Monday, September 26, 2011

The A to Z of Me

What was a CRAYzy morning has given way to a nice, settled Monday afternoon. I've gotten work done, I've stopped sneezing, and life is generally a bit brighter than it seemed in the harsh light of 9:00 a.m.

So, on that note, I am doing this meme. Why? Well, the office is quiet, and it is one way of putting off actually doing the corrections I worked on last night on my (very depressing, sadsack McGee type) novel. I have located a reader, so that means two things: 1) This thing is getting real, and 2) I'm about to ramp up my procrastinating web usage about 200 fold.

A. Age: 28. And I don't know quite how to feel about that.

B. Bed size: Queen. I have always had a queen bed, even as a toddler. I don't see myself moving into a different size anytime soon.

C. Chore that you hate: Washing dishes. I would rather have my toenails ripped out than spend a day washing dishes. Which sucks because my dishwasher is dying a slow death of something horrible and antiquated like TB or something. Something that I can't cure by cleaning it, whispering lullabies to it or kicking the absolute shit out of it. Because I've tried all those.

D. Dogs: I'll just say that I don't like dogs. Not really. I don't like cats either--I'm allergic. I'm not much of a pet person. My daughter has a miniature schnauzer named Hinkleton (if I were to say it belongs to our family, I would risk her wrath, which is not something I am willing to do), and I like him fine, but as far as actually wanting to spend time in the company of pets, no thanks. I especially do not like big dogs. If you have a big dog at your house and it stays indoors, I will not visit you. Period. I know that sounds mean, but I really don't like them or the smell they bring to a house.

So now that I've pissed off dog lovers everywhere, I'll move on.

E. Essential start to your day: A shower and then a little rest to enjoy the silence of my house. I usually go and sit on the couch for about 5-10 minutes apres shower. Sometimes I read a magazine, but most times, I just sit there. It is the only time that our house is quiet for any extended period of time.

F. Favorite color: It has always been purple. Really dark, rich purple, though, none of this namby-pamby lavender stuff.

G. Gold or Silver: I wear mostly silver, but lately have been feeling a bit of gold. I think I'll always be a silver girl at heart though.

H. Height: 5’3”

I. Instruments you play: I took piano lessons as a kid. My mom is a pianist--a damn good one--and she really thought I had some natural talent. I don't. I also played clarinet in the band for about 2 years. I did this mostly as a way to meet cute and nerdy boys but they were too busy playing Dungeons and Dragons to notice.

J. Job title: I recently changed jobs, and to be honest, I have no idea. I work for a small firm and we all just pitch in and do whatever needs to be done. If I were to put it on a resume, I'd probably put something like Researcher/Case Assistant. I like to call myself the Legal Beagle, because I spend a lot of time looking at law.

K. Kids: I have three. Gabby is 12 and she has started wearing high top converses that fold down to reveal a plaid lining and big, puffy headphones around her neck like she is one of the Quad City DJ's. I don't know quite what to say about that. Sam is 7 and is the youngest kid in our area on the Magic card game circuit. He is a self-proclaimed nerd (I don't fight him on that). Alice is 2, loves bling and is a ball of fire. That kid will either rule the world or end up in jail. I'm hoping for the first.

L. Live: I live in the fucking boonies where I grew up. Our town has 1,007 residents. Hopefully, this will not be the case for long because I really

M. Mother’s name: My mom's name is Irana. It is said "I-RAIN-A." My grandparents got it off of a soap opera.

N. Nicknames: My mom used to call me Morgie, and I hated it, so she quit. My oldest daughter calls me MoMo.

O. Overnight hospital stays: Just when my kids were born. I hope that is the very last time. If I ever have another kid, I am doin' it at the house!

P. Pet peeves: Number one is being late or people who are late. I think it shows a total disrespect for yourself and everyone else involved. Also: people who wear pajamas in public. People who don't discipline or watch their children in public places. The word "muggy." Body lotions and candles that are very sweet smelling (namely that Warm Vanilla Sugar stuff from Bath and Body Works. If I wanted to smell a cookie, I'd bake one, ya'll.) The grocery store on the first of the month.

Q. Quote from a movie: I wish I had something really intelligent to put here, and I probably should, given the sheer number of film classes I took in college. Ask me about "quote from a book" and I'll give you some obscure Romanian play quote that I read in college that will make you think twice about our friendship. But movie? Anything from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Growing up, my dad owned and worked on the crew for several stock cars at local tracks. He also watched the race every Sunday. I hate Nascar and will probably never watch another race as long as I live, but I do love me some Ricky Bobby. There's a definite familiarity there. My favorite scene is here. Pick any of those quotes. I also just SQUEE at any mention of the name "Mike Honcho."

R. Right or left handed: LEFT. When I was a kid, my mom would take me to this place in Atlanta's Underground Atlanta shopping complex that sold notebooks for lefties and t-shirts and things like that. It was a real-life Leftorium. I had a shirt that said "Left handers: Only ones in our right minds!"

S. Siblings: I ain't got any. I'm an only child. I used to love it, but I've had my issues with it lately. But then again, if I had a sibling and they were a real jerk, I suppose I'd want to be an only child. Grass is greener and such...

T: Time you wake up: Usually about 5:30 on weekdays. Trouble is, Alice has been getting up around then too, so I end up laying back down with her to get her back to sleep (she will say "Nuggle and nigh nigh, Mommy" and I have to relent to that). That means it is sometimes 6:00 or 6:15 before I get up again which is as grand excuse as any not to exercise. I have to get a handle on this. On weekends, I sleep in until about 7:30 or 8:00.

