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September 30, 2009

Knitting, Glee, Mr. Clean, Borders, traffic photography

Knitting:
The past few weeks have seen no knitting at all as I packed, moved, then got sick. A few days ago I unpacked the box that was hiding my newest knitting project -- I did manage to put all the necessary components (pattern, yarn, needles, etc.) together into one box but then I mislabeled it and you can imagine my happy surprise when I opened a box expecting to find the fondue pot and instead found my long lost knitting project. But it's a gift for someone who reads this website and I'm not going to spoil the surprise.

[ use you imagination, picture something knitted here ]

The other night as I was sitting on the sofa staring at a pile of boxes that sadly would not unpack themselves, I thought of a great idea for my living room. I have a really pretty wooden bowl thingy that I'm going to set out with some Noro yarn and a set of aluminum needles and at some point I'm going to start an entrelac scarf using said yarn and needles and I can just leave it out all the time because it will look pretty in the bowl. And that way even if I'm not working on a specific project I can knit up a little square or two at night. And if I use metal needles the cats (read: Bob) won't chew on them. They don't bother yarn but wooden needles have a ten-second shelf life around ol' Big Teeth. Anyway, as soon as I unpack the bowl and find the yarn I'm going to make it into a little domestic art installation. I'm not sure why this idea made me happy but it's the little things, you know.

Glee:
A coworker of mine mentioned offhandedly that he'd started watching a new show called "Glee." This coworker and I sit very close together but we watch none of the same shows, and if we've all learned anything about conservative business corporate etiquette, it is that you need to share some social connections with your coworkers and that usually ends up being TV. Which is fine with me, that's how I discovered Dexter which I became totally addicted to one weekend.

Anyway, I decided to Tivo "Glee" just to see what it was like and I think I got about five minutes into last week's episode (where Kurt dances his own version of a Beyonce video) and I was so in love already that I decided to watch all the back episodes in order on hulu.com. Here's the clip that sucked me into this show and made me an instant fan:

This whole episode was just that good. Glee is by far my new favorite fall show. It was even better since I got to go online and watch the pilot and the two other episodes I had missed. That also reinforced to me of how AWESOME the internet is because it reminded me of the year I was crackass addicted to Felicity and I was on vacation to like Poland or Iceland or somewhere that did not get the WB and I missed the episode where Felicity chooses between Ben and Noel and I was heartbroken. Heartbroken, I tell you! I had to call a friend of a friend who worked at the network to get me a bootleg of the episode on VHS and by then all the surprise was gone.

This is a very long way of saying that I now love the happiness that comes with knowing it's easy to find TV episodes I missed online. So I did, and I watched Glee from the very beginning. I was surprised by how good the clarity and quality of the streaming video was on hulu.com -- and even though there are occasional short commercial breaks some of them were HILARIOUS, like this one, the Dokken/chicken ad from Norton:

I think whoever came up with the concept for that marketing campaign is both brilliant and probably around my age. Kind of makes me want to spray my hair with Rave #4 and peg my acid wash jeans.

Anyway! Glee comes on tonight at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. central) on Fox. And now you have all day to watch back episodes in preparation. If you like it than you shoulda put a ring on it!

He's A Magic Man
Today at work we have a full-day workshop and part of the homework was to pick a brand you feel strongly about and share a bunch of stuff with the group like the brand's target demographic, its brand feeling, value proposition and market share, etc. etc.

I picked Mr. Clean and his Magic Erasers which I think I've written about already eleventy-nine times but hey, I love me some Mr. Clean. When the movers left big marks all along my freshly painted walls it was Mr. Clean to the rescue. I have Magic Erasered everything from the walls to the stovetop to the crockpot (I have one of those white crockpots and when you make pot roast it gets all discolored which grosses me out) and Mr. Clean is my man -- always available, never lets me down. While I was doing my research for our meeting today I came across this funny piece of trivia:

According to Procter & Gamble, the original model for the image of Mr. Clean was a United States Navy sailor from the city of Pensacola, Florida, although most people think he is a genie based on his earring, folded arms, and tendency to appear magically at the appropriate time.

Somewhere out there a real-life woman was probably married to the real-life Mr. Clean and he was a salty sailor. How about that!


Making a run for the Borders
I stopped into a Borders book store last night on my way home from work to pick up a gift for a friend's birthday. Guess whose book was on display! Oddly enough, I sometimes forget that I have a whole 'nother secret life so it always shocks me to see anyone reading my book or a store that carries it. I walked in to Borders to get the newest Dan Brown and saw Drunk Cat Hair books and I think I blushed. Maybe it was a relapse of the Cupcake flu but maybe it wasn't. Who's to say. Anyway, go Borders.

- - -

How this column became an entire ode to brands and products I have no idea.

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Finally, this morning's traffic shot:

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Funny!

Posted by laurie at 8:40 AM

September 29, 2009

Bobface

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Posted by laurie at 12:46 PM

September 28, 2009

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

On Saturday night, Corey and her sister and I went to see the sing-a-long Sound Of Music at the Hollywood Bowl. I felt really bad about still being a little bit deathly even though it's been two weeks since I had The Cupcake Flu (by the way, I am hereby re-naming the swine flu. It is The Cupcake Flu. Or, alternately, the Rainbows and Butterfly Flu. You pick which strain you get.) But anyway, I was a little bit ghastly to be around the first hour or so. It was a million degrees out and we parked in Illinois and walked up Mt. Kilimanjaro to get to our seats and by the time we arrived I was ready for a nap in a chilled oxygen chamber.

