little sarah Big World

Tag: things to be grateful for

Epic Baking and a New Life

~OR~

“I am PMAing so f***ing hard right now. I am PMAing all over this f***ing town!”

(a recent text sent from me to Eric Friend; PMA = Positive Mental Attitude)

I was maybe in a slump for a while, Friends. I didn’t want to talk about it too much, because I didn’t want to admit it to myself, fully, and I certainly didn’t want to bum you guys out. Not a terrible slump, mind you, but more like a handful of wasted days. Too much Glee watching. Not enough accomplishments. Too many regrets and not enough action.

But praise the powers that be, Friends! I am grateful for the long-awaited, patiently honed power within myself to rise up with fists and get moving again. We can call it a Positive Mental Attitude, but the word that keeps coming to my mind is “Impervious.” I am a woman on a mission and nothing can stop me. Un-fazable.

*       *       *

Last night I repotted Percy, Kevin’s succulent that I’m supposed to be taking care of but really I barely do anything and he is just THRIVING like you would not believe above and beyond the confines of his small pot. (Before pictures here). So I gave him a new pot, a new life. I even repotted some of the clippings back into the small stripey pot and gave it to my Moms so they can have a Percy of their own. Son of Percy.

I wound up repotting him in the dark and cold, my Moms backyard, with a flashlight and stiff fingers. This was possibly due to my afore-mentioned slack off-ery. But I am a new woman, with a new life, and I will get things DONE even if it means frozen hands and dirt on my coat. I am impervious. And I got a free dinner afterwards. (Thanks, Moms!)

*       *       *

Also yesterday I was blown-off twice, by different people, to varying degrees. But did I let it get me down? I did not. Because I am UNFAZABLE, Friends, and because it meant that I got to spend Saturday night watching Glee and drinking wine and going for a long, solo walk through the quiet, cold night to buy more flour and almond-cocunut milk. And then baking, Friends. Epic Baking.

I made pear-plum jam-filled oatbran muffins and used the leftover batter to make a loaf of apricot jam-filled oatbran bread. That almond-cocunut milk (Blue Diamond brand) is to die for, Friends. I could not stop eating the batter.

I even pre-made the dough for another round of cinnamon-sugar pull-apart bread, a labor of love, for my Lindsey Friend. The baking, Friends. It was epic.

*       *       *

And the disappointment at having plans canceled for somewhat dubious reasons? Not epic. The wallowing in self-pity and regret? Non-existent.

Because I do not take it personally, Friends. I do not let it get me down. I enjoy a quiet night in by myself, baking and drinking, and then I clean up. Wash the dishes, read a good book, snuggle into my bed. My new life.

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A Labor of Love

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I Bake Because I Care

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I Bake Because You Are 70-Years-Old and Deserve Something Delicious

My Granny Mary turned 70 on Thursday. 70, Friends! Isn’t that amazing? Maybe you can’t tell from my low-lighting, high-motion picture, but she is a fox. She can pull off that sweater-with-leggings-and-boots look better than anyone I know. This is a woman who grew up on a rural farm in Idaho, became a mother in her teens, a grandmother in her 30s and a great grandmother (several times over) before most people have entered retirement. A woman who loves butter, wine, travel, gossip, sewing, saving, and a good story.

A woman who deserves a loaf of sweet, cinnamon pull-apart bread, even if it does take the better part of an already busy day to make. Because baking bread is a labor of love, it is something so personal and involved and messy, requiring patience and faith and a whole lot of sugar and spice and everything nice. But Granny Mary is worth all that.

I used this recipe from Joy the Baker, whom I adore (though not as much as my grandma, just sayin). It’s not a difficult recipe, just time consuming, as there is a lot of waiting involved. I used the waiting parts to run errands and go for a run. I’m nothing if not productive.

Anyways, you start out by making some dough, with yeast and everything, which stills feels like exciting, uncharted baking territory for me. You let it rise in a warm spot for an hour, while you mix up some cinnamon sugar (with nutmeg) and go to the grocery store. You know, errands stuff.

Then you roll the dough out and admire the beautiful winter sunlight that shines through your kitchen window, for about the hundredth time. Have I mentioned that I love my apartment?