U. Underwear: My mom got me started on these Gilligan O'Malley bikinis from Target. They are uberthin--I don't know what material they are. They are very comfy, and no VPL. I also like all the underwear from Aerie, although it makes me feel like a dirty old woman to be shopping in there.

V. Vegetable you hate: BEETS. Beets can die in a fire. Matt made borscht once, and just the smell was enough to make me puke. At one of my former jobs, I used to know this woman who ate a pickled beet with her lunch everyday. Just the thought makes me wretch.

W. What makes you run late: I don't like being late (see pet peeves) so I very rarely am. If I am, it is because of some very unforeseen event (like crazy traffic or extreme sickness). Or because Matt or Gabby is involved. You can bet that if that is the case, I am fuming in the background with unmistakable rage on my face.

X. X-Rays you’ve had: I used to get bronchitis as a kid a lot, so my lungs quite a few times. I think I had my ankle x-rayed once when I was a kid and did something weird to my achilles tendon in ballet class. My grandfather and his boy scout troop built the x-ray room at the clinic where I went as a kid, so every time I had to get it done, someone told me about that. That's what I remember--not the actual procedures.

Y. Yummy food that you make: I can bake pretty well. Amongst my dad's family, I am the pie girl. My daughter is always very proud of my cupcakes and her friends ask for those quite a bit. My son is a big fan of my mashed potatoes, and I have to admit, they are pretty bomb diggity. There is a secret ingredient, and I ain't a tellin'.

Z. Zoo animal: I really like hippos. And I like walruses. These are pretty rare things to see at a zoo, believe it or not. Probably because they are so big. I have been to a freaking ton of zoos, and have only seen hippos in San Francisco (and one died while I was living there) and in Memphis. Walruses I have only seen at Six Flags in Vallejo, CA. My kids think that my love of these two animals is amazingly hilarious. They like to buy me hippo and walrus things or send me pictures of them. I have a little plastic walrus I carry around as a good luck talisman. His name is the Walrus of Plenty or WoP. Don't ask.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I have a crush on Johnny Cash and other stuff you did not need to know.

I am alone in my office today. It is awesome. It is not that I dislike the people I work with totally--I don't. They are, for the most part, easy to work with and friendly. But there is something freeing about being in one's office and being able to listen to music all day. And getting work done without the pile getting any higher. And doing those things that need to be done, like packing files away and getting keys made and drinking vast quantities of Diet Coke while making files for things. Organization can be oppressive sometimes. When one is alone, it is just right.

I knew that I'd probably have time to write a blog post today so I thought briefly about what to tackle. I have a post that is just dying to be finished about moms and their inability to give truthful advice to each other. And another about women and self-deprecation. Those are there for another day, though. Today, I just feel like typing out things that are, for lack of a better term, random. Things that are of no particular interest to anyone really.

My Top 6 Favorite Songs
1. Suffragette City by David Bowie. When I was in college and made coffee for a living, I always worked the closing shift. My favoritest manager ever would turn on music for us as we did the mopping up and putting away. He would play Suffragette City for me just so he could hear me yell "WHAM BAM THANK YOU MA'AM!!!!" And I did it, no matter how tired I was, and yes, it always made me feel 700 times better.
2. Howling for You by The Black Keys. I adore this song. It is my "getting ready to go somewhere" song. I also have a black skirt that I call my Howling for You skirt. I don't know why. It just seems appropriate.
3. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. Thematically, this song fits my station in life better than any other (except for maybe Beg Steal or Borrow by Ray LaMontagne).
4. Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones.
5. Soma by the Smashing Pumpkins. This was my favorite song when I was my daughter's age. She is enamored with Cobra Starship right now. I wonder if she will keep a place in her heart for them when she is my age.
6. Because the Night by Patti Smith. Because I can sing it like nobody's business.
And a near tie--Better Man by Pearl Jam. I have a whole teenage pseudo-romantic story to go along with this one, but that's for another day. Also, Knockin' on Heaven's Door by Bob Dylan.

I am thinking of applying to get my MFA next year. I don't really know. I am definitely considering it. And this is officially the first time I've admitted that to anyone. WHEW. In order to do that, I need to work on my (sad, whiny) novel. And in order to do that, I need to get someone to read it for me. I am thinking of asking my high school English teacher, which seems a bit sad. I also thought of this professor I had in college, but I can't figure out if I want to ask him because I think he would be a good source for help on my writing or because I think he is hot.

If I don't write the great American novel (or at the least, a serviceable novel that someone can make a really crappy movie adaptation of), I think I am going to open a pie shop. Or start a Patti Smith cover band.

I do not know how to ride a bike. Another fact about me that few people know. I had a bike as a kid, but I never really learned--the best I could do was fly down the hill behind our house on it (which technically, a blind paraplegic monkey could do). I have decided I really want to learn. I have consulted a couple of bike riders about this, and the overwhelming consensus is that yes, I can learn, but that it is going to hurt a lot more when I fall now that I am an old lady. But I think I am determined (I think....) and I think I am going to go through with it. I have located an old bike of my mom's to learn on. Now, I don't think I am going to be any great bike rider. But at least I will know how. And I can, you know, if called to by a deranged serial killer who tells me that he will disembowel me unless I can bike in a circle while singing the Marseillaise with peanut butter in my mouth, do what needs to be done.

