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77. Dust Ruffles (Pretty AND Practical)

23 Feb

For Southerners, having a bed without a dust ruffle is like showing up in public without your britches: Everybody can see your stuff! The horror!

Whenever I see ruffle-less beds in magazines and even – gasp! – real life, I always wonder, “Where do they stash all their stuff?”

The answer, here in Seattle anyway, is: In the basement. Oh, how I wish my fellow Southerners could know the joy of having a giant room in which to store all the stuff that Goodwill probably wouldn’t take, but that you, nevertheless, find yourself unable to part with.

Why do most home builders in the South opt for attics? You can’t go in them between the months of May and September due to the possibility of heat stroke. Maybe it’s because Southerners mostly use the space for Christmas decorations. Except for my sister who also has an extensive collection of Halloween decorations.

Now that I have a basement, I’m down to only one of those plastic under-the-bed boxes, but I’m not about to do away with my dust ruffle. (Despite all the complaints I get when I’m out of town and Geoff seizes the opportunity to put boy sheets on the bed.)

My waiting-to-be-revised, but relegated-to-the-back-burner (or “eye” for my Southern peeps) novel has a scene in which my narrator lifts the dust ruffle of her childhood bed searching for shoes she might’ve left behind and finds…nothing. She says, “What kind of person has nothing under the bed? My mother.”

While parts of my novel are somewhat autobiographical, that line is pure fiction.

My mother made the most of any and all storage space available. If you put something on the table and left the room, by the time you got back, she would’ve already stashed it somewhere. If you asked where it was, she always said, “It’s wherever you left it.” Um, no…

There’s no telling what all you might’ve found under the beds in my mom’s house: board games, bags of pantyhose, vacuum cleaner attachments, items waiting to be re-gifted, etc. You might even find some actual dust. My mom kept a clean house, but who bothers with cleaning under the bed? Not people with dust ruffles!

The best thing about having a bunch of random crap under the bed is that it leaves little room for monsters. On the flip side, though, if a real-life monster breaks into your house, you may have nowhere to hide.

Photo: Battenburg Dust Ruffle from Bella Home Fashions.

Do you have a dust ruffle on your bed? If so, what’s it hiding? Don’t worry, I’ll never tell…

65. Crochet–Getting Crafty, Granny Style

3 Feb

Photo by Poppy
Flickr Creative Commons

You can’t throw a sugar packet in a Seattle coffee shop without A. Hitting a knitting group or B. Being chastised for mishandling some of our Earth’s precious resources (sugar, paper). Knitting has gotten quite trendy here in the last decade, thanks mostly – I think – to the catchy moniker “Stitch ‘n Bitch.”

Well, y’all, Southern ladies have been stitchin’ ‘n bitchin’ for centuries. Where do you think all your grandmother’s doilies and afghans came from? Walmart? I think not!

Before I get much further, I must confess that I have never knitted, nor crocheted, and I don’t exactly know how to differentiate between the two. As near as I can figure, knitting is for useful items (sweaters, socks, etc.), crocheting is mostly for decorations.

When I was growing up, crocheting was at an all time high. In the 70s, there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be prettied up with a bit of crochet. Is that an extra roll of toilet paper? No! It’s a lovely doll with a crochet “skirt.” Is that your blender? Goodness, no! Apparently an adorable chicken wandered in and took up residence on the counter. Is your broom wearing a skirt? Don’t be silly. That’s Twiggy. You know, the model? She lives here now. In our closet.

I don’t know where the obsession for turning everyday things into art projects came from. Possibly the same handbook that taught folks how to make the ubiquitous Barbie doll bake sale cake. (Don’t tell me you haven’t seen one.)

I, myself, got caught up in the crochet/knitting craze back in the early 00’s when ponchos were all the rage (remember that exhilarating five minutes?). I hooked up with someone on ebay who knitted custom ponchos (and matching hats!), and went a little overboard, buying poncho/hat combos for my mom and sister and three for myself. It was almost like having a grandmother. Though I don’t imagine most grandmothers are compensated through Pay Pal.

During the height of my own crochet frenzy, I sprang for some beautiful (and none too cheap) Alpaca yarn at the Puyallup fair. It’s around here catching dust somewhere, probably still hoping that it will spontaneously become a scarf one day. Alas.

Over the years, I’ve toyed with the idea of picking up needles and learning how to knit one, purl two. And maybe I will one of these days. Just don’t expect to see me showing up to stitch ‘n bitch night anytime soon. However, if the stitchin’ is optional, count me in!

Do you crochet? If so, could you make me one of those fancy TP covers so I can deck my bathroom out in retro style?

