Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dropping the Ball

What do you write when it's the middle of a long week but you managed to finish your monster project at work but don't want to talk about it? How about if you just came from a volunteer meeting for the church website and you're worried about your future involvement? Okay, here's one: you are tired, cranky, and you just want to spend the waning moments of your day somewhere other than in front of a computer screen - what do you write then?

Why you write this apologetic post and call it a night, that's what you do.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bitter Reminiscence

I might have mentioned this before, but last Saturday, I talked with Rachel for a solid three hours. One of the things we mentioned in our eloquent diatribe on the evils of college was the infamous FitWell BMI Incident (or FBI, as I shall rechristen it).

FitWell is student-shorthand for our "Fitness and Wellness" class, a required gym credit which most of us got out of the way freshman year. It was, without doubt, the most annoying class I took at college. The FBI is symptomatic of its problems. See, the staff of my college were dreadfully worked up over the Freshman 15, especially our chief instructor (a well-known male chauvinist). Those freshman women were not about to get all flabby and drive our admissions rates down once everyone figured out we didn't have a good hottie pool, by gum! Apparently, the college couldn't be bothered to supply this all-important class with a more accurate metric than the BMI, say, a set of calipers. Oh well, who cares if we enhance their weight-phobia and give them bad information? At least they won't be FAT.

So every year, they set aside a class period to evaluate our fitness levels, but more importantly, to make sure as many women as possible ate a strict celery diet for at least a week. To demonstrate how farcical this entire endeavor turned out to be, I'll mention that my BMI indicated I was OBESE when this picture was taken.

Exhibit A: Total Fatty.

I remember how horrible that made me feel the whole day. It was impossible to look at myself, conditioned as I was by our culture and my own low self esteem, and believe that I was healthy at my perfectly healthy weight. Some random number said I wasn't - heart disease and zero dates, here I come!

I thought of this when I found a post by Alice Bradley (better known from her hilarious blog Finslippy) entitled "Hey, fat-obsessed America!" She's talking about the recent plan floated by some school boards to putting children's BMIs on their report cards as a means to keep kids from getting fat young and making our overall population statistics tend toward the overweight. It's hilarious, but it reminded me that data without context is a dangerous thing.

The men in FitWell fared better because they hadn't been told all their lives that being pretty was what they were put on earth to be. They didn't get good information, either, but at least most of them didn't walk around shell-shocked for a week like some of my friends did. After the initial evening's torment, I did okay. I didn't develop an eating disorder from the FBI. I probably didn't alter my eating habits all that much. But I did feel like total crap over it when they could have provided me with excellent information fairly easily and sent me on to the rest of the class with real, usable knowledge instead of the vague indication that, once again, I wasn't good enough.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Picture Post: Manic Monday Edition

It's all cats today. But I've got some cute ones so hold on to your shabby caps, peasants.

But first, some uncuteness:

This is a decent petfeeder, but they still found ways to sneak kibbles. Hubster decided to get serious with his evasive action before the pets pack on pounds.

Although: Note to Petmate - the "Le Bistro" might be considered false advertising when the feed inside is most likely "meat matter" than, say, a filet mignon sandwich with basil aioli. I guess the ultimate consumer is too busy grooming his/her paws to sue. Still, thin ice, as far as I'm concerned.

Moving on: cuteness!

She seems to know that it's for scratching, but neither of our little deities really goes in for much of that, so she's repurposed it as a gym/cuddle bug. She does pull ups and hug maneuvers. How inventive.

The Tiny in her natural habitat: the sunlit living room floor. Hey, it's not my idea of paradise, but she's so happy she forgot to retract her tongue.

I'm getting a sugar buzz from this cuteness.

And now, another installment in our ongoing series: Putting Things Around Persephone's Body for Funsies, part 438. This week's material of choice: invisible picture wire (plastic) with a tensile strength of 50 lbs.


What if I bite it off? (Gnaws diligently)

Just stop laughing and take it off already. Oh, the humiliation.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Unholy Giggles

This morning in church, the kids' choir sang a song I knew from elsewhere, and elsewhere that was not so much reverent as, well, not. I barely held it together. See, I knew it from my friend's post here, where Stephen Colbert sings it and performs an energetic jig. Oh, and this was being sung as I took communion. Somehow, I managed to let only a smile and a silent giggle escape. Fortunately, you can enjoy this without peril of eternal woe:

It's been a fun weekend, capping off with that little Sunday morning tidbit. Saturday night, Hans and Rachel came over for dinner. I made chicken marsala, which was delicious, and I enjoyed talking with Rachel a lot. She's going through The Year Of Change like I did a couple of years back - graduated, started working, planned and executed a wedding, became a wife, basically changed it all and is trying to keep it all together. She's posting about this brave new life so we get to enjoy her learning to cook posts, her learning to love exercise posts, and her learning to be married posts. She's weathering it fine, not that she needs me to tell her that (ha!) but in case y'all were wondering. We also share similar, less-than-spectacular college experiences, so comparing notes about the other side of college life was refreshing. The only person missing was Churro, her roommate and my Spanish buddy, who was sorely missed. Shoutout, M-dawg!