I have never liked potato chips. I mean, they're ok, and I'll eat them at a party or with some beer or something. I like the baked ones ok. BUT. I have become obsessed with Kashi pita chips. I really need to stop with the pita chips. But they are so good! So amazingly good. And because they are from Kashi, I can lie to myself and say that they are good for me. Yesterday, I really wanted some, so I went to Wal-Mart. And they didn't have them! God, I hate Wal-Mart. I hate Wal-Mart more than I hate beets.

I have lost the will to watch Law and Order: SVU since Stabler left. A pour out for my homie.

Sometimes I feel like I am a girl without a country.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Top Five Food Items to Bake this Fall

As you can tell, I'm really feeling the Top Five list lately. Why? I love lists. I work best off a list--just ask my boss who keeps them coming all day long (she is out of the office this morning, which gives me ample opportunity to write this). So when planning to enjoy my favorite season, I feel like I have to have one just to get everything done and properly enjoyed. Is that weird? There is something to be said for spontaneity, but I think I may have left that behind at around 23 or 24.

Fall is probably my favorite season. That is a popular feeling these days, as anyone with a Pinterest account can attest. Everywhere you look, people are posting pictures of golden leaves and pumpkins and everything flavored with pumpkin that you can possibly think of. I get it people--as a nation, we like pumpkin. Fall is also a very twee season, I think. Gone is Summer's blaze and the bikini-body-onslaught that defines it and we're not quite to the overall grandeur of the holiday season. Fall is stuck in the middle, being all cutesy and enticing with its sweater layers and homey appeal. There is no pressure in Fall, I don't think. It is a time to enjoy the outdoors but get used to the pleasantness of the indoors again. It is a liminal time, exalting in its being stuck in the middle.

Fall is definitely my favorite time to bake. I love baking year round, and holiday baking definitely has its own attraction, but there is something lovely about being in the kitchen in the fall. The ingredients that abound are amazing tasting with all the freshness of summer but the warmth of a winter fire.

To carve out time to take part in baking (as well as running and very possibly learning to ride a bike--more on this later), I took the step this weekend to start a weekly (or even biweekly) "Cooking Sunday." "Cooking Sunday" is a day for me to assemble meals and put them in the freezer for easy access during the week. This is something I've always thought of doing, but never quite got around to. This past Sunday, I made a huge batch of chili (that we had for dinner, with some of the leftovers stocked in the fridge for lunch this week and the rest frozen), cilantro lime chicken for tacos, carnitas, and chicken kiev. We had the chicken kiev last night, and despite a small hiccup with a (much) longer baking time than expected, it was delicious. And easy. And in fact, I spent a large portion of last night, sitting on my bed, wondering what I could possibly get into with my newly found spare time. Tonight, I plan to use that spare time to make blueberry muffins (which I meant to make on Sunday but didn't because I went to two parties instead!), stir together some homemade salsa, and perhaps, if I'm feeling spry, make some of my truffle cookies for Alice, who keeps looking at me with her huge eyes and saying "Choc-wate....COOKIE!." (I should note that this is a huge step for Alice, verbally, as until very recently, she called chocolate "Fuck cat." As in, when at a restaurant, my grandmother asked if she wanted some ice cream and she yelled, "YES! FUCK CAT!" and I had to say loudly and uneasily, "CHOCOLATE! SHE WANTS CHOCOLATE SUNDAE! HA HA!") Other days I plan to use that spare time to sit around on my couch and do absolutely nothing or to, you know, keep my daughter from becoming some kind of deranged pre-teen outlaw clad in gray jeggings and hair feathers who attacks Tokyo after she doesn't get enough "Likes" on her perfectly crafted Facebook status.

But, without further adieu (or rambling), here is a list of other things that I can't wait to make this fall:

1). Maple Walnut Fudge. I really like fudge, as the good people who staff Kilwin's in Gatlinburg, TN can tell you. Of course, the chocolate variety is my favorite, but I also love my grandmother's peanut butter fudge. And chocolate is kinda "done" too--my mom and I always make a batch to take at Christmas time, using the recipe she got off of the back of a Nestle package when she was my daughter's age. I'm really digging this stuff because it is different and oh so Fall. Plus, my grandmom always finds some great fresh walnuts that she passes on to me during Fall. Here is the recipe I plan to use, although I haven't done any other research to see if I have a different recipe (with pictures--always a plus when making candy!) in a cookbook at home.

2). Sourdough bread. I have been wanting to get a starter going forever, and this just might be the time. I'm really seeing this made into panini or with a big pot of soup. Planning on using the recipe set forth in The Cheese Board: Collective Works cookbook, from the shop/cafe I so adore in Berkeley.

3). Focaccia. Focaccia is delicious, and though I've made it a few times, I don't think I've ever really gotten the hang of it. I really plan to this time around. I feel like I've seen this in a Barefoot Contessa cookbook that is hanging around in my kitchen, although I could be vastly wrong. If all else fails, I will go with Joy of Cooking on this one--just a good basic to get me started.

4). Pumpkin Roll. Every cook in the South, it seems, has a day set by to just make pumpkin rolls. I am a glorious exception, because I will admit that I have never made one. My mom has made many of them in her day, maybe even sold a couple. I have made a Buche De Noel a few times, so I know the rolling technique, so perhaps I am well prepared for this task. Perhaps not. I would really like to find a kind of off-kilter pumpkin roll, maybe with cinnamon cream cheese in the middle. I really adore cinnamon cream cheese on red velvet cupcakes (just enough to say "HMMMMM...."), and feel like it is a natural here.

