18 December 2008

I Heart These Posters, and U Will 2.

I stumbled across The Small Stakes site a while back and since then I've been dreaming about covering my walls with these flippin' gorgeous posters.

The Small Stakes lives here: http://thesmallstakes.com/gallery.php?page=1#

17 December 2008

Soundtrack to 08.

Putting it mildly, 2008 was not especially kind to me. Long spells of no work and serious medical issues with my younger sister made '08 a year I'd like to blot out and do over again. It wasn't all bad, mind you, because there were lessons learned and sweet moments that only come with walks through a valley.

Here's my collection of songs I kept on repeat during various seasons of this past year. Most of them were released a long while ago and very few, if any, would mark me as a hip or trendy sort of person. But I like them and that's all that matters.

Blue Ridge Mountains - Fleet Foxes
I Adore You - Melpo Mene
I Cried Like a Silly Boy - Devotchka
Lovers in Japan / Reign of Love - Coldplay
Sarah - Ray LaMontagne
Hickory Wind - Gram Parsons
Hospital Beds - Cold War Kids
Sex on Fire - Kings of Leon
Many Shades of Black - The Raconteurs
Tupelo Honey - Van Morrison
Starlight - Muse
Satellite of Love - Lou Reed
Feathers and Down - The Cardigans
La Vie en Rose - Edith Piaf
Shot to the Stars - Whitley

29 November 2008

Turn That Frown Upside Down!

The New York Times is a constant source of delight for me. Well, Thursday thru Sunday, that is. Those other days can be a bit lean on the delight and heavy on the sad, sorrowful and cynical.

One example of a delightful find found in the NY times is an article entitled "No Frown Is Left Unturned" (13 Nov). Seems a Brooklyn-based store called Fred Flare has a knack for selling quirky knick-knacks guaranteed to, well, make you smile. Oh how I love their site and all of the random treasures neatly organized both by price and subject. If you are bored and surfing the net, please do take a moment to acquaint yourself with the various treats offered by Mr. Flare at fredflare.com.

You may stumble upon Nancy Drew's Guide to Life:

Or perhaps an Edgar Allen Poe action figure:

Or, if you are really lucky, this incredible tennis racket cover:

Hilarious Christmas gifts, anymore?

18 November 2008

I Want to Marry This Video

Although, I will make it sleep on the couch for at least one night as penance for using the term "douchebag" in the video. People! That is the most lame term ever. Stop using it. I am using "toolbox" instead and will allow you to use it also.

The Art of Loquacity

I've developed yet another bizarre quirk, folks. I write words that interest me or hold meanings I do not know on an index card or on my hand before adding them to a list of words (and definitions!) I keep in a notebook. Some people collect spoons, others collect cars. I collect words.

Here are some words that have recently joined my collection:


OK so not all of these words will impress the fab new people you meet at your next cocktail party, but I don't care. I like them and I try to use them in regular sentences like a regular person.

"I'm not being sardonic with I say that dress is totes a major gaffe and makes her look like she had a desultory shopping excursion that caused her to buy the first ridic thing that fit."

In other news, please check out the EP called "Curse Your Little Heart" by Devotchka. It is beautifully incandescent.

12 November 2008

Taking Back My Cardigans

If you're anything like me, your life is set to music. The album you listened to everyday in the car on the way to your first job. The song that played incessantly on the radio during the summer between your sophomore and junior years at university. The break-up song, the make-up song, and on and on they go.

A couple of years ago I got into The Cardigans. Not that poppy song from Romeo and Juliet, but one of their albums in particular called Long Gone Before Daylight. I noticed a song title called "And Then You Kissed Me" on a friend's iTunes playlist at work and was intrigued.

The album, I found out, was poetic, a bit dark and emotionally raw. It was as if I was reading diary entries written by a more articulate version of me. I loved it and played it constantly. And then a boy was rather unkind to me. The album became my refuge. I would plug in my iPod and walk up and down the beach in Santa Monica after work, listening to it again and again. This album was what I wanted to say to this particular boy, but couldn't quite muster up the nerve without turning red in the face and stammering. So I just listened to the album until I was ready to shake the dust off my sandals and move on.

Every so often since that time, one of the songs would appear in my shuffle list. Sometimes I fast-forwarded, sometimes I didn't. But I couldn't listen to any of these songs without going right back there to that foggy time. About a month ago, however, I decided enough was enough. That boy was a punk and who was he to mar this beautiful collection of songs I had come to treasure?

So I took back my beloved Cardigans CD. Now I listen to it often and form new memories with each song: Autumn drives in the mountains, finding my courage again and locking myself in my sister's old room to write every night.

And let me just say, this album is too freaking good to let a few not-so-great memories ruin it. If you haven't listened to it yet, here is my shameless plug on behalf of this group of Swedes. Get it. Listen to it. I think you'll like it.

What to look for in the record store:

30 October 2008

Hey Brandon, I'm Dancer!

Ok, Ok. I'll admit it -- I like the new Killers song...a lot. I was a hater back in the day because all I ever heard was "The Killers are the next big thing" followed by their many, many, many singles that never stopped.

But today is another day. And I love this video. And I love the fact that the chorus is:

"Are we human or are we dancer"

Me? I'm dancer! (not to be confused with prancer or whatever)

My old friends at Universal won't let me embed the video, so here's the link:


And here is what it might look like when the band plays the song live:

28 October 2008

Who Says Vodka's Just For Breakfast?

When you look over your work history, is there one job that you wish you could just blot out entirely? Maybe go back in time and tell your former self, "Pass this one by. Don't take it. You'll thank me later."

There is exactly one job on my CV that I wish I could blot out. It wasn't all doom and gloom in the trenches of this job -- I did make a great friend out the experience -- but for the most part, it was hell. The reasons for such a sour outlook on my experience can be detailed later, but for now I am focused on the idea of learning from past mistakes.

