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September 28, 2007

These Are The Days Of Our Lives

Bob heart Frankie 4eva

Frankie isn't falling for it.

Oh the humanity.

Cats gone wild!

Cats gone wilder!

Cats gone wildest!

Cats getting revenge.

Bob, so not feeling the love.

Posted by laurie at 6:06 AM

September 27, 2007

Is it just me...? And why am I now thinking I could knit really fabulous legwarmers? For all that Flashdancing I do?

Even though Astrologer Phyllis warned that the moon is in Pisces and blah blah blah, I still can't help it. Is it just me or are you other Cancer girls out there feeling frighteningly emotional and "no one loves me, everything could end tomorrow" gloom and doomy right now? Like a heightened emotional PMS with no excuse at all?

Also, if it IS just me, please humor me and ignore this portion of our column today.

In other less weirdo news, I finally managed to get a permanent placeholder for both the "Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Sweater" Sweepstakes and the tour schedule. Both are on the right side of the page over there. I hope you go ahead and enter the sweepstakes if you haven't already... the deadline for entries isn't until October 31 (spooky! deadline is ... dead!) and so if you get a move on you can still humiliate your cats, dogs and kids in homemade sweaterish creations!

Speaking of humiliating your cats, I found this Drs. Foster & Smith catalog under my growing pile of mail:

You know that cat is secretly plotting her death.

I love Drs. Foster & Smith, I have always gotten the best service from them and their catalog has tons of cool cat stuff. But seriously you know that cat is as we speak forming a union, he wasn't wearing that collar and working for scale. No way one of my cats would wear that getup without one of us (read: me) losing an eye. That is why I am not eligible to participate in my own sweepstakes!

Reader Sam asked this yesterday about the legwarmers I photographed in Target on a Saturday morning while two women stared at me as if I were from Planet Stupid Paparrazzi:

I bought those legwarmers at target, they don't stay up. Any ideas how I could fix them?

Sam, I would go to your local fabric store and look for the elastic that comes on a spool like thread. It's quite a bit thicker than thread but it is stretchy like elastic without the bulk of a waistband-size elastic piece. Anyway, look for the dark colored elastic thread or a matching color if they have it -- and sometimes the stores will even carry clear elastic, you may have to ask the sales clerk. Turn your legwarmers inside out and begin sewing elastic around the top portion, carefully trying to keep the bulk of the stitches on the inside-out portion so they aren't super visible when you're wearing them. With a large-eye yarn needle, carefully thread the elastic around the top of the legwarmers, you may want to do several rows spaced out over an inch of the top portion, and pull it snug enough to draw in the top of the legwarmers. This should do the trick! I learned to sew when I was a little girl and it really is amazing how many things can be fixed with some carefully hand-sewn elastic thread.

Since I took up knitting, though, I haven't sewn a darn thing, not even a cute little needle case to hold my knitting sticks. Even though it's a completely un-autumn 90+ degrees outside, I'm still feeling autumny and itching to be knitting (or is it all that wool that's itchy? Another thing we'll pretend I didn't ask!) Sadly I had to drive yesterday, although it was much more pleasant without houses being left all over the freeway, and so I got no knitting accomplished on my Halloween Dorky Handknit Item. However, I should be done in rush hour this evening and next week it is all about the knitting here at Chez Talksalot, both mine and other folks' knitting and maybe even a book giveaway or two.

And -- gasp -- possibly even legwarmers. I am just saying is all!

Posted by laurie at 7:49 AM

September 26, 2007

People! Stop leaving your houses on the 101!


First it was the big house left stranded on the northbound 101 before Cahuenga Blvd. Some dumbaii and his Big Brain thought it would be an awesome idea to move a WHOLE HOUSE from Santa Monica to Santa Clarita right up the 101 freeway ... all by himself. He just loaded it up on a flatbed and away he went. Except (unlike most knitters, who are clearly more clever than your average human) he was apparently not armed with a mystical "measuring device" and so his house was too tall and started clipping the overpasses on the freeway. Then the wheels fell off the flatbed, so he abandoned said house, yes, a WHOLE HOUSE, on the 101 for over a week and traffic has been an everloving nightmare.

At first I felt bad for the dude because his house became a huge target for taggers and it was covered in graffiti after about 15 seconds alone on the spooky nighttime Ventura Highway, cue Tom Petty. But after spending almost three hours trapped on the bus on the 101 on Monday night because CalTrans had to block off lanes because OH YEAH THERE IS A HOUSE ON THE FREEWAY, I myself would have gladly picked up some spray paint and given him a piece of my mind.

I didn't of course, because that would have required me to drive back on the freeway.

Anyway, finally last night CalTrans removed the house. Yay! Except... when I got on the 101 this morning on the opposite side of the Valley I saw this:


People. Go back to leaving shoes, sofas and ladders on the freeway. This house littering trend is just excessive.

In other news...

It appears that even though I pleaded to The Powers Above about this whole 80s problem, no one was listening to my issues and felt it would be a fine idea to bring back all sorts of puff-sleeved tomfoolery. However, for those of you without tree-trunk legs, I thought you'd like to see this item:

Legwarmers, surreptitiously photographed at Target.

Yes, cable-knit legwarmers on the left, and a cute multicolored stockinette in the round pair on the right. Interestingly enough, neither pair had any shaping or ribbing at all on the edges, so maybe you would actually need tree trunks like mine to keep them up!

And finally:

Wonder what that is?

If I have learned anything in all my time commuting and complaining about traffic, it is that you should have a little portable knitting tucked in your bag at all times! You never know when you might be sitting on the freeway because someone left a HOUSE on it and you have hours at your disposal to dream up goofy items for Halloween....

Posted by laurie at 5:50 AM

September 24, 2007

Monday Breaking News

I survived the torrential downpour of 2007
We did indeed have rain, and the city went nutso. We got a full inch of rain in the valley -- and keep in mind we only got a total of three inches of rain all last year -- so of course my street flooded and there were mudslides in Griffith Park and power went out across the city. Because of rain. I called my parents so they could HEAR the amazing NATURAL EVENT taking place, but living in Florida they were not really all that impressed. Faith called me as it was pouring down and we marveled that there are places of the country that have this happen regularly. We are maybe silly.

Cast on, bubbas! (Or, "Who is that squeaky cracker?")
Brenda Dayne of Cast On interviewed some weird goofy redneck-sounding chatterbox for her podcast. Also, she lives in Wales! Doesn't that sound pretty and green and rolling hillsy and sheep-filled and knitterly? I live in Encino-adjacent. We have excellent honking. Anyway, you know when you hear yourself on tape and you think, "Who's that? That's not me! I could have sworn I sounded like Demi Moore! That is NOT my voice!" Well, that's what ran through my head when I listened to this podcasting thing. That and "Get thee to a speech coach ASAP!" But alas, apparently that is my voice. Hand me a drink, will you?

Even though I prefer to be the one doing the interviewing (amen) Brenda was one of those folks who just "clicked" and I felt like I'd known her forever. She's warm and witty and even discussed with me in great detail what a "fry-up" breakfast is, which I am dying to try. I am all about the fried.

Packing Light: Is it humanly possible for a packrat?

