Tuesday, June 24, 2014

top ten Tuesday: pictures of Shadow.

My friends, summer is (finally) upon us. Summer makes me think of so many good things: days at the lake, Summer Shandy, grilling… and Shadow.
Shadow was my parents’ happy-go-lucky black lab, and he died this past November. This is our first summer without Shadow, and it’s going to be really strange. Shadow was the perfect summertime companion: he’d go on evening walks with Mom and play softball with Dad.

We Midwesterners spend as much time outside in the summer as we can, as our summers are fleeting. Shadow was an outdoor dog who only wanted to be where you were. Wherever you went, he would follow. When he saw you, Shadow’s tail would wag so hard that he’d practically tip over. He’d have a smile on his face so big that you couldn’t help but smile yourself.

I’ve been missing Shadow ever since he died, but now that summer is here, I’ll miss him that much more. Who will greet me at the door, jumping with excitement and with his slobbery tongue hanging out? (I suppose I could ask Dad to do that, but somehow, I don’t think it will be the same.) Summer was Shadow’s time, and he knew it.

Shadow loved to be in pictures – if he saw you point a camera his way, he’d pose for you. Shadow was a great subject, equal parts handsome dog and ham. I’d like to show you my top ten pictures of Shadow.

We took this picture right before Labor Day 2009. I was about to drive to New Orleans to spend three months there for an internship, and I had just returned from a three-month internship in Denver. I had missed out on a whole summer of Shadow, and I was about to miss out on a whole autumn of Shadow. So Mom and I took him to Lake Poinsett - we threw his squeaky toy in the water, and he'd happily go and fetch it. This picture was taken before the squeaky-toy-throwing began, and Mom was having a hard time getting Shadow to look at the camera (instead of lick her face). It is - hands down - my favorite picture of Shadow. Just look at those smiles!

My sister Darrah bought me an awesome camera for Christmas in 2011, and Dad and I spent a wintry afternoon outside testing it out. He threw the Frisbee for Shadow, and I set the camera to sport mode and shot away. There were so many great pictures of Shadow taken that day, and we only quit because my lens was starting to freeze up. Shadow, of course, could've kept going for hours.

My dad's brother Mike has been around for the past few summers, and he and Shadow were great friends. Mike is an early riser, so he'd be the one to feed Shadow and the first one to play with him every day. Look at how happy they both are!

Shadow loved to stand up and dance with you, and I thought it would be fun to get a picture of the two of us with our elbows on the railing. Pictures with Shadow rarely worked out as planned - I ended up covered in drool and with a ton of ridiculous pictures - but I love this picture. I did get punched in the face, but I love the picture nonetheless.

I told you about Easter Dog, but here's a quick refresher: for the last four Easters, we made some kind of goofy Easter prop, put it on the dog, and made him pose. This is Easter 2012, and we had a hell of a time getting the pictures. The fake flowers were hot-glued to the headband, and they were in constant danger of falling off/being eaten by the dog. Shadow was extra-excited during this photo session, but he finally put his paw on me knee (TOTALLY NOT POSED!) and smiled for a picture.

Another favorite in the "put stuff on the dog" series. It was summer 2012, and my cousins Monica and Melissa had come to visit. Whenever Monica, Melissa, and I get together, chances are good that we'll end up taking a bunch of ridiculous pictures - this being one of them. (What you can't see is that we're all wearing sunglasses and holding guns, which was - true story - my first time ever holding a gun. Also hopefully the last.) We were outside, so of course, the dog had to be involved, too. He even kept his sunglasses on.

Darrah went to basic training in July 2009 and didn't come back to South Dakota until December. I love this picture because you can see exactly how excited Darrah is to see Shadow and exactly how excited he is to see her - his feet aren't even touching the ground.

Whenever you arrived at our place, Shadow would be there to greet you... and always with something hanging out of his mouth. Usually it was a stick, a tattered old Frisbee, a mouthful of leaves... whatever was handiest at the time. This was one of those occasions - he looks like he's smoking. I love his floppy smile.

