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April 30, 2010

Good ole Rocky Top! Rocky Top, Tennessee!

Yesterday I got myself (and some of the commenters, whoops) stuck singing Rocky Top all afternoon. I had not thought of that song in forever and all the sudden I was singing it and remembered every single word. How is it possible that I do not remember my own phone number yet I know that once two strangers climbed ol' Rocky Top looking for a moonshine still?

Strangers ain't come down from Rocky Top, reckon they never will.

I don't even remember when I first learned that song but I know we used to sing it obsessively at 4-H camp in the summers. I LOVED 4-H camp. It was out at a campground somewhere in the sticks and we stayed in cabins and sang songs and got lice and all that great country kid summer stuff. I loved running with my pack of friends and making braided keychains and using a router to burn my name in a piece of 2x4, something I'm guessing today's sheltered nine-year-olds don't get to do lest they burn a finger off.

The other song we sang over and over and over was the Cider song:

Sipping Cider Through A Straw

The prettiest girl [Echo.], I ever saw, [Echo.]
Was sipping cider through a straw.
[Repeat previous two lines.]
I asked her if, [Echo.] she'd show me how, [Echo.]
To sip that cider through a straw.
[Repeat previous two lines.]

(except we would sing it like this: I asked her if -- I asked her if -- she'd show me how -- she'd show me how -- to sip some ciiiiider through a straw -- der through a straw!)

Then cheek to cheek, and jaw to jaw,
We sipped that cider through a straw.
Every now and then, the straw would slip,
And we'd sip cider lip to lip (lip to lip!)

The parson came to her backyard,
A sipping cider from a straw.
And now I have a mother-in-law,
And fourteen kids to call me Pa.
The moral of this story is,
To sip your cider from a pail!

Actually, I am surprised our bus driver didn't go mentally insane after listening to two hours of cy-dee-eye-dee-eye-der from a straw! We also sang a rather rousing rendition of "On Top of Spaghetti." I still sing it sometimes in my car. I am an excellent singer when no one is listening.

So, there you go, happy Friday. You can thank me later for the therapy bills incurred from not being able to shake camp songs. Wild as a mink and sweet as a soda pop, I still dream about that!

Posted by laurie at 3:50 AM

April 29, 2010

A Good Day

Last night was the first night in two weeks I've had a good night's sleep. I even slept in (until almost five, wow, livin' dangerously!) I felt like a different person. I woke up feeling good.

Going without sleep makes you crazypants. The worst part is waking up at 1:30 and again at 2:45 and 3:15 because your body drifted off to sleep and your brain wants you to WAKE UP UP RIGHTNOW and remember this other thing your forgot to worry about earlier. Thanks, brain. Thanks for the memories.

But last night I slept all the way through. I didn't even set my alarm clock, and I only woke up when Soba stretched out and pressed her tiny little feet into my back and yawned her kittycat yawn. And now I've made a cup of coffee and I have my notebook and I'm going to make a list because every good day starts with a good list.

- - -

Were you shocked Siobhan got the boot on American Idol? I was really surprised. I still want Crystal to win it all and I still want to get trapped in a Casey/Lee sandwich soon, but I was a little sad to see Siobhan go.

- - -

Thanks to all who entered the giveaways lately, I was waiting on email back from one of the winners but now everyone is in. Congrats to:

Leslie in AZ -- Hannah's List + $50
Mary in TN -- Hannah's List
Kate in Ohio -- Hannah's List
Seanna from MA -- Men Knits/Comfort Afghans/Wine book

Congratulations! In May, which is ridiculously just a few days away, I have several sock knitting books to give away and wine books and one big fat hardback Martha Stewart book that is so pretty. I'm really happy you all like doing this stuff because I still can't believe people want to send me books to giveaway, how cool is that? And I love doing it!

- - -

Finally, I am SO EXCITED about an event coming up in May. I'll be speaking at the San Juan Capistrano Regional Library on May 22nd at 2 p.m. I'll do a reading in which I will probably sound twangy and then I'll take all your questions and we may even knit a little, too. San Juan Capistrano is BEAUTIFUL, and this is the first time I've been invited to speak at a library which, for a kid who practically grew up in a library, is a dream come true. Wow, I like commas. Like, commas.

San Juan Capistrano Regional Library
31495 El Camino Real
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
May 22 at 2 p.m.

I'll post more details as I get them.

- - -

OH! Edited to add in a comment that Susan in Illinois left yesterday:

Can I throw something out there, knitting-like? A question. I have a stash, not a room, but a stash that is kind of hefty. Recently I am feeling the need to purge of excess clutter. Couple that with the weird part of me that requires me to buy new yarn for new projects, not shopping the stash, I am thinking maybe I should sell, donate, purge? Does this happen to anyone else? I. Must. Have. New. For any craft project I embark upon. It makes me think it would be nice to have a lending library of yarn, sewing, embroidery and other things I like to collect, just like books. I'm fine to borrow books from the library - if I really like them I put them on my Amazon wish list. Maybe if there was a lending library of yarn, that I could borrow, store for a bit, dream about the projects I might make, and then return it when I realize that if I make that cowl I will buy N.E.W. Am I crazy?

I'm sure lots of folks here can give you great ideas on where to donate yarn but I wanted to tell you that your craft lending library idea is BRILLIANT and I hope when I am a gazallionaire (as I hope to be one day) I can open up the world's first Craft Lending Library and Wine Bar. We'll have big comfy couches and chairs, plenty of books, yarn, hooks and needles and a shop cat who will be one of those rare felines that loves everyone and sits everywhere. And I'll have a poolboy.

(What a difference a good night's sleep makes! No Kafkatalk!)

Posted by laurie at 5:24 AM

April 28, 2010


Hello, Wednesday!

Are you watching DWTS? I never saw The Bachelor (but of course have seen Clean House a bazillion times) so I was glad Niecey got to stay. She's funny.

So, I may have to pause re-reading The Trial and move directly to a big glossy pile of Us Weekly. Based on my day yesterday, it seems Josef K. and Fräulein Laürie work at the same bank. Whoops. It could have been worse, though... I could have woken up today to discover I was a big bug. As I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth this morning, I noticed with relief that I hadn't transformed into a giant roach. I brushed, I double-checked the mirror for stray antennae, fed the cats and sat finally to write and all I could think was, "Today is a good day because I woke up and I'm not an insect."

Then I thought, "Oh, what do I know? It's not even quarter 'til five in the morning. This day hasn't even turned on for most people. I could still be a bug by day's end." We'll see how it turns out... everyone loves a mystery!

Kafka is weird and tangled and I enjoy him but maybe this one was way too close to home. I have him in my purse just in case. Maybe we'll hang out at lunch and spin conspiracy theories. Or maybe I'll catch up on my Entertainment Weekly instead.

So, when I was in the shower (where I do my best thinking) I was wondering why TV seems less scary/real to some folks than books. (I'm the exact opposite -- too much CSI or Dexter gives me nightmares and keeps me awake all night hearing imaginary scary noises.) (Even though I like those shows.) (Parenthetical, parenthetical.)

Do you think it's because books feel more intimate than TV? More persuasive? Do books make more of an impression because they take more time to get through? I read a study once that said your body burns more calories reading a book than watching TV. Maybe you get more wrapped up in a book, mentally and physically. Maybe I am way too curious about this subject and need to move on.

Here's another question: When it comes to entertainment are you a re-visitor or always a first-timer? I got a comment from a reader last week (I can't find the actual comment because it's been commentageddon around here lately with the book giveaways and stuff) but it said something like:

I never go back and re-read books or watch movies again, life is too short to waste time on something I've already read or seen when there is more out there to experience.

That is a whole new way of approaching the world, and I honestly had never thought of it, not with my beloved books and favorite movies. (Sure I'll happily never revisit many epochs of my fashion sense or 98.99999% of the stupid stuff I have done while dating) but never re-read a book? It almost made me sad! It's the exact opposite of my nature ... I want to hold on to things I've loved, they're comforting to me.

But it's an interesting take on life, the idea that re-visiting is wasting time you could spend doing something new. So -- what do you think? Do you think life is all about moving on to the next new thing? Is re-reading time wasted or time well-spent? (Obviously there is no right answer, it's all opinion and personal preference. I'm just curious about you.)

Maybe I am hopelessly antiquated, but I love the feeling of revisiting an old book or movie. I reach for my well-worn favorites a lot -- The Stand, Gone with the Wind, anything by Michael Crichton (especially Timeline), The Awakening, Le Divorce, Rage of Angels (I love me some Sidney Sheldon!) Picking up an old favorite is like visiting with an old friend. I do this with movies, too. There's very little in my life that can't be remedied by watching The Princess Bride in my pajamas. Other movies I watch over and over are The Bourne movies, Wag the Dog, French Kiss, Under the Tuscan Sun, Volver, The Sound of Music, anything by John Hughes.

