Today rocked.

Things I did today:

1. Got paid to blog about Route 66. Really. Check out the new blog I made.
2. Got paid to work on a newsletter for a nonprofit group. Really. (I love my job….)
3. Hung up a piece of Jamie’s original artwork at the office. Framed and matted, no less.
4. Bought stuff for the latest Craftster challenge.
5. Got a stick-on LED light to go on the back side of my file cabinet so I can see to plug in my computer.
6. Bought a rainsuit for walking to the office on soggy days.
7. Received the cute new messenger bag I ordered the other day.
8. Downloaded the new B-52’s album.
9. Bought some cute Sesame Street ponytail holders made of shaggy, Muppet-textured material with Muppet eyes attached to them to look like Cookie Monster, Oscar, and Elmo.
10. Found two awesome stuffed animals for Jamie — one of the bear from Hop on Pop, and one of Fox in Socks — for $5 apiece at Kohl’s.
11. Had dinner with Ron.

I think I’ll go work on my 101 Things list now….

Emily

Easter

Swinney’s Hardware is closing later this year.

Truth be told, hearing that news hurt a whole lot worse than hearing the news that my section of the paper was being eliminated. I can (and did) find another job … but there’s only one Swinney’s.

As I drove to church this morning, I was thinking about Swinney’s — and the plight of mom-and-pop businesses in general — and I was trying very hard to keep my heart from breaking.

Three passages jumped out at me as I listened to the Lesson this morning:

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
— Col. 3:2

“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.…”
— John 6:63

“We must destroy the false belief that life and intelligence are in matter, and plant ourselves upon what is pure and perfect.”
— Mary Baker Eddy

In thinking about those passages, I realized that it isn’t the bins of bulk fasteners, the striking animated neon saw out front, or even the fleet of Radio Flyer tricycles parked on a high shelf along the east wall that I’ll miss when Swinney’s closes.

What I’ll miss about Swinney’s is the spiritual qualities I see expressed every time I walk in: the reflection of divine Love that I see in John’s friendly smile, the reflection of divine Mind that I see in his knowledgeable employees, and the reflection of divine Principle that I see in the way he and his staff go out of their way to help customers save money instead of selling them things they don’t need.

In considering that, I think I caught a tiny glimpse of the resurrection on this bright Easter morning.

Swinney’s may close its doors, and its beautiful neon sign may fade into the darkness, but its real light can’t be dimmed, for it is not subject to competitive pressures from corporate Goliaths or the whims of a fickle economy. It is simply a reflection of God — divine Love, Mind, and Principle — changeless and eternal.

May we all bring that reflection to our work, today and always.

Emily

Taking a poll

OK … here is a chance for one lucky reader to win a fabulous prize: I am trying to help some folks put together a possible future event, and I am taking an informal survey to find out what people think about small-town festivals and activities.

I would very much appreciate it if y’all would take a few minutes to answer the survey questions and e-mail me your answers. I will enter participants’ names into a drawing for a prize (to be determined later, but possibly involving a sock monkey).

Here we go:

1. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least and 5 being the most, to what extent do each of the following factors affect your decisions about which events to attend on a given weekend?

A. Cost
B. Distance
C. Weather
D. Crowd size
E. Type of activities
F. Proximity to other points of interest

2. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, how much do you like the following types of events?
* Car shows
* Cookoffs (please specify type — chili, barbecue, apple pie, etc.)
* Children’s events (please specify your kids’ favorites)
* Craft shows
* Antique shows
* Parades
* Pet events (please specify — parades, costume contests, shows, etc.)
* Carnival rides
* Holiday events (please specify the holiday and the event)
* Information fairs
* Ice-cream socials
* Concerts by local performers
* Art exhibits
* 5K races
* Bus tours
* Walking tours
* Lectures
* Poetry readings
* Golf scrambles
* Home tours
* Educational events (please specify)
* Flea markets
* Circuses
* Petting zoos
* Sidewalk sales
* Other (please specify)

3. What was the best festival you’ve ever attended, and what made it special? Was there anything organizers could have done to improve it?

