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October 28, 2010

On the road in Los Angeles

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Posted by laurie at 10:57 AM

October 27, 2010

The things she carried

This is a picture of my grandma with Uncle Arnie. It's Christmas, surely those sweaters can only be worn at Christmas. It was probably a moment captured on film somewhere in the late 1990s, at least 15 years ago or so. Grandma is raising her glass in a "prost!"

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That painting hanging above Grandma's loveseat is now hanging here in my Los Angeles apartment. She gave it to me yesterday and best of all gave me the story of it. The story of how Grandpa had done some work with a few Japanese businessmen and became friends with them (Grandpa was a man who became your lifelong friend if you met him even once, he was that lovely) and at the end of the job they'd gifted him this beautiful painting of 1st Street in downtown Los Angeles.

How it came to be living in my Studio City apartment is still skewered up in anxiety and sadness inside me. Yesterday in the morning I got into my Jeep for a ride down to Orange County to visit the fam. My parents have been staying with Grandma as they tried to transition her back home, and now her house has sold and she's going to live full-time in the nursing home and all her things, her lifetime of things, all with a story and a memory are still in her home and before she leaves she wants to be sure they find good, loving homes.

I've never lied to any of you about my relationship with stuff, and how much I struggle with my emotional attachments to things. And that's just my struggle, my own private crazy. So add in the emotional weight of Grandma leaving her home for good and seeing her truest desire, which is that her beloved, treasured mementos of her life find good homes. Then add me and stir.

Midday my parents left for a few hours and while I was alone with Grandma she asked me to take some things, more things, and I cried. I didn't mean to, it just happened. I felt this big sea change coming and all of it just leaked out of my eyes. But she was good with me, she always is. She didn't well up with tears, just handed me a napkin and asked about me taking the painting, told me how Grandpa came to have it, told me the story of it.

I find this place -- this stage of life -- almost unbearable. I know my parents need my help and I am a reluctant helper, a reluctant participant. I don't handle change well, I want there to always be a Grandma House, I am someone who had no physical roots at all (moving once, twice, sometimes four times a a year when I was a little girl) and so when I see stability I want it to be frozen in time, encased in concrete and remain there forever, for me, because I need it.

But it isn't about me, it's about Grandma and what's best and safest for her. So her home has been sold and things are boxed up and soon my parents will be back on the road and even when I type those words I feel the tears start and my vision get cloudy and I think it was good planning to put a box of kleenex on my desk tonight before I sat down to type.

Grandma and I spent most of the afternoon together, alone, and I got to hear more stories about her and Grandpa (these are my favorites) and we talked about my Mr. X and how she had liked him and he made her laugh, and I agreed I had liked him, too, back then and he made me laugh as well. And how lucky it was I got married to someone who made us both laugh even if it only lasted so long. And we talked about dancing (she loved dancing) and all the plans she and Grandpa still had when he passed away unexpectedly. I realized talking to Grandma yesterday that I have no animosity in my heart for my Mr X. and hope he is well and happy. And Grandma never makes me feel bad for liking my freedom, so there's no pressure. She's a really good Grandma.

I hate this feeling, though, of missing someone yet they're still here. I miss Grandma but she isn't gone. I can't explain it.

Things I love about Grandma:
• She speaks Spanish with wild abandon, and no concern if she's saying anything correctly
• She has always appreciated people who work their way up and make something of themselves. You know, some people are threatened by success but Grandma has always been self-composed enough to know all lights are prettier when they shine brightest. She loves when others shine bright.
• She never once treated me as anything but her truest (and only!) granddaughter, even though I'm her step-granddaughter, technically. I honestly believe she has never said the word "step-granddaughter."
• She taught me how to open a bottle of champagne correctly. I was seven. It was a good life lesson.
• She makes the world's best macaroni and cheese.
• She is always happy to see me.

Yesterday I spent a few hours sitting on the freeway on my ride back up to the Valley and I thought a lot about Grandma, and my parents, and how in some ways they are both leaving me. Because I am five, and that's how I feel things, like they are all leaving me. I don't handle these grown-up conversations about death and dying and funereal wishes well at all, I walk away or tune out or go off and antagonize the dog.

But my parents will soon be moving on, out of California and back to the road, and Grandma will be in the nursing home. The timing of my job ending and my parents arriving fit together so well that I couldn't imagine what a brace it would be. Now of course they're leaving and again it's me alone at the holidays. Yes, of course there are a thousand ways to volunteer and blah blah blah and all that and still at the end of the day you go home alone and it's Christmas Eve. (People who give unsolicited advice about solo holidays haven't done it much, I find.) (In other words, more plainly said, I appreciate that you have lots of thoughts on how I should spend my holidays but that's about you and not me, and I'm not asking.) (I shouldn't have to add that disclaimer, but there it is nonetheless.)

Anyway, I rather like the comfort of knowing I am not alone in feeling blue and empty on a holiday. Why always try so hard to make a blue thing change colors?

