Thursday, September 30, 2010

Autumn, Finally

I have decided to start calling this season "autumn" instead of "fall." I have always said fall when discussing, this, the best season of all four of our Midwestern seasons. But autumn just sounds that touch classier, snootier, douchier that I'm undertaking an effort to say "autumn."


So autumn it is. This weather is glorious. Highs in the 70's, lows in the 50's, sunny, mild, perfection. So I've been enjoying the week off of blogging. I've done a lot of cooking lately: pumpkin bread, roasted chicken and potatoes, southwestern beef stew in the crock pot with cornbread and tonight we had Thai chicken in a spicy peanut sauce with brown rice.  For some reason autumn makes me want to cook more. I savor the delicious spices and flavors of the season. I break the crock pot out because I'm lazy and it's so easy. And all the fall produce, I love squash and apples and sweet potatoes and pumpkin and all the nutmeg, allspice, cloves of the season.

Right now I'm drinking a cup of coffee with cinnamon vanilla creamer and writing and uploading photos to Flickr and half watching Grey's Anatomy. Just my regular life, but enhanced by the fact that fall, I mean autumn, is here. It's finally here. The windows are open, I just put the heavier comforter back on our bed and last weekend we went to two art fairs, the Overland Park Fall Festival and the spectacular annual Plaza Art Fair.
BNVW Marching Band

Last Saturday we went to the Overland Park Fall Festival. I've had a beaded jewelry booth at the OP Fall Fest for the last six years, but I took this year off. I needed a break. I wasn't inspired. I wasn't interested in making jewelry or selling to strangers or hauling my wares around town, or spending all weekend making more earrings. So I liberated myself and I 'm loving this autumn like I haven't in years. Don't mistake my sense of liberation for disliking shows or making jewelry, I just burned out a bit. I made myself a necklace last week and it was a great feeling. No pressure, just easy. And I liked feeling that way again.

The parents


Potato Chip Process


No booth, thumbs up!


So this visit to the OP Fall Fest was brief and fun and free. Lots of lovely handcrafted items. I bought a cute floral fabric purse with a lovely braided strap. We ate kettle corn. We watched a marching band. We observed potato chips being handcrafted. We cheered at the parade. And it was just good.

Brush Creek and Lanterns


Lusting after red bench

Sunday morning was crisp and sunny. We met Tara and Mike and Miss Madeline on the Plaza. They got in a very long line to procure coffee beverages, my first pumpkin spice latte of autumn (woop woop,) and the five of us browsed.
HDR Art Fair

Sunday morning is the only time I'm going to the Plaza Art Fair ever again. It isn't crowded, it isn't shoulder to shoulder with other browsers, you can actually get inside of the booths and look and observe and talk to the artists. But by 12:30 the place is full. There are dogs and strollers and people dressed in their most creative elegant gear, or scrubby jean cut offs, but mostly dressed with dapper flair.

Mr. and Mrs. Barnes


Joe and Spider

We didn't buy any art. But we did buy some lunch. Ran into some old friends, and procured many many free postcards to take home, my own little free art collection. See my couch gallery below.



Didn't buy but free art postcards!



Miss Madeline and Coffee Joe


Seafood lunch



Panoramic art fair

Last weekend was a perfect fall weekend. Plenty of mellow, lingering time with friends and family, time outside looking at beautiful creative work from amazing craftspeople and artisans, at least two pumpkin spice lattes and ending with my book club meeting where we discussed one of my favorite books, East of Eden. It was a great weekend, and did I mention relaxing. This coming weekend will be about the opposite. I'm spending all day Friday and Saturday earning my fund development certificate in class, a long two days of class. But the highlight of the weekend will be Saturday night, the VAMPIRE WEEKEND CONCERT!!! I might be posting about that, oh you know I will.

What are your weekend plans, and more importantly what's your favorite season? Because if you say anything other than autumn, you crazy!


Some photos by me, some photos by Joe Sands, whom I love more than pumpkin spice lattes, promise.

Friday, September 24, 2010

7 Days: Day 7 - Hot Rollers and Hot Coffee


Hi. Are you tired of me yet? Well, good timing because today is the last day of 7 Days. And as much as I enjoy the whole thing, by day 7 I'm tuckered out. Commenting on other people's photos drops off, my creativity has hit it's max, and blogging becomes one paragraph, sad. At least click on the photo above and you can see lots of my little notes to explain what's in the photo, it helps make up for the tiny size of this blog. Basically this is what I look like getting ready every morning in our kitchen. Scary.

I'm out of steam today.  Busy work week coupled with sitting in a continuing education class all day today, taking notes and trying to stay awake in the stuffy room. I grabbed a quick lunch with Kristen on campus, feeling ancient while watching all the baby students walking to class.  I watched The Office tonight and barely laughed, I think it's past it's expiration date, as much as it pains me to say that. Then Joe and I tried a new restaurant for dinner, Max's Auto Diner. Not glamorous, but a great greasy spoon with tasty gyros. And it's Friday. I'm glad and I'm done.  So I say ta-ta for now. I'll be back sometime next week. I'm guessing you need a break from seeing my face, 'cause I know I do!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

7 Days: Day 6 - TCB, Baby!

I got to work early this morning. I got some stuff done. I got my 7 Days photo done. And I'm out of the office tomorrow. I'm working on my fund raising certification through UMKC. Marking off another life list item, hell yeahs! So when my client called to reschedule our 3 hour meeting today, I was thrilled.(I'm on the phone with her below.) Now I can actually get some other projects accomplished before I spend Friday wearing jeans, sitting in a classroom, taking notes and throwing spitballs at the teacher.