5). Classic Apple Pie. I have made many, many apple pies in my day, a lot of them for my Uncle Ricky who hides them and won't allow anyone else to have one. I always use the same recipe for his, from an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook my mom got as a wedding present in 1973. When I make them for my dad, I like to use Granny Smith apples and a healthy slug of bourbon. My late grandmother preferred her apple filling on the top of a thin cheesecake with a vanilla wafer crust. This year, though, I want to perfect the art, maybe with some local apples. I've even considered perfecting a French tart while I'm at it, with a pate brisee crust. And when I do it, the pie will be all mine. No sharing allowed.

Does Fall bring out the cooking bug in you? If so, please share your recipes and secrets!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Top 5 Fall Desires

I have to admit that I am a bit behind on going shopping for Fall. I usually don't take my kids Back to School shopping per se because it is still pretty freaking hot in VA when they go back to school, so I know that new jeans will go unworn for at least a few weeks. Plus, I have discovered that things that look awesome before school starts might be eschewed for a a newer style or desire once classes actually commence. This year, I made the plan to take them later, and I thought I would just do my shopping at around the same time. After all, my mom has moved to an area with lots of outlet malls and other shopping destinations, so I planned to visit her once she got settled and take advantage of the plentiful options. And in all the busy-ness of going back to school and having Allie's birthday and cleaning out my garage and just generally BEING ME, I haven't even really looked online to pick up a few things like I normally would.

But now I can feel the nights getting cooler and the mornings starting to feel crisper. I adore Fall, I really do--that nip in the air takes me back to college and walking on brick sidewalks with leaves swirling around my ankles. Sipping strong coffee and reading Paradise Lost. Good stuff. Moreover, I love Fall clothes--the sweaters, the tweed, THE BOOTS. But I feel lost a bit this year, not having purchased anything new for my coffers. Sure, I have the stuff from last year. But there is something sublime about that first new sweater of the season, the way your arms feel when it is no longer oppressive to have that nubby fabric on your arms but instead, welcome. So I find myself dreaming a bit, taking lunch hour jaunts to my favorite websites and planning, planning, planning. I made my lists over the weekend (both for me and for my lovely darlings), and I am starting to feel on top of things.

*I guess I should note here that making fashion lists of "Must Haves" each season is another indication of my particular brand of cray-cray, but it is also wholly helpful if you are trying to build a wardrobe and don't want to end up with a whole bunch of say, long sleeve t-shirts, and nothing else. It is just like going to the grocery store--you wouldn't go there without a plan, I dare to say, so why attack a whole season worth of clothes purchasing without a well-defined list to keep you in order? So yes, crazy, but helpful, and budget friendly.

Here is my Top 5 List of things to look for, with a heads up that there will be more. Oh yes. More.

1. Orange Full Skirt. The plan heading out of the gate, at least, was orange. Now I'm starting to think a nice golden yellow would be nice, even something the color of olive oil. This is a bit of a tricky purchase, so it is a bit odd that it is at the top of my list, as I am short and full skirts, unless they are the perfect length, have a tendency to send me on the one way express to StumpyTown. This is a contender right now (only available in the yellow color that I spoke of), but maybe not as full as I want. And I'm really partial to the orange. I feel I'm going to have to try a few of these on, even if I end up ordering online, just to get my bearings. Right now, I'm seeing it with this shirt that I bought earlier this week or with its unpatterned cousin which hangs in my closet and these lovely shoes, which I own in my dreams. Or with cognac boots which you will be seeing further down. I also see it with a neutral v-neck, perhaps in merino. I had this gorgeous ivory J. Crew merino v-neck in California, but I lost weight and it doesn't fit anymore (the hidden, soft, white underbelly of going to a smaller size), but I would love to find a dupe. And we all know me and my preponderence of black sweaters and other tops--this would be a great way of utlizing those.

2. Blazers--tweed and bright. The last few seasons, I've really wanted some nice jackets, but I haven't gotten them. Well, I take that back--last year, I got a great tweed moto jacket, and a ponte moto jacket at Gap on Black Friday that I love and can't wait to pull out again. But as far as blazers go, I've struck out mightily each year. The fit is always a bit off or the look is too stuffy for me. Maybe I just don't know what to pair them with. Or maybe I have Hulk arms.... This year, though, I'm coming back to the plate. I love the brightness of this velvet Schoolboy from J.Crew, but I'm not totally sure about the velvet yet--for some reason, it screams holiday dress to me. If I could figure out a way to style it with items I already have, I know I'd be drooling. Last year, I missed out on a beautiful houndstooth jacket at Gap that I have been dreaming about since (I had it in my hand! In my size! But I talked myself out of it, and I have regretted it ever since), but I feel like the longer length on this riding jacket might work and finally make me forget it. I'm feeling that with jeans and boots on the weekend.

3. Bright/printed pencils. I have realized lately that it does me no favors to purchase work pants for myself. I'm just not as comfortable in them. Sure, it is nice to have a pair of well-fitting black slacks in my closet for a day when nothing else works, but more and more, I find myself gravitating toward skirts and dresses. I used to think that skirts fit me weirdly, but either my body has changed or the skirts have because I am wearing my standard black J. Crew pencil to death. And although basic black is versatile and great, I'm really feeling the bright colors I'm seeing lately. Of course, I am partial to J. Crew's loveliness here, but it is not on sheer inertia of brand loyalty. Their pencils do have the best fit, and I feel, the best bang for the buck as far as classic style and quality fabric. The printed varieties at J. Crew Factory are also lovely, but I do warn that the quality is not as good--I've had a particular skirt to my grandmother for repairs at least 3 times here (seam falling, back slit issues, a strange hole in the waistline). I also dig the ponte varieties I have seen, including the real steals at New York and Company--the plum one I recently purchased is no longer available online, but the deals are great, and I found the fabric to be thick and to hang nicely.

