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March 31, 2011

Happy Birthday, Al Gore

Dear Al Gore,

Happy 63rd birthday! If we go by the Official Law Of Dating Ages, whereby one can date anyone who is at least half your age plus eight, I am inside the safety zone so we can go out. Tomorrow! Call me!

Love,
Laurie

P.S. I just bought a new catalytic converter for the Jeep so it could pass the California emissions test. And GUESS WHAT! Today when I got the (hot, sexy, RED) Jeep re-tested my studmobile not only passed smog testing but its emissions had also fallen below the state averages. I believe I am practically producing pure oxygen from the tailpipe of that sexy little ride. Just think it through. We could be so good together.

P.P.S. Plus I am already completely packed up and could move again, like tomorrow. Love!

Posted by laurie at 3:23 PM

March 30, 2011

Notes From Box City

1) When packing, I decided to take all my underwear out of the dresser and put it in a box just in case the dresser flew open or something. Even in my panic to move I knew I didn't want the moving guys seeing my panties splayed out all over the place. But I didn't have a code word for "panties box" so it was left unmarked and now I can't find it in the pile.

2) At 6 a.m. this morning I bought panties at Rite-Aid. My basket contained a bottle of wine, two packs of panties, six cans of fancy feast (so fancy!) and a large bottle of Advil.

3) My new generic apartment building seems to be populated entirely by dudes. I'm relieved. Not because I want to get friendly with them but because dudes of the Los Angeles actor/screenwriter/waiter type are fairly low on the drama scale. I hope.

4) It's like 85 degrees here today all-the-sudden. Did I move to summer? Awesome!

5) Bob is still hiding in the closet.

6) I missed Castle because of course I was in transit but then I remembered I could just catch up online. It made me think of the time before TV was online and before the DVR and how upset I was to miss the season opener of Felicity when we all found out if she picked Ben or Noel. On that day I was out of town. Honestly, I remember being deeply worried about who she would pick and could never have forseen that she would CUT HER HAIR. The insanity!!

Anyway, I tried to set the VCR to record Felicity before I went out of town but of course I ended up recording something else, like Sesame Street or something, and I was bereft. Bereft! I was working at a studio back then so I called everyone I knew and people I didn't know to get a show tape and finally a friend over at Univision sent me a pity tape but it was in Spanish and I was still SO HAPPY. But sad, too, because the hair! The hair!

Now I can just go online at watch TV. It is kind of amazing this innernets that Al Gore created. I love you, Al. I've got wine, call when you can.

- - -

That's all I've got today. I know you want the juicy details of Whatever Happened With Baby Jane but I can't really talk about all of it. One day it will make a good story. I will be interested to see how far away that day is. As for me, I am not in the closet along with Bob so that is a good sign, although I did cry in the shower and eat peanut butter straight from the jar BUT I did not do those two activities simultaneously so I am pretty sure all these months of therapy have helped turn me into a person who can at least separate out her pity parties. PROGRESS! I'll take it.

Thank you for all the good vibes, I needed that. Thank you!

Posted by laurie at 4:08 PM

March 29, 2011

People say I'm the life of the party 'cause I tell a joke or two

HI. I MOVED.

IN THREE DAYS.

You know what's awesome? What's awesome is having to find a new apartment for you and your herd of felines in Los Angeles and pack up your whole household and move in three days. It is not at all dull. Also, it burns so many calories.

My name is Laurie and I am about to have some wine. At 10 a.m. In my new home. Where I just moved. Today. (Of course I have no internet or power or anything so I will go to a coffee shop to post this, or maybe the sushi place on the corner, I don't know, I just moved here. Help me.)

There is a whole lot of repressed dramatic going on, and I am sure one day it will bubble up and I will find myself alone in the closet with a large pepperoni pizza. OK, not the closet. Because that is gross. But you understand what I am saying here.

SO WHAT HAPPENED WAS...

My next door neighbor had a psychotic break. I'm not actually a doctor (even though I play one on TV) but I feel that term best describes what happened at The Place Where I Once Lived yesterday. I'm not sure if it was drug-induced or if she went off her medication or if Elvis speaks to her. All I know is that I had to bolt. I can't tell you too many of the details, but I think "psychotic break" sums it up.

So in what will go down in history as the most expensive few days of my life, I fled the scene in a flurry of self-preservation. There wasn't much choice, and that part is awful, also I will be eating ramen noodles for the next six years. In the same time period there was family stuff and also there was car stuff, neither of which has been resolved, and I think one of the cats is sick, and we have an appointment because all scary and expensive things must happen in the same week as predetermined by the Universe and its absurd sense of humor. But now I live somewhere else NOT SPECIFIED and it has a security system and what is most important is that I am alive to tell you this story. I'm not sure what my beyond-the-grave internet access would look like anyway.

In the midst of all this I remember telling myself to be thankful because even though this situation is ridiculously stressful and expensive it is not a tsunami or nuclear contamination zone or similar. But being forced out of your home by a psychotic person kind of sucks. So I am just going to table any moral qualms I have about my emotions and watch for the pizza man.

There you have it, the one-act dramatic play of March, 2011, presented in six acts. Now, intermission!

- - -

In a not-entirely-unrelated subject, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about Blogads. I've never really been good at shilling or shucking or whatever it is (oh! I think "begging" may be the word!) but I do have links for advertising spaces on the sidebar over there --->

And if you have a business or even if you just want to advertise your blog for a week, I have dropped all the prices on my ads so they are delicious and affordable. It's very easy to purchase a blogad, all you have to do is point-and-click, there are premium ads (at the top of the sidebar) and there are classic ads which appear in the middle of the sidebar but are way cheaper (as low as $25 for a week!) and then there are the new ad squares, the most affordable of all, which cost only $5 a day. You can upload and submit your ad in no time at all.

And if you don't have any need for a blogad, there is still one awesome thing you can do. When you see an ad on the sidebar, give it a click! I do not get paid per click but your interest helps the advertisers know their ad is being seen and clicked upon (and hopefully it encourages them to advertise more.)

- - -

At this point in the column I feel like I should say, "And now back to your regularly scheduled programming." But in a low, 1960s TV-announcer voice.

- - -

Before today's program concludes I want to leave you with one funny image, like they used to do on "Hee Haw." Because what is the point of living your life if you can't find something to laugh at like the heyday of Hee Haw? Honestly!

soba-moving-day.jpg
THIS BOX IS ALREADY OCCUPIED. MOVE ALONG.

Posted by laurie at 1:58 PM

March 26, 2011

Klassy with a "K"

The cheerful waiting room at my mechanic's shop had only one magazine.

mechanic.jpg

The articles were awesome.

Posted by laurie at 12:23 PM

March 24, 2011

What I Know For Sure

Oprah has a whole column in her self-titled magazine about what she knows for sure. It's my favorite part of the magazine (along with Martha Beck, who I love. Thanks, life coach by proxy!) Here in the land of the nutjob and boobjob I also know some things for sure. Im'a let you talk ... but first I think we're in some weird swirling vortex of worldwide PMS and we need to be on high alert. Something is up! People! I feel it in traffic, in the way people are at the grocery store, in line at Rite-Aid (seriously, Dude With EarBob Phone, do not rush the man in the wheelchair!)

Also I feel it in my bones, plus my life has exploded so there's some proof. What I am saying is be aware of the crazy energy. Read your gut feeling first and follow it. This is good advice I wish I would have told myself in January. Nonetheless, it's never too late to follow your gut. Mine is telling me many things, some of which are chocolate-related.

What I know for sure:

On the days I feel all alone in my life, in my city, when I'm not sure how I will make it through a thing, I know I have you in my back pocket. You may think your little funny comment or link doesn't even cross my desk but you're wrong. I read your comment, click your link, sometimes email a teary thanks. I am as imperfect and flawed as they come and yet we all found each other. I know I have been a poor correspondent and unlikely host. But I have mad appreciation for you. From you I have learned about good books, excellent TV shows, metaphysical writers, that flylady who evangelizes a clean sink and of course greenies pill pockets.

Thanks, man.

Something else I know for sure: You all know some profound sh!t. Reader Jackie wrote to me yesterday, "I am a willow, I can bend." I needed to hear that. Hell yeah I am a (chubby) willow, I can bend and straighten back up and weep and do all kinds of crazyass stuff you do not expect from tress. Represent! Word to your Willow.

