Friendship + Apples + Almost Famous = Love

I had a test yesterday, but it was hard to concentrate because all I could think about was getting home so that I could make pie.

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After submitting my last answer, I got in the car and flew to the grocery store, where they rewarded me with a free flower and a smile. Hooray for Valentine’s Day!

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Trip doesn’t understand yet that flowers are not to be eaten.

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Dan and I have a bit of a running joke in our house, where if I ever express uncertainty as to what to make, or claim that I am bored during the day, he tells me to make an apple pie for him. No matter what day it is or what occasion might be coming up, you can be sure that Dan wants apple pie. What better day than Valentine’s Day to finally indulge him and make him up a pie? Betty helped out.

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Also, what better day than to hang out with your totally awesome friend Bailee, who will take awesome action shots of the whole pie-making process? None.

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Action!

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(Oh, Bailee, please forgive me for posting this picture, but you cannot possibly understand how much I love it.)

Not only did we make pie, but we also completely embraced our Palentine’s Day, watching Attack the Block, my new favorite British sci-fi action movie (not a packed genre, I know), eating carrots and hummus in an attempt to be healthy before the rest of the day’s festivities, and laughing more than seems healthy at my failed attempts at crust.

Yep, you read that right. There was some spectacular crust failure going on, either from too warm temperatures or too much shortening. Knowing me, probably both. The poor crust was somehow both sticky and crumbly, and just would not get off the countertop and into a pie plate without me losing my mind. Solution?

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Hearts! We broke out the cookie cutters and got to improvising. My original idea was for them to turn out something like this, but we all know that Pinterest can be a real danger zone when it comes to overestimating your own abilities. That said, I think that things looked pretty cute once we got rolling.

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Cute!

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We attracted some attention.

If you noticed earlier, there were two apple pies on my counter. One of these was going to one of Dan’s coworkers, a super nice man named Mike who unfortunately lost his wife this past fall. We wanted to brighten his day by including him in our baked goods rotation for Valentine’s Day, but I wasn’t too sure about the hearts. Solution #2?

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Stars!

Can you tell that Bailee is ridiculously taller than me? It makes these shots that I normally have to stand on a chair to get seem super simple. Anyone else think that she should come and do blog photos all the time? Me too.

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Super messy doughy countertop.

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But look at those pies! Everything got a light eggwash and a sprinkling of sugar before going into the oven.

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The shapes kind of…melted into the apples a bit, so they lost their definition, but I still think that they came out really festive.

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And then you don’t need to say that love is the secret ingredient, because it’s right there on the top, in full view. Love in sugary buttered form.

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I’m sure that no one will be shocked to hear that Dan and I each ate a piece of it before going out for Valentine’s Day dinner.

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It just seemed like the right thing to do.  Even with all the crust failure, it still tasted amazing.  Warm and cinnamon-y and perfect.

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Gifts were exchanged. I got Dan the adorable Zombie in Love, illustrated by one of Dan’s favorite artists, Scott Campbell. He got me one of the original double-sided placards from when Almost Famous came out in theaters.

This is more than just a poster, really. I don’t believe that I have ever told this story before on the blog, so let me tell you about the day that Dan and I met. In 2006, I used to play D&D with a couple of people that Dan lived with. One day, we decided to go over to their house to play a minifigure-type game, and Dan was there, getting ready to watch a movie. He put in Almost Famous, which I had also never seen, and I asked if I could watch it with him. He said that would be great and asked me if I wanted a drink. For the next two hours, he kept asking me questions about the movie and the music, so much that I originally thought that he wasn’t really paying much attention to the movie for some reason. He later told me that he was doing this intentionally to get me to talk to him.

Cue the “awwww.”

About a week later, he showed up at a piano bar when my friends and I went out, and we spent our time together making origami napkin animals and flowers at the end of the table. We started dating a week later and have been inseparable ever since. Ever since that night, Almost Famous has been our movie. We even plan to name our first child (if FutureBaby ever becomes a reality) William, because William Miller is the name of the main character. Yes, we are dorks. But it means a lot. Hearing that Philip Seymour Hoffman died a few weeks ago really hit me where it hurts because he is responsible for one of the most wonderful moments in that movie. In movies period, really.

Sigh. I’m getting sad about it again just writing about it. Let’s look at a picture of a tiny owl instead.

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He also got me a tiny owl. It’s pretty great.