Then I had a glass of sparkling wine and some little lettuce spring roll thingies and I was A-OK. Well, I was A-OK-ish.

I forgot to bring my camera and I tried unsuccessfully to take pictures on my phone, so here is the best picture I could get to commemorate this event:

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My ticket.

It was completely packed, Corey said the event was sold out. Anyway, it was fun and then I spent Sunday in bed because apparently a night at the Bowl was too much for me, still recovering from Cupcake Flu.

Kind of makes you want a cupcake, though, doesn't it?

- - -

Thanks to reader Christy who wrote:

I too LOVE downtown L.A. at night. I get this exhilarating feeling, like my blood is actually dancing, like it's Christmas or Halloween or something exciting like that. It is wonderful to know that I am not alone in this! Truly, I am grateful to live in this town.

And it's true - one can find anything in the Valley. I am developing a new appreciation for the Valley. I was born and raised in Silverlake and have just started really hanging out in the Valley. I have some friends who live in Studio City and Woodland Hills...and the shopping is off the hook!!! For me, it's like a mini vacation away from the downtown and eastside areas. So here's to Friday, and being grateful, and appreciating this exciting city in which we live!

I love that feeling like your blood is dancing through your veins! I never heard it described quite that way, but I get it! And I'm happy to hear folks are even now developing love for the Valley. No matter what you're looking for I have a theory you can find it in the Valley. Well, unless it's a stable, nice, normal, unmarried, straight guy with good manners and a decent job who is not addicted to porn or in The Program or in a cult/rockabilly band/cannabis club. In that case you're on you're own. We're still part of Los Angeles, you know ... can't win 'em all!

Posted by laurie at 3:43 PM

September 25, 2009

Friday at last

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What a long, exhausting, HOT week! I am ridiculously thrilled for it to be Friday.

I've had to work late a few nights this week and the best part about working late is getting to see Los Angeles at nightfall. The whole city just twinkles and sparkles, it looks clean and perfect. Downtown is a ghost town at night -- no traffic snarls or mounds of pedestrians crossing against the hand. It's just me and the high-rise buildings with their shimmering windows and lights.

Sometimes I forget that I love working downtown. But I do love it. It's easy to get bogged down with traffic and commuting (and it does sometimes feel like we work on an island far from real Los Angeles) but downtown gives me a little thrill, too. I love living in a huge city with soaring buildings and being right in the thick of things. I like that feeling of walking up from the subway and seeing a slice of sky in between the high-rise skyline. I like that you can see the Hollywood sign from our breakroom and on a clear day you can see the ocean at Palos Verdes from my friend V.'s office.

And of course the best part is that after a long week I get to leave the twisted tangle of downtown streets and go back to the Valley and spend my weekend looking for the perfect curtain rod for my bedroom windows. And you can find anything in the Valley, that I promise you. Sometimes I try to picture myself living somewhere else (last year I very seriously contemplated a move to France, but it ended up not coming together) and I can tick off a few cities I love enough to move to: Paris, Madrid, Prague, Wroclaw, Copenhagen. But I'm not sure I can leave L.A. forever. Los Angeles is the closest I've ever come to a lifetime commitment. We fight, we break up, we make up, sometimes I have to leave all-the-sudden and then I'm so happy to come back a week later. I feel like I live on the very edge of the world here, as if at any moment anything could happen.

It's my favorite place I have ever visited and I knew I wanted to live here the first time I saw it when I was seven years old. All this time later I still can't believe I do!

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Posted by laurie at 7:08 AM

September 24, 2009

So that was nice!

Comments lasted a grand total of what... not even a month? Awesome!

Yesterday I wrote a little sentence at the end of my entry about pot roast. I offhandedly mentioned we're having a group lunch potluck thingy today at my job and the theme is to bring an item creatively made with peanuts in an Iron-Chef inspired taste-off. You guys always have the best ideas, so I thought I'd ask for recipe suggestions.

A few hours later I went to read the comments to see what new and unusual dishes my creative Internet friends make with peanuts and I found a bunch of nasty, bitter mean-spirited comments about peanuts. PEANUTS. I think I let out an audible UGH!!!!!!!!!!! Good grief on a cracker.

I can assure you all that:

1) Had I wanted a vitriolic diatribe on peanut allergies I would have googled it. I did not. I was not really that interested in vitriolic diatribes. I was however quite enticed by the recipe for Asian cole slaw.

2) The person planning the potluck checked with everyone first to make sure no one would keel over from some peanut butter fudge so you do not have to contact Human Resources, a legal representative or the ACLU, but thank you for the offer. (Also, why does this require explaining?)

3) I had no idea peanuts were the new "You're an alcoholic."

4) Our little departmental potluck is not putting you -- leaver of mean-spirited comments -- personally at risk of going into anaphylactic shock since you do not work here. I know this because I can see your IP address and if you are on my floor you have no other way to access the internet than through our subnet.

5) I kind of feel mad geeky having just said "subnet."

So, that was fun, an almost-month of comments! Say hey to your mama and thanks for the memories!

I know that there are other people who would handle stuff like that better. Some people love and embrace unasked for advice, unsolicited snarkiness and strangers pointing out that the sky is falling. Sadly, I am not other people. (I keep shopping for clothes like I am someone else though -- someone taller and skinnier. So sad. Yet, so hopeful!)