I am in the midst of Large Size Shenanigans here at Chez Spinster. Being alone is easy, until it's hard, and I have felt alone and dramatical lately. My friend Jennifer stepped up like a superhero and I hope you go tell her she is a righteous babe. My friend Corey (no website, what, is she living in a pre-AOL world?) is also a superhero. I'm not always sure how to be a good friend but I am learning from the examples of these ladies.

My updates for the next days may be sporadic or they may be tipsy outpourings of blah blah. No telling! There is a lot going on.

Finally, the last thing I know for sure: One day we will all laugh at this and I will tell the story of March, 2011 and in the story I will probably be taller. No. I will definitely be taller.

In the meantime I am maintaining.

I did take a pic of my cool-but-scary racecar yellow nails on my man hands:

yellownails.jpg

Last night I stayed up late and painted my nails a friendly bubblegum pink, and so the reign of yellow has ended. Pink makes me feel optimistic and I need that today. The most cheerful things I know are pink, or chocolate-covered, or wearing fur pants. SPEAKING OF WHICH. Here are some recent pictures of the fur-pants set. As you can see they are not ruffled one bit by the world's PMS.

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frankie-all-the-way

I love that zen. They have this willow stuff on LOCK.

Posted by laurie at 6:02 PM

March 23, 2011

It's raining nuts and coconuts

While I tend to suck at fulfillment -- not the hippy dippy kind of fulfillment, but the prize-in-mailbox type -- I just got back from an hourlong marathon at the post office and books have been sent, packages mailed, little notes enclosed!

The winners were:

Monday: Ami Ami Dogs: Seriously Cute Crochet
Winners: Katrina in MA, Melba in TN
Pending: Annie in Norway who needs to check her email!!!

Tuesday: A Knitting Wrapsody
Winners: Janet in NY
and commenter Denise L (at 11:52) who needs to check her email!!

Wednesday: Knitting Block by Block: 150 Blocks for Sweaters, Scarves, Bags, Toys, Afghans, and More
Winner: Rebecca in Washington

Thursday: The Art of Knitted Lace: With Complete Lace How-to and Dozens of Patterns, Warm Knits, Cool Gifts: Celebrate the Love of Knitting and Family with more than 35 Charming Designs, Cables Untangled: An Exploration of Cable Knitting
Winner: Tracy in VA

Friday Bookfest giveaway: One Ball Knits Purses: 20 Stylish Handbags Made with a Single Ball, Skein, Hank, or Spool, One Ball Knits Gifts: 20 Stylish Designs Made with a Single Ball, Skein, Hank, or Spool, Jil Eaton's Knitting School: The Complete Guide to Becoming a Confident Knitter, 60 Quick Knits: 20 Hats*20 Scarves*20 Mittens in Cascade 220, Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair and Home Is Where the Wine Is
Winner: Ethel in California

Thanks again to all the people who played along!

- - -


It's raining again. And I have a philosophical question for you which is not weather-related but seems to fit in with the soggy forecast.

How you deal with crazy stuff? Do you run and hide or do you try to take a stand and hope that truth and sanity will prevail?

I'll be honest, I'm of the run and hide variety. It's not that I'm a coward (much) but that I don't like getting into the mud. I'm Southern at the core, just hoping people will mind their manners and be polite. But sometimes you get dragged into a thing. What do you do then? Pray? Drink? Knit a cloak of invisibility? All of the above?

I know this is sketchy on details, and one day later I will tell you the very true story of March 23rd, 2011. I've just had a hard day and right now I kind of wish I had superpowers, like a lasso of truth and some kind of justice ring. I would even settle for a jetpack to make a speedy exit. But all I have are these cats and my excellent selection of curling irons.

What a day, folks. What a day.

Posted by laurie at 2:37 PM

March 22, 2011

Catch Up

1) We had a storm and my cable and internet both went out, and that was sad, and somehow I feel behind on all things in my life, and then the sun came out, and now I have a to-do list twelve feet long. Not sure what happened!

2) There is an inspection today in my building and people are milling around all over the place and I wonder if the CIA is about to bust in and take over this Russian Spy Ring I call home.

3) Since there was no cable I watched all he Bourne DVDs last night, might explain # 2 there.

4) I have to vacuum.

5) This is just a stopgap post to fill space until I can sit down.

frankie-super-sleeping.jpg

Cat Pants!


Posted by laurie at 11:49 AM

March 18, 2011

Final Freebie Book Day: So many books, so little time!

I just love any headline that ends with an exclamation point. So professional. (!!!)

Today we wrap up the big week of knitting book giveaways with a big pile of knitting awesomeness (and two drunken masterpieces by yours truly.)

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All six books go to one lucky winner!

One Ball Knits Purses: 20 Stylish Handbags Made with a Single Ball, Skein, Hank, or Spool by Fatema, Khadija, and Hajera Habibur-Rahman

One Ball Knits Gifts: 20 Stylish Designs Made with a Single Ball, Skein, Hank, or Spool by Fatema, Khadija, and Hajera Habibur-Rahman

Jil Eaton's Knitting School: The Complete Guide to Becoming a Confident Knitter by Jil Eaton

60 Quick Knits: 20 Hats*20 Scarves*20 Mittens in Cascade 220

Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair and Home Is Where the Wine Is by Ye Olde Crazypants

Quick overview and credit:
Watson-Guptill publishes such great knitting books, the one-ball series is my favorite, though, because there are so many cute ideas for using up that one last skein in your stash. The Cascade 220 book (60 Quick Knits) surprised me with how much I loved it -- there are tons of fun projects in this book and it's a keeper for any knitter. I highly recommend it! Thanks to the folks at sixth&spring for sending this copy. Potter Craft sent the Jil Eaton book, fantastic for new knitters and a good reference for anyone who likes sticks and string. Jil Eaton has a way of explaining complicated techniques in real words that make sense. And of course there are my two tomes thrown in there for good measure. It's quite a pile of books for your knitting shelf!

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Just so you do not believe all hope is lost in the world, I'm going to let you in on a secret. I still have a few other books set aside to give away later so all the giving goodness has not been depleted. Maybe we can do that next month.

RULES
To be eligible to win, post a comment in the comment section of this entry. Comments will close tomorrow. Winner(s) chosen at random and notified by email. Good luck!

NOTE
If you want to win you need to include a valid email address with your comment. IF you do not want your email address to show up beneath your comment name, you must enter some web address in the URL field. This is internet tomfoolery! I'm sorry I am bad with the code. Anyway, you can just type http://www.crazyauntpurl.com in the URL if you want.

ALSO!
If you don't want this book but still want to comment by all means please do, but let me know you aren't interested OR just leave off your email address.

- - -

I'M A CHATTERBOX

Girly topic of the day: Rimmel London Mascara
Have you seen the ads for this mascara on TV? It promises to make your eyelashes gloriously reminiscent of the swingin' sixties. It's called Lash Accelerator Mascara and cute Zooey Deschanel is the spokesmodel for the line. Have you tried it? I like the idea. I don't wear much makeup but I like mascara as it is the bane of the blonde existence to have light eyelashes. I'm curious if I buy this product will I turn into Twiggy? Or, better yet, Zooey Deschanel?

Hope springs eternal.

My wise friend Jennifer has a wonderful attitude about what we should and shouldn't splurge on in these scary recession belt-tightening times. "Don't deny yourself the nailpolish or similar," she advises. ""This is equivalent to ladies splurging on lipstick in the war days. So much impact for so little cash." And I agree!


- - -

Speaking of Jennifer, last night she emailed me a story that I now must share with you. It sparked much debate between us. You can read it here and then come back to weigh in. (Story opens in a new window.)

Jen, being the smart and glamorous lawyer that she is, was intrigued that Game Warden Travis Buttle had spoken to two people on East Street, but not McDonald, about the squirrel. I agreed with her from a legal perspective that this seems like quite a lapse in his investigation.

YET. The core of our lengthy (really lengthy) discussion was about how we both felt sorry for the squirrel. In fact I believe I very much over-identify with the animal, as I myself have felt like clawing and biting people after times in my life of deep betrayal.