You slather the dough with melted butter (I used vegan, and I also used almond milk in the recipe, mostly just because that’s what I already have at home), sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar mix, and then cut it into little squares. Then you stack the squares together into a pan. Like this:

Joy’s recipe calls for a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, but I was using the tin-foil, give-away-style pans and those only came in 8 x 3.5 inches at the Freddy-Smith’s, which means that I miraculously had enough for two loaves! One for Granny, and one for the party.

Although, looking at Joy’s post again, I think maybe I could’ve crammed my squares in tighter. Ah, well. I’m just giving you guys options. I’m nothing if not fond of keeping my options open.

Anyways, so then you wait another 30 to 45 minutes for the dough-squares to rise in the pan(s), maybe go for a run or do some laundry, before baking. Which is another 35 minutes or so. Again, totally worth it. Because the end result goes a little something like…this!

70-year-old bad-ass grannies deserve beautiful baskets lined with brand-new kitchen towels and filled with home-made sweet bread, fancy butter, expensive honey, and gourmet chocolates, from their grandchildren. They deserve a day’s worth of baking. They deserve to be surrounded by four generations and to drink wine and laugh and eat as much cheese as they like.

They deserve to have their cake and eat it, too.

Or at least mine does. And don’t go thinking that we got her a store-bought cake with that crappy plastic frosting, because we special ordered it with WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING, which is amazing. And yes, she deserved it.

Happy birthday, Granny.

Sidetracked

~OR~

What We Talk About When We Don’t Talk About Busking

Yesterday it was too rainy, and then too snowy, to head up to Park City. Instead, we had tea and cookies, followed by vegan burritos while clusters of soft flakes plummeted to the ground outside shrink-wrapped windows.

Then we walked through the park, discussing gender roles and stereotypes and slurs. There were ducks, also, but no chicks. No chicks, no queers, no gyps, no jews. (You know, slurs).

And then…a wintry car ride up a steep hill, drinks with my moms and their friends, and on to a hardcore show/bake sale/benefit.

I didn’t stay the whole time, didn’t even stay until my friend’s band played. I was supremely uncomfortable–needed to pee, but there was not toilet; desperately thirsty, but didn’t want to add to the bladder situation; etc. And it’s just not my type of music. Not at all. I might not even be correct in referring to it as “hardcore,” I don’t know.

I used to date a guy who made me feel like I was closed-minded, because I didn’t like some of his favorite music. (311, Phish, etc.–if you must know). And I believed him, thought it was just a question of opening myself up to different things. I suppose I can’t lay it all on the boyfriend, that’s what I get for dating too young, before I knew myself. But I do know myself now. I know that I don’t like screaming, or loud noises in general, or needing to pee, or the cold, or standing alone in a room full of strangers. Hell, I don’t even like crowds. And I still don’t like Phish.

So I left. I drove home and indulged in vegan chicken wings and a salad. Yes, that is how I indulge these days.

Because I am more of a walk-through-the-park-on-a-snowy-day type of girl. And I know that now.

To My Great Aunt Miriam

Today you are 100 years old, Aunt Miriam. And I am 25, soon to be 26, which means no more health insurance, and it means that I am no longer in my early- or mid-twenties, but rather inching closer to thirty, closer to a time when I should settle down, should figure it out. And I have not figured it out, do not believe in settling. You have lived 100 years, and what do I have to offer you? We’ve long since ceased to exchange letters, trinkets, postcards. Haven’t spoken in years and I wonder if you would recognize me in the flesh, my cheeks hollowed, face leaner, like a woman, and even this body, like suddenly my small breasts and wide hips make sense, separated by a long, slender torso. I have lost my baby fat, broken hearts, taken drugs. And what do I have to say to you? What have I learned? Who have I become?

Twelve years ago you were 88, and I was 14, which I thought was so much, so old, and now the number seems like nothing, inconsequential. Still, you took me seriously enough to invite me into your home, a “monastic” little apartment, as my mother had warned, and I slept in the same room as you, on a firm, compact bed, a twin, with you the other half, just across the room.

Was I nervous? Was I worried about keeping it light or fun or easy, in such close quarters? Was I self-conscious to be sharing such an intimate space, to fall asleep next to each other, our lungs drawing breath from the same sweet Florida air?

