Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January Reading

What a great month for reading. Of course, every month is but you’re not always rewarded with great material. This month I have to limit myself because there was so much to love. I’ve tried to describe each of these books but am almost as tongue tied as I would be if David Beckham knocked on the door (hey, I appreciate beauty in all its forms!).

As an Indian author there is no doubting the authenticity of Umrigar’s prose. She captures the sing-song patois of street Hindi to the delight of this non-native. More importantly, and heartbreakingly, she also cuts deeply into the inequities of life in modern day India. This is a beautiful book about two women and the relationship that shapes and breaks their lives.  

Loved this- wrote about it in-depth here.

Surprise! Non-fiction! I thought this would be about the new paradigm of job searching etc. but it’s much broader. He challenges the entire corporate world concept of work/life balance. Interesting reading if you’re struggling with either.

The Night Strangers

Chris Bohajalian is one of my favorite contemporary writers (Skeletons at the Feast is amazing). He strays from the human drama milieu into ghost stories in this book but writes with the same insight into the human psyche. Creepy!

Death in Summer

I’m a sucker for character studies and how the smallest of actions can have immense consequences. William Trevor is one of my favorites in the genre (Bohjalian also rocks it). His book The Story of Lucy Gault is one of my all time favorites but this is beautifully done as well. A slender book with incredible depth.

The Lady of the Rivers

I’m a big European history fan but not enough that I want to read textbooks. At the same time I appreciate research (duh) so I don’t want pure fiction. Philippa Gregory is the epitome of historical fiction. Her work is well researched but engaging. This book is the third in the Cousins War trilogy which for all you non-Anglophiles is the War of the Roses between the Yorks and Lancasters. Throughly enjoyable.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cold War

Is there anything more likely to incur the description ‘petulant’ about a middle-aged woman than a vicious head cold? I think not.

A week ago I awoke to a gruesome sore throat. The kind that makes you determined that swallowing is an unnecessary evil and that you WILL. NOT. DO. IT. AGAIN until the pain has passed. When you are forced by nature (damn those smooth muscles) to swallow you make faces such that you appear possessed. This segment of my ailment lasted for about a day when we moved into the more active phase of ‘there’s a hellacious lot of gunk in there and it’s gonna come out’. This includes the charming honking, snorting, and braying nose blowing which brings forth such copious amounts of snot it runs down your hand leaving people like me to wonder ‘why hasn’t someone figured out a way to power cars on mucous because I’m pretty sure I’ve manufactured enough that I’ll never need another petroleum product as long as I live.’ With innovative ideas like this it is beyond me why I’m not a cabinet member. Can you lisening, Obama?

Anyway, it’s a week later and while the pain portion of our program has ended I’m still coughing, choking, and draining at an annoying level. Sleeping flat in bed is almost impossible because I’m certain I’m going to choke on my own mucous (is that possible?). In addition, due to the same vagaries that contribute to my multiple sclerosis I have an immune system that is better organized and more ready to fight than the Romans were under Caesar. In their efforts to stomp this enemy into submission my white blood cells are attacking other non-invasive cells in my body, like the soft tissues in my hands and wrists and the nerves in my shoulders and hips. All of which respond by spasms of pain; pain that can’t be treated by anything. Well, OK, Vicodin might help but those pantywaists at the AMA seem to think it’s addictive and ought not to be prescribed for anything other than surgery. Bastards.

My issues with the AMA aside there are all the attendant emotions that come with being sick. I don’t like feeling vulnerable or needy or drawing attention to myself. Stop laughing. There is a difference between the knowledge that it’s all about me and needing to grind it into people’s faces. Clarification: if I’m to be the center of attention it should be for something other than coughing up a lung. The days of a dainty singular cough into a tissue are long gone. I’m now one of those people I glare at in public when I’m fairly certain they’re spreading the plague. I try and kid myself that I’m being discreet but instead I sound like I’m grinding the ignition of a car that’s already been started.

So, despite having hit the midlife mark this summer I’m feeling like a badly behaved six year old and want nothing more than to stamp my foot and throw myself on the floor. Or as the Aussies call it "chuck a tanty" (God, I love Australians!). This being sick thing is just bullshit and needs to end NOW. Who do I talk to about this?