7 Days: 6 Seriously?


My alternate shot was much more serious and moody. Which I'm just not feeling today. I'm feeling good today. Sunny and happy and like fall is just around the corner and I've got outdoorsy arty plans all weekend. So today is my Friday. How's your Thursday going?

7 Day: 6 Alternate

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

7 Days: Day 5 - Home Alone

I am home alone tonight. I am drinking a beer, which just seemed like a relaxing, tasty idea. I don't like beer very often, I'm a fruity sweet drink kind of girl. Except for the scotch I tried on Sunday night at my parent's house, who knew scotch was so smooth and delicious? But only if it's extremely old and extremely expensive, so I'm not starting a habit there.



ChoppingBBQ Chicken Pizza Night

But tonight's Boulevard Wheat tastes like heaven. I got home from work a little late, took the dog for a walk and then had to figure out dinner. Joe is off at a photography workshop all evening, so dinner is all on my own. Once again I am in a pizza mood. Though this is the second time this week that we've had homemade pizza, I figured, I'm 35, I can have pizza anytime I want. So tonight I made BBQ Chicken pizza. It's one of my favorite recipes. BBQ sauce, leftover roasted chicken, red onion, cashews, a mix of mozzarella and cheddar cheese and the topper, cilantro. I adore cilantro.



Before the attack of the chicken crazies
The sane, calm Mac before the chicken crazies take over.


I will kill you to get to that chicken.
The wild eyed chicken crazies have come over him.

So my evening alone has consisted of whipping up dinner, drinking beer, taking photos, torturing the dog with chicken (he goes insane for all meats) watching Sex and the City reruns and now it's time for a little reading. This week I'm reading a little true crime nonfiction, Cruel Doubt by Joe McGinniss. It's bloody and mysterious and entertaining. I just hope I don't freak myself out by reading it while home alone at night. So that's my Wednesday night. What are you doing tonight? I'm thinking about getting a second beer.

Here's my 7 days photo for the day. And no, Mac didn't get any pizza: 

7 Days: 5 - What about me?


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

7 Days: Day 4 - Avoiding Arrest

7Days: 4 -Why hello, officer!



No, I didn't get arrested today. No, I didn't have to walk a straight line and touch my finger to my nose to prove my sobriety. And certainly, no, I'm not training to become an officer of the law. I'm not brave enough for that. But I did get to spend the afternoon at the regional police academy.

I love my job. There are more than 1.4 million nonprofit organizations in the United States and I have the pleasure of working with about 25 of them on an ongoing basis. Helping with fundraising, database management, and marketing, I get to work with a wide range of nonprofits. Everything from arts groups, youth development, education, historic preservation to law enforcement training. This afternoon was obviously law enforcement day, and what better place to take my 7 Days photo than at the academy?

There were some fantastic photo ops at the academy. Huge police shields in the lobby, right next to an enormous golden eagle statue, the beautiful stone facade of the building, all good options. But do you know how ridiculous it looks for an adult woman to be taking her photo next to a golden eagle statue? In the middle of the academy lobby with recruits and captains constantly walking through and the staring, my goodness, I felt guilty of something, but I'm not sure what. So I skedaddled out of the building, lingered briefly outside, where it was ridiculously windy and grabbed a couple of shots. Less staring outside, but I did hear one very young recruit, he looked 17, ask his instructor, "What the hell is she doing?" Trying to get the perfect shot, Officer Justin, just trying to get the perfect shot.

Monday, September 20, 2010

7 Days: Day 3 - The Lipstick Effect

Prepare for the most shallow blog post ever. The most shallow, glossy, pink, sparkly blog post is all I could handle on this long Monday. I went from meeting to meeting today. Dragging my energy along, fueled by caffeine and a pear and will power. I participated through conference calls and committee meetings and brainstorming sessions. And by the end of the day, tired and ready to collapse at home, my brain drained of all knowledge, with simply the desire to lay on the couch and watch Mad Men with my husband, I first had to make a quick stop at CVS to pick up some shampoo and a prescription. And what other little mood enhancer did I browse for? What is the one calorie free item guaranteed to make me smiley and contented? A new lip gloss.

I have an addiction, sir.


I have a small addiction. I like every fruity flavored glossy sticky pink red bronze sparkly lip gloss. I like lip balms. I like lipstick. I like lip stains. I like make up in general. But I really love lip gloss. And I'm not alone.

Getting pretty


The Lipstick effect is an actual economic indicator that states that in times of economic stress and crisis, you know, like now, people tend to buy smaller less costly luxury items, like lipsticks. People still need a pick me up. People still want to treat themselves occasionally. After 9/11 and the economic crisis that year, lipstick sales doubled. We just treat ourselves on a much more conservative scale when money is tight, but we still need our small indulgences. So when I'm feeling low or tired or of course when I run out of my favorite color, I buy lip gloss.  I don't buy that yacht or that fur coat I've had my eye on, ok, seriously, more like I don't buy Clinique, I buy Maybelline, but I long to break open the package and feel the little boost I get when applying that new shiny coat of gloss. Some people buy beer or $2 buck chuck, I buy make up.