Most of the rest of the weekend was me catching the organization bug and going to town. I redid the kitchen "pantry" (college cube storage repurposed for can and flour storage - hott!), we hung up the much-mentioned memo boards, we scrubbed, tidied, vacuumed and made the house presentable. If it weren't so annoying to keep up, I bet we'd like living in this clean and organized place! Shoulda, woulda, coulda, huh?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Era of Shame Is O'er!

Well, it only lasted four days. I speak, of course, of the Great Cop Out of 2007 when I compromised my ideals and deigned to use a ready-made, unoriginal "Blogger Template." FOR SHAME!

I know morale was low there for a bit (okay, just mine), but I finally got my content into a me-approved shell, so YAY FOR ME. [Ahem. That sounded amusing in my head, but that is just a train wreck! Apparently I used my thinking ration for the day. Yeesh.]

Anyhow, I worked for about an hour today, and I threw this together, and for once, it wasn't all that complicated or stressful. The new Blogger templates are actually more intuitive to code, I think, although I'm not smart/nerdy enough to know why at this time. Still, that makes me glad because in the future, I might have occasion to redo some friends blogs in the new format and getting started so quickly means I just might be able to do that.

And now for my well-earned beer. Nighty-night!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Linking Wednesday

Phew, now that the "profound" post of the week is out the way, Frivolity is Job One, and I intend to do it!

1. THIS, this is genius. Television Without Pity snarks the worst Lifetime Movie EVER. Or the best, if you love camp. Either way, that thing is hilarious.

2. Photojojo - weird name, great site. I seem to have stumbled upon it rather late in the game, and I really should check it out more often because it's a great repository for shared knowledge on photo equipment, editing, and photo-related crafts for the non-pro. They don't assume you have some pricey camera and oodles of money to spend on framing. Check it out if you're low on inspiration and wall art.

3. Go to Eric Whitacre's MySpace Music site and listen to "Sleep" right now. DO IT. A couple of years ago, Hubster and I were in Michigan when my friend's choir performed it, and I walked out of that theatre transfixed. It's a GORGEOUS piece of music. Yes, I know there's the tough straight-tone singing to complete on those high soprano notes and that the dissonant chords are tougher to learn and sustain, but it all pales in comparison with how truly beautiful the music is. About minute 3, the chords and crescendos give me chills. Every single time. Oh, just break down and listen to it already. Give a nerd a break.

4. Speaking of nerds, you don't have to be one to enjoy this next bit. Occasionally Hubster and I catch Attack of the Show on G4 TV, and it depends on the day whether I enjoy it or I want to hurl something at the screen. It's TV for Nerds, but does that mean it has to adhere to all the usual cliches about women and nerds? However, despite the fact this was probably just so the fanboys could see her in costume, Olivia Munn as Wonder Woman is freakin' hilarious. I laughed so hard. And then I laughed at the outtakes. Well done, G4. Now stop making her listen to put up with all those creeps asking to get in her pants on the show, okay? Just stop.

That's all I've got for you.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Sometimes, when the junk mail is particularly abundant in the mailbox, I have a vision of myself expiring under a mound of it in my living room, starving to death because I can't reach the kitchen. It only gets worse if there's a magazine or catalog that I actually want to see because I know that it won't just get dumped in the recycling and taken out once a week. No, it will take up residence on my desk until I weeks later when I finally tire of the Marketing Mound (TM) and notice that 80% of those catalogs on my desk have expired. As a reformed packrat, it's one of my pet peeves that the paper still wins sometimes, no matter how hard I try to say, "it's not important to keep this." It's no good saying that if it is, in fact, important to keep the paper in question.

I realized a while back that this same anxiety can carry over into my marriage. Sometimes, when I've spent hours away from Hubster and all I want is to spend my evening enjoying his company just as soon as he sets foot in the door, I seem to pre-emptively slide into a bad mood because I know that life will get in the way. If it's not the bills that have to be discussed and then paid or the dishes that need to be done, it's the exercise time we want to take for ourselves and that new blog post which will suck me in for an hour. I even look at church activities and hanging out with friends like that, and it's obviously crazy to think that the rest of life is unimportant next to him, but when I miss him enough, my priorities get a little wonky.