So, yesterday, I had a 2nd interview for a job that was pretty much administrative and required loads of computer time. The company is one that evokes warm and fuzzy feelings as it does good work throughout the county that neighbors the county I live in. (trying to be cryptic here) While I would have enjoyed about 2 months of this job, I saw yellow flags somewhere around the 3 month mark. Early mornings. Long commute. Very formal office attire. Upping the prescription level of my eyeglasses from all the hours in front of a monitor. I saw these warning flags after the first interview and voiced them to my "employment peeps," but I was encouraged to go on the 2nd interview anyway.

Before my second interview, I thought long and hard about how to strike the balance between blowing the interview entirely and subtly suggesting that I might not be the best candidate for the job. Here are a few things I came up with:

1. Laugh like Janice from Friends
2. Eat blue cheese and roasted garlic just prior to the interview
3. Curse
4. Talk about drinking, specifically mentioning that Vodka isn't just for breakfast anymore. No, I love it right after lunch!

I did none of these things. I did, however, turn the job down. Today I send out emails looking for more freelance work and wonder, but only for a half-second, if I made the right choice. Then I sip my after-lunch martini.

24 October 2008

Living In A Deluxe Condo

If any of you have ever had the joy of house training a puppy, you will be familiar with the term "cage training."

What a cruel-sounding thing to do to a puppy!

At our house, we don't tell the pups to get into their "cage." No, we prefer the term "condo." When the pups come in from the great outdoors, we enthusiastically say, "Go to your condo!" The pups run right into their spacious condo (two former cages joined together to make a penthouse condo) and pick up their favorite chew toys (a pink stuffed stiletto with the label Bark Jacobs or a brown stuffed purse with the label Chewy Vuitton). The life of a pup - ain't it grand?



22 October 2008

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be A Riter.

When I was about 6 or so, I sat down on my bed with a Hello Kitty notepad determined to choose the course my life would take. I made a list of possible occupations that included:

- Teacher
- Nurse
- Vet
- Riter

Then, I asked my dad to review my choices and tell me which he thought would be the best choice. I'll haven't forgotten his reply after reading over my options: "Well if you want to be a writer, you should probably know that writer begins with a "W" and not an "R."

Tomorrow I head to an interview for a job that I really could care less about. It's a position with a company that does good work so it's not like I am interviewing for a job in a chicken factory or something horrific like that, but it's been a long time since I felt excitement about a job. I blame this on my decision a few years back to stop allowing my job to define who I am as a person. It's hard not to fall into this trap when you live in the States. One only needs to attend a dinner party to see what I mean.

"Hello, nice to meet you so-and-so. And what do you do?"
"Oh, I'm an advertising exec."

See? Right there this person has said, "I read 'Vanity Fair,' wear edgy glasses probably made in Germany and listen to Joy Division in my Audi. (OK so maybe the Joy Division thing is more graphic designer than ad exec, but you know what I mean). We all put people in boxes according to information we receive about them -- their profession, the car they drive or the church they attend. It's normal. It's healthy. But for some reason, I don't want to be defined by a job anymore.

Back to that list I made way back when. I don't know if I'll ever become a "riter," but I did join a writing group recently. I am currently working on something that provides a necessary escape from the often-mundane life I now lead, and this project promises to provide a creative outlet even if my job does not.

Now, let's hope that bit about my terrible spelling doesn't come up in a session with the writer's group.

20 October 2008

Continuing The To Be Continued...

OK so when I last left the story of my recent holiday to Ireland and London, my friend Karen and I were camped out at a Dublin hospital. Apologies in advance, this post will not have very many photos.

May I take a moment to point out that the hospital we visited, St. Vincent's, is located in one of my favorite parts of Dublin, Ballsbridge, which is a second-runner up to my most favorite part of Dublin, Sandymount.

The wait for Karen to see a doctor took many hours. Once Karen saw a doctor, the wait continued for many hours. Lucky for me, I brought Anna Karenina to read on this trip. I powered through almost 300 pages while waiting at St. Vincent's that day. To sum up the experience: the staff was friendly and very busy, the waiting room was like an off-Broadway play, and the casualty area (ER to us Yanks) was crammed full of beds and people.

After leaving St. Vincent's, leg brace and Atari joystick in-hand, Karen and I made the drive to Belfast to visit the fantastic Williams family (minus Anna because she was enjoying her first week at Trinity). We ate delish food and caught up on the events that had passed since I last sat at their kitchen table back in December. From this point, my story seems to have a theme: cute kids with even cuter personalities belonging to friends I made last year.

First, there was my friend Victoria's baby boy Judah. He was born this past summer so this was my first chance to meet him. He was full of smiles and sat on my lap straight away. Next, I caught up with my friend Clare and her daughter Martha. Martha, like most babies, had changed dramatically in the year since I had last seen her. She was standing and laughing and scrunching up her nose when she smiled. Adorable. The third baby I saw was Josh, the son of Peter and Tracy. What can I say about Josh that won't sound like a paid endorsement? This kid was so very cute (in a Baby Gap way) and always seemed in good form even when he had a cold. Josh laughed at my weird faces and endured my strange voices -the ideal audience.

I've never really been one of those people who goes ga-ga over a passing stroller / pram, but with after spending time with these kids, I can see why people would light up at the site of a Bugaboo. Although, I put my foot down at baby voices. I just won't do them.

The last leg of my trip was spent in London. There is an expression I agree with very much and that is, "tired of London, tired of life." I've been to London several times and each time I leave the city with a longer must-see list than when I first arrived. I was very lucky on this trip to be able to meet up with Katherine, a friend I made in my hometown earlier this year. Katherine is currently pursuing a Ph.d at St. Andrews in Scotland. We had a fantastic time exploring the British Museum, trying out new dishes at Wagamama and talking about books, books, and more books.