38. Toothpicks or When Rednecks Accessorize

16 Jun

At many a Southern eatery, you’ll find a toothpick dispenser next to the cash register. Look for it by the used-to-be-complimentary Andes mints that they now want five cents for. Cheap bastards. But, hey, at least the toothpicks are still free.

I’m not sure how this tradition got started. What am I Wikipedia? But I really wish I could put an end to it. There are few things less appetizing than seeing people pick their teeth in public. Which is why I don’t understand how restaurant owners can recklessly leave toothpicks lying around knowing that the toothpickers will surely be seen by incoming customers.

I’m always tempted to say to the server, “I WAS going to have the filet mignon, but now I’d just like some Sprite and saltines.” But as a former waitress, I try to keep the snarky comments to a minimum. And tip big.

Seriously, people, tooth picking – like nose or belly button picking – ought to be done in private. That’s what bathrooms are for. Ok, that’s not their primary purpose, but still.

What’s maybe even worse than actively plucking food particles is those people who walk around with a toothpick in their mouth ALL THE TIME. Like they never know when they’ll happen upon corn on the cob and must be prepared.

At tote-sum stores in the South, they sell FLAVORED toothpicks for chain toothpickers who presumably aren’t into the natural woody flavor. Cinnamon is popular, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen mint. Maybe even wint-o-green.

Back in junior high, toothpick chewing was popular for about a week. If I recall correctly, we made our own with cinnamon oil. Where we got the cinnamon oil, I don’t know. That doesn’t seem like something they’d regularly stock at Kroger.

Thankfully, some teacher or concerned parent decided that this was a nasty habit/choking hazard, so toothpicks earned the spot of bubble gum’s wicked step-sister. And I was spared from what might have been months of looking like a hayseed. Whew!

What’s your stance on tooth picking in public?

36. Wrangler Jeans: Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Wear Levi’s

7 May

Why do Southern people love Wrangler jeans? No, I’m asking you: why? Ok, I’ll admit to admiring the way they hug the backsides of bull riders. But, honestly, I think any jeans would do. Even Walmart brand, if there is such a thing.

Wranglers are supposed to be tough, the Clint Eastwood of jeans. So maybe folks feel more macho with that lasso-esque label on their butt. Still, this doesn’t explain why women wear them. Then again, maybe it does.

I can’t recall whether or not I’ve ever actually owned a pair of Wranglers. I’m sure my sister would remember. She has an uncanny talent for recalling anything you’d rather forget. I do distinctly remember trying on a pair once. This was at Mildred’s, a sad little clothing outpost not far from where I grew up. I can’t remember anything they sold apart from the aforementioned Wranglers. Underwear? Neckties? Ball gowns? Help me out, Richland people…

I never considered myself the Wrangler type. I mean, I’ve yet to attempt roping a steer. Heck, I haven’t even chased after a greased pig. I think you kind of have to earn Wranglers, in the manner of a Boy/Girl Scout merit badge.

When I was growing up, getting caught in Wranglers knocked you at least two rungs down the social ladder. In my mind, anyway. I didn’t even want folks knowing I occasionally wore Lee’s. (eek! now you do!)

I was all about Chic jeans (pronounced like “small yellow bird,” not “oil baron.”). And Jordache (with requisite comb in the back pocket). And my personal favorite, Gloria Vanderbilts (although my dad claimed he couldn’t afford those fancy Gloria “D.” Vanderbilts. Perhaps because he wasn’t John D. Rockefeller?)

Now that I’ve been an ex-pat Southerner all these years, I kind of think I ought to get myself a pair of Wranglers. Embrace my heritage, you know? But where would I even find a pair? I’m guessing Nordstrom doesn’t carry them.

Do you wear Wranglers? What do you like about them?

35. Four-wheelers or How to Drive without a License

6 Apr

Photo by Denise
Flickr Creative Commons

All-terrain vehicles used to be known as three-wheelers till somebody decided an extra wheel would make them safer. What really might make them safer is if folks didn’t drink a few six-packs before taking them out for a spin. Or let their five year olds loose on them. But, hey, as long as they stick to the woods or the yard, fine by me. It’s not like people get killed or even maimed on them. Not that many, anyway. Not anymore.

Apart from the rifle, four-wheelers may be the best thing that ever happened to hunters. No more pre-dawn, miles-long treks to the deer stand. Just hop on your four-wheeler and go. No more dragging your sad-looking deer carcass home by the antlers. Just secure it to your deer rack and zip back in time for, well, Miller Time.

A little known fact about me: I used to have a three-wheeler. An even littler known fact about me: I wrote an extremely persuasive letter to my dad to secure said three-wheeler. (Which included compelling arguments such as “EVERYbody has one!” and “Do you want me to be the only girl in seventh grade without a three-wheeler??”)

