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March 31, 2010

Wowza!

Thanks so much to everyone who participated today in the book give-away! And seriously good vibes to the author, Adrienne Martini, who I hope has a big fat bestseller on her hands with Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously. And I had no idea you'd bring out all the flattery in your comments and by the way, flattery totally works on me. I am very shallow. I love you back. Let's go have a glass of wine and knit something in self-striping yarn.

So! We have two winners, I've alerted both by email and will update you with their first names when they get back to me. I even already packaged the books (gasp!) to be sent out tomorrow. I know in the past I have sucked at mailing in a timely fashion and am determined to be MUCH better.

I haven't done a book give-away in a long while and I am so happy that ya'll are into it because I have a whole line up of cool knitting book giveaways coming up!

The next one is with one of my favorite knitters ever but that's all I'll say for now, keeping you on your toes and all. And I'll be throwing in signed copies of my books for each one of these freebie fests. I LOVE giving stuff away and now that I have my box o' Wine books (hah) I can do a bunch of these little impromptu sweepstakes. I'm sorry I am so lame and disorganized that I make you post a comment but it's faster than setting up a form and I am nothing if not lazy and technophobic. And honestly no flattery is required, you can just post Hey to your mutha or whatever floats your boat, and I do read all the comments because you are my social life. Seriously. That's not sad is it?

But the point here is that there will be loads of opportunities to win free books in the coming weeks so do not despair if you didn't win this time. There is always tomorrow as Scarlett would say....

You all just had me cracking up with your posts. I am so glad the comments are back and knock on wood have only broken once in the past few months. So, in reply: I apologize for those I have gotten addicted to the show "Hoarders," though I am secretly pleased to have you share my addiction. The quilt that Soba was sprawled across is about fourteen years old, I bought it here in L.A. and I love it so much I am always stitching up the frayed bits hoping to make it last forever. Yes, I definitely do think the camera adds 45 pounds even for little kitties. Oh, the camera I bought was this Canon PowerShot. It was SO WORTH the $129. I am thrilled with it. As for the button thing I tried to write it out in my pink-sweater-post's comments but hereby promise that next week As God Is My Witness I will do a post on buttons. I, too, am a knitter who prefers rectangles over most other projects, and you're right about our weird L.A. weather which is giving us frigid winter temperatures in March (a high of 58? We may perish!) and traffic, which is my favorite subject. And love you for loving Dallas Raines with me.

Recently my mom and I were having a conversation and I said, "Do you think Dallas Raines knows I take pictures of him on my TV and call him Dapper Dallas?"

"I'm sure he has the restraining order up on his mantelpiece," she said.

"Well it's not like I'm going to leave my house and go stalk him or something," I said. "That would require me to leave my home and talk to people. I won't even go to Home Depot because it's too much effort."

"I'm sure he'd be relieved to hear you're too weird to leave your house," she said.

"Do you think Al Gore is jealous?"

And so on and so forth...

- - -

Thanks again, everyone!

Posted by laurie at 5:06 PM

Book Giveaway!

Recently I've been given all sorts of free review copies of mostly knitting-related books and it's always fun to do a little giveaway now and again, so here's the first:

Today's book is Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously by Adrienne Martini. How can you not love an author with the last name Martini? I have two copies here and I'll pick two people at random from today's comments to win. I'll also throw in a signed copy of my little book, Home Is Where the Wine Is. Comments will close around 5 p.m. Pacific.

sweater-quest.jpg

Also, I just want to thank those of you who have emailed or commented to say you enjoyed my latest book. I can't tell you how much it means to me and how awkward I can be at receiving compliments, but it makes me feel both relieved and thrilled to hear from those of you who laughed at one of my goofy stories or were entertained by the book. I know it's not Shakespeare and all that, but the past year or so has just been dismal with the gloomy and doomy news and I wanted to write something a bit frothy that would hopefully make you chuckle a bit. Hearing that you liked it is just the perfect reward, I know you don't have to say it and I thank you for it.

- - -

sobaslug.jpg

You'd never guess that she weighs only eight pounds! Fluffy Soba Slug.

- - -

Update: Comments/giveaway now closed, gonna alert the winners! Thanks!

Posted by laurie at 10:01 AM

March 30, 2010

Garter stitch cardigan and baby booties

This is a project I started late last year and finished late last year and just sat around procrastinating sending it to the intended mom & baby duo because the sweater didn't turn out how I pictured it. I procrastinated so long I feared that the child this sweater was intended to clothe was going to be having children of her own before long, so I sent it off with a note to Courtney that it wasn't quite what I had in mind... but the shoes were cute!

Here's the sweater:

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It looks better in the picture than in person, but it was just a bit rustic for my liking. I think it was the combo of this yarn and this pattern. I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (actually that may not be the right pink, but it was all I could find on amazon) and I knitted it using a pattern for a baby garter stitch cardigan from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies. I didn't struggle with this pattern at all, either I have gotten better at this or the pattern was better, but I knitted it fairly quickly. I think this cardigan turned out a bit plain, though, and the yarn ply (which I learned about with my first baby cashmerino sweater) knits up a bit wonky in garter stitch. I'm not sure how to explain it, except to say it didn't give the result I'd hoped for.