I do not remember. The pictures show that I was awkward, towering over you, wearing a thread-bare men’s polo shirt and plastic glitter bracelets. I was a gawky, presumptuous teenager. But you let me in. We shared a room–the most unexpected sleepover–and in the morning  we sat down , on the back porch, birds chirping, and talked.

An interview, recorded on tape, for my 8th grade social studies class. We had focused a lot on genealogy that year, on ancestry and personal histories, and now here I was, the special child, flown in from Utah at my parents’ expense with my three siblings left behind in Ogden. All to speak to you, Aunt Miriam. My oldest living relative.

Listening to the tapes tonight, for the first time in the twelve long years since, I am struck by how casual my tone, how forward the questions. Like I thought I had the right. Like I thought we were equals. And businesslike, my goodness! I am just plowing through the questions, not knowing when to leave good enough alone, not knowing when to let your tangents have free reign, as you spin stories and weave anecdotes and share yourself openly with me. I am only interested in getting to the end, filling out my form, getting all of the answers. Completing my assignment. So I don’t even notice, when I ask you to describe your character, and you talk about bouncing back, about how some things are harder to bounce back from than others…and…needing to keep in mind that there is another child to care for. I didn’t even know that you were talking about Rhoda, and Judy, your daughters. That you were talking about Rhoda’s illness, probably the most painful and draining and impossibly cruel and unchangeable circumstance of your life. I was too young, and I was too matter of fact. And nervous, probably, to have been given such power, such responsibility, to hold court with an elder for an afternoon, wielding my tape recorder and pen.

I said that I would become a musician, Aunt Miriam, and I didn’t. So close, but not quite. A bit too distracted, I guess. But I did go to college, like you advised. I went to college, and I was uncertain, and I called you from a coffee shop near my rented room in someone else’s apartment, sophomore year, to ask your advice. Because I didn’t know what I wanted to do and needed to pick a major. Because I was not good at making big decisions, and you put things into perspective. Showed me that my selfish confusion stemmed from a gross abundance of opportunities. And I am grateful for my many opportunities Aunt Miriam, but I am still not good with decisions. My life has not followed a straight path, and things have not been so cut and dry as your decision to switch from French Teaching to Elementary Education, because you got a C in a required class, easy as that, decision made and on to the next thing. I’ve drifted, I’ve backtracked. I’ve doubted and worried and starved and indulged. But I’ve learned some things, Aunt Miriam. I’ve learned French, and I can speak that, can have a conversation, and I can do just about anything in Spanish, which I guess is what we can call being fluent. I’ve lived abroad. I’ve seen Europe, already, more times by the age of 25 than you probably did in a lifetime, though it was the thing you’d dreamt of, waited for, saved up, and for me it’s been more of a chance encounter, repeated, with variations.

I wish I had known how precious a gift you were giving me, Aunt Miriam, but I did not, didn’t even know what to say for the most part, and so simply moved on to the next topic. I was not yet the woman I am now, the woman that I would become, who would know what to say when you tell me that your closest friend passed away from cancer, or your baby sister, 68-years-old, and how you did not feel like celebrating after that, not even your eightieth birthday. Or at least I might have know how long to let the silence linger, an appropriately thick and rich moment, without words. But these things come with age, I suppose. I am still not the woman I will become, Aunt Miriam. But I am getting there. And I hope, still, after all these years, to make you proud.

Glimpses

~Friday, January 6th, 2012~

11:14 am – Drying laundry above the radiators all night has steamed up the windows while we sleep; flowers from Kevin still thriving

10:02 pm – Paul has a 6-hour layover in Madrid; we go out bar hopping in Sainz de Baranda: good beer and fried potatoes

A Night on the Town

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One Thing Leads to Another

It begins with roscón

…roscón to celebrate Día de los Reyes Magos…

…to celebrate Día de los Reyes Magos as a way to say “thank you” to our new Swedish friends. Because they they lent us money on New Year’s Eve, and we want to pay them back. Because we want more than a one-night-friendship-stand. Because we’d been treated to a wonderful Christmas and then a wonderful New Years, courtesy of our international friends, and now it was our turn to treat, damnit.