Back in the day, I loved racing around the yard on my bright red three wheeler. Tumbling down the hill wasn’t all that much fun, but it beat sitting around watching ice melt. Maybe the best part was riding with my little sister, hitting a bump and sending her bouncing off the back. Ok, I wouldn’t be laughing if she’d really been hurt. Not too much, anyway.

Sure, ATVs have the tendency to tip over and pour the rider out in the manner of a short, stout teapot. They may not have seat belts. And nobody EVER wears a helmet. But they’re way safer than, say, bull riding or sassing your mother.

Do you have a four wheeler? What do you use it for?

28. Taxidermy (Dead Animal Decor)

3 Mar

I once had a babysitter who was a taxidermist. Seriously. Ok, probably his wife was my official babysitter, but I did spend a fair amount of time in his workshop watching him preserve local fish and wildlife. I must have been fairly well behaved, else I might be hanging on a wall somewhere myself right about now. Come to think of it, perhaps that’s why I was well behaved.

Why do Southern folks enjoy decorating with dead animals? Beats me. I reckon they want to show off their hunting/fishing prowess and nobody awards gold medals in these particular “sports.” Biathlon comes closest, but no matter how good a shooter s/he is, no Southerner is about to run or ski 15 or 20 kilometers. What Southerner even knows how far that is? (myself included)

As far as I can tell, the most popular wall-mounted creatures are deer (rack size directly proportional to size of hunter’s ego. Yes, that’s a euphemism.), big-mouth bass, ducks, and squirrels. I’ve never seen the mythical jackalope, but they’re supposedly pretty big in Texas. And I’ve heard about folks with stuffed possums, but why? If you’ve driven in the South for any length of time, chances are you’ve killed a possum. It’s not exactly an achievement worth advertising.

When I was growing up, one of my aunts lived in this swank antebellum mansion with pricey antiques everywhere you looked. Still, there were the ubiquitous dead animals. But not just any dead animals. Oh, no. These were fancy dead animals. An elk head. A moose head. And if memory serves, the head of a long-horned sheep. Oh, and a huge bear rug. Which I liked to pretend was a zebra. Politically incorrect from birth, I suppose.

At my parents’ house, there used to be a squirrel mounted on a hunk of tree bark. My mom told me that when I was little I used to freak out anytime I came within a few feet of it. Then one day she walked in when no one was in the room and caught me lovingly petting it. Which may have been how I got the reputation as the “sneaky” one in the family. Right, had nothing to do with my teenage years…

Before you yankee types get all high and mighty about how taxidermy is barbaric and ought not be considered an art form, I should mention that the largest collection of taxidermy I’ve ever encountered was in New York City. New York City?! Yep. It’s called The Museum of Natural History. Probably because east coasters wouldn’t so eagerly flock to the “Museum of Bones and Taxidermy.”

Have you ever personally decorated with dead animals? What’s the strangest stuffed creature you’ve ever encountered?

25. Hair Spray–“The Higher the Hair, the Closer to God”

15 Feb

Southern girls have been rocking the hair spray since long before the folks in 80’s hair bands were even born. And they’re still rocking it long after said bands have hit the $1.99 CD bin.

I’m not sure where the maxim “The higher the hair, the closer to God” originated, but I’m here to tell you that many Southern girls consider it gospel truth. In fact, statistics show that 83% of all hair spray sales come from the Bible Belt. Ok, I just made that up, but it seems pretty accurate.

Since debutante balls are on the decline, a Southern girl’s rite of passage is the receipt of her very own can of Aqua Net. Surely by now they’ve come up with an environmentally friendly aerosol can, not that folks are greatly concerned. I mean, what’s a little hole in the ozone layer compared to the tragedy of flat hair?

Fortunately for hair spray peddlers, a Southern girl rarely kicks her dependence on this sticky styling solution. Yes, there comes a day when maintaining big hair becomes too much of a chore, but that’s right about the time folks transition into helmet head. And if there’s anything that requires more hair spray than big hair, it’s the permanently immobile helmet head look. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, be very glad.

Visit the hair care aisle in your local Walmart, and you’ll be overwhelmed by the array of hair spray features available: Volumizing. Moisture resistant. Comb thru. And, of course, everyone’s favorite: extra hold. As if there’s any hair spray out there that features “regular hold.”

While there are plenty of pump-style hair sprays, Southern girls tend to prefer the good old-fashioned aerosol variety. If only because they can’t be easily tampered with. Case in point: Years ago, one of my Southern friends was perplexed when her salon brand hairspray suddenly lost its “extra hold.” After a bit of detective work, she discovered that her boyfriend had added water to the bottle so it would “last longer.” In fact, it did last longer, seeing as she never used it again. Note to penny pinchers: too much aqua equals not enough net.