There's a slough near our house, and Mom and Shadow would walk there on nice evenings. Shadow loved to dive in, especially if you tossed in a stick or his squeaky toy. However, you had to be quick to get out of the way when he shook, because you would get SOAKED. I set the camera to sport mode and took pictures as he shook off. I don't know about you, but I think it's hilarious.

Remember how I told you that Shadow would sit down and pose for pictures? This was the day when we found that out. I was taking pictures of Mom and Dad with their motorcycle, and Shadow plopped down with his Frisbee and waited for me to take the picture. Sure enough, he wound up in every motorcycle picture that day.


There you are: my ten favorite pictures of Shadow. While pictures won’t fill the dog-shaped hole in my heart, seeing that goofy face – even if it is just a photo – will always make me smile.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

adventures in Brookings: the Country Peddler.

I’ve done enough of my cheap outfit blog posts for you to know that I love a great deal. While those great deals can be found in the clearance racks at the mall, my favorite inexpensive clothing finds come from thrift and consignment stores. Sure, you have to work a little harder to find that perfect shirt, but it’s all that more rewarding when you finally do find it. Plus, you never know what you’re going to find in a consignment store: the clothes there are from different seasons, different brands and stores, different sizes – and they change constantly. It’s way more exciting than going to the mall one week and seeing the same stuff three weeks later.

I’ve done a lot of thrift and consignment shopping in my day: from New Orleans to Canada, I’ve thrift shopped with the best of them. Over my years of consignment shopping, one store has always shone above the others: the Country Peddler.

The Country Peddler is located in downtown Brookings, and it’s been there for more than twenty years. I remember going there a few times with Mom when I was ten or eleven. I even remember my first Country Peddler purchases: a pair of navy blue clogs (because if you were in fifth grade in 1997/1998, you were nobody unless you owned two things: a Tamagotchi and a pair of clogs) and the softest red bathrobe there ever was.

I was a late bloomer when it came to fashion – I was wearing tapered jeans long after their expiration date, and I thought my Velcro shoes from Kmart were ironically cool. (They weren’t.) That being said, I didn’t start visiting Country Peddler on a regular basis until I was 16 or so. While I was by no means fashionable at that time, I was beginning to be a little more conscious of how far behind I was in terms of clothes.

Up to that point, my wardrobe consisted mainly of faded jeans and shirts emblazoned with various Muppets – with the occasional superhero footwear. (I once owned Batman, Spider-Man, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shoes… all at the same time.) I was under the impression that my clothes were quirky and fun, but it slowly started to dawn on me that my fashion sense may have crossed over from quirky to straight-up weird.

Of course, most of the clothing I owned fell into the “weird” category. My pink plaid bell bottom pants? They had to go. My glow-in-the-dark Batman shirt from the children’s department? No longer acceptable. (I wish I had figured out that it was not acceptable in the first place for me to buy clothing for myself from the children’s department.) My… ? Sayonara.

Replacing your wardrobe isn’t cheap, so I had to take baby steps. I couldn’t purge all of my clothes at once since I didn’t have the funds to replace that much stuff at one time. The most egregious clothing was the first to go (see: pink bell bottoms, et al). As a born and bred cheapskate, I needed an affordable way to switch out my bad wardrobe for something good.

Enter: Country Peddler. This was the first place I went to try and mix in a few quality clothing items with my abundance of crappy ones. Slowly but surely, I would get rid of a pile of old dorky clothes and bring home something decent from Country Peddler.

At the time, my brother and sister had Tae Kwon Do two nights a week in Brookings. I would drive them to Tae Kwon Do and would have an hour or so to kill before I needed to pick them up again. I would rotate through my favorite Brookings haunts: Grandma Lorraine’s house, the library, and Country Peddler. Country Peddler wasn’t as large as it is now, but it was always full of clothes for my perusal. I could easily spend my entire hour sifting through the racks, and I almost never walked away empty-handed.

While I didn’t buy my entire replacement wardrobe at Country Peddler, I would not have been able to get the job done without it. Country Peddler was my first step into the world of age-appropriate clothing, which – as it turned out – was not so bad after all.

Country Peddler became my go-to place for more than just your every-day clothing. Not one, but TWO of my prom dresses came from Country Peddler. The first was this purply ombré number that I wore to my junior prom, and the second was a deep red dress that I wore as my friend Bob’s date to his senior prom. 

