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December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's Eve!

Bob is poised to jump into the new year:


Goodbye, ridiculous 2010 ... hello shiny new calendar! Happy New Year's Eve, everyone!

Posted by laurie at 8:20 AM

December 30, 2010

Little bit of this, little bit of that

Hello and Thursday! Also, even though it is crazypants early, I still have a cat trying to sit on my keyboard. It is Bob. Bob is like the TSA of this little home-based operation. He believes his job here at the shop is to make sure there are no weapons of mass destruction hiding behind the monitor, also he checks for edibles. During his thorough inspections, plenty of cat hair sticks to the monitor. That way we know the monitor is working.

- - -

Reader Marlena asked:

So this Nike band... it looks like there's a piece that needs to attach to your shoe. Have you ever managed to do that on a shoe that doesn't lace up? Or do you just use it with sneakers?

The Nike + shoes have a hidden compartment for the chip, that's the short answer.

The longer answer is this: I think I am one of the rare few who use the Nike+ Sport Band. From what I can tell from people I know who also use the Nike + chip, most run it through their ipods or iphones (here's a link to the Apple Nike + iPod Sport Kit). Those folks listen to music while they work out and the chip coordinates with software running in their iDevice.

I don't listen to music while I walk, that's purely my meditation time. So I got the sportband.

Basically, to get on this bandwagon you need three things:

1) A pair of Nike+ shoes (the plus sign means there is a little pocket inside the shoe to hold the chip) AND/OR you can buy an aftermarket thingamajig to hold the chip on your shoes, like the shoe lace sensor pouch. OR! OR! You could knit one, like my friend Rachael Herron.
2) The chip itself, which is about the size of a plastic fava bean.
3) Some device to read the data off the chip, either an ipod or iphone or a sportsband.

Nike sells the SportBand (which comes with the chip) as a package if you want to go that route. There is also the much more popular Nike+ ipod starter kit. And you can buy replacement chips for about twenty bucks if your chip starts to run out of juice in time. I have heard from other readers that if you wear your athletic shoes (with the chip inside) for doing daily errands and stuff it will dramatically decrease the chip's life.

I wear mostly flipflops in my daily life, so your mileage may vary.

You will also need to download some free software on your computer, or at least I did. It's how I upload my "runs" (which for me are all "walks") and track my progress. I'm just a consumer (not a paid advocate for running products) and I was skeptical if I could even get this thing to work but it was easy enough to get started and I really like it. It can display runs (again for me these are all walks) in a graph or by month, week, or day. You can set goals and the software will track it. The software is free, you do have to register a username with it, though.

Through my years of aggressively optimistic new starts (Hello, New Years Resolutions long past!) I managed to acquire both a treadmill and a recumbent bike and yet still the only exercise I really love is walking outdoors. Thank goodness I live in L.A. where we can walk outdoors just about year round.

Since we're on the subject, though, for those of you doing your own new start who are deciding between the bike and the treadmill, I would say go for the bike. Yes, the treadmill is probably a better workout in theory but I use the recumbent bike much more. It doesn't require electricity, it's easier to move around, less bulky and it's super quiet. And relatively cheap -- less than a quarter the price of a good treadmill! I was even able to put it together myself (I have this bike which was $160: Phoenix 99608 Magnetic Recumbent Exercise Bike).

I use it when I watch TV. It's so quiet and easy to do that I can make it through a whole episode of Hawaii 5-0 just pedaling away.

Honestly, I've never been a huge fan of exercise no matter what the device or machine or the cute new outfit I bought just to do said exercise. I'm no expert but I figure the only exercise that really works is the one you stick with on a pretty regular basis. I like walking best but the stationary bike is a good second.

I exercise because I can tell that it dramatically helps improve my sleep and it's decreased my depression. And one day I may be able to actually walk all the way up to my laundry area on the third floor without huffing and puffing.

- - -

Reader Sheila asked:

How is your dad? Much better I hope!

Yes! And thank you for asking. He is better. He's a tough cookie, and my folks are back on the road adventuring across America. And I saw Grandma on Christmas and she is doing well, too. We decided to go to the movies with Aunt Pam and Uncle Arnie and Grandma picked the movie -- she decided she wanted to see True Grit. Got to love my Grandma wanting to see a Coen Brothers film. It was good, we liked it. I complained about the poor movie horses, but we had a good day.

- - -

Reader Chris asked:

I would love it if you ever felt like posting about your acupuncture experience and if you feel it has helped.

Hello, Chris! You would think a crunchy granola such as myself would be all over acupuncture but I was extremely nervous about it at first. My doctor (read: shrink) suggested it because one of her clients had good results using acupuncture to treat his very intense depression and my doctor thought it may be something I'd want to investigate.

I did not care to investigate. Screw that. You want to put needles in my head you're gonna have to pay me! Or so I said.

Surprisingly enough in all of this my biggest pro-acupuncture cheerleader was my Dad. He had gone years ago and had great results and my Dad kept urging me to go, so finally I decided that if my very conservative un-granola Dad could do it, I could at least try.

It took me a few weeks to get up the nerve, but one day I called the acupuncture doctor and I made an appointment. I decided ahead of time that no matter what I would go at least three times before deciding to quit (I know how I can be.)

The first appointment was just a big ball of crazy. I was so nervous I was literally shaking. Physically. I have not ever once voluntarily asked someone to stick needles in my body. Plus, my acupuncture doctor is kind of hot, and that was a little disconcerting. The doctor will ask you very detailed questions about your health, stuff my own primary care doc never asks. And I was honest, and I told him I was there for depression, hopefully for help with weight issues and also with general health and well-being. I did not have high hopes for this needle thing but whatever. I figured I would try it.

On the first visit I was so incredibly anxious that I'm not sure I got much out of the session. I was just wound up so tight. Plus, lying in a darkened room alone for twenty minutes with needles sticking out of my hands and forehead while trying not to sneeze was just about enough. When he came in to take them out the only thing I felt was relief to have gotten through without bolting.

But I had promised myself to try it three times, so I went back the following week.

The next session was day and night's difference. Since I now knew the drill -- I had already met the doctor, been in the room, had already experienced the slightly odd sensation of having needles placed in your hands and ears -- it was less unknown and that itself made it less anxiety-producing. This time he added a few more needles and I think the session was longer, maybe 30 minutes. By the time it was over I knew I felt calm but as I sat up and reached for my shoes I realized I felt like I had been drugged. The good kind of drugged.

What I mean is that I had a calm, softened, still feeling inside me that I almost never feel. In fact, to feel that still and calm I usually have to numb out with a combination of food, TV and wine. You know that calm feeling I mean? The one where you stop feeling coiled up for just a little bit?

So anyway, that's what acupuncture does for me and now I am hooked. Totally hooked. I think it's a good thing. The obvious question for many people is ... is it worth it? For me, yes. I can't tell you the acupuncture itself is a golden bullet but I love and look forward to it and I think it's part of an overall strategy for good living. When it comes down to the money, I have decided I would rather spend money on my physical wellness and calm and find other ways to cut back on spending. Since I almost never drive anywhere, I'm probably saving so much gas money that it pays for itself.

