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The Sweetest Thing Thursday, January 31, 2008

Posted by Grace in eating crackers in bed.
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I was sitting in the science library, with my organic chemistry lab partner, attempting to figure out a particularly difficult problem via teamwork. It wasn’t going very well, despite the fact that he and I tend to be a rather formidable team when up against the most heinous of organic questions.

My cell phone started to ring. I rushed, digging through my purse to stop the ringing, but still received a couple of glares from surrounding students in the moment it took. I told my lab partner that I would be back in a moment, and made for the exit.

It was Fearless. He asked, Hey, where are you?

I’m at University, like I always am on Thursdays at this time of day…. aren’t you at your school? (He goes to a different University).

I know you’re here, but where here?

Um, outside the entrance to the Science Library? Why?

Okay, I’ll be there in a minute. And then he hung up.

I waited outside. What else could I do? I was wondering what he was up to, because he was supposed to be in classes at his University, and we hadn’t planned anything.

When Fearless arrived, quite soon after, he didn’t explain anything, he just told me that we had somewhere to be. When we went back into the library really quickly, to pick up my books, my lab partner just smiled.

We left the building and headed across campus. I wasn’t sure where we were going, we left the complexes that most of my classes are in, and I began to wonder how he knew where we were going, because he isn’t a student here. He just smiled and told me he knew where he was going.

We entered the ecology building, a building that until this point I had never been in, and he lead me to the atrium that attaches the buildings to the greenhouses. Great big windows showed a variety of plants.

Well, he explained, finally, I made us lunch. And at least this way it can seem like we’re outside without freezing our asses off.

He surprised me with a picnic at the end of January. It was perfect.

Song of the Day: The Sweetest Thing – U2


Fisherman’s Blues: Coming Home to Soda Bread Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Posted by Grace in from the kitchen, marble & holly.
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My Grandma, a transplanted product of the Green Isle, has never served a meal I’ve attended without soda bread. My mom, who isn’t Irish at all, tells stories about meeting my father’s family and wondering why they always ate that ‘funny, dense, nutty bread.’ It’s tradition that Grandma has just never let go of.

I learned to make this bread standing on a chair at the counter beside her, listening to stories of about my grandfather, her husband, who worked on ships before they came here, and how he would come home smelling of salt in the evening for a warm meal with this ubiquitous bread.

Not being in that household for every meal, the habit of eating it with every meal hasn’t been instilled in me to its full extent, but there is little else so comfortable as a thick slice of soda bread, warm from the oven, with some butter or some home made jam.

Grandma’s Brown Soda Bread

1 C All-purpose flour

1 C Wholemeal flour

3/4 C Rolled oats

1 1/2 tsp Baking soda

1 1/2 tsp Caraway seeds

1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 C Cold butter, cubed

1 C Buttermilk

2 Tbsp Molasses

In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients (that would be the first six, for those of you who may wonder). Add butter cubes, and use two knives to cut it in until mixture gets fine crumbs.

In a different bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and molasses, and then add to the dry ingredients. I suppose you don’t have to mix the two together beforehand, but doing so lets the molasses distribute evenly. Mix together just until combined; do not overwork!

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 8-10 turns, just to even it out. Form into a round loaf, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cut a cross into the top of the loaf, and bake at 375 until the edges go golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Those are the cooking rules I’ve been told, but it generally takes about 45 minutes.

Often, soda bread comes with raisins, it just depends what you’re eating it with. If you want the raisins, add a handful in the mixing process before you start kneading.

I have found that substitutions for the buttermilk do not go over well, as the loaf won’t turn out with the gorgeous tender crumb that soda bread is famous for. Also, after some conversations with non-family members, I’ve learned that molasses isn’t the most common ingredient to use in soda bread, and have tried other recipes without, but this is the one I’ve been raised on, so I’m sticking to it.

Song of the Day: Fisherman’s Blues – Kilt

Stuck in the Middle with You Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Posted by Grace in la famiglia, strange days.
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One of the few downsides of having mostly male friends is getting stuck in the dreaded middle seat. They do have a point, I am the smallest, and therefore fit most easily into that smallest of seats. The majority of the time, I really don’t mind: the heating from the front gets to you first because it is blowing straight at you. (Can you tell that it is still frigid around these parts?) It’s just that once in a while, like today, I realize certain things about this seat which seems to be almost entirely mine.

