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May 30, 2011

The Knitting Hive Mind has spoken

Thank you so much to everyone who helped me search out patterns for the boutique sweater I went nutso over. Thanks for the yarn suggestions, too, and pattern ideas. Honestly, why doesn't a knitter become our president? I believe the attention to detail and the snap-to-itness of a knitter are what we need in this world!

AND THERE HAVE BEEN SOME EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS!

Reader Lisa G. saw the entry about the sweater and contacted her friend Vera who makes custom patterns. Vera came over, saw the sweater, and offered to make a pattern based on the sweater and offer it for just $5.50 ... AND she'll be done writing the pattern in about a week so that gives us all time to find yarn and fidget in happiness. Here is what Vera said yesterday:

I can write this up as a pattern, top down construction, no seams, knit in sleeves (not raglan, but set-in). I would make it 16 sts/4" in a DK weight yarn to make it loose gauged like the sample in the picture.

It would take me about one week to write the pattern and knit up a prototype.

I will be working on these sizes for the pattern: 32 (36, 40, 44, 48, 52) inches. I am size 44" chest, and as I am writing up the pattern, I am working a sample sweater for myself.

Here are some of my observations/changes to the sweater in the photo. I am working the pattern so that you can just crochet a simple slip stitch around the neckline or for those who cannot crochet, knit a small ribbing around the neckline. That can be done either as a rolled rib (stockinette stitch) or K1/P1.

I am not going to make drop shoulders but there is shoulder shaping with set-in sleeves. Otherwise, the shoulder part will droop down your arms.

Since I am doing the pattern in top-down, seamless construction, there will be NO sewing involved at all! :) I will give extensive instructions for those who have never knit a sweater like that before.

The sweater will have waist shaping, but for those who want the sweater to go straight down, you just omit the shaping part.

Because it is top-down construction, you decide on the length as you try on the sweater while working it.

If any of you have access to ravelry (knit and crochet community on line, free to join - I equate it to facebook for knitters/ crocheters), my user name is: sunfunliving and I have a group on ravelry where I will post photos of the progress.


Vera and Lisa, knitters saving the day! Aaaaand then I corresponded with reader Connie who offered to do a yarn swap with me and after yesterday something crazy good happened and I felt like all the irritation and weirdness I have been feeling about the internet was washed away and replaced my happiness and love and a renewed vigor to lock Al Gore in a naked bearhug and thank him for inventing this place.

Wait, was that an overshare?

- - - UPDATE!!! (Monday 5/31 at 11:15 a.m.) - - -
I just got an email from Vera with a pic of the work-in-progress. Cannot explain my awe at how someone has the amazing skill to design a sweater from a picture, and also wow she's fast! Check it out:

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AWESOME.

- - - (now back to the rest of the entry) - - -

So I am on fire with this sweater and started swatching last night in some cotton I had in my stash. It's worsted weight and not at all right for this sweater but when you are lit up with the flame of swatching nothing can stop you:

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Worsted weight cotton/poly blend yarn on size 13 needles.

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Not airy enough, but still, swatching! Also I know the needle looks like it says size 11 in the picture but it's size 13. The paint of the "3" is worn off.

Here is what I learned from working up this too-large weight yarn on not-large-enough size 13 needles: While the end result is too dense for the sweater, I was able to knit it up while I chatted on the phone with my mom for less than a half hour and based that, this whole sweater is going to be a very quick knit.

It took about 25 minutes to get a good five inches of fabric. Can I get a what what for a fast summer knit? Hello!