After the pie, we got ourselves all fancied up…

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…and went to one of my favorite places.

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Tujague’s is a New Orleans institution. It’s super old, and super dedicated to doing things the way they’ve always done them. An oak bar that’s over a hundred years old with cloudy glass, cracked terrazzo tile, white tablecloths, and prix fixe. It’s one of my favorite places.

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Then there was a lovely walk in the French Quarter, just to round out the evening. There would have been coffee at Café du Monde, if we felt as though there was any more rooms in our stomachs, thanks to crawfish gnocchi, corn and crab chowder, amazing steak and shrimp, and caramel cheesecake. And the apple pie we ate before we left, of course.

But, hey! It was Valentine’s Day! We’re allowed to be ridiculous and share our love of food along with our love of each other, right?

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Thanks so much to Bailee for her awesome pictures and fabulous company on this very lovely of Pal/Valentine’s days! I hope that all of you had a wonderful time yourselves and got to spend some quality time with the people and things that you love, like I did.

Oh, and I love you guys, too. Don’t forget that.

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Early Birthday Musings, with bonus further Owl Updates! (In short, David Sedaris is the goddamn man.)

“It is sad because you would like to believe that everyone is unique and then they disappoint you every time by being exactly the same, asking for the same things, reciting the exact same lines as though they have been handed a script…All of us take pride and pleasure in the fact that we are unique, but I’m afraid that when all is said and done the police are right: it all comes down to fingerprints.”

– David Sedaris, from “The Santaland Diaries,” Holidays on Ice


I turn 31 tomorrow. 31 isn’t really an exciting age to turn, unless you’re like me and constantly think about ice cream and realize that 31 is the Baskin & Robbins flavor number.

In my 30th year, my main challenge has been facing the task of my first year of nursing school, balancing work and school and clinicals and attempting to uphold the sanity of the boyfriend, friends, coworkers, and cats surrounding me. And I’m pretty sure that even though I may have developed some deep-seated anger problems during the process, I kicked some major ass. Like all up and down the street.

We kept ourselves safe during a crazy hurricane and ate a ridiculous amount of Swedish Fish. I baked countless cakes and pies, learned how to make ice cream, and held my own during numerous Scrabble games. I wrote thousands of words about Jean Watson’s caring theory, spontaneous pneumothorax, and necrotizing fasciitis. I wore all white all day for several days, tempting the gods to make me spill coffee all over myself. We rode our bikes all over the goddamn place until they got stolen out of our backyard. (I know, right? Bunch of savages in this town.) I dressed up like Moaning Myrtle, a Storm Trooper groupie, and a girly teenage vampire with pink hair, all for the sake of the little children.

For once the universe was listening, and it granted me some birthday gifts a little early.

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Dan and I got to go camping at the beach for a weekend, and even though Florida was actively trying to murder us with its heat, aggressive sunlight, thrashing surf, and angry mosquitoes, we had a fantastic time.

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St. George Island State Park made us feel like we were on our own abandoned desert island, which was a welcome respite from my usual overly-stimulated-but-still-yet-somehow-phenomenally-humdrum life. There was tons of sand, lots of playing with glow sticks in the pitch-blackness outside of our tent, and the eventual triumph of primitive camping skills when we finally had ourselves a fire to make s’mores. My first ever fireside-camping-type s’mores. Hooray!

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It was freaking great, totally worth our souvenirs of strategically-placed uncomfortable sunburns and mosquito bites.

Shortly before leaving on this weekend adventure, another early birthday present made its way to my mailbox.

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Oh yes, my friends. It is what you think it is.

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And it is hilarious and adorable, everything it needed to be. As I opened the mailbox and saw that owl looking up at me, I executed a spontaneous happy dance on the curb outside my house (accompanied by involuntary squealing), and basically skipped back into the house to show Dan that David Sedaris kept his promise.

That is such a crazy sentence that I never thought I’d be able to think, much less write down, in this lifetime. David Sedaris kept his promise to me.

A famous grown man living in this world picked out the perfect postcard (although I think my owl was slightly cuter, yes?), put pen to cardstock to deliver a real sentiment, and then put a stamp on it and stuck it in a mailbox. This is something that, myself included, has suddenly become very hard for us as humans to do in our current world, for no really good reason that I can surmise. Mr. Sedaris proved himself wrong (from his quote up there, obviously) by showing himself to be a refreshing change from the flaky, ridiculous, empty-promise people that we have all become. He is unique now in his sincerity. What a refreshing change.