So today I'm wearing a new L'Oreal Infalliable lip gloss in Scarlet. And I feel pretty. Here's my 7 Days shot to prove it:

7 Days: 3 Kissy Face


What's your little treat? What do you buy to perk yourself up when your day, week, month has sucked? Or do you do something much deeper and meaningful like meditate or community service or hugs? Come on, you buy something, what is it?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

7 Days: Day 2 - Brunch with the Gang

7 Days:2 Old Friends

And here we are! My peeps, my gang, my crew: Tara, Kristen and Joe. Tara, Kristen and Joe and I all attended KU together, in various forms we all worked as RA's or housing staff, I've lived with all three of them at some point and they are my family. Of course, legally only Joe is but, ladies, you are like the sisters I never had. 

So in typical fashion, we whipped up some breakfast treats, gathered together at our house and noshed and chilled and just generally enjoyed spending time with each other and the fantastic Sean, Kristen's husband who makes a mean Eggostrata, Mike, Tara's husband who is such a devoted dad that he held baby Madeline so long that his arm fell asleep. And of course, the stars of the show, Madeline and Aedan, and scruffy Mac. 
This is what Sunday mornings should be like: easy, delicious and relaxed.

Uncle Joe and Mac attack

We are trying to convince Tara to join us next 7 Days round. She is an amazing elementary art school teacher, takes great photographs, but that darn adorable five month old baby girl of her's makes 7 Days a bit difficult right now, maybe this winter!We're working on her.

Panda Madeline

Panda photo by Joe Sands.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Crossing Off #35 - 7 Days - the first naked day.

7 Days is back! If you haven't heard about 7 Days, well, let me fill you in. 7 Days is the fun, fabulous, friendly, creative, supportive, hilarious tribe of photographically inclined individuals from all over the U.S., United Kingdom and several other far flung parts of the world, who get together online four times a year to take a self portrait photograph a day for 7 days, then share the photos on Flickr and offer commentary, stories, compliments and laughs every day for the week. It's a delightful treat.

So I timed my latest Bravely Obey in Action life list adventure with the first day of 7 Days. For some bizarre reason I put "#35. Take artistic nude photos of myself." on my life list. Something about embracing my body and learning to love the flaws, yada yada. I put it on the list and then dreaded actually doing it. As over analyzed here. But I did it this evening. And I didn't hate every minute of it. Though it isn't something I plan to do again anytime soon. Here's the one I chose to use for 7 Days.


DSC_1000

Nothing skanky. Nothing too revealing. Evidently I'm such a prude when it comes to photographs of myself, that I feel rather naughty even sharing these. And you can't even see any nipple. I liked the warm lighting in this one and the fact that for once I look serious instead of goofy. I usually hate photos where I'm not smiling. But I don't hate this one.

DSC_0966

I took photos for about an hour. I felt most comfortable in our bedroom, so that's where we set up.  Joe helped me set up some lighting and gave me some lens choices and good advice on depth of field and connected the flash for me, and then I kicked him out.

DSC_0824

And I just took a ton of photographs. I couldn't relax at first. I couldn't get angles I liked. I deleted A LOT of photos. And then I just settled in. I stopped thinking of my body as mine and just started thinking of it as this object I was photographing. This object that I wanted to make pretty and soft and flattering. Once I stopped criticizing that shot or this one for highlighting my cellulite or my very pale skin or those wrinkles and bumps, I stopped feeling so self conscious. And it was a bit of fun. The only thing that frustrated me was my lack of photography skill and trying to angle myself in front of the camera on the tripod was challenging. It would be much easier to shoot someone else.


But I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I got over my stress about it. I'm glad I think I look pretty in a couple of the photos. And I'm glad I learned a bit more about photography this evening. Kind of the point of this whole thing, right? I pushed myself. I made myself do something that I'm not good at or very comfortable doing. I hate that feeling of being out of my element, and I was both uncomfortable taking nude pictures, and worse, uncomfortable because I just couldn't make the camera do exactly what I wanted it to do. So it might be time to sit down and have Joe give me another lesson. I hate that he's so much better than me at all this and I hate to have to ask for his help, but I'm proud of him for it at the same time. I'm weirdly competitive and stupidly independent sometimes. Something else to work on probably. Is there a life list item for "Try to be less of a bitch?" Maybe I should make that #47?

I should have included one last shot of Joe's tower of magazines and books on his nightstand. It is precarious and tall and I often feel concerned that it might collapse and bury us in our sleep. We like reading materials in this house. And taking naked pictures.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Need Some Action

Life lists are everywhere lately. I like that. Even my beloved, damaged Don Draper sketched out his own list on last Sunday's episode of Mad Men. Though trying to be less of an alcoholic womanizer may not be on my list, I'd be happy to accompany him on his intended trip to Africa.  And it inspired me to check in on my own list progress. If you have no idea what I'm talking about with all this list mumbo jumbo, you can visit here to see the queen of lists by the inestimable Maggie Mason or you can visit my humble offering.