It has dawned on me finally that I should probably learn here in the next week or so how to do this mystical thing called "packing light" because during one five-day stretch in October I believe I am on six different airplanes, four different cars, a speedboat and a bucking bronco. I have never been someone who could pack light, but I know it can be done because a work friend of mine is going to Barcelona in a few weeks -- yes, she is going to another country, mind you -- and all she is taking is a carry on bag. I almost felt my heart attack me when she told me this detail. I began to quiz her, "Are you taking underwear? Socks? Pajamas? Xanax? Something to read on the plane? Your mind, is it OK? Should you reconsider? Do you have an umbrella?" And on and on. Finally I decided she could only do this because she's so tiny and skinny, her clothes must take up less space.

I myself have never traveled light. On our three-day trip to New York I took a suitcase the size of a Yugo. If you have any helpful suggestions that are sensitive to the fact that I am not going to give up fashion for comfort (see: heels, very high) any time soon, please let me know.

And also .. speaking of shoes...
I have apparently enormous, gigantor freakishly huge CALVES. because there is not a single cute knee-high boot out there that will fit me (aside from these stretchy ones, and they're fine in a pinch but they feel so... vinyl, you know?) Do other people have this problem? Am I the only tree-trunk-calf person out here? Where are the knee boots for the thick girls? Can we get some love?

That's it from Nuttyangeles today. We're back to sunny and hot so beware of future complaining about heatwaves and so on. Thank goodness complaining burns up so many calories!

It does, right? Right?

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[Edited to add: I spent the better part of coffee time deleting 5,679 spam comments. All comments are now off except on the current day's post. Spam is so icky! It's the scabies of the internet!]

Posted by laurie at 6:44 AM

September 21, 2007

Los Angeles is (kind of but not really) under aerial assault!!

Hi there. You may wonder if I am writing from my bunker, but alas I am not. I had to brave the elements -- which right now include pretty blue skies and sunshine -- but I am still anxiously awaiting the time when I can definitively prove in a scientific experiment that SUGAR DOESN'T MELT, IT JUST LUMPS UP.

Leaving your Los Angeles home today and embarking on any sort of drive is a foolhardy foray into self-flagellation. The entire city appears to be waiting for an attack from some sort of damp foreign material that is said to be pelleted onto the ground level, and it contains a mixture of dampness and smog that might prove lethal to all flat-ironed hair. It's almost as bad as that time someone smoked on Third Street Promenade. Oh, the humanity!

I love Fox 11 morning news -- please don't sue me for infringement. You know I watch every morning for that cute Rick Dickert in SkyFox!

In less terrifying and dramatic news, last night was Stitch 'n Bitch and I got out of work early enough to attend and managed to somehow wheedle Faith into picking me up and transporting me, all TRANSPORTER! style. You know how I roll -- on the bus. Because I am high-class that way. (Also, I just don't have six hours of my day to sacrifice to traffic caused by ... MIST THAT HAS NOT EVEN HAPPENED YET.)

Faith and MJ, go speed stitchers, go!

I love stitch 'n bitch. Click on images for a bigger pic:

World-famous Ellen Bloom on the left with some gorgeous yarn! Lovely Catherine poses with her hand-knit hat that I covet.

Kendra is stringing eyeballs... of course! And look at Molly's super-cute haircut. She's also knitting these cool Swiffer sweeper cover thingies, clever!

Also, I have to apologize to lovely stitch-n-b-attendee Jenna for me being so dorky when she said she'd bought the book and then pulled it out of the Barnes & Noble bag! I got flustered. I still don't know how to be so squealingly happy and yet be polite all at the same time so I clam up and turn red. NICE JOB, WEIRDO RED-FACE GIRL. I'm just so worried of being overwhelmed by the crazy of it all. Did you see the Oprah show with Reba McEntire the other day? Anyway, Oprah said Reba was so down-to-earth and seemed so normal and they both said how it was such a Southern thing, because you just can't be uppity and Southern at the same time -- your family will keep you down to earth. I hollered a big "Amen!" from the comfort of my cat-hair-covered couch. I am secretly over the moon that anyone would spend hard-earned cash on something I made and Jenna, I thank you. I was just so taken off guard! In a good way.

And since we're talking about the people who keep my feet planted firmly on the ground (I do believe my mom told me last week that if I planned on eating all the stuff on my list during my two-day stay in Texas that I should perhaps start wearing a Sansabelt jumper and call it a day) here they are, my two favorite humans in the world, proudly telling God and everyone that their kid is drunk, divorced and wearing a fine patina of something that could be alpaca... could be cat hair:



I'm a LITTLE mad that my parents are so rockin' that I can blame things on them in future therapy. But these pictures make me all mushy and rainy from the eyeballs ... kind of like Los Angeles! Storm watch!!

Posted by laurie at 6:55 AM

September 20, 2007


Already the news stations are pre-tracking STORM WATCH 2007. If you thought the driving was bad yesterday, be sure to stay tuned tomorrow when the second largest city in the United States of America comes to a complete halt because of...
... drumroll please ...



You folks who don't live here think I am making this up. Those of you who do live here are wondering, "Can I call in sick tomorrow?" I hope your survival gear is intact, your pantry is stocked with Frizz-ease products and your Starbucks card is at the ready.

I love this city. I can't help it. It's kind of like being trapped in a love affair with a gorgeous but certifiably crazy person who you want to leave but you just can't imagine your life without all the dramaticalness so you stay to see what will happen next. I hope I survive what can only be called The Impending Doom of Dampness. Stay tuned!

Posted by laurie at 9:37 AM

September 19, 2007

Back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now again...

Another study was released recently proving once and for all again that Los Angeles has the worst traffic in America. It's so reassuring, in a crazy-making way, that you are not crazy and exaggerating but that you are merely observant. There's something about being number one, isn't there?

I wish I were a better person in so many ways and I'm trying to reach for all kinds of enlightened even though I still think cute shoes are a real priority (and recently I bought a book by the Dalai Lama where he mentions that true enlightenment is connected to your body temple and that a vegetarian diet is best and I thought to myself, "Oh Dalai Lama. I love you. But I was born in TEXAS. I am so sorry. I am not sure if Southern Barbecue Karma can be transmuted. We have such good sauces! I know, I know. I'm hopeless. I'll try to eat more grean beans. Love, Laurie.")

But anyway, the point of all this was to tell you one area where I am failing miserably on the enlightenment (aside from vegetarianism and cute shoes.) (And men selection.) (Wow, this could be a long list.) And that ONE area I want to share is my really unfortunate and awful driving hatefulness.

Some people call this "road rage" but I am not rageful. I am just downright hateful in traffic ... toward other people. BAD people. While I'm sure I am not the world's best driver I do try very hard not to piss people off in traffic. For example, I not only know where the blinkers are I EVEN USE THEM. This alone makes me a rarity in the Los Angeles car culture. In addition, I don't talk on the cell phone and drive at the same time, unless we are in stopped traffic and I'm just idling in first gear or neutral. But if real driving is happening, there is no phone talking -- another feature which makes me a rare species of vehicular operators in this city.

Finally, I am never a deliberate jerk in traffic. I don't cut people off, tailgate or leave too far of a gap between me and the person ahead of me (thereby ensuring the person behind me will need to swerve all around just to get ahead of me out of frustration.) In general, I watch the road and do the best I can.

But I am hateful mad at those who do not try to be decent drivers. Like this guy:


In this picture, you may notice he is not only cutting me off, he is also fully blocking the lane next to me. In morning rush-hour traffic, he decided he was better than the rest of us lame-o drivers who actually waited patiently in our lane to get on the freeway. So, using his powers of Dumbassery, he left the line of drivers turning onto the freeway and got into the main driving lanes then slammed on his brakes, jack-knifed ahead of me and almost caused the guy behind him to hit him and almost caused me to hit him. When there was honking, this fine individual FLIPPED US OFF.