Maybe it's because I've been ridiculously sick for two weeks and I just do not have the energy or time or disposition for other people's issues. And I have at least learned that when people go off about some random thing like some complete stranger's potluck, it's their issue, not mine. I'm just so incredibly tired. I don't want to deal with other people's stuff. I had the flu. You know... THE flu. And it sapped the happy go-go right out of me. I know they say when you get sick and run-down the first thing to go is the sense of humor. I wonder if mine left forever? I dearly hope it comes back one day. ("Dear God, are you there? It's me Margaret and forget about the period, I want my happiness back.") Usually when I see mean-spirited comments I can hit the delete key without bemoaning the loss of civilized human discourse but apparently I have lost not only my sense of humor but my entire sense of whimsical bemusement. I got irritated and bitchy my ownself just reading people's blahblahblah.

Mostly I was irritated because folks seem to forget that even if the spiteful comment doesn't personally affect me, it may in fact directly insult a friend of mine who may have picked the theme of the potluck and who may read this here website and its comments. Perhaps when I get my mojo and my voice back all the way I will also get my cheerful, delete-key-happy disposition back. We'll see.

So that's that, off with their heads, no peanuts for you, pass the winesack. All this and I didn't even make anything with peanuts! I worked late last night and by the time I got home I fell onto the sofa and drooled onto the remote control. (I make single life sound SO ATTRACTIVE, do I not?) So I just brought drinks since nobody had signed up for that and it didn't require me to cook. And not cooking gives me so much more time to bemoan the loss of civil discourse!

Posted by laurie at 9:19 AM

September 23, 2009

When it is 1000 degrees, make pot roast!

Not sure why I had a deep, unrelenting desire to make a pot roast when it is a zillion degrees out, but there you have it. And organic grass-fed beef roast was on sale at Whole Foods this week. HARMONIC CONVERGENCE!

By far my favorite way to make a roast is in the crock pot. This is the easiest recipe I know and turns out delicious every time. You need:

• Some form of beef roast or brisket (I usually do this with brisket and it's delicious, this time I cooked a rump roast)

• Crushed or pureed garlic -- I use the kind from a jar, because I am lazy. The smoother the consistency the better.

• Coarsely ground black pepper

• Sea salt (optional)

• Some form of liquid -- can be broth, water, beer or red wine (I do a mixture of red wine and water)


To make the roast:
In a bowl, make a paste with the garlic and black pepper. I use a lot of black pepper ... and a lot of garlic.

Cover the roast with garlic/pepper paste. I use my hands and just work it all over the surface.

When the roast is covered in the spices, brown the meat in a big, heavy pot. I use a big stockpot so the stove doesn't get as messy and if your cut of meat is very lean, you may need to add 1-2 TBS of canola oil. I always add the oil because my big stockpot isn't a non-stick pan. But if you use nonstick cookware you may not need any oil.

When the roast is browned on all sides, put it in the crock pot. (I am guessing if you had a Dutch oven you would do all this in one pan, but I don't have a Dutch oven so this is the way I do it.)

Next, use a small amount of liquid to deglaze the pan and scrape up all the bits from browning the meat. I use either a good beef stock or a combo of water and cabernet. Lat night I used the wine/water combo. About 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup liquid will do.

Add the liquid and pan juices to the crockpot.

I usually let it cook on high for an hour or so, then turn the heat down to low and let it cook all night. Some people add in potatoes and vegetables but I think it all ends up tasting too much like pot roast so I just cook a potato and some green beans separately. The garlic mellows over the long cooking time and the gravy at the bottom is tasty and rich. The only problem with this dish is that it smells so good it kept waking me up during the night!

- - -

Do you have any recipes containing peanuts? We're supposed to be having an Iron-chef-inspired potluck at work tomorrow and the dish has to contain peanuts. Pretty much the only thing I "cook" that has peanuts is celery and peanut butter.

Maybe I can sprinkle some peanuts on my pot roast?

Posted by laurie at 11:45 AM

September 22, 2009

You may think nature abhors a vacuum, but not if you have a Dyson.

Happy first day of fall!

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Doesn't it look like dapper Dallas Raines is asking me to dance? Only if you have the air conditioning, my man.

Over the weekend I finally started unpacking. I got very sick right after I moved and I spent the next ten days hoping I would not die in my new apartment and be eaten by my cats. I'm much better now thanks to massive amounts of pharmaceuticals and finally some sleep. Living out of boxes was making me bonkers, so over the weekend I tried to get as much done as possible without overdoing it. I managed to get my kitchen mostly-unpacked and my clothes unpacked and things are starting to shape up, a little.

And I've got quite a nice pile going to donate to charity. Sure, most people would have done that in reverse (first, cull out donations and then move the rest) but there was just no time for all that, I had to pack and move in three days flat. It's fine, this way I can be more relaxed about it. And it's a relief to be totally out of the old place, that seemed to drag on forever, just all the little stuff that had to be taken care of. I like the bigger space, it's so luxurious to have two bathrooms. What I don't like are those people saying, "Beware! Your stuff will expand to fill your newer, bigger space!" and "Nature abhors a vacuum, you'll fill it all up soon enough!"

That is just hogwash! I don't buy it for one second.

Of course if you believe that old adage it will come true for you. But I don't believe it and so it isn't true for me. Like, I believe things happen in threes so they do. But if I were from a place where everything came in fours and I bought into that belief I am sure I'd see four of everything instead of three.

So I absolutely do not believe that having more space means having more stuff. In fact, I plan to do just the opposite. Luckily I have discovered that objects do not just magically appear in the house each night as I sleep. The cats are not out shopping all day while I'm at work. The only way stuff enters my house is when I bring it in myself with my own hands by my own choice. So I'm the one in control of the stuff, not the other way around.

Right now I'm all about the one in/one out rule. Whatever comes in, something must go out. And for some stuff (books and yarn, ahem) I can go a loooong time without shopping at all. I have enough yarn and books to last me through the apocalypse.