I can't imagine my life without many happy years of The Sound of Music ahead! Then again, I can eat the same thing for lunch every day for a week. And I park my car in the same spot most days. And I still have books from the 9th grade. I am a creature of habit, definitely. The good part is I know every word to every song in The Sound of Music. The downside is maybe I do not embrace all changes as quickly as I'd like.

- - -

Best email I got all week:

From: Samantha D. Tuesday, April, 27, 2010 at 11:49:19

I don't know how to leave a comment but I wanted to say if you ever get a copy of the book "Men Who Want Women Who Knit" - well I'll take one of those!!! :)

That had me cracking up all day long.

- - -

Best comment yesterday:

time4mercy wrote: And now for something completely different: on your recommendation, I ordered some Dr. Bronner's soap. Haven't tried it yet, but it smells lovely. I was just wondering -- does it always come with Free Bonus Crazytalk on every bottle?? :)

It does! All the astrocrazy is completely free, actually I saw a great documentary once on the whole Dr. Bronner's family and it was FASCINATING. I'm pretty sure the documentary I saw was this one: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox. It went into all the tales of how he escaped a mental asylum and went on to create this really cool soap world.

I loved it because it reminded me that even when life is nuts and you're in a mental institution it is possible to escape and create something so smellgood and feelgood that it can clean both your hair and your floors. Amen to the promise of possibility! Or so says Fräulein Laürie.

Posted by laurie at 6:38 AM

April 27, 2010

Breakfast with Kafka

Having finished up with The Count of Monte Cristo, I went into the yarn-room-office and ran my fingers along the bookshelves looking for my next good read. I like the comforting feeling of being able to shop from your own library (books or yarn!) I landed on this one:


The Trial by Franz Kafka

Like The Count of Monte Cristo, this book is the same one I bought when first assigned to read this story in a literature class. So I calculate that The Trial has been with me since my first year of college, and traveled from Mississippi to Tennessee to Florida and to California with me and seen me through one marriage and divorce and twenty different shades of blonde.

It even has notes from the first time I read it, which made me laugh out loud when I saw them:


I think I was trying to be smart and Existentialist, but my notes are like a mental patient's manifesto...

clean air stifles
normal life
duplicity murky

Seriously ya'll.

And even though I would never have admitted it back then, I didn't really get Kafka when I first had to read The Trial and later The Metamorphosis. It was only after I had a professor who was really into authors that I got into Kafka, because we talked just as much -- if not more -- about his life and his diaries than the books. For me, The Diaries of Franz Kafka was so much more intriguing than anything we were assigned to read because he was full of crazypants and ennui:

August 29, 1914 The end of one chapter a failure; another chapter, which began beautifully, I shall hardly -- or rather certainly not -- be able to continue as beautifully, while at the time, during the night, I should certainly have succeeded with it. But I must not forsake myself, I am entirely alone.


September 1, 1914
In complete helplessness barely wrote two pages. I fell back a great deal today, though I slept well. ... My old apathy hasn't completely deserted me yet, as I can see, and my coldness of heart perhaps never. That I recoil from no ignominy can as well indicate hopelessness as give hope.

Dude, get thee to a romantic comedy, STAT!

No, what I love about Kafka is that even if I don't all the way get every aspect of his writing, if I let go of trying to be cerebral and analytical and stuff I can just feel his tension and stress from the words. You know this person feels imprisoned, you can feel the muddiness of it, you can sense the panic just below the surface at all times. It's weird but good.

So that's what I'm re-reading today. Let's see -- first Edmond Dantès, now Joseph K. Well, you don't exactly need to dig up Freud and buy a couch to see that I'm in a place. What's next? Plath? A history of the black plague? Maybe some lighthearted Edgar Allen Poe? Actually, I think my next read will be a thick stack of trashy tabloid magazines. For balance.

Speaking of balance, how does she manage with all those whiskers?


And traffic on the 101 was insane in the membrane, saw this on a big grey pickup truck under big grey skies:



I know that the driver probably hangs drywall, but for some reason I felt a little dirty after reading this. The drrrrty kind of dirty.

Posted by laurie at 8:50 AM

April 26, 2010

Another book giveaway: Knits Men Want & Comfort Knitting and Crochet Afghans

Thanks everyone! Comments for the giveaway are closed now. Thank you to everyone who participated!

- - - -

Yes, another giveaway!

Edited: Apparently I was half asleep this morning and did not realize that the publisher of the cute book Knits Men Want has their own sweepstakes and I neglected to tell you about it. Whoops! So in addition to the book giveaway here today, I also want to make sure you see the Cringe Or Crush sweepstakes here.

Also, I was bummed about giving away my review copies of the books which should in itself be a review to how cute they are and how much I wanted to keep them, and then Leslie at Abrams books said she would send me a copy of my own which proves two things: 1) Complaining totally does pay off! And 2) Knitting book people are awesome.

So here are the books in today's give-away:

Knits Men Want: The 10 Rules Every Woman Should Know Before Knitting for a Man~ Plus the Only 10 Patterns She'll Ever Need

Although who am I kidding? Like I will be knitting a sweater for a guy any day soon. Hah. I asked my mom if she thought Dad would wear a hand-knit sweater and she laughed.

And there's this one:

Comfort Knitting and Crochet: Afghans

So one winner will get a copy of each book and I'll include a copy of my book, Home Is Where the Wine Is.

Just post a comment to be entered. This giveaway will close sometime tonight. Good luck!

Edited to add: This is open to everyone on all of planet earth since I'm doing the shipping, I'll mail anywhere :) Well, anywhere on this planet. Let's keep it earth-based, folks. Those FedEx rates to Uranus are a killer.

- - -

Oh, I finished my weekend with Edmond Dantès. After reading the book I watched the movie last night and it was kind of a letdown. It should have been called "A Movie Loosely Based On The Count of Monte Cristo." I kept thinking about those poor schmucks in 9th grade classrooms across the country who skipped reading the book this year and just watched the movie. Suckers!

Posted by laurie at 9:27 AM

April 23, 2010

Win Debbie Macomber's newest book -- Hannah's List!

Edited to add: Sunday, 6:41 p.m. comments and giveaway are now closed, thanks so much to all who participated and I'll have winners tomorrow!

- - -

You might think the best part of having this website is the unusually large amount of fans I have in prisons across America. While that is certainly awesome, I have to say the best perk is having publishers who want to send you free books! I love books and love giveaways and this one is so good. This week, Debbie Macomber's publicity folks sent me a review copy of Hannah's List and it's a beautiful big hardback book and like Madonna said... Papa don't preach, I'm keeping my baby. Luckily the publisher is offering all you Crazy Aunt Catlady readers a giveaway of their own with three winners!


There is one Grand Prize winner who receives a copy of Hannah's List PLUS a $50 VISA gift card so you can stock up on yarn and wine and more Debbie Macomber books or rent a poolboy for an hour. Depending on poolboy rates these days.

Two additional winners will receive a copy of the book!

To enter, just post a comment, it doesn't have to be anything elaborate. Also, if you don't want your email address to visible on the comment, then enter something in the URL field. It will show instead of your email address, but I will still be able to email you through magic. You can just enter crazyauntpurl.com in the URL field if you want. If I wasn't such a techno-dunce I might be able to figure out how to change it in the code of this here website but last time I tried that. I broke comments for about a year. Whoops!

Edited to add: For those of you new to my comments section, your name shows up underneath your comment.

If you want to get more information about the book you can visit the book’s official website at www.hannahslist.com (isn't Debbie Macomber adorable? I think she is so darn cute) or you can read about Hannah's List on amazon.com.

One last thing...

Since the fulfillment of this give away is being handled by the publisher, this prize is only open to participants with a United States mailing address (international readers can enter if they have a friend in the States who can accept their prizes by mail.) I am guessing a prison counts as a U.S. address, heh.

Have fun and good luck! This giveaway will be open for the weekend and/or until we max at at 1,000 comments or whatever breaks the server. One entry per person.

- - -

As you can see, La Soba is already enjoying my copy of this book as she basks by the fire:



Have a great weekend!!!

Posted by laurie at 9:26 AM

April 22, 2010


Last night The Count of Monte Cristo and I spent some quality time together, I am SO GLAD I picked up this book. I had just gotten a few pages in when I read:

"What's the matter, father? You don't look well." "It's nothing; it will pass," said the old man; but his strength failed and he fell backward. "You need a glass of wine," said Edmond. "That will make you feel better. Where do you keep your wine?"

Oh hell yeah. I am so reincarnated from someone previously French. I, too, believe in the medicinal and healing properties of wine. And love and intrigue and carefully honed revenge fantasies.

Got a little reading in before work, too.

When I'm writing I try not to read anything contemporary because I'm paranoid about absorbing that author's voice even in the smallest detail. So I'm loving reading the very not-contemporary voice of Dumas (classics are good anyway, because imitating that style just doesn't happen in my brain). The writing is still deeply engaging and the subject matter is also timely for me. Yes, that's right, I too am imprisoned in the Château d'If. Yeah yeah mine is a little more metaphorical ... though it is pretty iffy! hah. Cracked myself up.