The shoes, however, are SO CUTE!! Much like Ysolda's Tiny shoes, they are little Mary Jane style booties but these are done entirely in garter. I got the pattern free online here. These were a quick knit, suitable for beginners and intermediate beginners. I tend to "make one" by knitting through the front and back so I had to watch my stitch counting, but listen, there are a bazillion ways to "make one" and if you just do what works for you and do it consistently I think you'll be OK.

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I'm very happy with the shoes, so cute!

And the sweater still fit a little and Courtney is on the east coast so who knows, maybe a garter stitch sweater is what her adorable baby needed. And if all else fails, her daughter can use those shoes to play dress up with a teddy bear. I'm all about the shoes, as usual.

courtneyshoes2.jpg

Posted by laurie at 7:41 AM

March 29, 2010

The curious case of the continuing ongoing neverending movable clutter feast

Where does it all come from?

I try to keep the clutter level down to a manageable amount but after moving it's as if the contents of my life vomited onto the floor and into boxes and piled up in mysterious heaps. Once again I was surrounded and overwhelmed and wanting nothing to do with any of it except maybe to go shopping for some new and magical storage system that would solve all my problems, because of course the logical solution to a clutter problem is to do some more shopping. You understand.

In an ideal world I would have unpacked and gotten organized and done and decorated in just a few weeks, but in the real world I got the hideous pig flu and hideous book deadline back to back and so nothing got sorted or unpacked or put away, and before long it was the middle of November and I still had boxes and piles everywhere. I can't work in a messy, dirty, tumped-out office, so eventually I gave up and worked on my laptop at the coffee table downstairs or sometimes in bed with a cup of coffee, and hoped for a free weekend or five to sort everything out upstairs, eventually. One day.

One day has come! And gone. And come again!

I did not manage to fully organize and clean and polish and unclutter and gain enlightenment over the weekend, but I did unpack the final boxes, put things away, do eleventy-eight loads of laundry and vacuum everything upstairs including the stairs themselves and the baseboards and the corners and really, my neighbors are probably very tired of hearing the vacuum.

The room I'm using as a home office is quite small and oddly shaped, hugging the side of a rounded staircase and full of angles and curved walls. It has two small, inconveniently positioned closets and a wall of windows. The desk fits fine in the corner by the windows and I smooshed my sofa-chair-thingy into the corner just opposite, it partly covers the closet doors but that side of the closet has the rounded wall so hardly anything fits inside anyway.

Part of the problem with this room was my lack of bookshelving. Books aren't just brick-heavy to haul up three flights of stairs, they also pose a real storage problem. My old place had a huge built-in bookcase and I loved it and over time I got rid of my other mismatched crazyass shelves. So when I moved in here all my books stayed packed up, shoved against the wall in a giant towering mound of boxes. I measured the space along that wall very carefully and found a combo of some very inexpensive Ikea Billy bookcases that would fit -- just barely, I got the measurements down to an inch!

This is a tiny room, really. Once I put a bookcase together on the floor, I had to carve out space from the Box Mountain and carefully wiggle the bookcase against the wall. Since there wouldn't be room to walk with boxes in the middle of the room, I emptied each box as I went along onto a shelf with no order, no plan, no reasoning. Just open a box, throw contents onto shelves and deal with it later.

That's what led to this frantic mess:

Nov2009-office1.jpg
(These pictures were taken back in November, using my old camera.)

Another angle of awful:
Nov2009-office2.jpg


And the poor messy desk, dirty and lonely, surrounded by a rapidly encroaching clutter pile:

Nov2009-office3.jpg


It was somewhere around the time I took these photos that I began to feel overwhelmed and anxious and shameful and borderline hoardy. I hate that feeling. Something about it takes me back to the months right after I moved into the divorce house and I felt trapped and pointless and scared.

So I took a break. I have learned one thing about clutter-anxiety: when it begins to feel like a silent scream is rising up from your deep, shameful horror-center, it is time to take a break. Get a breath of fresh air. Have a nice glass of wine or tea and watch an episode of 30 Rock. Step back. Regroup. All is not lost.

I took a step back and regrouped for, oh, what? four months?

The fear is that I will never be able to conquer my habitual clutter. My anxiety is that I want to have an orderly, pretty home and it doesn't feel either in clutterdom. My shame is that I have so much stuff and don't want to part with any of it. I've been feeling very fragile and tired lately, so I decided not to give myself a hard time about any of this. I decided to tackle this task in small bites, and I started by colorizing.

I love my books and I love visual harmony, so I started there -- organizing them by color, a trick I first tried a few years ago and fell in love with. It's a bigger task than it looks! I put on some good music and started taking books off the shelves and piling them around the room by hue, and then slowly re-populating the shelves. The upside of this technique is that you do find books along the way you can easily part with. I don't know how it works, but it does. Something about tricking your mind into focusing so fully on organizing by color makes purging less painful. Here's the result of my first pass:

march29-bookcasescolor1.jpg

march29-bookcasescolor2.jpg

Everything organized by color except the knitting and craft books which take up an entire shelf of their own, and the boxes holding office supplies and CDs. And of course there are some magazine holders and organizational doodads here and there, which didn't really seem to be working, but we'll get there eventually.

