Monday, January 22, 2007

Sunny Day Nest

I've been thinking that although my "About Me" space over there on the right states that part of the slant of this blog is about me trying to nest with style, I've actually had very few posts devoted to the subject. Back in October, there was this post, after I entered Apartment Therapy's Fall Color Contest, but that's been about it.

Unless, of course, you count my disastrous recent riff on puffy couches. (And I don't.) But, happy news on that front: we ordered a couch this weekend. It'll be here a week from now. No picture yet, but I will say one word, which is a bit of a surprise: sectional.

Anyway, despite the lack of posts, we've been adding a few new items, including the sunburst mirror above my fireplace. I love it, and love how it opens up and changes the whole feel of the room, especially compared to the the big, oblong wood-framed mirror it replaced. I know that it's placed a bit high right now in relation to the fireplace, but we plan to add a floating shelf/mantle soon, and that will fix the problem. (I'd show you the entire fireplace area for context, but then you'd see the collection of 3 large plastic fire trucks that were parked in front.)

Also, we finally replaced my awful oval, country-style kitchen table. You know those kind that have the white tile squares on top? That was mine. And I was so happy when I first bought it, because back then, it replaced the truly heinous dark faux-wood table with steel legs, circa 1978, that my husband owned when we got married. But my country table with its country chairs no longer fit the space or my vision at all...especially with all that horrible rubber grout that was impossible to clean.

Here's my new table. It's big. It opens up with a leaf and gets even bigger. Sorry for the bad picture -- I took it late in the afternoon and the light in the room was awful. Finally, here's my new old Belmont radio that my dad gave us the last time we visited. It's occupying a proud place on the living room bookshelf, and despite some dings and having survived from at least the middle of the last century, it still works, just needs a new cord, so that my house won't burn down if we leave it plugged in. But what I love most is that the channel-changer things display the call letters of some of the old radio stations here in the Southern California area, like KHJ, KNX, and KFI. You push the buttons, and the dial goes to that station's frequency.

Pretty high-tech, huh?

As far as the AT Fall Color contest went, I didn't even place, but did make it onto their site, which was honor enough. I sent in my entry just hours before the deadline, as did many, many people that day, and only a very few of us procrastinators made the cut. Unfortunately, I really wasn't thrilled with their First Prize winner. It's so....studied and careful for me, and has that very chilly space-pod look that many people associate with modern design. Is it me, or does it remind you of a very flavorless watermelon? But that's subjective taste for you, as many, many people loved the winning entry. And there were so many wonderful, creative entries overall, beyond even just the other runner ups.

So, there's my nesting update for you. We have many plans in the works for this year, including, of course, incorporating the new modern sectional into the great room, turning our sadly un-visited and largely wasted guest room into a playroom, and even (gulp) an Ikea-flavored kitchen redo. Fun, fun, so stay tuned.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

First Book of the Batch: Pattern Recognition

Okay, first I should give the disclaimer that even with a B.A. and Master's in English and being a lifelong, die-hard bookworm, I really kind of suck at writing generally about books. I hate giving grammar-school type book report summaries of plot, and I just don't have the time or inclination to go deeply into all the academic whatsis of what makes a book work. Or not.

That said, I'm happy to say that I loved reading this first book in my Christmas-gift batch. I had a great time with it, and it reminded me that it's a pity when good books and good writers are slapped with a genre label, and then people like me tend to turn up their noses and move on down the shelf. Although it helped that the book was covered in glowing reviews from esteemed places like The Washington Post, and The New York Times, as opposed to, say, CyberGeek Monthly (I'm sure it exists, somewhere).

Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson, was not on my Amazon wishlist. Myk bought it for me because he'd listened to the audiobook a couple of years back and liked it and wondered what my take would be. I knew of William Gibson more because of his cool visionary-of-the-future image than because of his actual writing, and of course I'd heard of Neuromancer. (Another book Myk speaks well of, that I've yet to pick up. Although that will probably change, now.) Just thinking about Neuromancer gives me the heebie-jeebies, because although I have no idea what the plot is about -- except that it takes place in the future -- the title alone reminds me of all that creepy, alien-scary artwork by H.R. Geiger. And Geiger's artwork, as experienced by the few wall calendars Myk has displayed over the years, reminds me in turn of all those dark, scary, herky-jerky Tool videos. Taken together, all those associations and biases and generally creepy vibes kept me well away from any of Gibson's work.