So I extracted my revenge by uh, you know. Taking pictures of him. Perhaps not as satisfying as beating him soundly with my handbag, but still mildly satisfying in the "Well this will at least keep me out of prison" way.

I was REALLY mad about this guy. He almost caused two accidents and also was just being a real piece of work. Then I felt bad for being so hateful again in traffic. In other areas of my life I try to give folks the benefit of the doubt, but in traffic there is just not a nice sweet bone in my body. So I thought, "What would Deepak Chopra do? He's probably not hateful in traffic." And because I am full-up on my self-help, I knew Deepak would send the dude a little prayer.

So I tried. I tried, I really did. "Dear God, this ugly dude is pissing me off and I hate him and his banged up car ... gee no wonder his car is all smooshed, look how he drives!...oh crap this is so not how Deepak would do it. Let me try again..."

I sat there and tried to breathe. After all, traffic wasn't moving. It's not like we were going anywhere. I had time to get my Deepak on.

"OK, God, it's me again trying to be nicer. See, I am trying to pray for this HEY YOU SH*THEAD THE LIGHT IS GREEN YOU WANTED IN HERE THAT MEANS GO JESUS CHRIST ON A CRACKER ARE YOU BRAIN DEAD oh crap!! God that was so not part of the prayer!! I am so sorry, let me try again. But seriously, the light was green. Also sorry about the Jesus part."

(Sitting at the red light. Waiting.)

"Ok, God, I am doing the best I can here. How about we just forget the green car guy and call it a day."

The light turned finally to a green arrow. Green car guy whipped illegally into the carpool on-ramp and vanished.

"Thanks, God. I appreciate it."

So, I guess getting my Deepak on helped a little. I tried to take back the prayer that came next but it was too late, it had already formed into consciousness.

"And if his penis falls off later that would be OK, too."

Whoopsy. Please don't tell Deepak.

Posted by laurie at 7:06 AM

September 18, 2007

Tuesday: Butts, Beautiful Weather and BOOKS!

1) Butts
Bob is so damn cute. It's the toes, I think.

2) Oh, this is why we live here
Dallas Raines! Do a little dance, make a little fog, get down tonight!

I was on the phone yesterday with my mom and she was explaining in great detail the thunderstorm she'd managed to white-knuckle-drive her way through on the way back from my brother's house, and was saying something about lightening and thunder and so on. And you know I love to commiserate. "Sorry about your torrential downpours, but what about our PARTLY CLOUDY?" I mean really now.

3) Books!

Last week when we announced the book tour (Dear Mall of America, I will be eating the Pretzel of America, too.) (I can't go into a mall without needing a mall pretzel!) there were a lot of folks wondering if they'd get their pre-orders from amazon.com in time for the event.

Good news! It's shipping now (you gotta love HCI and their powers of changing the world, one bowl of chicken soup at a time) and the book is also available at Barnes & Noble on the shelves. (By the way, next time I am late for something I plan to remind you of the time my book came out a month early. Amen.)

Also, if you buy it now you can get the rockin' amazon.com pre-order price! I wonder if roll-around-naked-in-money rich folks still love a bargain? Maybe that's how they got roll-around-naked rich. If you fall into that category you must let me know if you still get the thrill of a bargain. Also, indulge me and tell me you do occasionally roll around in a pile of cash.

But I myself do love to save a dollar or five. (Edited to add: If your pre-order isn't updating the shipping date, try emptying your pre-order and re-ordering it. Some folks say this is working. Oh, Amazon, we need to sit down and have a chat.)

I can't believe it's finally here. I just want to thank you. Thank you all so much.

Posted by laurie at 6:55 AM

September 14, 2007

Friday "Clean Up" Q&A

Yesterday lots of excellent questions and comments popped up, thought I'd try to answer what I can...

Rhett asked:
"What do you use to dust? I would love to save the money and be a little greener too! but dusting is very important to me."

Answer: Hey there Rhett! To be honest, dust is a MAJOR problem in my house. I like to open the windows whenever it's not a thousand degrees outside to get fresh air circulating but living in Los Angeles with no rain there is a LOT of dust in the air.

Oh, and uh... yeah. The cat hair and the cat litter dust. Need I say more?

So my primary tool for dusting (when dusting must occur) is the vacuum cleaner. Now I would rather get a full-body wax than do dishes, I do hate dishwashing, but I could vacuum all day long. It's so therapeutic... goodbye dust! Au revoir kitty litter! Using the brush attachment is great for vacuuming the TV, all my electronics (major dustcatchers, gross), the slats on the window blinds, the toaster ... you name it. For small items (I don't have a lot of knickknacks, but a few small ones) I just dampen a paper towel or one of those lint-free cloths and go over the item quickly to remove the archaeological layer of dust. My housecleaning time is pretty limited so there's definitely always some dust on stuff. But I try to do one massive vacuum dusting about once a month.

One of the benefits to decluttering -- and frankly, one of my main motivators -- was that I got so damn tired of having to clean and dust all my stuff. I have about ten knickknacks in the whole house (like candle holders or vases or picture frames on tables.) I still have dust on everything, sadly, but at least now there's less stuff to be dusty. That's an improvement, right? Right?

- - -

Readers Susan and Aileen wanted to know how you use Borax:

According to about.com's explanation of Borax, it is used as a natural laundry booster, multipurpose cleaner, fungicide, preservative, insecticide, herbicide, disinfectant and dessicant. Borax crystals are odorless, whitish and alkaline. Borax is not flammable and is not reactive. It can be mixed with most other cleaning agents, including chlorine bleach.

It is, however toxic and like any commercial cleanser it can be bad for you. As the article above mentioned, don't use borax around food, keep it out of reach of children and pets, and make sure you rinse borax out of clothes and off of surfaces before use.

You can buy it in the laundry detergent aisle at your store -- look for 20 Mule Team Borax, that's the brand I use. And yes, it can be toxic but I myself don't let my cleaning stuff lie around open and available to cats or guests, and I keep the bathroom door closed when I use Ajax with bleach or any commercial cleaner because I don't want the cats messing around with it. So with any cleaning product, heck... even with just lemon juice... I do the same thing. It's not like I'm slopping it on the floor and rolling nekkid it it. As always, your mileage may vary and use with common sense.

- - -

A few readers mentioned concerns that Magic Erasers contain formaldehyde. You can read about the debunking of the myth here on snopes.com, or read the official word from the Mr. Clean team addressing this rumor.

- - -

Marlyn asks, "Okay, where do you find this Ecover stuff? It sounds great. I'm trying to switch to greener cleaning supplies, too, though not moving as quickly as you are."

Hi Marlyn! I buy Ecover products at Whole Foods. I love Whole Foods... of course, it's so expensive to shop there that I have to restrain myself from going nuts! But being a one-person + cats household, a bottle of Ecover laundry detergent will last me a good long while. You can also find a list of products available on amazon.com to purchase.

- - -

While we're at it, I have a question for you cat owners:

If you have a blanket or basket liner for your cats, how often do you wash it, especially if the cats sit or sleep on it daily? Once a week? Once a month? Anyone? I'm not sure how much is too much, but goodness those blankets get hairy fast.