But we were still nervous when we met up with Fredrik and Sigrid on Thursday to eat roscón and go see the cabalgata; it felt a little like meeting up for a first-second date after a one-night stand. Turns out they felt the same! We shared a good laugh and then got on with our friendship, starting with coffee and roscón.

In Spain, traditionally speaking, January 6th is the big gift-giving day. It’s when the Reyes Magos (the three wise men) come to town, bringing presents for all the good little children. They arrive by way of a big (brand-name-toy-sponsored) parade on Thursday night, and even though its a family-friendly (read: for kids) event, we happily marched our four grown selves over to see what the fuss was about.

Mostly it was about flashy colored lights and twinkles and sparkles and oohs and aahs.

And tons of people. People everywhere, climbing on ladders they’d brought or whatever else, to better see the parade.

I think we enjoyed the crowd-watching more than the actual parade. It was just nuts to see so many people come out, packed like sardines, toting ladders, to see the three kings arrive in town. I think it makes for a way more convincing scenario than the old “Santa will come tonight and sneak down the chimney while you’re sleeping” line. I’ve said it before, Spaniards take their Navidades seriously. I continue to be impressed.

Not wanting the night to end so soon, and eager for a warming drink and a place to sit, we followed Fredrik and Sigrid back to their neighborhood, Chueca.

Chueca is the gay neighborhood of Madrid, but it’s adjoined to the Hipster-type neighborhood. So it’s got the best of both worlds, with lots of cutesy boutiques and modern-looking shops and fancy places to nibble or sip.

…like the San Antón market, which is similar to it’s more famous cousin–the San Miguel market in the center of town–but, you know, trendier. More chic.

…and with a roof-top lounge, where the drinks are nevertheless cheap and the fires are toasty and the conversation turns to books and travel, to favorite films and living abroad. And I was grateful, for new friends, and new old traditions, and a sense of adventure, and wherever the night may lead us. Which in this case was to pizza, in some teeny late-night joint. Then a long walk home for Kevin and I, happy and full and excited about all the possibilities.

And to think–it all started with a simple, sweet, pink parcel. A bit of roscón and three kings, come to town.

Let’s Get Turtles!

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Man, This Alternate Title Thing is Getting Hard I Dunno ‘Let’s Get Turtles’ is Already a Pretty Awesome Title It Refers to a Beloved Book From My Childhood

Yesterday I talked about going to the train station to buy some tickets. I failed to mention that there are turtles in the train station.

There are turtles in the train station here, friends. Turtles. Friends. FRIENDS: there are turtles. In the train station.

I spend 5-10 minutes watching them and freaking out every time I go there. They do this thing where they flutter their little turtle paws in each others faces as a sort of mating dance. Go to Google, search “turtle mating dance,” and you’ll see.

Just don’t search “turtle mating,” because that’s a whole ‘nother ball game.

The Year in Travel

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That’s the Way the Money Goes

*       *       *

JANUARY

Ogden & Pleasantview, UT

Went to stay with Dad for a week. Read more here.

*       *       *

FEBRUARY

Winnemucca, NV

Road trip with sister Natalie to visited sister Nikki on her 31st birthday. Read more here.

*       *       *

MARCH

New York City, NY

Flew with Dad to celebrate Cousin Judy’s (insert flattering number here)th birthday. Aunt Barbara and Cousin Emily joined us from LA and Boston, respectively. Read more here.

*       *       *

APRIL

Portland, OR

 Roadtrip with Kevin and Nicole, returning her to her temporary rainy homestead after a visit to the Land of Zion. Read more about it when I get around to finally posting on it, which should be soon.

*       *       *

MAY

Children's Department, Main Library, Salt Lake City, UT

Moved from Level 2 down to Children’s. You know, a promotion. Read more about it here.

*       *       *

JUNE

Tours, France

Went on a month-long study abroad program to France. Also went to Paris a couple times, plus too many day trips to list here and now. Read more by going to the ARCHIVES section (up top) and clicking on June 2011. There are so many entries, Friends. It was my blogging pinnacle up to this point.

