solemnity of this occasion could be seen on my face, were it not upstaged by my cat shirt.

Next up were the Scarlets — Scarlett I, II, III, and IV. All red, all bearing the same name. Scarlet IV was the fish that would not die. He lived for four years. FOUR YEARS, people. After that, mom vowed no more betta fish. This was mainly because it was up to her to keep them alive, as I was small and not easily trusted with things like balancing the pH of the water or whatnot.

Gaston - Fragile Beauty

This leads us to the college years, and Gaston. I cannot find my pictures of Gaston, though I know I took some. So, a drawing I did of him during a Calligraphy class will have to suffice. Gaston was mostly red, with some green and electric blue streaks in his fins. It was with Gaston that my love affair for betta fish truly started.

You know the “crazy cat lady”? I was the crazy betta fish lady. At one point, I had 7 bettas at the same time. And you can’t keep them together, or they fight. So this means I had 7 different tanks/bowls to clean. And that doesn’t even factor in the three goldfish (Siegfried, Sieghilde, & Siegrich) and a snail (Boq) that I had at the same time as 7 of these bettas. Most of my fish had elaborate full names, and then a nickname that I’d actually call them. (The goldfish too…as they mostly went by Spot, Goldie, and Shark.)

My one true demon-fish was Athaliah. She was, as you can imagine, named after I realized her personality. Female bettas are supposed to be calmer, and able to coexist with other fish. True enough, she didn’t mess with Spot, Shark, or Goldie much. However…she killed Boq. She killed that snail, (which mind you cost more than she did), by repeatedly ramming into him until she knocked him off the glass, then eating him. Unfortunately, I did not notice until it was too late, and all that was left of Boq was…well. Let’s not get into the soggy, sordid details. Athaliah was not my favourite.

Some lived a long time, others came to me already sick. The mystery betta baby, for example. I’m glad to say I haven’t seen betta babies available for sale recently…the truth is, few casual fish owners have the sort of resources needed to keep such a little thing alive. Some of my fish passed quietly and suddenly, some were nursed back from disease and fin rot, and then one in particular was a bit agonizing. Reggie III is my only fish to date to have gotten dropsy, and let me tell you, it was rough. I did what I could for him, but it wasn’t enough in the end.

Here’s a few more pictures of my bunch:

Albus - Fragile Beauty

Albus – yellow/white with some blue

Perry - Fragile Beauty

Prospero/Periwinkle “Perry”

Banquo - Fragile Beauty

Banquo

Reggae - Fragile Beauty

Reggae — the wine glass was temporary until he got his tank, I promise.

Tabasco - Fragile Beauty

Tabasco — untimely removed from this world

Which brings us to Tabasco…my betta right before Duke. Tabasco was a lovely orange-red veiltail. I’d taken about a year off from bettas between a short-lived white betta and when I got Tabasco. Mostly that was because I had enough on my plate with Hashbrown, my hedgehog. That was my first year with him.

But Tabasco and his orangey awesome made me happy. All was smooth sailing. No sign of illness, never a hiccup in eating habits. One day he was being particularly active in the morning, and when I came home that night, he was floating nose-down in the gravel — dead as a doornail. I’m not sure why I took that particular death so hard. I think it’s because I can normally tell when they’re about to head to the great fish bowl in the sky. This time, not so much. Tabasco blindsided me. It took a particularly bad Tuesday and a particularly pretty fish to make me buy another, which is where Duke comes in.

Now, shockingly, I had not actually intended for this post to be the “Lindsay’s Grand History of Betta Fish” post. What I wanted to get to is this.

Have you ever really looked at a betta fish? I mean seriously, honestly, looked. Not just a general appraisal. I mean have you gotten down and pressed your nose to the glass and looked at the scales, the fins, the way they move — their eyes. These fish are two to four or so inches long, and they are so intricate it’s unbelievable. Even a solid coloured betta will have streaks and sparks — like Gaston, in his bright red glory. His electric blue fin streaks made the red stand out all the more. And Gaston had blue eyes, too.

Jazz was one of my prettiest fish. He was also one of the most impossibly small, but if you could get close enough to SEE, he had just about every colour under the sun on him. The delicate craftsmanship on these fish captures my eye and attention every time, and I find myself fascinated.

A lot of my bettas have gotten drawn and painted — over time, I think I’ll end up doing most of them, if not all. My orange bettas, my Reggies, have gotten a lot of the drawing attention.