4. Cognac Boots. If you follow me on Pinterest you know that I have been a bit obsessive about finding the perfect pair(s) of boots. I have a pair of black riding boots that I like a lot (and whose appearance belies the cheap price I paid for them) and a pair of well-loved Frye Harnesses in a tan color. I want to add to my collection this season--if there is one thing that I can wear that maks me feel like a million bucks, it is a pair of boots. I have wrestled with whether I am going to buy one pair of holy-crap-amazing-I'll-be-buried-in-these-suckers boots (i.e., another pair of Frye's) or if I want to get a couple of pairs of pleasant, nice, gets-the-job-done pairs now and hope that I happen into a bit of cash around the holidays and pony up for Fryes then. I am opting toward the first option for now, mostly because I have started to come up with outfit ideas that utilize more than the one pair. Plus, it takes the pressure off of me a bit to get the PERFECT pair and allows me to experiment a bit with looks so that I know what to look for when the time comes to lay down the big dough. My first pair, I'm thinking right now, will be a cognac pair. I especially am loving the look with black--especially a black jersey dress and tights (see below!) or black riding pants and a black tunic-y sweater-y thing and a turquoise necklace (just go with me on this--I saw a similar ensemble on Bruce Springsteen's wife on a benefit concert I was watching and it was magical). Right now, I contemplating these which I know have been done TO DEATH, but which are at the price point that I'm looking at right now. Moreover, I like the wedge heel on them and think I could dress up/dress down pretty easily. I still am looking for suggestions, though, so if you have one, you know where to find me.

5. Black jersey dress. I have lived the summer in dresses, mostly ones made of jersey. I am wearing one right now come to think of it (with a cardigan and sensible office footwear, of course). Facing a world without this quick option in my closet? NO THANK YOU. A few requirements--it has to have sleeves so that I can wear it without a cardigan or jacket (I will probably pair with another layer most of the time, but I want to have the option not to), it can't be too long, it can't look weird with tights, and, most importantly, I have to be able to wear it to work and on the weekends, no problems. Too much to ask? I hope not. I haven't found "the one" yet (and really feel like this might be an in-person grab when I do), but here's something similar. Simple, to the point, and versatile.

So what is on your must buy list this season?

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Top 5 Beauty Items EVAH

I know that the last few posts to this blog have been of the Debbie Downer variety. Sorry about that. Life has been busy and not altogether fun the last few weeks, but that doesn't mean that it is all bad. It does mean, however, that the only times I've actually taken the time to come out with something on the ole blog is when I'm feeling overwhelmed or tired or upset and just needed an outlet. And I will say that writing each of those posts made me feel much better. Hitting that "publish post" button is kind of like my therapy.

But you know what else makes me feel good? BEAUTY PRODUCTS. They make me feel like I'm on crack--a really nice crack that doesn't make me lose my teeth or force me into any situations where I have to consider what horrible things I would do to a Republican senator for a little scratch. I get this honestly--growing up, many nights that started off poorly would end in a trip to a quiet beauty counter in some desolate Belk's and a new lip gloss. Witness this verbatim (as best as I can remember it) conversation with my mother, who recently moved:

Mom: Well, I'll just pick it up when I go to Dillard's next week.
Me: What are you getting at Dillard's?
Mom: Well, I just haven't been to that one yet. And I need to go find it and see what it's like. For when I need it.

And yeah, I knew exactly what she meant. And for those of you who don't, you have to realize that she recently took a teaching assignment at a college that had an Ulta on the same exit. That wasn't the only reason, but it was a big draw. For when she needs it.

So without further adieu, I give you My Top 5 Beauty Items, EVAH.

1. Nars Orgasm Blush. (See an original post about it here.) Nars Orgasm is that kind of holy grail product that you find once in a lifetime. It is kind of like true love in that regard. What makes it so special? Well, the color for one. It's that "Oh look at my cheeks! ONLY BETTAH!" kind of look. There is a bit of subtle sheen that comes off fresh--not tarty or too young. Also, this stuff lasts. And lasts. And lasts. I have used this every day of my life for about 4 years (it is a very true fact that I wore it while in labor with Alice and touched it up that afternoon--a fact which many of the nurses found to be humorous) and I'm only on my second compact. That should tell you something. Lastly, this stuff looks good on everyone. My mom wears it and she is 56 and has a much different skintone than me. She even has it in The Multiple. And as we have discussed together, the color really seperates the women from the girls. It takes a strong ass woman to walk into a Sephora and say loudly and proudly, "I'll take one of your finest ORGASMS please!"

2. Moroccan Oil. (Original post here.) They say that absence makes the heart go fonder, and that may not be true in all cases. Absence sometimes makes the heart go on Facebook and rekindle with lost loves. Or it makes the heart start hitting on that cute Starbucks barrista who really understands you...and how to shake your double shot to perfection. But when it comes to some hair products, this is very true. I had Moroccan Oil and I loved it. Dreamed of it. Wanted to marry it in a very twee ceremony where we read vowels printed off the internet and take pictures of our hands making hearts. And then I ran out. It was over the summer and I was busy and had started cutting my own bangs, so I wasn't at the salon to replenish my stock. I thought about ordering more online, but didn't. Either I kept forgetting or I went over my budget for the week or I was on vacation. You know the drill. So I went without. And I'll say, my hair missed the stuff. I started getting gnarly tangles on the back-right of my head. I would pull them out, soak them with conditioner, and then they'd come back. Weird. The ends of my hair looked deader--fried even. Some of this I attributed to summer activities--FUN IN THE SUN, YO--but it was then that I realized that the major difference was the Moroccan Oil. As soon as I bought it again and remembered how to use it (start with a little on ends and work up through wet hair), life continued on and again and my hair was shiny, lustrous, and AWESOME. And the world continued spinning on its axis.