I am so excited about making my first sweater. Well, first sweater that is not for a baby or a dog. Yay! Are you planning to knit this, too, so I can ask you questions and see your results which will surely be finished seventeen weeks before mine? I'm all for knit-along though let's be honest, I suck at organizing things that don't involve food, so let's just do this: I'm going to make this sweater. From some yarn and Vera's pattern. I am also in the last bit of finishing up my book so even though this is a fast-looking knit I may or may not finish this sweater by the time the world ends. If you want to knit a similar sweater but not the exact duplicate, check out the links provided by the Superfriends of Knitting in the comments of yesterday's post. Maybe one will be right for you. And though we may not all be knitting the same exact sweater at the same exact time, it will be this loosely joined collective of Boho Boutique Sweater knitters. Yay!

Also I realize this particular style is not everyone's fashion cup of tea (I know somewhere out there a woman is saying, "This is what you crazy California people think is fashion? Really?") so I hope you find a summer sweater out there somewhere that sets you on fire the way this one did for me.

If you did like that style you may be pleased to know that while I was there on the sidewalk taking pictures of the store's display window I figured I should snap a few photos of the other cute sweater in the window. Obviously a handknit as well, this one is even more summery, with a cute tank top underneath. I don't really do sleeveless but if I did this would be next on my list:

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I love the breezy California style! And I love the internet. I should have known all it would take was some knitting and some knitters to get me back into the groove. I can't thank you enough for that. Thank you to everyone who chatted with me yesterday both here and on Twitter. When I get to thank Al in my special way you all will be the first to know.

Posted by laurie at 8:11 AM

May 29, 2011

Knitting Minds Activate! Form of Boutique Sweater!

You GUYS. It's finally happened. This is the moment I have been waiting for since 2005! I finally found the one adult-sized sweater that has gripped me in its yarny vice and made me absolutely crazy to knit it.

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Late last week when I passed the window display of a little boutique on the boulevard I saw this sweater and stopped right in my tracks. The shop wasn't open so I took a bunch of photos through the glass, I'm sure passers by thought I was casing the joint. This being Los Angeles though no one stopped me, hooray! And I felt very lucky to pass by this store just moments after they closed since I have been in this shop before and they only carry three sizes (small, extra-small, and make-you-want-to-cry small) and they only have one price range (Kardashian Engagement Ring). I actually love this store and plan to shop there all the time when I am much too rich and much too thin but until then I can thank them for finally showing me the one handknit sweater I must make myself or the world will stop spinning on its axis.

And I know that you all are collectively the smartest (and best looking!) knitting hive mind on the planet so can you help me find a pattern for this sweater? Have you seen anything like this? It looks like a worsted weight or just slightly thinner cotton yarn knit on large needles in plain stockinette. The cuffs and bottom are a simple 1 x 1 rib. The neck is a V-neck with what looks like a pick-up-and-knit finished neckline (yes, I know this is not a technically perfect description.) I took a ton of pictures so here we go:

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How the sleeves are connected.

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Basic plain old seams. (Oh, edited to add that apparently I was trying to be polite to the sweater's feelings and did not mention it before but yes, those seams are mad sloppy. And you do not want to know how much this sweater costs with those seams!)

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Simple 1x1 ribbing on the hem and cuffs.

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Neckline. Like I said, casing the joint.

UPDATED to add this super-close-up of the hem:
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You all have the most amazing eye, how did you immediately know it was two strands of yarn held together?? I didn't even notice until you pointed it out! I am officially in awe. Carry on.

I want this sweater! It's perfect loosey goosey stockinette that is well within my happiness zone and it's beautifully chic without trying too hard. You know, casual without being dumpy and still fashionable without being Real Housewifey. Ya'll, fashion is so complex. The mannequin display has the sweater over a gorgeous red sleeveless dress and I love it, this sweater would be a nice change from covering my arms with a shrug or jacket. Plus I could wear almost year-round here in Los Angeles weather since it's knit so loose and mesh-like. Wouldn't this be cute with a tank top and jeans? Or over a very thin turtleneck t-shirt in the winter?

So I am sending this out in the knitting universe as the equivalent to putting it on the side of a milk carton. Help, please! Have you seen this pattern? Do you know where I can find a pattern to make a sweater just like this? Have you made a sweater like this? When we find the pattern want to make this sweater along with me? It could be a perfect summer knit!!

