Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dill House Diary: Inspiration

As we tick off renovation projects, one by one, the main project begins to loom closer: the kitchen. While I would love to scrap and re-do the whole space--cabinets, counters, appliances, everything--budgets are a real and formidable force. As it is, we'll be replacing countertops and sink, as well as adding a backsplash and some open shelving. Maybe someday, if we're lucky, we'll get to replace the appliances as well, but that investment may have to wait until I have a teaching job.

While there are still some months yet until we tackle this endeavor, I decided to share some of the photos that somewhat capture the design in my head. I guess you could say that the look I'm going for is "urban farmhouse." If that's a thing.

One of my favorite interior decorators is Joanna Gaines of Magnolia Homes. Most people know her through her HGTV show Fixer Upper. I've started hearing her voice in my head when I fantasize about what our kitchen will be. I love how she seamlessly mixes rustic and modern and layers texture upon texture. She makes me want to go white-wash something.

Do you like the farmhouse look? Or do you prefer a more traditional style? 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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Tunes, vol. 2

Okay, okay. My hands are in the air. I know that Miley has an iffy, shoulder-shrug sort of reputation. But she sings the notes off the page on her remake of this song. Regardless of her tendency to boogie semi-nude and dance with wrecking balls, the woman has a set of pipes. Personally, I think we should all rally and request more old-time country Miley.

This is the second installment in my sometimes-series "Tunes."
For the previous post, click here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dear Mister

Dear Mister:
If someone sat me down and demanded that I chose between thousands upon thousands of dollars and spending a day walking through the woods with you, I would always choose clambering over brambles, thorns, and rocks with you. Of course, later, you would bug your eyes and cry "Sweet goodness woman what's wrong with you!" Probably with good reason. After all, graduate school is no cake walk. But with you beside me, it sometimes seems as easy-as-pie. Okay. Enough with the bakery metaphors.

Thanks for cheering me in the subtlest ways, for seeing strength in me that I don't even see. For pointing out the good and brushing away the bad. For doing all the man things: like killing spiders, walking the pup at night, and taking out the trash. For buying green headlamps on sale because "it looked like me." For talking to me straight when I need it. For always having a hug ready.  For patting the pup good night, every night, without fail. For not laughing when I find bobby pins still tangled in my hair in the morning.

Most importantly, thanks for consistently reminding me that the best things in life are completely and totally free.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Who's Against Feminism?

Make it so. 

What does it mean to be a feminist?

As most of you know, this Tumblr account has been causing some uproar in the internet world. For those who may not have heard of this account, it consists of various women who have taken selfie-snapshots with captions boasting the myriad reasons why they don't need feminism. The reasons range from adamant assertions that men and women are currently treated equally; that feminism demonizes "traditional family values"; that women cannot move heavy objects; and that feminism has caused social destruction.

The rude language and horrific grammar of these women notwithstanding....Seriously, my inner English teacher starts twitching every time I visit that site...Today, I decided to address the profound ignorance, naivete, and general wrongness of this supposedly enlightening movement.

1. Men and women are currently treated equally. Women can vote, can't they!
     Allow me to make three statements: credit scores, salaries, workplace flexibility. Take a man and woman. Stand them side by side. Make them the same age. Give them identical lives: school, loans, jobs, salaries, and so forth. Now check their credit scores. Whose is higher? In most cases, the man's score will be higher. Why, you ask? Because he is male. Now, I don't have dazzling citations to support this statement; but I do know from personal experience. A woman whom I trust asked this question of her credit card company and received that exact answer. No one seems to know why this discrepancy exists, but exist it does. While a few points on your credit score may not seem earth-shatteringly terrible, the discrepancy does point to a prejudice inherent in our society's consciousness: that men are more responsible than women, that they are more fiscally responsible and reliable.
     Let's now consider salary discrepancies. At most schools, male teachers still make more than female teachers. Male doctors make more than female doctors. Male lawyers make more than female doctors. Why? Because they are male. Don't believe me? Maybe you'll believe Claudia Goldin, who recently published an article for the American Economic Review.
    Workplace flexibility. One argument against salary discrepancies is that the discrepancy exists due to differences between job types rather than within jobs. For example, women tend to gravitate toward more flexible, lower paying jobs rather than rigid, time-consuming, high- pay jobs. Often, these jobs require and reward employees for working long hours, staying on call, and traveling often. Because these requirements oppose the desire to spend time at home with family and children, many women and some men tend to gravitate toward jobs that may pay less but allow them to spend more time--or any time--with their families. A successful woman whom I greatly respect once told me that a woman who decides to have children can kiss her career goodbye. Why? Because the business world is profoundly male-oriented and product-driven.  Why should being female and possessing the ability to carry, birth, and raise life get in the way of success? Why do we ask women to conform to this job dynamic? For that matter, why do we ask men to do it? Of course, the nature of some jobs may always require these sacrifices--but is there a way to modify the company or job to balance work and life? Some examples may be offering company-provided daycare, remote work days, options to take family when you travel, paid paternity leave as well as paid maternity leave. What impact would a few simple changes such as these have on employee morale, employee turnover, and, in turn, upon productivity?