The squirrel and I both need help, it seems. Loose cannons abound.

- - -

Claire Griffiths asked, "What is the next book for the bookclub?"

Hi Claire! I haven't picked it yet. Next week! Promise! Did you have something specific in mind? I'm leaning toward The Great Gatsby. It's short and it's something we've all been saying we need to re-read for a while. What do you think?


- - -

Theresa P. writes, "Those Noro gloves ... so matchy-matchy. Impressive. How come my Noro always has some wacky color from out of nowhere right in the middle of my otherwise normal color runs?! (Not to mention the knots.) Me and Noro -- not always the best of friends.

Theresa, I have become so neurotic about the Noro. It's partly my personality but also I think something about the colorways brings out the crazy. I honestly searched all the way through the skein to find a matching colorway for the second glove. AND then when it seemed the yellow was going on a bit too long, I snipped the yarn, reconnected it and started knitting again. I am NUTS. Seriously.

- - -

Mo said, "I've noticed that there are more pictures of the Himbo than the girls. Is it just because he's a total ham for the camera? Or that he's always around for the attention?"

Bob, a true Himbo if ever one existed, is most often the target of my camera because he is my constant little shadow. His favorite thing (other than eating Greenies) is helping me write:

this-is-how-we-do-it.jpg

This is my workspace: computer, cat, keyboard. Awesome. If I could teach him to program a database we'd be in business. Below is a shot from earlier in the week. It's my current favorite picture! I love that the magical combination of lighting, focus and adorableness came together all at one time:

bob-firewall1.jpg

- - -

Well, there you have it. A week of freebies! Thanks so much to everyone for playing along. I personally have been a little stressed out (read: sometimes in panic) about current world events and it's so nice to read all your witty comments and hear about your pets, kids, your philisophical stance on nailpolish, and your entrelac feelings. There's a calm reassurance to it all. I do read every single comment and I appreciate all the chitchat. Just brightens up the whole day!

Good luck for the win!

Posted by laurie at 9:08 AM

March 17, 2011

Thursday's Books: Knitted Lace, Warm Knits Cool Gifts, and Cables Untangled

This week of freebie books has been fun, can't believe it's already Thursday! Today I'm giving away two new titles and one tried-and-true:

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The Art of Knitted Lace: With Complete Lace How-to and Dozens of Patterns featuring patterns by Kristin Omdahl, Lisa Llloyd, Annie Modesitt, Phoenix Bess, Berta Karapetyan, and Melissa Matthay

Warm Knits, Cool Gifts: Celebrate the Love of Knitting and Family with more than 35 Charming Designs by Sally Melville

Cables Untangled: An Exploration of Cable Knitting by Melissa Leapman (NOTE: The version I'm giving away today is the hardcover original, not the paperback in the amazon.com link)

The first two books mentioned are fairly new releases. The cables book is a classic, this is the hardcover version. All three books will go to one winner. Much love to Potter Craft for the books and for the general awesomeness that is the Potter Craft world.

RULES
To be eligible to win, post a comment in the comment section of this entry. Comments will close tomorrow. Winner(s) chosen at random and notified by email. Good luck!

NOTE
If you want to win you need to include a valid email address with your comment. IF you do not want your email address to show up beneath your comment name, you must enter some web address in the URL field. This is internet tomfoolery! I'm sorry I am bad with the code. Anyway, you can just type http://www.crazyauntpurl.com in the URL if you want.

ALSO!
If you don't want this book but still want to comment by all means please do, but let me know you aren't interested OR just leave off your email address.

- - -


LET'S CHITCHAT

Polished nails
I stopped polishing my nails when I stopped getting acrylics. About four years ago I had beautiful fake Southern-girl acrylic nails, oh I loved them. One day I went for a fill and something went very, very wrong. Within days my beautiful long nails turned icky colors reminiscent of the bayou swamps of my youth. NOT GOOD.

Mostly I was terrified of my fingers falling off since typing is my life. I woke up in a panic one night wondering how on earth I would type if all my fingers rotted off and the next day I returned to the shop crying and freaking out and made them remove the acrylics (and it HURT) and I never went back. It took months for all that crap to grow out but my fingers did not fall off as you probably guessed. Drama queen that I am.

Now I just keep my nails clipped very short and plain. But last week something came over me and I painted my nails. This week I even bought new nail polish, a garish and quite awful race-car yellow color that I rather like. Something about having polished nails makes me feel girlier, in a good way. (Though not good enough to take a picture of my stubby man hands and post that on the internet, so it seems.) Where do you stand on the nail polish situation?

- - -

Pawdua says, "I know you don't like to speak in public but too bad you couldn't go to all the Stitches and have a meet the author class and get paid. Then all your blog fans could meet you."

Hi Pawdua! I am really quite terrible at public speaking, and also don't leave the house much, but if that combo is intriguing to you AND if you're local you are in luck! I am doing two back-to-back events in one weekend next month which is almost unheard of with me. The first is Friday, April 8th at the RT Convention (my friend Rachael and I are doing a panel together) and on Saturday, April 9th I'll be at Literary Orange for a memoir panel. I think my session starts at 1 p.m. and there will be some chitchat time at the end.

Hope to see you there. I'm extra-rusty from doing no publicity for over a year so Lord only knows what ridiculous things will exit from my mouth. Fun for the whole family! If the whole family is over 18...

- - -

Courtney asked, "What happens to all of your finished knitting projects? Do you wear them or give them away? I love the act of knitting but often find that after I've finished I just store it away (or give it away). Do you find the same?"

Hi Courtney. Like you, I give away most of the stuff I knit or pack it away in a drawer. I really love the activity of knitting but unless I move to Siberia I will never be able to wear most of this stuff. I enjoy giving gifts so it works out. I do keep my handknit Noro gloves in my purse, though, because sometimes my hands get cold and they are by far the best thing I've ever knit. They make me happy just to look at them.

- - -

Rebecca asked, "Have you been to Michael Levine's lately? Now that I'm not living in LA, I so miss that store!"

You know, I haven't been to the garment district in a long time but I still have some fabric here at home from my last trip to Michael Levine's! My sofa pillows are looking a little on the tragic side, so maybe I should give them new slipcovers for spring. I'll keep you posted.

- - -

Kim wrote, "I just finished a book I thought you might like: The Magician's Assistant. Have you read this? It talks a lot about L.A. You would probably be more familiar with some of the places than I was."

Kim, that book is one of the best novels I have ever read. I LOVED IT. (I wrote about it here.) I could feel the main character's love of this city, and I thought the story itself was a page-turner.

Here's a funny tidbit, your comment made me think of this. So, as most of you know I'm writing my first fiction book and fiction is a whole new world for me, nothing at all like memoir or essay writing. When I initially dreamed up the plot I didn't understand how much more difficult it is to make up a story than just put a funny spin on some real-life thing that happened. ANYWAY. My main character is Southern but she relocates midway through the book. When I first sketched out the bones of the plot I thought she should move to Boston. Boston. A city I have never even visited once in my lifetime.

It's one thing to make up a fictional realm and populate it with your creativity, but it is a whole 'nother ball of wax to write a fiction story set in a real city. One afternoon I remember thinking, "Hmmm, my Boston looks an awful lot like the Valley."

That was the moment I put down the winesack and grew some common sense and now my character relocates to Sherman Oaks. Seriously. What was I thinking?

- - -

Donna writes, "I have only been knitting for a year and love it. I was hoping your blog would be more of a knitting blog."

Well, Donna, I really hear you on this one. I was hoping my blog would be more of a Gets-Married-To-Al-Gore blog. Failing that, I would have settled for a blog about moving to Paris and becoming a taller and sexier version of me who is also a spy. As you can imagine, I am as disappointed as you are. Luckily tomorrow is a new day and anything could happen!

Like you, when I first started knitting I was just on fire with it and I wanted to read all about knitting and mostly I wanted to talk all about it. I think I have calmed down considerably in this area. I do still knit, though, and one day I plan to write a rockin' entrelac tutorial so don't give up on me altogether. Plus if I marry Al Gore you can read about our hot eco-love. And that may involve hot eco-yarns. Because I am creative that way.

- - -


Judy wrote, "I have noticed that your writing style has become wonderfully relaxed over the past few months. You no longer seem so frantic."