Also it reminds me how good we are in general at rationalizing spending money on all kinds of crap like DVDs and gadgets and stuff from ebay and cars and handbags and shoes but when it comes to paying a shrink or a massage therapist or an acupuncturist or paying for a service that is not exactly tangible but could lead to long-term happiness, we balk.

Because we humans are funny little people.

- - -

Other Stuff:

• I have a printer still here in a box that I have got to set up today. I have had this printer for months, just there in its box sneering at me. I find tasks like this daunting and require a cocktail. So I have to wait until cocktail hour to get started on it. I have actually managed to exist without a working printer for well over two years but now I have to print something out and that means I got to git 'er done. Oh, technology. Why are we sometimes so hateful of each other?

• Something I wrote the other day got picked up for syndication on BlogHer and here is the link. Also, while I was registering for the site I found what looks like a delicious recipe for jalapeno creamed corn, doesn't that look good? Anyway, I'm sharing because I like what BlogHer is about. It reminds me of back in the day, what we were trying to do with ChickClick even though that sort of fell apart with a thud.

• I have one knitting project that has to get done and shipped by tomorrow and then I have to finish a couple of hats for my nephews oh, and I still need to post that newest hat pattern. What is everyone knitting these days?

• Does anyone have a good recipe that contains butternut squash? I'm not sure I love butternut squash all that much, even though I know it's good for you. But I have one here in the fridge and I want to do something with it other than just roast it. Worst case scenario I guess I could peel it, cut it in cubes and freeze it for later. I wonder if I could shred it and eat it raw in a salad, like you can with beets?

• When the clock strikes midnight tomorrow night and I am not 100% totally done with the manuscript I will look back at this blog and the eleventeen hundred words I have dumped on all you hearty souls lately and think, ah well. Typing is my cardio. And won't it be nice to say, in 2011 I finished my first fiction novel? Oh yeah.

• One of my goals for 2011 may be to learn how to say Hey! Hey! Hey! in a Fat Albert voice.

• It is wacky windy outside! Apparently there were tumbleweeds on the freeway this morning and everything. Very exciting!

And finally, are ya'll getting excited about a new, fresh year coming? I am. I'm ready to be done with 2010 and go on to Prime Year 2011.

Posted by laurie at 5:50 AM

December 29, 2010

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes (and the last roundup of the year)

When I started this wonky little idea, to post a monthly check-in on my 2010 New Year's Resolutions, I thought it would be fairly easy. You know, blah blah blah, life is grand, etcetera. That's what New Year's resolutions do to you, they lure you into easy hope and optimism. I blame it on those little bubbles in the champagne.

My 2010 Resolutions were:

1) Get really healthy
2) Come from a place of yes (later redefined as "Happy!")

The first month of 2010 was a big fresh start, two-thousand-ten! It seemed momentous. Like something might happen this year. Oh, how right I was. When I read back on that first roundup, January was a blur.

By far the best thing I bought for myself all year came that month, though -- I purchased the Nike + SportBand to track all my walking. I LOVE this thing. I have used it all year with no glitches or issues, and the battery on the chip is still going strong. I love that I can see how many miles I walked this year and it's a visible chart of my improvement. There were some months where I logged exactly zero miles, but by year's end I was hoofing it 20 miles a week. That and a great pair of shoes were my big investments in exercise and were absolutely the least expensive, most useful wellness-related things I have ever purchased.

By the end of the January 2010, I had the "loosen up/get happy" resolution fresh in my mind but I wasn't exactly the picture of cool, calm zen.

In February I did the best I could. The book signing was fun and I got to see lots of old friends. I didn't eat my vegetables and I think chocolate became a food group, whoops.

I tried to get it together, a lot, and mostly succeeded in re-arranging my bookshelves and knitting.

The slow trajectory of the new year became a wacky train ride.

One of the best things I've ever done happened in May -- my mom and I went to Bermuda together for her birthday. It was one of the best trips I have ever taken in my life. We traveled so well together, and the island is spectacular and the hotel was like a dream and room service was amazing and I even got on a boat and was not attacked by Jaws! It was relaxing at a time when what I needed most in the world was the get the hell out of Dodge.

But there were also a few days in May when I wondered, Is it possible to join the circus at my age? Lots of changes on the horizon!

My last day at the bank was June 4th. It was so hard and to this day I still miss all the good folks there but I had a great opportunity for change and I took it. It's funny how once you wrap your mind around something, even a huge change like this, you start to make it work. In other news my parents got into town, finally, and my dad was so ill, and my grandmother had another stroke. These are stressful events. So I tried to smile a lot and Stay Positive! and Be Happy! I was thankful that I got to spend time with my family and I went to the mountains for a week with my folks and I made my first pair of handknit gloves(!) and I had the completely new and novel experience of going to the grocery store at 10 a.m. on a weekday, something I can't really ever remember doing. I was completely freaked out seeing my dad so sick, but I pretended I wasn't. Not sure I fooled anyone.

I spent a lot of time with my family, and I woke up each day continually astonished that I didn't have to sit in traffic. Also, working from home is a big adjustment! You're near the fridge ... a lot...

In August something happened that was nothing short of divine intervention: I got the idea for this book I'm writing. I scrapped the hugely over-ambitious fiction project I had been fixated on and spent the month working out a new plot in my head, over and over, until I knew this character so well I could picture her every nuance. I did it to the exclusion of all other things, well, except chocolate. Yeah. August.

In September I wrote, and I wrote and I wrote. My brother came to visit. I didn't see it at the time, but I think things turned a corner for me in the fall, in a good way.

October was a fresh month, we have amazing weather in October, sometimes it's so hot you think your brain will melt and sometimes it's so clear and blue you want to snort the sky. It was a month of bittersweet endings and beginnings, my parents left the state and my Grandmother sold her house and moved permanently into a care facility and I don't really love change all that much but something was different with me because I wasn't all puddled up and crazy like I can be. Prelude to good.


The month I wanted to have all year long. Beautiful autumn weather, delicious Los Angeles with the Boulevard full of holiday lights and shoppers and people out walking their dogs with little jackets and sweaters on their canine friends. One day I was in my apartment and the cats were stretched out by the fake fireplace and my tree was already up and I was stretching my sore legs after an especially long walk and I knew with absolute certainty that I was happy. Most astonishingly, I was happy on the inside. Not from some achievement or success or money or a hot guy or a new purchase or even a book contract. It wasn't just one contented moment, a fleeting thing. It was the total belief that tomorrow I could have another happy day just like this one if I wanted. And I wanted!


Well, here we are.

Goofy, sparkly, finish-what-you started month. It started with the Kansas City surprise party for my Uncle Truman, a mini-family reunion. It's still December right now and I have almost-very-close-to finished my first-ever fiction novel (!!) and I've already plotted the sequel(!!!). I don't know if I will actually completely finish the manuscript by the time it hits midnight in three days, but I will have given it a very good try. I thought I would be really let down if I didn't finish, but I know what I have so far is good, almost 40,000 words and I could hand it over right now and not be embarrassed by it. So that in itself is an accomplishment.

My favorite part of each day is all of it, but especially writing and cooking for friends and waking and sleeping and all the spaces in between. I still have my moments, my dark corners, but in general I feel hopeful and ready.

- - -

So there you have it. On the eve of 2010, I made my two little resolutions -- get happy, get healthy -- because I was so desperately unhappy and unhealthy and I wanted to be better. As each month passed I began to feel more and more desperate, because I seemed to be going in the wrong direction! If you had seen me in August you would have suspected I was two shakes from the rubber room.