The boys and I were headed over to 10 oz’s house after classes, and because the majority of people had bussed to in due to the cold, my vehicle seemed to be the only one available to get there (10 oz said he would have come and picked up people if there were more of us, but he knew that we could squish). Somewhere along the way, Lemon got hold of my keys, and explained that he would let me have a break from driving.

I told him that I would be just fine. Quite competent to drive us there on my own. This elicited some laughter at someone (lets remember, for his pride he isn’t named). Lemon still wouldn’t give back my keys. “Well Grace, if I drive then we’ll all fit into the car better.”

Everyone got quiet as I realized what he was suggesting. I was supposed to let him drive so that none of them got stuck in the middle seat. My car, not any of theirs! I conceded, only because it was cold and I wanted out of the wind. Lemon drove, The Resident Italian sat shotgun, Placid and Coach sat back, and I took my place in the middle.

As many others have noted before, the middle seat has drawbacks: it’s small, it’s a bump, people’s miscellaneous backpacks and binders miraculously find their way to your lap, and sitting between men is not always the most comfortable because they require some air space, therefore stealing your sitting space. Sitting in my tiny little car, though, broad shoulders seem so much broader, elbows dig into your ribs that much more, and their space requirements seem to increase with inverse proportion to the space available to them. Lest to say, it was cramped; it’s a good thing I love them.

Then someone else called, and asked if they could hitch a ride with us, he was on the way anyway. Of course we obliged; it often seems to be the full vehicles that are willing to pick someone else up. This raised an issue, I get stuck in the middle because I am the smallest when there is one person for each seat. Now we had 5 seats for 6 people. Ranking from biggest to smallest, smallest is me.

So even though it was my vehicle, and as a rule I get stuck in the middle, for the last five or so minutes of the drive, I got stuck on someones lap.

Song of the Day: Stuck in the Middle with You – Stealer’s Wheel

Sleep Don’t Weep Monday, January 28, 2008

Posted by Grace in marble & holly.
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This weekend I was away visiting a cousin (who has always been like an almost sister), and her new baby. In the starter house with thin walls, if she was up with the baby in the middle of the night, being the very light/non-sleeper that I am, I was up with them too. I offered to get up with the baby, grant her a reprieve and some much needed sleep, but not being the one able to feed her, both of us had to be up anyway.

It was the middle of the night and we were both up in the living room. The baby was fussy but not hungry, and had a clean diaper, so I was walking around with her, humming whatever tunes ran through my head. She was just crying and crying and crying. Her mom was drifting in and out of sleep in the rocking chair.

Gradually, the walk turned into more of a dance, and Moon River became our song of choice. The baby gradually settled and fell asleep. As I turned to leave the room and lay her down to sleep, her mom got up (also to lay down to sleep) and said to me, sleepily smiling with eyes heavily lidded, motions slow, “Grace, you’re going to make a good mom some day.”

Even though she was half asleep, alright, more than half, and probably doesn’t even remember saying it, I don’t think its a comment I’ll soon forget.

Song of the Day: Sleep Don’t Weep – Damien Rice

When the Stars Go Blue Friday, January 25, 2008

Posted by Grace in until the wheels fall off.
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The phone rings, the tones unclear, warbling through sleep. There’s a feeling of rising through water as I reach out clumsily towards the light that shows as it rings.


Angel! It’s really you?

At first I am confused, groggy. What is this person doing, phoning in such wee hours? Who is it? Is there some kind of emergency?


I hadn’t been called that in such a long time. Suddenly, every cell of me was awake. I don’t even need to say anything, he knows.

I found you! Finally! It’s been a long time, I’m so sorry. I miss you so much. I don’t think we have very long, say something. Please.

The tears start to well up, I thought I’d never get to talk to you again.

What kind of person would that make me? I swore I would find a way to let you know everything was okay. The roses didn’t work out, they wouldn’t color right.

And I remembered those promises, whispered out as the sun was rising, through miles and miles of wiring, words strung together like patternless beads, messages whispered out on morphine.

