Episode Twenty One – The Beginning

So tomorrow is my last exam, and it’s in Portuguese, and I’m ridiculously blasé about it.

As though I need an excuse to post on my blog.

I did need an excuse to get out of the flat, though. My days have been long and unstructured lately, and mostly spent within the white walls of my room; so I went out to buy a new notebook. Because I want to blog but I have also noticed that I have an unhealthy attachment to my computer: so I thought I’d start writing my blog posts by hand before uploading them. And for that, I needed a stylish notebook from Paper Tiger. So I went out and checked out the wee one on Lothian Road, but my friend Clare from Spanish, who works at Studio One, told me that the Paper Tiger on Stafford Street is even more magical, so I went  there. I popped into Studio One while I was there and oh dear lord how fabulous it was.

I am very tempted to turn this into a Jenny-esque post listing my most coveted items – that’s for next time. For now, I’ll stick to the task in hand. They don’t have much of their range on the website anyway. I’ll be content sharing with you that they had some thick glass apothecary jars (or at least, the kind of jars I’ve always imagined should be called apothecary jars) tinted with a tiny hint of turquoise. And they had the perfect shade of wooden top with the smooth rubbery lining that I dreamed of when I envisaged myself in my studio shipping orders of hand-stitched teabags to customers. The apothecary jars would be all lined up and labeled with the different types of tea they would contain…

See why it’s dangerous to go down this road? No more! *hand-slap*

So. Where was I? That’s right, my Chistmas visit to America. *CRINGE* (*end of commentary between asterisks*). Hey, remember when I posted my last entry almost exactly a month ago and promised I’d write soon since I was in recovery from oral surgery? Haha. Gotcha. Anyway, here is what I wrote earlier in my lovely new Liberty notebook:

A very Merriman Christmas to you!

The arrival of 2011 was a casual and cozy affair. I had spent the previous two New Years of my life out drinking in the cold in Melrose with my high school friends while Mum watched the Hogmanay show back home. But really, before those tangled and confused years, the way I most preferred to ring in the new year was in my living room at home, in front of the fire, perhaps wearing pyjamas with cute little cows or pigs or cats or whatever animal Mum had picked for that year’s Christmas present. Oh, and with a glass of Shloer in my hand and plenty of snacks. Primarily Pringles – plenty, plenty, plenty of Pringles.

I’m glad Grant and I left Pat’s party early and came home for midnight. I had a fun time and enjoyed hanging out with Grant’s friends Pat and Matt and… Kat? (There was no Kat. There was a Katie though. I don’t know how she feels about being called Kat). However, after the glass of Shloer in my hand gradually morphed into one of wine (and by ‘gradually’ I mean ‘not gradually at all’; and by ‘wine’ I mean, ‘Bacardi’), it began to miss the Shloer and the fire and the pyjamas and the family. And every time I visit them, the Stubbinses feel more and more like a second family.

See how I fit right in? Check out the matching shoes.

When Grant’s mum took me to Hobby Lobby to spend my Christmas gift card, I felt like I was going with an aunt or a cousin. We chatted about all the kinds of crafts available out there, compared gift wrap, and just wandered around in awe. I had a brilliant (and challenging) time deciding how to spend my $20 gift card, and weighing up just how much cash I could justify spending on top of that – and I was grateful for the chance to just spend some time with Mrs. Stubbins without the hustle and bustle of a household of seven; to spend some time together in an environment where we were both extremely comfortable!

Once Grant’s mum had driven me home, we got ready to go visit Grant’s grandma Jones, and some people I’d never met before from that side of the family. This was because they were from Indiana – it took me a while to work out why everyone kept talking about Indiana Joneses. I’m a smart one, me.

"Did you really NOT get that? Duh. Weak."