2. Feminism has caused social destruction.
To be honest, I'm not sure where these women are getting this idea. The right to vote, to own property, to have exercise freedom of speech, to be gainfully employed-- these rights, direct results of feminism, all sound pretty good to me. I personally quite enjoy knowing my voice is heard during the presidential elections. Last I checked, women weren't sending our society to hell in a handbasket. Or should I say a handbag? As long as its Coach, we're okay with it through, right.

3. Feminism is a waste of time.
Not only does this statement rankle my skin, it makes me sad. If demanding equal rights, equal pay, and respect seems like a waste of time, we clearly need to fight even harder. Don't let someone tell you that the pay discrepancy is "pretty much  over" because the gap is slimming. Don't let someone call you--male or female--a data point. Don't let someone call you a rabble-rouser just because you stood up for yourself. Quelling someone's legitimate voice just to maintain the status quo is never acceptable. I don't care what corporate America says or respects. As aforementioned, I have a Coach purse with a one-way ticket for them, anyway.

4. Feminism demonizes men and ridicules gentility. 
Actually, feminism seeks to elevate women. While some extremists may belittle men in the process, that doesn't mean that all feminism is about demonizing or ridiculing the male sex. The movement isn't about tearing down one at the expense of another.  It's about celebrating and demanding equality of rights, opportunity, voice, and status. Personally, I have no problem with a man holding open a door for me. To me, that signals that he respects me as a fellow human being. I'll gladly hold the door for him in turn. Polite manners are for everyone, people. Have some class.

5. Women need men to lift heavy objects.
First of all, I would like to point out that I've tossed feed bags, carried hay bales, toted full water buckets, and  hefted roping saddles with the best of them. I've helped carry sofas, beds,boxes of books, and recliners up and down stairs in many a moving venture. Sure, men are physically stronger. In most cases. My husband is certainly stronger than I am. All that being said, using this genetic fact as a reason to denounce feminism...? Get thee some hand trucks, woman. And, while you're at it let me introduce you to the Mighty Kacy.

6. Feminism seeks to equate women to men. But that's impossible!
When asked their views on feminism, several women respond that it is impossible to equate men to women. We cannot be treated equally because we are not created or made equally. I may be wrong, but I believe that the people with this attitude hold the stereotype of feminism that shouts things like "girls can be firefighters too!" There is more to feminism than Rosie the Riveter. Feminism doesn't seek to equate women to men; it doesn't ignore the fact that men are often physically superior to women (see above point). Feminism espouses that our worth, value, and position within society should not be determined by our physicality, strength, sex, or gender. Just as our society seeks to move beyond assigning value based upon skin color or ability/disability, we need to move beyond assigning value based upon gender. Again, feminism doesn't seek to equate men to women; it demands the equal treatment of man and woman, the equal expression, acknowledgment, and celebration of voice.

All this being said, like any social movement, feminism has its extremists. What I hope you will take away from this article is this simple truth: all humans, whether male or female, should be treated equally. We should be afforded the same rights and opportunities and be judged by our actions rather than our physical appearances.  Women's stories and voices should echo as loudly and strongly as any male's--whether it be in the workplace, at home, in the community, or in the annals of history. And until I see that day come, I will continue to stand up for myself and for other women.  And I know that my husband, too, stands right beside me in support.

Not behind me, not in front of me. Beside me.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Living Small: Fresh Flowers

I love our little house, more and more. The more we renovate, update, restore, and paint--the more I fall in love with this teeny townhouse. With each hammer-fall and paint-stroke, we make this house a little more our own.

With that being said, every once in a while, I feel the walls closing in and I think "WHY IS MY HOUSE SO TINY!" So here is something I've learned that always cheers both myself and our space up.

Fill your tiny space with flowers. 