That is perhaps the nicest thing I have heard in ages. Thank you! I do feel less frantic and crazed and anxious. Things are different and stressful in new ways now, but in general I feel happier.

I never want to go back to that version of me, the one who can't sleep or breathe or enjoy anything. That's not living. I used to get so tied up in knots just from the smallest things, I was wound up tighter than a sprocket. The littlest thing made me feel defeated or angry -- a snarky note, missing the bus, someone cutting me off on the 101.

Now I don't really get all that riled up anymore. Yesterday I was in traffic and there was a lady next to me honking and gesturing and carrying on because I had the nerve to merge onto the freeway. In the past I was that crazy lady so I had mad compassion for her, I kind of stalled on the on-ramp shoulder so she could get ahead of me because clearly she was having a bad day. Then I turned my radio up real loud and thanked God I'm not frantic like that anymore. I still have my crazy stuff but it's a better version of crazy.

- - -

Well, that's it for today folks. You have all been really good sports with Giveaway Week and I thank you. Tomorrow is the last day! I will post a full list of the winners on Saturday because it's taking some time to hear back from everyone and also get my act together. And I know you've already donated where you can with all the stress and anxiety in the world, so I wish I had 6000 copies of everything to give to all ya'll, free books for all. I was thinking that this morning when I woke up. So! I have decided that if I ever become rich I'm just going to have a day where every single person gets a free book. Let's hope this happens and that it somehow involves Al Gore and me having eco-love in Paris. And in the fantasy I am taller. And everyone gets a free knitting book. Wouldn't that be lovely? Yay for having lofty aspirations!

Finally, a little behind-the-scenes peek:

bob-post-its.jpg

I AM DOING SOME DECORATING, OK?

Posted by laurie at 8:30 AM

March 16, 2011

Knitting Block By Block -- A big ol' Wednesday freebie

Today's book giveaway selection is one of my favorite new knitting books of the year. It's Nicky Epstein's Knitting Block by Block: 150 Blocks for Sweaters, Scarves, Bags, Toys, Afghans, and More.

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It's a luscious hardcover book that features my #1 most favorite thing in all of knitting: the knitted block. A block is like a swatch with attitude. You can learn amazing techniques this way and knit yourself a whole blanket. I personally use knit block patterns to expand my handwarmer repertoire ... for what is a handwarmer except a knitted block that is seamed up one side? Leave a hole for the thumb and you're golden.

This book is a tome, really packed with patterns and information. There are a lot of charts in this book, so if you abhor charts and can't bear to knit from one than this is not your giveaway. (I always think it's good to know in advance what you're trying to win, yes?) But if you're into complex and beautiful block patterns this is your book. Thank you so much to Jessica Reich from Crown Publishing Group who hooked me up with a giveaway copy.

RULES
To be eligible to win, post a comment in the comment section of this entry. Comments will close tomorrow. Winner(s) chosen at random and notified by email. Good luck!

NOTE
If you want to win you need to include a valid email address with your comment. IF you do not want your email address to show up beneath your comment name, you must enter some web address in the URL field. This is internet tomfoolery! I'm sorry I am bad with the code. Anyway, you can just type http://www.crazyauntpurl.com in the URL if you want.

ALSO!
If you don't want this book but still want to comment by all means please do, but let me know you aren't interested OR just leave off your email address.


Winners of the crochet book were alerted (still waiting confirmation on one) and yesterday's winners will be selected this morning. Need coffee!

- - -

CHITCHAT, YO

Jen asked: (About yesterday's photo) I love the print on your wall behind the Soba -- where is it from?

Jen, it's a silkscreen that I bought in the Target garden department (I know, right?) about three years ago. I'm sure it would be cooler to make up a story about buying it from some hip local gallery but yeah, I got it on sale at Target for like six bucks. It's actually one of three, all the same print but on different fabric. I have them hanging like a mini-installation above the stairs.

**

Debbie said: Seriously, Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat is the BEST cat litter with a really dumb name. In Cincinnati, the only place I can find it is at PetsMart.

Debbie, I buy it there, too! I mean the L.A. store, as a drive to Cincinnati and back would be crazy even for me. I once bought the 40-pound bag off amazon.com with a free shipping thing and the UPS man practically flipped me off as he delivered it.


**

The Cat Litter Chronicles: A New TV Show
Not really, but it would be funny to show up at a pitch meeting and do a whole spiel on a TV show just about cat litter. Especially since men in Los Angeles seem to be unnaturally terrified of cats.

Yesterday I heard from lots of folks on their favorite brands of cat litter and while the cats here at Chez Hairball love Dr. Elsey's, you will probably have to experiment to find something just right for your own home and herd. The one thing that is ALWAYS true and applies to ALL CATS is that you must keep the litter box clean! It doesn't take long. A quick scoop twice a day will do it. Clean, clean, clean!

**

Heather asked:
Wait - by corn based cat litter not sold in California you don't mean World's Best do you??! 'Cause if so, I need to get my cats used to another brand before I make the planned move West in 18 months.

Hi Heather. Don't panic. They sell WBCL here. You can read about the banned brand of corn litter in this old post where I shook my tiny fist of rage. Every other litter company in the world just added a small sticker to the bags which says, "Don't flush!" except the one brand I used to use and WILL NEVER EVER USE AGAIN. That company simply does not care about Californians. I HATE them still. Even though hate is a strong word I believe it applies in this case.

**

Jill said: About... HEAVY. I love the shows both ways and wonder why the switch? The shows had to be taped long before they started airing, so the switch can't be blamed on viewer feedback.

Jill, I think that's what I was most curious about -- why the format switch midseason? Did a bi-polar director helm the season? Or perhaps the show was split between two producers, each with their own vision? So interesting. Unless I am just dreaming up some backstage drama that never happened. But that is what I do when I'm not talking about cat litter.

**

Candice asked: Laurie, are you watching Celebrity Apprentice? The ratio of crazy to not as crazy is unbelievable. Hello, naked guy from Survivor 1, Gary Busey, LaToya Jackson... If you aren't watching it, you should because this coming Sunday they put Gary Busey in charge of it all and that's going to be a hilarious disaster, I can only imagine!

Hi Candice. I don't watch but I am just posting a reply to your comment because you made me laugh. I can only imagine what a world where Busey Is Boss would look like. Teevee brings us so much goodness.


**

Readers Diana in NYC and Zaftiguous both asked what I am knitting these days. I'm into entrelac right now, I have a scarf going. I kind of took a break from knitting from December-February. I've been writing a lot and exercising a lot but not knitting so much and now I'm back into entrelac which seems to either bore or scare my fellow knitters. Sometimes I think I am all alone in my entrelackian world.


**

Kristen said: I just picked up The Book of Awakening, based on your feedback...I like it, some days it's just what I need to hear. I confess that I have been reading ahead, I can't help myself.

Kristen -- I read ahead, too. Some of his essays don't hit me (that day) but I'll skip ahead and find one that just grabs me. I don't do any of the meditation stuff, though. I really suck at meditating and it stresses me out. Go, Team Neurotic.

**


NOW for the Investigative Photo Journalism portion of the day:

seriously-wtf.jpg

If I spoke Cat, I imagine I would have heard this:

Frankie: OM MY GOD, you guys, look, look, I am touching her!!!! I am going to sit here and inhale her sweet, Dictator smell and just be in her presence and look OMFG I am touching her! I am trying to remain CALM. YOU GUYS! I am touching The One! It's like that time when they said there was no spoon, except, like, I am so totally touching The Spoon!

Sobakowa: Do you see the crap I have to put up with?


Posted by laurie at 9:01 AM

March 15, 2011

Today's free book selection: A Knitting Wrapsody

Today's free booktastic giveaway is A Knitting Wrapsody by designer Kristin Omdahl. This is a lovely book with some intricate and detailed wrap patterns. I love knitting pattern books that show each item from a few different angles and this one does that beautifully.

A Knitting Wrapsody also comes with a free instructional DVD illustrating some of the more unusual and detailed techniques. This is the first knitting book I've seen that has a how-to DVD included and I LOVE THAT!! For people like me who love knitting but don't always feel confident in their skills an instructional DVD is invaluable. I would say this is an advanced level book, most of the projects are quite intricate, like wearable works of art.