Also pictured: robotic palm tree.
Both dresses I got at relatively short notice – for junior prom, I didn’t really decide that I was going to go until a few weeks beforehand, and the red dress was purchased on a quick weekend trip home from college after I was called to duty as Bob’s date. Country Peddler pulled through for me both times.

Once my wardrobe became respectable – and it took YEARS – I found myself turning to Country Peddler for something else: consignment. They would take my cast-off clothes, resell them, and I would get 50%. Just one more thing to make me love Country Peddler even more. I began bringing my clothes in by the trunkful. Even though I was going to college three hours away, I would hoard piles of consignment clothes and drag them along whenever I was home for the weekend. It was such a great feeling to stop in and find that you had some credit waiting for you on your consignment account. I’d like to say that I would take those consignment checks and put them right into savings, but you know that’s not true. I would always find a little something to take home with me, and THEN I would (maybe) put the rest of the check into savings. Or into my gas tank.

Country Peddler has undergone some changes over the years, but all for the better. They expanded several years ago, and now they have almost double the space that they did when I was in high school – and it looks great. When I was living in Minneapolis, Country Peddler got its own Facebook page. Every day, they would post pictures of some of the new clothing that was coming in their doors. It was so much fun to see the things they were getting, but also so disappointing because I knew that most of this stuff wouldn’t be there the next time I managed to get to Brookings. Even so, I’d do my best to stop in whenever I made the trip from Minneapolis – and even though most of the things I’d seen online had been sold long ago, there was always something new to catch my interest.

I took a little break from consigning when I lived in Denver, New Orleans, and Minneapolis, as it was a little tough to get clothes home from that far away. Besides, I spent a lot of my time in those three places being really poor, so if I had any clothes to get rid of, straight to Plato’s Closet they went. Plato’s Closet will give you cash on the spot for your clothes, and I was always in need of cash. The downside is that they give you a fraction of what they’ll sell the clothes for, but after all, they’re taking a bet that the clothes will sell at all, whereas with consignment, you get a higher percentage, but you have to wait for your clothing to sell. Plato’s Closet was good enough for the desperate times that I was facing, but now that I’m no longer subsisting on eggs and hot dogs for every meal, Country Peddler always gets first dibs.

And I can’t fully extol the virtues of Country Peddler without taking about the people. The owner of the store is named Shirelle, and I met her the very first day that I set foot in Country Peddler. No matter how long it had been since I’d last been in the store, whenever I came back to Country Peddler, Shirelle was always happy to see me and ready to hear about my latest adventure. She’s added more staff over the years, and anyone working is always happy that you’re there and – even better – will point you in the direction of the fun new arrivals.

Even though I now live in Luverne – about two hours away from Brookings – I save my clothes for Country Peddler. As luck would have it, the drive from Luverne to my parents’ house passes directly through Brookings, so it’s awfully convenient to stop there. I can’t even begin to count the amount of clothing I’ve taken there over the years, nor can I count the amount of clothing I’ve purchased from them. (On the upside, it’s been years since I’ve actually paid for anything – every time I find something to buy, there’s always enough in my account to cover it. It’s like free clothes.)

I’ve gotten a lot of great clothing from Country Peddler over the years, but I have to show you some of my favorites – and if you’ve read the cheap outfit blog posts, you’ve seen them before.
This shirt!
This dress!
This skirt!
This shirt!
This shirt!
This dress!

Even though I make it to Country Peddler about fairly often, I can never wait to go back. You never know what you’re going to find.

Monday, June 16, 2014

rainy songs.

I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but where I am, it's pretty crappy. We've had rain on and off for the last few weeks, complete with flooding, gigantic hail (and accompanying gigantic dents on my car), and tornado warnings. 

Today was one of those days. As I was driving home and doing my damnedest not to hydroplane right off the road, I couldn't help but notice that my iPod (set to shuffle) was playing an awful lot of songs about rain. (Be they literal or metaphorical.) It just KNEW.

So - in case you feel like listening to some rainy songs - here are my five favorite songs about rain!