- - -

Barbara commented, "By the way, you do know that Al Gore is married, right? I'm just sayin'. But he would be proud."

Yes, I heard that rumor. He's so darn cute with his powerpoint, don't you think? (Sometimes I like to mention Al Gore and my love for him just because I know somewhere on the other side of the country my daddy is shaking his head and wondering if I need a brain transplant. Remind me to tell ya'll about the time I framed a picture of Al Gore and set it on his desk just for fun. Ah, good times.)

- - -
I don't know if ya'll caught this exchange in the comments but it about had me laughing so hard. Ya'll are funny. I'm gonna be out of a job if you keep this up:

Megan said, "And I'm confused about what 'green' means to everyone - does it mean 'not harsh' or just 'natural'? Ammonia is certainly natural - we pee it every day! I bet rubbing a poison tree frog on your shower doors would work wonders for the soap scum."

Lyda replied, "But Megan, wouldn't the fumes be hallucinogenic?"

To which Megan replied, "...Hmm... Lyda wants to know if poison tree frogs emit hallucinogenic fumes when dragged across a shower door ... I say, we can only hope."

Heh. But in answer to Megan's original question ... I'm trying to move closer to non-toxic. Natural is great, but some "natural" items such as bleach are toxic so I'm going to try to cut back on them and re-think how much I rationally need to use for getting the house clean. In other words, "Would a cup of bleach work on the sink instead of half a gallon?" That sort of thing.

Also, if anyone knows where I can find a hallucinogenic shower-cleaning tree frog, please let me know.

- - -

Oh -- and a few readers have mentioned to me in past columns the joys of placing clothes on a clothes line. It popped up again yesterday as we talked about green cleaning. Being a gal from the country I can attest to the good-smelling loveliness of line-dried laundry. Living where I live however, I can also attest to the fact that nothing would be left on that line when I return home.

City living is a wild and wonderful experience, isn't it?

- - -

Reader Nancy writes, "...I'm a little concerned about your current cleaning/organizing frenzy..."

Well, Nancy. Thanks for the concern. Now, I would be more concerned if I had started maybe using heroin or picking up men at streetlights or hitting up the sun-in (do they still make sun-in, anyway?), but I can assure you I'm not in a frenzy of cleaning. I'm just trying to address the year of no-cleaning-whatsoever that occurred while I wrote and edited and re-wrote my book. I remember coming home once in the midst of all that and looking for a single pair of clean underwear and being too exhausted by the messy house to even sort the laundry. Sorting would have been an all-night affair (I think I ended up wearing some horrible butt-creeping panties of doom. Alas.) So, anyway, my house was in dire need of attention.

Besides, I think sometimes we all do what we can to feel more plugged into our own lives and this is my thing. While I myself wouldn't classify this as a frenzy I still think it's better than embarking on a life of crime or taking up a porn addiction.

I do have some friends that would disagree with me on that last point however! Tomato, tomahto!

- - -

Don't be talking dirty about my cleaning bucket!

Denise commented: "What's the point of recycling all those plastic bags, and then buying plastic buckets and caddies?"

Ah, Denise. As it turns out I purchased one (1) bucket and one (1) caddy which fit neatly together as a single carry-all. In my way of thinking, I needed a bucket (for scrubbing those wood floors) and it was such a nice treat to find a portable cleaning toolbox that fit right inside it. I knew if I were ever going to really do any cleaning, I should be properly outfitted. This is how my mind works, see. I found it inspiring to do some preparatory pre-shopping.

(It's kind of hard for me to get excited about scrubbing, so a gal has to do what she can.)

Also, these are not one-time-use items and I use them all the time now, they especially come in handy because I tend to be a naturally very scattered person so having a single place for all my stuff -- in this case my cleaning stuff -- has worked wonders for my personal get-it-togetherness.

And just to be clear here -- my goal is to do a little better for the environment than I have been doing, but I will never meet anyone's standards of getting it all right. One of the things I find really off-putting in sometimes sharing with people that you're trying anything new is that once you admit to making little changes some folks seem to start yammering on about how you're not doing it right, or not doing enough, or you ought to do more, or shame on you for not doing more sooner.

Like a lot of people, I can only do the best I can with what I got. In my way of thinking it's best for me to make some small changes and let them build on each other. If I felt like I had to change EVERY THING IN MY WHOLE LIFE AT THIS VERY MINUTE, well, I wouldn't be bothered to change a damn thing. It's too hard, too overwhelming, too exhausting and doesn't work for most humans. And I'm sure if someone came knocking on my front door for an inspection and made up a list of every thing I do wrong they'd judge me just as harshly and I'd be sent right off to the Jail For Failed Homemakers.

On the plus side, I bet the company in my jail cell would be a hoot and a holler.

- - -

Another question from yours truly here, is it normal to get cat hair tumbleweeds in the corners of the living room now that I have these wood floors? Is it just more noticeable now since the carpet is gone or do ya'll think the cats are having a party every day while I'm at work, inviting the neighborhood wild animals over to shed all over the floors? Because they are really not fooling around with the tumbleweeds.

- - -

And finally, reader Melissa wrote: "I love Kim and Aggie too, but I'm also quickly becoming obsessed with "You Are What You Eat" which is on BBC America too at 4 and 4:30 (eastern time zone). You should check it out! It is...well, you just have to watch and see..."

Melissa! I am already on that bandwagon and I love that show too and cannot wait to see new episodes on my Tivo list. It's my new favorite thing ... I'm addicted! I was chitchatting with Brenda for an upcoming podcast and she lives in Wales so I made her tell me in great detail what a "fry-up" was, since I saw it on that show. A whole fried plate of food -- now, they could be Southern! Except for the beans of course, you'd have to put grits or hashbrowns in place of the beans. But it's another fabulous find on BBC. Curiously enough, I like to watch it while I'm walking on the treadmill, maybe it's an incentive!

- - -

Ok, that's all for today. Have a great weekend and I'll see some of ya'll in Failed Homemaker Jail. We can talk all about the time we couldn't start cleaning yet because we had to run out and stock up on cleaning supplies (yes, I did that, I admit it.) I'll bring the wine!

Posted by laurie at 7:41 AM

September 13, 2007

Clean and non-toxic(ish)

There are a lot of reasons to green up your cleaning supplies ... better for the environment, less toxic for you to touch and smell, cheaper, and so on. The main reason I am making the switch from my chemical cleaning arsenal to plain old natural cleaning stuff is uh, well, because of the cats.

This summer I read an article somewhere that talked about the things we buy (bleach, ammonia, chemical cleansers, that sort of thing) and how these cleaning products sit silently on the shelves of our homes giving off fumes. This had never occurred to me. Could my stockpile of cleaning products be off-gassing in the air? And I thought about my little gatos who never go outdoors and live inside the house all day long, 24 hours a day, and they're so close to the ground what with their short, furry legs and all ... and I started to wonder how hard it would be to clean without Windex.

Was it even possible? I mean, I love Windex! I love Scrubbing Bubbles! I love bleaching the sink! Who are these hippieass granola-lovin' clean green people anyway? Are they crazy? And most importantly, if I give up Windex and go au natural, DO I HAVE TO START WEARING BIRKENSTOCKS?

(Oh calm down... I jest, I jest.) (Kind of.)