And the talk in the house is maudlin to the extreme. They talk about cremation and I walk away. They need a home for the painting and I promise just to keep it for now, until she needs it again.

"Grandma, I will take it for you and give it a good home until you want it back again..." I tell her.

"But I'm not ever going to need it again," she says.

I'm not well-suited to handling ends. I am the person you most want on your side when you need travel advice or you need a bio written in three seconds flat or if there is a huge natural disaster and you need food, water and shelter. I have water, human food and cat food, bubble-wrapped wine, battery-operated lights, crank chargers for cellphones, even a weather-band radio. I am so incredibly prepared for living, but I am ill-equipped for dying.

I wish all this were easier.

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Me, Grandma, my mom around 1979.


Posted by laurie at 12:28 AM

October 26, 2010

Brain malfunction

Honestly, I would have sworn good money that our book chat was slated for Monday (yesterday) but when I looked back at my own writing here on this website I clearly said it would be on Friday the 29th. What has happened in my brain? Anyway, many apologies to those of you who thought that the lead bozo set the date for Friday and then showed up on a Monday. Whoops. So perhaps this Friday I'll do a book giveaway in atonement -- knitting books, of course! Book giveaways are just as fun, yes?

Thanks to everyone who chatted yesterday about A Moveable Feast. Our November book is Olive Kitteridge, which I haven't read either so we'll all be surprised. That chat will be on Monday, November 29th. I swear, really I do.

Our winner this month was Anita who wrote:

I absolutely loved this book - I thought the writing was easy to follow and his descriptions so pure that you could lose yourself in Paris (if you would let yourself). My very favorite part was his conversation with Gertrude Stein (pompous?...just a little?)is a segment where she discusses the disgusting life of gay men - but of course gay women are perfectly happy and suited to that lifestyle. I was stunned - then I giggled. Yeow - in 2010 Gertrude, that attitude just wouldn't cut it! Also, she told Hemingway he wasn't good enough to be published in the Atlantic Monthly or the Saturday evening post - her goals. She kept saying his writing was "inaccrochable." What a laugh!

I wanted to mention for those of you who read this book and were concerned for Hadley, his wife, there's a great little piece in Julia Child's memoir My Life in France that describes her impressions of Hadley and also talks about Bumby's wedding. It's another delicious, amazing book about Paris if you're in the mood for more. And of course Julia talks all about the food!

Now here's some pensive, brooding Bob with his little head on his little paws, surely wondering why Hemingway's cats got to be so famous when he is just as litter-ary:

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Posted by laurie at 9:50 AM

October 25, 2010

A Moveable Feast

October's read was A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. I preferred that version to the updated, revised edition, though I bought it as well to compare. (There is also a Kindle version if you decide you want to download it today after reading about it.)

I love this book, it contains what I think is the best last sentence of any book:

But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.

My main quibble with the "restored" edition is that it no longer ends with that beautiful sentence. Though that edition does have some additional detail about Scott Fitzgerald. The whole section on the Fitzgeralds was really interesting to me, and after reading I searched online for all the biographical data I could find on Zelda. Mad as a hatter but truly a fascinating person.

But the main reason I love this book and picked it for October was that the location is a leading character in the book. Paris in the 1920s, so perfectly described, the wine they drank, the steaks they ate, the butter sauces and the bars where the poor, smelly drunks congregated became not just a backdrop but another point of the narrative.

The passages where he talks about writing were interesting to me in a way that didn't grab me the first time I read this book about a decade ago. On page 12 he says that when he doesn't know what to write he reminds himself:

"Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know."

I think this is probably the best advice anyone could give a writer.

Heminway has always seemed larger than life to me, an icon, an adventurer. But even though I have read up on him, I didn't know until reading A Moveable Feast that he let the cat be his kid Bumby's babysitter. I'm about as crazy as cat ladies come and even I wouldn't do that. Well, maybe Roy could have been up to the task ...

So what did you think of A Moveable Feast? And which version did you read? Did you enjoy reading about Paris? Were you surprised to read about other famous writers through Hemingway's lens? Did you expect to hate this book? (I know there are some avowed Heminway avoiders out there, but to me this book is nothing like any of his fiction work.)

And later I'll pick one commenter out of the comments to win a surprise prize, yarn and books and a mixed CD I made and who knows what-all goodies may be inside. Oh! And a copy of next month's book -- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. And to weigh it all down I am including the big hardbook book Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts: Basic Techniques for Sewing, Applique, Embroidery, Quilting, Dyeing, and Printing, plus 150 Inspired Projects from A to Z. It's awesome and I wanted to keep it for myself but I got it as a promotional item and promised I would give it away to one of my readers. It weighs about ten tons, so you know it's packed with Martha-y goodness!

Finally, here's a Moveable Bob:

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Posted by laurie at 7:29 AM

October 22, 2010

Jingle Dog

When my parents came up for a visit earlier in the week, they brought Wonder Dog and we all went to Petco, which is of course the dog's favorite store. He gets to sniff all the toys and bones and scents of dogs who have come before him.