We also spotted two of England's finest thespians while we were walking through the West End: Jude Law and Rupert Friend. (they weren't spotted together. mr. law was walked past us and mr. friend was talking to several people outside a theatre while waiting for their play to resume)

It was hard to end this holiday, but my seat assignment for my journey home made it bearable. Seat 4A, folks. It will probably be the only time in my life that I will travel across the Atlantic with a wine glass in my hand and my legs stretched out completely before me. I see why people say that Business Class is a necessary indulgence.

Peter, this photo was discreetly taken with you in mind:

15 October 2008

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

I returned from my trip to Ireland/N. Ireland/London this past weekend and have loads of adventures to share. So many, in fact, that I think I'll tell my tale in more than one post.

My journey began with an 11 hour layover in Newark on a Thursday. I'm not a huge fan of sitting in awkward pleather chairs for hours on end while being inundated by announcements about watching your luggage, so I took the train into the city and had lunch with my friend Sarah. (quick shout-out for her super blog: www.sarahisabadass.blogspot.com)

Delicious lunch and fantastic conversation - that's what every long layover should include.

I spent my first weekend in Belfast with two good pals: Elizabeth and Ben. We ate good food (a priority for a good holiday), listened to loads of new music and checked out a Belfast band called Ten Gallon Hat & The Big Salute. Great show.

After enjoying a coffee with Elizabeth at Belfast's best local coffee shop, Clements on Royal Ave., I left Belfast for Dublin to meet up with my pal Karen from L.A.

Karen and I spent Tuesday running a few errands in Dublin City Centre before visiting a gorgeous Georgian house just outside of Dublin called Castletown.

Castletown House

I believe this is what Jane Austen had in mind when she described Pemberley.

And here's a nice shot of Autumn on the grounds of Castletown

While in Dublin, I was able to catch up with my friend Anna who just started at Trinity. As Anna is still getting the lay of the land in the way of discovering Dublin's best cups of coffee and spots for dinner, it was important to me that I assist her in searching for her new favorite spots. Our "research" concluded that Bewley's on Grafton Street consistently serves up delish lattes and mochas as well as mixed berry scones.

For dinner on Tuesday night, I insisted that Karen and I meet Anna at an Irish burger place called BoBo's on Camden Street. The place is within walking distance from Anna's new flat and I am sure that she will be back for more BoBo's. (Anna, I think the life changing powers of that burger have yet to be felt). I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a really good burger with a bucket of hand-cut chips.

(I took this photo last year. Bet you never thought of Dublin as a good burger destination!)

On Wednesday Karen and I travelled south to Co. Wicklow to see some of my old favorite spots.

The best Irish shop, Avoca in Co. Wicklow

This isn't actually the shop but it does make for a nice picture. Avoca started way back in the 1700's as a woolen mill and today they still make beautiful scarves and blankets as well as gorgeous food. (and I mean gorgeous. even their soup looks like it came outta Gourmet Magazine)

The Meeting of the Waters, also in Co. Wicklow

Glendalough, another Co. Wicklow gem

On our third and last night in Dublin, Karen and I walked to dinner from our hotel in City Centre. Normally a walk to dinner isn't a highlight of a vacation, but this particular walk sure won't be forgotten by either of us for a very, very long time. Karen is usually very timid about crossing city streets unless pedestrians are given the green light, but for some reason she was especially daring as we crossed a street in front of Trinity College. A woman on a bike came out of the darkness ringing her bell shouting, "On the bike! On the bike!" Seconds later, the woman on the bike was no longer on the bike and Karen was sitting on the curb. The woman on the bike rode away with a torn glove and ripped jeans while Karen hobbled away with a fracture just below her knee and a chipped elbow. I know this because we visited a Dublin hospital the next day where Karen was X-rayed and outfitted with a leg brace that velcroed up the length of her leg and one crutch that looked like an Atari joystick.

Here is Karen post-accident, pre-hospital paraphernalia

And that is where I will leave this story for now.

23 September 2008

Eye Give Up

Apparently I am uber wealthy. Or at least that's what the sign above my head says. I mean, why else would the super-not-so-nice ladies at the eye doctors complex charge me $80 more than they promised my visit would cost? Are twenty dollar bills flying out of my pockets again without me noticing? (like that happened once, ha)

So if any of you out there in Internetland have ever had the joy of ticking the "Self Pay" box on the incredibly long information/insurance/please-sign-your-freedom-over-to-us waiver, you will totally know where I was at approximately 9:45am this morning. I have medical insurance - just not the fancy vision and dental kind. But try telling this to the soft-spoken woman behind the counter manning the clipboards. An eyebrow shoots up. She thinks, "Should I call security?" A distrusting glance is thrown my way. Then she points out the "Self Pay" option on my payment form.

Lady! Relax! Not only will I pay you at the end of this visit, the check will clear and you will have your money by the EOD. That's right! The end of day - as in TODAY!

Now for those of you who nodded your head at the shared memory of also ticking the "Self Pay" box, you will also know that doctors often over-charge insurance companies for everything. Like office visits. This is why it pays to let the kind (but usually not-so-kind) people (usually ladies) manning the reception desk that you do not have *insert specific type* insurance. Usually surrendering this information will lower the cost of your office visit. Unless you go to the blankety-blank eye doctor complex in my town. Then they will charge you more than they said over the phone when you made the appointment and even more than they said when you first signed in with the aforementioned receptionist.

And really, why shouldn't they charge you a small fortune for a nurse to do a full eye exam and a doctor smelling of exotic coffee to breeze in and out of your exam room? They've got a really posh building to pay for! And 47 magazine subscriptions to maintain! And fancy machines to do their work! And don't forget all of those beautiful clipboards! Someone has to pay for it all. And since I have money in offshore accounts that I didn't even know about, I might as well be the one to pony up a small fortune.