Posted by laurie at 12:04 PM

May 28, 2011

Glamour Shots

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Perfection.

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Perfection that poops.

Posted by laurie at 9:09 AM

May 27, 2011

Open Letter

An Open Letter To The Management Of My Old Building Who Still Haven't Reprogrammed The Door Code

Dear Russian Douchebag Building Manager,

I moved. Remember? Remember when the police came because my next door neighbor was a psychotic bag of impending disaster and I had to pack up all my crap and move in the middle of the night? You should have some recollection of this moment. If not, let me remind you who I am. I am the one whose deposit you kept. I am the one you had the unmitigated gall to bill for the next month's rent because you couldn't better screen your tenants and let a crazy woman live next to me and I had to move out suddenly and not give a written 30-day notice and I had no legal recourse so I had to pay the bill but then I spent several weeks giving you cancer with my mind.

Does that ring any bells?

Well, speaking of bells, your front door code for what used to be my home still rings to my cell phone. Except I don't live there anymore. So the gas company and the AT&T guy and some woman named Sharon keep calling me for entry to your building. They want to get into my old apartment, the one that I once loved and now secretly hope becomes infested with bedbugs.

When my phone rings and says "Front Door" I get momentarily excited because I think I might be getting a package from Fed Ex or a pizza or a check from Publisher's Clearing House. Then I answer -- too quickly -- and after I say "Hello?" my brain kicks in and remembers that I now live in a slumlord building where the front door buzzer is broken and the only "Front Door" calling me is the old apartment which houses my lost ego, lost money, and one crazyass next door neighbor, unless you finally had any success evicting her. Which I doubt.

So, listen. You need to change the front door code so that it calls the new resident of my old horrible, overpriced, terribly managed yet still very beautiful apartment. Because now I'm on to you. I renamed the phone number for "Front Door" and now it shows up on my phone as "People You Should Taunt." And when they call I'm just messing with them. I tell them Judgment Day is NEAR and God is WATCHING and He is NOT HAPPY. I told the cable guy that he needs to reevaluate his shoe choices. Sharon called me three times and on the last call I informed her she had gout. I don't even know what gout is, but I told her I could sense through the phone she was suffering this grave ailment.

I'm infinitely creative and this could go on for a while. I can work scabies into almost any conversation. And porn. And poop. Consider this while you lollygag and delay updating the front door buzzer access numbers.

Yours Sincerely,
The nice, sane, on-time-rent-paying but now broke ex-resident you screwed over in March, 2011

Posted by laurie at 10:50 AM

May 26, 2011

Riding on the metro of love

It's just after 7 a.m. and already the construction crew across the way is flinging slabs of broken concrete into a metal bin as a precursor to the symphony of jackhammering and drilling that will spring to life in twenty minutes. Aaaaand she's off...!

Yesterday I took the Red Line (metro.net, service daily) to visit my friend Jen N. downtown. I love hanging out with her, she tells the best stories (though I was so happy to see her I'm not sure I let her get a word in. Talk talk talk talk talk!) The subway is a decent and cheap way to get around the city of Los Angeles if you can accept the following three items:

1) The subway travels fairly regularly between point A and Union Station but if you need to go anywhere other than a straight trajectory you might be majestically screwed.

2) As the world's largest metropolitan transit system running entirely on the honor system, yes, in Los Angeles, honor system, you will encounter various characters from the streets who don't pay fares for many reasons, including: They are trailblazers, or practicing their crip walk, or panhandling, or don't want the aliens in the ticket machines to steal their souls, or just need a nice simple place to put all their bags of recycling while they scratch themselves with great attention and vigor.