3. L'Oreal The One Sweep Eye Shadow: When I first wrote about this here, I was not as enthused with this product as perhaps I should have been. It was servicable, yes, but not something fantastic or life changing. It was pretty. Definitely pretty. However, I didn't realize just how awesome it was until I my life got a good deal more demanding after summer was over and the kids were back in school. Then it became imperative for me to get ready even faster (since I have to be at work 30 minutes earlier than I used to) and to look even prettier (new title means I'm with the public more). That's when I realized that this stuff is magic. In just a few rushed minutes, I can put on my whole face of make-up, including eye shadow, which used to be the hardest part (and the most likely for me to skip). When I'm feeling especially daring, I've found that a little liner picks the whole thing up. The most conclusive evidence that I like this stuff? Not only did I repurchase it when I ran out, I got three more colors. And for a girl that never repurchases, that just goes after the next shiny thing like some sort of terrier on meth, this is saying something.

4. MAC Mineralize Satinfinish Foundation. This is another one of those, "You don't know what you've got, till it's go-one" kind of things. I used to buy this stuff when I lived in California. I'll admit that first I bought it because I just really liked how this particular drag queen who did makeovers put it on me. It is the one time in my life that I looked in the mirror and thought, "HOLY CRAP, I LOOK STUNNING." But then I realized that even with my untalented paws applying it, it was still pretty damn nice. I have a hard time finding foundation because I am exceedingly white, and everything that I try and like gets discontinued (AHEM, PRESCRIPTIVES.), but this has been around for at least 5 years and still works like a charm. And it's funny--I fight its working. I have tried everything else since I found it--drugstore brands, other prestige brands--and always wish I had gotten this. Which brings me to a good point--if you find something you like, you're probably not going to find something that measures up. I have wasted tons of money trying to pick up something that would be just as good, or do in a pinch and failed miserably each time. So you best sack up, drive the hour and a half to go pay $40 for it, buy yourself a caramel macchiato on the way home and just forget about it.

5. Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose (See my original review here) When I bought this, I went typically ga-ga for it, as I well should have. It is awesome, the lipbalm equivalent of coming home to find Ryan Gosling in your living room holding a plate of chocolate eclairs and a declawed baby koala. To be honest, though, when I bought it, I thought of it as a typically spring/summer product--light, airy, easy to apply and cute. However, as we have inched into Fall, I've seen that this product is going to be in my purse (and in my makeup bag and in my desk drawer--yes, I have three tubes) all year round. The color is the perfect "totally my lips, but better" and I love that the formula moisturizes well while looking pretty. As someone who is a chronic lipbiter when confronted with a stressful situation, I can say that this product does a wonder on my lips, even after the worst day. It is my go-to lipcolor for work and play, and I love it, in the way that my daughter loves Dora, deserts love the rain, and Justin Bieber loves the nose candy (What? You don't think he does? Did you see that movie? That's the only excuse for that nonsense.).

In closing, I will point out that combined together, these products not only allow you to have sex with Joe Mauer, they allow you to take him on an apple picking excursion where you have a charming photo shoot with a pile of leaves, wear cardigans from Anthropologie, and drink pumpkin spice lattes from an independant coffee house, possibly out of those big mugs that are more like bowls and that you bought a lot of when you were in college, thinking you would make your own coffee, and then you were like, "Fuck this noise. I'm just going to eat an entire box of cereal out of this crap and watch E! until I puke." And then, you know, you'll have sex and fall asleep in a lovely pile on a bed with sheets that he lovingly knitted together for you out of old Twins t-shirts, using a pattern that he pinned on Pinterest just last week. It's like that, yo.

So, if you need me, I'll be the girl in the cardigan, waiting for the Twins' no good, very bad season to end and patiently reapplying her lipbalm.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11

I'll just be honest and say I've never really observed September 11. I've never paid attention to the specials on TV or watched the various memorials. The date served as a small reminder of the day, but nothing more.

This year has been different. My kids have shown a real interest in it, as they are both at the age to where things like this are questionable. They both like history, and because of that, both like the History Channel. And the History Channel shows a lot of September 11 documentaries and things like that. We watched a couple of them as a family, and I answered the precipitating questions about each. In doing so, I thought a lot more about the event than I have since it happened.

The most obvious question that anyone asks is the ubiquitous "Where were you?" kind of thing. I was 18. It was my freshman year of college at The College of William and Mary; I had been at college for just a few weeks. I was living on my own for the first time, such as it was--interestingly, I was living in a hotel room as the dorm I had been assigned to was being ripped apart because they had found asbestos in it. I was taking English 203, Calculus, Biological Anthropology, and a freshman seminar called Indian Fiction. I had a crush on the professor of that one.