Do you get the yearly flu? Are you a graceful sick person or a petulant child like me?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Girl Time

We all know that guys can be great and gay guys even better (they will tell you when your hair is bad and go shopping for hours) but is there anything in the world as wonderful as a friend who’s known you  long enough that you speak in shorthand (“Did you hear about…?” “Hello, of course, I did and I couldn’t believe…” “That it was…” “True? Oh yes.”)? I’ve always been an introvert but having had a set of friends like that and now spending the majority of my time alone has made me that much more aware of what a gift it is.

This past weekend I got to visit the land of girl time again when a dear friend came to visit. I knew I would be happy to see her but was surprised to find myself crying as we hugged. Not from sadness but from the sheer happiness of seeing her again. Or maybe a bit of sadness because I realized at that moment how lonely I have been; that just seeing this person was like a long cool drink of water when I had gotten used to being thirsty. Of having someone who knows me well AND likes wine, movies, food, and shopping back in my life albeit only for 48 hours. Not nearly long enough and yet, it’s all right. When you find the important women in your life you can see them every day or not for five years without breaking the chain. The questions and answers begin to flow almost immediately and when there is a silence it’s not awkward. Unlike the silence of new friends where your mind is racing for the next topic with an old friend it is simply a companionable pause.

We all know we can make it alone. We can take care of ourselves and enjoy life but is there is anything more fun than that buzzy, almost drunk feeling of shopping with another woman? You’re not going to buy anything, you know you’re not, but you can flit from rack to rack saying things like “this would be so cute on you!” or “what do you think? Too frilly for me?” always with exclamation points because girl shopping is a joyous occasion. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you’re 19 again and the world is full of new and exciting things.

It’s not just about the superficial although it is very nice to be able to run to someone and ask “Simple gold necklace or chunky statement necklace?” and get something other than the wary eyes you get from a man who is afraid of saying the wrong thing. There is also what began as boy talk in your teens and has now progressed to whatever is the focus at your stage of life. Dating? New to marriage? Trying to get pregnant? Job woes? All are perfect fodder for friends and at some point, will lead to laughter. Not that hot flashes are a laughing matter but if you’re going to have to go through them it’s much better with someone who can commiserate.
Shuree is gone for now but in our time we refilled our friendship and caught up on all we might have missed in the last 5 years. Not only is there is something about an old friend that is better than the most comforting thing you can imagine but it gives you hope that there may be new friends out there.

See? She was right- chunky necklace much more fun AND she found a pair of earrings to go with it for only $15. DOES. NOT. GET. BETTER. THAN. THAT.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunny Portland Afternoon

What bliss- sunshine after brief morning showers. The only thing that made it better was that my dear friend Shuree came all the way from New Jersey (she’s NOT a Real Housewife nor has she ever seen one, which is a bit disappointing but oh well) for a visit. There is so much to write but I’ll keep it fun and simple today and share some of our Saturday walkabout/shop-a-thon photos. Rather than a full on blitzkrieg of Portland we focused on the NW district. Targeted shopping for maximum finds with minimum effort.

The rain had just stopped when we passed this lovely courtyard and saw Mr. Cat patiently biding his time on the front steps.

Cannibals art gallery- unusual esoteric Americana art. Fun browsing.

Great dress perfectly accessorized by a full peacock display.

So much cute jewelry (especially the butterfly ring on the left) and all under $20!

Sustenance is needed. What about a riff on salad Niçoise with tuna tartare and homemade potato chips?

Or a butter lettuce salad with bacon and grapefruit segments?

Gelato for dessert? You bet. Chocolate and cinnamon- delicious! 

Manor Fine Wares- fabulous items for the home and you including Santa Maria Novella soaps, lotions and perfumes.

Heather Moore- Unique hand crafted jewelry in reclaimed sterling and 14k gold. Spendy but would be perfect for a very special gift.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Alex, I’ll Take Water/Life Metaphors for $100

I Have Been




I Am

Swept Away...


Getting in Deeper...