As I unpacked my books on Sunday I made a stack of all the books that I either haven't yet read or want to re-read and I'm putting them on their own shelf so I can "shop" from my own supply instead of buying more. I know people who use the library exclusively -- my mom does that-- but I buy books because I prefer to support the author with my money (karma, etc.) and anyway, I own a lot of books that I have yet to read and it was fun stacking them on their own shelf like my little personal bookstore.

Yarn is a whole 'nother story. I AM NOT BUYING ANY MORE YARN. I have enough yarn to keep me busy for weeks and months and years. I have decided that unless I am making a project that is a gift for someone else AND I have absolutely no yarn on hand that will work AND I plan to cast on for said project within 24 hours of buying the new yarn, no more yarn shopping will happen possibly ever but definitely not until June, 2010 (I'm such a little nerd, I love to set myself dates and goals). I figure I can buy myself some yarn for my birthday next year or something. My stash is embarrassing. I can guarantee you I could knit all day every day between now and next June and still have plenty left over. Also, I sense I am not alone in this arena. I have seen Ellen's stash and mine is a tiny shadow of the master stasher! But I do have plenty. There's just something about having beautiful yarn that's addictive.

Not getting much done during the week, though, by the time I get home I'm worn out. Hopefully I'll be feeling better and back to 100% by next weekend. It sure would be nice to get rid of the rest of these boxes.

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Frankie helps keep me from overdoing it.

Posted by laurie at 10:26 AM

September 21, 2009

Last day of summer

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Some folks work out.

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Some sleep.

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Some wonder why I can't find a single low-light setting on this wretched camera that looks good.

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"Autumn" in Los Angeles.

Posted by laurie at 11:05 AM

September 16, 2009

Los Angeles: It's got a groove, it's got meaning

1) I'm on a Mexican Radio
Listen, it was weird enough when one day I'm listening to Rick Dees in the morning on 93.9 and then the next day I flip on the radio and it's Mexican love songs. Well, I figure, it's FM. It happens.

But then last week I go to listen to traffic on the ones on KFWB News 98 and all you hear is DR. FREAKING LAURA. Listen, I don't mind Dr. Laura, she's fine, whatever, but she's supposed to be over on KFI with all tho other talkalots. I don't listen to talk radio, I listen to news radio -- I have spent the past 14 years flipping between 980 and 1070 to get traffic on the ones and on the fives. Why would they do this to me? Why would they remove half of my news and traffic? I've taken it very personally. This is Los Angeles. We have traffic needs, people. Once every ten minutes is not enough.

This is why people are abandoning radio and buying those subscription radio thingies, which I refuse to do since I own a car that any five-year-old can break into and steal the radio. I had to listen to traffic on KOST 103 this morning! What is the world coming to?

2) The city of Angels is going bankrupt
Explain to me why we've got liquid gold flowing from the city coffers when it comes to hosting celebrity funerals or basketball team parades, but the city now cannot find the money to open City Hall more than twice a month?

I didn't vote for our Mayor, I thought he seemed slippery and a little seedy, and I did a lot of "I told you so..." to my friends when his salacious private affairs became public. Mostly I just wish someone who knew basic math and accounting would run for Mayor. In the meantime, can we hire Bob from AccountTemps to come in and do some line item auditing while our Mayor is off attending the opening of yet another envelope?

3) To the left, to the left ... no, to the right, to the right.
One thing that is free and easily available to all Californians -- yes, even those living and driving in Los Angeles! -- is the California's Driver's Manual. I am often amazed at the crazyass things I see on the road, but the absolute top of the crazymaking list is the way people respond to emergency vehicles.

It is not legal, normal or sane to come to a complete stop in the middle of the road, or the middle of an intersection, or in the middle of the freeway when you see sirens coming.

Here's what usually happens on side streets when people see sirens coming:

A: They move over to the right a little bit but keep driving because their destination is more important than the ambulance's destination.
B: They stop completely no matter where they are on the road, including in the far left lane, in the middle of an intersection or directly IN FRONT of the emergency vehicle.
C: They freak out and drive into the person next to them.

In case you're wondering, none of those options are the preferred method of dealing with sirens. On side streets (meaning non-freeway roads) you are supposed to move carefully and expediently to the right side of the road and then stop. STOP. All the way stop, not "just drive a little slower than usual, weaving around those who obeyed the law and stopped so that you can be first in line once the ambulance passes."

The actual driver's handbook text reads:

Emergency Vehicles

You must yield the right of way to any police car, fire engine,ambulance, or other emergency vehicle using a siren and red lights. Drive as close to the right edge of the road as possible and stop until the emergency vehicle(s) has passed. However, never stop in an intersection. If you are in an intersection when you see an emergency vehicle, continue through the intersection and then drive to the right as soon as you can and stop. Emergency vehicles often use the wrong side of the street to continue on their way.


On the freeway it's a whole 'nother ball of insanity.

Twice this month alone I have seen a procession of police cars with lights and sirens blazing coming up on the freeway. They usually come in a line on the far left lane (the number one lane) and I am not sure why this freaks people out to no end. I mean it freaks them out more than rain, even. I saw people come to a dead stop in the same lane police were trying to use to get to their big crime scene. Cars! Coming to a dead stop! In the number one lane!

Weirdos.

The rest of the freeway experienced a mass panic attack, too. Some people had actual brains and used them, moving carefully and expediently over into the right lanes of the freeway.

Some people came to a stop no matter what lane they were in.

Some people, we can only guess, spontaneously exploded.