If you have been following this blog for even a short amount of time, you will have noticed that I love fresh flowers. Love. Them. There's truly nothing that can liven up a space or brighten your day as quickly as a sweet-smelling, brightly-colored bouquet. If I was a woman of substance, I would flounce to and from the nearest market every day with armfuls of petals. Being, instead, a graduate student, I make do with a $5 bouquet from Wegman's every few weeks. 

This tiny addition to the space performs wonders for my attitude and outlook. I go from frustrated and cramped to cheery and upbeat.Tossed carelessly into a vase or glass pitcher, they bring the outdoors in and make my tiny home feel more like a meadow. Confession: Too many fresh flowers purchased in a row may result in my flitting about  imaging the kitchen to be a French bistro. But hey--we all need to channel our inner Julia Child, occasionally, do we not? Never apologize! 

P.S. If you want fresh flowers but just don't want to drop alot of money, buy baby's breath! 
It costs less, has a sweet, airy look, and stays fresh for a very long time. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dill House Diary: Radiator Re-do

As a first-time homeowner and first-time DIY-renovator, I've learned that sometimes the best fixes are quick, easy, and affordable. While dropping the big bucks for new cabinetry or counter-tops does make a world of difference (no argument there), a small fix can make a room feel completely different, airier, even larger.

This was certainly true with one of our summer renovation projects. I simply undertook to repaint our radiators.

I wasn't even aware that our radiators were dragging down our rooms. To be honest, I didn't spend much time this winter thinking about my radiators outside of "Are they working?" "What's that tinging sound?" and "Is this thing gonna blow?"

However, this summer, I decided to flex my artsy-crafty muscles and turned my attention to those mongrels. Ideally, I would have liked to unhook them, take them outside, and spray them down with radiator spray paint. (You can buy it here, if you are in need of some high heat paint.) But husband interjected with his usual dose of reality and how-to, handy-man wisdom. He pointed out two things: 1) these radiators likely hadn't been unhooked in who-knows-how-long and 2) they weigh more than Mark, Solo, and I put together. Joy.

So, to Home Depot I went. The surprisingly jolly paint department man suggested I use Rustoleum oil-based paint in white. Trusting that he had superior paint knowledge to mine, I bought one quart-sized container. Yep. One.

Now...drum roll, please....behold my handiwork:

Now, I realize that this may be a bit anticlimactic for some of you. Just attempt to imagine the dirty-gunmetal-grey color that they were before. Now scroll back up and look at those two photos again. Painting them a crisp, clean white was one of the best quick fixes I've done during this entire renovation project. Hands-down. I know that I'm not the only one excited about this, too. You know why? Because the hubby himself commented on it. Ladies, if a man noticed it on his own, you know it made a big difference. And for the cost of one quart of paint? Talk about low cost, high reward.

What's one of your favorite quick fixes? Share in the comments below!

Stay tuned for more renovations! Next on our list : the kitchen and the patio.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Solo Pup, 11 Months

Things Solo loves:
1. Splashing. Not swimming, but splashing. Since we let him in the creek a few weeks ago, the pup has taken to splashing into every body of water he sees, be it Carroll Creek, a large puddle, a small puddle, or his water bowl.
2. Waking me up in the mornings through three tried and true methods: whining softly in my face, jumping on the bed, or banging his wagging tail against every hard surface.
3. Slopping up his puppy-cone from Mr. Goodies. Nom nom nom.
4. Utilizing cute-snuggle-face in a valiant attempt to sleep on the bed at night time. I'm sorry, bud, but you're too much of a covers-hog to be allowed.

Happy 11 months to the sweetest little pittie pup I've ever known!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Finding Your Place

It's been almost two years since I moved to Maryland. At the time, it was the hardest thing I've ever done, and I cannot say that I gracefully made the change. The Capitol Region seemed hurried, busy, and rude compared to the small-town Southern life to which I was accustomed. Here, no one serves sweet tea, traffic does not merge, shopping carts are shopping carts not buggies, and you certainly don't smile at every person you pass in the grocery store. If it hadn't been for Mark, I'm pretty sure I would have conceded defeat and flown  back South immediately.

Our first year married, we rented a two bedroom apartment. Perhaps it was the transient nature of apartment renting, but we never really got to know our neighbors. After living there for a whole year, we knew maybe three people. (And one of these people was the property manager; so, I'm not sure if he counts. Although he was very friendly.)