But the very lowest point of my year also gave me the most surprise gift, a book idea that lit a fire under me for months. I maybe overdosed on research for a while but I finally plugged into a project and into my real life, this life, the only one I have. My days changed because I changed. And I invested in myself. I did things that were scary and annoying: I went to the doctor, I started acupuncture, I walked, I learned to cook, I learned to breathe instead of taking mallomar infusion. (Well, most of the time. Rome, not built in a day.)

What a weird, freakadelic, unpredictable, unexpected year.

Thanks for hanging in there and living it with me.

Posted by laurie at 2:06 PM

December 27, 2010

My favorite week of the year

This is my favorite week of the year, that little gap between Christmas and the new year. It's calm and the weather is usually lovely and traffic is at a year-end low. For one thing people have calmed the hell down and you don't see so much of the angry GET OUT OF MY WAY I HAVE IMPORTANT ERRANDS tailgating. People are less aggressive and ridiculous in general, after all the rush and stress of the holiday are past and now everyone can sit back, drink the wine and eat all the carbs they want because in just a few days they'll make a New Year's Resolution to get it all together.

I've been thinking about my New Year's Resolutions. I love a list, my tombstone will probably be a bullet-point list. I love lists! They make me feel in control of the world, if I just write it on my list it is possible that I can change around my whole life.

This year I did actually change around my whole life. Not in the way I expected, but still. No complaining from my end.

The cats are happy, too, they've been enjoying their new Christmas present, one furry blanket that they take turns burrowing in until comfortable:



You will notice la Soba is not in these pictures, she can't be bothered with any of this, she is stretched out before the fireplace reading The Art Of War.

Are you making resolutions? I've heard some readers say they're using a single word as a resolution, like a concept for the year. You'd think I'd be all over that like a navel-gazer is all over a mountaintop but I'm more into my bullet points. My favorite resolution was from reader Susie who said a year or so ago she resolved to "Eat more bacon!" which cracked me right up. Anyway, for those of you who hate resolutions with the burning fire of a thousand boiling suns you can just go over to your corner and eat worms and wave your fingers of doom, but I'd love to hear from everyone else on what you hope to accomplish in 2011, or what your word is, or what it is that you want to bring into your life (or get rid of, as the case may be.)

I love resolutions because they're hopeful and speak to what kind of life we want to live. For some of us that hope that tomorrow can be full of some new possibility is the crack cocaine that keeps us living another day.

And anyway, I am living proof that deciding you want to be in a different (better) place in 365 days can actually work. Though not at all in any way I could have ever pictured, plotted or imagined. The universe has a funny sense of humor.

Maybe I too, should vow to eat more bacon.

Posted by laurie at 9:55 AM

December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas! (And Merry Christmas Eve)

The entire staff here at Crazy Aunt Purl wishes you a happy holiday!

There is a lot of help on that desk.

Posted by laurie at 1:25 PM

December 23, 2010

I Survived Stormageddon 2010!


Los Angeles after a rainstorm is an object of beauty like no other. The city is shiny and clean and everyone is so happy, we are delirious with happiness! Because the sun is out and all is right with the world. I went to the post office and people were happy! I went to the grocery store and everyone was on a sunshine high! They were still in pajamas and Ugg boots, of course, but we can't be expected to recover from seven whole days of rain all so suddenly. But we are happy, and that is what matters. We know how to drive in sunshine. It's a Christmas miracle.

It is especially beautiful if you only look up:


If you look down, however, you will discover our seedy secret, our dark underbelly, our citywide shock that water repeatedly fell from the sky and landed on the earth.



Welcome to Potholesikstan!

I don't know why our roads aren't water-resistant. Seems like if you're making a road you might want to plan for the contingency of a little rain, even out here. Maybe the state gets our road material at a discount because it dissolves under water. Very inneresting. I understand flooding and mudslides and all the stuff that goes with unexpectedly heavy rain out here but I don't understand the pothole-a-palooza that happens after water touches asphalt. Every road developed huge crumbling sinkholes. Very mysterious.

So the solution is clear -- just look up, where everything is beautiful again and sunny and it's safe to leave the house. I love you, Los Angeles. I love your palm trees and your blue skies and your water-soluble roadways.


Posted by laurie at 10:55 AM

December 22, 2010

Notes from Hollyweird

Last night the local evening news ran an entire segment about how to drive in our nasty, winter weather. Meaning rain.

A trusted source with the auto association gave us tips, like how we should use our windshield wipers and turn on our headlights and also, if the window begins to get fogged up, drivers can use the defroster or run the air conditioner.

I believe that says everything you need to know about my beloved city.

- - -

I Twitter. Tweeter? Tweet? Twit?

I don't know how you follow me. I'm at http://twitter.com/#!/crazyauntpurl if that means anything. Mostly I drunk tweet. I admit it, no shame. Two glasses of red wine I'm I'm all "We are so maudlin because of the weather..." Also I talk about star sightings because that's my protein.

I read everything people twitter back at me because now I have it on my phone and I love my phone. If it were possible to overturn Prop 8 in California, I would marry my gay girlie phone. Of course then we'd probably divorce and I'd owe contract money. This is actually my main argument to fervently support gay marriage -- every human being should have the right to fall in love, get married and later writhe and suffer through 18 months of hideous, soul-sucking divorce. NO EXEMPTIONS. Equal rights for all people.

But about my phone. Back in the day you used to have to work at being smart. If you had a lot of trivia stored in your brain you attained a certain level of standing at parties. But now everyone has an iphone or similar and so anyone can be a know-it-all with the help of IMDB and wikipedia. It has freed me of know-it-allism and allowed me to pursue my hobbies of obsessive handwashing, knitting, reciting '80s rap song lyrics and making up songs about my cats. I LOVE THE INNERNET. Even though it is full of crazies.

- - -

SPEAKING of crazy, did you see the episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills where the real Allison Dubois turns out not to be blonde, or sweet like Patricia Arquette, or sane, but is instead a hot pot of drunken madness? I have never loved television so much. Also, it was so not mean of Kyle to make Kim ride alone in a limo, since Kim lives out in Agoura or Westlake Village or something and that is really a traffic consideration. I am just saying, traffic trumps sisterhood. And even if it was retribution for Kim's way of, well, Kim's way, I still think a time out served in a limo is not really that painful. Especially if the limo has a stocked bar and is free from psychics.

- - -

I cannot believe it is almost Christmas and I can't believe it is still RAINING and I can't believe 2010 is just about over and I can't believe I have yet to make a resolution because you know I love a list.

- - -

YES, IT IS STILL RAINING. In Los Angeles. Our city hasn't experienced six consecutive days of non-sunny weather in my whole life of living here, that's fifteen years now. I had to go to Whole Foods yesterday even though it was raining because, seriously people. There was a lack of organic potatoes in Chez Catpants, and when it's gloomy and overcast I am a woman who needs a potato.

Anyway, at the store all I heard anyone talking about was the horrible, life-altering weather. You know, the rain.

"It's so hard," said one shopper on her cellphone. I was behind her in the soup aisle as she chatted. I love listening to people talking loudly on their phones at the grocery store. It's free entertainment.