Here is what the LAPD says about dealing with emergency vehicles:

If you hear a siren or see flashing lights on a freeway, you should:

* Pull over to the right when safely able to do so;
* Continue to move forward at a safe speed; and
* If the operator of the emergency vehicle requests you to move in a certain direction via the PA system, please do so expeditiously.

· DON’T panic!

· DON’T stop on the freeway!


So that's my little Public Service Announcement for this Wednesday morning. I had plenty of time to compose it in my mind on the way here, seeing as they've stolen my News 980 away.

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Edited to add: I've had the comments off for so long I forgot that everytime I mention anything not stellar or perfect or peachy about my favorite city, people say things like, "Well you should move instead of complaining." Why on earth would someone leave that as a comment? Complaining is my cardio, people. And what normal person doesn't complain about where they live? Complaining about your city and making fun of your fellow city-dwellers, especially the drivers, is one of life's few certainties and pleasures!

Posted by laurie at 9:43 AM

September 14, 2009

Cats on Stairs

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Frankie peeks around the side.

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Soba rules the top flight.

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"Here, I'll come closer so you can get an action shot."

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Bob. Probably the most accurate picture ... stuff stuff everywhere.

Posted by laurie at 9:53 AM

September 11, 2009

Nine Eleven

There are a million places to read on the internet about politics and I have never felt a need to write about all that, mostly because I prefer to debate the merits of new brands of cat litter and whether or not I should finally make the switch from a plain old moisturizer to one of those fancy anti-aging creams. Decisions, decisions.

My parents and I have totally opposite political beliefs. It is because of this great ideological divide in my own family that I believe with ardent fervor there are good, decent and smart people on either end of the spectrum. I do not need people to believe what I believe. And to their unending credit, my parents have never tried to change me. They accepted early on that I often held the completely opposite viewpoint and we made jokes about it and they just let me be me. They have teased me to no end and sometimes we cannot talk about certain topics without rolling our eyes at each other, but in the end we respect each other. We share the desire to make our nation the finest and most decent place we can.

I am so happy and grateful to be an American girl. I love travel and I love my diverse and multi-ethnic adopted city and when I'm abroad I want to represent my country well to everyone I meet. I am not a xenophobic flag-waver and never have been, but I also never once backed away from saying I am an American, even when I traveled after the first months of the Iraq war when many people in other places were openly hostile about it. I remember being cornered in a bar in Reykjavik by two women who were enraged about the war and I just listened and told them that many Americans shared their feelings and felt frustration and anger, too. In the end I bought us all a round of drinks and one of the girls laughed and said, "It might be easier for you to say you're Canadian, you know!"

But I have never lied about being an American. I was in France two weeks after the stupid Freedom Fries thing and I was mightily tempted to all-the-sudden be from Manitoba, but I still told people where I was from when they asked.

To me, patriotism is being kind and open and welcoming and always propagating The Dream. I believe that our nation is a hopeful and optimistic place that one can come to and work hard and make a life and live better. My father is the embodiment of the American dream, and even though I know he is sometimes disillusioned with our politics, he is also someone who instilled in me a love for my nation, my neighborhood, and my work. My father taught me to look up, to look forward, to strive. My older brother Guy is also the American Dream, he has started over more times than I can count and worked his way up that ladder every time. I admire him because he never gives up, to me he embodies our national spirit.

After September 11th, when the anniversary of the events rolled around one year later, I was horrified that I would be expected to get up and get dressed and go to work that day and each and every September 11th from then on. I desperately felt we needed to make it a national day of mourning, a day of quiet and reverence and personal grief. I felt a lot of grief that day, I lost someone on that first plane and like many I also forever lost my sense of safety and my naive belief in the integral decency of others. I was furious that someone -- many someones -- could move here and work here and shop for groceries here for months, years, and then one day get on an airplane and create such evil.

I took September 11th very personally. I was angry, I was bereft, I was broken in half. I wanted that day to be forever silenced and remembered and held in your hands gently. I divided my life into pre-9/11 and post 9/11.

Enough time has passed now that I think I understand even more what it means to be an American citizen. It means to keep on keeping on, to move onward and remember without becoming mired in paralyzing sadness and regret. It means to remain optimistic and hopeful and to strive to become better. This nation is not perfect and never will be. We screw up. We're imperfect. But we don't give up.

I was very happy to see that September 11th is being commemorated in a new way -- today is the first National Day of Service and Remembrance.

The New York Times has a piece on it, this jumped out at me:

By joining with those already planning to take all or part of the day to aid their chosen cause or charity, Americans can show their patriotism and help recapture the spirit of community that saw so many people volunteer to help the families who lost loved ones in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 horror.

This to me is the real essence of our American character, giving back, giving to others, giving forward. Much better than a day of mourning -- it's a day of helping. It's a way to remember and honor and give at the same time, which truly is the best of us.

If you are looking for places to volunteer at today specifically in honor of September 11th, visit http://911dayofservice.org/ or visit http://www.serve.gov/ for a list of opportunities to serve at all times in your area.

Posted by laurie at 8:56 AM

September 10, 2009

Har har

I love dumb jokes. Here are some of my favorites:

Q: Where does the king keep his armies?
A: In his sleevies!

- - -

Q: Why does a cow wear a bell around his neck?
A: Because his horns don't work.

- - -

Q: What do you call a cow with three legs?
A: Lean beef.

- - -

Q: What do you call a cow with no legs?
A: Ground beef.


- - -
Two sausages are in a frying pan. One sausage says to the other, "Wow it sure is hot in here!"
The other sausage says, "Oh my gosh -- you're a talking sausage!"

