Monday, June 18, 2018

Wigs - And Hayden's Noteworthy Bone Structure



For Dad's birthday last week I had my family over for supper and then surprised the Old Man with his favorite fellas. Though I had intended only for a celebratory drink or two, Erik's girlfriend (who is actually my friend and I strategically set them up and now they really like each other and if it all works out I'll never stop taking the credit for it,) well she knows the Unions well enough to know how we love wigs. She's a very creative and artsy gal, so naturally she has a great collection of wigs and hair peices from various costume parties and Halloween ensembles. She brought these over for the Big Guy's birthday and it made the whole celebration.

Just like last time, Hayden shocked us with his ability to pull off each and every hairstyle.
The best notion of this whole thing is how much the guys enjoyed having long hair. They admired themselves in the mirror, stroked their long blond locks, and swapped wigs over and over. I heard Erik say, "No wonder girls play dress up. Is this what it's like? This is so fun!"
The second best notion, was how hard Jenny laughed at Hayden. See her laughing the last photo? That was easily thirty minutes into the nonsense.














Monday, June 11, 2018

An Evening At Home

The poorly timed Union Home Renovation Project is in full swing. I say poorly timed because everyone is assuming that I'm making my folks fix up their house on account of my backyard wedding in the Fall. Every time I have a wedding vendor come over to scout out the place, I have to state for the record that my parents were doing this anyways. And even though I asked Dad to hold off until after the wedding, he ignored this request because he likes the thrill of the challenge to get it all done on time. Though I originally objected, I'm now a full fledged supporter of the work site as it all looks really wonderful and open and now I wish we had done this years ago.







Since there isn't anywhere to sit in the house, Mom and Dad ordered pizza for supper and carried it out to the end of the dock. This is the first we've been able to get out there since the last hurricane came through. It's still just as special as it was before. It just needs a little character.







But heres' the best little tidbit. Back in 2015 I wrote this post about Dad's plum tree. Go on, read it. Refresh yourself.
Because I noticed a little purple gem and told the Old Man he'd better come outside to look at something.





Thursday, May 31, 2018

This Month

This post is my month of May roundup recap. Despite being jam-packed full of things and places and weddings, it didn't feel so busy until about a week ago when I realized I'd love an excuse to sit down and read a book for a while. On the first day of this month, Ellen hired me to take headshots for the lawyers in the law firm she works for. They were updating their website for a "fresh new look" and since Ellen is in charge of administrative jobs, hiring, appointments, and picking up lunch, she hired her favorite mediocre photographer and then bossed all the lawyers around while we took pictures in a nearby park. I won't bore you with the photos except one of Ellen because she's the most photogenic person I know. I note this lawyer photo gobbet because I had a great time trying to pull smiles out of such serious people who did all eventually resort to a "school picture day" mentality and became giddy to be out of the office as well as a little nervous, standing in line for a photo. For big scary lawyer types, they seemed awfully human. I also loved watching Ellen. The little squirt had worked there just one month and at five feet, two inches tall, was bossing around local big-wigs as though they were small children. She's just my favorite.


Just a few days later, Lux n' U had a wedding out at my beloved Boone Hall so Brett and I scampered out to that local heaven where we (he) hung lanterns from the ceiling and filled that old cedar barn with potted succulents and sparkly candles.
Engineer by day. Wedding decor specialist by weekend.


But a few days later, I traveled up to northern Virginia with the Eisenhauer family to attend a wedding in a barn in the middle of nowhere. I was cleverly referring to ole northern Virginia as 'NOVA' because it makes a lot of sense as a nickname. I couldn't believe no one had thought of this before and it only reassured me about my creative genius. 
Turns out locals call the place Nova.
Anyways, the Eisenhauer family has their version of The Honbarriers and their names are The Ramsey's. The Nova wedding was for the middle Ramsey child so we barreled up the road and hopped off the highway in the most beautiful place. Though I do feel our location was dangerously close to Yankee territory, Brett and I agreed that if we ever move, it will be to the great state of Virginia. 
The wedding was a long catholic dance in a church whose glulam beams distracted Brett for a large portion of the ceremony. "That's glulam." he whispered to me, pointing at the ceiling. I have since learned that glulam (that's glued laminated timber) is, pound for pound, stronger than steel.
The reception was in a great old barn that also sported some impressive timber beams, however these were impressive for their age and size and Brett wasn't certain we should be dancing underneath them. We ate and drank and danced and laughed. T'was a great time indeed. The best part of the weekend was having Brett's brother around. I get a big kick out of Jeff. He is difficult to read because his sarcasm runs deep so you often aren't sure whether to laugh or express your condolences. This was the fist time I've hung out with Jeff without any toddlers around, making him much more present than usual and therefore even more Jeffy.