On the couple-time vs. other-time spectrum, I get to spend quite a bit of time with Hubster. I don't know why it happens that one workday away can do this to me, but I guess it's the paperwork again - it's that life is populated by activities that are necessary evils. They may get in the way of other activities, but they must be done, just like getting bills is necessary even if getting spam isn't.

On good days, I overcome the paper. I control it, organize it, weed out the crap, and keep the important stuff for saving money, clothing myself, or learning something useful. On bad days, I dawdle through the pages of a catalog which I have no intention of patronizing, and I keep the coupons for the Chinese restaurant we're never going to try. On good days, I spend a few minutes talking with him when he gets home. He sets out for his run and gets back to shower, and I cook and read blogs or books while dinner simmers. We enjoy dinner together, snarking over some TV show or a recent news item.

On bad days, I let my angst help me pick a fight and get upset at him over real or imagined wrongs. I dawdle over making dinner while noticing his disinterest in me or in helping out with dinner acutely. I let the anxiety that attacks when there's paper disorder attack me anew when I feel our relationship in disorder and I don't know what to say or do to get back to a better place.

I usually sleep through this ritual, but a few weeks back, Hubster bids me goodbye before leaving for work in the morning, and he hugged me for a bit longer and kissed me a couple of times and seemed to want to stay there with me. I noticed (through the groggy haze of awakening) but never mentioned how sweet that was. I never said anything about it. I feel like that's a missed opportunity to keep the "paperwork" of life at bay. It's a way to take the drudgery and be master over it. And maybe I'm doing just that, sitting at my desk, focused on it and not on how messy the bedroom is. And maybe it just reminds me how far I have to go before I relish my relationship and don't let the paperwork it engenders drain the joy out of it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lemme 'Splain

Pick yourself up off the floor where you fell when you came to the Fyf and it was all boring and neutral. It's appallingly un-regal - not just you on the floor but the current look of this blog. See, the new Blogger template options allow some pretty swanky features, and I'm exploring them right now. I should be able to remake this old thing in design whilst retaining all that lovely utility, but of course it'll take time. Until then, I'll be slummin' in this drab exterior and dreaming of COLOR.

One of the best features for my infrequent visitors is the "Older Posts" link at the bottom of the page. Rather than having to load the entire archive for the last month (and having to guess just how long ago you visited), you can load a small chunk of them at once and just catch up. Much easier! Also? I'm unnaturally in love with the new blogger archive widget on the sidebar. Intuitive! Neato!

Although I do miss my tapestry background. *sniff*

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Half of This Post Is Not Like the Other

This weekend was a lovely, much-needed break for me. I'm not sure why the week seemed so long, but it did. I didn't blog Thursday, but you didn't miss much. Plus, Wednesday's post was massive, so I figured I'd earned it.

The Tiny savors the bouquet of fresh catnip in her stuffed mouse cat-toy ornament. It is, indeed, the "good stuff." Momma hooked her up. Little looks on to make sure it passes muster.

Ha! My cat looks drunk! She might be high on the aforementioned "good stuff." So it's not so much funny as accurate. Nah, it's still funny. KITTY IS STONED, Y'ALL!

Friday night was just what the doctor ordered. Hubster and I met up with Mr. T and Southwest for dinner at the Starland Cafe. I had their fettuccine with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and a garlic butter sauce. The sauce was lighter than it sounds, and it hit the spot. Afterward, guys and girls parted ways for sleepovers. Southwest and I planned on watching a movie but ended up talking the night away. She gave her self a manicure, discussing all the annoying wedding-plan crap going on in her life right now, and I had talked about body image, motivations, careers and my boy, because it wouldn't be a sleepover without that. I also offered to help her, remembering those awful, lonely days of programs and favors, and TULLE EVERYWHERE. I think she'll actually take me up on it, and if I lessen the load of just one bride-to-be friend, I'll have done nicely, I think. (Speaking of, she's the only local one of the bunch, despite the fact that I'm in two other weddings this year - yiiiikes!)

Is she practicing her hunting skills or trying to rip apart that catnip-stuffed mouse? We shall never know.

