Aug 25, 2010

A sad farewell...

Goodbye, dear Belle of the Blog! Farewell, sweet followers and avid readers! So long, bloggerverse... I'm leaving you for Twitter. Really, it's not you... It's me. And Twitter.

*weeping and gnashing of teeth!*

Wait... Is there even anybody out there?

Mom? CaliAgChick?? CaliAgChick's mom??? Aunt Jayne or Aunt Carolyn????

OK, the gig's up. I was going to announce my official resignation from blogging, but I'm pretty sure I've been absent for so long that nobody would gasp or be shocked or swoon or weep and gnash their grinners. It's far more likely I would get a "Frankly my dear, I just don't give a damn," after the way I've led you all on and treated you so poorly.

And let's be honest... I'm much too Scarlet-like to do anything that doesn't cause at least a little sensation. I refuse to let Belle of the Blog die quietly and be gone with the wind, so I'm here to woo you back, dear followers.

Back in reality... I did have to say a tearful goodbye this week.

CaliAgChick has left me. For her fiancé. I think he is the only one who is really happy about this arrangement. I'm sad, she's sad, her empty cubicle is sad:
Oh wait... Maybe it's just me and the cubicle. She's totally faking it! That dirty Reb couldn't wait to move South!
And OK, I'll admit it.... as sad as I am to lose such a fantastic roomie and Ohio friend, I'm happy she got to migrate back to the western side of the Mississippi and will finally get to be with Big T. 

Aren't I mature and selfless?

We diligently hauled all her stuff down the stairs and out the door last Friday night. It was about a bajillion degrees with 473% humidity and no sunshine that fine Ohio evening. A great reminder of why I was truly happy for her escape... for her sake. Although I think she will miss having a personal poperatzzi.
And so, with the little Tahoe packed with love and care, she shut the door and left me wondering; without my roomie/walking buddy/patio-partying friend, "What is there that matters?!"
 Then hope spreads across my face.... Stones! I'll go see Stones and I'll think of some way to get a roomie back!
He has already moved into his new digs in CaliAgChick's old room. Together, we'll think of something...some way to survive in Ohio without her. After all, tomorrow is another day

...well, and she'll be back to visit in a couple weeks. And I'll see her next week in California. I know, I know... always with the drama here...

Jul 19, 2010

Life speak 'n' sprinkles

I haven't left Wooster for nearly a month. Four weekends in a row, I've remained confined to Northeastern Ohio. Sure, there have been a few trips north to various malls and eating establishments, but for the most part, my travels have hit a dry spell.

My writing humor has hit a bit of a dry spell, too. It seems as though I've been doing some pretty serious life-speak thinking here lately. Lucky for you, I get to board an airplane this Friday and take a little trip. That means my razor-sharp whit and knee-slapping good humor should be back and in rare form in a jiffy. I think Hampton Inn pillows just have some sort of revitalizing aura about them. Sleeping on them instantly make me smarter, funnier and better looking. Fo sho.

Until then, you have a couple more days of philosophising, life-lesson-learning, meaning-of-the-world-contemplating Laura left before fun Laura gets back.

Therefore, let's talk about something I know we all spend a good deal of time pondering.


I love sprinkles. I love sugar-coat sprinkles. I love chocolate jimmy sprinkles. I love rainbow sprinkles and crystal sprinkles and round dessert sprinkles and cake sprinkles. But most of all, I love crunchy sprinkles.

At one time in my life, I thought crunchy sprinkles were the standard. I mean, if crunchy sprinkles were the kind of sprinkles Uncle Fred's pizza/movie rental/coffee shop/catering/computer-fix-it-man-inthebasement Place offered, surely everyone else outside of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming followed suit. Now, I also thought I was going to grow up to be the next Kristi Yamaguchi. My Olympic gold would be followed with a lucrative concert tour with Randy Travis. I had a pretty good grasp on reality at age six.

