My sister called me homely, and I think she’s right.

A few years ago, I was at my parents’ house for the Christmas holidays, baking cookies in the kitchen and singing along to Christmas carols on their early 1990s stereo system when my sister looked at me sweetly, cocked her head like the most adorable little puppy that she is, and said:

“Oh, Rachel, you are so homely!”

Oh my goodness.  Could not.  stop.  LAUGHING!!

It would be easy to be upset, but I know my little sister and despite her brilliance (no, seriously, she is a genius chemical engineer), her vocabulary is a wee bit limited on account of her general dislike of reading when not absolutely necessary.  What she meant to say, and essentially thought she was saying, was that I was being homey.  Domestic, if you will.  Homey.  Ahhhh…  what a difference a single letter can make.  (Remind me to tell you a great joke about celibacy my dad sent me one time…)

Anyway, it’s hard for me not to think of that day, those feelings, every time I do something “homely.”  And since I’ve moved to Wisconsin, I’ve gotten homelier and homelier 😉  (And NOT just because I do most of my clothes shopping locally.  Although, I am concerned because either Penny’s clothes are getting cuter, or I’ve been here too long…)

In the past couple of years, I taught myself to sew (yay, books!  They really can teach you anything!) and to really bake, like from scratch-scratch.  (Scratch-scratch is essentially the opposite of done done.)  More recently, I’ve been doing some crazy experimenting in the kitchen, and being the scientist that I am, here is my lab notebook:

Cookbook in Progress

Love the mess, the work in progress, the chance to experiment again and again, and that unlike PCR, my life doesn’t depend on it.

Even more recently, I learned to freeze corn.  I know what you’re thinking: Seriously?  Like put corn in a freezer?  But no!  Not just that!  Like I went to the farm (lots more on that later), picked a couple rows, shucked the ears, cut the kernels off the cob, roasted it, portioned it, and froze it to eat all winter.  Like the ants.  (Please tell me you know Aesop’s fables, otherwise this is about to get confusing.)  I’ve always been more the grasshopper, waltzing my way down to the store to buy some corn in the middle of winter (or grabbing it from my mother-in-law’s always-well-stocked-with-delicious-things freezer).  But this… this was a thousand times more satisfying!  And my house smelled so good!

With this recent success under my belt, things are about to get even homelier.  I recently completed a test batch of homemade pizza sauce with tomatoes from my mother-in-law’s garden (seriously, what can’t she do?!) and it. was. AMAZING!  Best homemade pizza I have ever made.  My husband agreed through his mouth full!  Next up: learn to CAN!  (And then after that, maybe I’ll can can, but we’ll see…)  I can’t wait for the gorgeous rows of mason jars to be lined up in my basement pantry!  (I’m planning to make spaghetti sauce too, so if you’ve got extra tomatoes in your garden, you let me know and I’ll take care of them for you!)

I may be homely, but this DIY thing is so ridiculously satisfying to me.  I was a little bit bored for a minute when I finally got out of grad school and entered the real world (i.e. left academia).  What do you do with the rest of your time when you’re only working 40 hours a week?  I watched a lot of tv at first, but then that bored me too.  (Note: that is totally NOT a dig on tv, I still love it, and thanks to the magic of DVR, I still watch a considerable amount.  Especially when Lifetime, Hallmark, and ABC Family start playing holiday movies– I am such a sap!)  So I started to learn stuff, do things from scratch, and now I can’t find enough hours in the day!  I feel like every little thing I take on leads to something else and my life just keeps unfolding in new and exciting directions right before my eyes.  (Ok, freezing corn may not be what you might consider new and/or exciting, but for me, this is a big deal.)

Once upon a time, I thought that a life full of “simple” things and “mere” happiness in the absence of recognition and “success” wouldn’t be enough for me.  I stressed over every little choice and the abstract idea of the future weighed heavily on my mind.  But I love the simplicity, I love the satisfaction that comes from hard work combined with creativity, learning, and experimentation.  I love doing my own thing.  As far as I know, a scientific research writer slash blogger has never been asked to host Saturday Night Live, and I doubt that I’ll be the first (it’s not like I’m a model slash actor up for a slashie or something, le sigh…), but I’m ok with that.  I’m more than ok with that, because my definition of success has changed dramatically over the years (oh man, that’s a complicated one, worthy of it’s own series, perhaps) and I find that I really prefer going with the flow rather than constantly trying to swim upstream.  I’m a lady, not a salmon, after all.  (And maybe part dinosaur, but it’s hard to say for sure…)

 

DISCLAIMER: No little sisters were physically hurt in the writing of this post.  Although, she may be feeling embarrassed.  Seriously though, she’s too cute for words and doesn’t have a malicious bone in her body (nor does she know what malicious means– omg, I can’t stop!) so I know for an absolute fact that she had no idea the difference between homely and homey when she said it.  Which leads me to another funny story that is just begging to be told right now.

Once upon a time, my beautiful littler sister was honeymoon shopping with her fiance (now husband).  She was surfing the web, researching locations, doing what engaged ladies do, when she stopped short, got on her I’m concerned voice, and said to us, totally seriously:

“All these places say they’re exotic, but what if we aren’t really in to that sort of thing?!”

Because, you know, tropical flowers, beautiful sunsets, azure seas, and white sand beaches… it’s all so scandalous!  So, I had to reply, “Exotic, Shabs… not erotic.”  And then I laughed.  For years.  Literally.  Like if that scene pops into my head while I’m standing in line at the grocery store, I’m going to laugh out loud about it.  I just can’t help it.  Oh, my little sister, she’s really the best– you’d love her!  (And you will love her, because keep reading and I will make you!)

13 thoughts on “My sister called me homely, and I think she’s right.

  1. I love your little sister, too! She makes a great “straight man” for your act! Brain, beauty, and fun – my daughters are the whole package!

  2. I’ve been enjoying reading along with you, Rachel, and today’s post was almost spooky. I did corn last week; tomatoes next week. And peach jam. I actually have colleagues who trade things for jam. And homemade bread. Academic wonks are so easily impressed by from-scratch food!

    1. Oh man, Becky! You’re even homelier than I am! I can’t blame those academic wonks (LOVE the phrase!!)… from-scratch is the best!!!!

      You’re my favorite Dr. Stankowski!!! Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Hey Rachel, love the blog. Congrats! It’s great you are doing so many things. Maybe you can tell me the secret to finding the energy ; )

  4. I already have first dibs on dad’s tomatoes for my own sauces! …second in line only to the neighborhood rabbits, of course.

  5. Good for you for teaching yourself how to do all those ‘homely’ things. I can relate all too well to the ‘now what?’ feeling that comes after grad school–why do you think I started writing books? 😉

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