Wildflowers & Creeks

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Elle's first time in a creek

Believe it or not, this photograph shows Elle experiencing the joys of walking barefoot in a creek for the first time in her life. That sounds a little unreal, doesn’t it? You have to remember, though, that she is Florida-born and bred, with the exception of the last eleven months of her life here in Oklahoma, and little girls from the South, at least mine, just can’t walk around barefoot in creeks and ponds for worry of gators and poisonous watersnakes. There was a single reminder of our Florida days, however, when we came across a mound of miniature seashells. Ah, Oklahoma’s Cretaceous Period?

Oklahoma seashells!

The two of us were attempting to make our walk worth at least a couple of miles but I really underestimated the heat and foolishly left my thermos of ice-cold water in the car. After a short stroll around the creek we crossed an old iron bridge and found ourselves near a field of wildflowers. Elle and I snapped a few photographs while getting eaten up by mosquitos and chased by bees the whole time. All those bug bites were worth it, though, at least to me. I am quite enamored of wildflowers, especially the field of Mexican hats I stumbled upon.

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mexican hats

mexican hats

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The Village of Castleton

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It tends to be very hot this time of year in Oklahoma, which is evident today as the mercury is set to climb to 91 degrees. This past weekend, on the other hand, was sunny, gorgeous, and unexpectedly comfortable. We spent most of Saturday at the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival, about a half hour from our cabin at Greenleaf, where we wandered the Castle grounds with gypsies, jesters, knights, and the occasional child butterfly fairy. I bought a colorful skirt from an adorable orange-haired pixie and an Italian peasant girl made me one of the most delicious iced caramel lattes I’ve ever had.

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Even Elle admitted to having the best weekend ever. She got to dress up as a gypsy and wear a bright-colored skirt. She played with a bow and arrows, saw her first jousting competition, and walked through a torture chamber museum. Here she is getting her first henna tattoo:

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The great thing about these Renaissance Festivals is that much of what the vendors sell is handmade, or at least produced by small companies that specialize in Renaissance pieces. There were merchants selling plague masks, leather-bound books, hand-carved walking sticks, and even giant wind chimes that sound like church bells, which we ended up coming home with. In this little shop (or should I say shoppe?), I went a little nuts over this whimsical painting and the wooden Viking ship pencil holders (but stay tuned for more Vikings!):

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It’s been decided that, shall I ever have the opportunity to travel back in time, I would like to visit this era (but only after it has been introduced to proper sanitation).

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P.S. About those bells, click here.

Greenleaf

Home away from home #renfaire #greenleaf

This past weekend was a celebratory one for me for three reasons:

1. It was Mother’s Day weekend.
2. I submitted my final research papers early and finished my semester ahead of schedule.
3. Spring is finally here!

The first time I ever traveled on I-40 through eastern Oklahoma was in 2011 when Matt, Elle, and I drove from Florida to Oklahoma City for Thanksgiving. Forgive me when I say Oklahoma is ugly in the winter, but, to be fair, I think almost anywhere is ugly in the winter. Traveling on I-40 again last Friday with the greenery and the wildflowers and the rolling hills made me very happy. It’s a good way to start a vacation and Oklahoma redeemed herself.

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We met with a group of friends at Greenleaf State Park outside of Muskogee (birthplace of my brainiac girl crush, Sarah Vowell) and settled in for a weekend of campfire s’mores, a Renaissance Faire, and the enjoyment of one another’s company. We had cabins this time and an abundance of sunshine and warm weather – my preferred method of camping, even though my husband rolls his eyes at this.

Coming from the land of alligators and swamp rats and where water moccasins fall out of trees, I was horrified, yet totally fascinated, by my first sighting of a tarantula in the wild. It is also possible that I have acclimated to this season called winter which led to me feeling very sick and overheated on Saturday…in 75 degree weather while wearing a flowing skirt and a crop top.