I haven’t talked to you in forever, sweetheart. Fill me in on everything. Are the boys behaving themselves?

They behave, but nothing is right anymore. Everyone is spending so much time trying to be okay that we aren’t getting better. I don’t want to be okay with you not… Still, I have such a hard time saying it.

Static starts to become apparent on the line, like ripples on water, just disturbing the surface.

Everything is all right. You will be too. I love you so much.

I miss you. So much, but that goes unsaid. Static builds, waves grow, tugging the boat. I sit up, strain to hear, to keep my grasp. But its still you and me right?

Of course it is Angel, just like always. The white noise begins to overpower, break up the words; currents too strong not to feel. It’s you and me. You and me till –

And then he is gone. The voice is gone. I lose hold of the tenuous grasp I had to that which would keep me afloat. All the wishes and hopes that rendered so much not enough.

When I woke in the morning, I remembered, clear as day like it had just happened, like I always do with dreams. This one especially though, because it replays so often, feels so real, but still never fills that void.

Sometimes I wonder if why I can’t sleep is because of this. Why sometimes I’m scared to. But then, I sometimes also wonder if I do manage to sleep when I can because of the hope that I’ll get to hear that voice again.

I brushed out my hair and from the corner of the mirror, I saw our laughing faces and the haphazard snowman we built. Hours spent outside on a day too cold for the snow to stick properly; but still getting that lopsided, precariously balanced, man standing. We could do anything we set our minds to.

It’s you and me TM, just like always, you and me till the wheels fall off.

Song of the Day: When the Stars Go Blue – Ryan Adams

Nature Boy Thursday, January 24, 2008

Posted by Grace in la famiglia, strange days.
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Sometimes the dramatic irony of the world makes me wonder. I was riding in a friend’s car, we were driving into the city to go meet some people for dinner. This friend, who for the sake of his pride will remain nameless, lives in the city and does not tend to do a whole lot of rural driving. He just happened to be in the area and very nobly offered to shuttle me to and fro, even though I am quite a bit out of his way.

The highway we were driving had a few factors going against us: it is very hilly, prone to icing over, and wooded. For any readers out there who perhaps don’t drive in the types of winters we have, the first two conditions make stopping a more difficult task (especially when you have to do it quickly), and the third is of concern in this matter, because of course, the woods are where the deer all live.

It was dusk, the hardest time to see the deer, as well as when they like to be about, so I reminded him, “You know that there are going to be deer out, right?”

He scoffed and said something to the order of “Thanks mom,” and proceeded to remind me that he is perfectly capable of driving. I wasn’t debating his capability, I was just making sure he was aware, because living in an urban area, he is not one to often encounter deer.

So we drove along the highway, dark closing in, and I seemed to see the deer before him. I waited a second to let him notice, but it didn’t seem like he was even watching for them. I pointed it out. The fact was duly noted, and he slowed down, by about five clicks.

I didn’t want to keep pushing the subject, but it is a stretch of road known for its high deer density, so I asked if he would mind, for my sake if not his, to slow down just a little more when we were passing these skittish creatures. They will run out into the road even though they see you are there, not the most intelligent creatures of the bush. He pretended to listen. I could tell he was getting tired of me being on the subject. Behoove me to suggest anything about his driving.

As we came down over the ridge of a hill, a deer ran out into the road, maybe 300 meters in front of us, and came to a dead halt in the middle of the lane. He went heavy onto the breaks, not wanting to hit it, but the ice caused us to start spinning out. (Insert my mini heart attack here). Using his not-suggested-against driving skills, he kept rather good control of the vehicle, and it came to a stop in clear view of the deer, which had not moved from its spot, and continued to stare at us with dewy eyes.

He took a second to recollect, I took a second to start breathing again; and just as he turned to me and started to laugh about the close call -THUD- there was a loud thud and the whole car shook. His eyes went wide, as I’m assuming mine did too, and we both proceeded to peer into the darkness out the side of the car, as there are no streetlights in this stretch.

And to our great surprise, there was another deer walking a way. Another deer that had run into our fully stopped vehicle.