I was kinda worried about talking to her, actually. Planning my wedding coincided with my stressful senior year, the search for meaning in a potential career, loneliness, a wife-to-be identity crisis, and a whole lot of funks. It was mental-problem central between my depression and my obsessive channeling of all my disappointed energies into that one event. It sucked hard. I was worried that talking with her and helping her deal with it was going to bring all that up like some forgotten boogieman. Fortunately, it didn't. I've done most of my healing through dealing with the depression and setting aside that entire episode, however, it felt good to exorsize those demons. Okay, "good" is an exaggeration, but I appreciated the fact that those emotional memories had little power over me. It wasn't fun to remember, but it didn't hurt like it used to. Praise God for time healing all wounds. And also for good wine. I'm sure that helped keep the inhibition quotient at a relative low.

The cats love them some string. Hubster loves to tie them up and watch them squirm to get out. Hubster is an evil genius. An evil genius of HUMOR!

The Tiny has shuffled off the mortal coil. Little not so much.

We hit the hay around midnight because, though we were attempting an old-fashioned sleepover, we were also working adults at the end of a long week. (Southwest might also have apologized for painting her nails. That sound you hear are all my girlhood friends laughing their heads off. I mean, we all lost a few brain cells over the mountain of nail polish we carried with us through each hotel on the Civil War battlefield trip, but are we gonna apologize? We can't remember what we did wrong!) I slept like a brick, and still managed to sleep in until 9:45am. We got ready at a leisurely pace and then met up with the boys for coffee and muffins at Greenberry's Coffee & Tea Company. I've gotta say, there aren't many better ways to start a weekend morning.

CAT FIGHT! It's too bad I have so few pictures of them doing their territorial-animal thing.

Eventually we all parted ways and headed home - they to their wedding plan and we to our house full of high kitties. We putzed and got some stuff done. I checked out this meat market I'd heard was good for some cheap steaks (not so much, booooo). Hubster and I had a good conversation distilling some of what we'd both figured out over our little sleepovers (see, not totally frivolous). We had a quiet night in, and I read until I was too tired to stay awake, which I truly love to do. Once again I felt like a high-school kid. (NOTHING FROM THE PEANUT GALLERY.)

Today we went to church, ran some errands, and I bought some delicious hummus. I guess this weekend's mostly about the simple pleasures - good friends, good food, good conversation, good thought. I think we all need those. It's been a complicated month or so - a lot on my head, on my heart. It was nice to get away for a while.

Tiny loads a blow in the windpipe, and Little prepares her ears for the mighty swipe.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

French Memo Board Tutorial

These are really quite easy to make. No crafty/sew goddess skill set required. I used the following, along with a set of bullet points that make it all look so sexy:

For Each Board You Will Need:
  • A piece of wood, particle board, corkboard (with a sturdy backing), or an art canvas with a wooden frame. Note: this website's tutorial mentioned art canvases which sound fantastic because you can sew on the buttons through the back. Maybe next time.
  • A piece of fabric equal to the size of the wood (or canvas, etc.) plus 3 inches on each side. Fabrics to avoid: stretch knits, loosely woven blends that will shred like CRAZY, and, as always, no sequins, as my life-motto dictates.
  • A piece of batting equal to the size of the base plus 2 inches on each side. Polyester quilt batting (fairly low loft) is fine.
  • A staple gun (power or manual, it matters not) and enough staples to finish the job. Also someone, like say Hubster, who knows how to reload it. You will have reloads.
  • Ribbon for each board. How much? Well, I made four boards which were each 16" by 14" and I used about 15 yds of 3/8" wide grosgrain ribbon - that's less than 4yds/board, to give you an idea. Your board's size will vary those numbers. Ribbon is the cheapest thing, so overbuy and send me your scraps. Sweet.
  • Buttons to place at the vertices of the ribbon to create the tension which holds up your photos and papers. I required five buttons per board so that came to 20 buttons total. I used those "Cover Your Own Buttons" kits which was annoying and painful (what with the pounding and angst) but they look lovely and were cheaper than almost all the ready-made buttons in stock.
  • Thread, scissors, a ruler or measuring tape, and icepack for your sore hand after stapling four memo boards together on solid wood.
Step 1: Lay out all the pieces on a table (for better back support) or on the floor (if you're Erica, a known masochist) and line up all your edges. Make sure to smooth down the fabric and batting, which can be rather bunchy. (I forgot to take a picture at this stage because I am a flighty, flighty crafter. This looks exactly like it did then, although you do lose some texture.)

Step 2: Staple, beginning at the center of each side by turns and then stapling the rest of each side based on whatever scheme you think works best. Be ye not afraid to pull on the fabric and stretch it over the frame. Make friends with fabric tension. Marvel at how your hand already hurts.

