Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Snails and Near Death and Hogwarts

I promised a very exciting post about the weekend that was now several weekends ago. And now it's almost the next, next weekend which will be VERY exciting as it contains a special someone's birthday. I'm kind of over the other weekend, exciting as it was. And there was a whole nuther exciting weekend in there that I'm not even going to try for. But that one weekend, I promised. So here is a recap.
I did eat snails. (I can't quite bring myself to call them escargot right now because I'm listening to Bob Dylan and I think he would make fun of me if I called them escargot). I have eaten snails before but these were broiled in mushroom caps then drizzled with a garlic cream sauce. Oh, my goodness. I think that in heaven they will only serve snails broiled in mushroom caps with cream sauce, nothing else. Also from now on at my house I will be serving snails, nothing else. It was part of a fancy dinner at a fancy restaurant celebrating no special occasion except that this wonderful restaurant was closing the next day and we're not ones to let a nice restaurant go untested. It was our last chance. Here is a picture of me from right before that dinner, trying to look sophisticated like I belong in a place that serves escargot.

Saturday we spent in Philadelphia. In case I haven't made it clear, we are moving to Philadelphia in April. We spent the day scouring some realtor's definition of 'up and coming neighborhoods' which equals affordable which equals the ghetto. We hope we're still young enough to have that inner-city rough around the edges experience. As long as we do regular maintenance on the huge steel bars that we'll put on all the doors and windows we think we'll be fine.

Or we'll go live in the suburbs. We're leaning toward the suburbs. We might be that old already.The suburbs are very nice and they look like this...

Believe it or not this lovely little cottage costs much less than that block of concrete above. Because it's in the suburbs. Ahhh, suburbs.
The suburbs are also where Rosemont College a.k.a. Hogwarts rests on gently rolling lawns...

Harry Potter wasn't really filmed there but I think it should have been. It's castle-y and dreamy like that. The real reason I'm going to school here is to indulge my inner witch, I mean princess. In case I haven't made it clear, I'll be attending Rosemont College to become a Master in English and Publishing. It's a unique degree, one of very few in the country. It's half Liberal Artsy stuff like reading and writing (English) and half kinda technical website design, layout, editing, marketing (Publishing) classes. It perfectly satisfies my obsession with reading, and my obsession with needing some marketable skills in case Zeb dies. Even if he doesn't die, having skills are (is? where's my editor?) nice.

Enough about that weekend that was so two weekends ago. This weekend we will be cramming in all of Zeb's favorite things in the world into 3.5 days. The party begins Friday night and ends Monday night and will include many many burritos, martinis that are mostly olive brine, and probably SAW 14. I'm so excited. The things we do for love.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


There's a list of rotating topics, one of which I usually manage to slip into every conversation. They're things like rib-eye steak, Anthropologie, Craigslist, Kierkegaard and ZENNI OPTICAL. But every once in a while I still have a conversation with someone who, upon hearing me mention it, asks 'What is ZENNI OPTICAL?' I always feel so bad and guilty that I didn't happen to mention it sooner and that this person is still living in darkness (literally) because ZENNI OPTICAL changes lives. So, once and for all, here's the scoop. And if you're still in the dark after this then you can't blame me and my exuberant caps lock. $8 glasses, folks. And I am not even lying. It works. In fact, I've been wearing mine for over a year now and I think they're actually HEALING MY EYES! But that part just might be my imagination.

The details: Frames range from $8-$30 including a fill with your own prescription lens. I usually throw in the premium anti-reflective coating for an extra $4.95. Shipping is another $4.95 no matter how many pairs you order. Just casually ask your eye doctor if you can keep 'for your files' an extra copy of your prescription and plug it into the website! If you're confused about any of the little numbers there's a helpful little help button that will explain everything. The only drawback - you can't try them on. So you gotta know beforehand whether you're a Sophia Loren cat's eyes or Woody Allen type. But they provide you the detailed dimensions of each frame so you can measure your old ones, or the nice Dolce&Gabbana ones at the store that you like, and compare. Thirteen bucks for new glasses? You can get one to go with every outfit! Which is exactly what I'm shooting for. As soon as I'm allowed off my ZENNI OPTICAL moratorium. Which is after I'm allowed off my Anthropologie and Craigslist moratoriums...
Update: Are you still doubting the legitimacy of this whole thing? Here's an article in Slate, found right after I posted this, about this very topic...Slate never lies.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reading and Watching