- - -

I've been knitting, though I'm still knitting for other people (I seem to be taking orders these days: Hey can you knit me some handwarmers? Hey, can you knit a hat for so-and-so?) and I just finished these colorful handwarmers for one of the gals in the office:


Cast on 40 stitches, I think I used a size 5 needle but normal humans who don't knit teflon-tight could use a size 4, then work in K4, P4 ribbing, finish the last inch with some seed stitch. Sew up the sides leaving a hole for the thumb. SO easy!

For these cozy handwarmers I used TLC essentials yarn in a variegated color called "fall leaves" and I love how the colors turned out! I know some people are yarnsnobby about acrylic but I often find exactly the perfect texture and color in a nice skein of good old-fashioned TLC or Red Heart. And it's very durable.

Happy customer.

- - -

OH! I am officially giving you the heads up that tomorrow I am doing an awesome book giveaway content thingy and the prize is really good! So tune in. I will try to post it early and leave it up late enough for everyone to get a comment in.

- - -

The weather has been cold and wintry lately, very unusual for April. The furballs enjoyed having the fireplace on and me all tangled up in the sofa with a fluffy blanket and a book last night. I love it when they follow me into whatever room I'm hanging out in and find their own spots to relax. My little four-legged roommates.




Posted by laurie at 8:06 AM

April 21, 2010

Organizing the hoard

Thanks for all the amazing book ideas yesterday. I'm going to leave comments open there for a while because I'm loving all the suggestions and I like seeing the way we all define a classic in our own way. I agree that The Stand is a classic -- I re-read it every time I get the flu. Because it might be Captain Tripps, you know.

When I need to escape there's nothing better than a great book. Or a really engrossing movie. Actually, I have all kinds of escapism happening (that living in the moment stuff is bullhockey when the moment kind of sucks.) (They are now revoking my self-help card.) Sometimes I obsessively re-arrange stuff. It's one of the things I do when my life feels like it's careening out of control and off into scary unknown territory. I organize my books by color, or take all the stuff out from under the bathroom sink and re-arrange it, or I play Freezer Tetris and stack and clean and get everything neat and orderly in the freezer. I also go clean-crazy during stressful times, vacuuming everything that can be vacuumed and re-grouting the tub. It is what I do. I also drink wine and eat potato chips, although that makes for far less compelling photo essays.

Over the weekend I got all my yarn out from its hiding places in the closets of my office and re-arranged it all. I wanted to put the Noro with the Noro, the alpaca with the alpaca, the SWS with its kindred skeins. I used to be embarrassed by my weird need to have ALL THE YARN but now I don't care, because if I am suddenly and unexpectedly jobless, I will have ALL THE YARN. I love my yarn. I mean I love it, I love looking at it and having it and thinking about what I may one day make with it. This yarn makes me happy. It's five-almost-six years of collecting gone right.

Midway through my stress-relieving yarnfest.

So much Rubbermaid, so little time.

I had a helper!

Who is a giant!

That's the wold's single largest supply of Patons Up Country, hiding inside one of the closets.

Stash in the other closet.

Not all of the yarn would fit in the closets, so I decided to make a cat perch out of two of my more gigantor buckets. It's the perfect height for a window lookout. They like it.

So that's my stash, mostly. I like to have it ziplocked and ensconced in bins and stacked and arranged just-so and now it is. All my half-finished projects with the needles still attached are all in one big tub together, so the next time I'm looking for something to finish I'll have a one-stop shop for UFOs.

I wasn't the only one who enjoyed yarn-organizing day. My big helper had a big time, too.


Posted by laurie at 7:43 AM

April 20, 2010

Reading (or re-reading) the classics

Summer reading weather is almost here. I love spending a beautiful hot sunny summer day indoors, safely away from nature and curled up in manufactured indoor air with a good book and a cold adult beverage. Usually I go for contemporary fiction, cheese-laden self-help or biography. But this season I have a hankering to up my classic reading IQ and read (or re-read) a few pieces of classic literature. Or, where I am from, litterchure.

So, what are your top five favorite classic books? I'm making up my summer reading list. I'm thinking maybe some Dorothy Parker, some Colette, perhaps a Henry James. I definitely want to re-read The Count of Monte Cristo. What do you recommend? What are your top five MUST-read classics?

And are there any classic authors you've never gotten around to reading but are embarrassed to admit it? For me it's a serious lack of Jane Austen. I read what was assigned to me in school of course, but that was in high school when I was deep in teenage angst and tortured be-pimpled darkness. None of that chaste Austen stuff for me and my side-part mohawk!

(More of my awesomely bad hair is here: Read My Hairstory.)

We had just moved from Louisiana to Columbia, Tennessee and I was full of rebellion and my own super coolness, so of course all I wanted to read were the books children my age were not supposed to read -- I started with a little E. M. Forster, and moved right into Henry Miller (warning: if you're at work some of those book covers have nekkid ladies on them. That is not what the covers looked like in the 1980s!), Anais Nin, all that Lost Generation stuff with Gertrude Stein, and somehow one day I stumbled onto Charles Bukowski. I'm pretty sure at age 14 I had no idea what 90% of any of those books were really about but I certainly thought I did. Also, can I just point out that back in the 1980s it was not exactly easy for a teenager living in Columbia, Tennessee, home of the Mule Day Parade, to get her hands on some Henry Miller. There was no internet and we lived right in the buckle of the Bible Belt in a dry county with no major bookstore and the public library didn't gravitate toward gritty Parisian stories about vagabonds and drunks and ladies of the night.

Luckily, I had parents who encouraged my love of books and secretly hoped that no matter what I was reading perhaps if I kept my nose stuck in a book I would stop hiding boys in my closet (hah, good try, Dad.) So my mom would take me to Nashville every few months and we'd go to a big mall and spend hours in the bookstore. Thank goodness for the internet so angsty teens in small towns across America can now buy their gritty rebellious books online. And thank the Lord for my enlightened parents who let me read anything I wanted. They wouldn't let me listen to Prince records, mind you, but if it was a book and I could save up enough allowance to buy it it was all mine. I love this about them.

College was a buffet-- the bookstore on campus and the library were filled with crazy great stuff, the weird and fabulous Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Kafka, who I think invented this place I work at. One day two weeks ago I wondered if I was suddenly a giant cockroach with an apple in my back. Then I went home and drank wine. Who knew Kafka would prepare me so well for corporate life? Anyway, it was so exhilarating to be 18 or 19 and discovering all those new words, new ways of making a sentence fizz. I loved our college faux-snobbery, our pretense of literary greatness (this from someone who read every single Sweet Valley High book ever written. Twice.) But I have long since outgrown any book-related snootiness and I'll read anything, I'll read the back of the cereal box if it's interesting. Usually when I get a chance to sink into a book I like to grab something off the bestseller list because it helps me understand what people are reading right now, what's current and engaging. And I like an escape. Right now I need an escape and I want a classic, a pile of classics, I think I need to feel rooted, grounded in a book.

So, I'd love to hear your Top 5 Classic Reads suggestions. Besides, eventually we're going to hit re-run season and my brain might enjoy being stimulated by something other than reality TV. Or it may go into shock. Or I may actually be a cockroach, who knows!

Cat angst.

Posted by laurie at 8:07 AM

April 19, 2010






Been catching Bobfever on my iphone.

Posted by laurie at 8:04 AM

April 16, 2010

She has the right idea...

This would be a good way to spend the whole weekend.
(pic taken with iphone, not bad!)

Have a good weekend!

Posted by laurie at 12:37 PM

April 15, 2010

Green clean/Hair sheen

Lately I have been cleaning my house like a crazy person. It's the one way I know I can do something, some activity, and feel in control of my life and surroundings, so I tend to clean when I am stressed out. It's also relaxing in the end to walk into a clean house, it feels so good and peaceful. I got this comment some time ago from reader Lisa:

Laurie, I thought of you the other day when the New York Times published a letter from a lady who uses only natural stuff to clean. Of course I was reading the paper at the coffee shop and forgot most of her tips... the only one I remembered was about using vinegar on water stains. I tried it on my cat's stainless steel water dish (which I was about to throw out because it was so nasty) when I got home, and it worked like a charm! I know you have posted a list of your favorite mixtures before, but I can't find it now. Do you have a favorite website for tips on cleaning without nasty chemicals? Thanks!

It's taken me a while to fully switch from chemical to au natural, but now I love my mostly hippydippy cleaning routine and can't imagine going back.