Reggie I - Fragile Beauty

Reggie I painting from 2010

Reggie IV - Fragile Beauty

Reggie IV painting from 2013

I’ll leave off with an excerpt from a journal entry of mine, written some time in 2010.

“Every creative function of man only clumsily imitates Yours. We cannot imagine far outside of our own experiences…you imagined and created from no precedent. Your creativity is infinite, and spans so much –and yet, the smallest detail shows intricate craftsmanship and purpose.
My new betta is beautiful…I think his name will be Orsino, if I ever remember that for long. I keep wanting to call him Gaston, because he reminds me of that first betta fish. He’s that gorgeous silky red, with some electric blue…and those beautiful little dots, one on each scale, that catch the light. That fish is maybe three inches long…You created the universe. My infinite Creator-God…and to think, I worry!”

Looking At Decay

Looking Into Decay

Over the weekend, a group of my friends got together. We had a fantastic time of making pizzas (I did not know you could grill them — culinarily gifted I am not) and playing games, but part of our day was when our lovely hosts took us to go see a nearby abandoned textile mill.

The Courtenay Mill, more commonly called the Newry Mill, first opened in 1894, and finally closed (under a new name by then) in 1975. [To read a bit more about it, and see more pictures for a better idea, go here.]

My friend Elizabeth, the actual photographer, took more pictures and will have much better results. I couldn’t resist snapping a few on my iPhone, though.

Looking Into Decay Looking Into Decay Looking Into Decay Looking Into Decay  Looking Into Decay Looking Into Decay Looking Into Decay Looking Into Decay

Looking Into Decay Looking Into Decay Looking Into Decay

If you were to ever, out of curiosity, browse the hashtag #newrymill on Instagram, you’d see a smattering of photos. A lot discussing the mill’s suspected haunting, or pictures of the various graffiti (and I use that word loosely — there’s really only one piece of graffiti art, on the backside of the building, and it’s an interesting urban bit. The rest is just people with spray paint cans writing profanity on walls. I feel like calling that graffiti is giving it too much credit.) Looking through those, I almost felt like people missed half of the location. There is a certain odd sense of beauty to the decay, and to nature sneaking in and reclaiming the spaces. I didn’t want to focus on the trash or hastily painted f-bombs on the walls. They’re there, no getting past that. But there’s also the textures, the history, and the persistence of green things growing in debris.

Looking Into Decay

Accidental Greenhouse

My bedroom has become an accidental greenhouse.
I suppose that’s good, because that means that 1) nothing has died, and 2) I’ve gotten a few more.

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The Inadvertant Greenhouse

The light colored succulent has stopped it’s death threats, but now the bit of ivy in a tall arrangement is threatening.

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The plant that refused to die. Apparently.

Even more suprising — see that bit of leaf in a tall mug? Behind the airplant hedgehog? That was a spring of lord-knows-what that came in a bouquet of roses…two months ago. The rest of the bouquet died off, but that little thing just REFUSES to quit. It’s even started to bud. So we’ll see how that goes.

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Pyramid Orb Planter by Oriskany Glass

And then I got this! The air plant is new as well, but I’m pretty thrilled about this awesome hanging prism thing for it. I bought it at a Art on the Trail event in Traveler’s Rest, SC — it was made by Dan Taylor of Oriskany Glass. One of his Pyramid Orb Air Plant Planters (mine is all clear glass, but he does have several with color panels for accent!).

Operation: Grow Something

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Up next on my Summer to-do list (ironic, now that we’re very well into September…) was to manage to grow something. Or keep something alive.

This was met with…mixed success.

I am the type of person that occasionally gets grand aspirations of being a gardener. I think this stems, somehow, from one of my more common make-believes as a child. I’d be running about the yard (mine, my grandmother’s, wherever) and collecting things to use for “food.” Particularly lush looking weeds, anything that looked like a berry, and of course — the staple — onion grass. From there, I’d pretend to make “soup” — water, with whatever else. Never ate it — not sure if that’s a nod to my parents that they managed to keep that idea out of my head, or what. I did, after all, occasionally try different flavors of dog food and treats. Just to see.
I thought I was a Boxcar Child or something. I’d make various weed soups, crush the berries to use as dye or paint on the sides of my wooden playhouse, collect firewood (picture a nine year old with a hatchet. No. For serious.), the whole nine yards. If I’d have known the term “survivalist,” I’d have attempted to use it to describe myself. (A little less ‘crisis/apocalypse’, a little more ‘freedom’…but y’know.)