Well, usually it's his favorite place. This time my mom spotted a little doggie decoration which she promptly bought and put on him so that he jingled and jangled and everyone who saw him laughed uncontrollably. Oh, the doggie indignity!

But so, so funny.


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Posted by laurie at 9:36 AM

October 20, 2010

Good air

Just a quick one this morning, my parents are coming up today from Orange County for a visit. With the dog, of course!

It rained here yesterday and that means today we'll have perfect air and the whole city will be sparkly clean and shiny when the sun comes out. And the sun always comes out. Los Angeles after a rainshower is a beautiful thing, I wish I could bottle it up and send it to you. I'd rather send it to you than have you come here and clog up the freeways, you know.

Sometimes I feel like this city and my very small life inside it are the only things I know for sure. I know when it rains the traffic will be snarly and I know that when it clears the air will be perfect. But I have no idea what my future holds. My life has no set trajectory and when I dwell on it too much I panic.

Then I remember that even when I thought my life was set and even when I was sure of what my future would look like I was wrong, and it changed, and eventually it all worked out (sort of) or at least it got me somewhere new.

Today's three things:

1) My parents coming to visit
2) Cool nights and downright chilly mornings
3) Baked potatoes, nature's perfect food

Posted by laurie at 9:10 AM

October 19, 2010

Catch-up Tuesday

Catching up on email...

Hello Crazy Aunt Purl, I have a problem I'm hoping you can help me with. I am not a great knitter but I do like to knit the odd teacup cosy or hat, however I am in the process of becoming vegan and vegans tend not to wear or use wool. Do you know of a non animal derived alternative that I could use instead please? Any advice would be most welcome! Many thanks and happy knitting, Lisa in the UK

Hello, Lisa! I can hear your accent as you type and it is charming. Why is it that an English accent makes everything sound posh? Even the word posh sounds posh and English.

As for your question, you can always go with good old cotton for a natural fiber, or bamboo (which I love) or silk or any of the new soy-derived yarns. And unless you suffer from acrylaphobia, there are plenty of beautiful and affordable acrylic yarns on the market that are excellent alternatives to wool. I myself am not acrylic-phobic but I know many knitters who suffer from this debilitating condition.

But -- and listen, I'm not vegan and I'm from the South so I was practically born at a barbecue -- I guess I'm not sure why vegans avoid wool. As I understand it, the woolgathering process just gives the sheep a haircut. Of course, my entire knowledge of sheep-shearing is taken entirely from The Thorn Birds. So again, consider the source. I understand avoiding leather if you're a vegan, but I don't really get the wool aversion.

Having said that, I firmly believe everyone should do what they want and not get pecked at by ducks. I, for example, avoid sushi and don't want to hear anything about it from anyone. So if you want to avoid wool, more power to you.

Happy knitting! Stay posh!

[Note: I have been corrected! Apparently you cannot use silk if you're vegan because it's from a worm. I just spent about twenty minutes reasoning to myself that if you can't use silk because it comes from worms then surely you can't use cotton because it grows from it dirt enriched with worm casings. And the pesticides used on plants kill bugs. Even organic farms use animal manure to fertilize, and they use pathogens to kill bugs, so can you eat plants? And I kept going, then my head hurt. When I read the comment that vegans aren't allowed to have honey -- which comes from insects -- my little mind melted.

Personally I adore wool, and while I love my animals like an insane person I also eat steak and I kill bugs with great vigor and determination, so I was probably not qualified to answer this question. But the Thorn Birds is a really great book. And an excellent mini-series.]

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Hi! I've read your blog since the beginning and I love it! I have a
question: I'm starting the cheetos scarf and I noticed in your photos that the needle tips are very thin. One of my frustrations with knitting on large size needles is that the tips are so thick I can't get them into the stitch (I have tight knitting issues, too). Can you remember the needles you used on the cheetos scarf?
Thank you so much!
Rhonda in Alabama

Hi Rhonda in Alabama! I can hear your accent too and it is equally as charming. Those needles were a special find that I got here at a local yarn shop. For years and years there was no way to get them online but recently I found out the folks who make these needles (hand made!) have a website: http://www.uncleronnie-penmaker.com/

[Edited to add: I just checked out their site and realized they are no longer making needles. What is up with today? This column started out so well this morning. Well, maybe if you email them something will work out. What a bummer! Those are great needles! I have also heard that KnitPicks needles have pointier tips. Maybe other readers here can chime in and help.]


- - -

Here's a good one from reader Michele:

I'm still a relative beginner and not a good one mind you and I have a question. Does one knit direct from a hank as they would a skein or must you buy a winder contraption to make them into balls and if so, why the heck don't they make them that way in the first place? Okay that became multiple questions.

All very good questions! I have no idea about why the hank exists, though I am sure someone can comment here and let us all know, but I can tell you that knitting from a hank is an adventure into the mindsplittingly awful realm of uber-tangles.