I Will Be



Images from: http://pinterest.com/cathd80/visual-inspiration/

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Books I Love: The Leftovers

Was it The Rapture or not? This is the launch point for Tom Perrotta’s new novel The Leftovers and his take on the possibly apocryphal event is so well done it’s one more reminder to me that I’ll never be a novelist. This theme has been cartoonized by every fundamentalist/zombie writer in the world with heavy emphasis on the horror and suffering that such an event would engender. Perrotta neatly renders those simple-minded constructs irrelevant and focuses instead on a more realistic view of those still living. If it was the Rapture then why are there religious figures, doctors, loving, caring, believers left behind? And why are families and virtually every other socially constructed group (workplace, church, sports team, school) split apart with some members gone and the rest left to figure it out? Will such an event, regardless of the reason, change the world for better…or worse?

In tackling such a ponderous subject (for some people that is- myself, I’ve already booked first class accommodations on the train to hell) there are many ways to overindulge and yet Perrotta’s writing is almost surgical as it cuts to the heart of the matter. He uses one intact family and their individual responses and slices a macro level occurrence into tiny human pieces.

If this sounds like way too much metaphysical esoteric nonsense, blame this inept writer because it’s not. The Leftovers moves through an entire panoply of human emotion without ever judging. A book about Judgement that doesn’t judge? How can that be? Because for every answer given another question is raised, which makes for marvelous and engrossing reading.

By the end we see that the world goes on. I’m only sad that the book doesn’t because I wanted to keep reading Perrotta’s picture of the life after.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Golden Globes- Fashion Recap

By that I mean if you're the type who watches awards shows, which I am. Before I share my favorites of the evening with you I have to apologize for wasting your time by writing about that pseudo-awards show the People’s Choice. An embarrassing mistake on my part because awards season did not officially begin until last night at the Golden Globes. Now I have something to talk about and to make up for boring you with that other show let’s start with the good stuff- the guys. Plenty of eye candy last night but here are my three favorites- and I freely admit I’m old school. There’s nothing more elegant and debonair then a classic tux perfectly fitted.

The undisputed master of style made even more appealing by the fact that he doesn't take himself too seriously. Number 1 in my book

Classic English gent. He just gets better and better.

I don't find DiCaprio swoony but he can pull off a tux. The slicked back hair works as well.

There are many who will say that the women last night were boring. I won’t disagree completely. The whole fit and flare/mermaid look ran completely amuck. Skin tight corseted tops clinging over the hips and then flaring out in a foam of ruffles, feathers, or fabric. Yawn. Of the genre the only woman I thought nailed it was Sofia Vergara. Gorgeous color, perfect fit, interesting details.

My female favorites broke away from the crowd by going with simple lines and heavy beading or surpise details. 

A J. Mendel simple, modern sheath from the front with a wonderful open back. I love how she amped up the look with bright red lipstick.

I'm not usually a fan of Jessica Alba but the girl knows how to dress. This Gucci dress works perfectly with her skin and the beading details are amazing.

Sad to say but the majority of details are lost in this photo because it's overexposed. It's a Roberto Cavalli dress in a soft blush with beading from top to hem. On stage it glowed. The other reason I loved this so much was that Kate Beckinsale was the complete package- hair, make-up and jewelry. Those diamond bracelets? Delicious.

The winner in the edgy borderline-too-much-but-still-pulled-it-off category? Morena Baccarin. I have no idea who she is but I want her hair. Fabulous all the way around.

George Chakra dress. Daring but not slutty. The emerald clutch and hint of emerald in the earrings are a great pop of color.

I can’t leave without recognizing two of my favorite actresses and women who know who to look beautiful but age appropriate.

Like George Clooney, Helen Mirren is the pinnacle of fashion in her class. Sexy without trying to look young and she's rocking a platform shoe under that dress. I want to look that fab when I'm her age.

Jodie Foster in Armani. Love her always have. Once wrote to her asking if I could be her personal assistant. True story.

Friday, January 13, 2012

People's Choice Awards- Such As It Was

Awards season was ushered in by the People’s Choice show this week. Ushered is too big a word, though; more like flopped onto the stage like a half dead mackerel and stinking just as much. Still, I wanted to use it as strength training for the fashion Olympics that lie ahead: Fashion week in NYC, so I watched. You owe me, people because that is two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

Here’s what I learned:

One, this is a completely made up award (don’t say “just like all of them” hater). Who the “People” are is beyond me. OK, no it’s not. I'm just not one of them. They’re Justin Beiber/Twilight fans, namely the 14-24 demographic. I didn’t recognize 75% of the ‘celebrities’  (I’m really going to try and stop with the quote marks but honestly, this entire event screams air quotes) and I didn’t want to.