I've stalled out a bit on my list this summer. I thoroughly enjoyed crossing off a couple of items in May and June. Our fabulous Florida vacation was #42 and Joe and I threw a pretty delicious and fun Italian dinner party #15, if I do say so myself. But since then I haven't crossed anything off officially. Not to say I haven't done anything. I've done a bit. I've pondered and planned and fantasized. But accomplished anything, not quite. So here's my progress report on a couple of items that are a little more long term and not quite so easy as to wrap up in a night or a weekend.

The Bravely Obey In Action List Summer Progress Report:

12. Design a garden with plantings for each season. - Other than moving and adding a few perennials this year I've done jack squat on this one. But I have called in an expert to help me accomplish some kind of actual design in the spring. My delightful and talented mother in law has agreed to help me. And she's good.

14. Clean, organize and repaint our basement for extra space and to cushion the pain of doing laundry. - Last weekend we cleaned and purged and reorganized and I took a car load of crap to the DAV. We are getting there. With plans to paint and turn the basement into a small photo studio for Joe, I think this one will get crossed off before the year is out. I think.

21. See Rilo Kiley, Modest Mouse and Cake in concert. And the Pixies, but that one is a little harder. - Saw Modest Mouse in July. I worship them now. Cake is coming to town in a couple of weeks, but they are coming with Smashing Pumpkins so I'm skipping that show and waiting until Cake is the headliner. Rilo Kiley isn't touring currently. And the Pixies are touring on their Doolittle album, but I was too late in buying tickets to the show in KC, and not quite as excited about a Doolittle only show. But we are seeing Vampire Weekend in October and I'm giddy about that.

24. Pack a picnic lunch and relax outside all day. - We are doing this on the first 70 degree weekend day. I will pack fine cheeses, some crusty baguette, a pear, a bottle of wine, smoked meats for Joe, a book or two and I will lounge and relax and lay around outside on a blank with my husband. Maybe Sunday.

35. Take artistic nude photos of myself. - 7 Days is back this Saturday! And what better way to kick off a week of self portrait photography than by taking naked pictures of oneself? Saturday morning I'm stripping down and clicking away. Scary.

37. Have someone teach me how to make tortillas from scratch. - I had forgotten I even had this on my list until in my Google Reader today, this popped up. No, I'm not buying a tortilla press, but I'm contemplating doing a Mexican themed dinner party sometime later this fall. A perfect excuse to make homemade tortillas, drink tequila, hang out with friends and make jokes about the effects of eating all those delicious seasoned black beans. Stay tuned.

41. Consider next steps for career advancement: MPA, CFRE, UMKC fund development certificate, Centurions Kansas City. - I'm excited about this one. I enrolled in two of the four classes I need to earn the UMKC fund development certification. They start this fall and I'll have it completed by February of next year. And the certificate will help me earn my CFRE certification, since it will fulfill the education requirements. I'm gonna be a certified money raiser, ya'll!

43. Constantly add to and update this list. - I've got three new items for the list.

44. Attend a show at a local planetarium. - I added this one today, based on these glorious photos. I'm guessing the planetarium won't have such amazing images, but I'd like to learn more about astronomy and be able to identify more than the Big and Little Dippers and what is either Orion's belt or a low flying airplane.

45. Become a board member for a nonprofit whose mission I'm passionate about. - I'm the board secretary for the Young Nonprofit Professional Network of Kansas City. It's a great organization and a perfect first time board experience. But when my term is up next year I'll be ready for the next step.

46. Do a StoryCorps interview with both of my parents. - StoryCorps is in town! I need to check with both of my parents, but I'd like to schedule an interview with each of them.  They both have some powerful stories and I don't want to lose them. I'm working on the questions. So get ready, Mom and Dad! (Don't worry, separate interviews, I promise.)

So I'm giving myself a B for my progress over the summer. Not bad. I'm shooting for A+ for next quarter though.

How's your list progress coming along? Have you written one yet? Well, now's the time, get to it. Or tell me what you've been crossing off this summer! Finally learn to tie your own shoes? Fly a plane? Dance the tango?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hitting the Food Store

What do you call the place where you buy groceries? In my husband's family they call it the "food store." I don't know why, but I find this adorably specific.  I chalk it up to their East coast roots where liquor stores are called "package stores" and where our local grocery store, when we lived in Philadelphia ten years ago, literally only sold food. It was a small Acme and had a minuscule toiletry section with about two shampoo choices. Simply a food store, not the enormous pharmacy-liquor-toiletry-makeup-bakery-seafood-butcher-grocery mega store like we have here in the Midwest. A place where you can buy a watermelon for your picnic right alongside a five piece outdoor table and chair set for that picnic, and maybe a Chiefs t-shirt you can spill a beer on at that picnic. Our Acme in Philly was a place to buy plain old food. If you wanted a large fresh seafood selection you'd go to the fresh seafood store. You need deodorant, you go to Walgreens. Perfect T-bone, visit your butcher. Acme just had the basics, so calling it a food store made sense. But here, it's just quirky. Why am I mentioning this at all? Because tonight I hit the food store and after a hectic crazy work day with multiple meetings, an after work networking event that included a tasty chilled Riesling, I realized, crap, we have nothing in the house for dinner. So I took one for the team (since my trip to the store takes 1/3 of the time Joe's trip would take, sorry, dear) and went to buy food.