You do need to wind up a hank into a ball or yarn cake before you knit with it. I have one of those winder/spinny things that makes yarn cakes but have never even used it. Seems I prefer to make my own yarn balls. Yarn balls! Hah.

I prefer to make a pretty little center-pull yarn ball, though just winding a hank into a regular old ball o' yarn will do. I have long wanted to make a photo tutorial here for creating a center-pull ball, making hanks into picturesque balls is one of my favorite TV time activities, but it's impossible to take pictures of your own hands while simultaneously making a center-pull ball. So, here is a video tutorial of the process on KnittingHelp.com. (Scroll down on that page to find it.) Hope that helps!

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Finally, this is not yarn-related, but is about one of my favorite subjects -- travel!

I wanted to let you know I am taking a trip to Rome for my 40th birthday over Thanksgiving week and I have actually decided to go it alone. You inspired me! Three times in the past I went with a friend, and just don't really feel like it this time! I've loved reading your posts about your adventures and merits of solo travel.

I'm no stranger to work travel (in fact I'm Sales Road Warrior two nights a week.) I even lived in Europe for three years, but the "comments" from people about my solo trip are making me feel like a lunatic.

I've even started fibbing, saying "Well, I am actually meeting a friend from Italy," or "It's a work trip and I am just staying an extra day or two..." Jeez! What is up with that?
--M

I lied to people when I went to Rome for my first ever solo trip.

I didn't lie about meeting anyone there but I did lie about being scared. I pretended I was totally relaxed about it (inside I was churning about going alone!)

I also didn't tell many people about my trip. I shared the details of my solo vacation with maybe six people and I got furious at one of my friends who I told about the trip and swore her to secrecy... only later to find she told another few people on the side. I was so angry with her because I thought the fewer people who knew about my trip, the fewer people would comment and tell me things to increase my anxiety, nervousness and total terror about going to Italy alone. She just thought I was psychotic.

But traveling alone the first time -- real travel, not work travel -- can be truly scary! I firmly believe that this is one of those things in life we should NOT do by committee. That means don't ask a bazillion different people for their opinions on your solo travel status before you go. You're going anyway, right? No need to ask for committee opinions. And definitely don't share your trip details (before you go) with people who are Debbie Downers. You know these people. They are the ones who have a horror story or tragic ending to every. single. thing. Ever. They're not bad people. They just aren't the ones you want to chat with about your trip before you go. They will have you in fits. Share your travel details with them after your trip.

Do talk to other women who have traveled alone and loved it. Do prepare for your trip by reading a little on the destination beforehand and booking a safe hotel. Do take normal precautions like you would in any big city (in other words, don't wander around alone at night half-drunk and full of cash. Simple stuff.) Do trust that you are able to handle all the adventures of traveling alone. Then do go on your trip!

Next summer I turn 40 and I've been wondering if I'll go on a solo trip for that birthday. I don't know where I'll be in my life. I'm thrilled for you and your upcoming vacation to Italy. Rome is a beautiful, delicious, vibrant city. I loved it and I hope you do, too! Happy birthday!


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Finally, the cutest Bobby socks:

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Posted by laurie at 10:29 AM

October 18, 2010

And we're back online!

The cable guy just left and my new modem seems to be working. Hello, internet. You look pretty!

They aren't kidding around with that Monday morning 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. window. I've never been able to have repair appointments scheduled during the workweek so experiencing an on-time repairman visit was like winning the lottery.

The best part of being innernetless for many days was the freedom from technology with no guilt. There was no guilt at being late with email or not reading it at all or not catching up on this or that or deleting spam or even checking my accounts because there was no internet, therefore I was free. I have friends who can't stand to go an hour without checking email or facebook or twitter or voicemail or texting or whatever it is they do obsessively on their fancy phones. I have a fancy phone but I use it almost exclusively for playing scrabble and solitaire. Maybe it's an age thing? Or perhaps I just don't have the DNA for technology addiction.

Instead I spent last week and the weekend reading (both versions of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, the original and the updated version, so I'll be ready for our book chat next Monday!) and re-reading Passing for Thin by Frances Kuffel. The last time I read that book I must have still been a smoker, inside the pages I found a little improvised bookmark from the torn foil liner of a pack of Capris.

When I found that little scrap of paper I held it up to my nose and breathed in deeply, hoping it still smelled faintly of tobacco. But it just smelled like paper. I turned it over and over in my fingers, thinking about every thing I loved so much about smoking: tapping a fresh, unopened pack of cigarettes to pack the tobacco, pulling off the cellophane on the outside, opening a fresh carton and pulling off the foil-lined paper. Then I would smell them. Tobacco (when it's not burning) smells universally good, earthy. Then lighting, inhaling, watching smoke drift off as you exhale. I loved smoking.

When I quit and realized it wasn't just a blip, that I really had quit, I shared my dirty little secret with people. I explained that I hadn't quit, really, I just decided to pause smoking until I turned 60 and then I could smoke again. And that was the only way I could quit smoking rightnow, by promising myself I could smoke when I was older. I figured it would give me something to look forward to, anyway. And so far it has worked, I am a non-smoker. For now.