On September 11, I got up early and went to my 9:30 Biological Anthropology class. I rode a bus from the hotel, and I remember being the only one on it. I was the kind of kid, at least during my freshman year, that showed up early for class so that she could review her reading and make extra notes and generally just be ready. I got to the room where the class was held, Washington 201, which is one of the biggest rooms on Old Campus--one of the only ones that can fit over 100 students. I took a seat in the middle of the right side even though I was the only one there. A guy who was a real gunner--my God this guy was annoying, which means that he's probably a doctor now--showed up. We had never talked before, but all of a sudden, there he was, right beside my seat. He asked me if I knew what was going on, and I told him that I didn't. He told me about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. I don't really remember having a reaction. I remember thinking that it must have been a horrible accident. We talked for a bit, then he went to his seat, and then he got up and started walking around. Again, I didn't think anything of it. Nervous guy--nervous energy.

Matt was taking the same class that semester. We had planned to take a class together, even though at the beginning of that semester, we were not really getting along. We did enjoy the class though--well, I take that back. We both hated the class, thought the professor was arrogant and a little weird. But it was fun having someone in there who rolled their eyes at all the same times. We generally sat together and commiserated for an hour and a half and then went our separate ways for the day.

Matt came in around the same time that lots of other people were coming in, which is unusual since he was usually late. He said that he had been brushing his teeth back in the French house and had seen the second plane hit. It was about that time that people started realizing what was happening. We talked quietly until the professor came in. She was weirder than usual and we spent the first part of class with just everyone comparing notes on what they had seen or heard. At some point, her teaching assistant came in and whispered that a plane had hit the Pentagon. The professor told us, and all Hell broke loose. Most kids who go to W&M have some relationship with the D.C. area: either they live there themselves or they are a diplobrat or have a family member working in the government. People started getting up and running out. A few people screamed. I remember a girl standing in the hallway, crying and punching numbers on her cellphone. Matt and I left, but didn't really know where to go. We walked together to the University Center, more following the crowd than anything. I remember laughing uneasily on the way there--I had not seen any footage yet, and nothing felt really "real." I remember thinking that this all could be some elaborate joke.

When we got to the U.C., we watched the towers fall on the big screen TV there. People cried and hugged each other. I remember being really numb about the whole thing. I guess I was scared. I felt strange and out of it--unlike most of my classmates, I didn't know anyone in D.C. or New York. I had been to both cities--had a picture of myself on a ferry with the World Trade Center in the background hanging in my dorm room. But I had no idea how to feel. I bought myself a peanut butter mocha frappuccino thing from the college coffee house and walked to Calculus, thinking I'd get out of that and go home. The professor, a very strange Canadian man who just may have been a sociopath, told us that he didn't understand what the big deal was and made us do a bunch of problems that none of us understood. What a douche. But what can you expect from the country that gave us Nickelback?

It wasn't until I got back to my hotel room and started watching TV that the whole gravity of the situation hit me. I started to get scared, watching the military units from around Newport News and Norfolk starting to go into threat stage. I finally got a hold of my mom, who begged me to go to stay with my uncle in Richmond. Why? I have no idea. I sent an especially fraught email to the professor I had a crush on, who advised me to come to his office the next day and gave me some Buddhist texts to read before I came. Like a boss.

And then Matt came over to my room. We watched the footage for a while, and then decided we had to get away from it. Since I was living off-campus, I had my car, so we went out to eat at Ruby Tuesday. I have no idea how we picked it--a lot of places were closed, but Ruby Tuesday was open. We were the only people in the restaurant. We went to Target and then came back to campus. I did some homework, talked with my roommate, and went to bed. Matt and I promised to see each other the next day, and I was fine with that. We saw each other for every day after that, as I'm sure you know.

And I still didn't know what to think or how to feel.

A few days following the attack, classes were dismissed for the day. I went to the campus's memorial, and finally, the waves of grief and sadness started hitting me. On my way back to my room, I picked up a copy of our college's newspaper. On the front, I saw the shining eyes of a girl, much like myself. She was an alumna, had graduated the year before and she had died when the plane hit World Trade Center 1.

I read enough to find out that like me, she was a mother. She had balanced having a child (born before her senior year at W&M) with getting her degree. She was married to another W&M alum. She was from VA. She was beautiful and full of life and resilient and intelligent. And now, she was gone.

Seeing that face is what brought it home to me. Just what we had lost. I think of her every year, wonder what her life would have been like if she had been late for work that morning. Every year, I think about her in relation to my own life--Would she have moved? Left NY? Would she worry about her daughter growing up too fast, the same as me?

The year I've thought about her the most. Her daughter and my oldest daughter are the same ages, and I have started to wonder if they will ever meet--if they will both follow the route of their parents and go to W&M. I wonder if she would message her daughter on Facebook like I do, even when that daughter is just a room away, if she would send her daughter funny pictures of dogs in bathing suits. And my youngest is two now, the same age as that daughter on 9/11/01. What would it be like to leave her now?

Gabby has asked me lots of questions this last week. Where was I? What did I do? Was I scared? I have answered truthfully. She asked me how I felt that day. And I am truthful there to. I told her that I didn't know how to feel. And that that didn't change, until I met someone who I wish I had known earlier, who I think of every year, who I would give lots of things just to buy a coffee for one day and share memories about pushing a stroller around the Sunken Gardens.

Rest in peace, Alysia.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Morgan and the Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day

I realize how horrible it is that I come back from an extended hiatus, where the last post was a typical sadsack type affair in which I quoted a Ryan Adams song and became very dramatic and angsty, and I return with a title like the one I just typed. But here's the thing. When today is over, as it will be in just 10 glorious hours, I will laugh about all this. Because from the outside, all of this is comical in a wonderful, belly laughing way. Perhaps for you it will be comical right now. And from what I've read on blogs and via Facebook status message, today just sucks for everyone, all around. Today, Tuesday, September 6, is just a giant douche. It should die in a fire.