Step 3: The corners are tricky, but the best method I've found it to staple each side's length out (as pictured above) and then fold the corner into a diagonal over itself, like a diamond. Like this:

That's hard to see, but you'll get it. Don't worry about the batting bunching at the corners. I guess you could cut out the corners a bit, but the batting keeps the board off the wall and thus the staples away from painted surfaces.

Step 4: Trim the edges of the fabric down to 1/4 - 1/2" to keep things neat. (By the by, you can't really see it, but the solid green ones I made were actually pieced because the fabric didn't fit perfectly. The ribbons and any patterns in the fabric will hide those seams so feel free to do that, making sure, of course, that you've pressed the seams to one side.)

Step 5: Measure and cut your ribbons. Sounds easy, right? Well, not so much. First, measure corner to corner diagonally and cut those with about 2 inches to spare on each side. Then staple them in and admire your work with pride before it becomes more annoying and complicated.

Step 6: Back to reality! As to cutting the rest of the ribbons, I'm not sure what to tell you. I guessed and lucked out. Use a tape measure, pieces of string, whatever you can to visualize the lengths and then cut them with a bit to spare, plus the usual 2" on each end to wrap over the frame.

Step 7: Now, I tried out some schemes for placing ribbon, but this worked well for me: place them in a diamond pattern that stretches the entire height and width of the base. To make sure the angles look roughly the same on all of them, I used a ruler to measure out from my main two diagonals - like they said in 2nd grade, it only takes two points to make a straight line. Pin the ribbons in place, applying tension as you pin.

None of this will make a lick of sense to you right now. Fear not, you'll talk yourself through it with the supplies in hand and it'll make more sense. Probably. If not, drink a beer and try again, but maybe have someone else staple.

Step 8: Trim the ribbon edges on the back. Then sew on the buttons at the inner vertices. Don't worry about the vertices near the edges of the frame because the frame itself will provide tension. Plus buttons there would be totally weird-looking. Trust.

Final Product: Chic!

Final Cost? Well, I used a floral pillow sham and parts of a dust ruffle from my bedroom set (neither of which I wanted to use) so those were free. The wood was free because it was leftover from the Great Basement Shelf Redo. I bought an entire roll of the batting, enough for a queen-sized quilt, for $9 and I have TONS leftover for other stuff. The ribbon was on clearance (it was the perfect color, so that ROCKED) for $0.25/yd making that about $4. The buttons were like $6 total. So even if we don't count using batting for later projects, I still only spent $19, plus the cost of the 4X6" prints I'll slip on them. Not bad for filling an entire bedroom wall.

P.S. I haven't hung them up, so I'm not sure what's best for that, but I'm thinking of mounting picture-hanging wire to the back and using a couple of nails per board. They're a mite heavier than an art-canvas version would be because of the solid wood, so we'll see if I have to resort to using studs for extra support. I'll update you on that. If you prefer an al fresco look, just prop the stupid things against the wall on your dresser/desk and go to town!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Love me some quotations!

From Zadie Smith's On Beauty, because:

Because her language enhances an everyday experience:
p. 211 - And so it happened again, the daily miracle whereby interiority opens out and brings to bloom the million-petalled flower of being here, in the world, with other people. Neither as hard as she had thought it might be nor as easy as it appeared.

Because her pacing and word choice rock:
p. 341 - In January, at the first formal of the year, the tremendous will-power of Wellington's female students is revealed. Unfortunately for the young women, this demonstration of pure will is accredited to 'femininity' - that most passive of virtues - and, as a result, does not contribute to their Grade Point Average. It is unfair. Why are there no awards for the girl who starves herself through the Christmas period - refusing all sweetmeets, roasts, and liquers offered to her - so that she might appear in the January formal in a backless dress with toeless shoes, although the temperature is near to freezing and the snow is heavy upon the ground? Howard, who wore a floor-length overcoat, gloves, leather shoes and a thick college scarf, stood by Emerson's front gate and watched with real awe the mist of white flakes falling upon bare shoulder and hands, the clothed men holding their near-naked, decorative partners as together they stepped around puddles and snowdrifts like ballroom dancers on an assault course.

Because she knows when to play with the reader:
p. 437 - Murdoch [a dachsund], fresh from a short-legged scramble through the long grass, came scuffling into the kitchen. He was overwhelmed by attention from all side: Zora ran over to pick him up; Levi played with his ears; Howard offered him a bowl of food. Kiki had wanted desperate to take him, but her apartment was not dog-friendly. And now the remaining Belseys being nice to Murdoch was, in some way, for Kiki; there was the unspoken, irrational hope that, although not with them in this room, she could somehow sense the care they were lavishing upon her beloved little dog, and that these good vibes would . . . it was ridiculous. It was a way of missing her.