When I told people my plan to resume smoking at age 60 the responses were varied and firmly reflected the personality of the person commenting. "You'll be surprised how soon you'll start hating smokers!" "You'll never smoke again, trust me." "Smoking kills!" "Oh My God, Me TOO." "I was going to start again at 70, but maybe 65..." "I want to smoke right now."

One of the things I love most about Los Angeles is how insane people are about smoking. People here will have man-made chemical objects inserted in their boobs to gain a cup size or inject a substance made from botulism into their eyebrows but they won't stand a hundred yards from a smoker. It is fascinating! If you want to bring this city to its knees, forget terrorism and warfare. Just place a smoker on every street corner. When I turn 60 I assume that smoking tobacco will be illegal in Los Angeles County.

Luckily, though, it looks like pot will be totally legal so I can just make the switch from Capri Ultra Lights to Billy's Bong Shop!

How did I get off on this tangent?

Also, while the innernet was away, I caught up on some laundry and some mail and took several long walks and watched plenty of good TV. Is anyone else watching Detroit 1-8-7? I'm not sure why, but I find it very disturbing. It's compelling -- I can't stop watching -- but it's so gritty. Not really an ad for the Detroit Visitor's Bureau, but probably the best cop show I've seen since The Closer first aired. The Undercovers was a disappointment, but Hawaii 5-0 is beyond great TV. The new season of Castle is fun, and I'm watching DWTS, although I find it odd I'm rooting for Bristol Palin. I was glad "The Situation" finally got the boot, I feel like I need to get inoculated every time I see him on TV. I still don't understand why I watch Jersey Shore. It makes me cringe and worry about our declining civilization. Yet I watch. Fascinating.

So that's me, and now I have to catch up on email and pay some bills. What have you been doing?

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Oh, and I made a turkey in the crock pot.

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And I stalked Bob with my iphone, yet another use for technology... cat pictures!

Posted by laurie at 10:06 AM

October 13, 2010

Captivated

I have been completely awed by the mine rescue going on in Chile. I stayed up late last night watching them pull the first miners to safety and I was one of the many people sitting safe at home watching in complete happy astonishment. Leaking from the eyeballs.

I think it's amazing what good things humans are capable of.

Frankie says, "Me, too!"

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Posted by laurie at 9:30 AM

October 12, 2010

You so crazy

In the September issue of Travel + Leisure magazine I found this page:

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It's a little jaunty fashion layout with some items for fall and winter dressing. For when you travel, I assume. Anyway, notice the hat below:

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Yes, that's a terrible picture, cropped from a picture I took of a magazine but anyway, it's a hat. A little brown knit hat. I have a better view of it here in the real magazine image, it's a ribbed brim hat with a stockinette body.

Now look at this price:

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Yes. $280 for a wool hat. If you want me to pay $280 for a knit hat, it better be created from silky strands of angel hair gathered after a heavenly harp convention. And it would have to function as a cloak of invisibility when needed. And make my ass smaller. And come with a free massage.

Do people really pay $280 for a plain old brown wool knit hat? Because if so I have a LOT of hats to sell.

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Speaking of hats, I have an error in my hat pattern so I haven't posted it yet. I figure that preemptively fixing the error prior to posting the written pattern will make everyone much happier. And I do aim to make happy this world of ours, the one where people buy $280 hats.

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It's been hot here, really hot. This is the time of year when I start getting tired of the weather and want to teleport myself to somewhere cold and brisk. My friend is in Paris right now and I know she's having a wonderful time, because even a bad time in Paris is a wonderful time. I might vacation to Van Nuys, I hear they have an awesome DMV wait line.

Actually, I do have a vacation dilemma. Not a dilemma so much as a decision to make. Last winter (while still employed) I bought a ticket for a trip that I was supposed to take in June but for all sorts of reasons I needed to postpone the trip, so I rescheduled it for later this year. Eventually "later this year" is going to come around and I haven't decided if I will go on the trip or not. I'm not highly motivated to travel right now, at least not to the general destination of my plane ticket. And of course while the ticket is paid for, there is the expense of a hotel and all that vacationy stuff, plus a house sitter for the kitty posse. I haven't decided what to do. I find that I am ambivalent about it.

Ambivalence isn't uncomfortable, I don't mind not knowing what I plan to do. There are plenty of options. I could go on the trip and just stay very frugal. I could cancel the trip and get a voucher for the balance (minus a fee). I could re-do the ticket again to take me somewhere else altogether. I could stay home, enjoy Los Angeles and leave the traveling to 2011.

It's interesting to me that when I was working go-go-go I was desperate to travel and escape. And even then I did power trips, packing a whole European vacation into a weekend (something I still like the idea of but don't feel propelled into just now.) And now I'm content with the idea of going to the beach or going to the movie one afternoon.