- - -

A dog walks into the unemployment agency to fill out an application. He tells the startled woman at the front desk he's come to see if there are any job openings in his field.

"A talking dog!" she says excitedly. "You should be in the circus!"

The dog looks puzzled. "Why would the circus need a plumber?"

- - -


And my favorite joke of all, which I know I have already told you, is my graphic designer joke:

Q: How many graphic designers does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: A lightbulb? Does it have to be a lightbulb? Can we go with a candle, maybe with a flickering light? Or a lantern? Why do we have to go with a lightbulb? I was thinking more along the lines of an open road, with clouds and a desertscape. Who came up with this crappy lightbulb idea? It was marketing, wasn't it?

Posted by laurie at 10:35 AM

September 7, 2009

Hoarders

I have become obsessed with this show on TV called "Hoarders." The first time I saw it the episode featured a lady who hoarded food (all food, even spoiled, rotten, curdled food) and I made it through about 15 minutes of the show before I had to pause the Tivo and go clean out my refrigerator, using those Clorox wet wipes to sanitize it, checking the expiration dates of every condiment, throwing stuff away. Listen, it's there, inside me, that genetic desire to hoard, to have, to prepare. I don't know if I am warding it off or OCDing away or just postponing it, but who cares, my fridge never sparkled like it did that night.

Moving gets you up close and personal with all your stuff like no other experience on earth. Sometimes I am comforted by my stuff, as if it anchors me to the earth, tethers me to reality. Other times I feel weighed down by it, burdened, embarrassed to have accumulated so much. I am just one person after all, who has this much stuff?

All those months, years of decluttering and still I have so much. I bemoan it, but then I feel grateful for all my little doodads. Stuff is such a tricky subject. My dad and I talk about it sometimes. He gets me, he understands the tightwire walk between comfort and overwhelmed. I want to take this time as I unpack to consider my stuff more critically. I LOVE a clean house, and yet sometimes it looks like a hurricane passed through (like now, with all the boxes and piles) and now that I have more space I vow not to clutter it up with more junk. I want to have what I need, yes, but not hoard. Only some people understand what poverty mentality does to you, and those people know it's a fine tiny line between being prepared and being trapped. People who grew up poor have a different filter. Sometimes I want to clean all day until you can lick the floors and taste sunshine and sometimes I just want to be so engulfed with my stuff that I feel anchored. Like everything in life, it's just finding the middle space that lets you breathe.

It's such a high-class problem to have, that I know for sure. It makes me comforted, all this stuff. And it feels heavy (especially up three flights of stairs.) Somewhere in there is a middle place, that's good to know. I was an overachiever at Tetris and apparently I parlayed that skill into Tetris closet, Tetris pantry, Tetris garage. Lordy but I can fill a space and it looks so organized! How did I get so much into 800 square feet? Even after paring down by more than half?

Have decided I'll give myself to the end of the month to unpack and then what has no home has to go. I keep reminding myself it's a good problem to have, it's abundance, it's not being poor, it's not having to hold on because it may never pass my way again. Oh, it's just stuff. It's a lot of stuff. Even as I type this I can feel myself breathing again.

We are not our stuff! (Bob is in his space behind the keyboard right now, he's not clutter. He likes to lie there as I type, he's adjusting so well!) Anyway, it's a little bit of chaos here but I'll figure it out, I always do. I got so sure that my relationship with stuff had changed then I moved and saw just how much stuff I still had. I truly do understand how those people on "Hoarders" got where they are. I have nothing but compassion for them. But hell if I will end up that way. It's just piles, boxes, objects. We are not our stuff.

Posted by laurie at 7:46 PM

September 6, 2009

We're here.

Current conditions are boxy, with more boxes ahead! but we're in and finally the cats have come out from the closet and are eating a normal breakfast. The first night, one hid behind the fridge and everyone else vanished into cupboards and closets. The cupboards and closets are relatively bare since everything is still packed and stacked. How did I fit this much stuff into that little tiny house?

A few months ago I signed up for a two-day seminar over Labor Day thinking how convenient to spend two full days at a seminar and then have a Monday off for relaxing. Of course then I'd have no way of knowing I was would be moving that weekend, just up and move in a week flat. I'm so bone-tired I almost fell asleep in yesterday's afternoon session of the workshop. Crazy. But it's non-refundable and so, I am going again today. Boxes be damned.

The move was arduous, the hottest day of the year and I pulled an all-nighter beforehand, worried I'd never get it all done (you never do, or maybe you do but I tend to run out of boxes at 3 a.m.) and so I still have a few carloads of little junk to bring over myself. On Friday I went back over there and cleaned and then later that day the landlord and his wife did a walkthrough -- they're the nicest people you'll ever meet -- and they were both happy for me that I'm moving closer to work and out of my "transition" place (which lasted five years, ahem) and then Miss Nancy turned to me and said, "You have just been so clean, Laurie! I think this house is even cleaner today than when we rented it to you!" and she smiled and I grinned ear-to-ear. One of my personal philosophies in life is to do your best to leave things just as good or better than how you found them. I especially wanted to do that for the little house in Encino-adjacent.