Notice that in these pictures almost all the shelves on the two bigger bookcases have a lot of space in between rows. Normally I like white space but in this case I wanted a functional wall o' storage, almost like a library wall, so I bought two additional shelves and re-jiggered all the books one more time. Afterward, my bookcase gained about nine inches of extra storage space:

march29-bookcasescolor3.jpg

But I don't like it. It's organizing gone wrong! I think I even somehow lost a little space, which makes no sense. By this time, though, I was too tired of moving books around and decided to leave it. I managed to get all my books on this wall, except for my cookbooks and my collection of vintage design books, which are in a tall, skinny bookcase in the living room. But that is another post for another day.

I did finally get the desk cleaned off and everything tidied up and now it feels better, though I didn't take a picture because I got distracted by the cuteness:

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Franks.

After hauling around and unpacking and organizing all these books, I have started to think more seriously about buying an Amazon Kindle. I could still buy books and support the author but they would take up a lot less space. I haven't decided yet because I love the feel of a book in my hands but they are not exactly portable en masse!

I am so glad I took Friday off and spent the weekend humming around the house, washing everything that wasn't nailed down and banishing the tumbleweeds. My life was starting to feel like a runaway train, and having control over laundry and clean floors feels really good. And there is something so zen and soothing about spending a few hours listening to good music and re-arranging books. I feel refreshed, relaxed, like I took a vacation in my head. I didn't think about work, I didn't think about stress and pressures and deadlines, I just focused on my house and my vacuum cleaner and my bookshelves.

All this cleaning got me thinking that when I do move again I'll look for a smaller space though, keeping a small house clean was much easier than a big space! But for now everyone is happy at home and feeling very peaceful:

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Best Bob picture ever.

Posted by laurie at 8:43 AM

March 25, 2010

FINALLY

A must-needed must-have day off, it was worth it to burn a vacation day for mental health. Seriously. Before long they were going to be stringing that yellow crime-scene tape around my desk.

- - -

Me: I'm taking Friday off!

Work Jen: What are you doing?

Me: I'm going to get my life together.

Work Jen: In one day?

Me: What? Does that seem too ambitious?

Work Jen: Well, that depends on how screwed up your life is.

(pause)

(pause)

(pause)

Me: Well, then, I'm going to vacuum.

Work Jen: That sounds very achievable!


- - -

And so it is. Happy weekend. May your tumbleweeds cower in fear of your vacuum.

Posted by laurie at 10:52 PM

March 24, 2010

Of yarn and spuds

When I am feeling mildly slumpy, or schlumpy, I try to surround myself with things I like that make me happy and at the top of my list are yarn and potatoes.

This yarn is one of my all-time favorites:

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It's a big pile of Patons Soy Wool Stripes in geranium. I'm knitting it on size 11 needles because eventually I plan to felt it down into a laptop case. Still to be determined is whether or not I will unearth my sewing machine from the tragically-as-yet-unpacked pile of stuff in my office and add a lining and a zipper or will I fake it with a flap and velcro... who knows! Life is mysterious and unpredictable that way. The very best thing about this yarn (aside from its colors, which are lovely) is that it felts up like a dream.

In fact, if you are a SupaTight knitter like some people we know your SWS may start felting even as you knit! If it weren't so feltable I would think this would make a beautiful sweater. I'm not much of a handwasher so I like my sweaters unfeltable and machine washable, but even as I have been knitting up this rectangle I keep thinking I'd love a sweater that looks just like this.

Most of the knitting I have done in the past year has been for other people: babies, mostly, and squares for blankets for babies. Just yesterday I finished the squares I had to do for the group blanket one of the ladies at work is putting together and I have finished what I think is my last baby project for a while so I'm going to be selfish, stingy, yarn-hoardery and just knit a few things now for me, me, me. Starting with this easy little laptop case and then I want to knit myself a pair of gloves (which I am very excited about). AlterKnits Felt also has a pattern for a gigantic felted tote which I think would be beautiful and I could use all those single skeins of wool I have lounging in my mountain of stash.

- - -

Last night I went home a bit early so I could make myself a proper dinner and go to bed early and get myself out of that day. I love potatoes with a fiery passion. There is something so comforting and so relaxing and soothing about eating a potato. I guess I feel about the spud the way some folks feel about chocolate or crack cocaine or whatever your drug of choice is. For me, comfort food is and will always be the potato. I love them shredded, baked, boiled, fried, sauteed, oven-roasted, smashed, mashed, chopped or whole. I like all the varieties, too, waxy reds and creamy golds and starchy Russets.