I used to scour the house with Windex, 409, bleach, Ajax with bleach, soft scrub, tilex or whatever I thought it took to get the house clean. Then a few years ago I read an article about the huge amounts of chemicals in our homes and how those cleaning products let off toxic fumes even when they're just sitting in your home bottled up. And I thought about my little cats breathing in all that stuff and decided to try using non-toxic cleansers as much as possible. It took me several years to say goodbye to all the chemical stuff I had relied on for so long, but now I'm almost a completely non-toxic cleaning lady. I say almost because I still haven't given up everything 100%. I use a capful of bleach in the sink now and then to disinfect it and get it sparkling white. I bought some Ecover non-chlorine bleach (it's just hydrogen peroxide) and I've been using that for the tub and bathroom and any disinfecting I want to do, as I do love my disinfecting, but I still have my little jug of bleach under the kitchen sink for now. And I have windex, though usually I go with a mixture of vinegar and water for cleaning windows and mirrors.

It's about making progress, you know, not about being perfect! No matter what you do someone will say you're doing it wrong or not doing enough or whatever. All I'm aiming for is better. And to me my cleaning routine is much better for me, for the cats and for the environment.

Almost every product I used to use has been replaced by simple soap and water. I use a spray bottle filled with water and a few drops of super-concentrated Basic H2® Organic Cleaning Concentrate. I lasts forever! And it's perfect for cleaning the stove, countertops, you name it.

I use plain white vinegar for everything else, especially on the mirrors and windows (and I add it to laundry now and then). Here's an article on all the uses for plain old white vinegar. Cheap and so useful! There is a smell but it dissipates quickly. If I'm cleaning on a day when all the windows have to be closed (if it's cold or something) I might use lemon juice in place of vinegar, it has a clean, pretty smell and works great with some water and soap as an all-purpose cleanser.

In the bathrooms, I sprinkle plain old baking soda in the toilets once a week and scrub with a toilet brush and it works 100% as well as Ajax with bleach. Except of course with the Ajax I was scared I would spill a tiny bit and the cats would step on it and die, and with baking soda I know it's not toxic to use or breathe in or step on. In fact, I use baking soda for all kinds of scouring. It's also MUCH cheaper than commercially prepared scouring products.

For a little variety (and because I LOVE the smell) I use Dr. Bronner's Eucalyptus Soap for mopping the floors, just a little in some warm water and my floors look great. Dr. Bronner's is good for anything, you can wash your hair in it, take a shower with it, or scrub the floors with it! For laundry, I use Ecover Ecological Laundry Wash (I love the smell) and Ecover dish soap. Or Dr. Bronner's ... whatever is handy! I know that the few products I do use (the Ecover and Shaklee stuff specifically) are more expensive than regular dishsoap or detergent but I'm using so few products now (and the concentrated stuff lasts forever) so I'm actually spending less money on cleansers than ever before.

My house is still clean but it's not full of chemicals anymore. It wasn't an overnight switch but I just made little changes as I went along.

Everyone has different products they love and I think I gravitate to stuff that I can find easily at my grocery store and that smell good, like the Eucalyptus soap. I'm so surprised that I can clean the whole house with basically nothing more than soap and water and baking soda with a little vinegar thrown in to shine up the mirrors. Oh! I still have my magic erasers, too, they remove stains and scuffs and I love them. But for the most part the whole house gets cleaned with no chemical soup and no fumes.

- - -

So many folks asked about that mousse I referred to the other day. I use this one:

It's the KMS Add Volume Styling Foam. I have very fine, straight hair and all sorts of flyaway issues, and this mousse works magic if 1) you don't put in too much and 2) you MUST BLOW DRY your hair. If you try to put in the mousse and air-dry you get helmet head. Gloppy helmet head. As always, your mileage may vary...

- - -

Finally, iPhone stealth pic of Bob snoozing on my leg:


Posted by laurie at 8:00 AM

April 14, 2010

It's good to be The Queen


Posted by laurie at 11:48 AM

April 13, 2010

Hark! And the heavens parted and a Jeep came forth and there was traffic and all was good again!

I have never been so happy to be stuck in traffic. Behold the hood of my red Jeep which is now mobile again and functional and took me home with much blaring of the radio and excitement and honking and people blocking intersections:


Maybe the breaking has ended. In my defense, Your Honor, I bring you exhibit #48: The Final Apex Of Breakage! Perhaps! Maybe!

Yesterday morning in a span of ten minutes I managed to break not one but TWO hair dryers! AMAZING, PEOPLE! Do not invite me over to see your new fancy gadgets!

Yesterday I awoke at four a.m. as usual. Yes they make a "four" twice a day. I fed the cats, I scooped, I washed my hands, twice, I made coffee, I watched a little Garth Kemp, I turned on the remaining working computer, I wrote. Then as the 6 o'clock hour neared, I showered. Got out, toweled off, and at some point applied the special hair gunk mousse. It's so awesome and makes my field of split ends into a silky sheen when blow-dried. When not blow-dried, however, it cakes into a crust of geologic proportions. I got out my hair dryer which had worked just three days ago and plugged it in ... and nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. The silence of the lambdryers. This bell tolls for thee, unless thee has a dead hairdryer and nothing tolls.

I tried pushing and resetting all those buttons on the plug. I tried a new outlet. I pushed more buttons. Tried a power strip. Tried a power strip with surge protection. NOTHING. I knew before I even started. This hair fluffing machine had fallen prone to breakitis and you know what, expletive expletive! Expletive!

I hauled it downstairs and threw it in the trash. But I was wimpy with my toss and it just lightly sat atop last night's garbage. So I retrieved it from my own trash can and re-chucked it -- this time with FERVOR! It made a satisfying clunk and crumble. Plastic actually broke off! Behold the powers of me, breaking broken things!

I returned upstairs where I knew somewhere in the depths of my bathroom there was a travel hair dryer. Expletive you, Karma. I am a hermit, a recluse and a hoarder. I have a BACKUP.

After pulling out the cleaning supplies and backup backup moisturizer and Q-tips from the bathroom cabinet, I found it! The travel hairdryer! It even had the two-pronged Euro plug converter attached from its last trip abroad. The only catch was the hairdryer's little indicator dealy-thingy, the dial you turn from Euro 220 voltage to American 110 voltage. It looks like a flathead screw but it's plastic. I tromped back downstairs and found a flathead screwdriver, tromped back upstairs and totally counted this as a day of exercise on my calendar, and started to change the voltage dial.

Which was made of plastic.

Which crumbled and stripped and got stuck somewhere between voltages. And rendered the machine both useless and dangerous.

It should not surprise you that by this time my hair had hardened into a moussed version of a motorcycle helmet. I took the broken backup hairdryer to the trash and discarded it with the power of a woman coming unglued, a woman on the edge, a woman you'd expect to be painting on eyebrows and wearing something shiny while swigging gin at noon. Things have BROKEN. In the span of ten days I have managed to have my vacation plans upended, my computer break, my backup hard drive die, my car expel metal from its undercarriage, my cat produce a hairball that looks like chewbacca, my apartment need emergency re-piping, my job of seven years got suddenly and without warning changed, I got a new boss, and all my hair dryers have freaked the hell out. It has been very exciting here in Chez Panties Up Your Butt.

Then yesterday I got the call about my Jeep. It's not only fixed, it purrs like a kitten. It smells good -- they threw in a free car wash, which is only free if you ignore all the zeroes on the bill, which I did. The motor practically hums! By midday I learned the magic IT man somehow extracted my files and saved my data. It was expensive but I was so happy about getting all my digital pictures back that I wanted to strip him naked and do Harlequin-Romance-esque paragraphs on him and yet I restrained myself. My vacation gone wonky was offset when I got a call from my house sitter who told me she had just moved CLOSER to me and was so excited to see the kitten posse and could she stop by soon?

And as for my hairdryers, who needs a hairdryer when you have a Jeep, a moving wind machine? Unzip the windows, let the wind in and shake it like your mama made it. Expletive expletive, really awesome expletive! I survived the Great Breakage of April 2010. Sure it's not even mid-April and Lord knows what breakage lies ahead but I have my Jeep back. I drove home with the windows out and it was cold at night so I blasted the heater and I sang like I do, which is sort of Bonnie Raitt being tortured over hot coals, and I knew I was MONEY, baby! Or out of MONEY! But still, has the word MONEY in it! I looked right at the guy stuck next to me in traffic and howled along with the radio at the top of my lungs, "Out on the road today I saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac, a little voice inside my head said don't look back, you can never look back..."

And you know what? My bubblehead bleached blonde 'do didn't move an inch because it was permanently moussed in place.

Posted by laurie at 8:42 AM

April 12, 2010

Riding on the metro of love

Now that I am sans automobile, I am taking all sorts of alternate transportation ... buses, shuttles, the subway, my feet. I haven't been on the subway since September or October and I am happy to see they finally installed turnstiles! It always shocked me that Los Angeles was the largest metropolitan subway in the world that operated on the honor system. The honor system. In L.A. Uh, Alex, I'll take "contradiction of terms" for $200, please.

While I'm excited to see that there is now some form of turnstile action happening in the subway, it seems like a waste of time if you have a whole row of tap-activated turnstiles next to a large one designated for disabled access that has no turnstile at all. It's just wide open and anyone can pass through it (that's what's happening in the picture below.) So, how does this work? People who buy tickets and pay the fare use the turnstiles and those who still skip out on the fare walk through the open space?