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You can read more about the book and the author on the amazon page for A Knitting Wrapsody: Innovative Designs to Wrap, Drape, and Tie. Special thanks to Jaime Guthals at Interweave, Interweave puts out some of the most beautiful and unique knitting books in the world and Jaime sent me TWO copies for you, so there will be two winners today. Math, I am so onto you!


RULES
To be eligible to win, post a comment in the comment section of this entry. Comments will close tomorrow. Winner(s) chosen at random and notified by email. Good luck!

NOTE
If you want to win you need to include a valid email address with your comment. IF you do not want your email address to show up beneath your comment name, you must enter some web address in the URL field. This is internet tomfoolery! I'm sorry I am bad with the code. Anyway, you can just type http://www.crazyauntpurl.com in the URL if you want.


---

Chitchat:

• I am in the midst of alerting yesterday's winners, and by that I mean I have not yet gotten used to the time change and am running an hour behind on life. Thanks to everyone who participated!

• Reader Marilyn wrote: "I don't understand twitter, I hope you will keep up with your blog, I check it everyday in hope for a chuckle or two!"

Well, Marilyn, I'm not entirely sure I understand the tweeter either, though that has not stopped me from making random proclamations now and then. Having said that, I do not plan to ever stop writing online. I just like typing up my blahblahblah every day and I certainly can't do all that navel gazing in under 140 characters! I do think eventually I might start a new website that works a little better technically but I'm not in any rush.

• Lisa wrote: "I was thinking of you this weekend because I am on the quest for perfect cat litter. I'm trying to find a natural brand that works."

Hi Lisa! I have tried pretty much every cat litter on planet earth. A lot of folks swear by the wheat stuff, it never worked for me, but I did find a corn version that was great until they stopped selling to California and I am still mad about it. Now, I use Dr. Elsey's (Precious Cat) Cat Attract Litter, which has solved 100% of all box mishaps here at the house of Fussy Cats.

Recently I was in the grocery store and saw a new cat litter, Desert's Sand Cat box filler. I bought it more as an experiment than anything else, it's basically a very fine beach sand. The cats LOVED it. By that I mean they rolled around in it for hours making the kittycat version of snow angels and then they got up, covered entirely in powdery sand, and proceeded to track it all over the house. Good times!

I hope you find something that works for you.

• Now for the teevee topic of the day. I think the new episodes of Heavy that feature folks living at Hilton Head Health for half a year are so much better in tone and style than the original episodes. For one thing, the staff in these shows actually show compassion while also helping teach life skills and new ways of coping. It's also weird, though, like these shows have nothing at all in common with the first five or six episodes. Agree? Disagree? Stopped watching because the first episodes were not good?

• Yesterday Sobakowa planted herself at the top of the stairs (along with some toys, a half-chewed emery board and two hair elastics) and wouldn't let anyone pass without a fight. By "anyone" I mean Bob and Frankie.

This is a conundrum, since the food is downstairs but the catboxes and the good sunshine spots are all upstairs. At one point I saw Frankie standing midway on the stairs debating. Cats take a looong time to think things through. Finally she decided to make a run for it. I tried to encourage her by singing horrible song lyrics from the 1980s ("Don't pay the ferryman! Don't even fix a price!") but she didn't heed my calls and ended up losing a bit of fur. Ah well.

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Posted by laurie at 9:08 AM

March 14, 2011

Let's give away some BOOKS, people! Today: Ami Ami Dogs!

Perhaps I can't save the world, or adopt any more animals, or men, or both, but I can give away some free books. And that is my plan this week! Because what the world needs now is some giving.

Usually on free book days you have to post a comment to be eligible to win and that is because I am lazy and bad with technology. That has not changed. But since I am giving away books all week long I thought it might get a little boring for you to have to post Hi! Hello! Pick Me! in the comments, so here is the new format:

First I will post a picture and a description of the day's free, awesome book.

Next, I will blather on about some current events and/or TV and/or post cat pictures so we can chitchat, too, and not be bored with crass sweepstakesism.

Today's book is THE CUTEST crochet book I have seen in a long time, Ami Ami Dogs: Seriously Cute Crochet

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Ami Ami Dogs: Seriously Cute Crochet
This Amigurumi handbook is filled with adorable photographs of puppies and easy-to-follow patterns to help you create these little crochet works of art. Make an entire family of puppies to keep or give as gifts. The world needs more Ami Ami Dogs!

Thanks to Julia at Harper Collins for hooking us up with the freebies -- and there are three copies, so there will be three winners. Yay! I can do math!


RULES
To be eligible to win, post a comment in the comment section of this entry. Comments will close tomorrow. Winner(s) chosen at random and notified by email. Good luck!

NOTE
If you want to win you need to include a valid email address with your comment. IF you do not want your email address to show up beneath your comment name, you must enter some web address in the URL field. This is internet tomfoolery! I'm sorry I am bad with the code. Anyway, you can just type http://www.crazyauntpurl.com in the URL if you want.

And now for chitchat:

• I'm pretty sure half of the Valley was in the Sherman Oaks Target on Sunday afternoon buying stuff for their earthquake kits. I noticed a lot of other people with cases of bottled water and flashlights in their shopping carts. I stocked up on batteries, water and cat food but when I brought all my stuff home I accidentally left one bag of cat food sitting on the floor by the pantry and two hours later I came downstairs to find the cats lying on the living room floor in a kibble coma like little beachballs. Earthquake Preparedness Score: 6.5, Responsible Pet Owner Score: -2

• Even though I didn't have to be up and on the freeway this morning after losing an hour of my life over the weekend I still feel vaguely uneasy with Daylight Savings Time. It seems antiquated in this post-wristwatch world. I'm going to vote for the presidential candidate who campaigns to stop this madness. (Unless the candidate is awful.)

• Do you even wear a wristwatch anymore? I have never been able to wear one and now I just check my phone if I need to know the time. But I occasionally see someone wearing a watch in public and I casually ask them for the time. I think this makes wristwatch-wearers feel useful. I do what I can, folks.

Jennifer and I went to see "Battle Los Angeles" this weekend which was kind of exhausting and then I developed some odd Aaron-Eckhart-in-camouflage-fantasies.

• Yesterday I walked seven miles. Not all at one time. I have discovered that when I get stressed out about anything I need to go for a walk and then I feel better. By June I may just walk to Toronto for the afternoon.

• Are you over American Idol or just getting into it?


That's today. Good luck on the books! If today isn't your day there's always Tuesday. And Wednesday. And the rest of the week! (Oh, and if you don't craft and have no interest in these books this week just let me know in your comment. Sweepstakes are so technical around here!)

Posted by laurie at 9:30 AM

March 11, 2011

Q&A with author Pamela Schoenewaldt

Pamela Schoenewaldt, author of this month's Online Book Club selection When We Were Strangers, took some time out this week to answer your questions about the writing process, the research she put into the novel and her thoughts on what may have happened to Carlo along the way.

Sally M. asked: My only question for Pamela is ... when do we get another book from you?

Thank you Sally! I am working on another story, also historical. I'm on chapter 3, more or less. I hope this one goes more quickly - at least I've done most of the research. When I was writing When We Were Strangers, I tried not to focus at all on the end product, just kept my nose into Irma's journey, so it's especially wonderful to discover that there are people out there who connect with her story - it's like entering a new dimension of reality.

**
 
Tonya asked: I am still curious about what happened to Carlo. Did you have any thoughts on expanding his story?

I'm pretty sure that Carlo would disagree, but I think that Irma is a better judge of character and situations than he was. For one thing, she never expects something for nothing or quick solutions to difficult problems. Carlo does, and that would probably set him up for trouble. I think that all over the world there are people being protected from their own bad choices by small towns or big families, by people saying, "Let it go, it's just Carlo's way." But outside of Opi, he wouldn't have that safety net. So I think that Irma is right that somewhere along the line, his temper gets him into trouble. I saw him in big trouble in a tavern in Tripoli. What do you think?
 
**

Ginger asked: Was there any part of the book edited out that you wish could have stayed in and if so what was it?