I have an abusive relationship with the grocery store.  I create a healthy and structured list, including some planned meal ingredients, some snacks, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. I put these things in the cart. And somehow the box of Nilla Wafers jumps in. And then that delicious tomato basil foccacia, and possibly a Kit Kat bar, and pudding. These things were not on the list.  But this isn't the worst. The worst is that I start the week with big plans to eat at home every night, then two nights we do and then we don't. And then two weeks later I realize that bag of green beans is still sitting in the crisper and has morphed into a soggy brownish bag of goo, that I then have to carefully remove without puncturing the now weakened bag and dousing the floor with rotten bean fluids. We go through this cycle on a monthly basis. Shop and cook for a week, then eat out eat out eat out. Feel guilty, clean fridge, restock with new food. Cook at home for a couple of days. We take a trip or have super busy weeks at work, or turn moderately lazy, and the fresh healthy food dies in the fridge while we enjoy a little beef with broccoli.


So this time I dialed it back. I realized that if I buy smaller quantities I can always stop on my way home and pick up the fresh stuff to cook tonight. Duh. And I can feel less guilty about throwing away the mushy avocado and rotten cilantro for that guacamole I never got around to making, because I didn't buy it this time. Plus if I visit the grocery store more often I get to enjoy experiencing these:

- The 16 year old ginger trainee who took 16 minutes to type in the code for the melon I bought.

- The old man wearing slippers whose cart only contained beer and tube socks. I think he's a bachelor.

- Our ice maker is broken. I bought a bag of ice. I always forget to grab the bag of ice on my way out. I loaded all groceries into the car and then realized, shit,  I forgot the ice. At least I was still in the parking lot and not sitting at home on the couch when I remembered, like last time.

- The candy bar debate. I had enough calories banked today. I really wanted one. But which one? When I only allow myself one every third trip or so, it becomes an enormous decision. I felt like a five year old, just staring and drooling in the check out lane while the ginger checkout boy slowing decided if those were tomatoes or onions that I was buying. Seriously.  Kit Kat was today's big winner. It was crisplicious.

-I've noticed that when I remember to bring in my reusable cloth grocery bags, I often receive and then return the pompous nod of camaraderie and superiority with other cloth bag carriers. That is when I remember to bring them in with me.

- I always pick the cart that is permanently wedged inside the fifteen other carts. I briefly and futilely struggle to free my chosen cart, look like an angry weak idiot, give up, and pick another cart. I suspect that the 16 year old cart retrievers super glue them together and then sit back and mock all the frustrated shoppers as we frantically yank and pull on the long chain of carts. I also invariably pick the slowest lane. No matter what.

-This adorable elderly Asian couple was shopping in front of me through most of my trip. They were dressed to the nines, giggling and kissed twice in the soda aisle. I think they were on a grocery date, no wedding rings.

- The lady behind me in line who was obviously throwing a party for her kids, based on her look of impending doom and exhaustion and a cart filled with frozen pizzas, 20 2 liters of soda, 40 single serving birthday cake flavored ice cream cups and two boxes of cake mix.  And five bottles of wine. Plus she told me, loudly, how much she was dreading her daughter's birthday slumber party this weekend. Her exact words were, "Is there anything worse than a house full of screaming girls?"  Yep, running out of wine.

Do you show good grocery shopping restraint? Do the donuts creep into your cart? How often do you eat out? Am I the only one who threw away a half eaten yellowed container of cottage cheese today?  I feel guilty about being so wasteful, but I'm working on it, though ironically I already have plans to eat out tomorrow night. Thursday night I'll cook. I promise.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

These Things Matter

"I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like... Books, records, films - these things matter. Call me shallow, but it's the fuckin' truth, and by this measure I was having one of the best dates of my life." -Rob Gordon, High Fidelity


As Chuck Klosterman has bemoaned, many women of my generation think we are in love with John Cusack. When in all actuality we are in love with the fictional Lloyd Dobler. And while I've watched Say Anything a few hundred times, my mature adult love has passed on to the flawed, record store owner Rob Gordon of High Fidelity. That movie is one that I must stop and watch anytime I stubble upon it on TV. I watch it at least once or twice a year. Because it tells the truth. It's more than spastic record store employees, the grungy Cosby sweater and Rob's improbably sexy near mullet, Nick Hornby has written characters who love music, books and films with an abiding focus and passion. Nick Hornby gave me permission to not be embarrassed about my love of pop culture. He gave me permission to be a pop culture snob. And I am. I think Mad Men is the best show on TV. I prefer Wallace Stegner to Dean Koontz. I'd rather listen to Rilo Kiley than Train. But I also get a visceral pleasure from watching The Situation mack on a transsexual lady on Jersey Shore. I never finished Moby Dick, because it was long and boring. I read People magazine online. I've watched Super Bad repeatedly. And I occasionally DVR Bridezillas.  And I don't have to be embarrassed to admit it.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Actor John Cusack attends the premiere of The Weinstein CompanyI love movies. I love books. I love TV. And I love music.  These are universal things, I think. Of the four, you probably love at least one. And if you are a close friend of mine, you probably love all four. I will forcefully state that something is seriously quirky, ok just wrong, with you if you don't love at least one of the four. Do these people even exist? Or are they urban legends like Big Foot or the escaped mental patient with a hook hand who stalks teenagers making out in parked cars? Which was probably a story spread by parents to keep daughters from driving out to the woods and getting felt up. Didn't work, did it? Anyway, sorry, sidetracked myself. I could throw in visual art to the group of four, but that generally doesn't fit with the "pop culture" category. Unless you like Thomas Kinkaid or Nagel (and not in the hipster kitschy way,) and I refuse to discuss that Kinkaid guy as "art."