Brett and Jeff stop for mid-wedding ice cream.

This is Mama Ramsey. She's a tiny, classy woman with a secret devilish sense of humor.
-Second mama to Bubba Brett since he was a wee little guy.

Now I will whisk you back to balmy James Island where I made up for missing Mothers Day by throwing Mom a private tea party, complete with a cheese board and homemade scones. Unbeknownst to me, the royal wedding was the following weekend so I had to visit four different grocery stores to find lemon curd (Mom's favorite) to glob atop her scones. When I asked why they were sold out, a store clerk said, "That ole, uh, that royal wedding is this weekend so everyone's pretending they're involved. Buying up British foods and tea."
Suddenly I felt all too trendy and I assured her that my mother loves lemon curd year-round, not just for British occasions. 
While we're talking about Mom, I'm delighted to tell you that she ran into my mailbox with a U-haul. This is wonderful to me because she wiped out her own mailbox with a boat trailer a few years ago during a Honbon visit and causally informed us about it over dinner. I very much enjoy the notion that mailboxes should shudder in their foundations should NannyU get behind the wheel of anything larger than an SUV.


Then we moved to a week of paperwork, monthly taxes, gallery requests, follow-up emails, and a nasty cold I picked up in NOVA. Admittedly I slugged around and watched a movie in the middle of the day once because I really felt crummy. Since I was up, I did watch part of that Royal Wedding and thought it and she was lovely and that Mama Markle has the prettiest, sweetest face I've ever seen. In honor of missing Mother's Day on his side, we went on a classic Charleston carriage ride with Mama Eise and I found myself with a snobbish attitude about it because our tour guide, Mike, was from California and since Charleston is my home, I doubted he could impress me. 
You don't know this place. You think you love it like I do?
I was being a real jerk about it (in my mind) and sat back waiting to confirm or deny the fun facts thrown our way (in my mind.) (A true southerner would never express her negative opinions to strangers.) (Shows what you know. Mike.) 
I don't know where my elitist attitude came from but I wound up loving the tour, learning a lot, and was charmed by Mike in under two minutes. What a great sense of humor! I have since read a little Charleston history on my own time, for fun, because I wanted to. Isn't that strange? I'm enjoying ... learning. Don't tell Dad.

Sprinkled throughout this month I've had lots of get-togethers at my house. This delights me because I'm proud of and excited about my home but even more so because I've wanted my house to feel like a place people can come to anytime. I rarely had people over to the condo. There was no space, parking was weird, I couldn't be in the kitchen and talk to people at the same time. So it was always very tidy and quiet and I remember one day just standing in my living room wishing there were pairs of shoes scattered around or a baseball cap that someone left behind. I wished it was really lived in. 
My new home has already sported three dinner parties, four wine and cheese nights, at least a dozen dinners on the porch, and one fiesta birthday party with a candy-filled piñata hung from an oak tree out back.


I've loved every second of having people in my home. For now, I love the pile of dishes in the sink and napkins scattered around after everyone goes home. I love seeing my sofa in disarray and finding people's nicknacks and hats when I tidy up the next day. I know the dishes and mess won't excite me forever but right now, it makes me feel warm and loved. I like using my kitchen and feeding people. The best part though, are the shoes. My friends kick their shoes off and curl their feet up into my sofa. They skip across my dirty floors barefoot or in socks and help themselves to whatever I have in the pantry.
On fiesta night, I came in from outside and found Erik in the kitchen with crackers, beef jerky, cookie butter, and trail mix out on the counter. He was building his own snack platter because he was still hungry post-supper. 
"Help yourself." I said sarcastically, secretly loving every bit of it. We were celebrating Jenny's birthday. I haven't really introduced you to Jenny yet. She's Hayden's girlfriend. They've been going strong since November or so and I love her so much that I'll just never forgive Hayden if he blows it. Jenny is sweet and classy and lovely and one of the first things she ever told me is that she loves a fiesta. Brett and I set up a tiny surprise fiesta birthday party for her this past weekend and as it turns out, it was her first ever piñata experience. 
"What!" We were all shocked. "You've made it into your thirties and never done a piñata?" 
We blindfolded her, spun her around, and sent her out into the night with a broomstick and a mission.