Oh well. At least I got new contacts.

22 September 2008

Yay for Autumn!

In honor of the first day of fall, I'm posting a blog entry from the blog I kept while living in Belfast last year.

Here's a tip for those travelling thru Ireland in autumn/fall: fall is not a season but a verb. (Evidence of this gorgeous season in the Mourne Mountains below)

17 September 2008

Meghan, This One's For You

My pal Meghan could be a superstar part-time casting director. She has spotted up-and-coming talent on everything from extras appearing on WB shows (ah, remember that network?), music videos and all kinds of other random places. Me, well I'm not so gifted at the spotting talent game. Until Adrien Brody, that is.

Once I was eating at a restaurant in Silverlake and I spotted Mr. Brody and his mom having dinner. This was pre-Pianist. As a fan of The Thin Red Line, I wanted so badly to go up to the table for two that Mr. Brody occupied and tell him what a fantastic job he did in that film. But I didn't. And then he won an Oscar and kissed Halle Berry.

I won't make that mistake again.

If I ever see Robert Pattinson eating at a restaurant in Silverlake, I will be sure to tell him that I thought he did a great job in Vanity Fair and in Harry Potter. I will tell him all of this because I predict once his little film called Twilight hits theaters in November, he will be a really huge star. Like Jonas Brothers big. I mention the Jonas Brothers because my Robert Pattinson is 22. And I'm - well I'm totally not 22 anymore. But sometimes if it's real dark I still get carded.

The long version of this clip made me laugh so hard because Mr. Pattinson seems very unaffected by Hollywood (pre-Twilight release, folks. Let's see how long that lasts). It is also very funny because it involves a very brave, perhaps very drunk, chick who was totally denied and now that moment lives forever in a little tmz.com video on the Internet. The long version of the clip lives here: http://www.tmz.com/2008/09/05/drunky-to-twilight-hunk-pucker-up-big-boy/

And here is the 14 second money shot:

11 September 2008

A Tourist Trap Worth Falling Into

OK, so this may sound so obvious as a destination for your future trip to Ireland ('cause I'm counting on your coming down with the emerald fever), but I have to give big, big props to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. It is - in a word - amazing.

The tour is self-guided and is spread over several floors of an old building probably once used for creating that delicious stuff the Irish sometimes call black gold. Once you have paid the 15 Euro fee (for adults), you follow the large black arrows into a dark room. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust to the dim lights and for your senses to kick into overdrive as you wonder, "What is that smell? Is that a waterfall I hear?" That joyous smell is of barley, one of the four ingredients used to make Guinness. And yes, that is a waterfall you hear, sort of. It is a ginormous (I'm acting like that is a real word) display of water falling over a glass ceiling that you will walk under, my friend.

There are videos and loads of photos and old artifacts. An entire wing of an upper floor is devoted to old promotional items and adverts.

I save the best part of the tour for last, though. When you finish your leisurely and very educational tour of the Storehouse, you will take either a lift or a flight of stairs to the top of the building where you will be greeted by a FREE pint o' Guinness and this magnificent view:

The waterfall feature:

An old poster on display:

The grand finale:

Promise the next post related to Ireland will not be on the subject of beer or places where you can get beer. In the meantime, if you want to see more of the gorgeous Guinness Storehouse, go here: www.guinness-storehouse.com

09 September 2008

Keep Calm and Carry On

My head has been swirling with thoughts of places and people in the UK and Ireland lately, presumably in preparation for my trip at the end of the month.

I am including an image of this fantastic print created by a UK artist. The slogan serves me well on a daily basis.

The print is a reproduction of a poster produced by the UK ministry of information in 1939. The slogan also appears on T-shirts and bags created by this artist and all items are sold through an online shop.

You can find out more about the artist and the history of the poster here: http://www.keepcalmandcarryon.com/pages/history

07 September 2008

The Most Interesting Man in the World

With all of the mudslinging on TV lately, it is refreshing to spend time with someone as interesting as The Most Interesting Man in the World.

02 September 2008

A Pretty Fantastic Place To Lay Your Head

Hands down, my favourite place to stay in Ireland (Northern Ireland, to be exact) is a place called Clenaghans, located just outside of Belfast. If I didn't have an in with the owners of Clenaghans, there is no way I'd share this little secret with you.

It's a kickin' establishment with one of the best restaurants you've ever visited and 5 absolutely stunning self-service apartments. The small pub adjacent to the restaurant is exactly what you envision an Irish country pub to be: stone walls, corner fireplace burning peat, good banter and endless pints of beer. I honestly cannot praise this place enough to do it justice. Perhaps photos will help my cause?

View from the road

Kitchen & Sitting Area - Apartment 1

Outside View - Apartment 1

Upstairs Kitchen And Sitting Room - Apartment 2

Upstairs Sitting Area - Apartment 2

Oh who am I kidding. My words and these photos do no do this place justice. The remedy? Ring Ivan directly and book yourself a room. Tell him Elisabeth from Habitat sent you.


A Trip Bourdain Would Envy

Ok, so I know this isn't a travel blog but since I love to travel you are just gonna have to put up with my nonsense for a few weeks. Why? Because my rents gave me one freaking awesome gift for my 30th b-day. Folks, I'm headed back to Ireland for 2 blessed weeks and as a countdown to this momentous occasion, I will be dreaming about all of my favourite places in Ireland (North AND South!). Lucky for you, this dreaming will all take place here on the glorious World Wide Web.

I'm gathering some photos and info together as we speak (and avoiding my real work for a wee while) and will share these goodies with you soon.

As they say, watch this space. Preferably with a Guinness in hand.

29 August 2008

I Like Cake

29 years ago today, I discovered my love for cake.