Man, this summer’s heat index in Florida is gonna kill me.

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Spring Break. It’s Just Like Every Other Week.

A few weeks ago, I was thrown off by the fact that my university’s spring break wasn’t actually the week I believed it to be. It was made worse when, midway through spring break (not the real one, but the imaginary one I was already celebrating), I realized classes had started two days earlier. Needless to say, I had to work through the real spring break and I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. But when I finally got the chance to share my future career plans with a friend of mine recently, it all seemed worth it. It still does, but I can tell you that it’s a lot easier to recognize the worth of your hard work when it’s coming to an end.

After scrambling to write up four research papers and read hundreds of pages on everything from dark matter and nebulas to Darwin’s finches and Mount Toba (holy shit, y’all – Google it), my brain shut off on Friday when my husband took me out for pizza and shopping for used books…of the fun kind! You know, books about the Mayflower, 1950s race relations in the Deep South, and that asshat King George III. This is fun reading for me and I hope I can put what I read to good use one of these days. Call me, Trebek!

With that, I was able to enjoy this weekend and, dare I say it – I enjoyed Oklahoma. I soaked in my hot tub at night and in the middle of the day and decided both were awesome. My friend and I watched a thunderhead form from nothing in my backyard, far enough away that we stayed dry but close enough to see the towering layers continue building up and up. With drinks in hand, we turned our chairs around to see an incredible lightning show that went on for at least an hour. I was impressed; she told me not to be impressed. Bigger ones, more impressive ones, are on the way.

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My husband, being the more adventurous of the two of us, invited me on a motorcycle ride and I accepted. With conditions, of course, because I’m a pain in the ass that way. Rattling around on the back of a bike is not my idea of a good time, but Matt loves it. Probably the same way I love sitting at the beach. I offered to join him but only if he took me to the nearby gardens. He obliged because he’s a good husband. The best, in fact.

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And so with this Monday begins another round of reading hundreds of pages followed by hours of researching and writing. I don’t mind it, if you can believe it.  Especially because after months and months of searching (actually, I’ve been searching since I moved out here to Oklahoma City), we finally found my perfect desk at a nearby antique shop. Matt and I were able to strike a deal with the seller and brought it home later that afternoon. After moving some furniture around and reorganizing the bookshelves (which, to me, is like reorganizing my brain – I love it!), our office has a bit more color in it.

new office space

Teddy seems to be quite comfortable in the new office, too.

Fleeting Spring

The two-day break in the winter weather could not have come at a better time. My spirits were already a bit down by mid-week and after a sleepless night on Friday, all thanks to some ill-settling Lortab, I woke up to a beautiful and warm Saturday morning wishing I could just feel somewhat human again. My husband convinced me to leave the house so we headed out to the Home and Garden show being held at the state fairgrounds (we still have that hot tub to install). That night, I finally managed to eat a full meal, read a number of essays on America’s moral decline, and write (and finish!) a critique for one of my classes.

At last, clarity!

I decided to reward myself, after all. That walk I missed taking on Friday really needed to happen, for my own mental health, and Sunday proved to be even more spring-like than Saturday. So I kissed my husband goodbye, dropped Elle off at her friend’s house, and headed into the woods.

Back in November I had visited this same park with my friend, Liz. Everything was still fairly green and lush then, which was surprising because we were months into fall and there was very little autumn color on the trees. This time around, though, the trees were bare enough to let in the sunshine. And, in a moment of perfect timing just as I was trying to decide if I should take one more trail before heading home, a church group with three vans of children swung open their doors and let loose a wild pack of screaming monsters. My outdoor therapy adventure had already done me some good (playing in the trees and tiny creeks can do that to you) so I took the screeching noise as my cue and left after my hour-long walk.

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white pumpkin in the woods

a white pumpkin just randomly resting in the woods

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Can anyone tell me what kind of grass this is? It sounds really cool when the wind rustles it.