Anyway, I haven't decided what I will do. But if I go anywhere I'll send you a postcard. And I will not be wearing some $280 hat. I mean really!

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Finally, Bob. He likes to shop online:

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Posted by laurie at 8:26 AM

October 8, 2010

Hot Dog, very amusing

The Halloween costume I got for the dog amused everyone (except perhaps the wearer of said costume).

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Honestly if there is anything funnier than a pissed off Corgi wearing a hotdog suit, I do not know what it is.

Have a great weekend!

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Edited to add that I got it at Target. Here is a link to the costume on amazon.

Posted by laurie at 9:50 AM

October 6, 2010

Rainy Day Q&A

Yes, it is raining today in Los Angeles! It's a perfect day. I woke up to the sound of Frankie whining about the Meow Mix situation, but after that little problem was rectified I got to lay in bed and listen to the rain pattering down on the sidewalks and rooftops.

There are days when I feel triple-decker-happy to be free from commuting into downtown and this is definitely one of those days. When it rains the freeways all become parking lots. Today I am happy at home in my pajamas and some Hemingway.

Reader Debby wrote in to ask which version of the book I'm reading for the book club:

Hi there, Laurie =-) I am wondering if the edition you are reading is the revised one Hemingway's grandson put out or the original, unrevised edition? I have the original in hand that I got from the library today and will probably read that, since most of the recent reviews I've read of the revised edition are not all that favorable, and the original is the one that all the many, many years of reviews have come from. I was just curious which one you are reading as it was hard to tell from the Amazon link whether that edition was the original or not. I'm looking forward to the discussion on the 29th. What a great idea this book talk thing is! Have a good weekend! Debby


Thanks for the note! I am reading the original version of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. If you click on the link above, that's even the exact cover that my copy has and the same version I bought for last month's chat winner.

However, while I was in the store I also picked up a copy of the revised version, which is called A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition. I haven't read it through yet (I figured I should read both since some folks will have read this version) and the one thing I can say is that the ending, in my opinion, was perfect the way it was and shouldn't have been tinkered with. If you have the "restored" version the real ending of the book (to me) is on page 220. I believe everything after that should have been appended or clearly delineated as an addition, not stitched together as a new ending.

But I'm not a Hemingway scholar, just a fan of the original book's beautiful last line.

moveablefeast.jpg
The version I'm reading.

No matter which one you choose, don't forget to chat with us about this book on Friday, October 29th!

- - -

November Book Selection

I know some folks aren't Hemingway fans or are busy or don't have time to get through a book in three weeks, so I thought I would tell everyone in advance about November's book club pick:

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I have not read this novel so I'll be experiencing it for the first time with you but I've heard it's really a good read. I have read Elizabeth Strout's novel Amy and Isabelle, and it's one of my favorite books. I'm looking forward to reading Olive Kitteridge and we'll chat about it on November 30th. I figure that gives people plenty of time to recover from the Thanksgiving turkey hangovers.

- - -

Beverly asked:


Who IS that woman at the top of your blogsite, if I may ask? I don't
think it's you, is it? Just curious. I really enjoy your postings.

That is not me, although I do think she is rockin' a swanky getup. That is a model from a vintage Bernat knitwear catalog. The pictures in some of those vintage pattern books are HEE-larious. I liked her look and her many poses in a sweater.

I also get about one email a week informing me to update the wording in my header but I kind of like it, even though it's no longer exactly perfectly descriptive of this exact day in my life it still makes me laugh and I am a nostalgic, maudlin person by nature. I guess part of me still wants Roy back, he was cat #4. Or cat #1 depending on your way of looking at it.

Eventually I do want to figure out how to get a leaderboard ad in the header without it looking like an adfest but for now, for today, it is what it is.

- - -

Carol asks:

I am writing from Ottawa, Canada. Just wondering if you have any advice for me. I own two cats and just recently one of them is not using his litter box. Has that ever happened you? What did you do. Also I know that you don't use harsh chemicals, what do you use to get rid of the urine smell? Thanks if you can help me out! Carol


Hi Carol!
I have indeed experienced this issue, the Queen Sobakowa had some rather challenging litterbox issues on and off for almost two years of her kittenhood.

The first thing anyone will tell you about litterbox challenges is that you should have the cat checked by a vet. Sometimes infection can be the cause of potty troubles.

I can tell you what worked in my house, though every cat is different!

Soba did not have health issues, she was just being Picky and Regal and needed the litterbox to smell like rainbows and unicorns. if not, she would find alternate places to go. Here's what worked for me:

• The first thing I did was to get rid of the Booda Dome I had been using as a box. The shape and size was not working for our house.

• In fact, I got rid of the enclosed box concept altogether. I have heard from more readers who say doing this one thing alone has eliminated litterbox issues! Here at Chez Poopsalot we have three open litterboxes with plenty of room for lots of cat sand and no cover over them.

• I switched to Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat ''Cat Attract'' Cat Litter which solved the primary problem of getting Soba back into the habit of choosing the litterbox first.