Back to the book. So, Pattern Recognition is about this young woman named Cayce (after Edgar, which I guessed before it was explained), pronounced Case. She lives an austere, modern life in NYC where she works as a freelance cool-hunter for major corporations and advertisers, who want to tap into that mojo she has for knowing what young, net-savvy consumers will go for. Cayce has some quirks, the most noteworthy being her "allergy" for brand logos and labeling, from designer clothing labels to the Michelin man. Mickey Mouse makes her queasy, and the Michelin man gives her some serious panic attacks. She pays a locksmith to grind the Levi markings off the buttons of her black 501s, and favors black clothing that is intentionally without reference to any major trend or era. Cayce is also a follower of "the footage," a series of brief, non-linear film clips that have begun to mysteriously appear in random dark alleys of the web. She and fellow Footage junkies spend lots of time on an online forum dissecting the meaning and trying to guess the creator of the films. Oh, and Cayce's dad, a security expert with ties to the CIA, disappeared in New York on 9/1l.

And now I'm getting tired and overwhelmed with the book report-ish aspect of the above, and I thus send you here if you want a better summary. Suffice it to say, I thought the novel was pretty rip-roarin', and just plain fun., although the general mood of the story itself is rather somber, gray and melancholic, with all the references to graves, and ash and the looming presence of the Twin Towers, in their absence. But reading this also made me feel kinda hip, in that its main setting, in spite of all the world travel to London, Tokyo and Russia, is really the Internet itself, and I think it captures pretty well the feeling of having what sometimes feels like half your life and contacts floating apart from you out there in cyberspace (a word Gibson himself coined back in Neuromancer). Also, since none of the other online summaries seem to mention it, I should at least bring up the weird ESP and psychic stuff that occurs at a few key moments, too -- referencing cleverly back to Cayce's name and namesake, I suppose.

I kept thinking that this would make a great movie, if it was treated right and they actually kept to the story. Usually having that feeling while reading a novel is a bad sign overall, but I think in this case -- and, let's face it, Gibson is still primarily considered a genre writer, even if he did create the cyberpunk genre himself -- having that "this should be a movie!" feeling doesn't mean that the writing itself is dashed-off pap.

And now, having gone over to the Wikipedia site, I see tantalizing news that Gibson's new book, Spook Country, will be released this year, and also that director Peter Weir is working on a movie version of Pattern Recognition. Now if only they don't cast Reese Witherspoon or Angelina Jolie to play Cayce.....

Anyway, bottom line: Good book. Thanks, honey. (But I'm still not going to be reading any of your Douglas Adams books anytime soon.)


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Winter Bounty

It's been so cold here, and it's lasted for several days, which is the odd part. Usually in SoCal, we'll get a couple of really chilly nights every winter, but this snap has lasted for what? Nearly a week now? I'm good with it. It's winter, and I'm not ready for hot again, not after the endless long summer. Hard to recall now, but we were still having days that were up in the 80s, in November.

This weekend my sister and nephew came for a visit, and what did we do with a chilly Sunday afternoon, but decide to drive up to the mountain community of Idyllwild, about an hour away, where it was even colder. There was a thin layer of icy, crunchy snow on the ground, and the kids loved it, and couldn't stop playing with it, even with no snow-worthy protection for their hands. The icicles above are from that day. I wonder if the children will possibly remember any of it? Lily, at nearly five, is probably the only likely candidate, since both Tucker and Riley are only two. It was a good day -- even with that episode of car sickness with Tucker (which happened right as we arrived into town), and chubby red nearly-frostbitten hands, and only patches of grimy, crunchy snow to play with.

Yesterday was not such a good day. In fact, yesterday was very very much like the day I had in this post. How does that phenomenon work, that the more conscious I am of trying to keep my cool and stay pleasant and not crazy, the worse the day becomes? Why does it have to backfire into a Day from Hell, parenting-wise? Voices were raised, crying was frequent (but not from me, at least), my hand connected with soft skin, and still they kept comin' at me, undeterred and ready for the next round of whining/squabbling/fussing/. Lily, who is morphing into a teenager the closer she gets to her fifth birthday, was the worst of the two, as usual. At one moment, I said to her "okay, I was just asking. Sorry." And her reply? "I'm sorry you asked." Snap! The effort required to refrain from slapping the child at these moments just sucks the life force from me and leaves me feeling like a very used, very tired and very bitter-looking dishrag.