I was seven when my brother explained that I had to be able to actually skate on ice if I wanted to be a professional figure skater. I ordered crunchy sprinkles outside of my hometown at age nine and was told they didn't exist. I was 22 when Randy let Carrie Underwood sing "I Told You So" and I had to explain to him how detrimental that would be to our relationship. Three childhood dreams; all shattered.

Until this summer, when the Guerne Heights Drive In taught me to believe in miracles. Crunchy sprinkles do exist! They do exist! I don't care what the Cheyenne DairyQueen says, they DO exist outside of Pine Bluffs! Crunchy sprinkles live in Ohio, and they've been 2.7 miles out of my grasp this whole time!

This is what crunchy sprinkles look like:
It's a wonderfully perfect mixture of rainbow jimmies and these crunchy little morsels that taste like a combination of Captain Crunch and Rice Krispies bathed in awesome and coated like Nerds.
When the waitress (and everyone else in a 2.7 mile radius) heard me passionately explaining exactly how incredible the crunchy sprinkles were, she packed extra on the cone and then brought a dish full. My voice apparently carries in small rooms. She all but patted my little blond head and told me I only got the extra sprinkles if I finished my corn dog like a good little girl and didn't fuss any louder about the yummy little sprinkles.

Maybe I should have pretend to be offended by being treated like a full-grown baby child that needed pacified by sprinkles to behave in public, but I was eatin' this up.
Literally. I ate all the sprinkles off my 10% butterfat twist ice cream in about two seconds. Now, I have been known to buy tubs of rainbow jimmies and eat them as a snack by the spoonful, but I had bigger plans for this bowl of sprinkles.
Re-dip! No need to eat plain ice cream here, folks. There's enough crunchy sprinkles to cover every surface. You can just keep re-dipping and re-dipping and re-dipping. It is a fantastic experience.
Even when the ice cream is all but leveled and you don't think you need more sprinkles... you do. At that point, the cone has started to get soggy and you really just need to have more crunchy sprinkles to add texture to the flavor palate. Food critics talk about this all the time.
 Half re-dips are acceptable, too.
So are nub re-dips. At this point, it's like just dropping the last inch of a slobber-covered FunDip Dipping Stix into the sugar powder and then dumping the whole packet back into your mouth.

Stop pretending like you haven't done that.
 If you left any crumb of crunchy sprinkles behind, it's acceptable to scrape the bowl with your finger.
Also: the joy of sprinkles is meant to be shared, folks. Let your friends in on the fun!
And by share, I don't mean give away any of the sprinkles the nice waitress lady set in front of your own face. I mean make sure they get their own special dish that in no way reduces your personal sprinkle intake.

Boooooy howdy... now stick that little feather of wisdom in your hat and go out and kick this week's hiney!

Jul 17, 2010

One of life's great mysteries: solved

I hope I'm not the only one who has contemplated this burning life questions before... but seriously. Where does communion bread come from?

Is there a secret isle in the grocery store that us common repenting sinners don't know about? Is there a course dedicated to communion bread making in seminary school? Or is there a special store that sells communion bread and clergy robes and candles that never burn out hidden behind the parsonage? Is it just normal ol' white Wonder bread, torn into little pieces with a little added wonderment? I just don't know.

But now I do. Or, at least I know where one Wooster, Ohio church gets its supply. My kitchen.

A friend was overbooked and over-volunteered and needed some help. She heard I liked to cook, and asked if I could help out. I said yes. She asked, Have you ever made communion bread? Mystery. Solved.

There was a lot to be learned while cooking this little recipe, in the kitchen and from the Good Book.

It was really a simple recipe. Flour, salt, milk, sugar and Crisco. Can't go wrong there. Mix it all up, roll it flat. Then the complexities begin. Somebody actually does have to cut it into little bite-sized pieces; it is not an act of God. He's got bigger fish to fry.