 
Neither my agent, Courtney nor my editor Amanda ever said, "Take this out." There was some feeling that the first Cleveland sections were slow so I trimmed some scenes of Irma hanging out with her friends, taking a streetcar to the edge of town, walking out into the country. In the short story that became the first story, I made more of the fact of great grandfather's boots - generations of women protecting the boots. I think it's true though, that for a first chapter rather than a short story, the focus is better kept on Irma. And of course, it's always tempting when you're researching this or that obscure fact and finally find it to make it too big at first in the novel, almost to say: "Reader, I worked really really hard to get this, so now you have to read all about it." You have to look at the needs and flow of the whole story and be a little ruthless with your own work. So I had to pull back on a complicated story I had in mind about the fortunes of Niko's family in Greece and how problems in the Mediterranean wine markets ruined them.

**
 
Tania M. writes: I would love to find out what you are working on for your next book-- I definitely want to check it out.

I'm working on a medieval novel involving an emperor, empress, lute player and chess piece.
 
**

Heather asks: I was also happy Irma got a happy ending, did the author ever think about not having her end up with a happy life?
 
Hum, I guess no. Irma suffers a good deal, but she hold on to fairly basic values: she wants to do work that calls on her skills and best self; she wants a community around her; she wants to live near mountains, and she is willing to work and sacrifice to get these things. Maybe that's one difference between Carlo and Irma: he has ambitions larger than the work he is willing to devote to reach them.
 
**

Tinare asks: How did you go about researching the time period to get sense of what Irma's life might be like?

 There is a lot of material available about the Victorian age. I do read Italian, so I was able to read about economic and social situations in Italy at the time, medical issues of the day, diet, transportation, prices, and so forth. Then I used a university library, public library and Internet sources. You have to love the research process - but not so much that a novel becomes a dumping ground for all the little factoids you uncover. It's Irma's story and that story determines the background material you need. For the feelings of being a stranger - I think most of us have experienced that. I certainly did when I moved from Northern California to Southern Italy. I felt like I had landed on a new planet. So for some of Irma's emotional life, I drew on my own experience or tried to go into myself to create that reality. That wasn't always easy and was often painful, but you can't - or I think you can't - have your character experience what you can't profoundly imagine.
 
**

Alison G. asks: Would you write a sequel to the book covering more of Irma's later life? And I would also like to know what happened to Assunta's daughter after her father died.

I played around with that idea and maybe - who knows - will come back to Irma, but basically I felt that she had achieved what she wanted to and it was time to go. Sometimes I wonder how the San Francisco earthquake would affect her. For Assunta's daughter, her half-sister, Irma will send her money so she can go to school. Perhaps she might come to visit in San Francisco, or to live there. Assunta's story is a bit more tragic, actually. She loses two husbands, and yet carries on. I always liked Assunta.
 
**

Ann asks: Clearly women traveled alone to America, as you pointed out in the afterward that your own relative (grandmother?) came over for an arranged marriage. But I guess I was still surprised at how independent Irma and her friends were. Was this a typical life for a young woman at that time?

It was my great-grandmother, actually, and just as an aside, it was a pretty unfulfilling marriage, but he died when she was 60 or so and she had another happy 40 years of widowhood and didn't miss him much. But that wasn't your question. There were quite a few single women, then as now, and there probably wasn't much alternative to independence. I read that in the late 1800s an amazingly large percentage of American adults were living in boarding houses. Maybe more than twenty percent. There were factory girls of all sorts. Even if the options for young women weren't as broad as they are today, there was far, far more freedom than they would have had in "the old countries" and that must have been a heady experience.
 
**

Lisa in TX asks: Why did you feel it necessary for Irma to transform from a seamstress to nurse? In your mind, is Molly married or still single at the end of the book?

Today we might say that Irma became politicized. The art and craft of making fine dresses just couldn't compensate for the fact of serving the vanity of a few very rich women who treated her as a servant. And of course she has a traumatic consequence of the dressmaker's art. The medical field was more rewarding and the inspiration and mentoring of Sofia was compelling.

About Molly, I didn't see her married at the end. She probably has male friends, and maybe she'd find someone, but I think she's pretty pleased with her life. I'd played around with having her meet Tom, the Irishman from the train, but that was seeming too obvious. I do see her being wound into Irma's life for a long time. They almost complete each other.
 
**

Susan Q asks: How long did it take you to do the research for the book? Was the research completed before you began writing the novel, or did it continue as you wrote the book?

I was researching as I wrote. I did a good deal about 19th Century life in Italy and then moved into research on the ships and the immigration process. I'd be writing one chapter, revising the earlier ones and also researching for coming chapters and then finding out more material that needed to be worked in or perhaps required changes of material I had already done. I guess it would be way more efficient to research everything all at once, but the story was developing as I was writing and sometimes the research itself suggested new scenes or even characters. Researching the train lines to California and the dangers to the trainmen gave me the idea for the death of Bill, for instance.
  
**

Dani B asked: I know Irma's favorite hobby was sewing, and that this hobby saved her in many situations. But did Irma wish she could afford to dress a bit more stylish? Did she sometimes resent sewing custom-made fashions for others? She seemed to be very grateful, and highly impressed with the fitted dress that Madame Helene sewed for her, but yet I sensed mixed emotions.

I agree about the mixed emotions, Dani. Irma appreciated fine workmanship and good fabrics - she's an artist and craftswoman, after all. And the green dress makes her feel attractive for practically the first time in her life. That is a powerful experience. But in the end neither sewing nor fashion are enough for her; they simply aren't fulfilling enough to be her life's work. She has great talent, but sewing is not her calling. 


*****


I love an author who takes time out to chat with readers and answer their questions. Thank you to everyone who participated in this month's Online Book Club and special thanks to Julia O'Halloran at Harper Collins and of course the author herself, Pamela Schoenewaldt.

The next book club pick will be announced at the end of March. I know that when the world feels like a wild and unstable place, the one thing that always reassures me is diving into a wonderful book. Feel free to comment with your book club selection wishlist.

Thanks again!

Posted by laurie at 9:54 AM

March 9, 2011

This one's for you, Ed Begley, Jr.

In the 15+ years that I have lived in Los Angeles, my brain has never fully accepted the idea that celebrities are real human beings who do things like sit in traffic, go to the grocery store, and shop in the Valley.

Perhaps it's just my rural roots showing. In a small town everyone who looks familiar actually is familiar. That friendly-looking face belongs to my old pal from the fourth grade, or you're that guy I met on a hayride, or his cousin, or you look familiar because we used to work together at that bar in college. Yay! Let's reminisce!

Whatever the case, when my eyes see a celebrity doing some everyday Joe kind of activity my brain gets confused. I don't think, "Look! that's Sandra Bullock right here in the Studio City Bookstar and she is with Dweezil Zappa, hurry, appear nonchalant and cool!"

No. What my brain says is, "That girl looks so familiar! I must know her. Did we go to school together? Did she used to work at Disney? Was she in my Tae Bo class that one time?"

And that is why the one time I saw Sandra Bullock in the Studio City Bookstar I scared her. My brain was all, "Maybe she worked at the Daily News? Did we ride the bus together? I think I know her from the bus. OH MY GOD THAT BUS. Breathe! Breathe! That's SANDRA FREAKING BULLOCK..."

And just then she turned and looked at me and I let out a little squeak and turned and fled from the home decor aisle at Bookstar. Smooth move, Laurie. Real smooth.

- - -

A couple of years ago the Book Expo came to Los Angeles. It was a wacky and ridiculously busy week. All the East Coast folks from the publisher were coming out and there were events and lunches and dinners and I was doing a few days at the show, too. I was still working full time at the Bank and trying to maintain my undercover writer status so you know. I was crazy.

The Wednesday before the Book Expo I was in Woodland Hills doing some after-work grocery shopping. I was still dressed in my work clothes and I was rushing up and down the aisles because everything those days was a big old rush. Hurry! There's more traffic for you just ahead!

As I turned the corner from the pasta aisle into the vitamin aisle I almost ran my cart into a tall man setting up a little table. And this man looked really familiar to me. My brain, in its rushed and frazzled state, immediately decided I knew this man REALLY WELL. Because out of my mouth for no reason at all popped out the following:

"Oh my God! Hi! How the heck are you?"