A number of months ago I read this article by Morgan Meis on Raymond Carver's short stories. With praise such as, 'The stories are a revelation in pecks and silences' I was of course intrigued. This weekend I finally got around to reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and yup, he was right, the stories punch your guts out. In a good way. I heartily recommend it! The article is actually more about Carver's editor who hacked away at his stories until they became the spare sketches we have today. Carver's widow is fighting to publish the unedited versions and as much as I agree that the genius of these stories is found in the 'gaping silences', my curiosity always gets the best of me and now I'm anxious to read the filled out version if they are ever released.
The less than cheerful (in a good way!) Carver marathon was accompanied this weekend by Lars von Trier's film Breaking the Waves, influenced by (since it didn't strictly adhere to) the Dogme 95 movement. Another punch in the guts, but in a good way! Stripped down, all natural lighting, no soundtrack and a heart wrenching examination of religion, morality and mental illness. Movies such as these are not easy to watch, but I think the statement they make is important. I'm fascinated by the collective's stated rules as they aim for a portrayal of reality, a refreshing change after a number of Batman and James Bond weekends. I need the reminder and practice sometimes to find impact and beauty through a viewfinder other than Hollywood's. I cannot show you a preview though because very often reality is accompanied by nudity and none of the YouTube clips are young cousin appropriate. So instead, here are some flowers from the lovely wedding a few weeks ago.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Yellow Skirt and Grandma's Blue Chair

O Blog, Thou Guinea Pig

Because I have a lot of time on my hands, and because my raw photography skills are poor to say the least, and because I will soon be immersed in certain computer programs up to my eyeballs, I've decided to learn Photoshop. I have dabbled in Picture It!, iPhoto, and GIMP and I now feel that it is time to master the mother of all photograph manipulation programs. Well, I know that whether it is the mother or not is highly debatable, but it is the one for which I will soon be receiving grades. So, since it's no fun to practice on pictures that are just going to sit on my computer, this blog will be the recipient of all my Photoshop experiments, whether they have to do with anything or not.

To begin with - last weekend's flowers.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Alas, the computer is not yet cooperating. The hard drive was erased at the doctor's (whew for the foresight to backup beforehand!) so the boy is spending many an hour reinstalling all of our programs and files. The pictures are waiting, waiting, waiting to be shared. And they will be soon. In the meantime I thought I'd share a book list I stumbled upon.

I read a lot of books. My goals are as wide ranging as the time periods and genres of the books I read. I want to read the books that 'everyone should read,' I want to read books that are spiritually profound, or I want to read books that will contribute to a specific area of interest (and too often these categories don't overlap). I'm always on the lookout for recommendations because there are so many books and so little time!

Sometimes people ask me for recommendations, or to make a book list that, if read, will accomplish such and such a reading goal. Each list has a specific function. If the goal is to be classically well-read and liberally, artsy educated the book lists on the Gutenberg College or St. John's websites will keep you busy. If the goal is to be culturally educated, I pick something off the Nobel Prize in Literature list or the Pulitzer Prize list. If I want to be trendy/have something to talk about with my neighbor then there's of course The New York Times Bestseller list. But between you and me I'd resort to that one last.

I'm continually forming my personal list of 'Eternal Books'- the vague criteria being something along the lines of 'portraying true/permanent things'. I recently found a list that might contribute more to my Eternal Books than many of the others do. It is Image Journal's '100 Writers of Faith' list (keep in mind these are all literature, and from the 20th C.). There were a few surprise inclusions, I will admit, such as John Updike whose 'Rabbit' series I am still recovering from (for some reason I waded through all four volumes even though I hated it from Book I, Chapter I), but I'm willing to trust them and read the one they recommend which is, incidentally, not one of the Rabbit books. Judging from the books on the list I have read or know by reputation, this list is worth printing out and bringing with you next time you visit your favorite bookstore.