Now I'm going to unload my Jeep from yesterday's carload (I was too tired after the seminar to unload anything but a bottle of wine and a Lara bar.) My legs already feel like I have been on a stairmaster for two days straight! The washer and dryer are on the top floor of my apartment, so to get a clean shirt (all my stuff is still packed, I'm just washing the same clothes over again) I feel like I climb a small mountain. It's going to be great built-in exercise or so I keep telling myself groaningly. Then I have a pile more to get at the old place and then there is the workshop to attend at 10 a.m. and at least by the end of the day tomorrow I should be done over at the old house and can focus on the new one. I think we're going to be very happy here. I know that once I can find my pants I will be even happier. And my socks. And the coffee pot. The only thing that is easy to find is yarn... it's EVERYWHERE. It's all arranged neatly in its mountain of plastic see-through bins sorted by color, fiber type or project. One of the moving guys asked if I worked for a yarn shop. "You really have a LOT of yarn," he said. "You must work in a yarn shop, right?" I lied. I said "Yep, sure do. Why else would anyone have so much yarn?"

hehehehehehe.

Posted by laurie at 5:28 AM

September 3, 2009

Yes there are two paths you can go by but in the long run there's still time to change the road you're on

In addition to believing in ghosts and regularly encountering friends and family members with hauntings, many Southerners are also superstitious people. I mean that in the best way possible, because what is a superstition anyway except an ear at the door of the future, listening in?

I myself am superstitious and always have been. I believe that bad luck can run out and in its place you can have a run of good luck. I believe you should listen when the universe sends you a sign or else the signs will just keep getting bigger and uglier. And I believe things happen in threes.

The first thing happened on August 8th. I was out taking a walk in my neighborhood and I saw something awful happen, it was horribly tragic and I will not talk about it but to say it was a Definite Sign. Deep inside, I knew right then I was going to have to move. But because I am the way I am -- a homebody and not exactly embracing of change at all times -- I got another sign the following Saturday when my garden was mowed over. The Universe was really not messing around with vague little signs. I was worried. I wondered if I should start packing.

At work on the Monday after the Great Garden Murder, I confided to my friend Corey that I needed to move before a truck drove through my house or the roof got struck by lightening or something.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Signs! They always come in threes," I said. "I got two BIG ones already and I am not sticking around for the third one to force me out."

We were in the lunchroom, eating at a table in the corner by the window and she just laughed. Corey has the best laugh on the planet.

"No, no way," she said. "Sometimes just one thing happens. Or two."

This is because she is from Northern California and one can only assume that up there they just have their one sign or their two signs and that works for Californians. However, where I am from things happen in threes. I have lived out here for a long time, but I was a Southerner the day I was born and that means you mind your manners, you say yes ma'am and no ma'am and you believe in the law of threes. You can pretend to ignore the signs all around you but they just get bigger until a sinkhole opens up under the kitchen or a meteor drops into your living room. Don't laugh. I am telling you, it has happened to some people.

That very evening I went home and as I was cooking dinner I heard the doorbell ring. My neighbor across the street and three houses down had arrived home to discover her whole house burglarized top to bottom and she was passing out fliers with a notice about the robbery and so on.

I immediately called Corey.

"The third thing knocked on my door!" I said.

I explained what happened, about the robbery and the lady saying there was a wave of crime sweeping the neighborhood (or that's what the police had told her as she filed her report, but it's not a great part of town to begin with) and then I read the flier to Corey over the phone.

"I felt awful for my neighbor," I said. "But I was also relieved because it wasn't a truck driving into my living room at midnight. It's a weird feeling, being sad for someone else and also being relieved but with guilt. Anyway, there's no time to think about all that. Because now I have to move."

And we laughed because I am superstitious and also because I've been talking about moving for a long time and now, finally, the time had come. I wonder if Corey thought I was just being dramatic, I do have a tendency toward the hyperbolic. But when it comes to signs I don't fool around. My philosophy is that when the universe is telling you to get out of Dodge, you need to start boxing up the dishes and get a move on.

Listen, I have loved this house. It was exactly what I needed at the time. My life had crumbled into smoke and ashes and I had no money at all and I was barely holding my pieces together. This little house was as far away from my married life as possible without leaving the county and it was secluded and it was where I sat and cried and smoked and drank and cried and divorced and later it was where I pulled myself together. I have navel-gazed and pondered and gardened and learned to cook and knitted and cocooned and it was just the right place at the right time. It was the right place for a long time.

I'm not sure when it stopped being the right place. That's the thing with signs, we only heed them when we're ready. I haven't fit this house in a while but it took until now to be clear to me. I need a change. Moving is stressful for me and dramatic and crazy and scary and anxiety-producing, but moving can also make you see things differently, and it changes a person, and I need to move on. I simply don't want to stay in the Divorce House forever.

I have a vision for my life -- don't you? -- of how I want things to be "one day." It's that little dream we all hold inside of us, it's how we hope things will be as we move forward. It finally dawned on me that the discomfort and restlessness I've been feeling is because the gap between Where I Am and Where I Want To Be is just too great a distance. I can't get there from here. So I have to make movement toward it, meet it half way, change things up a little.

So I am making a little leap across the unknown into the future and I am moving. I am moving to the cutest little place. And I am moving today! I can't sleep, I have too much to do and I'm too nervous and anxious and excited.

It all happened so fast and everything fell into place just so. Last Monday I made a list of everything I wanted in a new home: a safer neighborhood, closer to work, gated, with stairs inside, dishwasher, fireplace. I wanted one of those Los Angeles fireplaces, you know, where you flip the little switch and magically flames appear. We had one at the old condo before le divorce and the cats loved lying there basking in the heat all winter. I wanted stairs, like a place with a loft or a townhouse-style apartment so the cats could run up and down. Maybe they can go off the dreaded diet food if they get some exercise.

Anyway, that was Monday. I had a list.