There was a fun new kitchen tool added to my arsenal. Hi, pastry cutter/scooper/measurererer. A great addition to my drawer of tricks, despite its blue hue.
As the measurererer description indicated, this neat little tool not only elicits a stutter, it has a ruler to help communion-bread-makers cut near-perfectly square inch portions. Neat.

Measuring is important.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Yup, equal measurement is important in communion-bread-making and beyond.
My oven burns edges and leaves centers doughy. Terrible. It causes problems in my kitchen.
"Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight."  God's a problem solver. Thankfully, he gave me a brain to find solutions to these little issues while he figures out the life-direction-path-straightening thing.

While he works on that, I found a solution to the task at hand.

Separate all the edges, therefore also eliminating the not-so-perfect square inches. Win.
But then there is still the doughy center issue. Another problem, another solution. Spread all the square inches around the pan...
...and let them cook for another minute while the next batch's edges burn. Win.
This is where the scooping mechanism becomes essential. This utility was definitely worth its price differentiation.
It scooped all the good little breads into the Ziploc baggies that would take them to the church.
But what about the not-so-good pieces? Are they to be discarded? Nope -- waste not, want not, my friend.

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

This scripture clearly has much deeper implications than what was going on in my kitchen, but it is a reminder that even when hard work doesn't yield the results we wanted, it wasn't for nothin'.

In this situation, the results I didn't want still made good croutons. Yum.
Are my croutons and correlations blasphemy?

Naw. Just a reminder that until it's put into use and context, communion bread is just the result of another recipe for bread. The Good Book's mysteries make it just another good book until its lessons are utilized and experienced in all contexts, every day.

Former mystery solved; latter in progress daily. It's a little tougher case to crack, but I think it's sure worth trying.

Jul 12, 2010

Tweet, tweet tweet!

Big news, folks. You might want to sit down. Pencil out a couple minutes in your Outlook calendar to process this big news.

I joined Twitter this weekend! I'm a tweep. I live in twittersville. Tweet tweet, tweet tweet, tweet. Yes!

I've always thought Twitter sounded pretty obnoxious. I mean, too many people share too much information on their facebook status updates as it is -- there's no way I could handle a constant stream of so-and-so's insomnia or her broken heart for-the-tenth-time-this-month or his terrible grammar.

Then again, I also thought Chinese food was despicable until the fall of 2006. Turns out, grandma was right again. You just never know what you'll like until you try it. I tried Twitter. I like Twitter. I like Twitter a lot. There is such a wealth of information out there folks!

I did some research before jumping in, and the best advice I found was, "Twitter's not about you. It's about the conversation." Basically, avoid the kind of TMI play-by-plays that are annoying on facebook status updates. Instead, join a conversation. Engage people. Seek out new ideas. Share thoughts, not statements. Have fun with it. I am absolutely overwhelmed with interesting people with fascinating information to share.  

All that wisdom about not being so egocentric aside, I've been so focused on tweeting that I just don't have much in me for an interesting blog tonight. Double H Photography tagged me in a little survey today. Since I've been sending my new Tweeps to my blog, this seemed like a good opportunity for them to get to know me better.  So here it goes!

3 Names I go by:
1. Laura
2. Lauria... long story
3. LauraBelle
3 Places I've been:
1. Killarney, Ireland
2. Swansea, Wales
3. Budapest, Hungary
3 Favorite drinks:
1. Fuze Slenderize Cranberry-whatever-other-fruits-they-put-into-that-delicious-concoction
2. Coffee
3. Cattleprods
3 Job's I've had:
1. Industry Information Specialist, Certified Angus Beef LLC
2. Head of Cleaning Operations, LauraBelle's House Cleaning Co. (It was a pretty official business, you know)
3. Editor-in-Chief, Wingspan newspaper
3 TV shows I watch:
1. Dirty Jobs
2. The Sopranos
3. The Office
3 Places I would like to visit:
1. Charleston, South Carolina (Based on reading Charleston by John Jakes)
2. Prince Edward Island (Still in love with the Anne of Green Gables series)
3. Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (Winchesher, VA -- I was there, but didn't have time to go explore the museum. Must go back!)
3 Favorite retro TV shows:
1. The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross
2. Step By Step
3. I Love Lucy
3 Favorite Dishes:
1. Grandma's pecan sticky rolls
2. Aunt Carolyn's Cheesy Potatoes
3. CAB strip steak with avocado salad... well, really any steak with any side. This is just the most delicious meal I had a picture of.
3 Things I'm looking forward to:
1. Mid-year planning meeting at work this week
2. A trip home in August
3. Cuero TurkeyFest!
3 People I'm tagging:
1. Out Past the Pasture
2. Life Be Delicious
3. Caught in the Web