My little heart is so full.



Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Thelma and Louise

When I moved into my new digs two months ago, I acquired many new things. Despite the mess and clutter and lacking storage options in the new house, my parents took the time to bring over all remaining "Laura items" from my childhood bedroom. This consisted mostly of books and stuffed animals and a few things of Dad's that he just didn't want anymore. I found this all very annoying and even though I piped up about it, they kept bringing crap over.
"Would y'all mind waiting just a couple weeks while I get organized?" I asked polity as they unloaded their cars. I've never been so blatantly ignored in my life. Brett also started bringing things over. Except these things are his belongings and he's been trying to sneak them into the house without me noticing. This is foolish on many accounts but mostly because I notice everything, dern it, and there are few inconspicuous way to hide a basketball in someone's bookshelf. Every week I find more "Brett things". Shoes stuffed under my bed, cookbooks added to my collection. This weekend I found a fancy juicer out in the garage.

But this post is about the biggest thing brought into my home that I do not own or take responsibility for. Her name is Grace and she moved in about a month ago and has yet to unpack her things or help around the house. I'll admit I had a hand in accepting Grace as the fourth woman of my home. I have this big yard you see, and Grace has spent all five years of her doggy life living in apartments and yard-less dwellings where she curls up on the sofa for eight hours each day while Papa Brett is off at work. Grace really loves the yard. She will stay out there all day, rain or shine, and I have to grab her by the collar to get her to come in for supper at the end of the day. She makes a full day for herself out in the yard, rotating her activities so that no one job wears out too quickly. She barks, digs, runs, looks up into trees, harasses a big lizard that lives under a woodpile that she can't quite get to, but most of all things, she sits silently and takes in the scene. Most times when I look out the window, she's gazing up at the sky or across the open space that is her backyard. Upon seeing how much she enjoyed being here, I would feel guilty anytime I thought about her sitting alone inside at Brett's house. So I started to go over there in the morning after all the guys had left for work and I'd fish the spare key out from it's hiding place and then I'd kidnap Grace for the day. Soon Grace started having sleepovers and about a month ago, Brett stopped taking her home all together.

This is of no real consequence to me. Grace is a good and mostly quiet dog and while Pippa runs in and out of the house all day, Grace is off alone in a corner somewhere, thinking big thoughts. So I let the girls out in the morning and I go about my routine. While they romp around sniffing and searching to find out what went on out here last night, I'm typically typing away at my computer. Occasionally I'll hear a gleeful bark or a sisterly skirmish and that's how I know all is well out there.
One morning the barking was particularly annoying. Usually I'll stick my head outside and yell at them and on this day I decided to ignore them, wondering if they barked just to get a rise out of me. An hour later when I finished my emails, I noticed that I hadn't heard any barking in quite some time. I was pleased that my ignorance plan worked and decided I should go outside and love on the pups. I stepped outside and they came as soon as I called them. I was proud of my good girls. I took but a few steps into the backyard when I noticed a police officer and a large truck in my driveway. The cop was fiddling with the gate latch and I got an immediate icky feeling. I slowly walked towards the driveway and the officer greeted in me in a tone that people use before they give you bad news. My mind went many places and I figured it must be really bad if my own family members hadn't called to tell me. Did all three of them implode? Am I an orphan?