All of this makes me realize that I truly am in the midst of those January doldrums mentioned previously. I'm suddenly aware that for the last week or two I've had this background tension, this stress that keeps my shoulders tight and my mouth set at an unhappy angle. There is nothing really wrong, of course, except my own mild dissatisfaction with the status quo of the days. There is a chaotic closet waiting for me to finally clean out, and Christmas gift books to ship and return to Amazon, and boxes piled in a corner from Christmas of those gifty-things that I don't really have a use for (such as my Relaxing Vibrating Cow Pillow), yet I can't just throw away, either. Yes, this is that January-state I knew was coming.

But December! Let me tell you about December. It was good. I was happy and peaceful and felt that by making some lists and trying to plan ahead, I got a small gain on the chaos of the season. I took so many pictures of things I meant to blog about -- perfect, breezy weather, crafts and baking with Lily that did not end in tears or anger or even tensed shoulders. A birthday dinner alone with my husband, and a trip to Disneyland. All good stuff. But even more than those events, there was a feeling I kept meaning to write about, that feeling of bounty, of being filled to the brim of the good stuff in the universe. The deep and abiding joy of having a husband who offers up his warm legs to me under the covers, when mine are freezing cold. The tears that sprung to my eyes at Lily's preschool Christmas party, as I watched Tucker running after the older kids and laughing, and my gratitude for his good health and happiness. The cold and starry nights, as I stood at the window while my family slept in peace, and sensed the coming of a holiday that celebrated the birth of a baby -- that everyday miracle deemed special by men for just that one day. So, yeah. December? December pretty much rocked, looking back.

So. Now we are deep in the midst of true winter and although the days are slowly getting a bit longer and the sunlight lasts a few minutes more each day, I need to be patient. I need to lean into the season and remember that all those good things are still just as true -- happy, bright children, cold starry nights, and warm hubby limbs, waiting for me when I finally shake off the unhappiness of merely another January day, and put my cranky, weary self into bed.

Monday, January 15, 2007


So, as mentioned, I drove in to OC on Friday evening to go see a man about a horse, otherwise known as the Tony-award winning play Equus.

It was at the tiny Stages theater, not that tiny is such a bad thing when it comes to puttin' on a show, but...well. I'm not sure what to say about the play. I was all geared up for some real drama, darkness, and violence. And I suppose all of that was present, too, but what was most obvious to me was the play felt dated, referencing back to an era a few decades ago when therapy and psychiatry were the hot topics of conversation at New York cocktail parties. (Unlike now, when the hot topics are real estate and equity). (Or so I hear tell.)

Anyway, the play is about a psychiatrist treating a disturbed young man who has taken a spike and blinded six of the horses at the stable where he's employed. But really, it's supposed to be about passion, and religion and how the shrink feels like maybe he shouldn't try to "cure" the kid, since he feels passion (albeit for the Horse God) on a daily basis, whereas the shrink hasn't kissed his wife in six years. Yadda yadda yadda...

Okay, so maybe I should insert here that the six wounded horses were ever-present at the side of the set, as portrayed by six shirtless men wearing close-fitting Juicy-type brown sweats, their heads adorned with heavy, open-air metal replicas of horse heads -- with the wire mesh on the eyes ripped for effect. They were also up on half-foot metal stilts that ended in what looked like real horseshoes. Every once in a while, when the drama onstage called for it, the horses would paw the ground, making a harsh, metal scraping sound on the concrete floor. And occasionally, they would also prance around the perimeter of the boxing-ring like set where the drama unfolded.

But this isn't what made me giggle. No, what made me want to start giggling in that bad laughing-at-a-funeral sort of way, was the impassioned cries of the actor playing the young man, as he lived out his Horse-as-Jesus reveries and called out the names of the horses, something like: "and the Fleck! and the Flick!" (And the My Friend Flicka?) And, referencing, the metal bridle or mouthpiece thingys that horses wear: "And the Chankity-Chank!" Lord. Maybe I would've been okay if I'd only heard that phrase once, but I heard "chankity-chank!" a good handful of times...and that's even with us leaving the show at intermission.

No, we didn't stay until the end. I sat there, worried, feeling like maybe moving seventy-plus miles from any kind of cultural center really has started to turn me into some kind of puffy hick. So I was quite relieved when the lights rose for intermission to see Christina roll her eyes and say that she was quite ready to bail, too.

But the evening was hardly a wash. There was my time browsing alone at the cool Out of Vogue thrift store, where I bought a vintage tweed coat and two atomic-esque dinner plates. Not to mention lots and lots of catching up and man-dishing with a good friend that I don't see hardly enough of these days.