Fascinating. (Image taken with my iphone, pretty good huh? It is the only electronic thing I have that is still under warranty so while the Great Breaking of 2010 is in full swing I decided to leave my nice new Canon camera at home and just use my iphone for pictures.)

I was telling a co-worker how pleased I was to see turnstiles, even if there are some gaps, she commutes on the subway every day and so we sometimes talk about mass transit in L.A. And that was when I learned something totally crazy.

"The turnstiles don't actually keep you out if you don't tap," she said. "They're entirely for show."

"Whuuuuut...?" I asked. Perplexed.

"The turnstiles aren't locked. They work whether or not you tap your metro card. You can pass through any turnstile no problem whether you paid or not."

"So what is the purpose of the turnstiles?" I asked.

"I guess maybe it makes us look like we have a real subway?" she said.

And so there you have it, Los Angeles still has the largest metropolitan subway running on the honor system.

- - -

During rush hour we all cram onto the subway like sardines and then exit en masse and tromp up the stairs in a clump. Here is a Los Angeleno who really does not care that he is making an entire trainload of humans walk around him on the stairs:


Hundreds of folks walked around him and he just sat there. Also fascinating. (I blurred his features, which do you think is better... a blur or a big black bar? Hard to tell.)

- - -

You know, whenever I notice people in Los Angeles doing things that are goofy or inconvenience the general public around them or seem incredibly rude, I am not really irritated, I'm mostly fascinated at their audacity. I guess I don't have the self-posession to boldly block the stairwell for a thousand people when there is a bench five feet away. It amazes me, that's all. But what is funniest of all to me, and why I love posting this stuff, is the comments people come up with to explain or excuse whatever it is. "Maybe he was disabled and so he made it down the four other flights of stairs and had to stop and rest." "Maybe he's got a titanium leg and sitting on the stairs is more comfortable than the bench." "Maybe he is in the CIA and partially blind and doing a field study of the pedestrian flow in the red line."

Once, many years ago, I wrote about seeing a smelly old homeless dude in the downtown public library who was very clearly looking at and enjoying some extremely hardcore pornography on the public computers in full view of everyone, including little kids. Los Angeles can just be so gross sometimes. Anyway, one commenter wrote, "What is porn to one person may be a WWF website to another, or art, or research. And yeah, I have known one to two scholars that looking at porn is actual research - studying the effect of porn on culture, the role of the woman in porn as a feminist study..."

I read that comment and I remember thinking to myself, "Wow! He was such a good student he was even multitasking! If you count masturbating into a plastic bag as part of his research study..." hehehehe.

Anyway, the point is: I secretly love that inherent in most people is this desire to find some explanation for cruddy behavior. Like there's just this automatic drive to find a plausible excuse for it. To me it shows that most people at heart are willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt and that's a good thing, or else we'd all be in the 15-items-or-less line with 67 items in the buggy. I generally don't make excuses for people, I just assume they're suffering from an abundance of crazypants, but I am always surprised by the things others come up with. I think it's reassuring that there are so many folks willing to believe the best in people. The only downside is that I don't think you kind souls live in Los Angeles...

Posted by laurie at 5:43 AM

April 11, 2010

Local woman cannot count. Film footage at eleven.

(Yes I had something here earlier, now we have this.)


Good grief, lady! It's the 15-items-or-less aisle on a busy busy Saturday and you have at least 67 things already on the checkout belt and are still unloading!

(By the way I wish you could have seen the dirty looks she was getting from everyone in line. Priceless.)

Posted by laurie at 8:01 AM

April 9, 2010

Sewing impossible-to-remove buttons and other stuff likely to win me another not-Pulitzer

I love buttons! I have a collection of buttons. One of the concerns people have with baby stuff is of course the keen ability small children have to remove and swallow everything like the little Hoovers they are. My cat Bob is permanently in this baby state, his first response to any new object is to see if he can eat it. My brothers were remarkable at swallowing Legos, coins and Barbie shoes. It's a talent that's admirable, really.

When I was a little girl I learned from a master seamstress how to properly sew a button and it was one of the best life lessons I ever received. I can affix fasteners that can only be removed with a seamripper, pointy detail scissors and an investment of time ... and sometimes even then they stay hanging on for dear life. As Mr. T would say, I pity the fool who needs to switch out the buttons on something I made! Because Mr. T is all about the details.

First, you must use the correct thread. I prefer Coates & Clark "Dual Duty" thread. It's the right thickness to be doubled, and that's the second step to a bulletproof button: double the thread and knot it. Do not sew the button on with a single strand of thread. Pull your thread through the eye of the needle bring the tails together and make a knot.

(Imagine that I was not currently killing all technology and had an illustrative image here of a needle and thread.)

Once you're threaded up and ready to sew, begin by attaching the thread to the fabric with a knot -- yes, you already have a knot at the end of your thread tails, but now you knot onto the fabric. Do this by making a single stitch where the button will go and as you pull the loop of thread through the fabric, dip your needle inside the loop and pull tight. It's a slipknot, really. At this point you can snip any little ends hanging off the knotted tail. I do this on the right side of the fabric where the button will go and the button hides your knot.

Then sew on the button. Simple, no? Knot, tie off and snip the thread. I hide my knots underneath the button (again, on the right side of the fabric). Try to keep the stitches neat and even so it's not too noticeable on the other side of the fabric.

Here is the super secret: Repeat that entire process. At the end you have sewn a button with thread twice, using two separate sets of thread. Even if one round of thread and knots becomes unhinged, the other is a backup. For buttons with four holes this means you do one diagonal with one set of thread, knot, tie off, snip. Do the other diagonal with a new set of thread. (You can kind of see that in the close-up below ... one diagonal has thread on the bottom, the other has all the thread on top. They are from separate sewing. Yes, it takes more time. But your notions will stay on forever.) (Also this is an image I took months ago with my old camera, hence the poor quality.)


Your buttons will withstand a hurricane, a tornado and a two-year-old.

- - -

And now, let's end the week with some Frankie belly, courtesy of my iphone (which is the only appliance I still have under warranty):


Fuzzy love.

Posted by laurie at 7:27 AM

April 8, 2010

The Festival of Broken Things

Sure, I suspected it might be major when I barely -- just barely-- coasted into the mechanic station in the underground garage and turned off the ignition and heard my Jeep audibly gasp with mechanical dramatics. When the mechanic called me late in the day yesterday with the tense voice, using words like "drive train" and "differential" and "thousands" and "surprised you made it here without the transmission falling out on the 101" I sighed with my own audible dramatics. It's that time in my life when things break. It happens. And yet I am not hiding in the ladies room sipping from a flask. An accomplishment!

That was the scariest thing when my ex-husband unceremoniously dumped me, that worry about who would I turn to when I needed help? How would I do all this living alone, the money, the details, the backup ride to the subway? Who can pick you up from the dentist, who can listen when you need it? You figure it out though. It takes time. Work Jen saw me heading over to the garage in the afternoon to clean out my few belongings from my Jeep and she said, "How will you get home?" And she was genuinely worried about me (and lives nowhere near me, and knows I wouldn't ask her anyway though she is the sort of friend who would offer) but I knew I would figure something out. It's a skill I'm sort of proud of. I am the person you want to be near when a natural disaster strikes because I know, I KNOW, I can get us out and get us situated and get us drunk as skunks. I am resourceful, resilient and have a 20-pound handbag with all sorts of magic in it.

But secretly there is something about car trouble that renders me all belle-like and soft and needy and wanting someone else to be there. I have absolutely no safety net in life and most of the time I choose to feel challenged and independent about that whole scary no-safety-net thing. When my Jeep falls apart majestically (with actual metal falling from below) and all my other stuff is breaking and racking up expenses I start to get a little nervous, that's all. I guess. I go soft. Stupid car trouble.

By the way, comments are closed today because there are some subjects that no one, not even one with a full supply of independence and self-help books, wants more helpful advice about. For you perhaps that subject is your children, your weight, your hair, or maybe it's your love of the Kardashians. For me it's the subject of my Jeep and my weird relationship to car breakdown emotions.

It's a thing with me.

So I am Jeepless for now, for maybe weeks, who knows. Mass transportation I see you and raise you a token (hah) in appreciation. Well, anyway, I did say I wanted to walk more in April, yes?

- - -

As for the dead workstation that has all my project files and everything set up just-so-the-way-I-like-it, well, it was wheeled off yesterday by the IT Magic Man and I still have faith in him, we'll see what verdict he returns. Here's hoping PCs don't have a drive train. Don't worry, I didn't propose to him. I hear some women are desperate for children, I seem to be desperate for a man who can fix stuff. I'd love to trade my powers of mass breakage for the power to fix something.