"Are these your dogs?" he asked. Huh? Is this guy making small-talk before he takes the color out of my world?
"Yes."
"What are their names?" Oh my gosh. They're dead. My parents are dead and Ellen's been kidnapped. She's so small. Anyone could scoop her up. 
"This is Pippa and that's Grace." I couldn't bring myself to politely smile and tell anecdotes about each one. I was processing my new reality.
"Well, I'm sorry to tell you, but they've been running in and out of this main road here and barking at people."
"These dogs?" I was very skeptical. They've been in the yard this whole time. I heard them barking up until about a half an hour....
"Yes Ma'am. We've been chasing them for about twenty minutes. We received multiple phones calls from people driving down the road. Your neighbors have been trying to catch them but they won't come up to anyone. The girl here," he said pointing to Grace, "she ate a little pork loin someone used to lure her out of the road but she ran off when we tried to grab her. They don't like strangers do they?"
I was so surprised by this news but also very amused. It really strikes you as funny to imagine that you're Mr. Magoo and the building is on fire behind you but you're still obliviously tapping away at your keyboard. His descriptions of the "suspects" is how I knew he was telling the truth. Pippa is so skittish she doesn't come up to anyone new and he said there was no hope in catching her. Grace is curious and friendly so I could perfectly imagine her snagging a piece of pork loin and then turning on her new friendship and darting away. I was feeling too guilty about the commotion to laugh so I only expressed my concern for how they got out and that multiple officers and neighbors were chasing my dogs around.
"We couldn't catch them to read their tags. They're both fast."
"Yes. They're suspicious dogs but they're both sweet girls if you call them by name."
"That one's a girl?" he said pointing at Pippa.
"Adopted sisters." I said. I told him to call Grace over and as soon as he did, her suspicion faded, her tail swooshed from side to side, and Grace sauntered over to the officer for love time. He threw his hands up in the air.
"That's so easy. All this time chasing her and I just needed to call her name."
"I'm really sorry about the trouble." I said, and then he told me to be more diligent because I live on a busy road. What? I live on a busy road? Thank you for that observation detective. He told me they were moments from calling the dog-catchers and sending them to Pup-Jail when my neighbor, David, lured them into my yard just moments before I'd stepped outside, calling for my sweet girls.



Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Price of Good Coffee


One Saturday, not too long ago, Brett came over for breakfast. We like breakfast. It's our favorite meal to eat out and I'd argue that our best and most path-altering conversations took place over coffee and cheese grits at any of the dozen cafes we frequent. In the early stages of our relationship, I used to get up at 6:00am and drive to Mt. Pleasant just to see and have breakfast with him before he went into the office that day. I'm actually surprised how long this went on - still goes on really. A notion about Brett that I appreciate is his preference of quality over quantity. While I pride myself on penny-pinching, sensible financial decisions, and forgoing what I really want in favor of saving some money, Brett has eased me into the concept of buying a nice thing once and not having to replace it the next year. This change can be noted most prominently in the area of "footwear" as I now have less pairs of shoes with holes in them and have been purchasing shoes made of materials other than canvas and "leather" you can flick off with your fingernail. And while I initially object to spending a little more, I am pleased every time I look down at my shoes and see that they still look nice months later. Most things I adorn my body with have about a two week shelf-life.

I digress. What I'm getting at here is coffee. Good coffee. Well made, properly doctored up, hot, day-changing coffee. Before I met Brett I could slurp down your run-of-the-mill, burnt office kitchen coffee and be delighted. I also loved syrupy creamers and an extra packet of sugar. I thought that was the good life. Brett is a bit of a coffee snob and he is complacent in his snobbery. I didn't like this at first. I associate coffee snobs with wine connoisseurs and I associate those people with tight turtle-necks and pinched faces. I'll cut to it and tell you that Brett has morphed me into a refined Southern coffee lady and while I will happily partake in the weak, watery brew served over at the Union household, I am aware of and longing for coffee of a higher caliber.
After many trials and experiments, EisenEars came to the conclusion that pour-over coffee tickles his fancy most. About a year ago I insisted he buy his own mechanisms for which to make his favorited coffee at home instead of spending a few dollars on coffee every morning. That's my financial savvy mixing with his quality purchases. What a great team! And so he did, and he takes a solid half-hour to make coffee and sometimes I'll go out and buy a cup of joe while I wait for his sluggish brew to finishing trickling. But I'll tell ya, it's a dern good cup of coffee.