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a restoration project filled with native grasses and wildflowers

tree limb reflection

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Teddy, who had been helping my husband and a friend dig a long line of holes into the backyard (I can’t wait for this hot tub to be installed), had already been in trouble with me once for leaving the yard (and quite casually, I might add!) to sniff around across the street. In a long moment of trying to drown out his sudden and incessant barking, I left dinner cooking on the stove for a minute and walked outside see what had caught his attention.

It seems we weren’t the only ones enjoying the sunshine. Look how happy Teddy is at such a discovery in the sky!

Mom, I'm going to bark at that thing until it drops!

hot air balloon over the house

Weekending

Last Friday, the three of us packed our weekend bags and headed south to the suburbs of Dallas. Our main objective was to haul a hot tub back to Oklahoma City, one that was graciously given to us at no charge, but one cannot go to Dallas with a young daughter and not visit the American Girl Store. I think it’s a law somewhere.

Saturday morning, Ame (half of our weekend hosting duo) and I took Elle to the store for her first-ever experience at an American Girl Place. It was decided as we got closer to the parking garage that no matter what age a woman is, she instantly turns into an 8-year old girl at the prospect of being around so many American Girl dolls. I had never heard of American Girl until only a few years ago when Elle began taking an interest in them. Ame, on the other hand, has been pining over them for the better part of two decades.

American Girl Place - Dallas, Texas

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the American Girl bistro

On Saturday night, a few more friends came by and we all played card games and board games. There was beer and pizza and babies and lots of people laughing. So many people laughing, in fact, that I cried from laughing so hard myself. It’s easy to enjoy yourself around really cool people. How cool are they? This is the wallpaper in their living room (on one wall, at least…):

Seriously, the coolest wallpaper ever.

After a good night’s sleep, we packed up our minivan with our bags (and American Girl loot) and the hauling trailer with the hot tub (and a bonus table and chairs!) for the drive back to Oklahoma City on Sunday morning. Matt introduced us to Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies, a small eatery on the north side of the Arbuckles on I-35. It was delicious and Elle and I brought two frozen pies home with us to eat later for dessert. If you ever want to try a fried pie, just look for the Sinclair rooftop dinosaur in Davis, Oklahoma (accompanied by appropriately noticeable signage). Or just come visit me in Oklahoma City and I’ll take you to a smaller fried pie shop (same company!) located a few blocks from my house.

Rawr.

Dallas was 70 degrees when we left and Oklahoma City was 38 degrees when we arrived home.  The weather radar warned of snow flurries in central Oklahoma as the night progressed and Elle was so excited! But it didn’t snow in Oklahoma City. Instead, it actually snowed in Dallas! We were still treated to blustery winds as the cold front marched its way into town and we woke up Monday morning to a balmy 12-degree wind chill. The kiddo got to wear her new winter coat to school and I spent the day in three layers of clothing and some turquoise fuzzy socks.

The mild and humid spring-like Dallas weather was quite enjoyable, but winter is officially here.

Weekend Listening

I have just discovered the Milk Carton Kids (for myself, that is – apparently they have been around awhile).

I really started getting into this sound again sometime last year after hearing Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers for the first time. I say again because I don’t remember being this excited about music in a long, long while, probably not since the early days of Dave Matthews Band (Remember Two Things – I even had it on cassette tape but eagerly exchanged it for the CD version many years ago).

In case you’re interested (and why wouldn’t you be?), you can download both Milk Carton Kids albums, Retrospect and Prologue, free from their website. And the husband, kiddo, and I all highly recommend the new Mumford & Sons album, Babel.