26 August 2008

Those Epic Music Videos

Today it is raining buckets (yay!) and it made me think of the video for "November Rain." Oh how I loved that video. Since I've been listening to Muse the past few days, the thought of the video for "November Rain" made me think of this most genius of videos:

24 August 2008

Sucked In

And I do mean that quite literally.

Earlier this month, 2nd of August to be exact, I went to a book release party for Stephenie Meyer's new book, "Breaking Dawn." Unfamiliar with the author or the book, I was informed that "Breaking Dawn" finished a series of 4 very popular books about vampires (mostly good), high school students and the love story Bella and her Edward - a love story to transcend the ages (mostly because vampires are immortal). I had read of Ms. Meyer and her popularity in The New York Times some time back and when the words "youth" and "high school students" were mentioned, I quickly surmised that this series of books would not be for me.

At the release party, my suspicions were temporarily confirmed. As I scanned the very crowded Barnes & Noble looking for the friend who invited me, I saw clusters of middle school and high school kids dressed in everything from A&F polos to head-to-toe black to prom dresses. Yes, prom dresses. It seems these readers really get into character.

My friend and I laughed about how we probably identified more with the parents who brought all of these kids than with our fellow book-release partygoers. But as the night continued, we learned there were many others our age waiting patiently for 12:01 to strike.

There was a contest to celebrate which attendee knew the most about the books, there was a dress contest for the girl who most looked like Bella in her prom dress, and there were homemade T-shirts emblazoned with either "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob." (I quickly wondered if I should have worn a "Team Aniston" or "Team Jolie" shirt to prove that I, too, once held an allegiance to a love triangle that was not my own). Oh the chatter, the constant chatter about characters that seemed more alive than any of us in that store. Heated debates flared around me about who was kinder to Bella - Edward or Jacob? Some of the guys in attendance contemplated the real life of a vampire. Would they shy away from sunlight, as myth would lead us to believe? Would they really not have a taste for soda and pizza or is that just playing into the stories created by frightened farmers living in the Transylvanian countryside?

But then my friend said in all seriousness that she really enjoyed these books and they were really well written. This friend has impeccable taste in books, I must add. I didn't buy "Breaking Dawn" or any of the books that night. Instead I picked up a fantastic biography on Chairman Mao I had been eyeing for quite some time. I did promise that night to read at least Twilight, if not the series.

So with little expectation, I began to read "Twilight," the first book of the series, on Friday night. Today is Sunday and I am a quarter of the way into the second book, "New Moon." (Thanks to another generous friend and fan of the series I was able to borrow the second book yesterday, avoiding the danger of having to wait any time at all before I could continue reading the series).

I must say it is an interesting story Ms. Meyer weaves. Sure the dialogue is at times over-the-top and melodramatic, but that's to be expected of characters in high school. And this Edward seems completely unbelievable at times with his unique talents and gifts, but that's to be expected as well. I think the magic of this book, if you'll pardon the pun, is that the story moves quickly and the writing style feels more like a personal email from your new friend Bella detailing her journey through the murky waters of senior year in a new town. Ms. Meyer doesn't go overboard with physical descriptions of the character, which allows you to slowly draw the faces of each person as the story unfolds. And that explains why so many girls at that release party entered the Bella-look-alike contest. Because they all could have looked like Bella as they read their books.

So if you're just about done with your summer reading list and you are looking for something appropriate for autumn, may I suggest a story of vampires surrounded by the scenery of Washington State?

18 August 2008

Three Decades Worth of Thought

For a lot of people, the start of a new year is cause for reflection. You know the drill - regrets, achievements and resolutions all washed down with a thin glass of bubbly. I've never been huge on resolutions, though. Sometimes I consider declaring the upcoming year to be the year I will try to learn more French or I will learn piano. While I may say these things to myself, I never say them out loud to other people. I treat such statements as guidelines or a gee-that-would-be-nice goal. Life is too short to stress out about resolutions made while a stereo blasts Prince in the background and you wear a paper tiara.

But birthdays are another matter. To be completely honest, I've been dreading this year's birthday (30) for over a year. Now, I know what you're thinking, 30 isn't such a big deal! In fact your thirties are the time in your life when you finally come into your own. It's not the number that fills my stomach with dread but rather where I am in life.

Before I moved to Belfast, I thought about what I would do once my year abroad ended. Would I return to L.A.? Would I move to another city? Or would I move back home to S.C. I felt that I had missed too many things in the lives of my sister and brother and that I would welcome a holiday that didn't involve LAX, so I chose to move back to S.C. While I am glad to be near my family, I feel completely like a fish out of water in my hometown. It seems that no one wants to hire a girl from L.A. who worked in the record industry for a time. And they certainly don't want to hire a girl who volunteered for a year for Habitat for Humanity in a country that, to them, doesn't really seem to need a lot of help. This market is too small for event planners and youth marketing specialists and guerilla marketing agencies. It is a round hole and I am a square peg.

In just under two weeks time I will turn 30. I will be living in my brother's old room in my parent's house. I will probably have no new freelance work lined up and, since my temp agency seems to be M.I.A., no temp work on the calendar. My dwindling savings account will continue to dwindle and the maintenance-required light will still be shining in my Civic. I will celebrate without my brother and sister because they are in the habit of doing other things on August 29th.

But honestly, who needs a house of one's own at 30 or a corner office or a picture-perfect family sitting like ducks in a row on the front pew of church? Who needs a BlackBerry bedazzled with crystals or a Polo-clad boyfriend driving a Range Rover? Not me.

No, I will enjoy things they way they are because I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be right now. I am thankful for the opportunity to get to know my parents even better that I could have living 3,000 miles away. I am thankful for the wee bit of freelance work that has come my way. I am glad to be rid of selfish and unkind friends. And I am so very honored for the incredible friends I have scattered across The States and Northern Ireland.