"The rain is everywhere, even if you valet park you still have to be in it! And my yard is flooded. And the corner of Coldwater and Moorpark was like a scene out of that... remember that bad Kevin Costner movie? What was it? YES! Waterworld! Thank you! You know his agent once told my husband that he's cheap... like he bought his wife a used engagement ring or something."

Wasn't Waterworld about mailmen? My mailman almost had a nervous breakdown yesterday when I asked him how he was. It's a superficial question, folks. The answer is always, "Fine!" Here in LA we value the superficial. We believe deeply in it.

And you know it's bad because yesterday I asked the mailman how he was, "Hi! How are you today?" and he said, "POSTAL. THIS RAIN. IT HAS NOT STOPPED. I CALLED MY AGENT FOUR TIMES ABOUT A CALLBACK. IS IT THE RAIN? ARE YOU GETTING BAD RECEPTION?"

I touched him on the arm, which is something I never do. I don't touch people, because of my handwashing. I do hug inappropriately, but that seemed like an overzealous response, so I put a hand on his forearm.

I said, "Your agent will call. You have the look that is perfect for Modern Family." And he smiled at me like I gave him crack-covered chocolate or something.

"Thank you," he said. "My callback is for Mike & Molly. But I feel like I'm Modern Family material, too."

Send sun. We need our Vitamin D.


Posted by laurie at 10:54 AM

December 20, 2010

Rainy days and hobos

Los Angeles is a notoriously casual city but when it rains here we transform from lackadaisical to downright homeless looking. Well, homeless avec Ugg boots.

It's been raining for DAYS people. We aren't used to this. It's hard for us, what with the water and all. We know other people have snow and ice and something called winter coats, but we we signed up for sunshine and palm trees in that order. And star sightings. And sushi bars next to pot shops next to Thai BBQ.

When it rains our fashion is so, so sad. We believe that rain means you can just forgo getting dressed. I was thinking this as I looked at my own clothing yesterday just before I got out of my Jeep and went into the grocery store. I had on brown, floppy yoga pants tucked into Ugg boots and an old purple T-shirt obscured entirely by a gigantic grey hoodie. I walked into the grocery store wearing something I would not normally be seen dead in my bathroom wearing. Also, I was one of the better dressed people there.

No less than six people were shopping in their pajamas, with pants legs tucked into Uggs or wellies. Everyone looked a little out of sorts and damp. These are people who drive $100,000 automobiles and yet do not own an umbrella. Or a coat. It's hard. We have so much to deal with. Like MegaDoppler and StormWatch and SigAlerts.

This dude wore not only his pajamas to the store but his bathrobe, too:


He did at least have an umbrella.

Posted by laurie at 10:12 AM

December 19, 2010

Food criminals part 2

Every time I write something ancillary about my issues with food someone sends me a diet plan.

I eliminated high-fat foods for the most part. I had what I called the White Breakfast, oatmeal with no sugars, a hard-boiled egg and a cup of yogurt, plus coffee. Lunch was a piece of roasted chicken breast and a salad, supper was chicken or fish, a vegetable and a salad, with wine to make it luxurious. Fruit midmorning for a snack, midafternoon for another snack (which helps with the sugar cravings) and a hunk of cheese with wine at bedtime.
You should try the clean-eating diet...
Buying a steamer will change your life. It changed mine. If you steam your veggies you will get more health benefits with less calories.

It always surprises me, though it shouldn't. The intention behind it is kind and good-hearted and I think after all the money I have spent on therapy I am happy to see I can understand these notes are sent with good intentions and well-meaning ideas.

Here's the thing. Have you ever seen the show Hoarders? It's a reality TV show about people who are hoarders and live in terribly cluttered or refuse-filled homes. It boggles the mind. The mind is boggled! You think, My God, people, just clean your house. Get thee to a Swiffer! Of course if they could do that they would not be hoarders. Duh.

What about alcoholics? Would you tell an alcoholic, "Look, there are other things to drink besides alcohol. Next time you are thirsty, drink water or milk or juice. And that will solve your problems!"

Of course not, because alcoholism isn't about thirst. Just like eating disorders are not about food.

Giving a weight-loss diet plan to a person with food issues is like telling an alcoholic to just drink grape juice the next time they get parched. Alcoholics don't have a problem with alcohol because they are terribly confused about what else to drink. Folks who have food issues aren't simply lacking knowledge about steamed vegetables and lean proteins. My belief is that people who have food issues probably know more about food, fat, calories, consumption, and loss than any other people on the planet.

Trust me, another diet won't fix that psychic perplexity.

- - -

Reader Jennifer asked:

I'm right there with you. At this point, I'm not even sure what a balanced meal is or what is or isn't healthy. I've been dieting and restricting what I eat and have heard so much -- that I've lost all track of that. What a relief it must be to "undiet." Good for you! If I took a similar approach, I'd be nervous that I might go crazy and eat whatever I want. Does that make sense? Like I actually might lose all control?

Were you ever afraid of this? and how did you handle it?

It is not a relief to swear off dieting. It is terrifying, it is crazy-making and it's disorienting. Because if you are like me you have spent an entire lifetime eating from someone else's list so you have no idea what to eat if you aren't on plan (those off-plan times you think of as simply anomalies.) I have been trying this for over five years now and it's been up and down. I even went back to low-carbing again just before my second book expo, I think I needed the feeling of control and constraint that comes with restrictive eating.

We're most afraid that without a plan we will never, ever stop eating. I feared I would become unhinged, wild, lost with hunger. I definitely had times of absolute abandon where I worried I would never stop eating (and there were times when I did not).

I think that perhaps you have to be willing to fail. There are days now when I am OK -- I am not crazy restricting or alone in shamed overeating. To get there I think you have to be willing to treat yourself with care and put your own well-being above the approval of others. It is almost bone crushing. For those of us who just want to be lovely, pretty, appealing or accepted... it feels a little like dying to give up the hope you'll ever be just perfect enough.

But it is really, really worth trying.

- - -

Reader India says,

You are right and I so totally agree with everything you said. I'm trying to learn this myself, rather than be disgusted and angry with myself all the time because I don't look the way I want (yes I am overweight, but since when is size 10 or 12 such an awful thing?), or I fall of the wagon and eat something I shouldn't... But I have an appointment with my (skinny) doctor in six weeks and I KNOW she will look at me disapprovingly when she sees that I haven't lost any weight, have in fact maybe gained some. She will blame me for my blood pressure being slightly high, for not exercising enough. I know this because it has already happened before.

I am not a doctor, I am a person with issues. Also I hate giving advice so take this as you will:


I firmly believe that I have good, sturdy, robust health today because I have a doctor who does not make me feel bad to visit him. I am not denied healthcare because of my weight. (If one avoids a doctor because of weight ... well, you see my logic.)

Several years ago when I started down this path of yanking myself out of disordered eating I asked the nurse at my primary care physician's office to not weigh me. They put a notation in my chart so that it now never comes up. For me, this is good. For people like me, that weigh-in is a barrier to getting actual healthcare. (And let's be honest, it's not like I don't know my weight down to the ounce every day, thank you bathroom scale. Like I said, I got me some issues.)