These things: books, movies, music and TV add color and vibrancy to our lives. We escape. We see the world through someone elses' eyes. We laugh. We learn valuable quotes that somehow become the language of our families (my family isn't the only one that does this, I assume?) We relate to other people, understand their stories and somehow understand ourselves better. Sometimes we even learn. And the laughing again, that's key. The artists, shows, and movies you choose to spend time with say something about who you are and how you view and interact in the world. Not everything about you. I'm not trying to postulate that your enjoyment of Wipe Out! says all there is to know about you as a person. I hope you are more complex than that.  But your pop culture passions reveal some key things about who you are. No, this isn't a Cosmo quiz. But frankly, it might determine whether we are ever going to the movies together. This isn't an exact science. I wouldn't dare put everyone who likes Dr. Who into a group and then guarantee they will be or act a certain way. I wouldn't say that everyone who likes According to Jim is a moron, but you might have to prove me wrong. Does anyone actually watch that show?

Instead of mocking you because you enjoy watching daytime soap operas so much that you refer to Ridge and Thorn as close family friends, I'll mock myself instead. That's nicer, right?

So in honor of High Fidelity, here are my top-seven (sorry, Rob, five wasn't quite enough) pop culture loves and hates and what I think they say about me as a person:

 1. Love-Thursday Night Shows on NBC: I am loyal and committed to shows once I start watching. If I've watched you for a season, I'm in for the long haul. It takes a lot for me to give up on a show. I want to know what happens next. Even if it's ER and you know that a helicopter is going to crash land on Dr. Romano and that is insane and I will be yelling at the TV while watching. I can't give up. In fact, ER is one of the rare few where I eventually said, "Who are all these new characters?" and "Is that really a tank driving up the middle of this Chicago street?" and I stopped watching. I am so faithful that since the era of the Cosby's and Keaton's, I have been an avid viewer of the NBC Thursday night line up. Through many horrible shows like that Cristina Applegate thing or the Jonathan Silverman retread, I lock in and keep watching. 30 Rock and The Office haven't been quite up to par the last season or two, but have I given up? Nope, can't do it. I keep thinking, the next episode will be better, it has to be, and sometimes it is. Though I did stop watching Private Practice after two seasons. But that's ABC so it doesn't count. I believe this indicates that I am a loyal and steadfast person, but I will loudly criticize those I love, and I talk to the TV too much.

 2. Hate-These Songs: Back to the Hotel, Word Up, What's Up: I hate that repetitive jazzy sax solo in Back to the Hotel by N2Deep and I can't stand the computerized voice of Cameo in Word Up (though points for using LeVar Burton and rocking a red shiny codpiece in the video.) These songs make me cringe and change the station immediately. They actually hurt my ears. What's Up by 4 Non Blondes is even worse, my ears bleed a little if I hear more than the first two bars of that song. And the top hat and dreadlocks, ugh. Even finding the YouTube link for What's Up pained me.  I believe that this indicates that I am a, yeah, I got nothing on this one, I just hate these songs, a lot, but on the plus side who doesn't find plastic codpieces amusing in a modern context?  Maybe that says something about me as a person.

 3. Love-Indie Sad Bastard Music that isn't that indie, except to maybe my parents: I like introspection and quirkiness and pain and sorrow and inside references and killer lyrics and am very nearly goth except for my sunny disposition and happy marriage and pink lip gloss. I like discovering non radio hits. I like my new music dealer, Jon Sands. I like oom-pa-pa music mixed with angsty yearning, I like songs about change and struggle and love and family strife. I love a solid pop riff, but I like a little substance in my music. Substance and story, and creativity and something new that makes me linger and think and wonder, what does it mean? what does life mean? and is this song actually about what I think it's about? I also like to feel slightly superior to you when I mention my favorite band and you have no idea who I'm talking about. I am not very cool, but for that split second, right before I feel like a smug old hipster, I feel cool, at least cooler than you. I believe this indicates that I still have a complex about being too straight laced and rule following to ever have been cool. So I make lame jokes about how uncool I am, in hopes that that makes me slightly cooler.  I am jealous that you don't care that you aren't cool. I wish I didn't care. Maybe I'll grow out of it.

 4. Love-The Royal Tennenbaums, Amelie and An Education: These movies are perfectly crafted. They have lovely costumes, every inch of each scene has been painstakingly hand crafted into set pieces that support and explain the characters. These movies are witty and different and not totally mainstream. One has subtitles, one has an illicit romance, one has gypsy cabs and a 375th St. YMCA. They all cleverly combined love, pain, and growth, and each of the main characters came out changed in the end. I believe that this indicates that I like independent films, but not the really dark difficult foreign ones, unless they are whimsical and French. And that I hope I am at least a little witty and can actually change my bad habits in under two hours.