On Tuesday I looked at some rental listings for ideas, you know, just to see what was out there. The third ad I looked at was IT. The One. Fifteen minutes later I'd made an appointment to see it. But even sight unseen I knew the moment I read about the place it was going to be mine. On Wednesday I saw it in person and filled out the application. On Thursday I signed the lease and two days later I picked up my keys.

HOLY CRAP YA'LL! Apparently when I actually heed the signs with no bellyaching and just say, Ok! Here we go! everything moves like a waterfall. Is that the craziest thing you ever heard? Who in Los Angeles makes a list like that and finds it in the first building they look at? It is a renter's urban legend.

It has every single thing I put on my list plus a patio! It's gated and secure and there's no one below or above you since the whole thing is stretched out top to bottom with all the levels like a townhouse. I LOVE IT. The building is new and SO CLEAN and I can still have my plants, and I love container gardening so now they'll be on a patio.

The biggest change by far will be my commute. My new place is still in the Valley but it's closer to work and will shave about 45 minutes off my commute each way. Yes, that is 45 minutes less each way. It's closer to restaurants and stores and it's within walking distance to things and the neighborhood is much safer. I'm so excited. I'm also a little freaked out. But I am just going with it. I'm not going to second-guess or give into my fear and honestly, I just knew. I knew the minute I saw it it had to be mine.

Because I am nostalgic and maudlin I tend to hang onto things even once I have outgrown them. I knew for a long time I needed to move but I just wasn't ready. Moving is crazymaking and I've had my moments this past week. Doubt, anxiety, sheer panic. This tiny little house way out in the armpit of the Valley was my little refuge, my little island off the coast of humanity. It feels like I'm moving back to the mainland, which is good but a little stressful. I've tried to stay focused on packing ... packing and labeling and cleaning and sorting. I keep reminding myself that doubt and panic are all totally normal and expected reactions to big change and so when I have a moment of "Oh -- wait -- am I really doing this?" I don't let myself get wrapped up into it and just let it pass. I have never been a fan of moving (though I have done an awful lot of it in my lifetime) and of course it stirs stuff up, this move in particular. I keep remembering how awful it was moving into this house, what a disaster I was, how everything was pear-shaped and messy. I miss smoking. I miss Roy. But mostly I'm just relieved not to be moving out of tragedy this time, but moving out of choice.

Moving was the right next step. Most of my stuff is boxed and labeled and stacked up neatly around the house. There's still so much to do though, moving never seems to end! The truck comes in a few hours to load it all up and move it to the new place. I can't sleep, there's so much to do. I'm moving! It's been five years and it's time. Goodbye, Divorce House. Hello DISHWASHER!

Posted by laurie at 1:24 AM

September 2, 2009

Well, there is plenty of time to read in traffic.

bumper-novel-lover.jpg
Best personalized plate I've seen in a while!

Posted by laurie at 11:26 AM

September 1, 2009

Little baby toes go inside this little square baby booty...

babybooties1.jpg

Making baby booties is so much fun! They're small and funny looking and there are a bazillion and one patterns to pick. This first set of little tiny hand-knit booties are meant to match the Five Hour Baby Sweater I made in Patons Decor yarn, color "First Spring Ombre." (Ombre is not a word I use. Ever. I have never actually said Ombre, unless you count the Spanish hombre, which I say often in traffic but usually only followed by the words pinche and cabron. I love cussing in traffic in Spanish!)

This pattern is from the book Knitting for Baby: 30 Heirloom Projects with Complete How-to-Knit Instructions by Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas. I LOVE Melanie Falick's books (Weekend Knitting is by far one of my top 5 favorite knitting books of all time) and I honestly think if you were a VERY beginner knitter, you could pick up this baby knitting book and teach yourself how to knit anything by simply knitting all the patterns in order. They are that good.

Each pattern is written in a narrative style so this book is easy to understand for ultra-beginners and it really explains the ins and outs of techniques so well. The patterns are very cute, too. For more advanced knitters it may be annoying to have to read the narrative to get to the instructions but I think it depends on the knitter. Personally, I like narrative patterns but I'm also averse to acronyms and abbreviations in general (hey, you work in the finance industry long enough and you begin to loathe and despise acronyms. Seriously.)

babybooties2.jpg
Finished set. Shoes perhaps bigger than sweater, ah well.

babybooties3.jpg
Got this cute giftbox at Target.

These are the "Stay On Baby Booties" pattern knit on size 7 double-pointed needles (normal tension knitters would use a size 5 or 6 needle, I'm guessing) and I made only one minor modification to the pattern. I don't know if it was the yarn gauge or just me, but I thought 20 rows was too much for knitting the body -- it was coming out too tall for a baby foot! So I only knit 17 rows (ending on a purl row) and they turned out great. They are very square which makes me laugh every time I look at them. They required no blocking since the garter stitch knits up will on its own and each shoelet has an i-cord tie threaded through the top. They do seem that they'd stay put as the pattern says ... even on fat little baby toes.

This was the first time I had ever made i-cord! It's not hard or anything but I'd just never had a need to make it before. I love learning new little tricks and techniques in knitting. I especially love learning them on small little items like baby clothes or scarves or hats. These were easy to knit and took me about an hour and a half each, but I am a fairly slow knitter, your mileage may vary.

- - -

sept01-fire-sky-morning.jpg

Here is the skyline today, smoky and ashy on the drive into work. It looks like nighttime but it was actually around 7:30 in the morning! There's a hurricane brewing down in Baja so maybe it will bring us some much-needed humidity. I have lived here for almost 15 years and I don't think I remember it ever raining in August or September but it sure would be nice right about now.

Also, hello September!

Posted by laurie at 1:17 PM