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?


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


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.