I did back up all my data of course, because I know how I am with technology. But last week my backup drive stopped working. It just happened a few days ago so I haven't had time to buy a new one and now have no files and no backup. Oh and no car. (And while we are at it no clean socks.) So Magic IT Man took pity on me and is looking at my backup drive today, too. Fingers crossed that by end of day we won't be tipping out a forty to my ol' homie the PC.

- - -

Last night after accepting that I was Jeepless and knight-in-shining-armnorless, I took the subway home to the Valley and walked from the metro to the bus and then got off at the stop by the grocery store and bought as much wine as I could safely carry home. You would be surprised how much I can carry. I like solving my problems with a glass of cabernet, a bag of chips and some dumb TV. The Tivo seems operational. Life is good.

I'm glad my engine didn't fall out on the 101. I'm pleased that I can figure out how to get home and back with no car. I'm glad we have someone here at work so capable that I truly do have hope about my PC. And my backup. I'm glad they have a mechanic in the parking garage here so that I don't have to get my Jeep pulled out of the garage by a chain tow then onto a waiting flatbed in the middle of downtown then 40 miles to my other mechanic who may or may not be back in the pokey. I'm really glad I moved because now I can actually walk to a grocery store and honestly, that's the only place I go other than work, so as long as my legs keep working we're in business at Chez Merlot Meow Mix.

Now that I have listed all the happy glad bits and all, and said kumbaya and walked in a circle and burned sage and counted blessings and tried not to touch things I want to keep working, like my camera and my netbook, and also honestly copped to my dumb emotional weakness that comes with car trouble, well... Universe, can you move on to torturing some other person with breakitis? And I know just the person! May I suggest my Evil Arch Nemesis? I'm just saying is all.

But this is still working:
Cat cuteness. Pic taken with my cellphone as I am slightly afraid to touch my new awesome camera for obvious reasons.

Posted by laurie at 7:01 AM

April 7, 2010

The good, the bad, the ugly and expensive. But then the whatever.

So! The good news is they got my workstation running for just long enough to make me insanely happy, thinking I was past the cloud of anti-tech vibes I'm under right now, and then once I was lulled into that false sense of security it died again. And may never be recovered, we do not know. That is actually bad news, but the good news is the tech they have assigned to my situation is the world's best and is magic and can fix all sorts of things. Including maybe I will not have to call upon lovely reader Wendy's tech friend she put me in touch with to fix my external backup since A) I will be working until midnight trying to catch up on all my projects since I am working on an unfamiliar computer now with none of my original files and do not even have the energy to open my door when I get home, even for a fix-it man and 2) the magic IT guy at work said he would look at it for me. Maybe out of pity, or maybe because I promised I would stop humping his leg.

Also, as my anti-tech vibe continues, I just went down to the ATM to get cash and it was out of order. And my car is making a suddenly new and expensive noise which started about ten minutes before I pulled into the garage so the mechanics there who keep selling me radiators are looking at my Jeep. That was the bad news, in case you were wondering. Also, the ugly and expensive, most likely.

But whatever. These things they happen. I am glad really, just get all the breaking out of the way at one time. (Ok, I'm not "glad" but I can't fix any of this myself and the universe is mysterious and this is just how my life rolls so I now roll with it instead of crying in a corner eating my hair.)

Speaking of eating thanks for all the funny and interesting comments about chicken nugget lovin' kids yesterday. I have lots of friends my age who have kids (oh who are we kidding, I am about the only one I know with no children) and I am endlessly fascinated by how well they all navigate the tricky waters of parenting. I'm not a parent, but I know the avalanche of unsolicited advice I get on even the smallest things, like cat litter or my aversion to breakfast, so I can't imagine what parents today go through fielding advice, finger-wagging and the information overload bombarded at all of us on every topic. It was really entertaining to me to hear everyone's picky eater stories and eats-everything stories and all in between.

I can certainly be picky in my own right. I don't love mushrooms, I prefer vegetables to fruit, I need my steaks cooked well done. We all have our stuff. Reader Dee pointed out that McDonald's didn't introduce the nugget until the '80s (and our small town didn't even have a McDonald's) so I think that explains why nugget-only palates mystify me since I wasn't exposed to it myself very early on. I was never a kid who got to be picky about food, we didn't have that kind of set-up in our house, but I was insane about other stuff, like I had to carry Sam (my stuffed animal) everywhere and sleep with him every night or the world would END. END, I tell you. I was a weird kid anyway, always writing my little stories in my little notebooks and having imaginary friends and being secretive and wanting to be called a different name. Usually plant names -- Jasmine, Clover, etc. All our battles at the dinner table revolved around someone hollering at me to get my nose out of that book and eat already.

And I guess I am an equally weird adult because it doesn't surprise me at all when I have a week or two where everything I touch breaks -- except the big old blocky downstairs TV which I even hugged last night and still it soldiers ever onward.

Posted by laurie at 10:31 AM

April 6, 2010

Ah, the best intentions

I had every intention today of showing you pictures of traffic and glamour shots of Frankie and maybe some other cats wearing fur like runway models and yet today I am having computer issues, again, and there will be no pictures.

In the past eight days I have broken an external hard drive which may or may not ever be fixable and houses all my photos and assorted stuffage, I have broken a USB thumb drive (really broken, like in half) and now a whole PC. My magical powers of breaking stuff are in full form! Later tonight I plan to do a laying on of my own hands upon the huge old boxy TV in my living room that refuses to die so it can be replaced by one of those sleek new flat things. Who knows. I could maybe blow the power grid later today. If you live in L.A. and the lights go out, I'm just saying, maybe soon I'll get a new TV.

Anyway! In the meantime let us talk about TeeVee, my friend, my current deepest relationship, my one gadget that still works. First there is the untimely leaving of Didi from American Idol, she has such a pretty voice. Why her and not the interchangeable tweeny guys? And Fox, can you please get with the program and understand that an hour has only 60 minutes and so when you go over that those of us who Tivo your shows miss the very end? And frankly not all of us want to clip our next programs by three minutes because you are too dumb to understand how to plan six minutes of programming to fit inside a 60-minute slot. Get the memo!

Next, Dancing With The Stars. Yes, I watch. Judge silently to yourself. On the first night when Pam Anderson did the chacha (or whatever that was) it was so sleazy I think my TV got herpes. However she has really surprised me these last two times, so why was she in the bottom two and not Buzz? Mystery. Also I was surprised by both how good and how flat-out gorgeous Erin Andrews is. The new co-host also takes Awkward to new heights which is kind of funny.

Did anyone start watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? I Tivoed it out of curiosity and got kind of sucked in. Who knew the U.S. schools had such weird food guidelines? Two breads per meal? I did know that whole thing about ketchup counting as a vegetable and all but I think I don't pay much attention to this sort of stuff since I don't have kids. And maybe it's because I don't have kids but I have never really understood chicken nugget syndrome, something painfully illustrated in this show. I have friends around my age and they have small children who will eat nothing but chicken nuggets and I hear this from all sorts of people, "That's all my kid will eat!" and I just don't get it. Kids aren't born genetically craving chicken nuggets. They eat what you feed them. Or am I completely insane and in the past 20 years children have mutated and now spring forth fully-formed into chicken nugget cravers?

I don't think I ever saw or heard of a nugget until I was a teenager. Sure, I ate fried chicken growing up, I'm Southern, but we didn't have this whole picky eater nugget thing going on. The luxury of pitching a hissy about food wasn't normal or tolerated. You ate what was served or you didn't eat but it wasn't a big deal. I know parenting has changed and all that, and hey you should feed your kid whatever you want, it's not my place to judge. So I'm not taking some moral waterloo stance here, I'm just very curious about it. When I travel I see kids all over the world eating real food like the grownups do. So is it just American kids who have chicken nugget syndrome? I've always wanted to know. It's very interesting to me.

How did this become a nugget thing? And please don't send me hate mail, I'm not judging parenting/mothering/child-rearing or that time you stalked your ex on Facebook. We all know I am crackass addicted to fast food so it's not like I'm going to point a finger, but my addiction was entirely self-inflicted. Merely curious about the nugget situation. Back to TeeVee!

Finally, I still watch and love Castle. Nathan Fillion is so cute and I love the chemistry with Castle and Beckett and I am so glad that the network didn't cancel that show.

Well, back to Tuesday and my superpowers of breaking technology. Who knows what havoc I can unleash! I better not touch the Tivo, though. I can lose data and backups and whole computers but losing Tivo would be a tragedy far greater than calling ketchup a vegetable.

Posted by laurie at 9:55 AM

April 5, 2010

The return of the Evil Arch Nemesis!

It's been quite some time since I had an Evil Arch Nemesis, probably over a year. I prefer being my own worst enemy, it seems, or perhaps I am boring and forgetful about enemies. I did have an Evil Enemy about a year or so ago but the hateful disliking was mostly on her part and I sort of forgot all about it until I saw her one day walking on a sidewalk in downtown and I smiled and said hey and she brushed past me with an icy chill.

I thought, "That was weird! She must not have seen me!" and then I remembered we are Sworn Enemies For Life or Longer and she was still carrying that grudge even though I had long forgotten about her. It made me laugh.

