Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Last Day of 2010!


Happy New Year's Eve!

Oh, hi. Did I just see you at the grocery store? I must have. Because everyone in the whole world was there. I don't even know what we were all buying.

Well, I know what I was buying.

Three medium Yukon Gold potatoes. I am making Chorizo and Kale Soup for dinner and I forgot to buy the potatoes. But then I thought, hey, I should buy some bread from the bakery since it'll be fresh. And I should buy the good butter since it's a major part of the meal, so I picked up some Kerry Gold Irish Butter.

I went in for three potatoes and left with a bottle of sparkling wine (sucker), Laughing Cow cheese wedges (necessary!), a box of Garlic and Black Pepper Triscuits (on sale), olive oil, and green beans.

There will be a quiz later.

Outside a large plume of white smoke is blowing over the fence. Either the neighbor is having a hard time lighting a fire or I'll be dead soon from the mist that turns people inside out.

I hope you all have a fantastic New Year's Eve.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Like a Hermit


One good thing that came out of Jer working nights for three years is I grew used to being alone. This is especially handy lately, when I realize I've had no human interaction in awhile, and I may or may not have left the house. Since Tuesday.

I mentioned in an earlier post I was trying to write a "straight" story -- that it would be a good challenge. Yesterday I decided to stop kidding myself. As a friend and I once joked, "I have lots of skills. I don't need that one."

Yeah, so I closed the Word document and I'll just let it sit. If I get inspired, I'll try again. I wasn't feeling it.

In the mean time I'm trying to make sense of the novel idea. Since elves aren't writing it while I sleep, my only recourse is to get my hands dirty. So I'm planning. I'm giving myself exercises. I'm Googling things like structure and storyboarding. Leaving myself notes.

There's so much I don't know about writing; I'm embarrassed to admit it. As painful as it is though, as ego-crushing, I'm making slow progress. I feel like I should be further along and not stumbling around with these stupid basics. But if the basics aren't solid, what's to keep the rest from collapsing?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On the Wonders of Cinebarre

In Mountlake Terrace -- just north of downtown Seattle -- there exists a wonderful movie theatre called the Cinebarre. It shares its parking lot with a defunct CompUSA, a Urology clinic, and a Mexican restaurant, and yet? This place. Is magic.

I hear you wondering. What makes this place so special? I will tell you.

Cinebarre is only for ages 21 and over. They serve food, wine, and beer, directly to your seat. (And you can even order pitchers of beer! Good beer, too. Like Stella Artois, and local favorites like Roger's Pilsner, Manny's, Mac & Jack's) But how does this work?

Beautifully!

They've removed every other row of seats and installed counters. This provides ample eating surface and sufficient space for a server to come and go. If you want to order food, you fill out a form and place it upright on the counter. Servers come to you, take your order and bring food before and during the film.

The food quality is just fine, not high end or anything. I usually order a Blue Velvet Burger, which includes bleu cheese and buffalo hot sauce. Comes with fries. Its tastiness depends on how long it's been under the heat lamp, but I'm generally happy with the quality. There are no salad options or lighter fare, except for popcorn.

They also serve small pizzas and sandwiches. I wouldn't recommend ordering a margarita or a daiquiri there though. I understand they can't serve hard liquor so they sub in wine instead.

The overhead lights dim but don't extinguish, so you can see what you're eating and ordering. None of it is too distracting though. About thirty minutes before the end of the movie they drop off the bill and you give them money.

I love this place.

Tuesdays it costs five dollars for all showings (3D a little more) so last night I went to the 7:15pm showing of "Black Swan." It was my first discount day and it was very crowded. I arrived an hour before the movie started, found parking, and picked a decent seat. My food arrived before the movie and it was tasty.

Without giving out spoilers, I enjoyed the movie. I recognize it's not for everyone. Two of Aronofsky's other films, Requiem for a Dream and Pi, left me cold, but I thoroughly enjoyed Black Swan.

The themes of perfectionism, identity, and sexuality rang true for me. And that whole, flirting with the bonds of reality thing, I thought was well handled.

Cinebarre is located at 6009 244th St. SW; Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043. They also have locations in Denver, CO; Salem, OR; Asheville, NC; and Charleston, SC.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Ugly Side of Writing Workshops

The short story I'm working on is not coming easy.

I suspect it's because this is a straight story, not genre, and I am uneasy describing a world that has to obey the known physical and natural laws.

What do you mean my leading lady can't turn into a turnip? This is not my kind of universe...

Challenges are good though, and I plan to complete this story and send it to a market I've been interested in for awhile. See if I can write the story I should have written back when I took that creative writing class in college and wrote "Dead Metal Skunks" instead.

We were not a good mix, that group and I. I was so annoyed by the feedback they kept giving people I just gave up. The group overflowed with artist types harboring strong opinions and worldviews (at ages 18-20). Every week for several hours we sat around a large rectangular table, someone read the newest submission, and in the ensuing silence, we all sat quietly for a few moments, careful not to sound too eager. Then as a group, we universally panned it, the writer, and everyone and everything the writer ever cared about.

As far as I could tell, this is how it was done. Teacher assigns random word count. You fill the space. Everybody tears you a new one. And your silence is required while this is happening.

I still think that was some kind of crazy torture in the category of "More harm than good." And: "Damn. Did I actually pay cash money for that experience?"

So I guess that still bothers me. Who knew?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Filling the creative fuel tank

I had a good day yesterday. In the morning I went to the gym, I ate my fruit and took my multi-vitamin. The few food transgressions I made were balanced by the two miles I jogged, so win-win.

And then Jer lit me a Duraflame fire and I snuggled deep into the living room armchair with a stack of books, an afghan, and a cat named Vash stretched across my legs. A few hours later I left my warm cocoon, but not before consuming these lovelies:

My Life in France - A fascinating memoir covering Julia Child's experiences in France learning to cook and enjoy great food:

Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student - Rhetoric is how we use language to persuade. Every time you watch a commercial or argue that your husband should do the dishes once in awhile, you are engaging in rhetoric:

Ogilvy on Advertising - You want to know how to sell something? Do your research; know your audience. Then read this. The principles haven't changed.:

The Ultimate Sales Letter - Practical tips anyone can use to craft a sales message:

Later we watched "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" - Beautiful effects that stretch the imagination:

So here we are again. Another Monday, another deadline. Let's get to it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Still applicable six years later

I recently received feedback from FreeRangeAuthor about adding tags to entries to help with search results, so I've been going through older entries and making that happen.

In doing so I came across this post from May 21, 2004, which I'll repost below. For context, Jer and I were living in Santa Barbara at the time.

It's amazing how much doesn't change in six years, and how much does:

May 21, 2004
Ever since I set foot in Seattle, the city has been under my skin. I haven't gone one day without thinking about it. I sit here, I think about it. I go to work, I think about moving there. I see myself buying a house there. I see myself writing there. It's such a pretty picture in my mind.

No other city has elicited such a gut reaction. And maybe it's because I've romanticized this idea of Seattle. Books and coffee, rain, and affordable housing. Not to mention, Twin Peaks and Tom Robbins ...

Circumstance is pushing me in a direction. I could let it continue to push, or I could shift positions. Isn't that what it's all about? Do I let things happen to me? Or do I take the initiative?

Nobody likes an abstract. So here's a solid. How do you work a forty hour week, then come home and write something fresh and exciting every day? How do you handle rejection, week after week? When you choose writing, aren't you really sentencing yourself to a life of waiting? Aren't you that girl on the beach waving starry-eyed to the pirate with a heart of gold? I'll see ya in the next port, baby. But he's lying. It's not a real eye-patch anyway. And that heart of his? Pyrite, baby. (Sadly, when he said pyrite, you heard PIRATE. Is nothing sacred?)

Or maybe I'm just procrastinating. Maybe I'm doing everything I can to keep from finishing my play. Because if I finish it, then people get to judge it. If I never print, produce, or publish it, it's my word against yours. And I say it's brilliant. You've never beheld such magnificence. Take a memo: Dear Pulitzer Committee, I've finished another play. Let's skip the formality and cut the crap. I'm better than Shakespeare. Love, Me. Hear that? That is the sound of no one contradicting me.

The 2010 Recap - Now with more brevity!

It's that narrow span between old and new that annually infects me with nostalgia. So let's share a brief recap of our hero's progress:

January - First gig as a corporate photographer. Spent most of the month sporting a heavily bruised face - I paid to have lasers remove discoloration caused by broken blood vessels around my nose and mouth. Ouch.