My doctor never chastises me or makes me feel bad about myself. He cares. I see him regularly for check-ups and routine exams. I have good health care because my doctor does not harass me. He knows that if harassing worked to get people out of food issues then, wow, we'd already be cured.

So if your doctor is not helpful, kind, and respectful of you then JUST CHANGE DOCTORS. NOW.

Some people will think I am giving you bad advice because they believe a doctor's role is to chastise you into better health. In reality all that does is make you avoid the doctor. Find a doctor you like who respects you and doesn't make you want to eat a chocolate Volkswagen after every visit and your life will begin to change as well. It's up to you. You hold the answers, not some third-party who looks at you in deep disapproval.

- - -

About the beet salad, Lenna asks:

I have a question about your salad: do you use the olive oil and red wine vinegar in equal amounts also?

I think I just sprinkle on a little of both. It's not a salad that need a whole lot of dressing, it's pretty darn tasty as-is!

- - - -
Lynn wrote:

I have been thinking about which "diet" to start on January 1st and had decided on Atkins. All my inner alarm bells were clanging at the thought of carrots, potatoes, fruit and my husband's homemade sourdough bread being "dealbreakers". But, I had read about someone who had lost 100lbs and still feels great after 3 yrs. So, I was ready to dive in even though all common sense said don't do it.

Every January 1st since I was eight years old I have resolved to go on a diet. For those of you counting, that is thirty-one years of dieting. Each new year I resolved to be less of myself.

Even my "get healthy" goal for 2010 started out very secretly carved as a weight goal.

So, Atkins. I lost a lot of weight on Atkins. When I went off it I gained at a rate that astonishes me to this day. There are many people for whom a low-carb lifestyle is really appealing. It certainly appealed to my obsessive, crazypants qualities -- it brought out my OCD around food like nothing before or since. Not everyone who goes on a low-carb diet turns into a food-aholic but perhaps it was my wiring, the timing, some underlying unbalance in me. Who knows? All I can say is that to this very day, knowing what I know, I still lean toward restricting carbs when I get stressed out. Four and a half years of hardcore Atkins did me in. I evangelized Atkins, I lived it and breathed it like a religion and to this day I am still trying to unravel it in my brain.

- - -

So that's it. Just a few things today as a follow up. I don't have a lot of answers about food. Most every person I know has qualifiers around eating, a little secret math formula known only to them that decides if they eat this or that or how much. What a complicated equation.

I know I have gotten better because I don't get squalling angry at the strangers who send me diet plans these days. But I also know I still have a long way to go because the new year is approaching and in my head it means a fresh start, a new regime, and I have to really talk myself down from that ledge.

At least now I can see it's a ledge.

Posted by laurie at 12:35 AM

December 17, 2010

Raw Beet & Carrot Salad (with a side of navel-gazing)


If you have read this here website for any amount of time you have by now realized that I am not a fan of salad, specifically those salads which are nothing but a bowl of leaves and grass. But I like salads which contain no lettuce at all. My favorite is a shredded beet and carrot salad -- raw, fresh and crunchy-delicious.

Use the shredder attachment on your food processor. You can grate the carrots and beets by hand on a box grater but trust me when I tell you that hand-grating beets will leave your hands looking like Lady Macbeth. And you will have to tape off your kitchen like a Dexter crime scene.

The shredder attachment is really easy to use and once you try it you'll be addicted and want to start shredding everything. I shred parsnips, Brussels sprouts, shallots, zucchini, you name it and I can shred it. Raw beets done this way are crisp, sweet, tasty and so beautiful it makes you swoon. Until I moved to the city I didn't realize most people had only eaten beets from a can (slimy, hateful things!) so give the fresh, raw beet a try and I promise it will change your mind.

Peel the carrots if you want, or just scrub them well. Shred the carrots first, empty the bowl, then do the beets (less cleanup this way. You can shred them together but I make a lot at one time to keep in the fridge.) I do peel the beets before shredding them. It's messy, so you may want to peel them over newspaper spread out on the countertop. Four large carrots and three medium beets will make eight to ten servings of salad.

The classic salad is just five ingredients:

• Equal parts shredded beets and carrots
• Dressing made from finely chopped shallot (or top with some scallions, like in the photo above), olive oil and red wine vinegar
+ salt and pepper to taste, OK, seven ingredients

The shredded vegetables alone (without the dressing mixed in) will keep fresh in your fridge for five to seven days so it's a perfect salad for us single people or moderate salad-enjoyers. I store the carrots and beets separately so the red doesn't seep in and color my carrots in the middle of the night. SPEAKING OF COLOR. Beets are a powerful, ruby red color and they stay that way through your digestive track so don't freak out the next day, and that is all I have to say about that.

If you try this recipe and find yourself catching beet fever, you should pick up a copy of Jitterbug Perfume, possibly the best (and only?) story ever written that uses beets as a lead character.

- - -

Now the navel gazing part. You can skip this, it's totally optional.

- - -

In my kitchen and in my life my goal is to decriminalize food.

That sounds crazy. But for those of us who were programmed into Diet Mentality at a very early age, the world of food has been treacherous, unhealthy and illicit. We are food criminals and food is either BAD or GOOD and you are either bad or good depending on what you just ate. The problem of course is that food is integral to living. You need it every day to function, to breathe, to move, to sustain your life. It becomes a way to bond, nourish, show people you care about them. No wonder that food has a whole lot of emotion wrapped up in it. There are some people who see food only as nutrition and fuel. I don't know many of those people. Those people may want to go read something else now, since this will sound like "blah blah blah" to them.

I was not an overweight child. I was underweight, in fact, but I remember my first diet as clearly as I can remember my last one. I was eight years old and I tried so hard to be good but of course I failed, because I was eight and hungry. I can remember times before that, being six years old (in pictures I am so tiny and blonde and pale) wondering why my brother was allowed to eat anything he wanted while I was told, "Be careful! You don't want to grow up to be fat, do you?" I knew early on that fat was a bad thing. I'm not blaming anyone here, I'm too old to still be blaming someone for all my issues. At my age there is no one playing those tapes in my mind but me. I mention the beginning because it's important to cut myself some slack and see that this situation didn't develop overnight so it won't be fixed overnight.

Truthfully, it's a long process. I have been trapped in diet mentality since I was too young to even understand it. It has taken me years to start unraveling the kinks in my brain about food and eating and body size and even now I'm not sure how much progress I've made.

When I was on the Atkins Diet I lost a very significant amount of weight. I also lost a very significant amount of hair, and broke out in rashes all over my body, and some nights I would wake up in a panic because of nightmare dreams that I ate carbohydrates. I would tiptoe downstairs to be sure I hadn't actually eaten a bagel or a potato in my sleep. Of course I hadn't -- I had stopped buying "bad carb" foods altogether.

There was one day during that period of serious Atkins obsession when I was sitting at a lunch with my coworkers and I was carefully and neurotically picking the shredded carrots out of my salad. You would think someone at that table would have gently suggested that one teaspoon of shredded carrots wouldn't make me fat. Or at least they would have thought such a thing. But instead, I remember everyone at that table telling me, "I wish I had your willpower. You look amazing. Atkins is really working for you. I really need to lose weight, too..."