The recipe I made last night was Rachael Ray's Jacques Pepin style potatoes. I used very small yellow fingerling potatoes and I skipped the parsley. I forgot to take a picture of it in the pan, but here are some leftovers in a dish:

jacquespepin-potatoes.jpg

Served with a little fillet of fish and some roasted cauliflower and it was a very satisfying meal. I'm counting this as one of my four new recipes this month even though it isn't hard, it was a new recipe and it turned out great. Cooking the potatoes in the broth really adds flavor, and then you have butter and Parmesan to top it off and make it just perfect.

A good antidote to slumpy!

Posted by laurie at 10:17 AM

March 23, 2010

The mid-March slump

All those statistics about New Year's Resolutions say that people begin to waver in their resolve by the first few weeks of February. I tend to last a little longer out of pure stubbornness and determination but by Mid-March I usually find myself here, slumping, wondering how bad it would be really to just give up and be fat and grumpy for the rest of my life. Not so bad, surely?

I'm certainly not in the depressive maudlin funk of a few years ago, a funk I told no one about (except the poor recipients of my late night phone calls, Jen and Lark) because in general no one wants to hear about your funk-related garbage. I discovered the hard way during my divorce that folks have this Pavlovian response to whining, in which they 1) tell you it could be worse thereby invalidating your feelings and making you want to eat their head off or 2) tell you to buck up little camper, which makes you immediately feel the need to defend your unhappiness and also hit them in the head with your handbag. And by "you" I mean "me." So I try to keep a lid on it most of the time. It never solves anything anyway.

Life is just like that though, ups and downs. Or at least mine is. I don't trust these people who seem to stay on a perpetual cheer bender all the time, never getting frustrated or upset or having any emotion other than chipperness. It seems plastic and suspicious, like the fixed smile of a Cabbage Patch kid. I'm more volcanic, with my exuberant good moments and dramatic hissyfits. I love that about Southern women in general, there's a kind of emotional navigation of life that's expressive and full of gestures.

When I get like this I try to find things I like and load up on them: potatoes, in any format. Carla Bruni CDs. Yarn. Funny conversations with my friends. Good movies. Cats-- this morning Bob even sat on my lap for a whole 60 seconds, a world record. Coffee with cream. Life is too short to give up the cream in my coffee! Just listing things out like this makes me lighten up a little bit. The sheer force of listing in itself is a good-feeling activity.

I also need to clean my apartment top to bottom, a much-needed and much-overdue activity. As the Dalai Lama says, the first step toward meditation is to clean your room. I've been working long hours on multiple projects and my house has become a pit of tumbleweeds and piles of unopened mail and socks in weird places. When my space is messy I feel messy inside. Do you ever get like that?

There's no action item, slumps are like that. The best you can do (I think) is to focus on a few things that are pleasant and just ignore the other stuff. Or of course you can go whole hog and really get into the funk but I am saving that for my ladycrisis which I plan to have in a few years. I can't wait! It will be so fun. I may even do the one thing everyone has always warned me about -- dye my hair a shade of red that does not occur in nature. So for now there is no need to pull a full Blanche Dubois. I'm just going to make some lists and then clean my house.

Posted by laurie at 10:47 AM

March 22, 2010

That was fun!

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The Knitter's Studio in Los Angeles.


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Inside the Knitter's Studio with Sara and the beautiful yarn.


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Rachael and some of the group.

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This just cracked us right up!

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Me & Rachael.

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As I was leaving I noticed that a few doors down from the knitting shop there's a store called Chateau Marmutt. TOO FUNNY.

Thank you so much to everyone who braved the traffic on marathon day and came out to the Knitter's Studio. It was a lovely afternoon!

Posted by laurie at 12:45 PM

March 19, 2010

See you Sunday!

I hope to see you Sunday at The Knitter's Studio!

Rachael Herron and I will be doing a little reading/talking/signing thing together at the Knitter's Studio in Los Angeles this Sunday (March 21, 2010) from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The shop is located at 8118 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90048. I'm going to bring my knitting and hope you will join us for a fun afternoon of knitting and chatting and book-reading.

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Currently working on squares for a baby blanket.

Posted by laurie at 9:25 AM

March 18, 2010

Their favorite child

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My parents have a favorite, he is covered in fur.

Posted by laurie at 9:35 AM

March 17, 2010

The luck of the eye-rish

Ever have one of those weeks where you wake up each morning already feeling behind for the day? That's my week. And my shirt is blue, not green because I got dressed in the dark and fugue of my early morning brain and so I am celebrating St. Paddy's day in blue, the cousin of green. I'm not sure if I'll have much time to write this week, so I'll just skip to the important stuff:

1) The weather is really warm and summerlike and I realize I am having pre-traumatic stress disorder thinking of switching from winter's forgiving layers to summer clothes. Also, my legs are so white they are now made of marshmallows and mayo and I fear I may blind people if I try to wear a skirt.

2) Which brings me to self-tanner. Do you have a brand you use and like and can recommend? I have tried the Clarins stuff before which is good but kind of spendy. And is there a brand of self-tanner anywhere that doesn't have the weird telltale fake bake smell?

3) I'm not sure I get why the judges LOVE Siobhan and Paige on American Idol. But it could just be me.

- - -

And finally, I hope to see you Sunday at The Knitter's Studio!