• To get rid of the out-of-box "accidents" I used Nature's Miracle Stain and Odor Remover. There is also a Dr. Elsey's Urine Removal treatment which I hear is great. After you very thoroughly clean the area you may need to cover it with tin foil. Sounds weird but cats hate foil and won't walk on it. If your cat has one spot he just loves, this may be your best bet for re-training him away from it.

• Finally, and most importantly, you must keep the box clean, clean, clean. I scoop twice a day (once in the morning, once in the evening) and change the litter anytime it gets a little ripe. I wouldn't want to do my business in a stinky box and neither do they.

Hope this helps. Knock on wood, but we haven't had any accidents here since making these changes several years ago.

- - -

Nancy writes:

I just finished a hat that I made for my 6 month old granddaughter and even though I measured, it is way too big around. Is there some way to fix it without tearing it all out? Please help!

Ah, the mushrooming hat, it happens to the best of us. Luckily in your situation your recipient will grow into it! So you have the best possible scenario.

There are other ways to fix a too-large hat but they have varying results. You could felt it if it's wool, or try your hand at sewing in some pin tucks and try to make them look decorative, or undo the whole thing and cast on fewer stitches.

But since this is a baby and their heads do grow I'd just say you did it this way on purpose, because you heard it was supposed to be a long winter and the kid will need it in February.


- - -


Speaking of hats, I do plan to post the newest hat patterns this week. With company in town and then my Grandma getting out of the hospital it's been a little busy here and my knitting/TV time has been sorely neglected. I'm going to finish the beanie tonight while catching up on my Tivo and watching the cats jockey for position in front of the fireplace:


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Soba wins.

Have a good day!

Posted by laurie at 7:40 AM

October 5, 2010

And the CIA still has not gotten back to me.

I wrote an email to the CIA. They haven't bothered to write back.

Well, it was the right thing to do, since surely they were already monitoring my phone calls and emails. I'm writing this silly little novel and my trashy heroine has a brush with the CIA. And I want it to be as factual as possible. Except... have you ever Googled the org chart for the Covert Ops? No can do. I imagine as soon as I typed the search words in the box some light went off in a basement in Langley and men in dark suits began listening to my phone calls.

Hopefully one of them is cute.

I am sure they were dulled to death when me and Drew spent two hours on the phone discussing everything from his new dishwasher to my deep desire to become skinny and wear pleather. Or when I waxed rhapsodic about the new fall TV lineup.

The phone conversations with me and my mom where we talk about the dog's newest chew toy and the tamale situation are surely government wiretapping dollars well spent.

All I wanted was a little info on some of the Agency colloquialisms. I went through the right channels, emailing their entertainment liaison and even refraining from signing my email with "xxoo, laurie." Apparently I didn't rate high enough for a response. Don't blame me when my trashy fiction book features undercover agents in pleather who knit.

I know you're reading, Very Important CIA Employee. Hit me back with an email. I have booze and yarn. Will trade for lingo. xoxo laurie

Posted by laurie at 10:30 PM

October 4, 2010

Dog Beach Afternoon

My older brother Guy was in town a week ago and I spent most of the time trying to persuade him to move to Los Angeles, but apparently that isn't going to happen. Something about "traffic" and "hell" and "freezing over."

But he did enjoy a little trip out to the dog park on Huntington Beach where we took my littlest brother for an afternoon of sandy, smelly fun.

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My two brothers. One is freakishly tall, it seems.

dogbeach1.jpg
It was a beautiful day, a scorcher in the Valley that kept the beach sunny and clear all day.

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Surveying the territory.

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The whole family. Only one wears a coat to the beach.

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Hi dad!

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My favorite picture of the day. He'd burrowed in behind me under my beach towel.

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Contemplating infinity.

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A perfect day.

Posted by laurie at 10:30 AM

October 1, 2010

Young for 12 seconds

Trader Joe's market isn't far from my house and they have wine for $1.99. Everyone calls this bottled elixir Two-Buck Chuck. It's not bad, really, not bad for two dollar wine. I stock up when I'm there because the parking lot is a war zone so I don't go very often. I hate having to flip people off in a parking lot.

Yesterday I was at Trader Joe's buying my Two Buck Chuck and this frozen salmon they sell which is marinated in chimichurri sauce. The salmon is kind of just butter sauce with a little fish in it but tastes good and counts as a non-fast-food meal in my book.

At the checkout counter the little guy ringing up my groceries (three bottles of wine, one frozen salmon packet) said hello, how are you, the niceties of L.A. grocery shopping.

"And, uh, could I also see some ID please?" he asked.

I flipped open my wallet and showed him my driver's license. He was squinting a bit at the date so I helped him along.

"Nineteen-seventy-(mmmmm)," I said. "The bronze age."

He laughed, shook his head. Had no idea what the bronze age comment meant. He was practically embryonic. But cute.

"You are looking good my lady friend, looking good," he said. "Never would have guessed the seventies."