Two, just to make sure we’re clear, even the categories are made up and are a complete nonsensical mishmash of entertainment. Best Cable TV Comedy? Best Band? Best Actress under 25? Sweet Jesus- who cares? Why not add Best Exit Photo From Rehab? Or Best Actress in a Custody Battle?

Three, and here’s where I stop because my disgust is making my stomach hurt, the staging and graphics were off-putting, MTV-ish, noisy, and cheap. And the only celebrities who showed up were from the B-C list. Maybe they’ll be great one day but they’re not there yet.

And because I watched in the name of fashion here is the wrap-up. Photos aside the theme appeared to be hookers and boobs. Lots of both.

Someone named Ashley Greene who is new enough that she can't afford a stylist which is all right if you have good taste which she does not. Despite what it may have cost this dress looks like pleather, is cut at an awkward length, and so badly fitted you can see her navel and underwear (which I guess is good because it means she's wearing some). All around hideous and unflattering.

I really like Emma Stone (Easy A is hilarious) and I know this is Gucci but it does nothing for her.

Excessive cleavage aside this is a lovely dress in a gorgeous color. Very elegant.

Again, the kudos are for the color because this is a bit PTA-ish for Faith Hill. Almost as if she knew everyone else was going to be coming as a slut and wanted to set a good example for her daughters. Love the color.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Unemployment Diaries- New Options

Early in their history Seinfeld had an episode where George has lost his job as a realtor and is thinking about new options. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the link to youtube (they have embedding disabled or you'd be watching it right now) - well worth watching if you need a laugh and germane to this post (i.e. either watch the damn clip or you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about. More so than usual).

I’m at the stage of unemployment where it’s time to think outside the box (WAY outside the box) and like George, I have numerous special and unique talents that have been under-utilized in my previous jobs. Talents for which I should be rewarded.

v    I like fashion + I watch a lot of TV = red carpet network TV commentator for the awards shows
v    I like to read + I like fashion = editor of Vogue (I know, I know, I’ve been pushing for this one since I was in college)
v    I’m really good at quickly remembering people based on their voice = FBI voice recognition analyst- terrorist division
v    I watch a lot of reality TV + came up with the Project Runway All Stars concept = Head of Programming for Lifetime TV
v    I like good food and wine = food critic for the New York Times
v    I read really fast = Pulitzer Prize committee judge.

I see no reason why my location, inability to move at this time, and the unemployment rate in Oregon should be held against me. Let’s make this happen, people!

Do you have any special talents that aren't currently being recognized in the business world but should be?

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Recently when I was trolling the Internet for new friends (that sounded better in my head) I came across a blog I liked so much that I wanted to impress the blogger and so worked very hard on a comment to her post. Something pithy and provocative that would catch her eye. She chooses to write her blog anonymously and doesn’t respond to comments so imagine my surprise when she emailed me saying I’d made her laugh. Hurrah!! Sad to say this provided me with almost as much pleasure as getting a job offer. Now this woman and I email each other on a semi-regular basis making us what I believe is known as e-friends or cyber friends.

This might not be worth writing about except it’s the second friend I’ve met online and the first is someone I really just need to get off my ass and visit because we’ve been communicating via email for almost six months and are pretty sure we’re related based on our misanthropic hermit-like tendencies and bitchy humor. Except she doesn’t like to shop and I don’t follow sports but still.

My point is that in this electronic age it seems easier to make friends online and yet, I still crave a human connection. I believe that if either of these women would stop being so stubborn and just move to Portland already we’d be lunching, bitching, and drinking our way to besties heaven.

Instead of learning something from letting Lifetime steal my idea (yes, I will beat that horse past death) I’m going to jump in again and put two brilliant ideas out there for someone else to hijack. Let’s be honest, the odds on me ever acting on my ideas are slightly less than me winning a Pulitzer. Both would be nice but aren’t likely to happen.

One, companies are making millions off online dating sites so why not the same thing for friends? You know: MWF/SWF seeks BFF. You create a personal profile, state where you live, and go for it. It would mean instead of knowing two awesome women 5 states away I might meet more people here. And because we’re just dealing with women  we wouldn’t have potential friends lying about their height or posting photos from 5 years ago. Requests would include things like: will tell me the truth if something I’m about to purchase makes me look like Bea Arthur or will go see another dance themed movie despite knowing there is no plot because we just like watching dancing.