Rachael Herron and I will be doing a little reading/talking/signing thing together at the Knitter's Studio in Los Angeles this Sunday (March 21, 2010) from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The shop is located at 8118 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90048. I'm going to bring my knitting and hope you will join us for a fun afternoon of knitting and chatting and book-reading. Do not fear! I plan to wear long pants and boots and pretend it is still winter so you will not be blinded by my marshmallow legs.

Posted by laurie at 8:28 AM

March 16, 2010

Rumble in the urban jungle

This morning we got shocked out of bed by a 4.4 earthquake (at 4:04 a.m. Creepy!) At first I wasn't sure if it was an earthquake or a Bobquake, since those can be fairly serious during the night, but then I felt the earth move under my feet, I felt the sky tumbling down ...

Usually I am awake at 4 a.m. but this wasn't the real 4 a.m., it was the fake 4 a.m. thanks to Daylight Savings Time which I am totally blaming for this earthquake. We definitely felt it in the valley what with our liquefaction and all, oh the words you learn, green eggs and ham.

This week is shaping up to be busy and freaky. I'm glad I was still in the fog of sleep with the quake hit so I couldn't spend too much time pondering if it was my fault for dreaming about earthquakes (in March, or May, my dream was an "M" month) and of course with all the world news lately about tectonic plates it does give you pause. Then I went back to sleep, until the real 4 a.m. came to pass.

Posted by laurie at 11:49 AM

March 12, 2010

Cat Picture Friday

Some cuteness to offset the whackness that was this week:

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I love how my new camera is so good it shows all the cat fur on the blanket. Ewww.

- - -

What did you think of Idol results? I felt so bad for the guy with the mullet, the one with stage fright. That's the level of stage paralysis I myself have and I kept hollering at my TV set, "Get that boy some beta blockers and Xanax, stat!" but I guess drugging the contestants is not part of the American Idol master plan.

- - -
Have a good weekend!

Posted by laurie at 9:36 AM

March 11, 2010

Random tidbits on Thursday

After writing about my everything-but-the-kitchen-sink pasta sauce that I usually serve over corn pasta I got this email:

Do you like that corn pasta? I have celiac disease and I haven't tried corn pasta yet. I've tried the rice pasta (terrible!) but read somewhere else that the best pasta is made by Tinkyada. I pretty much gave up on pasta after the celiac diagnosis, and I love a good food adventure, but I sure don't like to spend major $$$ on gluten-free food unless I know for sure it's good!

Take care!
--Tania (rhymes with lasagna, which I can't eat, but maybe I should make it with zucchini, I hear it's pretty good that way.)

Hi Tania! In my opinion, the corn pasta is well worth the money. It's not exactly like wheat pasta but it's better than most gluten-free foods I have tried. The corn holds up well and with a good sauce you can barely tell the difference (or at least I can't but then again I am not a pasta connoisseur). I don't eat it very often but when I do I like it a lot!

It's not any more expensive than wheat pasta, at least not the DeBoles brand. It's on sale this week if you have a Whole Foods near you, I think I got a box last weekend for around $1.79.

The only caveat is that you must use a very large pot of boiling water (not a smaller pot) and when you put the pasta in to cook, stir it immediately and keep stirring it regularly during the first few minutes of cooking or it will clump together. I like it much better than the brown rice pasta, which I found doughy and spongy. I've heard you have to watch the rice pasta like a hawk to be sure you don't overcook it and I'm simply not that attentive in the kitchen. I need food that is less fussy about its cooktime, so the corn works better for me. It's a good alternative for people who want to eat less wheat or those who have a sensitivity to it.

- - -


My favorite comment from yesterday by Three Good Rats:

I oppose the time change because it is confusing and gains us nothing. But I also think the US should adopt the metric system, so I am the queen of unpopular causes.

When Jen and Amber and Shannon and I went to Paris I turned to Shannon one night in our room, I think we were fairly intoxicated at this point, and said, "This wine is metric! So we can drink more of it, just like you can walk more kilometers than miles!" and this amused us to no end.

- - -

I have my performance review later this morning. I am wearing my most conservative outfit, which is just my normal clothes with a boxy jacket on top of it all. I sort of look like a rectangle with a blonde head poking out.

- - -

That's it. Today's a good Q&A day if you have any questions I'll try to answer. Oh, and no I haven't forgotten I promised to show how I sew on buttons but I just haven't done it yet. Whoops!

Posted by laurie at 8:42 AM

March 10, 2010

Nothing to see here, move along!

Busy, busy day ahead. This morning in the shower I started stressing out about the time change coming up because I can't take losing an hour! No! I will not go quietly into the daylight savings!

I don't know why we still do this time change thing anyway. Why can't we have one time and keep it all year? I realize we have larger issues facing us as a planet and all, but I am very stuck on the weird time change rules. Everyone has a cause. Apparently this is mine.

I like this guy's cause:

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Amen, brother!

Posted by laurie at 9:13 AM

March 9, 2010

Truckin' like the do-dah man

Seen on the 101 today:

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See that guy on the left?


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Yep.