I never managed to grow much of anything as a child (a Morning Glory flower, just once, aside), but my mother was the resident botanist of the house. She could (and still can) grow and manage anything. Especially roses — those are her forte. She has a good-sized, lovely rose garden right outside of our kitchen window. I didn’t care much for that part — roses took too much work, and most of it during mosquito season. But she was the picture of dedication.

Our one divergence from usual talent-bases lay in Cacti. Mom could kill a cactus in record time — it was, however, the only thing I could generally keep alive. For years, I had a Christmas Cactus that tended to do rather well — until it, too, succumbed to my mother as I was off in grad school.

So every now and again, I get that sudden urge. I’m going to GROW something. The aspirations start out big, then trickle down a bit. A backyard garden turns into a windowbox turns into a few pots in the kitchen turns into a $1 Grow-It-Yourself kit (For Kids!) from Target. You know how it works.

Let me give you the initial purchase rundowns: a packet of clover seeds and a growing kit (Target!) because why the heck not, and two little succulents (succuli? That seems sketchy.) from Home Depot.

The clover had a great start…

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But now, I must admit, has gone on to the great Garden in the sky. I did try. But…ah…well, leaving it while I was on vacation and not thinking about it…I tried to resurrect it, but Lazarus it was not.

The succulents, however are still doing passably.

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The darker green is healthy and shockingly able to cope with my plant-care methods, but the lighter-colored one is giving me trouble. It has somehow managed to separate a top portion of soil from the bottom. It is still, in theory, “alive” — but has now begun to be rather brittle. Any suggestions, o ye of green thumbs?

What I did discover to be the saving grace of a person like me (read: black thumbs) are these lovely creations known as air plants. They do not require soil. They just sit there, and look cool. You mist them (or in my case, soak them once a week), and they just…exist. Sunlight, water…no dirt.

Following an idea I found on Pinterest a while back, I wanted to make one of these air plants into an air-jellyfish. I had found a sea-urchin shell at some time in the past. (fun fact: i have a crazy sea shell collection that I nearly compulsively add to everytime I’m at the beach. It’s getting a little ridiculous.) I whipped out the sea urchin shell, painted it slightly to get a nice look (just a little white, a touch of a robin’s egg blue, and some water — didn’t really want a think, laquered appearance). Strung up my air plant, and voila! Air. Jellyfish.

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Since the air jellyfish, I have also added another air plant — no picture of it at the moment — of a slightly different variety, who sits nicely in a little hedgehog measuring cup on a dresser. (Yes — THESE measuring cups. They were a gift, and I love them muchly.)

So far, the mortality rate has only included the clover — taking bets on how long the light succulent lasts.

Nouveau Southern Iced Tea

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(Picture slightly unrelated since it’s from a meal at Lost Dog Cafe in Folly Beach, SC…but there is tea, and there is lemonade. And mason jars. So I think it fits nicely.)

Last week, I met up with a dear friend of mine for her bridesmaid’s lunch. I could not actually be a bridesmaid in her wedding (or attend for that matter), due to a play I was in — but she was kind enough to invite me along, just the same. We went to a lovely new spot downtown — a tea shop with some sandwiches — and I instantly fell in love with a drink there. Green tea with local wildflower honey and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Iced. Brilliance. It was Green Tea Lemonade! With honey! I was in heaven. It reminded me beautifully of summer — in no small part due to my family’s on again-off again summer tradition of going up to the Flat Rock Playhouse. They have a wonderful honey-sweetened lemonade at their concession stand during intermissions.
But back to the downtown tea spot. Honey…lemons…green tea. Doesn’t seem that complicated. It’s wonderful, and I’d likely buy it again — but let’s be honest. It doesn’t seem complicated enough to warrant nearly $4 a glass. Not to my broke, just-out-of-grad-school bank account, anyways. Not with honey, green tea bags, and (surely) at least one lemon sitting at home in my kitchen. Surely I can make this stuff, I said.