3) There are almost never any police or patrolmen or officials or security of any kind. I once saw a man get on the train with a fully loaded, sloshing can of gas and I wanted to signal to someone but there was no one. There is almost never anyone anywhere. I got off the train and the doors closed and the man and his petrol went to Wilshire/Western. And we all lived another day.

4) If you have some of the lightly comedic forms of almost-socially-sanctioned OCD like moi, you too may enjoy the ease and simplicity of the subway but discover that when you arrive home you need to take a decontamination shower. Perhaps not a full Silkwood but at least a good solid scrubbing.

I'm just being real here, but don't let me put you off the subway. I used to ride it every day for years and aside from the high rates of men with IPS (Imaginary Package Syndrome), it's a genearally safe and efficient way to get around, linear style. The subway is ridiculously easy to use, there are automated ticket machines in every station. You can purchase a day pass ($6, valid for all local travel until 3 a.m. the following day) but if you're only going to and from a destination on a single rail line your best bet is a one-way paper ticket at $1.50. Timelines for the trains are posted on monitors on the platform. Be sure to check the digital signboard at the front of the train to be sure you're getting on the right train.

I like this picture of the red line platform, it came out moody and painterly with no effort at all on my part:

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Later in the day I saw a girl at one of the stations wearing the cutest little purple knit hat. It's the same general shape/mood of the Noro Taiyo hat I'm making for my nephew but her hat was far more intricate and delicate and pretty. After staring at her for a bit and realizing I might be creepy what with my staring and all, I decided to talk to her. I don't talk to strangers. I don't even talk to people I know all that often, but such is the power of a cute knit hat. I told her I knit and then complimented her headgear and asked if I could take a picture and she said yes. Check it out:

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Cute, no? I love the slouchy hipser vibe. She said she bought it in Venice Beach for ten bucks. I want to make something similar but less complicated (homie don't do lace) and I'm thinking a band of seed stitch would work really well for the bottom, then move into some stockinette. I'll let you know.

For today's flower porn section I present you with another picture of lantana close-up and in the blazing SoCal sunshine:

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My mom asked me on the phone if that was a super close-up (it is) because she said it's hard to recognize that so out of scale. Good point. Below is what this flowering plant looks like when you're not zoomed in on it. I found a whole slope of nothing but brilliant, blooming flowers:

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Finally, do you all remember my picture the other day of this beautiful white flower growing in a pile of crud in an alley?

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Well, I got a pile of email from readers letting me know this is a "jimsonweed, also known as Datura, it's hallucinogenic and poisonous..." also with a lot of history about it being all sacred and awesome and lots of horticultural stuff which generally left me impressed with you knowledgeable flower types! I appreciate a person that has a love and detailed memory for something like flowers and I really enjoyed all the notes. Thank you!

I also loved that many of you were concerned for my safety and warned me not to eat this flower. I can promise you I will not eat it. And that brings me to my final Los Angeles Living Well Tip Of The Day! I may not know from flowers but I do know a thing or two about this city and what I have learned from living here is that if you see something beautiful -- gorgeous, unusual, lovely, sweet-talking, shiny, whatever -- in an alleyway in Hollywood, DO NOT TOUCH IT. Don't pick it up, don't let it talk to you, don't smell it, and for God's sake do not put it in your mouth.

This goes for all things animal, vegetable and mineral. It's a gospel to live by. I don't give advice very often but that's some wisdom you can take to the bank.

Posted by laurie at 7:08 AM

May 25, 2011

Midnight in Paris, jackhammers in Los Angeles

Ah, the pleasures of city living. Monday morning the jackhammers across the street started just before 8 a.m. and continued along with screaming concrete cutters and backhoes until almost 7 p.m. I wore earplugs and headphones on top of my earplugs and still by about noon I was ready to murder anyone who looked at me. I like to be deep inside the cone of silence to work -- I don't even write with music on -- and that was not happening. I vacuumed a lot on Monday and showered until I pruned up.