Besides, I hear 30 is the new 19 or something like that.

13 August 2008

Cute Enough to Eat!

How do I love etsy.com? Let me count the ways.

If you have not discovered to joy to be found at etsy.com, may I please take a moment to unabashedly promote this online storefront for literally 100,000 artists selling their handmade wares. Oh I how love it.

Take the photo above, for instance. It is of a satin cupcake that is not only cute but also poses no threat to upgrade the size of your jeans. Who knows why the heck you would ever need a satin cupcake, but it is nice to know that satin cupcakes are out there somewhere in the world.

Here is the link to the artist's site: eatmenot.co.uk. To buy, visit: http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5068220

May I also proclaim my love for the etsy site for Luxedeluxe: http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=62605
Oh my word how I love this Edinburgh artist and her gorgeous affordable jewelry. If you've got some time to kill, please take a look at all of the pretty, pretty things.

12 August 2008

And Then There Were Three

A while back I introduced you to my brother's new puppy, Moses. Well, since that time we have added two more pups to our household.

Right now, as I sit in the sliver of shade provided by our patio umbrella, the two puggles are running absolutely berserk. The boston terrier is trying hopelessly to keep up despite his small size; he is a few weeks younger than the puggles and is the runt of his litter.

I've picked a few photos that seem to represent their personalities and two photos I took 10 minutes ago that capture the puppy madness that whirls around my feet today.

Here is one of Moses taken about a week ago:

Abigail, Moses' sister, on her first day home:

And our mighty little Boston Terrier Winston:

Here is what they've been up to this morning:

11 August 2008

America Apparently Doesn't Like Gossip Girl

Check out this hilarious clip from The Soup. As you watch it, pay close attention to America Ferrera's facial expressions.

Love it!

10 August 2008

If You Have to Spend 5 Hours on a Runway

Here is what I saw for 3 of the 5 hours I sat on a runway at Boston Logan Airport:

Now, if you have to be confined to a teeny tiny airplane seat on row 22 for 5 hours due to inclement weather, it is best that that name on the plane is JetBlue. If you are travelling with your 20 year-old brother, you must ensure that the name on that plane is JetBlue. Why? DirecTV. Think: 4 channels of ESPN, Bravo, 3 music channels, The Food Network, and some other channels I clicked thru by using the handy dandy control panel on my armrest.

My brother and I travelled to Washington, D.C. on Sunday of last week to see Coldplay perform for exactly 86 minutes before a 4-minute encore that included a shower of colorful paper confetti. The next morning we arose at 5 a.m. to catch a JetBlue flight to Boston to see Coldplay play another 86 minutes before a 4-minute encore that included a shower of colorful paper confetti. Now before you get any grand ideas about the two of us being crazed fans that follow the tour bus across the country, please note that a) we aren't rich people and b) the original Washington, D.C. date was cancelled only to be rescheduled after we decided to see them in Boston instead. Both sets of tickets were valid and both shows would be back-to-back. We thought, why tha heck not.

Back to JetBlue.

So, on the way back to D.C. from Boston, our flight was delayed for 30 minutes due to thunderstorms. Then the flight was delayed to 90 minutes because of incredible thunderstorms. Then a 3-hour delay and so on and so forth. To be perfectly honest those hours kind of passed me by in a blur of TV that included: "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" episodes, Tyler Florence showing off his perfectly roasted pork, U2 rocking out in Harlem back in the 80's and endless reports of Brett Favre joining the ranks of the NY Jets. It was only when I noticed that I couldn't feel my tailbone that I started to get antsy about taking off. And as for my brother, he was OK once he finished ranting about never flying again and swearing to change the weather patterns of the entire East Coast.

It seems pretty obvious that flying will either become more and more like taking a Greyhound or it will become a privilege only the uber wealthy enjoy - at least that's what Anderson Cooper says. I think he places most of the blame on fuel prices, but nevertheless I think passengers would put up with the $4 diet cokes, $12 boxes of crackers and cramped leg quarters if each passenger could possess the power of flipping through 30 channels of entertainment. While you can't do anything about the weather grounding your flight and you certainly can't stop chatty Cathy from loudly talking on her mobile phone while reclining her chair in your lap, you sure can exercise a wee bit of control over the small screen centered on the back of the seat in front of you.

And a message to Mr. Chris Martin and gang, I'd like to request that maybe you shake up the set lists a bit. D.C. and Boston were the.exact.same.show. With the exception of one song. And the lead-singer-to-crowd banter? The same for both shows. No joke.

But it was a good time - if only for the chance to get reacquainted with my brother after many years of living in different cities.

30 July 2008

Street Cred: It's in my jeans.

Check out this photo of me when I was probably about 8. If MTV had been a 24 hour network at the time, I probably wouldn't be sitting here at this moment. No, I'd have at least two albums out (one would probably be a dance album) and I'd have a cool nickname like Elisabuffy.

Will You Marry Me, Bruce Wayne?

For ages, people have asked the question, "Of all the comic book superheroes, which is the greatest?"

Well folks, after the recent success of one particular comic hero at the box office, I think the answer is clear (as if it was unclear before). The number one superhero is that clever character, Batman.

Now, now, I know there are those of you who doubt this greatness. One friend of mine in particular has her eye on that "Superman" known to some as Clark Kent. But really - who wants to be saved by a guy in blue tights who spends his days stumbling over himself at a newspaper? Also, have you noticed that when this "Superman" flies, he does so without the assistance of cables or spider webs? Is that really secure? He is cute with and without the glasses, so I will give my friend that.

And speaking of spiders, what is this fascination with a character fixated on arachnids? Ladies, Peter Parker could have easily been fixated on an insect instead of the oh-so glamorous and surprisingly strong spider. Think about that the next time his sticky hands grab you while dangling from an 85th floor balcony over a busy New York City avenue. Eeek.