 5. Love-East of Eden and Little Bee: I like to read. I probably average a book a week. And of the 38 or so books I've read this year, the two stand outs are East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I read East of Eden my freshman year in college. I remember liking the language and the story. But rereading it as an adult I got so much more out of it. I'm not a big crier, but for some reason this book just made me feel raw with my emotions constantly on the surface. I felt exhausted when I finished reading it, exhausted and sad but satisfied. Little Bee was much the same way. And they were both beautifully written by two authors with masterful control of language and character development. I believe this indicates that I am a book nerd with a serious case of the introspections.

 6. Love and Hate-Anne Rice books, love, until she turned all religious, hate: In high school and college, I  devoured every Anne Rice book I could get my hands on. The Witching Hour is still one of my favorite books. The gothic drama, the velvet and vampires, the overheated lusty revenge,the supernatural, glamorous European and Southern settings, Anne Rice was a skilled writer in her genre. Compelling, engaging and a bit  fluffy. But then she wrote a book from the perspective of Jesus as an adolescent and she lost me. Honestly she lost me a little earlier with Violin, but that Jesus book did it for me. She had always written about morality and often included a lot of religious aspects to her novels, but when religion became the main subject in her books, I couldn't enjoy her anymore. I felt like she was trying to convert me through her fiction, and a poorly executed conversion at that. How could a woman who seemed to understand and often embrace the dark side of humanity suddenly turn conservative? How could someone who writes graphic S&M erotica turn her back on decades of her own work? Is it bad that when I heard she had left Christianity last month I was thrilled? Because I thought, hey maybe she'll write something good again. I believe this indicates that I am too judgmental about other people's religious beliefs. As long as you don't try to convert me it's really none of my business, but if it takes over your writing, I'm not buying your books anymore. Now Jesus as a vampire, I might read that book.


 7. Hate-Megan Fox : Every time I see Megan Fox I gag a little bit. She is hot, but seems utterly stupid. She says idiotic things in interviews. She can't act, even when given such wonderful scripts like the Transformers movies. She is very popular simply for being attractive. She, like Sarah Palin, helps reinforce negative stereotypes about women by playing the "I'm not that educated or analytical and that makes me a more real person, not some elitist snob" card. I believe this indicates, that while I am not hot, I am at least a lot smarter than Megan Fox and Sarah Palin, and this makes me feel better about the not as hot part. And being educated and introspective doesn't make me any more or less real than you. Did that just reinforce negative lady stereotypes? Probably.


So what are your pop culture loves? What do you DVR and watch while drinking wine after the kids are in bed? What was the last song you bought on iTunes? And I promise not to make any guesses as to what these choices say about you as a person, you tell me! Personally, I love Kathleen Turner Overdrive, but that may just be me.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Our Weekend, Wrapped in a Bow

This is what we saw on our seven plus hour drive up to Madison last Friday: lots of traffic, yes, Labor Day weekend, not a surprise. Nearly empty outlet malls, yes, making my ability to procure cheap MAC cosmetics that much easier. (I bought some blush shaped like a rose in a compact, but oddly it looks more like a vagina than a rose. So now I get a laugh every time I tap my blush brush onto it.) Enormous sign for Terrible's Casino, yes. I insist that we stop next time and take a photo. I've taken photos of it before from a moving vehicle with a camera phone and have yet to capture the majestic size and menace of Terrible and his mustache, yes to mustaches. He's a sheriff and he takes no guff from city slickers, just your money. That's pretty much it. Not a lot going on on the highways of Iowa last weekend. Though there must have been some antique car show going on somewhere, because we saw some shiny, sexy, curvy, fantastic antique cars. Passing the time, we alternated listening to The Savage Love podcast, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo audio book, and then Joe listened to the godawful The Bear and the Dragon audio book, while I drowned out the numbing dullness of that book with a little jangly Beirut in my headphones, as I read about 250 pages of East of Eden. We had greasy delicious junk for lunch and dinner and then we were in Madison. I like road trips.

We arrived at the Sands Dude Ranch, and barkeep Jim (Joe's middle brother) served up some delicious beverages. The kids were in bed, after a brief round of "pink belly" that Uncle Joe Joe had to play with Connor per his request, we talked and drank dirty martinis or mudslides, dissected the real estate market, the elder Sands boys argued and generally gave each other crap as they have for the last thirty years, and then the party wound down, we went to bed and Jim headed out to pick up the youngest Sands boy and the final addition to our party, from the bus station.

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Saturday morning involved coffee, donuts and sleeping in past 7:30. All good things. And then some showering, some spinning around of an almost three year old, some feeding of a one year old, and then because I told the one year old that he could not throw pancakes, the baby cried. His face shriveled up, his mouth got all smushed and he angrily cried, adorable. And he didn't really stop while he ate his yogurt. Must be nap time.

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Since the Sands boys are all together it must mean sushi and possibly a trip or two to Marshalls for some deep discount shopping.  So we did those two things after much finagling with nap times and logistics. Sushi for lunch! The sushi was delivered on a wooden boat, not the biggest boat but still a substantial vessel. It was tasty. Though we could have used another California roll, Jackson agreed.

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After sushi, Jim and Katy headed back to the house with little Sands boys for afternoon naps and Joe, Jon and I went on a caffeine seeking mission. Not only did we find some great coffee beverages at Tuvalu, we did a little browsing in their free trade gift shop, we snacked and sipped and talked shit. It was a fully authentic hippy coffee house complete with delicious drinks, patchouli, a barista in serious need of a shower and some non crystal deodorant, and tiny free range long haired toddlers wandering around the premises.