A favorite professor of mine once mentioned that the key to feeling at home in a new place is to find your favorite spaces. Not just indoors, but outside as well. We know our homes--inside and out--we know our favorite shady spots under the trees, we know our gardens, our pastures, our favorite parks and walks. In Georgia, I knew where the best blackberries grew,  where the mountain laurel bloomed. I knew the best hiking spots.I knew where the deepest spots on our creek were, and where our horses liked the graze. I knew the land as much as I knew my house. But, here, in Maryland... I didn't know much outside of the work-grocery-store-home triangle.

It wasn't until we decided to purchase our little old house and move downtown that Maryland started to feel more like a home.

Living downtown required me to spend more time walking. Walking our pittie Solo around the block, walking downtown for coffee or food, and walking in the nearby park. A slower pace, walking forces you to take stock, to notice the small things, to smell, hear, and taste the things around you. Walking forced me to get to know this place, to learn it step by step, to discover it foot by foot.

Now, I know which houses have secretly beautiful backyard gardens. I know where the bunnies like to hide. Who knew cities had bunnies? But they do. They nestle in backyards, in the tall grasses growing in little-used alleyways. I know where the quietest benches are located in the park. I know that the Memorial Garden is always cool thanks to the shade cast by the large oaks that grow there. I know where some of Frederick's hidden murals are tucked downtown. I know where the country's oldest and largest ginkgo grows, its leaves showering gold. And I know my own backyard: where the sunlight hits, coaxing tomatoes and peppers to root, spread, and grow.

I do still miss the Deep South with all its humidity, mosquitoes, peaches, and howdy ya'lls, but I have gotten to know Frederick a little better this year. And I have to say, the quirky old belle has her own idiosyncrasies, beauties, and graces, all worth knowing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Artwork

Lately, I've been trying my hand at abstract and semi-abstract painting. 
I have to admit, I really enjoy it. I love the freedom of interpretation
that comes with the abandonment of form. 
I relish the ability to mingle and play with color, allowing flow and pigment
to render their own shapes. I've found this style to be a good way 
to respond to experiences and inspirations. I can just set brush to canvas
without any worry and just enjoy the simple act of painting,
the same way a child slaps finger paint on paper. 

Check out this canvas and other similar styles at my Etsy.

P.S. Yes, I made my husband stand and hold this painting on our sidewalk. Yes,
he was slightly embarrassed. It was good for him. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tunes, vol. 1

I come from a musical family. We sing, play piano, strum guitars, and clap our hands along
with the radio. Music has always been a part of my life. Some of my favorite memories
are of my dad driving me to school in the grey-blue morning light with the radio belting the Monkees,
the Eagles, Little River Band, Steve Miller Band, or Three Dog Night.

So, I thought I might start a weekly series called --hey you guessed it--"Tunes."
It'll share some of my favorite songs, new and old. Some you may have heard,
some you may not have heard, some you may never want to hear again.

What better place to start 
than with my all-time favorite singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile? 

What this song makes me think about: 
sleepy-eyed mornings, swimming pools, kitten paws
grill-smoke, horse-hair and the smell of hay,
the way my PawPaw's eyes glinted when he grinned,
and a woolly Cocker Spaniel named Murphy. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Weekend Photo Reel

This weekend, my close friend Sarah came to visit. She and I met in college our sophomore year, and, through all the paper-writing, hair-pulling, and tear-inducing mania of an English degree, we became and remained very close. After graduation, with the twin hurdles of marrying and moving before me, I worried that she and I would rarely see each other. This, after spending nearly every day together for three years.

However, life pulled a rather convenient and kind move, for once. Sarah moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue a para legal career at one of the city's oldest and most established law practices. I'm not sure what kind of finagling and string-pulling my guardian angel had to undergo to achieve that, but I'm grateful. Having one of my closest friends only 45 minutes away (well...without D.C. traffic...) is a tremendous comfort. Even when busy work and graduate-school schedules intervene, just knowing a friend is nearby keeps homesickness at bay.

This weekend, we embarked on thrift-shopping, sight-seeing, coffee-drinking, chick-flick-watching, Italian-cooking, and puppy-snuggling adventures. Sometimes cappuccinos and girl talk is all you need.

Hope you enjoy the photos of our Saturday as much as we enjoyed the day itself.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: Wild

Title: Wild
Author: Cheryl Strayed

Favorite passage: "It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B. It had only to do with how it felt to be wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts. streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way....It was what I knew before I even really did, before I could have known how truly hard and glorious the PCT would be, how profoundly the trail would both shatter and shelter me." 