So there we were. Saturday morning. I'm frying bacon while Brett unloads his coffee contraption from his car. Grinder? Check. Beans? Check. Filters? Check. Trickle-draining system? Huh? He forgot the most important piece of the puzzle. He has these fake mugs that you put on top of your real mug and the fake mugs have holes in the bottom where the coffee drains through the filter that you jammed into that fake mug at the beginning of the whole process. Does that all make sense? It really doesn't matter. The point is, he had no way to strain the water from the beans. Since I fancy myself an innovative-Chis Union style-problem solver, I had many a solution to this conundrum. I simply placed a coffee filter in a strainer and though I had to hold the filter upright with one singed finger, I had a hot cup of coffee in no time. Engineer Eisenhauer imagined a more efficient draining system that didn't burn your hands. I foresaw any other draining methods to be overly complicated but after a few gentle attempts to thwart his schemes, I saw that stubbornness had set in and he just needed to do this.
So I went back to my bacon frying and left him behind me, rigging up a mousetrap for his coffee to run through. There was lots of grunting and clanging going on behind me. I noticed that my handy strainer was not being used and I shook my head knowingly. Suddenly he asked me for a rubber band, "Quick!" he said and I scampered off to find one. I arrived at the sink, rubber band in hand, to see that he had employed three mugs, two salad plates, and a serving spoon to the task of making coffee. I didn't say anything. I could tell Brett was mad. I went back to my bacon.
"I need something to strain with." he said. The typically musical sound to his speech was not there. Definitely mad. I offered him some cheesecloth from a brief phase of making my own labneh and he politely took it and turned back around to his contraption. I quietly dropped bread in the toaster, wondering if the coffee would stain his whole day. Brett has a pretty long fuse and typically won't let something ruin his day. He's wonderfully optimistic and cheerful and I love this about him, but with that there, it means he makes up for lost time when he does finally become incensed. The same has been said about me so I can sympathize with frustration induced rage. I heard a wet thud smack the inside of the sink and Brett let out a snarl. I peeked over his shoulder and saw coffee grounds everywhere. A trail of coffee drips led from one end of the counter, though the sink, and out the other side. A colander had appeared from somewhere and I could tell by the way he handled his torn coffee filter that the water was no longer hot.

"Breakfast is ready." I said gently, eyes wide, teeth clenched. He put down a spatula and a teapot and we ate in relative silence. Out of solidarity, I did not drink my now luke-warm coffee with my breakfast. It sat on the counter between us, a reminder of the fight he was having with kitchenware.
As I cleaned up the breakfast mess, Brett consolidated the trace amounts of pure coffee from the three mugs into one and he threw his head back and chugged a half cup of cold, un-doctored coffee in three large gulps and then let out a manly cry as he plunked the mug down into the sink.
"Done. It's done." he said and he promptly loaded his experiment into the dishwasher, wiped down the counters, and decided to be happy again. We did not speak of the coffee that day. Brett wandered out into the yard to bag leaves and gather materials for tiling the backsplash in the kitchen. I had a wedding later that afternoon and ran errands around town to prepare for the day. On my way home, I stopped by our favorite coffee shop and purchased a large, piping hot cup of coffee and left it in the garage for Brett to find.

Maybe we lost money on this one.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Merlefest



Unbeknownst to her, Laurie Hon has done it again. Laurie has a very pleasant ability to open people up to new things without making them grumble with indifference. Most readily one will notice this trend in the form of sharing music. She likes to find and share good tunes but it doesn’t stop there. Recipes, quick fixes, and even herbal remedies all run across her mental switchboard for trial, review, and then possible circulation. Though he’ll deny it to death, she once convinced Dad to coat his feet in a lavender cream under the promise of a better night's sleep. Laurie gives new things a try with gusto and I find that admirable and fun and sometimes unexpected from someone I know to be more conservative. Ain’t no one around who couldn’t learn a thing or two from Laurie Hon. 

In this instance, she took the lot of us to Merlefest, a festival of bluegrassy musical acts scattered around a college campus with food and shops to supplement downtime between concerts. Laurie has promoted Merlefest to us for years, describing the event with the enthusiasm of a small child in the midst of a Disneyworld experience. We’ve cackled and delighted in her and Don’s slow but steady drift into hippiedom. They do lots of beatnik, bohemian things but they do it so inconspicuously that you aren’t sure just how far gone they might be.