Posted by laurie at 9:47 AM

March 8, 2010

I'll take a Jeremy Renner-George Clooney sandwich, please

On Sunday I watched the Oscars, including way too much of the seventeen hour pre-show. It's like tailgating for couch potatoes. I love watching the stars chitchat awkwardly on the red carpet and pose and try to say profound things even though most are already two sheets to the wind.

On Sunday I also made the alleged Kale Chips I have been hearing so much about and I can assure you, they won no awards. You can search online and find all kinds of variations on the recipe but it's basically kale, oil, seasonings and a hot oven.

I used Lacinto kale (also called black kale or Tuscan kale) because I prefer its flavor over curly kale. I am always and forever trying to sneak kale into my food to make me feel healthier and I like the Lacinto kale best. It's great mashed in with potatoes or in my favorite chickpea stew.

This is what kale looks like washed and patted dry:
kalechips-kale.jpg


Here it is with the big leafy stem removed and cut into pieces:
kalechips-cut.jpg

Below is a picture of it on the baking sheet. I used reader Rachel's tip and sprayed mine with olive oil rather than tossing in oil since I am not much of a drizzler, I tend to be a pourer (which works well on Brussels sprouts, but maybe not on leaf bits.)

kalechips-sprayed.jpg


And here they are at the end, cooked and crispy and seasoned with sea salt:
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Awful. Really awful. But listen, you may find this is right up your alley. I think it's a tastebud issue, because this tasted just like toasted nori to me and I hate toasted nori. I can't stand the taste of nori, no matter how many times I try to like it. I took one bite of one of these kale chips and gagged. I took another bite to be sure, because I am a slow learner and I always like to give food a second chance, then I threw the rest of the cooked leaves away.

I still had a pile of uncooked kale left so I chopped it and added it to my everything-but-the-kitchen-sink pasta sauce that was simmering away on the stove. Every few weeks I make this sauce, you just start with a little garlic and some shallots and sautee them in olive oil. Then add in chopped tomatoes (I like cherry tomatoes best) and whatever else suits you. For this one I put in finely chopped zucchini and carrots, some cured black olives and some balsamic vinegar.

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Then I added in kale and later basil:
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You can see the steam coming off it! It's a good sauce. I serve it over corn pasta and add a little goat cheese and some pine nuts to the top. It's yummy and re-heats well for lunches.

I'm glad I tried the kale chips because I was curious about them and because it satisfies my goal of making new recipes this month but I won't be making that again. Yuck. I know a lot of people rave about them though, so you may find them just tasty as can be. I guess I prefer my kale sneaky and finely chopped into sauces or stews ... more of a supporting actor than the main event!

Posted by laurie at 9:16 AM

March 5, 2010

You see the hood's been good to me ever since I was a lower-case G

The city of Los Angeles is gearing up for its Super Bowl ... Oscar night! We know this because Hollywood Boulevard is closed and so the traffic is ... oh, I was going to describe it, but instead here's a picture I took yesterday:

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Yep. That's what traffic is like.

On Oscar Sunday I am making these alleged kale chips people have been telling me about... if you've made them and have a specific recipe you like, let me know! I'm skeptical at best that a pile of leaves can turn into anything worthy of the name "chip" but I am going to try it and hope to be very pleasantly surprised. Luckily I will have real chips on hand in case the leaf thing doesn't work out.

- - -

Last night's Idol eliminations were pretty much what I expected except I thought the red-haired gal would go before the pretty curly haired girl (who I thought was very gracious when she got booted). Does anyone watch the whole results show? It's like Chinese water torture to me! I just forward through to the kiss 'n cry parts and it's a total of about six minutes of TV viewing. I can't imagine having to sit through the whole thing. I love fast-forwarding ... sometimes I think I am dating my Tivo and it's the best relationship I have ever had.

- - -

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Tortie action shot! So ready for the red carpet.

Posted by laurie at 8:08 AM

March 4, 2010

Le kittycat vase

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Posted by laurie at 9:56 AM

March 3, 2010

Oh happy day, when the rain came and washed our smog away...

Apparently it rained last night. I went to bed early as I had to be up at the armpit of a.m. and I must have slept through it. When I was driving in this morning on the freeway the air was fresh and you could smell the blooming jasmine, it's incredible. I love March in Los Angeles.

This bumper sticker might be saying "Do not take pictures of my bumper!" but I don't know since I don't speak Hebrew:

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Recently a reader asked how I am able to take pictures while driving a stick shift. This question implies that I am actually driving. Is idling along in neutral for hours a week considered driving? But I only take pictures when I'm at a standstill because I'm all about the safety dance... except when I see something so momentous or on fire that it MUST be captured on camera and even then I keep my eyes on the road and just generally aim the camera in the direction of the on-fire thing. Or the momentous thing, like this LOS ANGELES POLICE OFFICE TALKING ON HIS HANDHELD CELLPHONE WHILE DRIVING:

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It is against the law in California to talk on a handheld cell phone while driving and there he was, an officer of the LAW, tooling up the 101 just yammering away and laughing and having a good old time talking. I gestured at him, I waved out my window, pointing, making a big to-do and he didn't see me right next to him gesturing madly to please hang up and drive because he was just blind to the world, chitchatting away on his handheld phone.