Mostly I wanted to know if I could get the same level of cleaning out of natural or "green" cleaners as I do with my heavy duty chemical cleansers. Then I started to think back to my great-grandma and her little farmhouse out in Blanco, Texas. She used white vinegar on windows and plain soapy water on everything else. Her house smelled like lemon and fresh air, it was spic 'n span with never a trace of dust anywhere. I don't remember a single cleaning product in her house, aside from soap flakes and vinegar and no one ever got sick from not having enough antibacterial cleaning chemicals.

So, yeah, I guess it's possible. Somehow, someway people once lived without the awesomeness of Formula 409.

I would love to tell you I immediately ditched all my chemicals and went straight to the baking soda, but this is a process. I am not one who is easily swayed from her long-held list of Products To Love And Buy. I started using Shaklee cleansers a while back, but Lord that gets expensive. So slowly, and I do mean sloooowly, I started experimenting here and there to see how clean and non-toxic I could go before ... you know. Having to buy Birkenstocks.

The first step has been creating an arsenal of clean.

The space between the fridge and the wall previously housed a GINORMOUS mountain of plastic and paper grocery bags and some cobwebs. A few weekends ago I re-purposed a wire rack from the back patio, scrubbed it off and brought it inside. Fits perfectly! The mountain of plastic bags went to a recycle bin at Whole Foods. I kept a small supply of plastic bags for cat pan cleanup and some paper bags for hauling out the household recyling, but I did not really need 75,000 bags. Really.

At Target I found a cleaning caddy and bucket hold my everyday cleaning supplies:


The set is from the "Real Simple" cleaning line and I think they cost me about $12. Inside I have spray bottles with my homemade cleaning concoctions, a shaker jar full of baking soda, a jar of white vinegar (I buy the bigger gallon size jars and refill the portable one as needed) and various scrubbers, sponges and gloves. I also have magic erasers in there because I love my magic erasers.

My favorite duster is there, too, it's some kind of fluffy animal fiber and I wash it as soon as it gets dirty. The telescoping rod means I can get the cobwebs in the corners of the ceilings!

The little wire storage rack houses bulk supplies, too. I am and will always be a Cancer gal, so you will not see me running out of toilet paper, paper towels, or cleaning supplies. It's a fine line between being prepared and being a hoarder, and I walk it very carefully. That's where I store my have backup cleaners -- baking soda, lemon juice (opened lemon juice is in the fridge) and various sponges and cleaners, including a small box of Ecover enzymatic laundry powder that I use for household scrubbing.

I do a lot of laundry. While I loved my Shaklee laundry detergent, it was just way out of my budget. I switched to Seventh Generation laundry detergent, and now I'm using Ecover brand laundry liquid because I like the scent. Both work just great. I have bleach for sheets and whites (Drew says bleach is a natural chemical, but it isn't non-toxic so I use it with more restraint now). For dishes I use my Shaklee dish soap or Seventh Generation.

My biggest struggle has been finding a perfect combination for a cleaning spray to replace Formula 409, Windex and various bathroom cleaners. I've tried plain vinegar (yuck smell), vinegar and water, soap and water, soap and vinegar and water and so on. What seems to be working for me right now is a combination of plain water, a few drops of dish soap, a few drops of essential oil (this week it's citrus, but sometimes I use tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil) and a small amount of vinegar. Sometimes I add a small bit of baking soda. I put it in a spray bottle and it seems to be doing the job. Windows get straight vinegar and I clean them with newspaper and -- shock!!! -- this age-old cleaning tip really works. The vinegar smell goes away pretty quickly and I don't have to worry about the fumes I'm breathing in or worry about Windexing little cat lungs. Now the cats aren't having to wear little gas masks everytime I go on a neurotic cleaning binge.

We have very hard water out here in Encino-Adjacent. It's a menace on fixtures. So last weekend I took a tip from my heroes Kim & Aggie and soaked my limescale-encrusted showerhead in lemon juice like I'd seen on an episode of "How Clean Is Your House?" and it worked! I honestly did not really believe this trick was going to perform any miracles, I sort of half-expected it to be a bit of TV tomfollery but thought it was worth a try.

I just filled a ziploc baggie with enough lemon juice to cover the face plate and then secured it over the showerhead with a hair elastic. Then I let it sit for about five hours. I am also such a nerd that I took before and after pictures:

Showerhead before:

Showerhead after:

In the past I've used massive amounts of CLR Limescale Remover on my bathroom fixtures to get the crud off. CLR is so toxic that you have to wear gloves and fully ventilate the room and hope no one lights a match. I was always terrified I would spill a little somewhere and one of the cats would accidentally step on it (ditto for Scrubbing Bubbles, bleach and Ajax powder).

Lemon juice smells pretty and doesn't require a massive clean-up lest a stray kittycat paw step find a spilled drop. I think I'll try this on the shower doors, too, although that is a bigger job than the showerhead. I'm guessing I'd have to take the doors off and sit them on the back patio with a coating of lemon juice and borax, a combination which is supposed to be great at removing built-up scum and scale. I am also supposing that this may rewuire possibly more gusto than I have to work up over some shower doors. Well, maybe I'll save that one for when I have company. Maybe.

Which brings me to my last toxic-to-nontoxic switch, and it's happening this weekend. Mark your calendars, alert the media. You see, I have been using Ajax with bleach in my bathroom for years and years. (Just think of the powder I have inhaled after 15 years of using Ajax with bleach once a week! I have me some clean nostrils!) (That's gross. Moving on.) But I will not sacrifice toilet bowl cleanliness, yo. I have my limits.

This weekend, I will make my first non-Ajax pass of the bathroom. Using a paste of Borax and lemon juice (another tip from Kim and Aggie, of course, what ya'll think I just sit around at night dreaming this up? No way Jose! I learned it from my best fried, TeeVee.) I plan to scour the bowl and report back. I am skeptical, but it would be really nice to find a cleanser that doesn't require major ventilation. And frankly, every time I have a guest over I have to obsessively check to be sure they've put the lid down or panic about whether or not Bob is drinking Ajax water.

Like I said, these are the concerns of one lady with a lot of cats who has a deep, anxious fear of another one of them dying.

There are a few items I haven't been able to let go of, because I love them and boy do they work! Magic Erasers will always have a place in my arsenal, but according to a scientist friend of mine the main cleaning agent in the basic eraser is a superfine grit that essentially sands your dirt off (cool!) And I love Bounce dryer sheets, so hopefully they aren't super toxic because, well, I love them. I'm not sure I will forever and always let go of the Ajax, but I am trying and that's something.

My slow switch to nontoxic cleaners has saved me more money than I would have ever anticipated. A big box of baking soda, a gallon of vinegar and the Wal-Mart brand bottle of lemon juice on my supply rack cost me less than $2. Borax was about $2, and my spray bottles were 99 cents each. Ecover is expensive (compared to generic or ALL brand of laundry detergent) but I think it's worth it. Mostly I like the peace of mind that comes from knowing my little gatos aren't breathing in toxic fumes while I'm at work breathing in the toxic fumes of downtown. I love that when Al Gore finally takes me on a date I can impress him with my saving of the envoronment of Encino-Adjacent. I love that I can use the same cleanser on almost everything. And it is good for the world, and that can't be too bad, either.

And of course, crazy animal lovers unite... if they're breathing in healthier air, then I am a happier lady. And it can't be a bad thing for me to have healthier air, too!

Posted by laurie at 7:48 AM

September 12, 2007

Stop by and say hey! (Except maybe don't mention the nervous sweating. Thanks!)