No, I think I'll keep Bruce Wayne. While watching Batman Returns last week, I found myself often thinking, "This could be real." Seriously. I could totally see a Bruce Wayne type shun the life of a Bono or Bill Gates with their public charities and grants and pleas for others to help the less fortunate in favor of just taking care of business himself. Of course we will just have to overlook the fact that Bono and Bill Gates are speaking on behalf of millions of people all over the world and my Bruce Wayne is just looking out for his Gotham City. But, it's a start.

So, if you are one of the 6 people yet to see Batman's return to the big screen, please finish reading and make your way to the theatre. Just remember that I saw Bruce first.

29 July 2008

Dig This!

For the past few months, I've been organizing loads of old family photos and creating massive albums. Here is a cool one I found of my grandfather in Hawaii when he was serving in WWII.

As you can imagine, all of this time spent alphabetizing and stacking photos into neat piles makes for an ideal time to find new music. Just load up the ol' Mac and stream sounds from all over the place.

Here are some new jewels I thought you might like to investigate:


Stephen Fretwell
(check out The Black Cab Sessions in his News column)

Melpo Mene

Fleet Foxes

Happy Listening!

28 July 2008

Chop Chop

Tonight I find myself home alone. It used to be, when I lived solo in an apartment in LA, nights alone were common and rarely celebrated. But when I lived with roommates, I was not so unappreciative. No matter the degree of closeness with a roommate or the level of considerateness, I always appreciate having the place to myself. The remote is mine! I can order take-away and eat all of it and because no one will see! I can cook anything I want without having to ask permission or share!

This afternoon I went to Publix and bought ingredients for two fave dishes: lasagna and fruit salad. The lasagna was for tonight; the fruit salad is for tomorrow's breakfast. As I chopped kiwi, cantalope, strawberries, mango and apples, I savored having a kitchen to myself. As usual, my grand plans for my precious evening alone have been sabotoged by the allure of 800 television channels. But oh how nice it is to just sit here, remote in hand.

21 July 2008

The Wall That Sue Built

Yesterday I received this photo from a friend I shall call Sue. The arch is feature of a wall Sue is building as part of a dry-stone-walling symposium. You may see a bunch of rocks cleverly stacked to form a pretty wall with a curved opening. I see courage and ambition.

You see, a year ago Sue decided to pursue a rather obscure hobby called dry stone walling. In the States we don't see much of this art form outside of New England and pastoral parts of Kentucky. Most of our stone walls are held together with mortar and usually conceal a row of neatly placed cinder blocks. And you won't see lots of stone walls establishing the perimeter of ranches or gardens - that's what picket fences are for. But in the UK and Ireland, stone walls rule. And many of these walls don't require a drop of cement to stand tall and strong for hundreds of years. Instead, stones are stacked in such a way as to prevent the occasional cow from tipping the whole thing over.

Sue, it turns out, has always had an eye for stone masonry and a fire in her belly for running her own business. These two things haven't always been at the forefront of her mind, though. Right after university she pursued another hobby as a career and had a terrific run at that for a long season of her life. That season has now ended and she hopes to continue working in a field that she is passionate about even if the odds are, pardon the pun, stacked against her.

So this idea of pursuing a unique hobby isn't a new one. And certainly the idea of turning a hobby into a career isn't a novel idea, either. But it is a rare thing indeed to see someone dig up the courage to leave their home in a beloved city and move back to their childhood home in an effort to to pursue what they really want even if that means starting over. Since she made the decision last year not to settle for just any career, Sue has attended several conferences and symposiums where she has built a large ramp, created a diving wall to keep sheep in place and restored an old cemetery wall.

Sue and I both know that the business of being self-employed is not an easy one - we have our mothers' examples to teach us that. But I am so thankful to have a friend walking the exact same road I am taking at this time. It seems that when either of us is, again pardon my pun, at a wall, we have the other to lean on.

19 July 2008

On Monday of this week I returned home from a trip to St. Louis to visit some friends from Belfast, St. Louis and a good pal from LA. (I'll detail that adventure later when I have pics.)

A couple of days before I left for my 12 hour drive to St. Louis, I went on an interview for a job at a bank. My temp agency described the job as a "direct marketing position" and strongly suggested that I interview because I would probably enjoy the people and the atmosphere once I met them. I don't know what part of "I'm probably not the best candidate for this position" translated to mean "I just love driving 45 minutes to an hour to sit at a cubicle bathed in fluorescent light while doing data entry for a small but very corporate bank." But, there I was, making the 45-minute commute while my crisp white shirt wilted in the summer heat.

As I suspected, the atmosphere was so not charming or inspiring or pretty like my temp agency suggested. Also, that direct marketing talk must have been code for entry-level assistant answering phones for 4 people and doing loads of grunt work. I knew once I sat down in a conference room that could have doubled as a set for the movie 9-5, this wasn't the place for me. But the thing is, my temp agency, clever people that they are, told me that this lady sitting across from me had said some rather unkind things about my resume, particularly regarding the length of my most-recent job in Belfast. I won't bore you with details, but her condescending remarks sparked a fire in my belly to prove myself and the awesomeness of that two-paged document in front of her.

The conversation started something like this:

"So I see that you lived in Ireland. Why were you only there a year?"

"Yes, I lived in Northern Ireland. I had a one-year visa that expired in January of this year."

"And why were you there only one year?"

"Because my visa expired and the terms of my visa stated that I had to leave the country by the expiration date of my visa. In January."

"Hmmm. Well, I also see that you have worked in some very exciting places. I've been in banking for 25 years and I can say that it is not exciting work. It can be very dull at times. Why do you want to go into banking?"

editor's note: I do not want to go into banking.