This time, though, I have a real ambitious Evil Arch Nemesis (and of course it's a she, why are my adversaries always cranky, panties-in-a-bunch women?) and she will one day make a fabulous fictional character, the foe to our heroine's main character.

It's good to get an Evil Arch Nemesis every now and again. It provides endless entertainment during happy hour with the girls and it brings out my more ebullient list of adjectives.

Now I am fully aware that there is a whole faction of the population who are as we speak stepping upon a soapbox filled with moral suds and getting elevated enough to climb up on top of a high, high horse to inform me that there should be no enemies, no grudges, no smack talking over happy hour. Those folks say it's always best to turn the other cheek, and I know that is absolutely the right choice for so many people.

However, I am from a part of the country where people are still re-enacting the Civil war and they plan to keep on re-enacting until it ends the way THEY want it to end. Talk about your elongated revenge fantasy. They put on homemade uniforms, carry real muskets and set up whole battlefield kitchens with corn pone and whiskey or something like that.

What I am saying here is that I am not from people who turn the other cheek. I am from the sort of stock that goes out of their way to dramatize an event and re-tell it for centuries to come and it includes special clothes for goodness sakes.

The very best part about having an Evil Arch Nemesis is that it brings out your creativity, largely in the realm of the Revenge Fantasy. I learned a lot from my expensive and drawn-out divorce and one of those lessons was to embrace the Revenge Fantasy. It's perfectly healthy and probably better for you than acting out in real life, unless you like incarceration, which I do not.

When you're deep in the midst of creating a revenge fantasy you're concentrating on every detail -- what you're wearing, what your hair looks like, which shoes go with your perfect-self-outfit, where you cross paths with Sworn Evil Enemy, what the other person says, what you say -- rewind, say it again, this time zingier! and so on.

It's impossible to feel sad or depressed or defeated or deflated or frustrated or hopeless when you are deep in a revenge fantasy. And that is a good thing! I know I personally always feel better about life after I spend an hour in crawling traffic having a very detailed revenge fantasy in which my sworn evil enemy is left in the dust and I am living in a pied-à-terre in Paris. In the end I am always wearing something fantastic and the nasty enemy is sour-faced and wearing bad shoes and fades out pitifully and sometimes there is George Clooney asking me to dinner. Not sure how he sneaks in there.

And what would life be anyway if you didn't have someone pop into your experience every now and then to crystallize so purely all the things you yourself never want to be? My Evil Arch Nemesis is all the stuff I definitely don't want to be in my life. So I like to see my Evil Arch Nemesis for what it is, something irritating that I can use to tell a funny story about and hopefully vanquish with George on my arm. And like all my sworn enemies she will one day be forgotten and truly, that is the very best revenge of all.

Posted by laurie at 7:00 AM

April 2, 2010

Book Giveaway: Wendy Johnson's Toe-Up Socks for Everybody!

UPDATED TO SAY: Ok, today's book giveaway just closed -- I think you set a new record in comments! I'll try to figure out the form thing next week so we can do something where you don't have to comment. Or maybe not as I love reading what you have to say and also I am lazy with the technology (and with the laundry). By the way, I am almost convinced from your comments that I am not the only one who has had a yarn room all these years but been too ashamed to admit it... and I thank you for helping me with my weird punctuation issue (in the interview below) as I feel rather big brained now having been told I had it right all along. Which is sort of rare for me, High Mistress of Comma Splices.

Our winners were reader "threadbndr" (real name still to be determined) and a reader from Poland!

Congrats and have a great holiday weekend, everyone! Also there is another sock book giveaway coming in a few weeks and several knit books, a crochet book and a great fiction giveaway in mid-April so stay tuned. Freeness abounds!

- - -

Here is the the thing about Wendy Johnson. She is good people. I am lucky enough to get review copies of all kinds of books from publishers (fiction, nonfiction, knitting, crochet, the works) and I am more than happy to promote them and do a giveaway because I love contributing in any small way to an author's success.

But Wendy is something special, and I'm the one who asked her publicist for books to give away because I know you rabid sock knitters out there will love this book and because Wendy is the real deal. She's smart, she's a knitting genius, and she's no bullshit. I have a lot of respect for her and also I think Bob sits on my keyboard at night hoping his furry butt will transmit a love letter to her cat Lucy who is far too beautiful for his himbo cat self.

Wendy Johnson is the author of WendyKnits (the blog) and Wendy Knits (the book.) She's the reason I know how to knit in the round. Her Kitty Pi was one of the first non-scarf items I ever made and her pattern was so well-written that even I could follow it as a super beginner. (Oh wow, did I make that back in 2005? How old am I? Can I age in reverse? Is it too late to go back to lying about my age again?)

Her second book, Socks from the Toe Up: Essential Techniques and Patterns from Wendy Knits, was a little love letter to socks. And now she is out with her third book, Toe-Up Socks for Every Body: Adventurous Lace, Cables, and Colorwork from Wendy Knits, which is just a delicious feast for all you sock fans.

And today I'll be giving away two copies of Toe-Up Socks for Every Body: Adventurous Lace, Cables, and Colorwork from Wendy Knits and throwing in a signed copy of my Wine book for each winner. Just post a comment (I know, I know, but it's so easy!) between now and (updated to be 6 p.m.) 6 p.m. Pacific time and you'll be eligible to win.

Wendy and I did a little chatting this week, and I got some of my burning questions answered!

- - -

Me: Hello! Please please explain the sock secret to me. I know knitters who are addicted to them and knit exclusively socks and yet with me the creeping contagion of sock obsession never caught on. What is it about sock knitting that draws you in?

Wendy: I actually resisted sock knitting for years because I am a creature who resists new things. Passionately. But I was sucked into it when the first self-striping sock yarns appeared on the market. Now I'm hooked. I love that you can whip 'em out quickly and have a finished product in short order. I love the challenge of designing in a small space. And I love that you can complete a project with just a skein or two of yarn.

Me:When you sit down to write a book do you ever have panic moments that you won't make the deadline?

Wendy: Every minute of every day. It's a wonder I can sleep at night. (Well, I don't sleep at night. Wait, I think I am on to something here . . . )

Me: Let's say you're at a party and someone you don't know asks you what you do. (Or maybe that is just an L.A. thing, but out here it's the first question anyone asks.) Do you tell folks you're an author, an elite knitting professional, or do you talk about your day job as your profession?

Wendy: It depends on the situation and the attendees. I usually respond "I'm a Washington bureaucrat and an author." Sometimes when I'm in a particularly smart-ass mood I say "I'm a mild-mannered civil servant by day and a knitting superhero by night."

Maybe this is why people shy away from me at parties.

Me: When you and I last chatted, you mentioned you have a yarn room. When you told me that -- "I have a yarn room..." -- it was a lightbulb moment for me. I have a yarn room, too, yet I have felt shamed and a little embarrassed by this, so I still call it my "home office" or even "guest room" though no one could sleep in there because of all the yarn. At what point did you embrace your stash as the your tools of the trade and go from "I have a spare room..." to "I have a yarn room..."? (I know the question mark should go inside the quotes yet it looked weird to me. Grammar conundrum.)

Wendy: Ah, the yarn room. When I first moved into my condo (in 1994!) it was the room where I threw everything that had no other place. Then I got a bed for it and it became a guestroom. Then I collected 164 pairs of cowboy boots (don't ask), had shelves built along the walls for them, and it became the boot room.

Then I learned about the concept of stashing yarn. I used to buy my yarn one project at a time, pre-internet. When I started reading about stashing yarn in knitting groups online, I started my yarn collection, I started getting rid of my boot collection. Now the room is filled with yarn and the boots have all gone to the Salvation Army. And I openly refer to the room as my stash room. Honored guests are allowed to stay in my stash room, but I need three days' notice to clear the yarn off the bed. And they have to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Me: So... what types of yarn do you gravitate toward in stash mode? Do you find you buy mostly sock yarn, mostly cotton, wool, variegated?

Wendy: I have eleventy-billion tons of sock yarn, mostly 100% wool, a few sweaters worth of Shetland wool, and perhaps one billion tons of laceweights in a variety of wool, silk and cashmere. I am generally not a fan of cotton so I don't have a lot of that. But I love other natural fibers, so I've got wool, silk, cashmere, bison, and even a bit of qivuit. The only acrylic allowed in there is in blends with natural fibers.

Me: Do people at your job know that you are a World Famous Bestselling Author Knitter?

Wendy: A couple of them do. But mostly I don't talk about it at The Day Job.

Me: Do you wax and wane with knitting, sometimes going for a while without a project, or are you always knitting something?

Wendy: I am always always always knitting something. I knit every day, unless I am deathly ill with the flu or unconscious or something. If I am nearing the end of a project and don't have another project lined up I suffer End of Project Anxiety until I figure out what's going on the needles next.