Because she characterizes so fluidly:
p. 197-8 - This was why Kiki had dreaded having girls: she knew she wouldn't be able to protect them from self-disgust. To that end she had tried banning television in the early years, and never had a lipstick or a woman's magazine crossed the threshold of the Belsey home to Kiki's knowledge, but these and other precautionary measures had made no difference. It was in the air, so it seemed to Kiki, this hatred of women and their bodies - it seeped in with every draught in the house; people brought it home on their shoes, they breathed it in off the newspapers. There was no way to control it.

Because I'll always think of this image when I hear this music:
p. 69 - Mozart's Requiem begins with you walking towards a huge pit. The pit is on the other side of a precipice, which you cannot see over until you are right at its edge. Your death is awaiting you in that pit. You don't know what it looks like or sounds like or smells like. You don't know whether it will be good or bad. You just walk towards it. Your will is a clarinet and your footsteps are attended by all the violins. The closer you get to the pit, the more you begin to have the sense that what awaits you there will be terrifying. Yet you experience this terror as a kind of blessing, a gift. Your long walk would have had no meaning were it not for this pit at the end of it. You peer over the precipice: a burst of ethereal noise crashes over you. In the pit is a great choir, like the one you joined for two months in Wellington in which you were the only black woman. This choir is the heavenly host and simultaneously the devil's army. It is also every person who has changed you during your time on this earth: your many lovers; your family; your enemies, the nameless, faceless woman who slept with your husband; the man you thought you were going to marry; the man you did. The job of this choir is judgement. The men sing first, and their judgement is very severe. And when the women join in there is no respite, the debate only grows louder and sterner. For it is a debate - you realize that now. The judgement is not yet decided.

There's more to that section, but it's so long and delightful that I hate to bore you and spoil the surprise. If these piqued your interest, read the book.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Am Late. Again.

So last year, I missed by anniversary of blogging by a day. This year, I barely made the two-day mark. I MEAN LOOK AT THAT TIMESTAMP. Obviously, I owe my blog at least a dozen roses and something multifaceted and shiny. Honestly, if my kingdom's resources weren't totally imaginary, I would give those things to my faithful readers. It's you who made this so much fun, so thanks for reading, commenting, and keeping your own interesting sites for me to burn countless hours of my young life. Your monarch salutes you and your commitment to time-wasting and royal aggrandizement.

I'm perilously close to saluting my keyboard with my drowsy head, so good night, Fyf - I totally owe you some decent content.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mixed Bag

It's been a busy weekend. I've finished a book or two, made some awesome memo boards, and cleaned house a bit. I'm tired, though, so I'm not going to recount each gory detail. For once, brevity wins the day. The highlights:

Zadie Smith's On Beauty was great. I bought it on clearance at the used book store, and it was well worth buying. The light tone, the mix of dramatic tension and comedic relief were lovely. Good. I have some quotes I liked, but the book is two stories away from my current location, so maybe I'll post them later.

The memo boards are really looking good. I have two more to make (for a series for my bedroom decor) and I'm thinking of making an online tutorial for them. I found only one good source for info, and even it could use some expanding, I think. Meh, maybe not but I feel like making a tutorial! So there! Anyhow, maybe I'll do that later this week. I made two memo boards and my hand is killing me from trying to staple-gun everything perfectly. I'll develop a post so all my crafty (and not-so-crafty) peeps can do likewise. They're stylish and organizational - everyone wins!

And myself? I'm doing well. I got out for dinner with a friend in Bethesda, I hung out with Hubster, I managed to crawl out of bed for church today (despite initial signs that it was a no-go, OH MY GOSH SLEEEEEEEEEP), and I made a delicious stir-fry today. Also, 24 did not suck as hard as I feared it might.

But I was not particularly brief.

Win some/Lose some.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Picture Post: Detroit At Last

I've hemmed and hawed (how exactly does one spell that?) about how much to edit these, but at some point, I just have to post them. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, PHOTOSHOP. I'M THE BOSS, NOT YOU.

Ahem. To The D!

Joe Louis' Fist rocks the city.

The Renassiance Center, now GM headquarters.

Comerica Park takes a bite out of . . . passersby, I guess.

Detroit was once a patchwork of immigrant neighborhoods, many of which have changed along with the city. I'd never been to Corktown before. It's mostly an Irish area back in the day and has some cute shops and pubs left.

Michigan Central Station again.

The Fox Theatre's marquee is instantly recognizable. It spells the word "Fox" out in giant letters, which helps at least.