Matchbox 20 - 3am
Say what you want, but I still LOVE this song, and I'm not afraid to tell you.

Billie Meyers - Kiss the Rain
This is flashback city. I have more to tell you about this song in a different blog post.

Prince - Purple Rain
Sadly, none of Prince's music is available on YouTube, so this picture of Prince on a motorcycle will have to do.

Gene Kelly - Singin' in the Rain
Great movie, great song. The ultimate song to sing in the rain. (See what I did there?) 

Elvis Presley - Cold Kentucky Rain

My friend Sarah and I used to sit out on my front porch when it rained - we ate white chocolate pudding and sang this song. Ahh, memories.


There are about a zillion songs about rain, but these are my absolute favorites. So instead of pout about the rain and bemoan the current state of my garden (state = waterlogged), I'm just going to listen to my rain songs and deal with it.

But just in case the sun does decide to come out, here's a nice weather song for good measure.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

rant: chocolate ice cream.

So I love ice cream. Who doesn’t?
My cousins and brother sure do.
My favorite ice cream flavor has always been chocolate. Over the years, I’ve expanded my list of acceptable ice cream flavors to include strawberry, cheesecake, and the occasional coffee-flavored ice cream. However, at the end of the day, chocolate will always win out.
Bonus points for sprinkles.
Not all chocolate ice creams are created equal. SDSU is home to my favorite chocolate ice cream of all time, but you can usually find some good stuff in the grocery store’s freezer section. I’m partial to Häagen-Dazs, but honestly, even the store brand is a-ok.

But you know what’s not ok?

Vanilla ice cream mixed with chocolate syrup.


Forgive me for being defensive, but I am a “chocolate ice cream or bust” kind of gal. If my options are vanilla ice cream or no ice cream, I will choose no ice cream.

And the weirdest thing is that NO ONE UNDERSTANDS. If I ask for chocolate ice cream and am told that there’s only vanilla, someone will usually suggest that I just mix some chocolate syrup in it. When I (always politely) decline, they say, “But then it’s just like chocolate ice cream!”

No. It isn’t.

There is a distinctly different flavor between real chocolate ice cream and vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup added. Same goes with real chocolate milk and white milk with chocolate syrup – you can’t tell me that they taste the same.

Allow me to put it in perspective: it’s like when the waiter brings you Pepsi when you ordered Coke. Cabbage when you ordered lettuce. Busch Light when you ordered Coors.

It is for this reason that I have never liked chocolate shakes. A chocolate shake is just a giant cup of vanilla ice cream blended up with chocolate syrup and a little bit of milk. Vanilla ice cream in any form just isn’t my thing. I’ll eat in in an ice cream sandwich, but that’s about it: no ice cream bars, no hot fudge sundaes, no ice cream cakes. Everything else must be chocolate or nothing.
Again, bonus points for sprinkles.
Luverne has a little drive-in, and it’s open from mid-March until mid-October. James and I were elated when it opened for the season: not only did it give us another place to eat (Luverne has VERY few choices), but it meant that we finally had a place to get ice cream! We went there for dinner on its first day open, and I ordered a chocolate cone…

…forgetting that the Luverne drive-in’s soft-serve chocolate ice cream is made with vanilla and chocolate syrup.

Seriously, Luverne drive-in. You specialize in ice cream. Fake chocolate ice cream is just not ok. Dairy Queen would never do that to me.
Neither would Blue Bunny.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

let's talk about the Watertown mall.

I’ve told you this before, but it’s worth repeating: I grew up in the country in the middle of nowhere, and in order to encounter a town of any kind, you had to travel for at least ten miles. If you were cosmopolitan enough to want to go to a WalMart or a Target, you’d up your journey to a minimum of thirty miles.

I lived smack-dab in between two large (or, they seemed large at the time) cities: Watertown and Brookings. Brookings was about thirty miles south, and Watertown lay thirty miles north. My mom worked in Brookings, so that’s where we’d go for things like dental appointments. However, if we wanted to shop for Christmas presents (or anything else, really), Watertown was a much better choice. I love Brookings, but Watertown had more shopping options than Brookings. Unlike Brookings, Watertown had not only a Target, but a fairly respectable mall.

Oh, that mall.