Me: I adore your blog, WendyKnits, and your kitty pi was the first successful item I ever made in the round. It was also the first time I used double-pointed needled and first time I felted anything and honestly, I have you to thank for my love of all three of those things! Were you surprised by how incredibly famous (and necessary) the kitty pi has become in the knitting world?

Wendy: I never would have dreamed it! It was just something I winkled together for my own sweet Lucy during a phase when I was experimenting with felting. I love seeing all the photos on Ravelry of kitties the world over enjoying their kitty pis! And I always grant permission for people to make them and sell them in aid of animal charities. A few years ago Petfinder contacted me about the kitty pi and we put together a project where a bunch of us knitted them and sent them to Petfinder, who in turn gave them away to people who adopted older cats during one of their "Adopt an Older Pet" drives. Isn't that cool?

[ By the way, everyone, here is a link to the Kitty Pi recipe!]

Me: That just makes me a little misty-eyes! (It's my built in crazy cat lady alert system.) (I am the crazy cat lady, by the way.) So, when are you coming to Los Angeles to visit?

Wendy: When someone invites me and pays my way. Yeah, I'm cheap like that.

Do you think Lucy is playing hard to get with Bob? He's just a domestic shorthair, you know, his ego is already fragile...

Lucy sez: "Is Bob not getting my emails? I thought he was ignoring me!"

- - - -

Post your comment to be entered in the drawing. Good luck to all of you!

And thank you to Wendy who gave the world (and me) the kitty pi which in turn gave my beloved little Roy so much happiness and kept him warm when he was sick. It's fairly rare that I am effusive and fawning over anyone other than Dallas Raines, but Wendy inspires me and makes me want to be a better knitter and a better technical writer. Her descriptions of technique make me feel more excited about knitting rather than confused or intimidated. I hope her books find their way to your collection!

Posted by laurie at 9:42 AM

April 1, 2010

Hello, April, my old friend, I've come to talk to you again....

I love that at least one of my monthly check-ins is on a day devoted to fools and pranks.

Recap: At the first of the year I made some resolutions, and I decided that I would check in with myself at the first of each month to see where I am with my two 2010 goals. My hope was that it would keep me focused and motivated for the year knowing I'd have to check in with myself every month. Come September we'll see if my monthly check in posts are "Yeah, OK, don't talk to me." You never know!

Also, one of my goals was initially described (by me) as "The Year of Yes" which is extraordinarily cheesy even for me, La Reina Quesadilla. But the more I think about it, my two goals work together and the first ("Get Healthy") is really about action steps and the other ("Cheesy Yes Year") is about attitude. So here's how I did in March.

Goal #1: Get Healthy (Actions)
Things are going pretty well. Thanks to my discovery of a deep love for roasted vegetables, I have eaten more fresh vegetables in the past three months than I have in years. I love roasting stuff! I would probably roast you if you stood still long enough in my kitchen. And if I could cut you into tiny pieces.

My action-related objectives for March were to (1) continue cooking all my meals and (2) try four new recipes. And also to go for a walk every day in the month.

I tend to get into food ruts -- both healthy ones and unhealthy ones -- and to shake things up I decided that in March I would try some new recipes. I am not that accomplished in the kitchen but I am getting incrementally better because I keep trying (and also because I disabled the smoke alarm nearest the stove.) I do most of my cooking on the weekends, so that's when I tried my new recipes. The first new recipe I tried was Sole Meuniere, which looked so tasty when the Barefoot Contessa made it. The only alteration I made to her recipe was to substitute a mixture of brown rice flour and corn flour in place of the wheat flour.

My first attempt at Sole Meuniere was not great (but not because of my little substitution). I cooked the sole on too high a heat and used too much lemon juice. The second attempt was MUCH better, I used a slightly lower heat and added less lemon juice. I have to say, though, the fish in papillote method is still the most foolproof way for me to cook seafood. Plus I cannot sing the praises of parchment paper enough as there is no messy fish pan to clean up! I am no Suzie Homemaker, it seems.

The second new recipe I made was Kale Chips. If you have been reading this here website for any amount of time you know I am always trying to sneak kale into stuff to make me feel healthy. I will not however be sneaking them into chips again. I stand by my initial review that this is a tastebud issue, and I think some of you will like them. Me, eh, not so much.

The other two recipes I made were Rachael Ray's Jacques Pepin style potatoes and while this may be stretching the definition of "new recipe" I did roast some orange cauliflower which was the first time I had ever bought orange cauliflower. It tasted exactly like regular white cauliflower. Yup.

As for walking, I went for a walk on 18 out of 31 days in March. Which brings me directly to resolution #2...

Goal #2: Year of Yes (better described as "Give myself an attitude adjustment.")

Usually when I set a health goal like "lose X pounds" or "walk every day this month" I will set out upon the goal initially with great gusto and energy until the one day when I don't meet the goal and then I just use that single momentary lapse as an excuse to give up. "I didn't walk today, all is lost! I wasn't perfect! Forget it, I'll start again next month!"

Not my best quality, really.

Well, I have long since given up a weight/pound goal because it makes me INSANE and it does more harm with my head than good. But I set the walk-every-day goal on purpose, both to get myself walking more and to get over my stupid thinking that if I miss one single walk I have failed. Overall health is not something that can be failed in one day! It's the cumulative effort that matters. (By the way I am lecturing to myself here, not to you. You are already smart enough to know all this.)

So, how did my goal go? In February I walked four days out of 28. But in March, after making my mini-goal, I walked 18 out of 31 days.

Old thinking: Failure, I was not perfect, I suck!
New thinking: 18 out of 31 days is AWESOME! A success! Especially since I had a horrible stomach flu at the beginning of the month and could hardly walk up my own stairs. So, yay me!

Look, I'll be honest. It's not as easy as flipping a brain switch -- that is why I deliberately made this resolution to begin with and why I purposely set a 31-day goal in March. I wanted to practice changing from old thinking to new thinking. Yes, I missed a few days. The true success was that even after missing a day I got up the next day and went for a walk anyway, even though I had ruined my shot at perfection. That's the whole point of my Yes Year, progress not perfection.

I have to remind myself of it over and over and I hope that if I keep doing this stuff I will eventually get better at it, just like cooking.

- - -

So that was March and already it's April, 2010. For April my actiony goals are to keep up the walking, keep cooking my own meals and to relax into life a little more. (And keep cleaning my house. Seriously.) I want to try three or four new recipes again in April. Obviously my definition of "recipe" is not very complicated, but I like challenging myself to try new things. I've been off fast food now for three whole months and I think it was like kicking heroin. I could eat fast food for every meal (and in the past I have) and so kicking that habit was hard and not very fun for the first two and a half months. It's only recently that I don't drive past a McDonald's and salivate like one of Pavlov's pets.

Exercise is still not my idea of entertainment but I like walking, it's easy and you don't have to be particularly athletic to do it, so I want to continue it daily and not quit just because I miss a day. So I am re-upping my "walk once a day" goal.

In general I wouldn't say March was my easiest month, I had many days where I wanted to just eat away all my problems, a strategy which has never actually worked in the past and yet still I want to do it. When I quit smoking I started eating as a replacement for smoking and now I realize I have spent a lot of my life avoiding icky spaces by filling my time with an activity -- smoking, eating, drinking, shopping, knitting, whatever. The trick perhaps is to pick an activity that doesn't incur waves of self-loathing. I try to make good choices, sometimes I don't, but I certainly am not going to give up. But check back with me in September, hah hah.

As for my attitude I just want to relax. Laugh instead of taking things personally. Be softer to myself and to others. Suppress urge to staple people in the forehead. The usual stuff.

- - -

Finally, to everyone who is rolling their eyes and wishing I would stop talking about this because you don't want a reminder that it's already muthafreaking April and you haven't done whatever thing it was you had planned to do earlier or because you're in a different place ... listen, I get it. For me that was ALL of 2009. I remember one time late last fall when Corey was telling me how excited she was for working out at lunchtime and I wanted to inform her I was planning to go home and take a bath made of melted Snickers bars and marshmallow cream. (I managed to stay quiet and just be happy for her. But that bath sounded real good.)

I think maybe it's OK not to be "in the right place" just this minute. The best part about life is that every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around. You know?

I learned that from quitting smoking again and again and again until one day I really did quit (until I turn 60, of course, at which time I will re-start smoking and probably wear something scandalous like leopard print leggings.) There is always the chance to turn it around. I know if I keep trying with my health actions and my thinking, I will get the metaphorical bus out of the ditch. Of course, if I sit in the bus complaining about being in the ditch I will probably stay there a really long time. I got tired of being in the ditch complaining so here I am making roasted Brussels sprouts and freaking KALE CHIPS and trying to really let icky things go instead of holding them tight and just shrug instead of being defensive, lean into life instead of hiding from it.

Every day, every minute is a new fresh start. I have that on a post-it note in my bathroom. Because I really am the Queen of Cheese. La Reina Quesadilla. That's me.

Posted by laurie at 12:18 AM