My reaction: When I bought this book, I felt like I was succumbing to the pressure of all the people who had loudly proclaimed its merits. Previously, every time I had contemplated its cover, standing in the book shelf aisles, I was somewhat doubtful. I know, I know, I know... its a cardinal sin among English majors to judge a book by its cover. But really. The cover is a boot. Did I really want to read a book about a woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail? I boring could you get? A boot. On the cover. But then two friends (these sweet girls can be found here and here) whose opinions I do trust both mentioned and praised Wild. And I thought, well what the heck. If nothing else, I'll get a gold star from my nature-loving, hiking-obsessed husband.

I couldn't have been more wrong. As often happens when I procrastinate on a popular title, I find myself thinking "WHY did I ever doubt! And WHY did I wait so long to read it!" There are moments in this book where I was disgusted, then teary-eyed, then laughing my butt off. Other times, it seemed like every other page made my breath hitch. Sure, it's a book about a woman hiking the PCT alone...but its so much more than that, too. It's a book about family, love, loss, marriage, divorce, blisters, mountain lions, strangers, hippies, good ol'boys, Adrienne Rich, horses, mountains, and finding your inner strength. Most importantly, it's a book about what it takes to grit your teeth and put one foot in front of the other.

Get thee to a book store and buy this book!

P.S. What's more...they're making it into a movie! Starring Reese Witherspoon!
 Can it get any better?? 

{Count Your Blessings}

Some times, being young, newly wed, and a graduate student is just hard. You start juggling so many things, you start to panic-wonder how you're going to make ends meet. On the days I find myself feeling frazzled and flustered, I usually realize--through mid-fluster, when I've been committed to that state of mind for long enough its become annoying, to myself and everyone around me--that I never paused that day to be quiet, meditate, count my blessings, and be thankful for life. While it may seem like a simple act that doesn't accomplish much...stepping aside and expressing thankfulness does wonders for my attitude. If nothing else, gratitude motivates me to take on my day, to shoulder through, and to bear life's burdens with a little more grace.

This week, I'm thankful for: 

Hot summer afternoons that combine sweet tea, fireflies, front porches, and family. 

Summers that provide me opportunities to paint. 

Spots of bright color on rainy days, and our neighbor's mad gardening skills. 

Sleepy mornings with this snuggle pup. 

Evening walks and yellow houses. 

Painted brick and a sturdy roof over my head. 

What are you thankful for today? 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Vacation Photo Reel

Mark and I have finally returned from our vacation in South Carolina. While we had more than our fair share of fun in that salty-aired state, I've never been happier to smell the familiar vanilla-musty scent of our little house. We spent a week at the beach with both our families and planned to return on a Monday. However, Mark received sudden word to travel north for a business trip. Not wanting to be left home alone all week, I jumped at the opportunity to spend time with some North Carolina friend we rarely see. So my one week vacation turned into two weeks--lucky for me, not quite as lucky for poor Amp.

Here are a few snippets of our favorite vacation moments.

Some yearly beach favorites: palm fronds blowing lazily in the breeze; colorful umbrellas as far as the eye can see; some hardcore football, brother-against-brother; and flip-flops baking in the sunshine. You know that foot-soles burn when you leave your flip-flops exposed. By the end of the week, it was like a small victory every time I remembered to put them under the umbrella. Yay for comfy toes!

One of my favorite spots in all of South Carolina is Murrels Inlet. About 10 miles south of Myrtle Beach, Murrels Inlet has avoided the flashing-neon commercialism of its neighbor. Tucked among the grassy marshes and smelling of brine, the inlet maintains its fishing-village persona. While tourists do flock its seafood houses, the inlet is quieter, untouchable, and still teeming with salt-marsh life: birds, crabs, shellfish, and the occasional curious dolphin. As a little girl, my parents would bring us here for seafood. I remember how boring the inlet seemed to me then: no beach, no where to build a sand castle or to hunt for shells. Now, I'd give anything to sit on one of the rickety grey docks all day, watching the tides flood and drain the landscape. It's funny how your priorities and wants change as you get older. 

My favorite part of the whole trip: no obligations and no routine. If you want two cups of coffee in the morning, have two cups of coffee. If you want to go to the beach at 9 and stay until 3, grab your towel and get thyself down there. If you want to play put-put until 11, do so. After all, there's no getting up early for work or hurrying to avoid rush-hour traffic. The days blur together into one long sandy-toed lazy line...until before you know it, the slow hours have ticked away and its time to travel back home. And although I was glad to be back home--to unpack, sort, ,and tidy--I would do it all again in a heart-beat.

What's your favorite vacation spot?
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