When we got to the dinner, we had to explain many times. No, we’re not late because we hit a deer. It hit us. We swear!

I was wrong to doubt his driving skills, though now I doubt his luck.

Song of the Day: Nature Boy – Big Sap and the Sugarshack

Life Is Wonderful Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Posted by Grace in strange days.
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On any normal day, I would complain about the cold. I would gripe a little about having to leave the house so insanely early to make the gym before my labs start. And today, like it has been since classes started up again, it has been very cold (-35°C with the wind chill when I left the house), and I left my house at my regular 0530.

While driving, the beauty of it all hit me. The snow was twinkling with reflection from the streetlights, and it was that peaceful navy blue dark that you know is preparing to give way to sunrise. It was that point that there wasn’t any proof of it, but you knew it was coming.

After the gym, in my review mirror as I rounded the perimeter, the night gave way to day. The quiet tranquility I was moving across began to spring more and more to the hustle and the bustle of the day.

What a gorgeous morning, even in spite of the time and the cold. Things seem beautiful today, life is wonderful. I hope its wonderful for you too.

Song of the Day: Life is Wonderful – Jason Mraz

Answering Bell Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Posted by Grace in strange days.
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Over the weekend, I went to a wedding. An Italian wedding.

The Resident Italian, who’s made appearances before, brought me as a date. It was one of his cousins who was getting married.

I thought it was really beautiful, like I do most weddings, but especially so because of how steeped in tradition and symbolism the whole thing was. At the reception, the best man was there to greet everyone coming in with drinks so that toasts could be made to the couple. The men got to give the bride a kiss for good luck – though some went out of the way to make the groom jealous, I think.

When the food started to come out, there was so much amazing food (but then what else would you get from Italians?), a loaf of bread was broken over the heads of the bride and groom, which I’m told is for a fertile and full life.

I missed out on a lot of what went on during the actual marriage at the church because we weren’t very close to the front, and so didn’t have the best view, and it was almost exclusively Italian, which I (sorry to say) don’t speak.

The entire night I was introduced to various cousins, friends, and assorted relatives as Grace She-doesn’t-speak-Italian, as though I had a coincidentally informative last name. More than a handful of ‘Zias,’ I’m fairly sure those are Aunties and I don’t know if thats spelled correctly, made comments about it being Good The Resident Italian had found such a nice girl. …Awkward.

Overall, though, it was a really beautiful, fun night.

And, in the tiny bit of Italian I learned while I was there, I just want to wish one more Per Cent’anni to the bride and groom.

Song of the Day: Answering Bell – Ryan Adams

Sounds Familiar: One Hundred Things About Me Sunday, January 20, 2008

Posted by Grace in graceisms.
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I’ve read these lists on many other blogs, and I’ve always found them kind of interesting.

A hundred is a number that sometimes seems really large, but really isn’t. Maybe it has something to do with being little and spending so much time thinking it was this enormous, special, a feat to count to number. Now it doesn’t seem to be such a big number at all, but still at moments like this, that childlike awe hits, and I think, “Wow, a hundred is a big number. A hundred things about me is a lot…”