Do you suppose that the Mall of America has the Shoes of America? Do you suppose that they have a FedEx area on-site, too, in case some people need to ship things home?

I feel it is a travesty of my Americanness that I have lived here all this time (meaning "on the continent") and have yet to go to the Mall of America, which apparently has a roller coaster. And its own map and zipcode. That place is like the Tomb Of The Unknown Shopper. And I will be paying my respects come October!

Confirmed Events (see this whole list on BookTour.com with map links, too.)

Thursday, October 11, 7:30 PM
Barnes & Noble at The Grove
189 Grove Drive, Los Angeles

Friday, October 12, 7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
12850 Memorial Drive, Houston, TX, 77024

Saturday, October 13, 11:00 AM
2944 S. Mason Rd
Katy, TX 77450

Wednesday, October 17, 7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
600 Pine Street, Seattle, WA

Thursday, October 18, 7:00 PM
Powell's Bookstore
3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton, OR, 97005

Thursday, October 25, 7:00 PM

Barnes & Noble
118 E. Broadway, Mall of America, Bloomington, MN

Saturday, October 27, Time TBD
Women's Lifestyle Show
Convention Center, Peoria, IL
(Tickets available at the door for $8)

Monday, October 29, 7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
515 Opry Mills Drive, Nashville, TN

Saturday and Sunday, November 10 &11, Time TBD
Miami International Book Fair
Miami, FL

If you get a chance I do hope you'll come by and say hello!

As the cities were being confirmed I realized that I have never even been to Portland or Peoria of Washington state or to Minnesota and then my publicist reminded me that Minnesota has actual WEATHER and I may be able to wear things I've knitted! If it snows -- beware!! I may have to actually sign up for a whole new website to hold all the pictures. Just what folks want to see, I know! Eleventy hundred white pictures of snow! (Hey, a girl can have hope. For a resident of Los Angeles, this weather stuff is very exciting news.)

I don't know yet if the list of locations will grow since I don't control this touring business, or control the weather as it turns out. If I did I can promise you it would NOT be a hundred degrees in the valley today. (Also, I would be skinnier. I am just saying is all.) But if the dates expand ya'll will be the first to know.

Can you believe I am doing this? Getting on a plane, flying somewhere, meeting strangers?

There is no way I could have done this just a few years ago. I talked a little about being a hermit and shopping at the 7-11, but it wasn't until later that I saw how much I'd gone inside or how much was motivated out of fear. The jokes about the 7-11 were funny even to me, but the truth was the regular market had become too big, too much, all I was capable of at the time was maneuvering four aisles and the cold foods section at the mini-mart. They did sell pretty good wine, though, I have to say.

Looking backwards I can tell how close I was to complete agoraphobia. Fear isn't a rational thing, and I knew there was no way to explain it to anyone that it would make a bit of sense because it didn't make sense. So I made light of it instead, or just pulled away altogether so no one would know. I never admitted it. I don't think I actually realized it, to be honest. Looking backwards always helps clarify things. I'm still pretty reclusive but the fact that I have gotten on board with this thing makes me happy, almost like it's happening to someone new I'm just getting to know. There are times I still get anxious about all of it (and of course it's easier to talk a big talk when you are still a month away from actually having to stand in front of strangers) but I know it wouldn't have even been a possibility before.

It's so funny the way things work out, isn't it? You just never know where you may find yourself in three years' time.

And I feel very strongly that such a thing should be celebrated with great vigor by trying on many, many Shoes of America. I am just saying is all.

Posted by laurie at 6:40 AM

September 11, 2007

Talky Tuesday

I never know what to say on September 11. I wish this day were a day of national mourning. It seems somehow wrong to talk about blah blah blah when it's such an important day.

Unfortunately, I also tend to be one of those people who at the worst possible times (i.e. funerals, hospital waiting rooms, citywide scary blackouts, days of national mourning) is abundantly equipped with the skill of distractionary chitchatting. I once remember being on a teensy little puddlejumper to Longview, Texas and I'm fairly certain the pilot was inebriated and I myself wanted to holler and cry and throw up but the little lady next to me was in A STATE and I was becoming gradually more afraid that not only would we perish, we would perish with her upchucking all over me. It was a very small space.

As a matter of self-preservation, I told her in great detail about a then-recent visit I'd had to the dentist where I'd had too much of the happy gas and couldn't go back to work and called my (then-woman) boss high on happy gas and talked her ear off for like twenty minutes then blah blah blah. This poor lady next to me was either so irritated or so distracted by my chatter, I do not know which, that she eventually ceased holding the barfbag to her mouth and was even shaking her head sagely at the end just as we touched down (safely) and she agreed that one should never, ever happy-gas-dial their boss.

So, just a few chitchatty Tuesday tidbits:

1) Eats, shoots and gets a mosey on
Thanks so much to reader Rosemary who emailed me a link to this great article about Southern grammaticals. I loved every word of this piece and want to possibly kidnap the authoress and force her to get tipsy with me and talk rural with me.

2) Hey, guess who is not Twiggy!
Just as soon as I got excited about the cooldown (read: "it is only 90 degrees outside!") we immediately find ourselves back in the hundred degree range today. I fully blame this on the fact that I did some fantasy coat-trying-on sessions over the past weekend. And by the way! Newsflash to me! As it turns out, even if I try on FIVE THOUSAND of those super-cute swing coats that are so in style right now, I still look like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade float. Yup, in each and every single coat. This whole swingy, A-line triangle shape may work for some of you folks but it took about three inches off my height and added about forty pounds to my midsection. It is NOT good news when you start to actually resemble your driver's license photo ... and ya'll have seen my driver's license, so you know I am not messing around.

3) Fung Shway
I am not sure if I did well with my Weekend of Feng Shui, although I will admit to placing a frantic call to Drew on Saturday afternoon because my TV was in the relationship corner and as much as I love the idea of harmony and happiness and all that, THE TV CANNOT BE MOVED BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE THE CABLE HOOKUP IS. So I was in a fine mess, just sure that the universe was trying to secretly forever put me in a relationship with The Weather Channel, who I love but not in that way. Drew calmed me down and assured me that a television set is actually really strong energy and also, please stop hyperventilating you weirdo. Apparently Feng Shui is supposed to bring peace, not Oh God if I put a mirror there will my neighbor die?

Drew told me that Feng Shui is largely symbolic, that you make harmony by uncluttering, which I have done a pretty good job of mostly, and by having things that are meaningful to you. He also stressed that it's not voodoo, it's just happy homemaking. I liked Drew's approach a lot better than my own (once an overachiever, always an overachiever... I was apparently approaching Feng Shui as if there would be an exam on Friday and I had to pass to get into Happiness College and I WAS GOING TO GET AN A+ IF IT KILLED ME. Or killed my neighbors.)

While I didn't end up moving the TV, I did address the one part of the TV setup that I just don't like. All those damn cords and plugs! I have my TV on this little rolling kitchen cart and I love it -- I used to have a big huge TV entertainment center thingy I'd bought for way back when but it was bulky and heavy and took up half the room in this house. Sold that sucker in a yard sale! I like the current TV solution for now ... this way I can roll the TV to face the treadmill or roll it to face the couch and I just like its simplicity, making the TV less a focal point in the room (also, one day I want to replace it with one of those sleek hang-on-the-wall TVs, so until then I'm just keeping things cheap & simple.)