Tuesday when the jackhammers started bright and early I took it as a sign from the Universe to abandon work for the day and get out of my apartment and explore the garden of urban delights available outside the front door and noise radius. I'm pretty sure the Universe said, "Go to the movies!" It was hard to hear. I guessed.

First I made a little detour at the library to drop off some books:

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Come to Hollywood, where our public libraries look like maximum security detention centers!

Since I was a little early for the movies I killed some time browsing the racks at Amoeba Records (6400 West Sunset Blvd., open daily 10:30 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.) where you can find records, CDs, posters, DVDs and lots of guys with suspect hygiene wearing black T-shirts. I like looking at the foreign language DVDs upstairs and doing some people-watching on the sly.

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I used my Arclight points for a free movie ticket. LOVE you, Arclight! The one at the Cinerama Dome (6360 W Sunset Blvd.) always has unusual art or photo displays in the lobby, this month's selection is a great collection of portraits called MUGSHOTS:

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Then it was showtime. One of the things I love most about Los Angeles is that this is a movie town, which means even on a Monday morning at 11 a.m. there's a crowd in the theater (but not too crowded, we all had our spacer seats!) The lights went down and Midnight In Paris started.

You guys! I LOVED THIS MOVIE! Halfway through the picture I had three concurrent thoughts: "I'm so glad I am seeing this today, take that jackhammers!" and "What awesome timing for this movie to be released just after I finished Gatsby!" and "I don't want this movie to end!" I've never been an over-the-moon Woody Allen fan but since he started making movies set in Europe I think they've gotten better (I know lots of people disagree, whatever) but this was by far my all-time favorite Woody Allen flick. And it goes on my list as one of my top all-time favorite Paris movies.

The timing couldn't be better for us bookclubbers either since the whole movie seems lifted off the pages of A Moveable Feast. The actress who plays Zelda was exactly as I imagined her in my head. The music, the shots of Paris, the whole film was a little love letter to my other favorite city on the planet. Maybe more favorite right now what with the local jackhammering and all. And everyone in the darkened movie theater laughed and laughed and loved this movie. It was excellent escapism. Two thumbs up! Movies are such a happy invention.

Later in the day I was hoofing down Hollywood Blvd. and I saw the TMZ tour bus!!

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I have been trying to get my friend Christine to agree to go on the TMZ Hollywood tour with me, I think it would be HIGH-larious fun to pretend to be tourists and look at the empty parking lots of Beso and Katsuya and hear the running commentary but she hasn't fallen in love with the idea. YET. Give me time.

Finally I'd dawdled and strolled long enough that it was time to return home and resume the earplugging. Bob was so over it:

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The construction dudes are at it again this morning so I am off like a dirty shirt. I figure when the Universe tells me to get out and go walking I should just lace up my shoes and get a move on.

Posted by laurie at 9:02 AM

May 23, 2011

Book Club: The Great Gatsby

The first time I read The Great Gatsby was in high school. The next time I picked up my worn paperback copy was probably sometime in the pretentious college years when I read classics to look smart and literary but really would have preferred to be reading a grocery store paperback.

I was surprised then how little of this book I remembered when I dusted it off this go around and read it. I felt so much more connected to the story this time. Maybe it was a side effect of reading A Moveable Feast so recently, Hemingway's chapters about his relationship with Scott Fitzgerald were fascinating and after I finished that book I got caught up in a wikipedia loop reading about his life and his marriage to crazy Zelda and her life.

Jay Gatsby doesn't seem that far off to me, he's the Jazz Age precursor to the Kardashians. Or maybe it's more accurate to portray him like any number of wealthy, self-made powerful men who fall from grace in a spectacular burnout (the recent news about the IMF chief come to mind for anyone else?) I thought this novel would read like a relic but has much changed, really? Rich, bored people are the stuff of TV these days. The Real Housewives might as well be a Hamptons garden party .. OH WAIT. It kind of is one.