I see people all the time obviously flouting the cellphone law (and the texting law) but of all the people to break the law you wouldn't think it would be those sworn to uphold it. Jeezfreaking Louise.

Wow, it was hard to get up on my high, high horse so early in the morning but somehow I managed.

Moving on.

Over the weekend I went to Chez Nous in Toluca Lake for a birthday breakfast for my friend Christine. Here she is smiling with the lovely Ellen Bloom:

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We met up there with another friend, Liz, and had a fantastic lunch. Now as you know I am not someone who thinks a salad is a real meal. I never knew anyone who thought a salad was a meal until I moved to Los Angeles (also where I am from "salad" is usually describing potato salad, and it is accompanied by meat and something fried.) But the salad I ordered at Chez Nous was really great and was definitely a meal, mainly because it had a whole chicken on it and was the size of Rhode Island:

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It was so much fun being a Lady Who Lunches for a day. Happy birthday Christine!

Posted by laurie at 8:27 AM

March 2, 2010

Me & Rachael at the Knitter's Studio March 21 (Or: "Me and Julio down at the schoolyard...")

Why is it that my brain works song lyrics into every conversation, thought or idea and yet I myself cannot carry a tune in a bucket? I was singing "Happy Birthday" in a group recently and someone turned to me and said, "I am so glad you chose writing instead of singing!" Heh.

First, thanks for all the interesting and thought-provoking comments yesterday. I read each and every one and appreciated them all. You gave me a lot to think about and it is incredibly reassuring to know I am not the only one who gets flummoxed in conversations about weight. It's just so tricky a subject for me, and for so many folks.

Also I loved the people who pointed out there is so much more in the world to discuss that is far more interesting, exciting and scintillating that weight. Amen, people. Amen.

Like, for example, today being the day that my friend Rachael Herron's brand new book is finally available!


How to Knit a Love Song:
A Cypress Hollow Yarn

Rachael and I will be doing a little reading/talking/signing thing together at the lovely Knitter's Studio in Los Angeles on Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 2 p.m. The Knitter's Studio is located at: 8118 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles CA 90048. I'm going to bring my knitting and hope you will join us for a fun afternoon of knitting and chatting and book-reading.

Congrats, Rachael!!!

Posted by laurie at 7:43 AM

March 1, 2010

March check in

Over the weekend I actually did a few things and even took pictures but I'll talk about them later in the week when they are thoroughly not fresh anymore... because today is March One! Time for a check in.

March is usually the time when my New Year's Resolutions begin to slip away, then I meander aimlessly toward my birthday in June when I make a new set of to-do items aimed to get me back on track. I'm actually glad this year I made the decision to write at the beginning of each month and check in with myself and my goals because it keeps them at the top of my priority list, which was the point of setting goals to begin with. Of course when it's August and my check in is "Yes, last month happened. Moving on...." we'll all have a good laugh and... uh, move on.

All of my lists and goals and tasks are always about two essential things: getting physically healthy and getting happy. So this year I broke it down into just those two goals.

Goal #1: Get Healthy
I dreaded my book event for many reasons but let's be honest: mostly I just didn't want to stand up in front of a room of people with cameras and be fat. But you know what? I lived. It ended up being really fun. Was I at my ideal size? No. Did it affect the quality of my penmanship as I signed books? Not a bit.

Listen, 2009 was a rough year. I found out I had this weird malady that I don't talk about because I don't want to be the poster child for said condition. But it involves really re-thinking everything you eat and I kind of sucked at it and by year's end I had gained a lot of weight. I also got pretty sick, which is why I seemed to remain perpetually two steps from the morgue from September through the end of last year. By December 31, 2009, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I started the new year with real determination to get healthier.

I specifically did NOT make this goal about weight and have very carefully avoided talking about losing weight as a goal because I don't want or need dieting advice. (I still got an email last month from a male reader who said, "All you need to do is eat less and exercise more." And I thought silently to myself, "OH NO!! REALLY!! YOU SHOULD ALERT THE MEDIA!!!")

People who have never struggled with their weight don't realize this but most of us who do struggle with this issue know more about dieting and calories and diet plans and exercise regimes than anyone. We don't need a better book or how-to manual. We know what to do. We just don't do it. And speaking for myself I can tell you that I have been on a diet on and off for thirty years of my life and my weight problem is not going to be solved by another diet. My weight issue is between my ears. It's in my head, folks. I have to work on me, the inside-me, for the outside to fall in line.

This is why I have never considered weight loss surgery. I would be one of those people who gain it all back. I know this because fixing my weight issue starts in my head, in my thinking and in my way of dealing with stress and emotions.

For those of you who don't get it, maybe you think "Just put down the fork! Just go for a walk!" but think carefully about your own life and that one issue you have that shames you, that stops you cold sometimes, that one area of yourself you want to change. Is it compulsive spending? Obsessive hoarding? Terrible money management? Dating guys who treat you poorly? Going after married men? Substance abuse? Constant inertia in your job/life/family? Whatever it is, that problem you have, well -- that's what it's like for someone with a weight issue. It's an issue, just one that is more visible to the world. And it changes only with a combination of behavior modification and real effort to re-think your mental approach to it.

