Do you have trusted favorites? Movies you always turn to when you’re sad? Music that somehow never grows old? Maybe it’s a series of books that feature such a beloved setting and characters you can slip away into them whenever the world makes you weary, and find yourself at home amongst friends. Do you long to pull on your favorite sweater, and settle down in your favorite chair, with your favorite tea in your favorite mug? Congratulations! You’ve found yourself some stuff that works.
Americana music legend Guy Clark defined stuff that works as, “Stuff that’s real. Stuff you feel. The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall.” Here’s some of the stuff that works for me.
As You Wish
My relationship with The Princess Bride goes all the way back to William Goldman’s original novel. I discovered it at a little science fiction book store just off campus when I was working toward my BFA in Theatre. I read it in a weekend to escape more academic reading assignments, then started sharing it with my friends. And I even brought it to the costume shop where I worked over the summer. If an actor was assigned to help us, but had no sewing skills, we would demand dramatic readings for entertainment. The sword fight on the Cliffs of Insanity was a big favorite.
So I was eager to see what Rob Reiner had done with the story when the film came out in 1987. Warren had no experience with the story, but trusted my judgement, and he loved it so much we went back a second time to take his mother to see it. Then we visited my mother at Thanksgiving and took her to see it, too. Now I divide my friends into those who quote The Princess Bride and those who have no idea what the rest of us are laughing about.
I watched it again not long ago, and am delighted to say that it still holds up just fine.
Dried Leaves in Water
Somehow, I never picked up the habit of drinking coffee. I remember, when I was a kid, my parents’ morning coffee smelled so good as it was perking. But, when I begged for a sip, the bitter brew tasted just horrible. They drank it black, and never thought to sweeten it with milk and sugar for a child’s palate.
Tea was a different story. Mom used to give us hot tea with buttered graham crackers when we came home from school in the afternoon. We always had iced tea in the summer. By the time I got to college, my taste for tea marked me as a slightly eccentric individual. (Even back then I enjoyed having that kind of reputation.) Now I start nearly every day with a cup of hot tea.
My taste for functional pottery grew out of my love for tea. Now my mug collection threatens to take over my kitchen cabinets, and nearly all my dishes are handmade pottery creations.
A Home in Notting Hill
I have never been to England, but I feel as if I have friends in Notting Hill. This is because mystery writer Deborah Crombie does such a great job of evoking the sights, sounds, and criminal intent of London in her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels. She calls them “novels with a body in them,” and has created such a beloved cast of characters that I can’t wait to read each book as it comes out. Opening a new Deborah Crombie novel is like sitting down with old friends over tea, for a nice long gossip, to catch up on what they’ve been doing. Going back to re-read earlier books is a joy as well. Escaping the stress and boredom of the mundane world with a trip to Notting Hill is a coping mechanism that has worked for me for years.
There’s lots of other random stuff that works for me. Stuff I can go back to whenever I feel stressed or just too tired to think. The animated film, Wreck-it Ralph is a good example. Weird, I know, but I’ve watched it more than a dozen times.
A soft gray sweater tunic I picked up one year at Chico’s. It’s baggy. Shapeless. It came in purple and gray. I leaned toward the purple, but it looked horrible on me. The gray, however, was cloud-soft, flattered my face, and lived in my closet for years and years and years. I always look forward to the onset of cold weather because I know it is waiting for me.
Stuff That Works
Deviled Eggs and Fudge Brownies are not necessarily to be eaten together. But these two simple foods are my go-to recipes when I need to contribute to a pot luck dinner. I am a traditionalist on both fronts.
The deviled eggs have mayo, yellow mustard, and a dusting of paprika. You can use vinegar, pickle relish, Dijon mustard, or any number of other “gourmet” variations, but they won’t taste right. The original is always the best.
And that’s the goal, isn’t it? To find stuff you can reach for, time and again, when you need just the right thing without overthinking it. What is some of the stuff that works for you?
We definitely have a lot of people to thank for the imagery in this week’s post, starting with Paul Adamietz and his You Tube Channel for the “GUY CLARK STUFF THAT WORKS” video. If you enjoyed it, please give him a thumbs-up (and maybe subscribe?). While we’re on the relatively simple images, we’d like to thank G. S. Norwood for the photo of her MUG, PLATE, AND TEAPOT, all created by Alex Macias, of Alex Macias Ceramics of McKinney, TX. All of the montages were assembled by Jan S. Gephardt. Credits for the montage images are grouped by montage.
For the PRINCESS BRIDE montage:
We thank the following: Fototelegraf, for the movie still of Fred Savage and Peter Falk as the grandson and grandfather. Kentucky Sports Radio, for the photo of Inigo (Mandy Patinkin), Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), and Fezzik (André the Giant). All Posters, for the kiss that “left them all behind,” featuring Westley (Cary Elwes) and Buttercup (Robin Wright). On roughly the next row down, we acknowledge with gratitude: Abe Books, for the 1984 cover of the edition that G. read, of William Goldman’s book, The Princess Bride.
We were delighted to find Kelly Martinez’s “Movies from Another Point of View” on Buzzfeed, with the “Have Fun Storming the Castle” photo of Carol Kane and Billy Crystal as Valerie and Miracle Max (the latter recently quoted in a different post on this blog). Thanks very much to Amazon, for the nice image of the original movie poster from 1987. And for the center-bottom photo, once again featuring Elwes and Wright as Westley and Buttercup, we’d like to acknowledge (and urge you to investigate) All Roads Lead to the Kitchen’s recipe for “Fire Swamp Fireball Cocktail.”
For the montage of DEBORAH CROMBIE and ALL HER BOOKS:
We are delighted to thank Ms. Crombie herself, via her website. Since G. mentioned the Notting Hill setting, we were pleased to find the photo of Deborah Crombie at Falafel King in Notting Hill, London (2009) in her website’s photo gallery. And we gratefully acquired the images of her book covers (with helpful ordinal numbers!) from her website’s listing of The Books. Many thanks and much love, Deb!
For the STUFF THAT WORKS montage:
Many thanks to IMDB, for the Wreck-It Ralph movie poster. A big thank-you to Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s website “Photos” gallery, for the photo of Gilmore on stage. The mouth-watering photo of fudge brownies with chocolate chips comes from Food and Thrift’s post, “Chocolate Chip Fudge Brownies . . . and Breast Cancer Awareness!” (YES! There’s a recipe there, too!). Now we’re both grateful to blogger Elizabeth, and craving brownies. Finally, author G. S. Norwood is also the author of the deviled eggs (and the apple pie in the background), as well as the photographer for the last image on the right. Many thanks to all!