Anyway, there is a whole mess of tangles and cords behind that cart, and if the TV is rolled forward a little the big mirror on the opposite wall reflects the tangled mess. And you could see the cords from the back no matter how much I tried to conceal them, and sometimes they got in the way of crucial rolling. So I found a wicker basket in my pantry that formerly held doodads (Price = FREE) and got out a few cup hooks and my electric drill.

I pre-drilled three holes in the back of the cart and added the cup hooks, then I smooshed the basket on by maneuvering the cup hooks in through the basket weaving. This project would have turned out better if I'd have had some big carpentry staples, but hey. You make do with what you've got.


Ok, that doesn't really show how much better the after situation really is. Here's a picture of the TV cart rolled back into my RELATIONSHIP CORNER THANKYOUVERYMUCH, now without any messy, ugly black cords and giganto powerstrip all tangled and catching cat hair:


Another thing I did in the Weekend of Feng Shui was to add some pictures of my friends to my house. I realized as I was doing this experiment in home improvement that I have almost NO pictures of my friends and family hanging up! I have a few on the fridge, but that's it. So I picked some of my favorite digital prints and printed them on good paper and framed a few. Here's Amber, Jennifer and Shannon in front of the Louvre's magic pyramids during our trip to Paris. I loved this moment -- I saw the gals walking ahead of me with their umbrellas and it was such a perfect picture. It makes me smile just looking at it!


Small but easy-to-achieve things like this make decorating feel do-able. And it doesn't cost a lot to have a nice thing in your house that makes you smile! This frame was about six bucks after I used my 40% off coupon at Michael's.

When I first started this house-to-home thing, I wanted to pull myself out of ... well, a bit of depression. I'd had a series of bad events and lost Roy and I was just amiss, puddled up and half morose.

I have to say this whole thing has worked wonders on my optimism, and I'm feeling back to my usual goober self. But I wasn't ready to stop piddling around the house, and after a while it became a challenge to see how I could make things nice without spending a lot of money.

4) All your sinks are belong to us
This old house has all kinds of little cubbies and spots, like this one above the sink:


It's not an essential part of the deep-cleaning I've been doing, but it's kind of a repository of not-quite-rightness and I see it every time I wash a dish. I like displaying my little collection of vintage glasses on the small shelf, but the top cubby has just been a hodge-podge of coffee cups and general stuff. I wasn't sure what to do with it, since I didn't want to add clutter but I wanted it to be useful, too. I have the smallest kitchen, so I keep my coffee mugs up there, along with tall things like the olive oil and vinegar that won't fit in the cupboard and the salt and pepper.

I can't paint or add wallpaper but I found a pretty sheet of thick, decorative parchment wrapping paper and I attached it to the wall with a good helping of double-stick tape. For all my this-n-that stuff, I found a smallish lazy susan that fit perfectly in the cubby for just $4.99! In the afternoon on Sunday I got the rest of the cup hooks out from my TV cart extravaganza and used them to actually hang cups instead of impromtu feng shui baskets. My newly decorated, moved-into cubby makes me smile everytime I walk in the kitchen. Total cost? $4.99 + $1.50 for the wrapping paper = AWESOME!



I know it's a small thing but it matters. You never know who I may be sitting next to at a sad event or precarious time and I'll need to tell them in deep detail about the time I got hysterical because my TV was in my relationship corner and so I wallpapered my kichen with wrapping paper and tape.

You just never know!

Posted by laurie at 6:54 AM

September 10, 2007

The big day has arrived! I think. Maybe...?

It looks like Amazon.com might be shipping the book out earlier than expected, so if you order it today you'll have to let me know when it arrives. October 15? Halloween?

It's exciting and crazy, all of this. This past weekend I was driving out to the pet store to stock up on cat litter because in case the cats watch The Secret DVD while I'm gone next week, I want them to feel abundant! I want them to have the harmonious pooping environment of their dreams! And anyway I was driving and the radio was off because it appears to be kind of broken, Love you Jeep! and it was good to be quiet. It kind of dawned on me that I was going to buy supplies so that I could leave and go do all these exciting things.

As nervous as I am, I know it will all somehow be OK and we'll make jokes about the time I knocked over the display at the Seattle Barnes & Noble store. I can make jokes about it now because I know where I used to be. There is no way I could have done this just a few years ago. Get on a plane, fly somewhere, meet strangers?

There was a time in late 2004, early 2005 that I was practically agoraphobic. I left my house to go to work and that was it. What I couldn't order off the internet I shopped for at the corner 7-11. I made jokes about that, too, grocery shopping at the 7-11. But it wasn't until later that I saw how much of that was motivated out of fear. The regular market had become too big, too much, all I was capable of at the time was maneuvering four aisles and the cold foods section at 7-11. They did sell pretty good wine, too, I have to say.

I never admitted it. I don't think I actually realized it, to be honest. Looking backwards always helps clarify things. It's a nice contrast, to see how far I've come out of my shell, to see myself taking risks. Whenever things start going haywire these days and I'm called upon to take some weird risk that scares me out of my pants, I hem and haw and finally I tell myself, "Screw it, old girl. You got to bet on yourself." (Not sure if saying "screw it, old girl" is really going to help my membership to the self-help club, but whatever.) That's a pretty far toss from the 7-11 days.

There's one thing I love to do more than anything in this whole world: write stuff down. Always have. I never in a million years dreamed people would read this website and think something of it. It just felt so damn good to talk about my divorce, talk about knitting, talk about the rain. It felt good to write it down when I couldn't sleep, to garden at midnight, to talk it our, on and on and on. And Lord I can be a little on the wordy side.

I just want to thank you for checking in, and I want to thank you even more if during these past three years you sent me something or emailed or donated and I didn't respond. It's not that I wasn't grateful, it's that I didn't think I deserved the effort. I really was a mess, wasn't I? Thank you for hanging in there, because I do appreciate you and I am trying very had to be deserving and useful and occasionally, maybe, even funny.

I'll let you know if I knock anything over on this crazy ass book tour of mine. I'm sure hilarity will ensue and you know I will take pictures.

Posted by laurie at 2:14 PM

More really great stuff that makes life a happier place.

A few months ago when I posted my random "Can Buy Me Love" list, I was so surprised and happy that other folks also agree that a few little bath products and lipstick can make life better, and that I am not the only internet weirdo obsessed with The Deadliest Catch. Let's all go on vacation to Iceland or somewhere oceany... want to? You know we'll all smell good, and knit, and we'll never get bored watching the boats come in. And our lips will be Revloned to within an inch of their puckered little lives.

So, in the spirit of it being Monday and always needing happiness at the beginning of the week, here are some more good things that we use at Chez Feline that make life just a little nicer:

Best thing for keeping the peace with the furballs:
When I first heard about Comfort Zone with Feliway (updated link) for cats, I was skeptical. Kitty cat Prozac? In plug-in or spray form? Um, okay. But when I moved to the spinster castle and we went from four felines in 2500 square feet to four felines + one crying insomniac in 800 square feet, there were issues with cat comfort. So I bought the plug-ins and noticed an immediate difference, especially in Bob. While Bob is afraid of all things (such as "sounds" "air" and "lint") during the day, he is bold and full of surprise attacks at night. If I run out of the Comfort Zone plug-in stuff, he will keep us all awake at night attacking feet, Frankie and the edge of the comforter. It makes everyone mad, especially La Soba, who DOES NOT like to have her sleep disturbed by cats, because she hates cats. She especially hates Bob. So then she attacks with the fury and righteousness of the Wicked. But the Comfort Zone really is Prozac and keeps the peace somehow. I don't understand it either. Magic! Gnomes!