While I am not a medical doctor, I am certain that most of the obese people in America (including myself) did not become obese by eating raw carrots. Even so, I developed an irrational fear of carrots ... and bananas, and potatoes and watermelon. Inside my purse I carried a half-cup measuring spoon (enclosed in a ziploc baggie) so that I could measure out serving sizes of lettuce or "safe" vegetables. Again, you don't need a couch and a PhD to see that's not a healthy relationship with food.

It took years to disengage my brain from from carb counting and decriminalize the carrot. It's not just carbs, it's everything: points, fat grams, calories, nutrients, glycemic index, fiber. I've been on every diet that exists. Dieting like that is a disorder, it's saying that you can't be trusted to choose food for yourself, you need a list to tell you how to eat properly. Some people can move in and out of that world without losing their minds but some of us become utterly warped by it. Food becomes the one thing we must never, ever trust. We cannot be trusted. You are either on a diet and eating clean (and you are good) or you are off-plan and eating bad (and you are bad, worthless, spineless, weak, fat).

Not everyone experiences this but for people like me it's a whole life viewed only through the prism of weight and food. Listen, everyone has their stuff. Some people have drug or alcohol problems, some gamble or spend to excess, some have issues with sex or hoarding or anger. Everyone has their stuff. This is mine.

Newsweek recently featured a story about food and class divisions in America (you can read the article here) and I thought this part of the article was right on target:

Claude Fischler, a French sociologist, believes that Americans can fight both obesity and food insecurity by being more, well, like the French.

Americans take an approach to food and eating that is unlike any other people in history. For one thing, we regard food primarily as (good or bad) nutrition. When asked “What is eating well?” Americans generally answer in the language of daily allowances: they talk about calories and carbs, fats, and sugars. They don’t see eating as a social activity, and they don’t see food — as it has been seen for millennia — as a shared resource, like a loaf of bread passed around the table.

When asked “What is eating well?” the French inevitably answer in terms of “conviviality”: togetherness, intimacy, and good tastes unfolding in a predictable way.

Even more idiosyncratic than our obsession with nutrition, says Fischler, is that Americans see food choice as a matter of personal freedom, an inalienable right. Americans want to eat what they want: morels or Big Macs. They want to eat where they want, in the car or alfresco. And they want to eat when they want. With the exception of Thanksgiving, when most of us dine off the same turkey menu, we are food libertarians.

In surveys, Fischler has found no single time of day (or night) when Americans predictably sit together and eat. By contrast, 54 percent of the French dine at 12:30 each day. Only 9.5 percent of the French are obese. [34 percent of Americans are obese.]

This idea of breaking food down into intangibles such as calories, points, carbs and fat grams turns food into The Enemy when taken to an extreme. It's not even food anymore, it's just a pile of fat, calories and grams of this or that. Sometimes here in Los Angeles -- where Thin is religion -- I wonder if the goal is to simply find a way to eliminate eating entirely. I know people who seem to exist on nothing but diet drinks and fat-free yogurt. I know women who would rather die than go up a size.

A few years ago when I was still very new at what I called "undieting," I wrote a little essay here about it. I also posted what I was having for lunch that week, a peanut butter sandwich and an apple and some other fruit. Two things happened: First, I realized that attaching food choices to a list was still Diet Mentality. Second, I got a ridiculous amount of comments (later deleted) warning me that peanut butter is BAD because it is full of fat and calories and sugars and that I should be careful because I was going to gain weight. That sounded awfully familiar. Even in a heartfelt essay about breaking free of dieting I couldn't break free of it and neither could many readers. It was eye-opening.

A few months after I wrote that essay I was contacted by a major women's magazine wanting to do a story on my "undieting" -- as a diet story, complete with a meal plan and a photo shoot. I declined in a hot, crazy panic, much to the dismay of all the publicity people around me. I just couldn't do it. I wasn't skinny. I wasn't finished, or good, or done. I couldn't open myself up to anyone's scrutiny. I was horrified. I wanted to hide. I wanted to eat. I wanted to be anyone but me.

People love to give advice about eating plans. Look at any news article online about nutrition and the comments are full of people who are EXPERTS on nutrition telling you what to do. A lot of it is angry, too, "Get off your fat ass and exercise! Stop eating!" Folks are angry about the weight of strangers. I know from my own life experience that many people like me better when there is less of me in existence.

But I bought into it. I believed -- and still do, probably -- that I would be a better person when there was so much less of me. I felt (and feel, still) embarrassed about my size, no matter what size that is. With certain friends and family members I used to make a point to preemptively comment about my weight so they wouldn't feel the need to make comments (a bad strategy which not only didn't work but made me feel worse about myself.)

My weight is no longer a topic of discussion with those folks, the ones I felt I needed to preempt. If someone wants to talk about the size of my body or what I eat they have to do it when I'm not around. Perhaps that's drastic or weird or crazy, but I can't get better when I'm constantly apologizing for what I look like. Dismantling the diet mentality isn't an overnight process. It takes time, it takes work and it may take professional help. I've had to make some very serious life changes -- especially this year -- and it's not been easy or painless but it has been worthwhile in a way I can't oversell. There are no more beat-them-to-the-punch fat comments. And I'm starting to learn that being thin is not actually the only value a woman can have (even though it sometimes feels that way.) I don't apologize as much for how I look. If people don't like it I figure they can look away. Like everyone, I can only do my best.

Telling people these deep, dark things opens one to scrutiny which is not always easy for me. But I tell you these things because I look around and I know that I am not the only woman who has made a self-deprecating comment about her own human body as a way to beat others to the punch. I know I am not the only one out there who has had nightmares about eating a restricted food. And I know I'm not the only one who has had to put a little effort into dialing down my panic over something as simple as lunch. I guess I wanted you to know that the longer I keep at it the better I am getting. I'm not all the way there yet (do we ever arrive at anything? really?) but I'm better. If I can improve Lord knows it's possible for anyone.

And, at long last, I have successfully decriminalized the carrot.

Posted by laurie at 9:53 AM

December 16, 2010

Is that a carrot in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?


The table, all ready and set to go. One of my favorite things about entertaining is that doesn't cost anything to set a pretty table. Look closely and you may see my placemats are from a discount store, none of my wineglasses match, I have Ikea dishes and my water glasses are vintage thrift-store finds. My centerpiece is a lavish, too -- three green apples with circles carved out so that you can fit in a snug little votive candle. (Three apples gave their lives for art! Blame Martha Stewart.) I love setting the table with everything clean and sparkly and pretty and simple all collected together.

Until now I have not been much of a cook. I've always tried, sure, but I wasn't very good at it and even when something turned out well I just didn't like cooking. Now I know why. Cooking takes time! It takes patience to shop and chop and wash and grate and peel and simmer and meld. Cooking from scratch seems to be a lot cheaper than eating out but it sure can take time and I always hated that, I was always rushed and pressed and pinched. Cooking was a chore.

These days cooking has become a little treat. It helps that I'm getting better at it, and when you have more time than anything else it's not a bad way to spend an afternoon. I invited two friends over for a meal and I loved how happy they were with it. It made me feel so good to cook up something fresh and warm and tasty for my friends and I didn't set the oven on fire, or the broiler, or the dishcloth. Nothing scorched or boiled over or needed the fire department to help save life and property. Though I have met a few very helpful firemen in my time.