Florence, Italy

Also, whilst abroad, I spent a quick weekend with Cousin Misty in Florence. Read more here.

*       *       *

JULY

Ogden, UT

July is the best month of all for Utah, Friends. It is non-stop fireworks, burgers, colas, parades, swimming, iced coffee and sunshine. Read more here here and here.

*       *       *

AUGUST

Deckers, CO

Another roadtrip, this time to stay with Lindsey and Co. at her family’s cabin in Colorado. Read more about the cabin here, and the road trip here.

*       *       *

SEPTEMBER

Lake Powell, AZ

Last-minute getaway to Powellapalooza with the band and Eric. Read more here.

*       *       *

OCTOBER

San Francisco, CA

Spent “Fall Break” (even though I’m oh-so graduated) in San Francisco, sandwiching a week of bffs/staying up late/wedding planning/motown dancing/”single” ladies visit with Whitney between weekends of quality time with Laura, Mel, and (still in utero) Lucía. Read more about this one soon, like with Portland–“when I get around to finally posting on it”–I know, I know. I’m behind.

*       *       *

NOVEMBER

Moab, UT

A road trip with Dad to run the Moab 1/2 Trail Marathon! What? YES! I did that! Read more here.

New York City & Brooklyn, NY

Then back to NYC, at which point I do start to feel a little self-conscious about my gratuitous travel exploits. But who turns down New York? Especially when the elders (Dad and Aunt Barbara) have offered to split the ticket three ways. Read more about New York, Round 2, here.

*       *       *

DECEMBER

Madrid, España

Now here we are, in Spain. Madrid, to be specific, though there was that surprise trip to Tarazona with a bonus-surprise-extension trip to Valencia (read more here), and the adventure’s not over yet. I’ve still got a week until January 9th, the date of my return ticket. So there will be more pictures, more words, more travel, and many more everyday adventures.

*       *       *       *       *

You know, May was the only month where I didn’t travel outside of Salt Lake, and I left the state for all but 3 months. Hell, I left the country twice! Yet somehow I didn’t fully comprehend just what a little globe-trotter I’ve become until November, when one of my Stephanie’s pointed out to me that I’m “traveling all the time.” And she’s right.

I’ve packed, flown, bused, trained, couch-surfed, and visited quite a lot in a quarter of a century, but 2011 certainly takes the cake. What can I say, Friends? I’m a restless gal. And I’m okay with that. In fact, if you’ve been following this here blog with any regularity, then you know that 2011 was also the year of acceptance, the year of being okay with all my mistakes, imperfections, and silly struggles. 2011 was the year of strength and confidence, and I feel so strong, Friends. I feel foolish, and uncertain, and confused, and cranky, and worried, and scared, and STRONG. I do not feel so little in the Big Bad World.

Maybe I should change the name of this blog to BigSarahlittleworld.

Or maybe I should just not tempt fate and be grateful for an amazing year, made possible only with the generosity and understanding of my friends, family, and of course all of you out there, reading and sharing this adventure with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much. Here’s to 2011, and now on to 2012!

Holiday Travel Madness

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Guess who made it all the way to Salt Lake International Airport without her passport yesterday? That’s right! Me!

Oh, man, but that’s not even the half of it. First, I packed the morning of my flight, because I was up LATE the night before, celebrating with Eric and Co. after our ridiculously successful (previously mentioned) performance. I call it ridiculous, because we’d never even rehearsed all together before, let alone had a dress rehearsal, and some (Eric) thought it might be a total mess, but instead it was great and the room was packed and there was a line of 20+ people out the door and it was magical and Eric stood bathed in a halo of golden spotlight playing the accordion, but no I don’t have any pictures of it, sorry.

Then a long time of congratulations and people giving us money and packing up, and then free Indian food happened at the staff party for Salt Lake Film Society, plus free Epic beer, and then on to Eric’s folks’ place, where there was wassail and home-made caramel and staying up late chatting with Eric’s mom at the kitchen table.

So, yeah–I got home at, like, three or something, and stayed up an additional hour, determined to finish The Poisonwood Bible before leaving for Spain. Because I’m crazy like that these days. Crazy addicted to books.