A man about a horse, indeed.


It became increasingly clear to me over the weekend that my last few posts needed to be removed. I was terribly tired of thinking about them, tired of making further explanations and justifications, even if they were only in my head. I felt like they were sitting out there in cyberspace like so much space debris, polluting the universe like defunct old Russian satellites. And no, it wasn't that one angry comment that was the deciding factor. Or rather, maybe because my posts only generated that sole angry comment. Now, if I'd gotten scores of hate mail over the silly issue of puffy couches, I'd feel kinda cool, like I was a kindred blogger with Dooce, and her hysterical post about all the hate comments she received after she riffed on the perceived need for free-range chicken broth. But I am not Dooce, with her millions of site visits per day. I'm just lonely me, over here in my forgotten cubbyhole of the 'net. Which is fine. But one angry comment, versus a hundred, or even fifteen, just felt a little too....personal.

Therefore, the posts are gone. Whew. I feel better already.

I am still in need of a new couch set. I am still frustrated about my inability to find something close to my needs at the usual major furniture retailers. But, I am not going to combine that complaint with my bitching about the inordinate amount of puffy, trashy, Nascar-watchin' folks in my town. I cannot blame that crowd for my furniture problems, much as I really don't need to point out to the world that they live here in the first place. Otherwise, I may as well call my next post "The Sky is Blue."


Friday, January 12, 2007

Outta Here

I'm going tomorrow to see a production of Equus with my dear pal Christina. Dinner, dishing and mutilated horses. A girl can't ask for too much more. [Insert bad horse pun here.]

Details to follow.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Yeah, that's right. You heard me. My first blog in over a month, the first of the new year, and all I have to say is: Meh. (I'm a blogger now, you know, so I can say that.)

Big plans for the new year. Things to learn, things to read, places to go. Obsessions to blog about. For instance: I got a sewing machine for Christmas. A sewing machine! I told my mom about it on Christmas night, and she nearly spit out her drink, a perfectly reasonable reaction to that astounding fact. I OWN a sewing machine. I don't know how to use it. I go to visit it sometimes, and touch it's cool white plastic case, but right now, I feel like Myk may as well have bought me a....carburetor, say, because I have about as much clue as to what to do with the thing. It's important to note that I asked for the sewing machine. I have big plans for things such as pillows and curtains and maybe even aprons. Yes, I said aprons. That's another post entirely

But today is January 3. The staging area for the rest of the year. I hate January. So.....meh. The learning curve to the whole year is before me, and it feels like the sheer face of El Capitan at Yosemite. I have to learn how to use my new machine. I have to reseach and surf the web for literal hours until my eyes start to bleed until I find the perfect vacation for us to go on later this year. I have to pick the perfect color to paint the kid's playroom. This will all be lots of fun when the time arrives, but it's all out there, waiting, in the days and months ahead. But today, on January 3....not so much.

Also. I'm feeling really, really "meh" about Temecula again. I like the cold nights, the open sky, the views of distant low mountains from the upstairs windows, the excellent API score of the elementary school down the block (because I hear such things are important to the eternal souls of my children). I don't like the puffy blonde women with their puffy fat flip-flopped French manicured feet with the "NOTW" stickers on their SUVs who seem to make up so much of the population. Or their husbands, in their big white pick up trucks, either. And while I've meant some fine, fun people to spend an hour or an evening with, overall I'm left with that frustrated, champing-at-the-bit feeling I've felt throughout life from about fourth grade onward, when I feel like I need to reign in my vocabulary, my comments, my general IQ, to fit in with the crowd. It sucks and I'm tired of it. (Yeah, I know what a horrible elitist snob I sound like, but give me a break. Because the fact remains that while you sit in your town reading this, I am, in fact, still right here in Temecula. The place, I admit, I decided that we should move to three years ago.)

In light of all that, I'm thinking maybe this image would be great to put in my guest bathroom, which needs a new spot of art. A conversation piece, no? It's from the Art & Ghosts shop on Etsy. I actually really like some of the photographs very much, but admit that I'd probably be a little creeped out by this number above if I was alone in the bathroom after midnight. And I also realize that putting them in my bathroom would be a little too purposely eccentric, and I'm not seventeen anymore. I'm supposed to have outgrown that urge to perturb the grown ups, right?

Anyway. So, sorry if the first blog of the year is sounding a little bored and hostile. I'm just feeling a little bored and hostile today. Which, y'know, just all adds up to a big Meh. (Especially as described in definition #4)