February - Bad mood. Read "The War of Art."

March - Tried to break out of my funk by going to concerts, new restaurants, the gym, and dyed my hair. Played racquetball for the first time in years.

April - Still struggling with motivation. I booked a two-week vacation for October. Jer and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary.

May - Painted our hallway orange. Started and stopped going to the gym again. Went to Phoenix for work. Visited Carkeek Park for the first time.

June - Discovered rhetoric and Hulu Desktop. Read Samuel Johnson's Rasselas and "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion."

July - More writing rejection. Sold a couple of stock photos. Worked in the yard a lot. Discovered "Three Sheets." Family visited.

August - As a last resort, joined Weight Watchers. Started going to the gym again. Read a lot of weird fiction. Family visited.

September - Bought a motorcycle at auction. Got sick. Took a business trip to Illinois. Went to Penny Arcade Expo with friends from out-of-town.

October - Went to Paris, Prague, and Rome. Started playing Dungeons and Dragons with an awesome group.

November - It snowed. I cooked a lot. I submitted my resignation.

December - World of Warcraft's Cataclysm expansion released. Worked my last day. Hosted a party and rented my first keg. Flew to southern CA to visit family. Wrote and submitted a short play and a short story.

To summarize the summary, I spent the first third of the year in a funk. I spent the second third of the year trying to bust out of the funk. And then I spent the last third of the year putting the funk in perspective and taking control. Ironically, in order to take control I had to relinquish all of it.

We'll see how that works out for me in 2011.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas to you. It's been a low key, laid back Saturday. I made potatoes and eggs for breakfast -- I added extra cheese and cut up andouille sausage to differentiate it from the potatoes and eggs we eat every weekend.

Jer and I spent much of the day playing World of Warcraft. I finally completed the "Bomb Them Again" quest with my 73 undead rogue riding a flying reindeer. Bombing things really puts you in the Christmas spirit, I tell you what.

I should also mention I am grateful for the generosity and support of friends and family this Christmas. Although we could not see most of you in person this year, you were in our thoughts. Particularly in the thoughts not occupied by bombing fel cannons in the Blade's Edge Mountains.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Worst Witch

Before there was Harry Potter, there was Mildred Hubble -- a first year witch at a prestigious all girls institution. With her freckly best friend she battled the school's know-it-all (Ethel Hallow) to learn the fine art of witchcraft while messing up laughter potions, falling off brooms, and foiling school takeover plots.

Definitely not familiar at all.

The cast of "The Worst Witch" -- this amazing 1986 film -- was star-studded. It featured:

  • Fairuza Balk as Mildred Hubble, still popular for her work in "The Craft" and "The Waterboy."
  • Diana Rigg, former Avenger, as the strict Constance Hardbroom
  • Charlotte Rae, beloved as Mrs. Garrett on Facts of Life, as twins. She played both the headmistress and purple/pink haired villain.
  • Tim Curry as the Grand Wizard. OhyesTIMCURRYomg.
I'm not sure how old I was when I saw this movie, 9 or 10?, but I can tell you Tim Curry left a very favorable impression on my young self. Second only to "Clue" and then, you know, that whole Time Warp thing.

So last night I watched "The Worst Witch" again for the first time in years. Sadly, the "special" effects don't hold up and the feel-good theme song makes me want to throw up in my mouth. But near the end, there he was again, in all of his wizardly glory. Tim Curry and his song "Anything Can Happen on Halloween":

If you can't see the embedded video click here.

In retrospect I am not sure if the bigger star was Tim Curry or Tim Curry's cape.

Also in retrospect, I'm not sure why I loved this movie so much when it was about a non-straight A student triumphing over the A student, since I was one of those obnoxious Ethel-Hallow-A-types and the entire message of the film is that people like me always get their comeuppance. Probably by being turned into a pig.

Ah. Suspended disbelief plus magic powers plus Tim Curry equals happiness in a VHS tape.

Thank you, memory lane, for being full of such delicious weirdness.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blockquote Tangent Tango

Jer and I celebrated my 19.6 pound weight loss by going out for pizza at 7pm, as you do.

After I mangled my order of a Spinach Salad and a garlic and pepperoni pizza --

uh, could you maybe make us a pizza with whatever we want on it? I don't want this other stuff. Like I had seriously never ordered a pizza ever in the entirety of my life
-- Jer waited until the server walked away and said, "I'm the first person you've talked to today, aren't I?"

It probably goes without saying that the answer to that question was Yes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Failing Faster

I finished a rewrite of my newest ten-minute play and successfully submitted it this morning. Feedback won't come for a few months so it's on to the next thing. Have to build up the pipeline, as they say, and I figured it'd be a good exercise to have a few submissions under my belt before I tackle the big projects.

Must fail faster so I can improve my chances of success. Or, as they also said at my old job, quicken the feedback loop.

In the past I haven't thought much about structure or how to go about telling a story. I just put pen to paper and was surprised by what came out. Now I think I'll try something new. I bought a stack of 3x5 cards (and a 9V battery for the fire alarm, but this isn't about that) and I'm ready to try storyboarding.

Awhile back I picked up these note card bleachers in dark cherry from Levenger -- the most dangerous store on the internet:

Time to dust them off and see if this method works for me. In my quest to fail as fast as possible, I'm basically holding writing process try-outs ova here. Know any other contenders?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Legume Experiments

It started with a plate of crowder peas.

I'd been wandering the streets of New Orleans with a camera around my neck, feeling sorry for myself for not very good reasons. I'd just finished admiring the Absinthe museum's collection of slotted spoons behind glass, and had walked past the Cornstalk Hotel and their famous corn cob cast-iron fence.

It was hot and I was thirsty. I remembered passing a bright red restaurant the day before with lots of people inside. At the time I said, "Self, eat there if you can." So, parched and starving, I retraced my steps and refound the Praline Connection.

At mid-day I had no trouble getting a seat. I sat in the back facing the door and ordered an Abita beer. It came cold in the bottle and I swallowed it whole. When the waitress came back I ordered another, along with the fried chicken plate.

The sides included something I'd never eaten before: crowder peas. I've never been much of a food blogger, so you'll just have to take my word they were outstanding.

Ever since then I've been on the lookout for exotic legumes (at least to me exotic, which is pretty much in the category of "Things that aren't kidney or pinto beans").

And that's how I stumbled into cassoulet and pigeon peas.

The cassoulet story isn't for today, but the pigeon peas are a current event. I'm rehydrating a dried bag of them on the kitchen counter for dinner as I type. And tonight I will attempt to make: Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas).

I bought some Goya brand Sofrito and an envelope of Sazon con Culantro y Achiote. Both of these ingredients are new to me and I have no idea how it'll turn out. Our local grocery store did not have banana leaves and I didn't feel like going anywhere else, so I'll leave those out this time.

Yes, sir. The theme of the day is beans. Also, I just finished the first draft of a ten-minute play. Burying the lede is fun!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Cheating Recap

I used the Facebook application "My Year in Status" to put together the following chaotic highlights of 2010:

It features bon mots such as: "There's a lot of things you can't make with clown skin."

And who can forget: "I just misread an article about a psychology professor from the University of Butter..." I then go on to elaborate what this artery clogging center for higher education might look like.

Or that time Jer and I created our Dungeons and Dragons characters and I said: "I want to be half man, half cat and allergic to cats. Can we make that happen?"

The laughs, truly, don't stop.

Lastly, let's pay tribute to the ever popular: "Sometimes I send myself an email and pretend I'm using time travel to communicate with myself in the future."

Peace out, soul sisters. The way you move, it ain't fair you know.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A windfall

I have this reputation for finding things at the moment I need them. Notably small amounts of cash. I will say to Jer, "I need five dollars," and -- no, I don't just take it from his wallet when he's not looking, that would be cheating -- I go through an old purse or a coat pocket and voila. Five dollars.

I wouldn't call it a super power or anything, but it's helpful. Also entirely self-fulfilling since I must have hidden the money from myself at some point in the past. But there it is.

So Jer was in my office last night as I read him the day's play pages I'd written and he idly thumbed through a pile of desk stuff I'd stacked on the floor.

"Hey," he said, "is this still good?" And handed me one of those Visa cash gift cards that was hidden in the pile.

I usually don't forget a thing like that. The key to this "gift" is "small amounts." So we looked it up on the internet and discovered it has $100 on it. Plus we have to use it now since it starts accruing maintenance fees in about a week.