And for just a minute I was caught off guard. No one is carding me because I look 21. I figure they're mostly doing it for charity or out of habit.

But I did walk a little taller out of the store. Looking good, friends. Looking good. For someone who is freaked out about being forty in this lifetime, I am looking good to the Trader Joe's dude. Never mind that he had to squint to see my birthdate, I am taking this as proof that God exists. Amen.

Posted by laurie at 9:57 PM

New month (end-of-September check in)

Sitting down to write an end-of-September check in means the obvious, that it is October already and soon we'll blink and 2010 will be over. I need one of those cryogenic chambers to sleep in so the passage of time seems less fraught with droop.

September was an improvement over August, which I suppose is apparent since I'm not hiding from my update and waiting until half the month has gone by, dashing off a one-liner on a Sunday night.

I had three big lightbulbs go off in September. I'm not sure how exactly they fit into my get happy/get healthy goals for 2010 but all three seemed important enough that I wanted to take note.

Significant Realization Numero Uno
Life moves in waves, with troughs and crests and the spaces in between. Peaks and valleys for the landlocked. Not every day will be a peak day and not every day will be a valley, most of the time I'm on the way up or on the way down or somewhere in all of that. Of course different people have higher highs and lower lows but in general no one person stays in exact balance and evenness and harmony every single day.

So I had a valley this summer. I was telling Drew about it one day on the phone and he said, "Yes, the valleys. I just wish that when I'm in a valley I could see it's only a valley, only temporary."

Exactly! I need to remind myself to have faith, that things improve and change and rise and fall and it's all natural. I'm not very accepting of my low points, I tend to judge them harshly and find myself lacking on every level. But if I could see that it's only temporary -- especially when it's happening -- I think I would roll with it a little more.

Significant Realization Two
It's a process. I'm not the sort of person who indulges in hokey feel-good stuff like "it's a process." Or at least I didn't used to think that way, but I get it now. It makes sense.

Changing your whole lifestyle in a single day is one thing, but adapting to that change is a process. Losing weight is a process. Writing a novel is a process. Learning new software is a process.

Instead of berating myself for not being THERE, done, finished, accomplished, I am looking at it all with a wider lens. Or at least I am trying to, it's a big change for me. I am the sort of person who wants to wake up and be THERE already! But it's a process. And when I get there, God only knows I will already have moved on from the goal and have a new THERE to be at, pronto.

So, wide lens. Embrace the process.

Significant Realization Three
Honestly, I'm not sure how this fits into anything, but this idea surprised me. And I'm the one who thought of it! It's about stuff.

When I was working full-time and commuting hours a day and trying to squeeze in writing in between, my relationship with my stuff was very stressful. I knew I had a lot of stuff, but I didn't want to let any of it go. I worked hard, you know. And so sometimes I added to my stuff.

I justified it by saying, "I work hard, I'm never home, I don't have a social life... so I deserve this purse/yarn/trip to Timbuktu/pair of expensive shoes that look exactly like two other pairs I already own because I work hard."

It took a while of being at home -- being near all my stuff all day long -- to realize I had been holding on so tightly all that time because I was just visiting my stuff on nights and weekends.

I would buy picture frames but never have time to fill them or hang them. I bought yarn I never had time to use. I bought books I never had time to read. I bought party shoes I didn't wear because I was too tired to party. But I justified it by telling myself I deserved it for working so hard. I deserved to have and to hold my stuff.

Now I'm with my stuff all the time and I still like it but I don't have this whole crazy lady thing happening with it. I am de-stashing books and yarn, putting them aside to give away here online or to send to friends. I haven't bought anything except food and wine and consumables for months (and a Halloween costume for my mom and dad's dog of course) and I don't feel deprived or poor, even though money is not pouring in. I'm listening to the music I bought but never had time for, reading the unread books I've owned for years, making my Christmas presents with the beautiful yarn in my stash. I'm finally cooking that great roast I had in the freezer and hanging pictures. You see where I'm going with this.

It's a trade off. I definitely don't have as much money but I have time and space and I can sleep. And now that I have full-time custody of my stuff, not just visitation, I'm OK with letting a little bit of it go.

- - -

So I'm not sure what all this means for October and for the remaining three months of 2010, a year I knew would somehow change my life forever. I still don't know if it's good change or horrifying ruin-my-credit change, but at least I am changing. I have decided to think that's a good thing, since I don't know what will end up happening either way.

The stress and anxiety I still have about the vast unknowns of my future are softened around the edges. It helps that I finally have time to sleep, that I am finally writing a fiction book (!!) and it has a sequel (!!) and that I may or may not have named the most abhorrent character in the story after my old boss. Like a tribute, yes? Or an effigy. Tomato, tomahto!

Last week I had lunch with a friend and she turned to me in the middle of the conversation and said, "I don't know how to say this without it sounding odd so I'm just going to say it. Everything about you seems happier. When you talk about your book, your day, your sandwich, you just seem like a different person. So much happier."

I'll take it.

Posted by laurie at 1:52 PM