Weekending

Our weekend actually started a little early when we headed to the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter on Thursday night, “just to look”. We brought home a Labrador/Pointer mix and named him Teddy. (By the way, all dog and puppy adoptions are only $25 through this month to celebrate Dogtoberfest.) A few of my neighbors met him on Friday (and heard a lot of filthy words come barreling out of my mouth) when he escaped out of the pedestrian gate as I was leaving to pick up the birthday girl from school and he took a run through our ‘hood. Teddy likes to dance with me, acts like he’s afraid of the dark, and also seems very attached to his candy corn bandana (not pictured):

Teddy

Teddy

On Friday, the kid turned eleven (!!!!!) and requested her birthday dinner be a burger & fries from S&B’s Burger Joint and my homemade chocolate layer cheesecake. Her gift from Matt and me was a new American Girl doll that she has been wanting for months. And here I must explain something so she doesn’t kill meShe does not play with dolls like a little girl would but instead uses them in her own stop-motion films. Apparently, there is a big YouTube community dedicated to American Girl movies and series made by young kids and teenagers and the kiddo is one of them.

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Our dining room decorated amateurishly for the October 5-9 birthday season (Elle’s and mine).

Finally, Saturday the temperature dropped to the mid-forties and we loaded up the van with coats, hats, gloves, hot cocoa, mugs, and a wool blanket and drove north to Guthrie for the Zombie Bolt 5K (my husband was sweet enough to give me a few birthday presents early – a fleece jacket. warm knee-high socks, and real gloves that are nothing like the kind I ever owned in Florida). Matt and Elle got all dolled up to scare runners and steal the participants’ flags while I sat in the warmth of the van taking photos and munching on Annie’s cheddar snack mix. Next year, I want to be a zombie, too!

Runner Vs Zombie Part II

Runner Vs Zombie

creeping around old buildings

Yes, even zombies get cold and need to wear hoodies and jackets.

Weekending

          • We almost adopted a bloodhound even though I worried she wouldn’t fit through the doggie door. She ended up being taken in by a search and rescue group that is going to train her to save people’s lives. I bet she’d even be willing to save the family that gave her up and left her at the pound. Dogs are cool that way.
          • Friday night I had a dream that the branches of our front yard tree were filled with tiny whimsical birdhouses. So, this weekend Elle and I started painting some and hanging them on a different tree. I’m finding this therapeutic.

birdhouse tree

          • I had another dream (or possibly the same dream?) that we adopted a giant schnauzer and named her Mo. She did fit through the doggie door.
          • There was a beautiful sunset in Choctaw while we were at Oktoberfest and a cold front moved in. There was also wind, rain, and lightning Friday night followed by sunshine, cooler temperatures that reminded me of Fall, and spending the next two days and nights with our windows open.
          • I did no schoolwork at all. Well, almost. I couldn’t help myself and had to proofread and edit one paper before submitting it a day early, but that was only so that I could enjoy the rest of the weekend without it lurking around me and stressing me out.
          • Matt got the VW Golf running again! I learned that the smoke coming from the undercarriage as the engine turned over for the first time in months was from the car burning off debris, not a prelude to an impending explosion.
          • My lavender outgrew the pot so I took advantage of the cooler weather and transplanted her into the front yard. I also found a couple more patches of dirt for the Indian blanket and black-eyed susans to go in. The good news is they’re not dead, they’re just ugly. Here’s to hoping being in real dirt might bring them back to their glory days.
          • All the spiced pumpkin biscuit prep work in the world won’t matter if your Greek yogurt has gone bad. It isn’t enough to take inventory of your pantry’s baking supplies. Smell the dairy ingredients, too. This is imperative.
          • Sunday morning breakfast was saved when, two hours later, I baked pumpkin muffins with cream cheese filling. (I really wanted biscuits or something more biscuit-y, but I just don’t have cups of chilled lard lying around. Do you? I must get my hands on some.)

pumpkin muffin with cream cheese filling

        • Sunday supper was ruined by my first-ever attempt at lasagna. I will proudly toot my own horn here and acknowledge that I cooked the ground beef perfectly (unsupervised, I might add!), but that was it. The whole mess reminded me of my mother’s goulash. I hate goulash.