The good news is I have three ideas of how to spend this windfall. One: pet food. You can never have enough pet food. They, like, need that to live or something.

Two: groceries. We're still living off the party leftovers and a gifted fruit basket, but foresight dictates we'll need more eventually.

Three: a printer. Our printer is about 7 years old and it recently started only printing the second half of a page, and only then when you manually push a single sheet through.

A broken printer puts a serious cramp in my new writing lifestyle -- of which I totally rocked yesterday. I even made it to the gym, where I ran as I fast as I could in place watching Jerry Springer on the televisions.

Turns out there is no amount of fast enough to escape that crazy.

To counterbalance the windfall however, I noticed my ex-work overpaid me in my last check. They decided the "least impactful" way to handle it (for me), would be to have me send them a big ass check next week. I explained to them it would be "less impactful" if they just reversed the payment and reissued it correctly, but then I found out they were substituting "least impactful" for "makes our job easier." So whatev. I get a few extra days of interest before sending it back. And they get to continue living in a delusional fairyland where "impactful" is a legitimate word.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mucho gusto

Since I last posted I threw a party at our house for the first time. I cooked a lot. I went to another fancy party and wore a fancy black dress with nylons and makeup. (Don't picture a bank robber when I say that, the nylons were where they were meant to be, not on my head. And why would you even think that anyway? Although I appreciate and support your creative thought process.)

I went to southern California for a few days and violated my diet, repeatedly and with gusto. Mucho gusto.

I went to a Weight Watchers meeting while I was there and got my 16 week key chain. I wrote a lot in a small black book. I'm working on three different projects right now, two are long-term and one is due by the end of the month -- that one's a contest.

This -- a full week after my last day -- is the first time I've attempted to embrace an unemployed routine. I made some coffee, expanded my social network (that's my way of saying I invited people to be my friends on Facebook, which has such a potential to be full of crushing disappointment when you realize you're just not cool enough), and I've opened Final Draft.

Gosh. So much productivity my head is spinning.

This would be a good place to stop, I think. Take a nap or read a book. Don't want to overdo it.

Happy Friday!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tick Tick Kablammo

The experiment starts ... now.

First day of unemployment. I got up (yay for low hanging fruit on the checklist), showered, drank my coffee, and am waiting for Jer. In a few minutes I'll drop him off at work and then shop for cheese. I hope to obtain some truffle cheese. Big John's PFI and Metropolitan Market are programmed into the GPS.

I should schedule some writing time in here today, but as of now I am cooking cooking cooking. Mostly mixing, some baking, a little stuffing of the mushrooms.

Uh oh. I hear Jer coming down the stairs. This is not a drill! Move move move!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

"THE WORD LINKAGE REMINDS ME OF SAUSAGE"

Prepare to be mesmerized. Today is made of links.

Yesterday I went crazy with the Scotchgard.

We recently acquired these dining room chairs:


Ann Glenn Side Chairs from Dania

And this couch:


Mirak Sectional from Dania (in dark orange, no ottoman)

And while I love them very much, they were not ready for visitors. So I took the lint brush to each cushion until they were de-furred, and then sprayed the crap out of them with Scotchgard (lightly and with two coats).

I was not confident to test its effectiveness by say, spilling a pot of coffee on one of them, which means I'm releasing this upholstery into production as a beta candidate. Bugs expected; Woolite on standby.

Yesterday I was also successful in conquering the linens. Guest room is now ready for our Idaho friend -- once I make the bed instead of just draping the clean linens over it. Intent is two-thirds done, right? And we moved a glass cabinet out of a major traffic path, just in case things get Crazzzzy (will we stay up past 10???). In the cabinet's place I hung a couple of prints from Tiny Showcase.

One thing I am good at is finding art for a blank wall. Speaking of which... professional quality prints make excellent Christmas presents.

You can choose to go with the pensive, existentialist wall art:


Spiral Stairs in the Arc de Triomphe, Paris (Print for sale here)

Or the calm, serene, Zen wall art to decorate your meditation room:


Meiji Jingu Shrine Gyoen, Tokyo Teahouse (Print for sale here)

For something a little more traditional, may I recommend this one I have on my wall?:


Bundle of pink tulips - I wrote about the day I took this shot and got a parking ticket here (Print for Sale here)

For these and other exciting images, see the On Focus Photo Gallery. Where art meets commerce!

Have a fantastic day, everybody.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

I'll take Epic Cleaning Quests for 50gp, Alex

We're having a few people over next weekend to celebrate Bonenkai -- our version of a Japanese tradition, also called a "forgetting the year" party.

We've lived in this house for a year and a few months and haven't had anyone over yet. (Exceptions include family and our Idaho friend.) So this weekend will be about making everything presentable. Defeating the dreaded cat hair monster. Conquering the pile of mail. Laundering the linens of ferocity. Epic battles all around.

Chores go down easier if I pretend they're World of Warcraft quests, which is why World of Chorecraft will always have a place in my heart.

The timing works well since I will be freshly unemployed. The last couple of weeks since I resigned have been so strange. Like I'm attending my own funeral and they're dividing up all my stuff. I am not complaining, to be sure, we all have our parts to play. I've just never gone through anything quite like this before. And I have had a lot of jobs.

But work is a taboo subject here. So consider it dropped.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

How I Shredded the Chicken, A Story in One Part

Last night I spent forever making chicken enchiladas because I needed to shred the chicken and I couldn't remember how -- not because the recipe calls for it, I just prefer it that way.

I know I've shredded chicken at least twice before, but all I could remember was it involves boiling the chicken, whole peppercorns, and two forks.

Maybe the instructions for shredding chicken are in one of my two thousand cookbooks, I thought. Couldn't find it. Was there a print out or an online bookmark I used? Couldn't find it. So there I was on the floor of our living room/dining room surrounded by "How to Cook Everything," "The Joy of Cooking," and twelve different Cook's Illustrated food porn tomes... aaaand nothing.

Hello, internet, let's dance.

For future Christy, which is one of the top five reasons I write here (search feature!), put chicken breasts in pot on stovetop. Cover with water. Add seasonings like six or so whole peppercorns and then dump a bunch of stuff in there you like. You could throw in some carrots, celery, and onions, but that is like a crapload of work and you won't be using the broth for anything anyway because you're lazy. Don't tell anyone but onion powder works okay here. You're going to season it to taste after you shred it anyway.

Once the water boils, simmer the chicken for 8-10 minutes. I did 10 and it might have been a little long. Then have at it with the forks.

So future Christy, there you go. I just saved you two hours of research because IT'S CHICKEN. WHAT IF I KILL EVERYONE WITH THE BACTERIA???

You won't.

Oh sure, there are other ways and tricks. This one works for me. Maybe next time I'll boil it in chicken broth. Or fix up one of them fancy mire poix platters.

Probably not.

I rolled the enchiladas and stored them in the refrigerator since I'm feeding them to people tonight. When I get home today I'll pour the sauce over them (homemade, even) and add a little more cheese before baking. I made a couple of test ones before bed and they were mighty tasty, if I do say so myself. And I do. Say that.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey goal reached

My turkey is safe at home now. Didn't mean to leave you hanging. I picked it up from the office on Sunday. Also, the weather warmed up enough so we could venture to the Thanksgiving party I spent the morning lamenting. But that's not a very good story owing to its lack of mayhem.

Tonight is my first Weight Watchers meeting in 2 weeks (due to my love of traction) and the first since the program change. I just logged into eTools and I'm excited to see they'll be taking protein and carbohydrates into account, since that was how I tracked when I worked with a trainer -- since then calories abstracted into points based only on fat and fiber felt like cheating.

I'll learn more tonight.

I played several hours of World of Warcraft over the weekend, and I'm still trying to decide if I should put my subscription on hold or if I'm responsible enough to handle the addiction this time around. Maybe I'll just play a few more hours before I decide for realz.

December sneaked up on me.

It's pouring buckets, but not snowing. I find this agreeable.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My turkey is in a downtown freezer: Not a euphemism

Originally our Thanksgiving cup ranneth over. We were invited to two parties and I had a smoked turkey flying in from Texas, just in case. It seemed there would be no danger of a feastless day.

Snow changed all that.

It's true we turned down one invitation and accepted the other, thereby slicing our options a third. But it was the snow, the pure white powder that drifts gently from the sky, that's done us in.