Oh, yes... and to find me on the oh-so-wonderful Twitter, I'm @LBelleoftheBlog. Tweet ya later, alligator!

Jul 10, 2010

Fifty Nifty and Grandma's lessons on gratitude

Aren't grandparents the most awesome people on earth? I know mine are. Leland and Irene Nelson have taught me most of life's great lessons and values, and created a family that surrounded me with the same ideals throughout my life. A couple weeks ago, grandma gave me another little tidbit to hold on to. 

I was chatting with grandma, telling her about work, my recent travels, life in Ohio... and that I was homesick and sad that I missed out on a recent family gathering. I found myself feeling envious of my friends and family close to home; they got to spend time together and enjoy all the things I took for granted when I was there. I didn't have to say any of that; I would be ashamed to tell grandma I was being such a baby.

She told me, "Laura, it sounds like you are doing great -- you are a lucky girl! How many people your age get to see all the great things you do? I would love it if you sent me some of the pictures you took so I could see some of the places you go. You know, most people never get to see those things."

Life lesson from grandma: gratitude. Be thankful for what you have; don't dwell on what you don't.

Now, you all know I love the big, open spaces of the Cornhusker State.      
And I love the scenery and the company of fellow Wyomingites.
But it takes a little lesson in gratitude to remember how lucky I am to get to learn about Angus bulls in Arkansas:

 ...or score free tickets to a Black Eyed Peas concert in Arizona (before I really even knew who they were):
Running along a California ocean shoreline at sunset was invigorating:
 A trip to the Colorado mountains with old friends is still worth treasuring:
 The rugged mountains of Idaho's high country... 
 ...the cityscape of Illinois...
...sun beams peeking out of the clouds after an Indiana rainstorm...
... and curious new calves on Iowa pastures were packed into my first year of gainful employment at a job I'm lucky to have and love:
 I clicked my red high heels and passed under more than one Kansas rainbow:
The green chips might not be what Kentucky is most famous for, but they represented great friends and another step in my career:
Louisiana 'gators...
 ...and a Montana hitchin' both packed a little bite (Spend a weekend in Miles City and you'll understand):
Nevada was thankful we were there to keep law and order; I was thankful these were the only badges we saw in Vegas:
 New York City never sleeps,
 ...but the state has a lot more to offer:
 There was a lot of giggling to be grateful for in North Dakota:
 And even squares can have a ball in Oklahoma:
My arteries were thankful to find this Pennsylvania butter molded into art instead of clogging the path to my heart:
Great historic figures in South Dakota,
  ... the Texas Alamo,
  ...and a sunset in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley made me stop and think about the beautiful, heroic and hard-fought histories of our country.
Last weekend, I was particularly thankful for... Ohio. Yes, Ohio.

We celebrated the independence of our great country with an abundance of food provided by American farmers and ranchers, plenty of fireworks to dazzle my little mind and a backyard full of great friends.
We all celebrated our country last weekend, but this little stroll down photographic memory lane was just what I needed to remind me it's worth being thankful for 365 days a year. Wyoming, Nebraska or Ohio: as long as it's within the borders of the good ol' US of A, I'll be grateful to have a home there.