"I like the challenge of marketing an intangible service. Banking is a service industry that ultimately is selling trust. You can't package trust or put trust in a consumer's hands, but choosing a bank is one of the most important consumer decisions a person will ever make."

I then went on to talk about local banks and the importance of being part of a community and being able to do business with someone you could shake hands with in your hometown - not in New York or Hong Kong.

At the close of my answer, I half-expected a woman in her early twenties dressed in a gorgeous ball gown to walk through the glass doors of the conference room and hand me a trophy, similar to a Golden Globes Girl gliding across the stage to deliver an award to Julia Roberts. But no woman interrupted our meeting and I continued to feign interest in this position that was "designed for someone just out of college with no experience but with a lot of aspiration."

After my interview and personality test, I met with an executive in HR. As introductions were made I wondered, "maybe now I get my trophy for such a brilliant performance back in the conference room - I mean, why else would I be meeting this really important person?"

At the close of my interview, the marketing guru with 100 years of experience in the very dull world of banking asked me if I needed to go to the "little girls room." I said no thank you and promptly dialed my temp agency to say that I probably wasn't the best candidate for this position.

I think they finally got the point. They haven't called since.

07 July 2008

Je t'aime, Internet

Oh dear Internet, how I have missed thee. Since Thursday night, I have been away to Myrtle Beach with three girlfriends for an Independence Day celebration. You, sadly, were not part of the picture.

How was my time away, you ask? Well it was wonderful. I used up a (small) bottle of sunscreen and donned a wide-rimmed hat all in an effort to prevent my white, white skin from turning a tacky shade of pink. (I think it worked). Two of the girls on the trip had the genius idea to rent an umbrella on the beach for the two days we were there. It was remarked that a girl in her early twenties would probably never pony up the cash for something that would block the sun from her body. Alas, Internet, my crew did not include any girls in her early twenties.

The beach was not our only recreation. No, we "cruised" Ocean Boulevard with the best of them, played putt-putt, ate delish food and walked around a tourist mecca called Broadway at the Beach. I also discovered that my friends sure are smart after several intense rounds of Trivial Pursuit. Who knew John Updike was such a hit with the Trivial Pursuit peeps?

Myrtle Beach may not be Palm Beach or Malibu but it sure is a good place for people watching. But then again so are you. I must confess that without you I was a little lost. I wondered what Anderson Cooper was up to and what were my favorite bloggers saying. I had endless questions that needed googling.

Now Internet, we are reunited and it feels so good.

01 July 2008

Meet Moses

My brother James brought home a new puppy last week. His name is Moses and he is cute, as you can see from this photo.

Moses is a Puggle - his mother is a Beagle and his father is a Pug. After a bit of research, James discovered that Puggles are quite the fashionable dog these days - but not so fashionable as to be deemed "hot" by the likes of Paris Hilton, thankfully. This popularity might explain why we had to travel to one of the most remote parts of South Carolina.

James and I drove to the blink-and-you'll-miss-it town of Cross Hill to pick up wee Moses. The drive took way longer than we anticipated and included several borderline-legal u-turns. Our directions, it turned out, were cryptic at best. When we finally found the post office that signaled our turn into Cross Hill, we had listened to the new Coldplay album 3 1/2 times. When we pulled up to the house, a young girl in a pale pink dress sitting on the front porch caught my eye. For a split second I thought we had taken a really wrong turned and ended up in Eldorado, Texas. Alas, we had not. The kind family raising their first "batch" of Puggles were Mennonites, which explained their adamant policy of no sales on Sunday.

Moses was the calmest puppy on the porch that afternoon. Looking back now, I think his calm demeanor may have been mistaken for heat stroke. The porch harbored the bright afternoon sun turning it into an easy-bake oven. Today Moses is a wild puppy with a taste for toes. He bites anything and everything around him, including the hand that feeds him. He also is a bit confused with when and where he can use the toilet. But all of this is to be expected with a little pup. At least this is what the puppy books tell me.

23 June 2008

Clock Watcher

Well thank goodness it's called "temping."

Not that I didn't thoroughly enjoy manning a switchboard dotted with 80 or so buttons connecting me to every single person working at a massive car dealership for two days last week. In between the dozens of calls for the service department, detail crew and body shop, I counted down until the very minute that I could fax my time sheet and get the heck outta there.

As far as temp assignments go, this one was not without its crazy cast o'characters. The salespeople alone would make for a great line-up on a reality show. Each had his or her own tactic and yet each seemed completely untrustworthy. Some were very friendly and approachable while others were tough guys armed to intimidate. A few spoke to me, the lowly temp, and others barked their schedules at me from across the showroom floor. "I'm Earl and I'm going to lunch." "Sam. Hold my calls."

Oh, and the paging. Like a lot of people, I'm not a huge fan of the sound of my voice. Sometimes I am startled to hear a recording of my voice - it sounds so completely different from what I hear in my head. So to hear your voice squeeze out of tiny speakers manufactured when the nation was wondering who shot J.R. isn't a fun day at the office. And when I learned that not only did people across 3 car lots hear my voice but also that the people in the Wal-Mart parking lot across a 6-lane road could hear my voice, I was not thrilled about hitting that page button on the switchboard. Even after paging several people that first day, I was asked several times if I knew how to use the paging system. (Just so you know, in case you find yourself with the need to page, simply press the "page" button and speak into the receiver)

It seems that temps all over the world are regarded in the same light, and that light is almost always unflattering. In this light we temps look dull, slow and extremely unreliable. It is only when we receive word from our temp agency that we have been requested by a specific employer for a repeat performance that we are able to throw our hands up into the air and shout, "They like me! They really like me!" I am happy to report that the car dealership liked me for last week's job was my second appearance on that shiny new car salesroom floor. Now, let's hope it was my last.