My girlfriends have busy lives and packed schedules and there's something about cooking a good meal that makes me feel like I'm taking care of people in my own way. One of my friends is on a vegan diet. You all know of course that I'm not a vegan, I'm a big fat omnivore. But (unlike the goofballs who write to tell me I'm a meat murderer every time I cook a pot roast) I respect other people's choices and I do love a challenge. I was kind of excited about the prospect of cooking a whole meal totally vegan (and gluten free. Ya'll, that is a lot of NOs all in one meal!) Especially because she is the kind of friend who would never ask for that or expect it, she'd be happy with a banana and a root beer.

For the dinner party I started off with a tray of carrots, celery, radishes, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, parsnips, peppers... you name it. I made a trip to the Farmer's Market and got whatever was fresh and cheap. And I made dip of course -- one hummus with garlic and one hummus with kalamata olives. I started a few days ahead of time by soaking the chickpeas, cooking them up, pureeing them in the food processor, adding in the lemon and tahini and all that. I also added a ranch dip for the non-vegans which I kind-of-sort-of made, stirring a mix into some yogurt.

For dinner we started with a beet and carrot shredded salad that I plan to tell you all about in more detail tomorrow. For the main meal I made red bell peppers stuffed with a soft risotto made with pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, garlic, onion and vegetable stock (non-vegans got the option of some shredded Gruyere on top). On the side I made sauteed zucchini with caramelized onions and a simple crispy potato cake with chopped scallions on top. Potato cakes are the best dinner party meal, it's like hashbrowns gone upscale. You just shred some russet potatoes and add onions (if you want) and cook the whole thing in oil until crispy. You can even use the pre-shredded grocery store hashbrowns to save time. I never had the time before to shred my own potatoes! Or cheese. Or salad. I think I prefer being short on dough to being short on time. At least I am no longer puddled up in a corner eating my hair and crying for my mommy.

ANYWAY. That was dinner. I am not a dessert person and I don't know how to bake so we just had fruit and chocolate for dessert. It was fine, no one complained.

I feel so happy and proud of this meal! It's not the one-time-only huge things in life that give me satisfaction, it's little stuff, like pulling off a nice (edible) meal that shows my friends I love them.

Once an Art Director, always an art director. I cut the peppers exactly in half, stems and all. I got perhaps more excited about it than is normal.

My dad suggested parboiling them ahead of time and then shocking them in a bath of ice water. Would you have ever in eleventeen hundred years believed I would be a person who parboils? A bunny boiler perhaps, but a parboiler? Has the world stopped spinning on its axis?

My un-glam picture of our little meal.

I meant to play Christmas carols but instead we listened to James Taylor and some old French songs and we had wine and conversation and it was a perfect day. Not because it was fancy (see: hashbrowns, above, and mismatched wineglasses) but because it had all the good stuff like laughing and talking and relaxing. And now I understand why people like cooking. I actually get it. And anyway everything tastes better when you caramelize an onion and light only your apples on fire.

Posted by laurie at 8:44 AM

December 15, 2010

Post-Book chat; books, movies and other assorted doodads

What interesting comments on last month's book club selection, Olive Kitteridge. I think I enjoyed reading the comments more than reading the book! (Oh, just kidding. But still.) Our winner was Jennifer (how many Jennifers are there in my life??) who said,

I like the book club idea Laurie, let's keep it up! How about The Portrait of a Lady for next time? I've never read it, and feel like I could use some book club support when I attempt it. :)

Congrats on winning! I don't know what the next book will be, as much as I love Henry James I'm not sure anyone else does. I worry about making people hate me with desperate abandon. But I am taking any and all suggestions for the next classic, although I want a book that meets the following criteria: FREE to all from the internet and have a free audiobook version. I'm open to any suggestions!

My editor inspects my work.

In other news:

• I saw Black Swan and much to my surprise it really was a ballet horror movie. This is something I knew going in and yet still, a ballet horror flick! I'm not going to say what I thought of the film since I don't want to sway you one way or the other but I will say that Natalie Portman's body was like its own character in the story. I think the movie opens nationwide on Christmas.

• Neil at Citizen of the Month is having his Fifth Annual Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert today. If you scroll long enough you may see one very famous cat just sitting there staring at people. And Neil, why are all your cabinets open in your video? Why? Why?

• Every time I mention I have gone off traveling somewhere I get lots of questions about the most important part of traveling: Who takes care of the cats? I have a lovely house sitter who is certified pet sitter and to me it is worth every penny. She's been part of my travels for over five years now! I couldn't travel if I didn't think they feline posse were in good hands. If you are looking for a qualified pet sitter, I suggest heading to the website http://www.petsit.com/ to find a professional near you. You may also be able to find someone by contacting your vet's office and asking for a recommendation. The most important thing is to go with your gut. Don't talk yourself into taking on someone you don't trust just because you think it will be hard to find a pet sitter. There are plenty of people in this world who love animals and will respect your home and once you find a good sitter it really frees up your worry space for other important anxieties, like which shoes to pack and which pants make your butt look best.

• As I type this I have a cat in my lap. Sobakowa likes it when I type in the mornings because she fits right into the nook between my body and the desk. She purrs and I type and we do this until my leg falls asleep. Several people have asked me about my keyboard (which has nothing to do with the cat, by the way) and how it looks so different from their mac keyboards. I like apple computers but I hate apple keyboards. I use The Matias Tactile Pro Keyboard, which is much more like an old fashioned keyboard, it clacks as loud as a typewriter. The loudness and springyness of it are its main points of awesomeness for me but I think people who are used to the quiet keyboarding experience of most modern computers will find it too old fashioned. BUT if you miss your old IBM Selectric daily, this is they keyboard for you. I type a lot so I need a perfect typing situation and for me this is it.


• Finally, How did it get to be December 15, 2010? Next year, 2011, is a prime number year. I hope it's a good omen. I think we could all use a good year.

Posted by laurie at 10:31 AM

December 13, 2010

Olive Kitteridge

Good morning! This month (and a half) of online bookishness was spent with Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

I first read Elizabeth Strout when Amy and Isabelle was published, and I thought she had a lovely writing style, so crisp at times you could close your eyes and just smell the scene.

I didn't realize at first that this book was a collection of short stories. Once I realized it wasn't a traditional novel I could appreciate the way it was arranged (I tend to like short stories, Alice Munro is a favorite.) I will say I didn't like this book nearly as much as I liked Amy and Isabelle. I'm very curious what you thought about the story collection format. Did you like it? Or do you prefer a solid, singular novel with a more traditional story arc? I often felt that I wanted a little more, but the format itself kind of painted Olive as much as the words: complex, seen in different lights as a different person, incomplete.

And what did you think of the book? Satisfying? Left you wanting? Loved it? couldn't get into it?

No matter what you think of Olive it's hard to deny that Strout is a beautiful writer. I think what I liked most about Olive Kitteridge was the underlying idea that you never really know another person. Of course there are folks who believe you can know someone else fully and completely but I just don't think it's possible. Every person has their secrets, their quiet omissions, their spaces that are unknowable even to themselves. Someone you've known a lifetime may surprise you tomorrow. And that underlying tone of the character makes the book both unsettling and interesting (to me). But then again I like the idea that every human being is a little puzzle of impulses and desires.