As far as I know, the party goes on, up at the top of a steep hill along many icy roads. You haven't happened to see any of the youtube videos of cars sliding out of control around here, have you? The careening bus was a sight to behold... I may be a chicken on this turkey day, but I don't want that to be me. I lose my health insurance soon.

And the smoked Texas turkey? Poor bird. UPS won't deliver to my house without a signature since that package disappeared in October -- the package they say they delivered while my husband was home. So in a flash of premeditated brilliance I arranged to send the bird to my work address. Which I can't get to.

The freeway onramp closest to home featured four jacknifed semis the morning after the first snow dump, closing I-5 for 9 hours and rerouting traffic through the express lanes.

I do try to look on the bright side. So here goes: The snow is pretty and rare. I haven't run out of coffee and Baileys yet. I'm defrosting a couple of chicken breasts so we'll have some kind of poultry today. Cats and husband are here and safe. I remembered to bring in the rosemary plant before it was festively frozen. The power is still on.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snowed in, sort of

I've been playing at domesticity lately, especially in light of the snow trapping us in the house.

Technically "trapped" is hyperbole. It's only a couple of inches. But hey, it's like really cold on my feet.

I baked a frozen pizza -- don't hate, I had to use the oven and everything. I boiled spaghetti AND heated up sauce. Phew. And tonight? I made pumpkin pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon. It doesn't get any better than that. I should have one of those cooking shows, right?

I nearly forgot the brown rice and Tasty Bite we had for lunch. This is the dawn of a new age. I should buy my own set of knives and get my mise en place together.

Outside is still afflicted by snow, which is pretty but leaves me confused. Why does its presence cripple Seattle? Why does it destroy all ability to go from point A to B? Riddle me this Emerald City. How does the rest of the world manage to cope?

The news says "Possible Icy Roads Tomorrow." If you'll excuse me, I will interrupt this post to resume my life of fear. Ta.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Good morning, crazy city

Snow arrived in Seattle yesterday, unannounced and fancy free. My commute was not as bad as some. For example, I only waited a half hour on the street for a bus to take me downtown, it only took an hour to go the 10 miles home, and my car only slid once on a straightaway. All in all, I'll live.

Now I hear some folks were trapped in their cars for 10 hours or on the bus for 12. I am not a fan of this. So today, with no city plans to plow side streets and the weather still freezing, I am working from home. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and there are several inches of powdery snow on the ground. We'll make this work.

Seattle, you are not always what I expected. I like that you keep it interesting.

I stopped at the grocery store and bought some overpriced firewood in case power goes out, and a frozen pizza. So we won't freeze and we won't starve. All that's left is to enjoy the view. And drink a pot of coffee.

Caffeine injection in 3...2...1...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I'm doing this now

This week. Wow. The corporate part of my day is not a suitable subject for this here ephemeral document, but one thing must needs be said. I gave my two weeks' notice and I don't have anything lined up to replace it. So I anticipate some adventures coming up, some wacky hijinx, more frequent gym visits that aren't at 5am. Man, those early mornings... sayonara!

Everything is fine, by the way. Just fine. I will make this work.

Whatever else is true, 2011 will begin very differently than I anticipated.

As I explore new career opportunities, I am also going to write and submit fiction. My online subscription to Writer's Market is good through 2012, so thank you Corporate Me for that bonus. It's high time I wrestled the fiction beast.

No, I do not expect this to be easy. Perish the thought. But I have the benefit of this being my choice, having a supportive husband and network, favorable circumstances, and a sense of urgency. It's the urgency bit I've been missing. And now that I prod the wound, I also find an undercurrent of Why the Fuck Not? (Not so couth down there, I'm afraid)

So that's how it is. I'm about to go live in my head full-time, until it's time to rock the business casual again. Who wants to come along?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In my head again

A lot of things are changing right now and I'm not sure what the landscape will look like when it's over.

I have my health, my house, my husband, friends and family. I've lost over 16 pounds since August 3, and have been to the gym 12 times in the last 13 days. (One day off for recovery)

I feel stronger than I've felt in a long time and I'm letting the momentum of small successes propel me forward. If you'll excuse the metaphors... it feels as if there's a tiny spark inside (nothing to do with being pregnant) that wants to take over. I just have to add fuel until it catches.

I have no idea what 2011 will bring, but that's the fun isn't it? Not knowing opens the door for hope. And as Emily Dickinson wrote, "Hope is the thing with feathers."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On the floor and impatient

An overcast Saturday morning here in Seattle. I'm drinking coffee (Tully's) and sitting on the living room floor with my back against the orange couch. To my left hangs the new artwork I bought off eBay last week. It's a very nice painting from an artist in Canada named Milen. The fall colors are vibrant and the paint is applied thickly, impressionistically, blurring in a way that seems entirely normal.

The world melts; no one notices.

Because it's happening so slowly.

I mentally prepare myself for the gym and yell at Chiana for using her claws on the couch. My clothes are laid out. My hands are cold. My small victory for the week is that I went to the gym every morning at 5:10am, Monday through chilly Thursday (then on Friday night). After the first day it was not such a struggle, but I must always be vigilant. It is too easy to backslide. This is not second nature, or even third. It is seventh to the second power.

My body is shifting under my clothes. I can feel my clavicle again and see the shadow of muscles under my biceps. It is a strange thing, like falling asleep and waking up with an adamantium skeleton. One day it's squishy, the next it's not. And I am just beginning.

The major downside to mental body sculpting is how slow the scale is to catch up. I am tearing my muscles then rebuilding them stronger so that they're heavier but take up less space. Expecting to be immediately rewarded for all this work is normal but it is not realistic. I have to be patient.

And patience is my least developed virtue. Even less developed than my glutes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WW Weekly Weigh-in Update

I'm down another pound, which while nothing to sneeze at, is just a wee tiny bit disappointing after spending the last five days at the gym.

Not fishing for compliments, not looking for sympathy. Just stating it.

For awhile now I haven't been happy with the carefree way I've frittered away my free time, so I created a time budget. It works for money; why not time?

Then I got annoyed and closed the notepad file it was written in and decided to just try some things. No commitments. Jury's still out on its effectiveness, but it's had its moments.

For example, normally at 5:15am I am asleep. The last few days I was on a treadmill. I have no idea how long I can keep this up. It does not feel sustainable. So I will just take it one day at a time and be nice to myself.

The best part about working out in the morning is getting it over with.

I may need to work on my attitude. I will pencil that in for phase 2.

In summary, since August 3, I have lost a total of 14.8 pounds on Weight Watchers.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

A break to talk about food

I've been trying not to post until I finish up the Paris, Prague, Rome narrative, but I'm tired of torturing myself.

Lately I've been scouring the web for either Weight Watchers or gluten-free recipes. On the WW site I found a recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Paprikash that was excellent -- I made a batch last weekend and served it with brown rice. For tonight I picked out an Artichoke Chicken recipe. Looks delicious. Chicken is defrosting in the refrigerator now.

Years ago I received a Zojirushi Fuzzy Rice Cooker as a present and it's perfect for cooking brown rice. I just love it -- two cups water, 1 cup of rice using the little plastic cup it comes with, and about an hour later you're in business.

This is new: Once a week Jer and I are playing in a Dungeons and Dragons game (real people with dice and rules and everything), and I've been stretching my cooking imagination by volunteering to bring a gluten-free dish. Last week I made Buckeyes, which turned out very rich and very tasty and very not WW-approved. (They are cold balls of peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar, dipped in chocolate. You can't fail unless you're allergic to peanuts or hate fun.)

I increased the PB to 2 cups and reduced the sugar to 4 cups. Please note this especially if you are me from the future attempting to recreate the magic. Hello, future Christy. I also used MaraNatha creamy organic peanut butter with a hint of sea salt.

In making this recipe I learned 1) it is easy to melt semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave, assuming frequent stirring. 2) Using an ice cream scooper to dip the PB balls in makes it simple not to drop the thing you're dipping into the hot chocolate soup.

Next week I'm thinking of making these pumpkin muffins if I can figure out where to buy all of the ingredients and assuming I don't have to spend $100 to make 12 muffins. I am however excited to learn about the existence of Bourbon Vanilla extract.