So Mom, Dad, Brett, and I loaded up and set out to Wilksboro NC where we met the Hons and Will and Katie in that big log house we stayed in once before. I was excited for the Hons to get to spend some time with Brett. Don and Laurie met him briefly years ago but we never got to get much past pleasantries. 
I won't bore you with an hour by hour recap. Instead I'll give you facts and tidbits. 
Merlefest is a place you can go, lookin-a-fool, and no one will bat an eye. There are all kinds of people oozing around which makes for sensational people watching. Don spent much of his time taking pictures of humans in various stages of existence. We learned from Laurie that the trick to Merlefest is to get there early to "set up camp" for the day in a good spot near the main stage and then you're free to scamper around to hear all of the other shows taking place anywhere else. There are always a handful of shows playing at once so you're never at a loss for new tunes. The Hons came with folding chairs, tarps, snacks, cushions, blankets, coats, cameras, and Laurie's extremely endearing, printed and sleeved, spreadsheets of the concert schedules at every stage for each day.

Merlefest takes place over four days but the Union's only attended Friday and Saturday. As a fan of twang and the hippie/hillbilly lifestyle I knew that I'd be happy at Merlefest. I also knew that Brett would be happy there because he loves music and relaxing and snacking on things. I worried about Mom and Dad. Mom doesn't go for folk music and Dad doesn't go for sitting still. It's the worst of both worlds. I knew they would politely attend that first day. Sure, they'll try something new, especially if the Hons will be there. I was certain they'd opt out of Saturdays' viewing schedule. But that's where Laurie Hon did it again because my folks came back a second day and genuinely enjoyed themselves. She got my folks to do something new. That makes me real proud. Mom felt so comfortable in this new world of carelessness that she laid down for a nap in a grassy field all by herself. This sight had a few of us in stitches.


Here at Merlefest we listened to lots of good tunes, we stomped our feet, had mid-day ice cream, and learned a lot about lots of new bands. The most amusing part of the whole thing was keeping up with Laurie. She blasts out of one concert and hoofs it over to another. She maps out her days, creating a productive timeline of events that hits all of the highlights while still giving her a chance to hear someone new. This is no small feat and if she feels an act is not up to par, well she'll leave your show in an instant and go find the runner up for that time slot. I enjoyed watching her blow past our campsite, backpack, snack, and laminated schedule in hand. She looked so happy. In stark contrast to Laurie, Mr. Chris Union mostly held down the fort at home base, tapping his feet to whoever played on the main stage and taking a few naps in the sun. 




Over to the Brett-Honbarrier love story. I was excited to have my two giddy worlds collide. I watched and listened and eavesdropped in hopes of hearing everyone's true thoughts on everyone. Right away Don said something sassy to Brett and I braced myself. I had forgotten to tell Brett about Big Don Hon. I worried Brett wouldn't know when Don was kidding. Sometimes I don't even know when Don is kidding. I smiled nervously at both of them while Brett processed Don's obtuse remarks. But all was for naught because Brett found Don amusing in a scary kind of way and they had a humorous  exchange about clementines that carried on throughout our short weekend. Brett was perfectly at ease around the family and pulled a few hearty laughs out of my favorite people.





Brett and I spent a lot of time asking Will and Katie about life. We asked them all kinds of personal questions, inquired about finances, and kept them up until 3:00 am while we talked about ourselves. They were very gracious and inspiring about it all and will certainly regret it when Brett and I start calling them to answer life questions. 





I loved our Merlefest visit but I really really loved the company.
In case you're wondering, only one game of Shanghai was played and only by the adults. This was a 'minimal downtime' kind of gathering so there also wasn't too much time for stow-rie telling. I did come home feeling a deficit in this area. I wish we weren't all so dern busy so that we could all get together way more often for way more stories and games. Nevertheless, there are lots of little gems to find during a getaway weekend with friends. One time, when no one was around, Dad and Will shared a silent but mutual Man Hug for no good reason.  Laurie took an Ambien and giggled her way to bed. Don threw clementines at Brett. It's the little things.
"Makes my heart soar like a hawk."

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