I'm focusing on getting healthy because it's systemic. It's not a diet, you can't fail it, you can't do it for anyone but you, and there are lots of cool components to it.

In February my goal was to build on the stuff I was doing right, like cook all my own food and go for walks in the mornings. I also wanted to work on getting better at having breakfast regularly. I was skipping breakfast because I didn't want to take the five or six minutes each morning to prepare it, which is just silly. So I decided to buy honey and cinnamon and leave it at my office and bring yogurt and eat that at my desk each day. It's going very well!

I didn't walk very much at all in February, a combination of rain and exhaustion and creativity with excuses... so in March my goal is to walk every day, even if just for ten minutes. I'm happy to say I have thus far walked every day in March. You know, meaning today.

My other goal for March is to try a new recipe every weekend this month because I'm starting to get in a food rut, making generally the same meals day in and day out. But this whole roasted vegetable thing has been a revolution in my life. I am a roasting fool! I love it, I can eat a whole pan of roasted anything for dinner and it's just delicious and perfect.

I'm happy with my progress, even if it is slow. But real change, very significant change, is going to take a while in my poor diet-broken brain.

So it's progress, it's good. It's March and I'm still moving forward.

- - -


Goal #2: Get Happy
Well, I had a longer and more philosophical title for this resolution but the basic principle is to be happier, say yes to the best of life and ignore the icky, nasty bits.

Usually for me this is an attitude issue. For example, I could have spent LOTS of hours beating myself up mentally for not being the lithe skinnier me of my dreams for my book signing. But I recognize that you cannot go back in time and make better decisions, no matter how hard you want to do that. So, instead of flogging myself mentally I just gave it up and decided to make better decisions each day moving forward.

Sounds small, but it's a big deal for me.

I also noticed at my event last Thursday that I was more excited than nervous, a sure sign I need to get out a little more. I tend to be a recluse of Howard Hughsian proportions so in March I already have several things planned that will be nice little excursions with friends. You know, say yes and all that...


- - -

Oh, there was one other thing that happened but I'm not sure if it falls under Goal 1 or 2, it's kind of both. At the beginning of February a very, VERY thin acquaintance of mine started complaining to me about how she had gained five pounds. I have never understood why skinny people think it is cool to complain to a fat person about how awful and horrible and disgusting their invisible weight gain is. To me it's like turning to a person who just lost their job and complaining about your lousy 5 percent pay raise and 4500K bonus.

In the past I used to get really annoyed with the "Oh my God, I am so fat, I gained half a pound!" stuff. In my world that's a sandwich. You want to talk to me about a serious weight issue, call me when you have 100 pounds to lose and we'll talk.

BUT I have finally learned that skinny people don't see it like that. I have a lot of very lovely, very skinny girlfriends and to them I guess gaining five pounds really is a horrible, terrifying thing. It's hard for me to listen to this and not think, "Wow, if you think five pounds is disgusting, why are you even speaking to me, who by your own standards is a freakshow?" But it's not always about me. (Amazing, I know.)

I'm starting to realize that just because a skinny person acts like five nascent pounds is the difference between happiness and despair doesn't mean she is looking at me and thinking I'm horrible and tragic for carrying way more than five wayward pounds. And if she is judging me harshly that is her problem. And everyone has their issues, all of us. So what if I can't deeply relate to someone's fear of five pounds? I'm sure my fears of standing in front of a big crowd at a bookstore and having to (gasp) sign books sounds pretty silly. Everybody's got their stuff.

I've been thinking about all this because I'm not sure I handled the friend with the five pounds that well. At first I said, "Oh you always look tiny and great, if you gained weight it definitely is not visible..." and then she started vehemently arguing with me to tell me just how fat she was. I kind of froze, I had no idea what to say to this obviously bone-skinny person who maybe weighs ninety pounds soaking wet who is going on and on and on and on and on about how fat she is. So I tried to change the subject. Probably not perfect, but I am flummoxed when skinny people try to tell me, a very large person, how fat they are. I don't want to be snippy. I don't want to make an issue out of it. But I don't want to participate in it. Do you just listen and nod? Are you supposed to agree with them? Isn't that weird?

Any ideas on the right way to handle this?

I was pleased that I didn't get irritable with her -- she is a lovely, decent person who probably had no idea how weird that was for me -- and I didn't make it into a big deal. It shouldn't be a big deal! But I think there was a better way for me to handle it, I just don't know what the better way is.

The reality is that this is Los Angeles and it's full of skinny women who talk about their nonexistent weight problems all the time. I don't get it, it makes no sense to me, but it is what it is. Skinny folks aren't going to stop complaining about how fat they are just like I will never stop complaining about how hot it is in the Valley all summer.

So since I can't change other people, I might as well change how I react to them. I'm open to ideas if you have them!

And hellooooooo March!

Posted by laurie at 11:07 AM