I am down a total of 13.8 pounds since I started WW on August 3. Three months, already? Geez. At my 19 pound loss I'll get a decorative keychain. My secret I will share with you is that I am kind of excited about that.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Arrival in Prague, Kafka, Funicular, and Charles Bridge

October 6, 2010 (Wednesday)

The cab we ordered for 6am turned up around 6:25am. Our flight to Prague was at 8:25am, and I expressed some concern about the timing. The cab driver, however, raced us – and I literally mean "raced us" – to the airport. Despite the heavy traffic, we arrived at 7am. There was no line to check-in, no wait at security, and no problems. We took a bus out to the Smart Wings plane, boarded, and took off on time.

I checked a carry-on so I could take along the waiter’s corkscrew.

We arrived at the Prague airport at 10am, retrieved my bag, and bought a couple of transit tickets at an airport stand.

A note about public transit in Prague: it is cheap, efficient, and easy. For 26 Czech Korunas each ($1.49 as of this posting), we were able to transfer between a bus and the metro to get into old Prague, roughly a 30-45 minute trip.

We took bus 100 to the Zličín stop, transferred to Metro Line B and got off at Náměstí Republiky. After some brief map checking, we found the street we needed and checked into a gorgeous room at the Art Deco Imperial Hotel.

This room was by far the nicest I have stayed in. The bathroom walls were tiled with a richly veined dark marble.

The hotel restaurant, Café Imperial, was decorated in lovely, large art deco mosaics.

We ate lunch at Café Imperial, squeezing between business men and women in their suits and ties. We had Pilsner Urquells, and I ordered the potato soup to start and then braised beef with mashed potatoes. Jer had the club sandwich with a fried egg on it.

After this delicious meal, we explored. On our way to the Charles Bridge, we stopped at the Tourist Information area under the Astronomical Clock in Wenceslas Square and bought a Prague Card. This card allows free entry into a few locations and discounts on others. Very worthwhile.

Across the Charles Bridge (now crowded with tourists and people selling photographs, jewelry, and caricatures) we stopped at the Kafka Museum and used the Prague Card to buy discounted tickets. This museum was interesting – all about Kafka’s life with some interpretative installations to set the mood, such as a darkened room full of black metal filing cabinets, selectively forced open and lit to reveal certain documents and books. A model of a strange torture device, with what looked like a clay person face down in pain, wires coming out of his back. Another room with a few chairs and a continuously looping black and white video of shadowy, fragmented images.

The icing on this absurdity sundae was our visit coincided with a high school field trip. The place was soon packed with bored students, aimlessly shuffling through the place, totally bored.

On leaving, we used our Prague Cards to visit Lesser Tower and climbed to the top to get some overhead shots past the Charles Bridge.

Later we stopped at a traditional Czech restaurant and ordered starters -- nakladaný hermelin (a soft cheese marinated in oil, garlic, and spices), ham, bread, and mustard – and two dark Masters. Delicious.

Refreshed, we decided to find the Funicular, which takes riders up to the top of Petrin Hill.


This is a Funicular

Petrin Hill is known for its great views of Prague, its rose park, Lookout Tower (a miniature Eiffel Tower likeness at 60m tall), observatory, and Mirror Labyrinth. We used our Prague Cards to visit all of it. And let me just say, climbing to the top of an Eiffel Tower copy is still exhausting. Great views though.

We took the Funicular back down, walked to our hotel, visited the hotel bar for a couple of Pilsners (awesome bartender named Michael), and slept.

Versailles and Victor Hugo in the Marais

October 5, 2010 (Tuesday)

We walked across the river to Gare d’Austerlitz and found the ticket counter. We purchased two round-trip tickets for RER C out to Versailles Rive Gauche, and made the 45-minute trip out to the Palace of Versailles. While waiting to leave and trying to figure out the difference between long and short, we befriended a young woman from London named Mary, originally from the Philippines. She was excited about the Takashi Murakami installation at the palace. She was also worried her "smelly food" would offend us. It was just leftovers from the day before.

Rain streaked the train windows on our way out.

When we arrived at the golden gates of the palace the rain had turned to a drizzle, so we started with the gardens. I always wanted to see the gardens.

We walked the grounds for a long time, down to the Apollo Fountain– the sun god in his chariot, racing to light the sky; His efforts were appreciated on that overcast morning. Then we walked back through the hedges to see Bosquet de l’Encélade locked behind a gate. This fountain is stunning, even obstructed. It depicts the fallen titan, Enceladus, as he is consumed by lava, struggling to break free.

Back at the palace it was just noon and we paid for rides on the Petit Train to take us on a slow, bumpy ride over cobblestones out to Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s residence. The château was built in the 1760’s and can be described as simple and elegant.

We hopped back on the train and rode out to the Grand Canal to eat lunch at Le Restaurant La Flottille. Jer had a crepe, I had a glass of red wine and a croque madame.

After taking the train back to the palace we went through security again and used our Museum Pass to enter the grand halls. I was surprised how everything came together in a picturesque, overwhelming, ostentatious whole since previously I’d only seen these kinds of ornate pieces orphaned in museums. Seeing the art and architecture as it was meant to be displayed was very powerful. I was also pleased to see the Hall of Mirrors. Beautiful.

It was a long day at Versailles. We rode the RER back to Gare d'Austerlitz and transferred to Metro line 5. We got off at the Bastille stop, saw the open square and monument, and followed a walking tour from one of the guidebooks through the Marais. It was drizzling again.

At the Bastille square we stopped to get our bearings and spread out our map. A teenage boy holding a skateboard asked if we needed help. I have to say that, although it is a stereotype, rudeness was not a quality I observed in Paris.

We ended up at the corner of Place des Vosges and saw the apartment Victor Hugo rented in 1832. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the interior decoration, as well as his drawings on the walls. There was a chinoiserie salon I particularly didn’t want to leave.

By now our feet hurt. We continued to walk through the Marais. I stopped at a Jadis et Gourmand, a chocolate seller and bought a small box of confections. We admired the cute stores and bars along the route, then took the Metro back to Gare de Lyon and ate at Le Duc de Richelieu. I had the terrine de foie de volaille (pate), scallops, and a glass of white wine. It was the only restaurant on the trip where we had to ask a waiter to translate the menu because we were completely lost. (Je suis perdue)

We ate the chocolates in the hotel room, packed our carry-ons, and slept.

Pantheon, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysees

October 4, 2010 (Monday)

We started late on Monday and on the way to the Panthéon bought lunch at the train station – a quiche legume (vegetables), another jambon et fromage sandwich, and two café crèmes. We rode out to Châtelet-Les Halles, transferred to RER B and rode out to the Luxembourg stop.


Outside the Panthéon

The Panthéon is yet another epic piece of architecture. The interior features an airy dome, under which Foucault demonstrated the rotation of the Earth with his pendulum. Beneath the main level is a secular mausoleum – the final resting place for many famous French citizens including Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, and Alexandre Dumas.


Resting place of Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Emile Zola

We walked back to Notre Dame to ascend the towers, but we missed the cut-off time by fifteen minutes so we walked back across the river to the Hotel de Ville stop. I bought a chicken nems (like an eggroll) and a café (espresso) at a stand.

We took the Metro out to the Arc de Triomphe and climbed 282 steps to the top, where we enjoyed panoramic views of Paris. Eventually we climbed back down and walked along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, in search of a place to eat.

The choices were all too touristy, so we went down a side street (Franklin D. Roosevelt) and picked a brasserie at random, which for me was one of the best meals of the trip. I ordered risotto with mushrooms and roasted chicken on top. Jer had thick steak and fries. For dessert we shared a chocolate mousse.

All risotto I consume in the future will be compared to the risotto I ate that night.

After dinner, we took the Metro back to Gare de Lyon, back to the hotel and sleep.

The Louvre, the Seine, and the Eiffel Tower

October 3, 2010 (Sunday)

We were up around 10am and went down to the breakfast buffet. The automated espresso machine involved a packet and a button; I mostly made it work. For hot food there were scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, and baked beans. There were also some pastries, a few fruit options, yogurt, cereal and water with or without gas. Breakfast was included in our rate.

From Gare de Lyon we took Metro line 1 to the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre stop. It took some finding, but we wandered through the mall past long lines, up, and outside to catch our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and the famous Louvre Pyramid, in search of Passage Richelieu (PR). PR is where we could skip the long lines into the Louvre using our Museum Passes. I asked an official and he pointed us to it.

As a side note, during the previous month there had been at least two threats to French monuments, so all through the trip – and here was the first place we observed it – we saw uniformed military carrying large automatic weapons, pacing the open square, eyeing the crowds.