When I was a kid, the Watertown mall was THE place to be. They had everything that a rural South Dakotan could ever want, no matter what your age. The ice cream shop and the arcade were my go-to places when I was young, and I eventually aged into the super cool mall stores like Maurices and Bath and Body Works. They even had a Sam Goody (remember those?) and an Osco. Osco was the weirdest store, and I don’t think I’ve seen another one anywhere else. For the longest time, there was an ice cream parlor thing right by Herberger’s, and my mother could usually be convinced to buy me an ice cream cone. (But only when I was little and cute. The older and crabbier I got, the less likely ice cream cones became.)

(Fun fact: the ice cream parlor was eventually replaced with a few massage chairs and a photo booth, which my friend Bob and I made good use of. Three dollars well spent, my friends.)

In my early Watertown mall days, the place was kind of a strange amalgamation of stores. (It still is, actually, but the stores have changed.) You had the three big anchor stores: Herberger’s, JCPenney, and Kmart. It is all one floor, and the mall itself is basically a slightly curved line with a few offshoots for exits.

I have great memories of the Watertown mall. In my younger days, the Watertown mall had everything I thought I’d ever need: they had a Maurices, a Claire’s, and a Bath and Body Works – all three of which I was obsessed with at one time or another. Mom would take us to the Watertown mall for Christmas shopping – and for whatever-else-we-needed shopping, for that matter: everything from school supplies to birthday presents to my high school graduation dress could be found at the Watertown mall. It was closer than Sioux Falls and much more convenient – besides, my mom had a short fuse when it came to Sioux Falls traffic.

When my friends and I became old enough to drive, the Watertown mall was our go-to place. After all, we were still scared of the busy streets of Sioux Falls, and Watertown wasn’t nearly as threatening. My friends and I would pile in whatever shitty car we happened to be holding the keys to and head north.

My friend Allison and I frequented the Electric Rainbow, which sounds like a gay bar but was actually an arcade. (Sad but true story: it’s been gone for ages.) It was right by JCPenney, and we spent pocketfuls of tokens on air hockey and skeeball. We would amass huge piles of tickets and waste them on junky arcade prizes from the grungy glass case up front. However, after one particularly successful PacMan stint, we left our strings of tickets behind the video game along with a note saying “it’s your lucky day” or something like that. The Good Samaritans of the Electric Rainbow, that’s what we were.

Allison’s and my Watertown mall adventures weren’t without struggles. One Saturday, we had taken her 1989 Chevy station wagon to the Target in Watertown. Upon returning to the car, we found – much to our dismay – that the car wouldn’t start. So what were we to do? Continue our day of shopping, of course. We walked to the mall, where – as luck would have it – we ran into my mother. (This was before either of us had cell phones, so this was extraordinarily fortunate.) Mom drove us back to the car, which still wouldn’t start. It was on to Plan B: Mom drove us to our house, where Allison and I picked up my car and drove to her house in Arlington. Being the plucky sixteen-year-olds that we were, we were determined to solve this on our own. We Googled “how to jump start a car,” and with jumper cables and printed instructions in hand, we drove back to Watertown – and totally got the car started on the first try.

Believe it or not, that is not the only misadventure I’ve had in/around the Watertown mall. My friend Meagan and I went there one Saturday to buy new clothes for our upcoming trip to the South Dakota State Fair. (Remember: we were small town girls, so going to the South Dakota State Fair was a BIG DEAL.) We wandered around the mall, trying on this and that, and we eventually planted ourselves on a bench to discuss our purchases and our excitement for our upcoming trip to Huron. (Note: that was the first and last time I’ve ever been excited to go to Huron.) We managed to completely overlook the fact that the mall was totally empty – except for us. When we finally decided to leave, we headed to the exit… only to discover that the door was locked. We were locked in the mall. Meagan and I roamed around for a solid ten minutes before we could find a security guard to let us out.

And that’s how I found out that the Watertown mall closes early on Saturdays.

It’s been an awfully long time since I’ve been to the Watertown mall. I know things have changed, but I like to picture it as it was when I was a kid: Electric Rainbow and all.
I was the air hockey champion of the Electric Rainbow.