Let me first start out by saying that it has rained here FOREVER. It started over the weekend, continued into yesterday and is still sort of sprinkling right now. Rain in VA at this time of year is usually of the variety that only sticks around for a bit, an hour tops, and then dissipates . This, however, has been unrelenting. Now, I know this is small potatoes for those of you affected by hurricanes and tornadoes and all of the jazz, but let me be clear: this blows. Unless you are at home, under your covers with a good book, there is absolutely nothing good that can come of this. Again, with emphasis: BLOW-Y.

The rain yesterday was so heavy that it caused a leak in my house. I, in all my years of living on my own, have never had a leak. This is important because it explains why I was running through the house when I discovered it, yelling insane things about buckets and towels and rain boots. Where does the leak spring up? Well, of all places that it could have happened, of all easily discoverable places, it happens behind my closed closet door. So I don't notice it or hear it until well after it got started. So all of my clothes got wet. Puddles formed inside of my pumps. I don't have to tell you that that BLOWS. I took things out of the closet, but I didn't get everything in time, of course.

So with that in mind, and just for ease, and well, because you guys seemed to like it last time I did it, I will give you a brief, truthful run-down of my day:
--Get up. Wonder if I am being tortured for sins committed in a past life. Getting up after a three day weekend is like that.
--Take a shower. Everything is still going ok here. I am surprised.
--Wander into kitchen. Realize that I have neglected to buy anything for breakfast the day before. Eat a cookie and drink some orange juice. NUTRITION! (I should point out that the cookies are ok, nutrition wise, made from this recipe.)
--Wander back into bathroom to blow dry hair. Find that the water and leak has tripped up the wiring, so now none of the outlets in the bathroom have power. Fiddle around with it, thinking I can fix it if I just click it on ONE MORE TIME until I have very little time to get ready.
--End up putting hair in very unfortunate ponytail.
--Realize that nearly all clothes are wet with rain.
--Find favorite chambray shirt clean and pressed. SCORE. Decide to wear it. Realize then that all of my bras and shapewear are wet from being washed on gentle the night before and totally forgotten in the washing machine. Shirt cannot be worn with out a cami underneath as it comes unbuttoned easily. DRATS.
--Find a sweater and cami from fall of last year and put them on. Try not to notice that the arms of the sweater are a tinge tighter this year. (If you had seen what I ate over the weekend, you wouldn't be a bit surprised.) Also try not to notice that horrible bra straps from horrible bra (only one not being washed) can easily sneak out from behind sweater neckline.
--Get the kids up. Gabby is abnormally grouchy. Sam has a meltdown when I tell him that we don't have cereal. Offer toast, eggs, any imaginable breakfast food. He refuses to eat any of them, and falls in a sleepy heap on the couch, rising only to eat a small cup of yogurt when begged, pleaded with, and cajoled.
--Put on make-up and a lot of jewelry, hoping that this masks the fact that rest of me looks like crap.
--Get kids out the door. Gabby lets slip that she has received a text message from an old acquaintance telling her that the school she attends is closing. Tell her this is a rumor and not to worry about it. Quietly wonder if it is true.
--Get to work. Check bank account. Realize a deposit that I thought had been made had not because of the holiday. Quietly freak out.
--Find huge stack of files and collection of passive aggressive notes left by boss who worked on Labor Day. Plot her demise. Smile graciously when she arrives to work.
--Call vice principal of school re: rumor and the independant study class that Gabby is taking (and I am supervising). Try to ignore her tone of voice regarding the class (more on this later). Have her tell me school will "probably not" close.
--Fire off slightly stressed sounding email to superintendent of schools. (It is best just to get out of my way on days like this.)
--Call insurance company to ask a question about vision benefits. Get so angry about phone answering system (and the fact that I don't have our policy number handy) that I hang up phone in disgust. Vision benefits can suck it! I'll buy my own damn glasses! Pay for my own appointments!
--Think better of this.
--Spend all day in quiet war with neverending stack of files on my desk.

Seeing it all typed out here, it sounds rather benign. It has not felt that way. But perhaps having typed it all out is a way of coping, a way of seeing it and saying, "Well, ok, that's not so bad! Chin up ole chap!"

I have to admit that I typed this out for another reason too. This past weekend, I went over to a friend's house to drop off some clothes she had purchased from me. We were chatting as she went through the items and we started talking about being a mom and and a wife in this time of Facebook and blogging and all of the other stuff that the demise of our world will probably be blamed on. We both ended up sort of lamenting the lack of "real-ness" out there, how that we both felt that we were floundering sometimes in the face of all of the "perfection" put out there by others.

And that's the thing about the internet--everyone is perfect here. Or at least that's what they would have you believe. No one admits that they have bad days or that somedays, they come to work with their bra straps hanging out but they just don't give a damn. No one lets it slip that they sometimes have cash flow issues, that best laid plans are derailed by having to get their damn breaks fixed on their damn car, that it is becoming more and more rare that they make it out for a run, that some days their house is a veritible sea of toys that they are lucky to wade through to the front door.

I'm here to tell you that I am not perfect. That my life today is a grand scale of fuck-uppery. That I've had a bad day, and it is mostly my fault--I forgot to take out the bras, I didn't buy the cereal, I didn't pay close enough attention to my bank account.

But oh well. Live and learn. And hopefully, September 6 will go peacefully and die in the corner like the horrible, mangy dog that it is.