We found the correct entrance and joined a line of about 5 people. We put our bags through the scanner and entered the Louvre immediately. This benefit alone makes the Paris Museum Pass worth purchasing.

We spent about four hours wandering through the three wings of the Louvre. First, we went to see the Mona Lisa, just like everyone else. But we saw other things too: Winged Victory, a medieval moat, large Egyptian pieces, Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, Cupid and Psyche, beautifully carved marble statues where the flesh looked real, intricately applied ceilings, many busts and paintings...

At some point we shared a chicken sandwich, chips, and a bottle of water from the museum café. From the Louvre we walked to Musée d’Orsay. Our passes allowed us to go in the group entrance, which was a slightly shorter line. At this point jet lag was beginning to catch up with us. The museum is in an old train station that has been renovated, a huge, beautiful building. We saw a Rodin, a Van Gogh self-portrait, Manet and Monet… I was most touched by the Van Gogh, full of blue chaotic swirls. Also, a painting – I forget the artist – of a large dinner party where the lights seemed to sparkle out of the paint.

My art preference is towards thickly applied paint on a canvas full of energy and implied movement.

We left and ate at a café overlooking the Seine. We sat on the sidewalk next to a lot of traffic and marveled at the brazenness of drivers. Along with beers, I ordered salmon bellinis which came with crème fraiche, dill, onion, and a lemon wedge. Jer had a croque monsieur. For dessert we shared crème brulee. All of it tasted excellent.

Spirits refreshed, we took the Metro out to the Eiffel Tower to watch the sunset. Neither of us felt the urge to climb to the top, so we contented ourselves with walking around the park. I was asked to take photos of many tourists with their cameras in front of the monument. I must not have looked like a potential camera thief with the D700 around my neck.

As the sky darkened, the tower lit up beautifully. We walked back to the Metro and rode to Gare d’Austerlitz. From there we walked back across the river to our hotel room and sleep.

Arrival in Paris: Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle

October 1 to October 2, 2010 (Friday to Saturday)

I woke at 5:15am on Friday, October 1, and hopped out of bed excited. The previous night I packed my carry-ons and laid out my clothes by the sink. All l I needed was to shower, dress, wake Jer, and wait for the car service to show at 6:45am.

For the trip I’d settled on Tom Bihn’s Tri-Star as my main bag and for the cameras, the Lowepro Stealth Reporter.

I carried a Nikon D700 for me and my old Nikon D70 for Jer. There was also a portable 60 GB hard drive, a flash, a couple of extra lenses, a small tripod, and a backup CompactFlash card and battery.

The car ride was nice and fast. On the way I realized I’d forgotten my jacket and then decided not to care. SeaTac was uneventful. We arrived in Dallas/Fort Worth about a half hour earlier than scheduled, which made me happy. It’s a great airport, full of light and easy seating. We took the Skylink high-speed train to our terminal and settled in at Cousins Bar-B-Q. (Beef Brisket, black-eyed peas, and mashed potatoes with gravy.)

Paris is nine hours ahead of Seattle. We arrived at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (aka Roissy) at 9am on Saturday, October 2 – about an hour and a half ahead of schedule. No bags to claim and customs was fast – a simple Passport stamp, no forms – and we were on our way. First stop, Tourist Information in Terminal 2 to buy the Paris Viste Carte (1-3 zones, 5 days) – enabling us unlimited and unrestricted travel around Paris -- and a Paris Museum Pass (4 days) – enabling us access to an array of museums, monuments, and attractions plus line-skipping at the Louvre.

A helpful woman at the tourist desk told us there was an issue with the trains, so we opted to take a taxi to our hotel, the Holiday Inn – Bastille, which was actually next to the train/metro station, Gare de Lyon, and not the Bastille.

The hotel was nicely decorated. Our room was on the sixth floor up a small lift. We were determined to stay awake and beat the jet lag, so we unpacked, got the camera gear together, put items in the safe, and walked over to Gare de Lyon to check it out. On the way I tried out my French for the first time at a boulangerie and said “Bonjour, madame. Je voudrais une jambon et fromage s’il vous plait.”

We shared the ham and cheese sandwich on the steps of the station and people watched.

The station was huge and impressive. We decided to stretch our legs and walked along the Seine river out to Notre Dame Cathedral. For caffeine we bought a Coke at a street stand. Entrance to the cathedral was free and the line wasn’t long. We walked through Notre Dame with our heads back, admiring the sheer size and stained glass and, for my part, the ceiling. Four years of studying art history made me a little obsessed with gothic architecture and pointed arches.

Outside and downstairs we used the Paris Museum Pass for the Crypt of Notre Dame de Paris. Around the 1860’s buildings were torn down in front of the cathedral, revealing artifacts and foundations dating to pre-Roman times. Among these, the crypt preserves Roman ramparts, the remains of rooms heated by a system of underground furnaces and pipes, and displays models of early Paris. It was fascinating.

From there we walked to my personal favorite, Sainte-Chapelle, a Gothic chapel. The Museum Pass didn’t allow us to line-skip, so we waited to go through security and have our bags X-rayed. It’s difficult to describe the interior of the upper chapel. You have the sense of great height, light, and air. The walls are almost entirely stained glass floor-to-ceiling full of vivid color and scenes from the Bible. This was the primary church I wanted to see in person. I sat and stared at the walls for a long time.

Hunger took us away eventually. We settled on "Les Deux Palais" across the street. I had a beef filet with pepper sauce with a glass of Sancerre and one of Bordeaux. It was a good meal.

We walked back to the hotel down a street lined with touristy shops. I bought a couple bottles of wine for the room and a waiter’s corkscrew. We got back to the hotel at 5:30pm and I promptly fell asleep.

Lattes and mental gymnastics

My travel narrative is now 12 single-spaced pages in Microsoft Word. There are still two days left, I ran out of steam last Sunday, and I still need to describe the Vatican and the Appian Way. Simple! Of course everybody's over it already and I haven't even posted. Bummer-ific.

I hit a mini wall with my diet today when I decided I was sick of Lean Cuisine. I ate my Butternut Squash Ravioli through the tantrum, but I ate it sadly. So sadly. And when I was done I walked to Starbucks and got a non-fat, no whip grande pumpkin spice latte, which is not as good as a full fat, lots of whip, venti latte but suffices in a pinch.

Mexican food sounds really good right now.

Maybe I will eat six triscuits and a laughing cow cheese wedge instead.

That's as good, right? Stupid diet.

At the last Weight Watchers meeting the leader asked how many of us were in this for life. Pretty much everyone raised their hand but me. I'm taking this crap day by day, I am not all in for life.

Admitting that would crush my spirit, even if it's true.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Photoblog announcement

Administrative update (apologies if this is old news): My photoblog is now on Facebook. Click here to like the page and follow along.

As for the rest, I'm slowly adjusting to my old routine. The cats are giddy to have us back. Chiana follows me around and jumps in my lap if I sit still for a moment. Vash never gets all that giddy, except to resume his spot on my legs every night and purr like a motorboat.

There is an overwhelmingly real possibility I will be playing in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign as of next week. I'm not sure if this is like Fight Club and I'm not supposed to talk about it. So until I find out otherwise, I will share that I'm excited and I look forward to building a character.

Last time I played any sort of IRL role-playing game, my character was created by someone who didn't like me. I ended up playing an incredibly charismatic, beautiful woman with no skills whatsoever. My chief combat move was persuasion, which involved a lot of dice throws to see if I could talk someone into something. No killing. In fights I had to stand behind the group and wait it out.

And that's not how I roll. (See what I did there?)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A cross-post and Lightroom praise

I've been awake since 3am, however I went to sleep at 3pm the day before so don't give me any sympathy. Jet-lag still appears to be an issue.

With all my free quiet time, I fired up a series of Lightroom tutorials. I've owned the product for over a year and never used it. Such inertia. And now I come to find out it's an awesome application, with so much going on. I am mightily impressed.

I won't cross-post too many of these, but here's what I just put up on the photoblog after using Lightroom for the first time:


Eiffel Tower at Twilight, Couple

Maybe you are wondering where are my Europe trip updates and I will tell you. Since I returned I've been writing a narrative of our adventures, which I plan to post incrementally. The words have taken longer than expected, and then I plan to insert photos as well, so it's a beast.