THE PLOT THICKENS: So I packed this morning, finishing just in time for Natalie to pick me up, but my suitcase felt WAY too heavy. BUT GUESS WHAT? Natalie is a genius, that’s what! She suggested that we stop at her house (which is right on the way to the airport) to weigh my bag and take things out. BUT WAIT! She doesn’t have a scale. So we used the WiFit. We had to make a little Mii for the damn suitcase and everything. BUT THE BAG WON’T STAY BALANCED ON THE SCALE! So I stood on the WiiFit, holding the bag, and then we just subtracted how much I weigh. It was 10 lbs. too heavy. We took some things out. BUT WAS IT TEN POUNDS OF THINGS? SHOULD WE WEIGH THE BAG AGAIN? Naw, we’ll just weigh me, holding a bag with all the stuff we’d taken out, subtract my weight, and see if that’s 10 lbs. worth. AND IT WAS.

All of that was Natalie’s genius, as I was basically in a stunned stupor and she’s a quick thinker.

Then after all that we got to the airport, realized I didn’t have my passport (inflatable neck pillow, yes, but passport, no), raced back to my place, thanked the Universe that I had a spare key on me, since I’d given mine to Natalie and we’d left it at her house (!!!), zoomed back to the airport and made it an hour and ten minutes before my flight OMG.

The best part is, we weren’t even too freaked out. It was actually kind of fun, and there’s nobody that could have happened with besides Natalie. Thanks, Sis. Happy birthday on the 18th, also.

*       *       *

Then my second flight was delayed, so instead of a 50-minute layover in Chicago, it was more like 3 hours. No worries, Friends! Remember I already learned to make the best of traveling delays? So I visited the urban garden they have right in the terminal.

*       *       *

Now today I’m in Madrid, with Kevin. What a world. Anyways, Happy Holidays and safe travels to those of you who are flying, driving, apparating, etc. May you have fewer shenanigans than I!

Voluntary Sterilization

I’m not sure if I want kids or not, and lately I’ve been leaning towards not. When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait. In fact, my high school boyfriend (the first one) and I used to fantasize about having kids together, even going so far as rubbing my puffed-out belly and pretending I was already pregnant!

(PS – One of Life’s greatest reliefs is that we didn’t act upon this particular impulse. Seriously, I thank my lucky stars about it ALL THE TIME.)

Add to that a lifetime of babysitting, nannying, teaching English to kids, working in a children’s library…and it would seem obvious that I’m destined for maternal bliss. But I don’t think so. I’ve got a five-year-old sister and (as of today) FOUR nephews to hang out with and exorcise my arts-n-crafts, sing-a-long demons. I think that’ll be plenty. Plus I like my time and money and would prefer not to give that all away to an irrational egomaniac, or “toddler”.

My Dad doesn’t believe me, though.  “Oh, you say that now, but you’ll see. You’ll change your mind. I felt the same way when I was your age, but it’s one of the greatest joys in life. You’ll see.” Lots of grown-ups say this to me, actually. This is because when they were my age they were lawyers or some other professional type, far removed from the harsh reality of small children. They didn’t have to deal with this on a daily basis:

This little act of misconduct was carried out by a team of brothers (I’d guess 2- and 4-years-old), while their mom sat planted in front of one of our “kids only” computers, on Facebook.

Right after cleaning this up I had to give a stern-voiced “STOP IT.” to another set of brothers; one was kicking the other in ribs while he lay curled in a fetal position. Hearing my reprimand, their father glanced up from his computer with a look of shock and disapproval, as if to say “Don’t you talk to my kids that way!”

Later, while begrudgingly helping me clean up a cluster of wrinkled magazines splayed on the floor (“He was just reading, what?”), the mom of the first set told her 2-year-old “Shut up. Nobody wants to hear it.” in such a cruel and condescending tone that I almost couldn’t take it.

…And this is what I’m talking about. This is what my mom calls “free birth control,” and it works like a charm. If I were a fellow parent, I might be tempted to understand and empathize with these parents. But I don’t want to. I just want to go home, eat dinner, watch my programs while working on Accomplishments, read my book, and go to bed. And since I have no children to call my own, I’ll be able to do just that, no interruptions, no hassles.

Why would I want to ever change that?