Quick break for a little background: I’ve been trying to teach myself to like green tea since I was about 12. I went through a massive Japan-obsession phase, (never entirely went away…formative years, and all that), and thought that drinking hot green tea was the height of cool. Green tea, and of course, pocky. But at least I liked pocky. Green tea was a harder sell. I’ve tried to acquire the taste for an extended period of time. I tried desperately hard to learn to like it plain, and not adding so much other nonsense to it that I would kill off the health benefits. Green tea is supposed to be healthy — huge dumps of sugar, not so much.

However, somehow and someway, when it’s honey, it doesn’t seem so bad. Then you add the concept of “local honey,” which is said to help with seasonal allergies (of which I’m definitely a victim), and it’s not sounding so bad.

And then, few people argue that lemons are unhealthy. I’ll just leave that there.

So, long story short, this recipe attempt is simultaneously my waving a white flag (on my plain green tea taste that shall likely never be acquired), and plowing forward with my quest to find tasty drinks that aren’t quite-as-bad for me.

(Disclaimer: This has also been the summer of lots-and-lots-of-plain-water, and cucumber/lemon/lime/lemon-lime/etc. infused water…so I don’t want to hear it. I know water is best. I know. I’ve heard. Many times. Promise.)

Thus, the adventure began!

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(Why the huge knife, you ask? Because it’s amazing. And overkill is kind of my style when it comes to cutlery.)

After a survey of my fridge yielded no lemons and only a tiny bit of honey left in the house (some “local” honey from coastal South Carolina, purchased from Geechie Boy Market & Mill on a trip down to the Beaufort/Fripp Island/Edisto Island area), I headed for the grocery store. I had the Tazo green tea bags from a previous purchase. May have actually been quite a long time ago. I rarely used them, but it was part of my attempt-at-acquiring-taste.
I picked up 3 lemons and a bottle of unfiltered/uncooked wildflower honey. Somehow, to me, the ‘wildflower’ part was important. It does taste distinctly different from clover/orange/etc., and that taste was part of the summer-linked-memory for me.
(The lemon juice from concentrate you see in the picture, up there, was a backup — I wasn’t sure three lemons were going to cut it, once I started experimenting. I’m happy to report that the three lemons were plenty, and the concentrate never had to be used.)

Green Tea Lemonade (with honey!)

  • 11 Tazo Green Tea bags (again, nothing special with the brand — just what I had)
  • 12 Cups water
  • 3  Whole lemons (zested*, then squeezed/juiced)
  • Wildflower honey — to taste, but I ended up basically using the whole 16 oz. bottle
  • Makes about a gallon!

You can pretty much follow general green tea directions — boil water, remove from heat, add tea bags, allow to steep for 3 minutes. (Tip I’ve heard: remove the tea bags after 3 minutes pretty precisely, and that prevents it from getting bitter) Drain and discard tea bags. Add in honey (I started with a half a cup, but wound up dumping the whole bottle in before it was all over — sweeten it to taste, but (tip!) putting the honey in while the tea is warm will make it dissolve much better), and lemon  juice (juicing tools are very handy, otherwise just squeeze and pummel the inside of the things to death) and zest*.

*Lemon zest. Because I learned this JUST FOR THIS RECIPE. I was afraid just juicing the 3 lemons wasn’t going to cut it, so I did this whole lemon zest trick. Zest is when you’re basically shaving the skin off the lemon, into little grated pieces, and using them. I used a cheese grater, for lack of actual zesting tool. That’s pretty standard, works fine. The key, I read, is to keep to just the outer skin — the white stuff between the yellow skin and the actual fruit is a bit on the bitter side. So basically I grated off the lemon skin. That’s all. “Zest” is just the fancy name. Putting the zest in with the hot tea for a bit will increase the lemon flavor. (Some people leave the zest in their lemonade and such…I don’t like bits of things in my drinks, so I strained it all back out. )

THEN, once I was satisfied it was all dissolved, (roughly a minute. Ish. I wasn’t precise, but after you stir it for a second, you’re probably fine. The heat of the tea makes everything dissolve nicely.) I poured the tea-lemonade through a strainer into a pitcher. The strainer caught all the pulp, seeds, and zest and such I had managed to get in there.

Of course, I also tried answering the phone while doing that, and then knocked the strainer INTO the pitcher, and had to re-strain everything…but perhaps you’ll be able to avoid that step.

After I got it in the pitcher, I just put it in the fridge. I still prefer it over ice to keep it good and chilled. So here I sit, drinking my Green Tea Lemonade, and quite content with the fact that I can imitate a $4-per-cup drink.

A little too smug? Probably.