I love October in Seattle. I wonder if I can persuade Jer to go to the Elysian with me today and have some pumpkin beer on tap.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Back in the country

I don't know what time it is or where I am. I mean, there's a clock next to me but it's been lying lately. My body thinks it's 9 hours later than it is so I'm at my desk at 12:25am thinking I should go to bed, however I'd like to wait until after the pictures copy off the portable hard drive.

Does any of this make sense? Let me back up a step.

Jer and I just spent two weeks travelling in Paris, Prague, and Rome. I took a total of 3501 pictures (about 39 GB worth), breaking my previous picture dry spell of the last two years. I won't be posting all of them but there will be a few. Likely at the photoblog. I'm pretty excited by some of them.

I also took notes everyday so I'll try to post some of the text that goes with the pictures here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My First IRL Auction AKA How we came to own another motorcycle

Oh, today. You started early. Jer and I drove out to Renton and arrived at the auction location at 8am sharp. I asked the man guarding the gate how it worked, this King County Vehicle Auction, and he told me to follow everyone else to the trailer and sign up. We'd be given a number and then we could bid.

So we did.

Our objects of interest were the five motorcycles up for auction. Five 2004 Honda ST1300's. Four green, one dark blue. They were all grouped together, outside the trailer. We looked for obvious problems -- scratches, missing pieces, cosmetic flaws. And we ranked what we liked. Jer's friend who is very knowledgeable about these bikes since he drives a similar model joined us. We stood around and I tried to force strategy on the proceedings.

There was no strategy. It was mostly like, well, if you like it you should bid on it. Yeah, okay.

While the guys stood around kicking tires, I wandered through the lot and looked at the Prius up for auction, the buses, and assorted vehicle and vehicle accessories. I wasn't tempted, thankfully.


Maybe tempted a little.

Hours passed. Hours and hours. Bidding began at 9am for lot 1. We were lot 351 or so. So three hours later Jer was waving his bidding number and the auction men were shouting and pointing and we sort of strategically ended up owing King County some money. It was strange. For the previous many hours we'd watched men of every persuasion straddling the bikes, wistfully revving the engines, and punching one another on the arms in a jocular fashion. We figured bidding would be crazy. It was only a little crazy.

The other four bikes sold to two other bidders. We were the only single winner of a motorcycle.

Everything was fine until we got it to the gas station. And then the key broke off in the gas tank lock.

Two hours later and a locksmith who made house calls -- or even gas station calls -- we were home.

Verdict? So far so good. It runs. It was a screaming deal. And it had the fewest miles of all the bikes. Time and a full inspection will tell the rest.

And now I can finally sleep.

Friday, September 24, 2010

"This movie represents what is best in all people."

On the Set of Atlas Shrugged: 53 Years in the Making

I'm excited to see what they do with this.

If you can't see the video embedded in this post, click here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Overheard

On the bus ride home, three college-aged guys sat across from me. They carried Best Buy bags.

The guys spent the whole trip talking about a friend who'd been asked out to dinner by a stripper, totally unprovoked.

Guy 1: So, what about you. Would you go?
Guy 2: Like, if the stripper asked me?
Guy 1 nods.
Guy 2: (considers) Would I have to pay?
Guy 1: For sex?
Guy 2: For dinner.
Guy 1: Why wouldn't you pay?
Guy 2: She's the one with a job.

Aaaand stay classy, metro transit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Weird, Cool, Worth Watching - A Different Side of Mike Rowe

I got this video from Get Rich Slowly. It's twenty minutes long and I love it.

If you can't see the video embedded in the post, you can view it here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yo, words

It's been a long week. My reward is a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale straight from the fridge.

The weather turned; it's raining. I'm inside, warm and comfy, watching stupid television. Just the way I like it.

I love Seattle. I love my house. I love my neighborhood. I love working in downtown Seattle. I feel very lucky to be here.

But you don't want to read about that.

Time is doing its speeding up thing again. I'm taking stuff too seriously that doesn't mean a thing. I'm watching the stock market too closely. I'm reading a lot about game theory and accountability and not about vampires or warlocks or anything fun.

Today was the first day in over a week I haven't dosed myself with cough syrup. That deserves a mention.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Hot Toddy Convert

The only Hot Toddy I ever had was not very good. I might as well have drunk a Tylenol Cold and Flu. It was heavy on lemon, sugar and boiling water, light on complexity.

Tonight I decided to make my own. I used the Hot Toddy Recipe #1 from my diffordsguide -- recipe linked here. I made my own sugar syrup by following the directions in the diffordsguide to Cocktails #7 book -- I dissolved two cups of sugar into one cup of simmering water. I also squeezed a real lemon instead of trying to use juice from a bottle, and I used Glenlivet for the Scotch since that's what we had.

The end result is extremely tasty and soothing, particularly if you're under the weather like I am. I highly recommend it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

See how much sense I make as the Nyquil kicks in

So I'm back from my business trip. To sum it up: I ate too much, I caught a cold, and the hotel room was very nice. There are also a lot of toll roads around the Chicago area, if you were wondering.

The first night we ate at Ditka's and I had a marinated chipotle skirt steak and an iced tea. The guys ordered huge steaks and martinis and the cherry cobbler. I was still trying to be good. Then the next night we ate at Fuddrucker's and I gave up all pretenses of goodness as I spilled liquid cheese on my pants. Then the last night we ate at a German restaurant and I enjoyed some wienerschniztel with a fried egg on top, as well as Bitches' Brew by Dogfish Head.

On the first night I awoke in the huge bed -- through the French doors of my suite -- around midnight with a sore throat. Since then I've been downing orange juice, cough syrup, and assorted lozenges and trying not to breathe on people or things. So that's been fun.

A final noteworthy mention is this is the first time I've ever flown without checking a bag. (It was also my first full body scan in the O'Hare airport. Whoo hoo!) The Tom Binh Tri-Star bag worked perfectly and I was especially impressed by the packing cubes. I can see it getting a bit heavy over time, but with the backpack strap option or the Absolute Strap option it's not too hard to go back and forth between carrying methods.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Water for Fun and Profit

Let's get public accountability out of the way. I'm down a total of 8 pounds in 28 days, so I've gone down, up, and down again in the span of time it takes a zombie rage virus to infect Great Britain. The WeightWatchers web site warns me I am losing too quickly and that I should slow down. And to that I wag my finger and say, Don't fence me in.

It rained today and my rain barrel is full. Cause, effect. You could say it runneth over even, right into the overflow hose.

So I find myself in need of things to water. Maybe I should outsource my sweet H20 supply to California. I could auction liter bottles on eBay and ship them via USPS flat rate shipping. Get rich quick scheme, here I come.

My car is in the shop. Apparently Jer was "concerned" about the "noises" it made when "braking." And the "worn tires." I say he's missing the point. My car is aging "gracefully." It has "character." And if I crank the radio loud enough I can't even hear the noises anymore. So, you know, there's that.

I am too busy building my billionaire water baron empire to worry about these pesky details.

Monday, August 30, 2010

For the love of weird

I've been obsessing about weird fiction lately, as well as assorted fiction that I think of as "weird" but may not technically be in the category (according to Wikipedia.)

I'm thinking of Harlan Ellison, Caitlin R. Kiernan (Unfit for Mass Consumption), Thomas Ligotti, Lovecraft... Maybe I mean speculative fiction? I can't keep the labels straight. Then there's Haruki Murakami. What label is he?

If I'd studied English at the university I could probably keep my labels straight.

So what do all these have in common? Unpredictability, a heightened psychological mood, darkness.

This is what I like. I'll be finishing my reread of "Pillars of the Earth" soon, any unpredictably moody and dark suggestions for what I should pick up next?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Infomercials and rain barrels

I'm watching the P90X infomercial. I shouldn't torture myself like this. Did I learn nothing from the Body By Jake Ab Rocker?

We had houseguests over the past week, which while most pleasant, meant I ate a bit more than my points allowed and did not go to the gym. Maybe we'll just pretend for the purposes of the food log that last week never happened.

Next weekend is the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) and another round of visitors -- I'll just have to see if I learned anything and plan ahead. Shortly after that I hop on a plane for a business trip. So there are some challenges coming up...

On the house front, we are now the proud owners of a fully functioning rain barrel, thanks to the houseguests. Yesterday I watered my plants with water from the barrel and it was just as exciting as I knew it would be.