Two, if that’s too much effort why not speed friending? You sign up, show up at a bar with, say, 50 other women, are given a name tag and a drink and while one group of women stays stationary the other 25 move from woman to woman in 3 minute intervals. Seriously, I’ll know if I like you in 30 seconds and I think most women are the same way. I don’t care what you do, your age, or if you’re lactose intolerant but you’d better make me laugh. If there’s a connection you exchange numbers and wham! new friend.

These are great, right? If you’re reading and have the gumption to actually run with either of these ideas please just give me some small cut of the profits because if not I will find out (I’m a researcher, remember?) and hunt you down. Unless you make me laugh and then we’ll be BFFs.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Airplane Etiquette Update

Having just returned from visiting the family but unable to publicly write about it because they’re a litigious bunch I thought I’d revisit my love of airplane travel. Except…this time I’m not going to bitch. Crazy, right? Call it my gift to you.

I haven’t been in an airport or on a plane since May and I am pleased to say things have improved substantially. I’d like to believe it’s because the airlines care so much about their customers but I know the reality is colder. As in cold hard cash. Here’s what I’m happy about.

In years past a lot of lip service was paid to “one purse or briefcase and one carry-on bag” per passenger but I would still be standing behind the douche lord with a duffel, a guitar case, and a backpack large enough for a stint on Everest. Or the kindly grandmother with her tote of knitting supplies, industrial sized handbag to hold meds and pictures of the grandkids, and a shopping bag full of souvenirs. The shopping bag tears. You know this. This trip I watched as these folks and several other stereotypes were stopped at the gate and relieved of their excess baggage AND charged for the fact that had to be checked in. Love it!

Things just got better when we got onboard and grumpy old man in row 11 put his carry-on bag in the overhead bin for row 7 (my row). This is fairly standard behavior on a plane because apparently carrying your luggage an extra 4 rows is fate no passenger should suffer. This time a flight attendant approached and asked if he was sitting in row 7 and when told no, explained that he’d have to move his bag. He was peeved enough that he loudly regaled his seatmates with this injustice for the first ten minutes of the flight but I’m pretty sure it was better than having me heave the bag at his head. Which I have been known to do.

So, kudos to the airlines for bringing the criminal passenger element under control. Now if you would just implement the plexiglass sealed family seating area so that moms and dads can simmer in the Petri dish of bacteria produced by their spawn all while enjoying their dolphin-pitched shrieking and getting a free acupressure massage on their back from the rugrat behind them who kicks their seatback for two hours straight, I’d fly everywhere. Think about it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

December Reading

I'm a little late with this due to the whole Lifetime debacle. Honestly, I don't want it to get ugly but I have so few original ideas I've got to protect the ones I have.

I covered the gamut from heavy to light last month. I don’t generally like to follow the crowd (because I’m so damn unique) but here are my top 5 favorite reads from December. If you’re a book buying person you can click on my retail therapy shop and purchase them there. Yes, I may earn a pittance but you’d be buying them anyway, right?

One family, four lives. Gorgeous prose that looks how thoughtless actions can change entire lives. This is one of those books I want to demand people read. Absolutely beautiful.

Jennifer Crusie and Madeleine Wickham are of the class of female authors who write engaging, fun escapist books for women. Perfect at any time of the year but even better during the holidays. Welcome to Tempation begins the Dempsey trilogy and 40 Love is a funny look at the wealthy wannabes in a London suburb.

Based on the true story of Clara Driscoll, the woman who designed the first Tiffany stained glass lamp and helped pioneer Tiffany’s glass work in the decorative arts. A wonderful book that will keep you reading and immerse you in the intricacies of stained glass production and gender politics at the turn of the century.

Louis XIV in the early years of his reign, before he built Versailles (hence the title, right?). Historical fiction, fascinating and fun. Oh, and what is about men and power that they can’t control themselves around women?

A generational tale of women, love and secrets. Ede’s daughter Lily is born of a single night and is a woman of whimsy and danger. She gives birth to Charlie, with no known father. This is the story of a family with secrets and how a young boy maneuvers between them.
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