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After the required caffeine infusion, we drove out to Jackson's first birthday party. The party was held up a Katy's parents' weekend house, the Hill, which I've raved about here before. But instead of heading straight to the Hill for party time, we took a leisurely detour to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's estate and home in Spring Green. Joe is a huge fan. We took the four hour walking tour here a couple of years ago, but Jon had never seen it. And Joe wanted to share. So we drove around, and since the gates were wide open, we drove on through private property. It felt wrong, and illicit and slightly dangerous, just flaunting the rules, something that I'm sure Frank Lloyd Wright would approve of. We didn't get kicked off the property, but we didn't linger either. It was a perfect day to break the rules, sunny and cool, Taliesin glowed up on that hill. Then we meandered over to the gift shop, took some photos and headed out to the Hill for the real party.

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Jackson's party was great. Katy's warm and friendly family, lots of blond laughing kids and Jim and Katy's friends, frolicking all over the Hill property, eating delicious tacos, cupcakes and the most delicious quinoa salad that I've ever eaten (thanks for the recipe Mary Jo and Katy.)

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Joe took a ton of photos, we enjoyed the brisk weather, I actually got to put on a jacket for the first time in months while drinking a pumpkin beer. Pretty much a perfect early fall evening. We headed back to Madison, after Jackson, with great gusto, devoured his 1st birthday cupcake. And then we decided to go see a movie. Katy crashed at home with the kids, and the boys and I headed out for a little George Clooney assassin action. Yet there wasn't really any action. I wanted to like it. It was beautifully shot. The acting was great, the little tiny bits of action were good, but in general it was slow and just lacking something, oh, plot, back story, any substantial story. I simply didn't care about the characters and that's the death knell for my enjoyment of a movie. And there was a lot of Clooney driving. Just driving between small European towns. And there was a prostitute with a heart of gold. Because, you know, why not. Or as Jon said, "You can't spell housewife without ho."

Sunday was also jam packed with goodness and fine people. In the morning, our friends Kristen and Sean and their son Aedan came over to Jim and Katy's.

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Sean's family lives in the same town that Jim and Katy live in outside of Madison, so we coordinated our trips this time, and squeezed in a little play time for Aedan and Connor, who are about a year and a half apart, and a little brunch for the adults. The boys raked and picked tomatoes, swung on the swings and ran around in the wet grass.
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Then we all headed out for some tasty brunch. Pancakes, an Orangina, some quiche and a salad, a Balzac sandwich or two, some meatball subs and a couple of delicious cookies and we were all set. We had fun and it was just relaxing to spend time with everyone all together, rare and nice.


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 We parted ways with our friends. Jim and Joe and the little guys headed back to the house for afternoon naps. Katy, Jon and I headed out for some more shopping, and my first pumpkin latte of the season. And Jon visited London, you know, just outside of the suburban Madison Target.

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After our DSW, Old Navy, weird book store, Target, running store run, we headed back to the house, loaded up the kids and made our way to the Taste of Madison, a downtown food festival and people watching extravaganza. I gorged on both a little bit. Let's start with the people first.

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The people. It was a heady mix of homemade tattoos and Packers jerseys, all natural fiber wearing, free boobing mamas, preppy college students, colorfully dressed old people causing pedestrian traffic jams, lots of stripper heels and fake boobs, and so many fashion choices that should have been seriously reconsidered, Lisa Loeb, seriously, and some dude from American Idol too.

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My initial favorite person was the man holding up his infant son so they could take a photo of him under the Rising Sun bar sign.  And as we walked by them, Katy heard the proud father say, "That's where you were conceived, son." Awesome. But here's my true favorite. Two little presents for you, wrapped in a bow.

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Yes, those are real tattoos. Yes, they are pink ribbons and so recently done that they look a little raw.

The food was also a heady mix, greasy, fattening, ridiculous, but delicious. Rows and rows of food booths with everything from the traditional brats and cheese curds, to delicious Asian dumplings, West African peanut stew, gelato, fondue, Thai, pretzels, Southern style catfish and for dessert a cookie dough eggroll, essentially a scoop of cookie dough wrapped in an egg roll wrapper and deep fried. Just gooey, sweet, deliciousness. Who came up with this idea?

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After some browsing on State Street, walking Jon Sands two miles to the bus station on campus, eating our weight in tasty street food, and smearing chocolate all over our faces, we went home and crashed.

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It was a busy weekend, and other than my slight confusion about our viewing choices that night, Lien on Me versus Lean on Me, Mike Holmes versus Crazy Joe Clark, I want both of those guys on my team by the way (we watched Lien on Me) and we wrapped up a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Minus any thigh tattoos.
Thanks for hosting us, guys. We had a super fantastic time, and I think I gained five pounds. Always the sign of a good weekend.

(I would prefer to ignore Monday. Monday I had an hour and a half of dental work, free, excellent dental work, but dental work all the same. My mouth and tongue were numb for a good two hours of our road trip home. So other than thanking my fabulous brother-in-law, Dr. Jim Sands of Associated Dentists, for the fine work, if you live anywhere near Madison, I highly recommend making an appointment to get those chompers looked at. He does great work, and plays decent tunes when you're in the chair. But other than that I'm going to forget about Monday. Driving and dental work, nuff said.)