  1. 1. I write with my right hand, and am therefore considered right handed. I dribble a basketball with my left hand, play pool ‘lefty,’ and tend left in hockey as well. I don’t know why.
  2. My favorite author is Bryce Courtenay. I have read everything he’s had published that’s available here.
  3. Coffee makes me physically ill. Even the smell of it, if it’s really strong, can make me feel icky. My mom claims she couldn’t drink coffee the whole time she was pregnant with me, because it made her sick, and she loves coffee.
  4. My blood type is AB negative.
  5. I loved climbing trees when I was a kid, and am still known to do it when the muse descends.
  6. After hearing a song once, I tend to know the lyrics.
  7. I am mostly an auditory learner. Being a university student taught primarily by lecturing, it is something I appreciate.
  8. Tulips are my favorite flower. My grandma used to grow them along the side of her house, and I remember picking them when I was little.
  9. Maybe you can tell, I’m a bit of a romantic. I don’t think that romanticism is hopeless.
  10. Don’t agree? Let’s discuss. There’s nothing like good conversation.
  11. I think I would be able to eat just about anything if there was enough gravy on it.
  12. When anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was little(r), I would say, “An astronaut and a ballerina.” I’ve always been like that, artistic and scientific.
  13. I value friendships highly and will go out of my way to be there for the people I care about.
  14. I spent time in El Salvador building houses. That’s correct, I have dug a foundation with a shovel, and mixed a lot of cement with shovels as well.
  15. My dad was Irish, my mom is Ukrainian.
  16. I have a younger brother. Ever since I can remember, he has been my height or taller than me. I am almost three years older than him.
  17. The only nickname that I have ever had stick for any reasonable amount of time is Angel, and am called it by only a certain person. I’ve just always been called by my name.
  18. It is very tranquil to be awake in the morning before anyone else in the house. I tend to be awake before anyone else often.
  19. I have a rather high pitched voice. I’ve had many calls returned with people saying, “A child called from this number and left a message-”
  20. People tend to come to me for advice. It’s always been that way, even with people I scarcely know. I’m a good listener I guess.
  21. Like many who tend to help others, I am not very good at helping myself.
  22. I love swimming, and I have ever since I was little. I can spend hours and hours in the water.
  23. Ignorance really bothers me. I mean, I can understand that a person cannot know everything, but actively choosing not to know I cannot.
  24. I find driving very relaxing.
  25. I like lace panties. I probably own more than I should. The boys have jokingly called it an unholy obsession.
  26. I can barely remember my father, yet he is a part of some of my earliest memories.
  27. As a result of multiple knee injuries, I have spent a good deal of time in crutches. By the last time I was in them, they really didn’t limit me much.
  28. I have never been good at sleeping. It’s a weird thing to not be good at.
  29. A lot of women don’t want to be like their mothers. I would be so happy if I turned out to be such an amazing woman as mine is.
  30. I scare really easily. During movies, at haunted houses, all of those things.
  31. I have the most amazing friends. I may complain sometimes about being overprotected, but I have no idea what I would do without them.
  32. I love black and white photography. Oh wait, you couldn’t tell that already? Ha ha.
  33. I am known for getting the giggles and not being able to stop laughing.
  34. My family only moved once during my childhood, right before I started kindergarten. I still went to the same school I was originally registered to be in.
  35. I’m not mentioning things I’ve never done in this list, because I still might do them.
  36. I was definitely the kid scared of monsters in my closet. They don’t hide under the bed, they hide in your closet.
  37. When I was little and there were thunderstorms, I would get into my swimsuit and dance in the rain on the driveway. There are pictures.
  38. I like motorcycles because they go fast, and at the same time, I feel so safe behind the person who is driving.
  39. I can change the oil in my car, fix a flat tire, and dig myself out of a snow filled ditch.
  40. Thyme is my favorite savory seasoning. I grew some from seed two summers ago, and whittled down to one plant to allow it to regrow after winter (it’s a perennial you know), that one plant grew into a big thyme bush last summer.
  41. My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. B, inspired me to start writing. The class had notebooks we had to write in, whatever we wanted, every school day during English. She told me that I had a good voice, and the rest is history.
  42. Many people say they like all kinds of music, but quickly dwindle it down to particular kinds. Literally, I like all kinds of music. Not to say that I like all music, its just that I like songs on a song-to-song basis covering all genres I’ve encountered. I’m not one to decide not to like something because of a specific label it has.
  43. I have a food crush on Anthony Bourdain. I would love to meet him one day, or eat his food. But for now I’ll settle for his books.
  44. I tend to leave for appointments and rendezvous a couple of minutes early, because you never know what might happen on the way and I feel bad if I’m late.