4. If you could do just one thing to make visitors feel welcome in your community, what would it be?

When you’ve completed the survey, please e-mail it to me at sundayjohn66 (at) mac (dot) com. I would like to have your answers by noon Tuesday if possible. Also, if you could tell me your location and approximate age (under 16, 17-25, 26-35, 36-50, 51-60, or over 60), that would be a big help.

Thanks a bunch,

Emily

Hoppin’ Juan

Another one from the 101 Things list: Here’s a new vegan recipe. (Does it count as “trying a new recipe” if I just make it up as I go instead of actually using a recipe?)

I don’t really know what to call this. It’s sort of like Hoppin’ John, sort of like chili, and sort of like posole. I guess I’ll name it Hoppin’ Juan. Anyway, here it is:

1/4 c. chopped onion
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (use more if you have it; I was running low)
1 can diced tomatoes
Chili powder to taste
Cumin to taste
Paprika to taste
Bacon Salt to taste (OK to substitute a little ground chipotle or a dash of smoke flavoring)
1 can blackeyed peas, drained
1 can hominy, drained
1 can chopped green chiles

Saute onions in olive oil. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and spices. Stir. Bring to a boil. Add blackeyed peas and Bacon Salt and bring to a boil. Add hominy and chiles and bring to a boil. Serve with tortilla chips and hot sauce.

Bacon Salt is, for the record, completely vegan. It is also laden with MSG, but I think that’s a small price to pay for salt that tastes like bacon. In this recipe, it helps make the blackeyed peas taste as if they’ve been cooked with salt pork.

Playing chicken

Life at the House of the Lifted Lorax is many things, but dull is never one of them.

I got off work this evening and went out to a great little nursery in Berryhill, where I picked up a mesh bag of barley seeds to help control algae growth in our pond.

When I got home, I put the dogs out, tossed the bag into the pond, and looked up in time to see Songdog and Scout barking furiously at a mysterious animal moving around in the compost pile.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that four of the hens had escaped the friendly confines of the chicken tractor and were happily sorting through the compost pile in search of worms, of which there are plenty. (Incidentally, I turned the compost last night and found conditions that would make any gardener’s pulse race just a wee bit: steam coming from the center, and red wiggler worms nibbling around the outside edges. Gorgeous.)

Anyway, I let the hens have their fun while I went to see how they’d gotten loose. As it turned out, the chicken tractor was on uneven ground, and one of the girls had scratched enough to dig out a large hollow area under one corner. Pushy, Solitaire, Plenty, and Elektra all seized the opportunity to stage their very own Shawshank Redemption, leaving a rather bewildered Maud alone in the chicken tractor. I had no idea chickens would tunnel their way to freedom if given the opportunity, but ours certainly did. If I had to guess, I’d say Solitaire probably dug the hole, and Pushy probably led the flock through it, but we’ll never know. This is another reason I really need to look into setting up a Webcam back there….

I moved the tractor to more even terrain, retrieved the hens, and planted half a flat of strawberries in the hay bales behind the back fence before coming in to work on less agricultural pursuits.

I intend to spend the rest of my evening enjoying a bowl of Jell-O with extra Cool Whip, framing some of Jamie’s artwork, and stumbling through a Spanish translation of Science and Health.

Life is good….

Emily

Oh, P.S.: I crossed No. 83 — “Try Halim and Mimi’s since it changed hands” — off my 101 Things list today. For the record, it was awesome. The new owners make killer baba ghanoush, and their tabouli — made just the way I like it, with plenty of parsley and lemon juice — is hands-down the best I’ve ever eaten.

Pedal pusher

I rode my bike to work today. It was OK, and I got there on time (according to the clock on the coffeemaker, I was actually a little bit early), but I’m definitely out of shape. I drove home because I had church tonight and needed the car to get there.

One cool thing about my new job: My boss is letting me stash my bike in the storage shed whenever I have to leave it overnight. That means I won’t have to walk to work on mornings when I’m planning to drive home. Sweet!

My plan is to drive to work on Monday mornings, ride the bike home, ride to and from work on Tuesdays, ride to work on Wednesdays, drive home so I can go to church, drive to work on Thursdays so I’ve got the car, ride the bike home, ride to work on Fridays, and drive back home so I have the car for the weekend. That works out to six 1.7-mile bike rides a week. And if I feel like riding on a weekend, I can always go get the bike and do some training on my day off.