And finally to the images of "Detroit's Largest Art Object," the Art-Deco splash, the Fisher Building.

The city through the windows on the third floor.

Elevator doors have never looked so lovely.

Ceiling murals, as seen from the second-floor balconies.

Maybe I'll post more later, but these are my favorites, I think. Now it's bedtime.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Proud of My Pixels

I was looking over photos tonight, especially the Detroit ones because I owe you some here and because I owe a print to my uncle for driving us around. He also bought all the kids generous Starbucks gift certificates for Christmas, and we didn't have anything for him, so the 'rents and I thought we'd make a print of an image of his city and frame it all up for him. We thought he'd like that and wouldn't feel like we only did it to placate our own sense of guilt - he's not much for convention. I found this one, and for once, I felt like my eyes did not fail me.

Michigan Central Station waits for its second life.

I post a lot of pictures around here, but I feel like quite the novice behind the lens. I know so little about photography, really. I've gotten better with my nice new equipment, but I still fail to achieve the vision in pixels often enough. This image says a lot about Detroit, and though it looks helpless in one way, I hope the city will overcome and restore this beautiful old landmark to greatness.

For now, I'm just happy the pixels are poetic.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Digging Deep In The Royal Grey Matter

I didn't post yesterday because I was too enamored of reading, and I thought today might follow the same fate, but then I remembered the mantra: When all else fails, be random.

So I have this short video in my mind - I am young, maybe six or eight, and I'm in the kitchen of one of my mom's friends. We're making candies together and I know they contain honey. Other kids run in and out of the kitchen, trying to steal a utensil with the batter on it, but I know I'm helping her so I don't swipe the bowl with my finger. We drop the batter onto wax paper sheets to cool into shape and when they're done, we scoop them up into bags and share them with the rest of the kids. The candies are brittle, I think, and they taste of all the honey we put in them. They're garnet-colored, rather than the amber you'd expect from so much honey, and I have no idea what else goes in them. I carry them around with us, staring at their pretty, semi-translucent shapes and savoring them slowly.

I have no context for this vision at all. I can't really see the other mom's face, although I think her hair is dark. I can't name the other kids. I've had this scrap in my mind for a long time, probably since age nine or ten, but I can't even tell you which language it was in - was it in English or castellano? It certainly makes sense for me to be communing with an adult rather than other children, but I can't really think of any candies made with honey of that description, and neither can my mother whom I've asked about this. Honestly, I have no idea whether this is dream or reality.

Do you have any similar scraps in your mind's eye?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Again with the books!

I finished David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars just now. The style is courtroom drama mixed with introspective narrative. The trial aspect arises because a Japanese-American man is accused to murdering a fellow fisherman off an island in Puget Sound. The story takes place primarily in the 1950s, making WWII's events, particularly the internment camps loom large in the flashback scenes afforded to many characters. In some ways it's a provincial story about strawberry farmers, salmon fisherman, a sheriff presiding over his first murder investigation and their wives and friends. It's very small-town drama, and usually I get bored with that. It took me a while to want to read it at all (I bought it in August), and I think that's really why. I'm not one for the "quirky locals in Random Town, USA," yet I really enjoyed this book because the style enabled the characters' inner lives to find expression. There were some characters whom I loathed, but even they were imbued with motivations I could understand, with hints of humanity that made them genuine. Plus, the defense attorney's closing arguments nearly brought me to tears. When I searched Amazon, it appears my edition is on backorder or out of print (I bought it at used book store a while back), but it's well worth picking up. I think I finally read it because of another trial in the next book I've included in this post.

See, last Tuesday Hubster had a root canal. Pobrecito hombre thought he'd just saunter out of the procedure and ring me up to go get him, and I'd work through the afternoon. Not so much. I figured this out the day of, so I made a quick dash to the library for some engrossing material and walked out with Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace. I've mentioned having read and enjoyed both The Blind Assassin and Oryx and Crake here before. I've also read her state-side breakout novel A Handmaid's Tale in college. Her prose is different here primarily because she employs the dialect and style of a Victorian novel and not her usual contemporary pacing and word choice (although some of her cuts between letters and story and articles remind me of The Blind Assassin). The central character is based on a real woman convicted of murder in Ontario in the mid 19th century. Grace is deeply sympathetic and yet very reserved, and thus mysterious. She discusses the indignities of servanthood, of prison life, of daily life in the countryside, or low social status and of relations between the sexes. At the same time we glimpse the life of the psychologist (who is interviewing her, the conceit of the novel) who comes from the servant-having upper classes and knows nothing of what her life was like before the murders and their aftermath. The tensions in the book run deep, and the style goes for broke in drawing them out.