And I said it so warmly, so honestly! My voice sounded as if I were greeting my long-lost nephew. It was so real, because my brain actually thought I KNEW this man.

Responding to my completely authentic and obvious intimate relationship with him, the man looked up at me, smiled and spoke.

"Oh wow, I'm great!" he said. "It is so good to see you!"

And that is when my brain kind of caught up with itself. Because who the heck was this strange dude that was so happy to see me?

In that split second of confusion, I looked at the table he was arranging and I saw the stack of books and fresh sharpies and I saw his name on the book. And I realized I was having a very warm and engaging conversation with Ed Begley, Jr. I was chitchatting with him as if we had dated or done shots together or something.

Suddenly I knew I'd made a serious social error. But rather than pretend the earth was about to explode and I had to get a move on, or act like my phone was ringing, or even just apologize for being a dork and move to the next aisle, no, I decided the least embarrassing choice was to continue the charade.

"Well, it's good to see you, too," I said. "It's been a while! Hey are you in town for the Book Expo?"

"Yeah," he said. "I'm going to be there, definitely." His face was smiling but in his eyes I could see him scanning me, trying to place me. And it's hard because I have one of those faces. You know the kind, I always look like someone you've met before.

"Great," I said. "I'll be signing both Saturday and Sunday so I'm sure we'll bump into each other."

At this point my panicked brain realized I had to LEAVE. NOW. I motioned to my groceries like they were in a hurry.

"Have a good one tonight," I said. "Talk to you later!"

We smiled. Warmly. Like old friends.

"See you this weekend," he said. But I could tell he was confused. Who is this woman? How do I know her? Why are we so friendly?

I abandoned my cart a few aisles over and fled the scene of the grocery store. I was so embarrassed. I was sweating heavily in one armpit. I had just made a total ass out of myself.

Later that night after a nice glass of wine or three, I thought about my embarrassing run-in with Ed Begley, Jr., and I decided it was probably funny. Wine said I should get over myself for feeling like a complete dumbass. Surely celebrities have this happen all the time. Surely I am not the first person to ever have this response to friendly-looking Ed. And anyway, he was in my store in my Valley. How was I supposed to know he was a celebrity? He was in the vitamin aisle, right next to the hemp tank tops at Whole Foods on a weekday. How could I have known?

- - -

When the Saturday morning of the Book Expo arrived, I got up and showered and tried to pull myself into a reasonable facsimile of what I think an author might look like. I wore makeup and did up my hair and put on my high heels and as I was on my way to the Convention Center I remembered the little mid-week incident with Ed Begley, Jr.

My embarrassment had faded. Now The Begley Situation felt kind of hilarious. In fact, I wondered if it might be a good idea to finagle a writer's schedule from my publicist and figure out when he would be signing in the main auditorium. I could line up and get an autographed copy of Ed's book. We could chitchat like old friends.

This idea amused me to no end.

But unless you really are a celebrity the Book Expo is just a churning line of work and gladhanding. My publicist had me in the booth all day and I signed books and got sharpie stains on my hands and smiled until I thought my face would fall off. By mid-afternoon I had forgotten all about Ed. When I was just about ready for quitting time I was told to fix my lipstick and haul ass to the green room. My main auditorium signing was in 15 minutes -- at the other end of the building.

The green room is just a big tent set up in a smelly corner of the Convention Center. Authors about to sign books in the main cattle call booths go to the green room to check in and get bottled water and wait for someone to herd you around. I half-ran, half hobbled down to the other end of the auditorium, hoofing it as quickly as one can in three-inch heels. As I pitched myself into the green room GUESS WHO I RAN INTO.

"Oh, hi!" I said to Ed Begley, Jr. I was flushed and a little out of breath. "I think I'm late! Did you sign already?"

"I'm just on my way out there," he said.

"Oh, great!" I said. I grabbed one of the bottles of water out of the cooler. "They need to stock these things with alcohol, you know? Like there should be a rule that all green rooms come with a chardonnay slushee machine."

My friend Ed laughed.

"That's a good idea," he said. "I don't think anyone back here would argue with you."

"Well I gotta run and check in," I said. "I'll try to come by and get an autographed copy of your book. It's great by the way. Seeyoulaterbye!"

Just before I turned to leave I saw the look cross his face. The look of dawning horror that he may be asked to autograph a book to this woman who clearly knew him so well yet ... what was her name? Why can't I remember her name? Where do I know her from? Did we used to work together? Did we go to school together?

Even though my cheeks hurt I smiled ear to ear. A little secret smile. I was totally messing with Ed Begley, Jr.

- - -

I never got in his line that day, there wasn't time. When the afternoon ended I packed up my bag and headed to the parking garage, back to life, back to reality.

Time passed.

Eventually I left the West Valley and moved back to Studio City. I even left the Bank and stopped rushing around all day long like a crazy person. I had more star sightings in the months that we were apart, but my time with Ed had taught me a valuable lesson. Now even when I run into someone I actually know I keep it nonchalant. Just in case.

A few months ago I was buying cilantro at the Farmer's Market. I paid, I put my cilantro in my hippy dippy cloth bag, I turned to walk away and look for grapefruit. Across the crowd we locked eyes.

It was Ed. Ed recognized me.

And people, HE SMILED FIRST.

We waved at each other across the crowd like old friends do and then I hurried off to my car. I was taken off guard. I was sweating again, under my left arm.

Damn him!
I thought. Ed Begley, Jr. just EdBegleyJuniored me!

Now I know it's just a matter of time. We're not done, me and Ed. I'm sticking with this ruse until the bitter end and apparently so is he. Sometimes when I'm bored in traffic or standing in line at the DMV I imagine what I'll say next time I see him. Maybe I'll tell Ed I'm writing a screenplay that's just perfect for him. Or I'll mention in a casual, offhanded way that my business partner and I are thinking our new line would be a great endorsement vehicle for his brand.

On bold, brazen days I imagine myself saying, "Ed! It's been so long, we should have lunch at that place we went to that time..."

It's not over. I'll see you soon, Ed Begley, Jr.

Posted by laurie at 5:57 AM

March 8, 2011

Winners and winners-to-be and cat pictures, because that is how I roll

I am so happy you all (mostly) enjoyed our Book Club selection, When We Were Strangers. The comment winner is ... dah dah dum... Margaret at March 7, 2011 08:42 AM. Please check your email. Congrats! And thanks again to Harper Collins for sending us advance copies to give away for the book club. That was an all-around win-win.

And since I know book giveaways are just as fun as random boxes of knitting stuff, I am hosting an entire week of freebie book giveaways next week!

It has been pointed out to me (kindly and gently) that most of the books I offer in sweepstakes are knitting books and where is the love for the men and women of crochet? WELL. You think I do not listen but LO, I LISTEN, and the first book giveaway on Monday is a crochet book so cute it even made me want to work up a chain in a frenzy.

Next week I am also offering up several luscious knitting books and maybe at the end of the week I will cap it off with a big pile o' books just for fun. The best part about having this here website is that I have no editor and can post endless cat pictures. The second best part is that I get preview copies of delicious books from publishers and I get to share them with you.

- - -

People often ask me why I don't urge all my readers to get books only from their local lending library. This weird topic seemed to come up over and over again this past month (especially as we talked about eReaders.) I know I have addressed it before but here it goes ... again. Like we don't have more pressing things to talk about such as the time I made Ed Begley, Jr. think I was stalking him accidentally.

So I love the public library. Really, I love it. I support my library with events and donations and often with my ridiculous late fees.

But I also BUY books!

I buy books because I write books and I love books and I believe in supporting an author and paying them for their work. It is that simple. It's important to me to use whatever money I have to buy books and support the publishing industry. I'm thrilled when publishers send me free sample books so I can help promote new books on this site, if a little exposure helps an author get paid it makes me feel glad to be a part of that loop. It's a happy karmic wheel for the author and for the reader.

But mostly I buy books. When I find an author I love, I BUY THEIR BOOK. I buy books for friends (I must have bought ten copies of Winter's Bone, I really loved that book. Recently I went on a Mark Nepo binge and bought five copies of The Book of Awakening to give as gifts.)