So yes, Hobby Lobby and Indiana Joneses and Chariots of Fire in the evening before bed is, it turns out, a wonderful recipe for New Year’s Day. And I had plenty more opportunity to hang out with Grant’s family, too. After we both went over to his Aunt Di’s house to take down her Christmas wreaths, we went to Adornetto’s for dinner with his parents and siblings. Adornetto’s is a great little Italian restaurant and bakery in Zanesville, with cute decor and great little benches that would have been even greater if there hadn’t been seven of us! I’m just kidding, it was cozy. :P

After dinner Grant and his sisters and I ventured forth into South Zanesville for a spot of bowling. It was a blast of a night – making fun of the somewhat sketchy venue, and location, and clientele, and uniting in horror when Amanda bowled before the bar was up, only to see it raise at literally the very last second so the ball could go sliding under, like some sort of Indiana Jones in reverse. My my, I do have Indiana Jones on the brain, don’t I? Anyway, my game was all over the place – the fickleness of my bowling skill never ceases to amaze me. I think I bowled a triple strike at one point (either that or a strike-strike-spare) – but then the others got jealous of my skillz and started sabotaging my game with bird noises. To be fair, it caught on pretty fast and soon we were all cawing away in the middle of the bowling alley – I’m sure some of the questionable patrons were questioning us at that point, but for some reason it was beyond hilarious at the time. Anyway, the upshot of it was that I lost my lead by bowling like, twelve gutter balls, and Kara wound up beating me by a couple of points. I’m still not over it.

Gutter Grant strikes (or rather, doesn't strike) again!

The next day’s adventures were even more remarkable, however. Kara drove the four of us young’uns (Blake was at school) to the antique shop downtown, as it was apparently this incredible old menagerie of intriguing, retro and often dirt-cheap stuff. Alas, after twenty minutes’ drive to downtown Z-town and much anticipation to boot, the antique shop was closed; so we drove by Mr. Stubbins’ office to see if he wanted to come out to play. He waved jovially from the roof but was too busy lawy-ing to come out to the Sweet Station with us… :( Which was probably just as well, because when we pulled up outside, it looked distinctly closed-down; and sure enough, when we approached the building there were adverts for a new photographer’s studio to be set up inside. Bust! Kara called Aunt Di to see if we could swing by her work instead, and when she got no answer, we decided to just give up and call it a day.

But! On the way home Kara felt like stopping in at Steak ‘n’ Shake, and it just so happened to be Happy Hour, so we bagged two milkshakes and a Diet Coke (with cherry) for little more than four bucks! What a turnaround!

This man means business.

Unfortunately, Blake’s basketball team had no such luck. The West Muskingum Tornadoes lost to the Maysville (a.k.a. South Zanesville) Panthers by 25 points. And to top it all off, when we stopped into Kroeger’s on the way home and ran into a middle-aged woman I’d never met before and to whom I was not introduced, I stood around smiling awkwardly for a minute or so while she and Grant exchanged pleasantries, and was told once she was gone that she was the mother of Grant’s ex-girlfriend, a Mormon he dated for two years back in the day. Awkward… Maybe that was why he didn’t introduce me. He was sparing me the awkwardness. Or preventing her from thinking he was living in sin. One of the two.

So our earlier disappointment at the antique shop had left Grant and me longing to discover the treasures that lay within, and we dreamed of rubies and diamonds and magical lanterns that night; the next day at the crack of dawn (i.e. 11am), we headed right back down there. It truly was a labyrinth in there! We must have spent a good hour and a half wantering around the old, dark corridors and staircases before eventually leaving empty-handed (although from the looks we got from the cashier, I don’t think he thought we were empty-handed at all). That evening we watched Ohio State play Arkansas at American football, and I began thinking about my options for my year abroad. I Googled the safest Latin American countries (how very British of me), and narrowed it down to Chile, Uruguay, and lush, green, volcanic and bio-diverse Costa Rica. Decision made.

Image from cntraveller.com

Image from costarica-allinclusiveresorts.net.

More on that story later.

Much more.

Probably much later.

There’s also more to come on my Christmas visit (STILL) – but I can sense this is going to be another one of those rambling posts (read: already is one of those rambling posts) which depress me because I know they probably make any readers out there somewhat reluctant to read the whole post. Anyway, sit tight and I’ll be back with another post soon.

Til next time, folks!

Love to you all,



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