Ultimately, it was her prose that won me over yet again. It's beautiful. Every time I pick one of her books up again, I realize how much I've missed it. The way she describes the most ordinary object makes me see differently for a while. The second quote below is more beautiful, but the first stops me in my tracks every time I read it. I can relate, and seeing a facet of life described so well is the point of my favorite prose.

"If I am good enough and quiet enough, perhaps after all they will let me go; but it's not easy being quiet and good, it's like hanging on to the edge of a bridge when you've already fallen over; you don't seem to be moving, just dangling there, and yet it is taking all your strength." (p5)

"When you are in the middle of a story, it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else." (p298)

I've been reading a lot lately. It helps to have some Atwood for the stats since she never fails to make me shun more important creatures like, oh, my husband in favor of the story and the words, the gorgeous words. Still, we'll see what I think of my next book, the famed Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire which I picked up after The Historian made me wonder about vampire lore and curious to see what all the fuss was about. Verdict to follow.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Invisible Zipper Foot Of Relentless Wretchedness

I like Steven Colbert's "On Notice" feature on The Colbert Report, so I'm going to rip it off in the time-honored tradition of imitation and flattery.

Coats & Clark Invisible Zipper Foot? YOU ARE OFFICIALLY ON NOTICE. If I weren't out of other options at present you would most-certainly be "Dead to Me,." As it stands, I'll have to replace you when I find an alternative, a proposition I've found very hard, despite your obvious suckitude.

You are made out of plastic. And not hard plastic either, this stuff is WAY TOO BENDY to be used in a mechanical devise. It shifts all over the place and I broke three (3!) needles on a shirt I was making, I mean YIIIKES, you'da thought I was trying to install a zipper with about the same kind of plastic as my freakin' zipper foot. (cursing redacted)

Oh, and you comes in parts. Look, C&C, your thread (while mediocre) is fine really, and your zippers are great - I buy them all the time. BUT IF I WANTED TO PLAY WITH BLOCKS, I WOULD HAVE AVOIDED THE SEWING MACHINE ENTIRELY, MMMKAY? Save the Lincoln Logs for antiquey-themed talking pictures and make my zipper foot strong plastic or, better yet, METAL (which I can't seem to find at all).

And I don't care if you ARE cheap at $2.29. NO! NIET! NEIN!

That is all.

Royal Gloating Post

Not even I can spare the self-indulgence to post for an entire week about just two gift projects, so I've decided to condence Royal Gloating Week into exactly one post. See, I'm learning and growing and maturing and whatnot. Please save your "ABOUT BEEEEEP TIME" exclamations for your personal time. On with the show and tell!

My sister-in-law spent a good portion of our visit to the "Crack For Obsessives" Container Store hunting for a new, roomier makeup bag. She'd had one forever and it wasn't cutting it anymore. She walked away empty-handed, and I had a brilliant, totally-unrelated idea: I should make her a makeup bag for Christmas. I know, inspiration is such a mysterious thing. Two weeks later I found myself staring at some fabric and my own, diehard makeup of two years and puzzling over how to craft my pattern. I pulled it off and the first makeup was born:

The exterior fabric is a home-decor scrap I got at a pillow-designer's yard sale for $3 per pound of fabric scraps ("sweet shopping dreams are made of these"). The zipper is one I bought for another project and commandeered because I was on a roll.

Bag interior including lining pockets, modeled again off my own bag. Bag dimensions are 10" wide by 6" high by 3" deep. The four interior pockets range from 3" to 5" wide.

I used the pattern to create a second one which appears on the right for my younger sister-in-law, who I'm told uses it for iPod accessories. I also added yo-yos because I think they're the cutest things ever and I wanted to see if they were as cute in real life as in this pretty tutorial. They are.

The gifts are apparently much-loved by their new owners. I'm very happy with the results myself. If anyone cares, I can post a tutorial, but I'm guessing most of you prefer the Target method of makeup bag procurement. To each his/her own.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Picture Post: 2007 Icebreaker Edition

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation:

I took lots of ill-advised photos.

I accepted some lovely gifts (in an awkward fashion, apparently.)

I adopted a badass pose while sporting pearls and gesturing "I love you," instead of "Rock on!" (Also while wearing the new sweater and shoes my brother gave me in the Christmas exchange which do actually rock, unlike their new owner.)

I stared at this adorable kitty, whose name is Curie - as in Marie, as in the fabulous scientist. Oh, and she snuggled with me.

Oh, and I slept a lot, which I am currently not doing because of this post, so goodnight, me hearties. More tomorrow.