24. Crock-pots, the Best Thing Since Boxed Cheese

8 Feb

Why do Southern people love Crock-Pots? Two words: Rotel dip. Sure, this kitchen appliance is handy for making stew, chili, soup, whatever, but for Rotel, well, it’s indispensable. If you’re wondering why, my guess is you’ve never tried cold Rotel dip. Heed these Johnny Cochran-esque words of wisdom: if the Velveeta isn’t hot, step away from the Rotel pot.

Now, if you’re balking at Velveeta, you may want to steer clear of Southern get-togethers on general principle. American cheese (or cheese-like substance) tends to play an active role in everything from Rotel dip to piggies.

Crock-Pots also make a mean batch of barbequed meatballs or lil smokies. Only problem is transporting your Crock-Pot to the party and returning home unscathed or unscalded. Even though Crock-Pots are fairly sturdy, they’re not indestructible, so be careful who you lend your Crock-Pot to.

Case in point: My sister’s husband took her Crock-Pot to work once and failed to return it in one piece (or actually two pieces since it was one of the new-fangled “removable stoneware” types). Of course, he never heard the end of this. Probably still hasn’t. She was nagging him about when he was going to replace her Crock-Pot, and he said was planning to buy her a new one for Christmas.

Now I love Shawn, but have to side with my sister on this one: Wrong answer! Or as they say in the South “That dog won’t hunt.”

22. Family Reunions (Keeping Up with the Kinfolks)

29 Jan

Since I don’t have family on the West coast, I can’t really determine whether Southerners have more family reunions than other folks. But I’ve yet to see an official family reunion tee shirt in Seattle, so I’m going out on a limb here.

There are only two requirements for a Southern family reunion: 1. family and 2. food. Preferably less of the former and more of the latter. Some families also require alcohol, but you’ve got to be careful: Too little and folks may want to kill each other. Too much and people actually might. See shotguns.

For kids, family reunions can be a lot of fun once you get past all those old folks pinching your cheeks and telling you they haven’t seen you since you were “thiiiiis high.” You get to hang out with cousins who teach you new and better cuss words and adult supervision tends to be at an all-time low: “You kids still breathing? Carry on then…”

For adults, however, family reunions are often approached with a mix of anticipation and dread (the proportion of each often depends on how well one has stayed within her Weight Watchers points). And pity the poor soul who’s volunteered to host the reunion: the whole house has to be scoured/decluttered. Because your family doesn’t stop at peeking in your medicine cabinet; they snoop in closets and under the bed, as well. Note: hide the prescription meds and pricy jewelry.

If you make it through the day without name calling, hurt feelings, or fist fights…If no one storms off in the middle of festivities vowing to never come back… are you sure you’re family? No, seriously. Are you sure?

You may be asking yourself, “If family reunions are that bad, why do people go?” Simple: If you don’t go, they’ll talk about you. None too kindly either. And inevitably, some concerned family member will tell you what all was said. And then there will be hurt feelings/angry proclamations without the benefit of banana pudding and chicken casserole. And that’s just sad.

21. Birdhouses–for Decoration, not Shelter

29 Jan

If you go to any artsy/crafty show in the South (and I HIGHly recommend you do), you will no doubt run across a fair amount of decorative birdhouses. Some are designed to hang in trees, but more often they’re attached to some sort of stake that folks stick in the ground. And you’d be hard pressed to find a lone birdhouse in anyone’s yard. They multiply like tattoos on a hipster…

There’s this house down the road from my dad’s place that has probably 20 birdhouses planted in a row in the front yard. I’ve often thought of stopping to take a photo, but on the one hand I don’t want to be conspicuous and on the other hand I just can’t be bothered to pull over. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Or take a drive down the Florence/Byram road and see for yourself.

Years ago, my mom got swept up in the birdhouse craze, and I must confess that I contributed to her rapidly growing collection. One day she calls me up and says, “You know that bird house you gave me last year for Mother’s Day? Well, I was planting some impatiens next it and the top of it just fell off. I looked down in there and there was a BIRD’S NEST in it!”

Me: “Um, yeah. It’s a birdhouse. What do you expect?”

Mom: “It’s MY birdhouse. It’s not for those BIRDS to go around making nests in. I took the nest out, but the other day I was out there and I saw a BIRD fly out of it!”

Me: “Well, if you don’t want birds in there, you’ll have to cover the hole so they can’t get in.”

Mom: “But then it wouldn’t look as pretty.”

Point taken.

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