  45. All of the titles to my posts are names of songs because I have always had issues with titling things. Sometimes if the muse descends, I do add my own extra part to them though.
  46. My all time favorite movies are Gladiator, the Family Stone, and Pete’s Dragon.
  47. “Those who don’t look for magic will never find it.” I read that in Roald Dahl when I was small. It’s stuck with me in profound ways since.
  48. With the little sleep I get, when I have the chance to dream I tend to remember vividly.
  49. I learned from my grandparents all too well that ‘Food is love.’ I think that is why I am such an avid cook.
  50. I am very flexible.
  51. I generally try to give people the benefit of the doubt.
  52. My first love was Big Bird from Sesame Street.
  53. I have never had a cavity, and therefore a filling either, in my life. The thought of it kind of scares me now.
  54. I sleep with two blankets year round. It makes a lot of sense in winter, but not so much in the summer. I just need both of them to sleep.
  55. I am very protective of the people I love.
  56. Incredibly ticklish. Incredibly.
  57. I am too competitive for my own good.
  58. I like blue ink more than black ink, but have a huge preference for writing in pencil.
  59. I love days that are cool and breezy. That just below warm temperature where the breeze makes your skin prickle, but you don’t get cold if you stay outside.
  60. I try to do little everyday things for people I don’t know, like holding doors open or offering to help them carry something when their arms are full, because sometimes little things can mean a lot.
  61. I believe in equality. And not in the sense the world seems to have skewed it. Equality doesn’t work if some people get to be more equal than others.
  62. I am known for giving good massages. I’ve had people in large amounts of pain fall asleep by the time I was finished.
  63. My hair has a mind of its own.
  64. I have a very good memory. Specific things that were said in certain conversations years ago? Yeah, still got them.
  65. The more I learn the more I come to see how little I know.
  66. If there isn’t music playing, I bet you there is a song in my head.
  67. I love meeting new people.
  68. Its rare for me to go somewhere and not come across someone I know.
  69. Age seems to be such a flux. Sometimes you feel so old you know it in your bones, and sometimes it still surprises me to be considered adult at this precarious number.
  70. I like to paint. Mostly acrylic because oils is such a slow process, though I love the way oils look finished.
  71. I find most television very disappointing.
  72. I’m that girl who is friends with all the boys, and people just don’t seem to understand that.
  73. I have a thing with dip and food. Salsa, ranch, gravy, ketchup, food is just better if you get to dip it.
  74. A friend taught me how to make soap. So now I can, which is nice, because I have sensitive skin and its nice to be able to have perfumed soap that doesn’t turn you red and itchy.
  75. I study with other students in my classes to help them with exams. My teaching them helps me learn material way better than studying conventionally.
  76. When I sneeze it’s always really little, and people make comments about it being cute. That used to bother me, but it really doesn’t anymore.
  77. My Grandma taught me to do crosswords when I was little, my Baba taught me to knit. I still do both.
  78. I read almost compulsively.
  79. I am a terrible liar. I learned very quickly to just fess up because no one was going to believe the lie anyway.
  80. Being on stage, for whatever reason, voice or instrument, gives me a huge rush that I can’t come down from for a couple of hours.
  81. Driving an hour to spend time with a friend doesn’t bother me.
  82. I really love a bargain.
  83. I don’t follow many superstitions, but I do follow knock on wood and throwing spilt salt over your left shoulder. I don’t know why these two in particular.
  84. I still make wishes when I blow out the candles.
  85. And sometimes after it rains I still can’t help but jump into a puddle or two.
  86. I love spicy food.
  87. It is surprising what you can see in clouds if you lie down on the grass and look.
  88. I like tattoos on other people, but can’t imagine ever getting one myself.
  89. I am rubbish at reading maps, hence I often find myself lost.
  90. I usually read many books simultaneously. It was weird when I was younger, but its useful now with University.
  91. I like men who are masculine in the traditional sense. Someone strong who can protect you.
  92. The more clutter surrounds me, the more disjointed I get.
  93. I tend to have really high expectations.
  94. Nothing sucks the joy out of art for me like dissecting it. Nothing intrigues in science like taking a problem and dissecting it.
  95. I was scared of the dark for in inordinately long time.
  96. I have really small, albeit neat, handwriting. I just can’t get it to look right big.
  97. Either I have sensitive ears or really good hearing, but my headphones are always turned really low because otherwise it’s just too loud. But loud music is a good thing sometimes, just not being shot directly into your ears.
  98. I tend to be very inquisitive.
  99. I really don’t mind folding laundry, its so warm and soft and comforting.
  100. I sometimes think that a hundred is a really big number.

Song of the Day: Sounds Familiar – The Weakerthans