It’s my favorite holiday of the year, Halloween. For your entertainment and enjoyment (well, really for MINE, but my blog, my rules) I give you: The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.’

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore –
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; –
This it is, and nothing more,’

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,’ said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you’ – here I opened wide the door; –
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!’
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!’
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,’ said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!’

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door –
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door –
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore –
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door –
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.’

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before –
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.’

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,’ said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore –
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of “Never-nevermore.”‘

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.’

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,’ I cried, `thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he has sent thee
Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

`Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! –
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted –
On this home by horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

`Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us – by that God we both adore –
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore –
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked upstarting –
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!

And seriously, it’s NOT Halloween until Vincent Price does it. NO, IT’S NOT.

God, I love Vincent Price. That will never get old.

Hope you got lots of candy or got to scare the living Hell out of your friends or got drunk off your ass, or whatever else it is you do to make the holiday fun!

BONUS: Check this out: A Tim Burton short film narrated by Vincent Price. Pretty funny since it’s about him. Consider it my Halloween gift to you. Enjoy!

Atkins Friendly Dining in Northern Colorado

So, as many of you know, I’m on the Atkins Diet. This can make dining out challenging, but not impossible. Below are some tips, along with a list of places I’ve found to be Atkins-friendly.

Breakfast is clearly the easiest meal to do on Atkins. In a pinch you can order from the side menu and get eggs, sausage, and bacon. That’s what Keith has dubbed my “triangle” breakfast, because it consists of three sides. LOL.

If you can find a restaurant that serves breakfast all day, you’re in. Also, remember to state up front you are ordering from the SIDE menu, because otherwise you’ll get charged for whatever egg, meat, and toast entreé they have (they’ll pull the carbs), plus your side, which will cost more.

Lunch/dinner is not impossible either. I’ve never run across a restaurant that will refuse to serve you a burger with no bun, and most places do have substitutes for fries or potatoes, such as a side salad. If not, just pass on the sides. If you’re at a higher-end restaurant, they are usually more than willing to let you pass on the potatoes and get and extra helping of veggies. Again, ask. It seems to work better if you can offer an alternative, rather than letting them figure it out. For instance, instead of asking, “Can I substitute something for the potatoes?” ask, “Can I have extra veggies instead of the potatoes?”. Remember, your server doesn’t have a clue that you’re on a special diet. Help them to help you. I’ve never actually run into a server who won’t try to accommodate you. They want you to be happy, as their tips depend on it. Servers who put up with my quirky dining habits with a smile and a “No problem!” get a fat tip and my return business.

Now, here’s some of my favorite places to eat Atkins-friendly:

The Egg & I, Longmont, CO: Egg & I is a franchise, but the Longmont location has been the only one so far that has actually offered a free side of bacon in place of the carb portion of a meal. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. I patronize them frequently just because of this Atkins awesomeness. All the Egg & I franchises, however, have excellent side menus. Also, on a whole, they have excellent service, and the food is always great. I’ve been to Egg & I restaurants in Ft. Collins, Loveland, and Longmont, and I have never had cause to complain. This is one of our go-to breakfast places. They also have some good Atkins-friendly salads for lunch. I like the Egg-septional omelette with a side of bacon. Mmmm mmmm good.

Dempsey’s, Fort Collins, CO: I love, love, LOVE Dempsey’s. The problem is, they have rosemary toast. ROSEMARY TOAST, people. It’s really fucking hard to say no. That said, they are VERY accommodating to the Atkins set, and if you’re far enough up the carb ladder they do offer a choice of fruit instead of potatoes for their breakfast sides. Try The Best Thing, the omelette that has turned me into a Dempsey’s omelette crack addict. I moved out of town and I’m still trying to find excuses to get one. No lie.

Pinocchio’s, Longmont, CO: When I found this place I thought I’d died and gone to Atkins heaven. Their breakfast menu actually still offers a low-carb option: forego the carbs and get an extra egg and extra cheese in your omelette. And OMFG, the food is awesome.

Oskar Blues, Longmont, CO: Habanero wings. HABANERO WINGS. Seriously the most kickass habanero wings ANYWHERE. Oh, they have salads too, but DID I MENTION THE HABANERO WINGS???? OMFG. OMFG. OMFG. They are AWESOME. Oh, there’s other flavors too, but again, DID I SAY HABANERO WINGS????

The Pumphouse, Longmont, CO: Habanero wings. Not as awesome as Oskar Blues, but still pretty damn good. Oskar’s are smoked, these aren’t. So, it probably depends on your preferences, but as much as I love these, I have to go with O.B.’s for top pick. Pumphouse has some damn good habanero wings, though, and they also have some other flavors, but for the life of me I can’t understand why you wouldn’t want habanero. They hurt in a good way.

Mulligans, Fort Collins, CO: Lots of good salads, wings and such. Always willing to work with your special order. Excellent customer service, but become a regular over there and they will treat you like you’re royalty. Come in enough and your drink will be on the bar and they’ll ask you if you want the usual for dinner. GOD I MISS THIS PLACE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was so spoiled.

Jim’s Wings, Fort Collins, CO: It’s called JIM’S WINGS. Do I need to say more? Many levels of hotness, take your pick. Great wings at great prices and you can call ahead for takeout. This was Keith’s “I’m sick, bring me food” fallback for years, because if you get them hot enough, NOTHING can live in that environment. Your germs will run screaming. This is another Fort Collins place I miss with a vengeance.

Café Athens, Fort Collins, CO: Best. Greek. Salad. EVER. Lots of lamb and tasty vegetables. LOVE this salad. LOVE IT.