Best Pen for everyday stuff:
The Uniball. Love you. Also love saying "Uniball" hee!

Best thing to happen to cameras since they went all digital on us:
My little Kodak Easy Share camera takes AA size batteries, OR you can replace it with a Lithium battery instead. I think you will be shocked and amazed at how much longer they last. I know there are rechargeable batteries that are better for the environment and all of that, and I support the environment (Love you Al Gore! I am totally free for dinner on Saturday!) but I haven't gotten that coordinated yet to have the charged rechargeables on hand when I need them, it never works for me, and ya'll know I take a LOT of pictures, so I need my camera functional at all times. You would not want to miss a good bumper sticker, heaven forbid!

Best Cat Toy:
The Super Scratcher double-wide, hands down the all-time favorite cat toy in my house. I buy mine at Trader Joe's, so they are a different brand but the same concept. Plus I get to see cute TJs checkout guy. stalk stalk.


Best healthy popcorn:
Bearitos No-oil Organic Popcorn. Now, this will not be your favorite popcorn ever if you are switching from the Movie Theatre Syle Super Butterlicious Yummy Popcorn. It takes some acclimating. (Ingredients are popcorn and sea salt. That's it.) But you can eat the entire bag of popcorn for under 250 calories, and it's organic and still salty and crunchy. I know a lot of folks have a sweet tooth and crave sugar, but I have a salt-and-crunch tooth and I could live the rest of my life on potato chips and be VERY HAPPY thankyou! So this is my potato chip substitute, and it works. Plus I get to feel very healthy because it is "organic." I can be nutty for organic stuff.

Since we are on the subject of potato chips! Best potato chips for when you want to not get a whole lot fatter but still really kind of need to eat a potato chip:
Kettle Bakes lightly salted potato chips are my all-time favorite thing I have discovered in the Undieting. So as ya'll know I am Not Dieting ... instead I am Trying To Have A Healthy Nutritious Life. And yet I lived 35 years of my life locked in a love affair with the potato, specifically its delectible chip form.

My favorite homemade meal of all time is a cheeseburger cooked on the grill and some chips. Simple and awesome. So, with the whole "be healthy in life" thing, I now make my burgers out of organic free-range turkey and the buns are some sprouted wheat blah blah blah, and the chips? The chips are always Kettle Bakes. (You can eat the whole bag and it is only 480 calories. I am just saying is all.) And the ingredients? "Potatoes, oil, salt." No transfats, no mystery chemicals. I'm sure the Perfect Dieter inside me is screaming out that I SHOULD be eating nothing but a plain turkey breast with a side of raw carrots ... but the real person who is me knows she cannot sustain a lifetime of nothing but plain turkey breast and carrots and LOVES these chips for the occasional treat.

- - -

So that is today's list. By the way, I loved all the suggestions last time, and have several items on my To-Try list now thanks to ya'll!

Also, last time I did a column like this, reader Tasha commented that just listing stuff that she liked made her feel happier, too. So I am going to share a rather embarrassing secret, but it's true so there you have it. A few months ago I started having massive massive anxiety about all kinds of stuff. The more I thought of it, the more upset and anxious I got and I started becoming a big old mess.

So I sat down one night when I couldn't sleep and made a list on a pink-lined legal pad of every single thing that was actually WORKING in my life. At first I was like, "Um, well. Let's see. I am breathing." And then I kept writing it all down and before long, my life looked pretty freaking great on paper. SO WHAT THE HELL WAS I WHINING ABOUT. And I did a whole As God Is My Witness thing promising myself that if I started to get anxious and freaked out, I would pull out my list and re-read it and add two new things to it each time.

It is maybe the silliest thing I have ever done, well aside from that summer of Sun-In, but I swear it actually worked. Sometimes it worked by making me remember my life is awesome, and sometimes it worked because I was like "Oh crap, I better stop being whiny or I have to come up with two new things for that damn list."

That list, the List Of What Is Working In My Life, has amazing things on it ... like my family and friends and the quitting smoking stuff and just everything. But it also has "Magic Erasers!" and "Biokleen veggie wash" and "Cascadian green beans with almonds." Just thinking of those green beans makes me happy.

I know I am a big dork. You do not have to tell me, I ALREADY GOT THAT MEMO. But whatever, man! It worked! And it's a heck of a lot better than smoking. Or Sun-In.

Happy Monday!

Posted by laurie at 10:17 AM

September 7, 2007

I love Fridays, they have good Feng Shui.

Sobakowa has Furry Shui.

Do you believe in Feng Shui? Can you change your life and get lovin' or travel or money or harmony or whatever it is you need to flow by decorating according to the rules of the octagon? I'm going to try it this weekend. Drew made me a diagram of my living room, because I was maybe not so much understanding the concept. (I did flip through a feng shui book once, doesn't that make me an expert?)

And by "I'm going to try it this weekend" what I mean is "I am going to look at this diagram and paint my toenails and wonder how much wine is required." Mostly what I want to do is find the magic windchime or whathaveyou to put in my travel corner that will transport me to someplace with no deadlines and excellent croissants and strong coffee and guys that look like that guy from "The Transporter" movies mysteriously appearing to carry my luggage, tell me my shoes are cute, and take me to dinner. HELLO, FUNG SHUI DO YOU HAVE A SOLUTION TO THAT?

Hope ya'll have a nice weekend! May your feng be funny and your shui be full of croissants!


Posted by laurie at 10:06 AM

September 5, 2007

Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Sweater Sweepstakes


Ah, finally September 4th arrived and with it came a sweepstakes. What? No? What do you mean it's September 5th already...?

As it turns out, this sweepstakes business is all fun and games until it gets to the massive email filtering needed to make sure the entries actually work. Not fun! Not games! I have all sorts of fascinating and complex email issues if by "fascinating" you mean "blah blah blah." But finally with some assistance from my friends Caffeine and Chocolate and some rather obnoxious quality assurance testing, there are fresh new folders and files and so on awaiting YOU, yes YOU!

Check out the full sweepstakes page which is very cute if I do say so myself and read all about this goofy sweepstakes where you can enter a random drawing for one of two $100 gift certificates to awesome SuperCrafty.com plus a signed book by yours truly.

AND (and!!) you can enter the grand prize sweepstakes (it is very grand!) where you could win a huge goody bag full of yarn and pattern books and a signed copy of Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair and also a $100 gift certificate to SuperCrafty.com and maybe some Cheetos. Who knows what else I will gather for grandprizeiosity on my travels between now and then! Plus everyone who enters this portion will be featured in a photo gallery online and boy won't that be something because to enter this part of the sweepstakes...

... you'll knit or crochet a "cat" sweater!

Kudos to you if you get this so-called sweater on or near a cat. Or in the same room as a cat. Or on a picture of a cat. Or on a dog that is having an identity crisis. Or on a kid with the same cuteness factor as a kitten. You get the idea! It’s a very loosely interpreted version on "cat sweater" here...

So go check out the sweepstakes page and enter the random drawing, too, which requires NO knitting or cats whatsoever and read the rules and tell your friends. And your cats. And you dogs who can be dressed as cats... and kids... and friends' kids...

And good luck!

Posted by laurie at 6:18 AM