And because I can't blog without pictures anymore I'll leave you with another picture that I did not take, that has nothing to do with this post, it's just where we met a long lost friend for dinner last night.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Weekend

Ahhhh, what a nice weekend. Also, WOW, what a crazy weekend! Also, ugh, I am still full from this weekend. And since I increasingly find myself unable to blog without accompanying photos the post about this weekend will have to wait until tomorrow when the computer is back from the doctor. But I'll just say that tomorrow's post will include snail eating, pictures from a visit to Harry Potter's Hogwarts, and a near death experience.
And since I am unable to blog without accompanying photos, here is one, that I did not take, of Sylvia Plath. It has nothing to do with my weekend except that I watched a movie about her last night then stayed up way too late reading The Colossus and Other Poems.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More Book Art

Did you know that every single Anthropologie store has their own full time artist to decorate the store? This is just one of the reasons that I am such a loyal fan. I chatted with the Portland Anthropologie's artist one day as she sat on a $10,000 couch stringing doilies and she was pretty much like 'Yeah, I have the most perfect job in the world.' Her sole responsibility is to take the theme that Anthropologie sends her for the season and come up with incredible, creative, inspiring art for the store involving clothes pins or cotton balls or paper or any number of other materials. It was almost enough to make me go to design school right then and there. 'Cause that's what it takes to get that job. But instead I just visualize whether it would look dumb to arrange a heap of cotton balls on my window seat at home. I'm not sure I could pull it off. And that's why I don't have that job. It doesn't even matter if you like the products Anthropologie carries, the displays are enough to draw you in and get you gawking. These pictures are from a current display at the San Francisco store...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

T.S. Eliot's much on my mind these days. I am wading through a brilliant examination of his life and work for Blogcritics, and as I do I'm falling in love with him all over again. Nothing chills me quite the way these lines from "Prufrock" do...

I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

The book is about Eliot's profound yet understated influence on the 'moral imagination' of the 20th Century. I am beginning to realize how much he shaped the intellectual and social perspectives of not only his day but ours, and I also begin to realize how much he has shaped me personally. The early poems, especially, put words to a vision of life, an attention to life, a moral deliberateness that I consciously and unconsciously reference as I try to put pieces of life together for myself. The way he uses words, his subtle rhythms and alliteration are undoubtedly the most pronounced influence on my own writing attempts.
This book is kicking my admiration up a notch as I learn about many of the themes behind his spare (and complicated!) poetry. His views on tradition, the interaction between church and state, and artists' roles and responsibilities are incredibly thought provoking, and have provoked many a conversation in my house and with friends lately.

All this is to say, until I can get the review up (it might be a while since it's 3oo dense pages!), and while I have Eliot on the mind, there might be posted some excerpts, including this one from "The Waste Land" that hung above my desk all through college...

Who is the third who walks always beside you?

When I count, there are only you and I together

But when I look ahead up the white road

There is always another one walking beside you

Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded

I do not know whether a man or a woman

—But who is that on the other side of you?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Reason # 1,384,087 Why I Love My Man...

Saturday morning comes shining through the window and he rolls over and all cute sleepy like he volunteers, 'Hey babe, do you want to go to Anthropologie this morning?' This involves him battling traffic for two hours round trip on the DC beltway, two more hours of waiting while I examine, not once but four times, every single object in the store, then he has to come up with an opinion on the ten drawer knob options I've narrowed down to. All this he suffers through and all he asks in return is a burrito for dinner. Wow. What a man.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Weighty Stuff

I appreciate a book that is both entertaining and informative. Blogcritics sent my way The Forbidden Daughter by Shobhan Bantwal, a novel centered on the issue of gender selective abortion in India. Though the characters could have used further development and the prose a little smoothing, overall it was a good introduction to a very serious issue. My review on it is here.