Pourhouse, Loveland, CO: Okay, I JUST moved to Loveland a month ago, so I’m sure I’ll be working this section of my list for a bit. But The Pourhouse is super-friendly and is always willing to give you a burger sans bun or whatever the hell else you want. Oh, and their chili (which I am SURE is not Atkins-friendly but I STILL have to partake of from time to time) is seriously the reason I live. I AM NOT JOKING. I AM NOT JOKING. I AM NOT JOKING. Did I say I was NOT JOKING???? I will seriously eat a zero-carb diet for a week just to get a bowl of this stuff. It’s like culinary crack.

I’m sure I missed a few, so, Northern Colorado locals, let me know in the comments and I’ll update.

From Renter to Home Owner to Renter 101

I moved from Michigan to Colorado in 1993 with whatever would fit in the bed of a 1994 Chevy S-10 pickup, a boyfriend, no job, and $1000. Keep in mind said boyfriend had everything he owned in a hefty bag. I should have known…

Anyway, I’ve lived here since then, and moved eleven (well, TWELVE times since). Yes, I’m that girl who thinks three years in the same place is insanity. Mind you, I spent a good twenty years of my childhood and young adulthood in the same house, so I suspect you can see why I was always looking for a “better” place.

I rented here, there and everywhere, but never more than three years at a time (my personal best as a renter). Oh, and my first six months here the boyfriend and I lived in a hotel room. Remind me to tell you THAT story.

The boyfriend became a husband became a late husband, but that’s irrelevant.

In 2005, I got the idea to become a homeowner. Well, condo owner. So, I bought one. Which led to the longest residency at one address I can claim in Colorado. Six years.

I loved that condo. When I bought it it was K-Mart six-years-ago crap/dirty/faded white (I found the can under the sink, no lie), and had the original 70’s (it was built in ’74) light fixtures, baseboard heaters, and outlets, which were so bad you were lucky to find one where you could actually plug something in and have it STAY in the outlet.

So, enter me. All ambition and energy and “OMGTHISISMYFIRSTHOUSE” and willing to kill myself to fix it up.

I will admit I was fueled by the narcotic that is hours of HGTV, so I had a vague idea of the mountains I must climb, but still, it looks SO much easier on TV.

Disillusion #1: You have the tools. When you’ve been a renter forever you don’t own handy things like power tools, sawhorses, shop vacs, etc. But you will. Oh, you will. I have a collection of tools that would put ALL renters to shame, and probably some homeowners. Home Depot became my BFF. I spent money there like divas spend money at Gucci. No lie. I have power tools that would make grown men cry. CRY, I tell you. Oh, and rule of thumb: if you don’t go to Home Depot at least once in the middle of your project, it’s not a project.

You’re laughing now. You won’t later.

Disillusion #2: Flooring is easy. Perfect example: peel and stick floor tiles. Trust me, I got burned TWICE on the same floor. Look, when two college educated adults can’t pull this off, it’s got fail built into it. Much cheaper to call the guy at the flooring store and make a deal for a floor sample, especially if you (like me) have a tiny kitchen floor. Please, people, learn from this mistake. I’m begging you.

Disillusion #3: Your inspector is God and he saw Every Problem That Could Possibly Occur In Your House. I can’t tell you how hard I’m laughing right now. You really have no idea. Yeah, most of them will catch BIG GLARING things, but little things? NO. MY inspector was apparently an electrician in his former life, and he went ON AND ON AND ON about how awesome the electrical was (which was good) but completely FAILED to see the plumbing was FUBAR. I had to get a plumber in to correct the (again, old house!) antiquated shutoffs in the bathroom (THANK GOD, because had the toilet overflowed my shutoff was STUCK!) So, word to the wise, don’t just believe everything they say.

Disillusion #4: Your HOA is working for you. BWAHAAAHAHAHAHHAA. AHAAAHAAAHAHA. MUAAHAHHHHAA. Oh, sorry, was that me? Yeah, no matter HOW WELL you check your HOA’s financials (and trust me, I did) they still manage to amaze you with their escapades in stupidity (and I got on the board to try and fix this; shocker! Ruling by committee NEVER works!). You’re on your own here. I got nothin’.

Okay, by now the fencesitters have probably mostly fallen on the “rent” side, so I’ll give you some happy things to consider:

Happy #1: Decorating. Okay, I’ll admit that this probably appeals to the women 99% of the time, but hey girls, you can BUILD YOUR NEST! PAINT IT ANY COLOR YOU WANT! Put YOUR mark on YOUR house!

Trust me, after 11 years of white walls and beige carpet, that was hard to resist. And, if you’re married and planning kids, you’re screwed, dudes. Your woman has already painted the nursery in her head.

Happy #2: Home improvements. I totally hated the unfixable crack in the drywall over the hall in my house. Fix? ARCHWAY!!!! Yep, got a kit, slapped it up, done. Crappy panelling on the front of my cabinets? Covered with supercool metal squares. Crappy off-white dingy paint? Let me whip out the box of Crayolas! Trust me, I had SO MUCH FUN doing this that it was totally worth any pain I went through later. ANY PAIN.

Happy #3: The satisfaction of a job well done. Oh, I’ll admit this one. When you look back at all your blood, sweat, and tears to see your finished product, no matter how it came out, you’re proud. YOU did that. It was YOUR vision, and damnit, it cost you $300 or $3000 or $30,000 for tools and materials, but YOU did it.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And I would never deny you the joy of doing it for yourself.

Go out there and kick ass, you owners! Woohoo!

Us renters will just call and complain the next time the sink backs up.