- - -

Let me know what you thought of the book and if you have a particular classic in mind you may want to read soon. I think we'll wait until after the new year to get all bookish again, perhaps because some of you are encased in snow and ice and perhaps because some of us have spring fever already with 80-degree sunny days. Or perhaps because neither of us can knit and read at the same time! (You all who can knit and read simultaneously boggle my mind. Boggle!) And I will pick someone from the comments to win a mystery box of goodies, including some Patons Up Country that is rarer than the most priceless gem...

Posted by laurie at 4:55 AM

December 8, 2010

Dude, where's my pat-down?

So I've been off gallivanting and I was sure I would come back with lascivious tales of pat downs and someone (me) making inappropriate sexual remarks to someone (random TSA dude) just doing their job but alas, there was nary an x-ray machine nor a rambunctious pat-down in sight. I had even carefully checked out the TSA attendants while I was standing in line, trying to figure out which one would become my post-pat-down babydaddy. What a surprise to discover that flying is the same old shoeless bore as always.

So yes, I headed off to the airport on Friday for a very early morning flight out to Kansas City. My family was gathering from the far-flung ends of the map to show up for my Uncle Truman's surprise 70th birthday party. (It is a very long story of how an avowed Southerner came to live in Kansas, a story for another time.) My brother flew in from Florida the same day and I timed my flights with his to cut down on the chauffeuring my family had to do. You can guess who got the better end of that deal. Why my vacations always seem to start at 3 a.m. is a constant mystery to me ... can someone please tell my why vacation cannot start at 10 a.m.?

Aside from my departure time, which was still the middle of the night, the flight was just fine. I am one of the few people I know who really loves airports but even I can't find anything good to say about the TSA's full body x-ray scanners so I was going to opt for one of those gynecological pat downs. The only downside is that I deeply believe if you want to get that up-close and personal with my coochie I need a glass of wine first, so I planned to make the TSA buy me a drink. HOWEVER, even I do not drink wine at 5 o'clock in the morning (yet). You can see how flying is very stressful for someone like me. Lots of stress. What with all the neuroses and all.

My cousin Melissa picked up me and my brother at the airport (different states, different airlines, yet still so coordinated! we are a marvel of ingenuity!) and we were off on Mission: Birthday Surprise.

Here are my brother Guy and cousin Melissa at the party:

They were best friends when we were kids. After all this time they are still like peas and carrots.

The three brothers, that's my Uncle Truman, my dad and my Uncle Skipper:


Uncle Truman, Carol (family friend) and Dad checking out the photos:

Paparazzi got you!

Me and my Dad having a self-portrait moment:


You KNOW my parents brought their favorite child along for the family reunion! Here is my mom and the baby:


No family travelogue would be complete without some Corgi butt:


Now, the picture below will not make my Dad happy, since I caught him mid-conversation, but it is the sole image I have of any of the handknits I hauled across the country for my family:


Sorry, Dad. But I have been knitting like a small factory sweatshop of one for weeks now and did I take a single picture of all the handknitted items I made? NO. I completed seven hats, one scarf and one pair of armwarmers. Also in addition to forgetting to take snapshots of the handknits I neglected to take pictures of the scenery, most of the people and most of the events of the long weekend, probably because it was 12 degrees outside. People. I am not used to degrees in the lower end of the 100s. For example, "freezing." I love all ya'll who live in the frozen Arctic tundra but I will not be visiting you again in December because although I thought I was prepared for the cold what with my raincoat and all, as it turns out I do not know from cold. In December here in Los Angeles we have dapper Dallas Raines and our difficult winter weather:

Yeah, that's right, 84 downtown on Sunday. Read it and weep.

After a long and happy and wine-drenched weekend I was so excited to come home to my little family of shorties and my weird city and my bed. Home is a beautiful thing. One of the shorties especially missed me, so much that even when typing this he was all into helping me and making sure I got it right, especially the spell-check:

Bob says, "No pat downs here, but we got all purring at half price!"

Posted by laurie at 6:25 PM

December 2, 2010

About-to-take-flight ears

The ears say it all.


Posted by laurie at 11:30 AM

December 1, 2010

Next-to-last monthly recap

Yes, here it is, the almost-last monthly roundup and also the first day of the last month of this year. Yikesamighty. Is 2010 really almost over?

- - -

November was the one I have been waiting for all year, the sort of month I think I had in mind when I first created this little resolution of mine to get happy and get healthy. Back in January OH SO LONG AGO I wasn't entirely sure what those goals really meant or how to measure them or what it entailed, realistically, to achieve such goals but November was when it finally all came together for me.

Hey, it only took me 11 months. Word up.

November was: perfect weather, feeling hopeful and content, listening to music, writing, cooking, walking in my neighborhood, not just every day but sometimes twice a day (I clocked just under 85 miles on my Nike + SportBand, which is crazypants.)

This whole year has been a rollercoaster, and not the cool, thrilling Magic Mountain sort of rollercoaster. It's been more like the scary, rickety rides you see at carnivals that spring up overnight in a parking lot in Reseda run by ex-cons and very short men with shaved heads.

I spent several months trying to power through it, which didn't work that well but I SMILED and STAYED POSITIVE BY GOD and EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT ONE DAY. In August I kind of split open majestically and then as the year closed in, all my pieces somehow managed to fit back together, this time even better than they were before. What I am telling you is that it is mysterious and goofy and illogical, but November was not just the best month I have had all year it was the best month I have had in years.

Nothing stupendous happened, I did not go on any dates with Al Gore or take any lush European vacations or get a fabulous haircut or even go to the movies. The source of my happiness didn't come from something I bought or ate or watched on TV. Something changed on the inside. It's been improving steadily these past few months but only recently do I wake up each day feeling good about living. It's not something you can buy or wear or show off (and I ought to know, I spent a lot of years trying to buy me some happiness.) It's not tangible. It didn't cost anything. I am as surprised as you are.

And I feel hopeful and optimistic but not in that vigilant wild-eyed way you get when you're about to fall over. It's more subtle. I think it's ironic and funny that it came to me this way. I've spent most of my adult life hoping I would finally be happy when conditions were right -- when I had enough money or lived in just the right place or had just the right amount of accomplishment. On paper, current conditions are not just right and still I wake up feeling better than I did the day before. Perhaps all that hooey about harmony coming from the inside out might be true. Who knew! What I can say for sure is that I've been away from the bank for five months now and I'm finally exhaling, sleeping, plugging in to my life. It's not perfect and that makes it all the more surprising.

So that was November. In November I just lived my new life and it was good. That's all I wanted. That's all any of us want, right? To have a good day and string several together for a good life.

And now it's December, the last month of this wacky year. Hopefully now I'm at that part of the ride where you step off and thank the good Lord that your rollercoaster didn't get stuck upside-down and you can leave the amusement park and go have a cocktail.

- - -

December Goals: Just do more of the same. And finish the book.

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Posted by laurie at 9:20 AM

Congrats to the sock book winners!

The winners of the sock books giveaways were reader Victoria (who shares my love of Fitch from Detroit 1-8-7) and reader Michelle in Colorado, who has made a sock-only pact with a friend, so I do hope these books help you with that. Though I may try to persuade you to try a hat now and then...

Thank you to all the (0ver 800!!) people who participated! In December I have LOTS of knitting books to give away, so stay tuned for more.

Posted by laurie at 9:00 AM