Maybe someday that will sound like fun. Right now, it’s a little overwhelming … but then again, the idea of running a mile and a half was a little overwhelming five years ago, and I’ve run two marathons since then, so maybe I’m not off the deep end for thinking I might be able to ride a century one of these days.

Emily

Commuting

Rain drippin’ off the brim of my hat; sure is cold today.
Here I am walkin’ down 66….

— Charley Pride

One of the things I love about my new job is the fact that the office is just over a mile and a half away, which means I can ride my bike or walk to work. It was raining this morning, and I was tempted to drive, but I didn’t want to get in the habit of making excuses, so I sucked it up, got out my umbrella and trenchcoat, and took a walk down Route 66 in the downpour.

The strap on my backpack broke (apparently it couldn’t handle the weight of the jar of chocolate-flavored peanut butter I’d put in it), and my purse kept sliding off my shoulder while I was juggling my umbrella and a cup of hot cocoa on the way home this afternoon, so I decided to take half the money I’d have spent on a week’s worth of gas at my old job and invest it in a messenger bag to make my commute a little easier.

There were lots of fun bags on Cafepress — some with save-the-planet messages, some with Route 66 designs, some with funny slogans — but in the end, I just had to have this one.

Now I just need a pair of yellow galoshes and a raincoat to go with it….

Emily

10 on Tuesday

I love this week’s 10 on Tuesday topic: 10 places you’d take a tourist to see in your hometown.

I’ll do two lists — one for the town where I grew up, and one for the town where I live now.

10 places I’d take a tourist in Herrin, Ill.:

1. The Annex. That neon sign is dazzling.
2. Bryan Furniture. An even more dazzling — and historically significant — neon sign.
3. Park Avenue Motel. Walk into the lobby, and you’ll swear you’ve slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum and landed in 1963 — plus the neon sign out front is great.
4. Burger Nook. Burgers and fries the way God intended: cheap and greasy. You can’t beat ’em. I worked there for three or four years as a kid and never got tired of the food.
5. Mary’s Restaurant. Upscale dining in a great old house.
6. Baldwin Pianos. Worth a trip just to shoot the bull with Bruce and test-drive sheet music on those gleaming concert grands in the showroom.
7. Herrin City Park. I grew up tossing bread off the bridge and watching the ducks and minnows nibble on it … when I wasn’t fleeing in terror from that big goose with the attitude problem or trying to work up my nerve to climb up into the flying saucer or the fort with the telescopes on it.
8. Church of Jesus Only. Never set foot in the place, but oh, that beautiful neon sign out front!
9. Louie’s P&R Market. Is there anything better than a great Italian grocery?
10. Diamonds 4 and 5. If you don’t smile while watching a bunch of 7-year-olds in pigtails learn to play softball, there is something pathologically wrong with you.

10 places I’d take a tourist in Tulsa:

1. Lyon’s Indian Store. Gorgeous Art Deco building on Route 66.
2. Boston Avenue Methodist Church. Spectacular Zigzag architecture, with tons of incredible flourishes.
3. Downtown Red Fork. Wonderfully historic buildings on Route 66, right across from …
4. Ollie’s Station Restaurant. Enjoy fried chicken while umpteen model trains run on little tracks above your head.
5. Hank’s Hamburgers. The Big Okie is the best burger I’ve had anywhere on Route 66 … and the peanut butter balls are to die for.
6. Swinney’s Hardware. Just because I love it … plus the neon sign is great.
7. Circle Cinema. Beautiful, historic, and run by volunteers who appreciate artsy little indie films. One of the coolest places in town.
8. Green Country Feed and Seed. How many feed stores are heated with woodstoves and have a pack of dogs wandering around, sampling the bulk pig ears and making friends with the customers?
9. 11th Street Bridge. Now called something else long and complicated, but still there and still beautiful.
10. Admiral Twin Drive-In. You can’t beat a trip to the drive-in on a summer night.

What would you put on your list?

Emily