Between the rain barrel, my window herb garden (ignore that I killed everything but the oregano and parsley), and my kitchen compost pail my transition to Seattle hippy stands at 2 of 6 bars.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Parasite Diet

So how's the diet going, I imagine you asking. Confidentially leaning in, reaching out a hand to rest lightly on my arm, eyes filled with concern. Oh yes, I know that look. The look of pity. I suppress the quick answer, HOW DO YOU THINK. And fling myself towards the nearest exit.

Or, you know, I just talk about it like always.

Not good and not exactly. I haven't been to the gym in a week. My sister paid me a surprise visit, and I chose not to be as strict while she was here -- although I did split all my meals in half. However I've had this stomach bug for the last couple of days, so I'm not gaining.

So basically point tracking is a failure, exercise is a failure, but this stomach bug is fantastic!

I have this image of me in the next meeting, asking the leader how to record points for upchucking. Does it go under the Activity Tracker? Or should I just subtract a few points from something I ate earlier. Because it didn't really count, right?

Right?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Internet Trapz

Guess who got a computer virus? Awww yeah. Joke's on me for trying to find a recipe for pigeon peas.

Situations like this I am grateful for 2 things:

  1. I married a computer nerd with a lot of patience.
  2. I don't work in desktop support anymore.
It was a good one too. I was fast but it was faster. Before I knew it, it installed a fake security program, disabled all of my executables, and periodically opened a web page to display a rotating cornucopia of adult-themed sites -- well, it tried to. I unplugged it from the internet the moment it got all pop-uppy.

So now we're running the MS Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool on a Friday night, as couples do.

Those pigeon peas better be damned tasty, I tell you what.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Weigh-in update

I'd hoped for a two pound loss and ended up with a 3.4 pound loss, bringing the two week total to 7.8 pounds.

This is about the time I get cocky and eat a cheeseburger. Or six.

Two weeks in

This is going to be another WeightWatchers post.

On this, the first day of week 3, my motivation for a healthy lifestyle is waning. It'll be good to have the weigh in and meeting tonight because I could really use a kick in the pants.

I went to the gym four times in the last week. I usually spend about 30 minutes doing some sort of cardio. Then I switch to the strength training machines and free weights for about 20 minutes. Years ago I worked with a personal trainer so I mostly just repeat the routines he used to put me through. I'm easier on myself though, which is both good and bad. I'm starting this process way out of shape; I expect to build up to former glories in time.

I also had my first challenges this week. I went to a party, where there were lots of finger food options and booze. Over five hours, I kept it to the equivalent of a couple of glasses of red wine and had a few carrots with roasted red pepper spread. And a bite of Jer's cookie.

None of this comes naturally. I can't wait for this to become more of a habit and less of a constant conscious effort...

I'm not looking for rewards or sympathy. I'm just trying to explain what this process is like for me since maybe it will ring true for someone else as well.

Last night I went to happy hour and splurged a little, but was still well under my points for the week. One side effect of this process is I feel guilty about drinking because of the effect it will have on my metabolism, even if I have plenty of points to handle it. Awesome. Booze is one of the areas I need to ease up on the crazy or I *will* crack under the pressure.

I highly recommend this recipe for an Easy Enchilada Casserole. When I made it, I used extra lean ground turkey breast and added some taco seasoning to the meat. The whole site is full of excellent WeightWatcher's friendly recipes and is worth a look.

Two weeks down and I'm hoping for a two pound loss tonight. Wish me luck.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On the subject of boundaries

The theme that's run through my last entries has been how much do I share. It may be strange bringing this up now since I started online journalling a whole bunch of years ago (RIP Geocities CollegePark), but the question has been implicitly behind every word I've ever written online. So I appreciate reading how other people approach these same boundaries.

I read a great article the other day that touched on this, "Life After Debt: What It's Like in the Third Stage of Personal Finance." Granted, the subject is personal finance and the author uses real numbers. He also has a very vocal audience with strong opinions. Basically he's really putting himself out there.

And after all his disclaimers and explanations, there are still people who just don't get what he's trying to convey, I think, very clearly. People who lash out in the comments about nothing. A long time ago I quit blogging for a year because my own skin wasn't thick enough. The emails people would send me, just horrible stuff. And I wonder what compels me to keep posting words and pictures linked to myself that could linger out there forever? A sickness, maybe?

Anyway, the subject of the article is what I found really interesting. There's so much information now about how to pay down debt and how to live frugally, that nobody really talks about what's next. I love the article because it gives us a glimpse into what it's like to be comfortable. To have planned well and have choices. To show what happens when you finally don't have to live paycheck to paycheck anymore.

Hardly anyone writes about that. Getting out of debt is the sexy stuff, building and maintaining wealth is the boring part -- unattainable until you attain it, and then you're afraid to talk about it because you don't want to rub it in.

I expect I'll never fully work out the balance of private/public. For now I'm just glad all the angry commenters have been drawn to the bigger blogs and have left me my little soapbox in the corner.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The gym part

The best part of working out at the gym is coming home, getting clean, putting on my pajamas, and sitting still. I'm an old fan of self-sabotage, so sometimes I won't let myself go -- just to be contrary -- and the next thing you know I've forgotten this feeling and it's nearly impossible to pick up the habit again.

I don't know why. Easily distracted?

Hey, a cat.

In full disclosure I'm not going every day. I try to keep it at 3 times a week and see how that works out. Just like the WeightWatchers admission in the last entry, I feel weird about being open about it, like putting it in writing will automatically jinx me.

Eh. It's time to try something new since not talking about it didn't work. I like to think success is likelier when you're flexible and persistent. It's also likelier you'll be able to touch your toes if you're flexible and persistent. Just saying. All sorts of applications.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

So this is WeightWatchers

Hopefully this post doesn't set me up for failure. But here it is. Best to get it out in the open.

Last week I joined WeightWatchers. Yesterday was my birthday as well as my second meeting, and I'm pleased to report I had a loss of 4.4 pounds. (Thanks to everyone who left comments in the previous post on healthy snacks. Very helpful.)

About six months ago I said to myself, "You have one more chance to get healthy on your own. If it doesn't work, you're doing something drastic." And, well, it didn't work. So here I am. I've never diligently followed a meal plan or a points system. Back when I had the personal trainer I kept a food log on fitday.com, but I was complacent about it. I figured if I exercised I was doing fine.

So this is all new to me. I'm very aware this new habit is fragile like a frightened little bunny. To keep me motivated I set up my camera on a self-timer and tripod for the customary "before" shots -- there's nothing like staring at your un-Photoshopped self to force your delusions firmly back into reality -- and I made those photos the desktop background on my home computer.

It's not all about vanity, it's also about health and the way I feel. (Squishy, by the way, is how I feel.)

And that's it, that's what I'm up to. I go to meetings. I abstract nutritional values into points. And I've admitted I have a problem -- though technically that's not part of this particular program.

Part of my "drastic" approach is public accountability, however this post more than any other makes me feel like I'm oversharing, so let's all just play it cool and see where this adventure takes us. Just one day at a time, Bonnie Franklin, one day at a time.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Requesting your healthy snacks

Technically I'm not asking you to give them to me outright like a snackz begz0r. What I'm looking for are some ideas about midday snacks that are closer to the healthy side of the spectrum than the not-healthy.

I'm over carrot sticks dipped in hummus or smeared with Laughing Cow cheese. My go-to snack is 20 raw almonds or a slice of wheat bread with a tbsp of reduced fat Peanut Butter. Golly that makes me sound old. I might as well tell you I tried prunes once and found them to be delightful, which is to say, I am not a picky eater.

Any creative ideas out there to help keep me out of the cookie jar?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday, fun day

Today sucked in one of those "I am going to blow everything out of proportion" ways. Sure, I was on the receiving end of a "Dear Playwright" email. And sure, I found out some of my pictures are being distributed royalty-free without my consent. Oh and sure, I'm feeling like my fairy godmother gave me the gift of being good at the opposite of everything I want to be good at... but is all that a good enough reason to write a pity-party-of-one entry?

Not really.

So I won't post it, but I promise you, it was awful pitiful.

Now I'm at home, enjoying the evening with my husband and a bottle of wine, feeling much better.

On the plus side I found out several of my pictures have sold in the last two years. I am apparently very popular in business textbooks and magazines in the UK and South Africa. So there's that.

The ones I think will sell are never the ones people want. It's that kind of day.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Three Sheets"

If you're not watching "Three Sheets," I urge you to start. Four seasons are available on Hulu now.

It's about a comedian named Zane Lamprey who travels the world and drinks with everybody. Hilarity ensues. See for yourself:

If the video doesn't load click here.