I buy books to support authors. It is not easy to make a living off publishing these days. A few years ago I made a decision to buy less shoes and more books. Even these days when I don't have money pouring in through the window, I still buy books. It's a trade-off -- yes, I could buy that nice bottle of wine OR I could buy a book and some two-buck-Chuck. Done!

Here's the most important thing, though: I am only telling you this since so many people took me to task and I don't like having a finger wagging at me about something like this. Paint me as anything people, but not a librarian contrarian! Not that! This is my thing and I don't expect it to be yours. I don't expect people to do what I do or like what I like or eat the messed-up food combinations I find pleasing. It's a better world when everyone just does what feels right to them and we all smile and act nice and no one comments that I squeeze lemon juice on rice.

I'm happy to my toes when someone talks with love about their library. Libraries basically raised me as a small child. I love libraries! And you know what, also I BUY BOOKS.

So the next time you wag your finger at some grown-up who buys books rather than borrows only from the library, stop pre-wag and ask yourself if that's really your Waterloo. Is this your final stand, Custer? Will you go down in that Alamo? Can I use any more bad metaphors here?

I LOVE BOOKS. I support people who write, illustrate, bind and publish books. Long live that old-fashioned thing, the paper brick on my shelf. I love you, I love your smell, I drink cheap wine for you. I raise a glass of two-buck-Chuck to you. The end.


- - -

And now cat pictures!

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That is such a tough angle, Buddy. Or should I say "Big Buddy."

Posted by laurie at 10:17 AM

March 7, 2011

Book Chat: When We Were Strangers

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This month's Online Book Club & Therapy Session featured the debut novel from Pamela Schoenewaldt, When We Were Strangers. In one of the happy accidents created by an online book club, the author herself has agreed to answer many of your reader questions so when you are commenting on the book let me know if you have a question for her. I'll assemble them all in an email tonight and post her replies when I hear back. Fancy, no?

I started reading this book during jury duty. I didn't really think any novel could completely take me out of the smelly feet drudgery that is the Burbank jury holding tank. Imagine my surprise when I looked up from the book and already two hours had passed! It was a bittersweet combination -- the sadness that is Irma's bumpy ride to America and the sweetness that was losing myself in a story and getting out of that smelly room and onto the smelly boat. At least metaphorically.

The writing is just lovely. This author wraps you in the story and doesn't lose you with too much description or drip adjectives all over the page yet she still paints such a clear picture of the scene that you feel like you are on that boat in steerage. You can taste the bread from Opi and feel the fabric of the dresses between your fingers. That's talent with words.

I have to say there were many times during the book when I thought, "Damn. Can't Irma catch a freakin' break already?" but perhaps that is more a critique of my fragile little state of mind than the story itself. I wanted happy things to happen for Irma. What can I say? I'm a sappy sucker for a happy ending. I wish there had been more of the ending -- perhaps stretched out longer. But it's a small complaint. I loved Molly, too, and appreciated the contrast of her energy and bravado against Irma's quieter character.

While reading this book I spent a fair amount of time feeling blessed to be born in this era. My rule of thumb when I get a time machine is that I will never go back to any year without penicillin. It's a good rule. You should think it through.

What did you think of When We Were Strangers? Did you get wrapped into the story or find some of Irma's trials and terrors too much? What did you think of the writing style, the way the author painted the scenery for us? Did you relate to Irma? Did you like the ending? Did you feel connected to the story?

I was pleasantly surprised by the novel. It sucked me in and kept me turning the pages fast so I could find out what happens next -- my benchmark for a great read. I can't wait to hear your feedback!

- - -

Every one who participates in the book chitchat (by posting in the comments below) will be entered into a random drawing for an equally random assortment of knitting doodads from my stash. If you aren't a knitter (and therefore have no use for a pile of Patons Up Country or similar) be sure to mention that in your comment so I can scare up something unusual and less knitterly for you. Let the commenting begin!


Posted by laurie at 1:12 AM

March 4, 2011

New Moon in Uranus

Today is March 4th, the new moon is new though probably not in Uranus. It just never gets old saying Uranus.

Some Very Important Things:

1) Consider That Gauntlet Thrown
So you probably already know this if you're on The Twitter with me (recently I've been abducted by Twitter. I've had The Twitter for a while now but sort of forgot about it for long periods of time. In the past few weeks I've been absconded by the madness. I think it's the combination of all the #winning and #mcLobster. Plus I love the sweet, rich taste of irony I get when I hear stuffy news anchors reading crazy celebrity Twitter feeds as if they are real news.)

SO what I was saying about me throwing down the gauntlet. I decided yesterday that I am no longer going to politely step all the way around those bulldozer people who are walking in the crosswalk or on the sidewalk or at the store or in the mall while their eyes are glued to their smartphones.

On my walk yesterday I had to flatten myself against a palm tree so that I didn't run into a man who was walking forward on the sidewalk quickly and aggressively while typing on his Blackberry. That is when I decided GAME OVER PEOPLE. At the next crosswalk I found myself squared off against an oncoming lady whose eyes were glued to her phone. I braced myself and stayed on my course and Thwap! When we collided she barely looked up.

"Is that your seeing eye phone?" I asked. She didn't even hear me. Nonetheless, I felt victorious. Bruised, but victorious.

I don't think this is a lasting strategy because I don't actually like people touching me. So I'm thinking maybe one of those loud noise maker thingies may do the trick. Or printing myself a bunch of stickers that say "Hang up and walk!" and slapping them on the backs of passing phonebots. What do you think?


2) Or Maybe I'm Just Grumpy
It's been cold in the early mornings so I've been walking midday when more phonebots are clogging the sidewalks. Perhaps when summer is back and I'm walking again at the crack of dawn I will forget all about them.

3) Why I Can't Get Enough Crazy
I've been captivated by Charlie Sheen's antics because he has completely raised the bar for all future meltdowns. If you're going to catch on fire with crazy my philosophy is that you better do it with gusto. Mission Accomplished! I love it. I love good crazy especially when I am not married to it or working for it.

4) More Stuff I Learned From The Innernet

I follow Martha Beck on Twitter, because she's smart and I learn things. Her blog today is all about sleep and how sleep helps your brain get its act together. (You can read it here.) I've been sleeping a lot the past few months -- more than in the past five years. Which isn't all that unusual considering the ridiculous insomnia I had for so long, but I wasn't sure it would ever end (insomnia feels like a bad soundtrack playing constantly over the movie of your life) and now that I can sleep again I started to worry. Am I sleeping too much? Am I wasting my life? How much sleep can one person need? Am I a slacker for not waking up at 4 a.m. every day like clockwork? Is it lame to go to bed before 10 p.m.? I can drive myself batty with this stuff.

But Martha Beck says it's good for the brain. So I am now officially giving myself a break. Thank you, Life Coach From Afar.

5) While we're at it, let's just give ourselves a break all over the place
I'm starting to understand that in my life there are my little problems and then there is all the big, swirly judgment I heap on myself about my little problems. People, it is exhausting. For the rest of March I am going to live my life and hold off on the ladle of extra-juicy judgy that comes with every bite. I feel better already.

6) I'm Running Up That Hill!
Now it's time to untether from the innernet, put down the twittermachine and go for a walk. I've tried many things in my time to get my mojo unwrinkled. I have sampled many fine wines and many bad ones, too. I have eaten, smoked, juiced, fasted, read self-help, written self-help (hah!) and tried to get my hands on that Secret. On my Quest For Calm I have found activities that I enjoy (knitting, reading, TV binges) and activities that make me feel virtuous (yoga, church, going to Whole Foods).

But after all this time the thing I love most is still a good old fashioned walk. No music, no headphones, just me and my shoes and the sidewalk, thinking and walking and breathing until the tension melts out and the only thing I can feel are my legs moving and my lungs filling with crispy, fortified L.A. air.

It's free. It doesn't take any particular skill, it's as close to meditation as I may ever get. And I'm fast, so if you're on your phone and not paying attention I may just meditate right over you. If you know what I mean and I think you do.

- - -

P.S. Book Club On Monday!
Our online book club meets on Monday to talk about When We Were Strangers: A Novel. I'm finding this book a very fast read, so you still have time to slurp it up and join us on Monday!

Posted by laurie at 8:20 AM

March 3, 2011

Rainy Day

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Posted by laurie at 11:21 AM