People will probably think that I am reading much, much too far into this, but I don’t care one bit. I am inspired. I am going to take this 31st year and use it to hang out with friends. To make more presents for people. To work on my own sincerity. To make my word mean something. To not let the conflicts of school and work and the need for sleeping turn me into an angry person. To calm down and face the world with grace.

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To just be better.

Here’s hoping.

Owl Updates

Yesterday, I went to the far-off distant land of Baton Rouge with some awesome work buddies to deliver a tiny stuffed animal to one of my favorite people. Does anyone need a reminder?

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Monsieur Bricolage made the trip along with us three booksellers, a boatload of cookies, and my mounting nervous energy to meet David Sedaris and hear him be incredibly funny in front of a whole bunch of people.

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And to be incredibly sweet and sincere in front of my friend Bailee and I. When I declared that I had made something for him and pulled out the owl-in-question, David Sedaris proclaimed him adorable and also laid down some suitable compliments in French. He wanted to know about how he was made, he asked us about our days, and he gave us stickers. (And that cute little bit of wordplay up there? “I can’t con-seal my affection for you.” Goddamn it, that’s so freaking cute I can’t stand it.)

Perhaps the most startling bit of delight occurred when David Sedaris then asked me for my address so that he could send me a thank you note.

Let me say that one more time. The greatest humorist of modern times wanted my address in order to send me a thank you note.

Cue the massive rush of happiness mixed with anxiety mixed with 18,000 other conflicting emotions that short-circuited me so hard that I just froze and lost my damn mind for a second.

I did eventually pick up a pen after what was approximately 1/24th of a second of utter electrical insanity in my brain. My hand was shaking so furiously that I had to concentrate on not turning out a serial-killer-type of scrawl that would have negated all of the goodwill that we built up in the previous five minutes. Mission accomplished.

He later did his reading and was just as dry and hilarious as I knew he would be. The entire experience left me utterly charmed. I know it’s a sad state of affairs when it’s refreshing to experience real moments with people who are truly sincere, but I am owning my plethora of elevated feelings here. It was completely awesome, in the strictest, most official meaning of the word. There was actual awe involved.

And stickers, too! Which make everything even better.

Mr. Sedaris, I Made You an Owl

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David Sedaris might be the funniest man alive. Anyone who’s ever heard him read aloud one of his stories would definitely not argue with me on this point.

I’m fairly certain that the first experience I ever had with David Sedaris’s writing came when, before embarking on a study-abroad-type of activity, my fellow students and I sat down and listened to one of his This American Life pieces about foreign travel. (I can’t for the life of me remember which piece this was or find it now on the great wide interwebs, but this one is similar in tone and eight kinds of awesome, so you should listen to it.) I then worked my way through his entire catalogue, at the time, and haven’t stopped since.

He’s coming to a book signing in Baton Rouge next week, and this will be the first time that I’ve ever been able to actually go and see him live. In the 10 years since I began loving his work, there has always been something that prevented me from being able to see his readings, whether it be distance, money, or work restrictions. However, now that I’m going to see him soon, I’m having real trouble keeping myself from having inappropriate giddy spaz-out moments of fan girldom.

It’s weird.

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It’s a strange moment when you let other people in on how excited something makes you. When you trust your friends to understand that a fifty-something essayist can bring out feelings in you that make you want to knit an owl, it’s an important moment in your grown-up life.

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David Sedaris’s new book is called Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, and in one of the new essays, “Understanding Understanding Owls,” he details his experiences in attempting to purchase a taxidermied owl as the greatest Valentine’s Day present ever.

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What do you give a man like that in order to show him how much he has touched your life with his humor and weirdness? A tiny, fat, stuffed owl, obviously.

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The pattern is the completely adorable Little Black Owl from Kat Lewinski. This turns out a delightfully chubby owllette who is just begging to be handed to a New York Times bestselling author.  One who will hopefully not conclude that you are a crazy person for knitting and giving him an owl.

The only think left to do is to give this little round ball of cute a name, I think. I’m attempting to think of something abstract and in French (and those of you who are in the know are giggling a bit, I’m sure). Right now, Dan and I are debating between Monsieur Bricolage (translating to DIY or home improvement) or Monsieur Débroussaillage (a clearing of the undergrowth).

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I’m leaning towards Bricolage.