What stood out to me most on my re-read of this book is the way the author sculpts a scene out of words. You can feel the place. I think this is one of those books that was wasted on me as a young reader, I just didn't have the appreciation for it the first go round but I'm so happy I re-read it. It's a version of the American dream in its own underbelly kind of way.

So what did you think? Had you read the book in high school, too, and what was your impression while re-reading it? What did you think of Jay and Daisy -- sympathetic or vapid? Did the inside peek into Fitzgerald's life from A Moveable Feast enhance your impression of the story? Did you have a moment where you wished you'd been alive in the 1920s? What did you think of Nick?

And finally, did you enjoy the book? Or did it leave you feeling a little sad at the end?

Posted by laurie at 8:44 AM

May 20, 2011

Day before the world ends, again.

Just in case the world ends tomorrow I'm not bothering with laundry. I'm eating chocolate for lunch and painting my nails and watching Cat TV, this particularly gripping episode features THE CASE OF THE PINK RIBBON:

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Don't forget to finish The Great Gatsby for Monday's book club chitchat! You'll be all ready for the remake of the movie, which is slated for release next summer. Carey Mulligan as Daisy (brilliant) but Leo DiCaprio as Jay? I'm not sold.

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Ribbon chasing is so exhausting.

Posted by laurie at 11:33 AM

May 19, 2011

We're going downtown

Earlier this week I took the subway to meet up with my friend Corey. It was a rainy day and that is the perfect time to visit downtown. The area's olfactary offerings get softened after some rain. After a short subway ride ($1.50, one way, metro.net) we met at Grand Central Market:

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317 South Broadway, Los Angeles. Nearest metro stop: Pershing Square

I love Grand Central, it's a huge open marketplace full of just about every food and spice and edible under the sun:

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We decided on tacos, Corey got the chicken and carnitas while I went with the tried and true carne asada:

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Lunch for around four dollars. Not bad.

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Everyone likes Grand Central Market.

After our lunch break together I walked back along the damp streets and I saw a little still life that felt like L.A. to me, a little gritty, a little pretty. These white flowers bloom in the wildest places, you'll see them in freeway medians and along alleyways and they're so beautiful, the blossoms are quite large (sometimes six or seven inches across):

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Here's the wide shot:

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Flowers among the refuse.

Posted by laurie at 9:45 AM

May 17, 2011

You've made it to the big time.

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When I see this hotel on Ventura Boulevard I think about the song Screenwriter's Blues:

And the radio is on, and the radioman is speaking, and the radioman says, "Women were a curse, so men built Paramount studios, and men built Columbia studios, and men built Los Angeles."

Ah, the SHOWTIME MOTEL. Good name for a script, no?

So I have excellent news. And of course being like I am I see it as a sign, a turnaround, relief. You know that as a Southerner by birth I am predisposed to believing that the mysterious ebbs and flows of the universe conform to my superstitions. We're like that down South. It's such a charming quality and it's probably one of the reasons I have settled so well in Los Angeles -- this may be the only huge city in the U.S. (well, perhaps along with San Francisco) populated by hippydippy superstitions, though out here it's about "energy" and "vibration" and "flow" and "karma." No matter what you call it, it's still the same old bone-deep belief that there's a mystery behind living.

Which is to say that after I stood up and declared I am not taking any more crap, Universe! almost immediately my insurance stopped yanking me around and not only are they restoring my Jeep to its 1995 grandeur, they are resolving the whole mess in my favor. Read: paying the deductible. AMEN, people. The tide has turned.

It's like the good Reverend Dr. Michael says, "The universe will correspond to the nature of your song." I guess you should take care about your song. My song is apparently a nonsensical pop tune about gurls in Jeeps in California.

The car was imminently fixable all along, for one thing it is a tank of solid steel and for another I have kept that machine in perfect running condition. It's never lacked for anything, getting every new radiator, the latest in catalytic converters, the differential of its dreams. But of course insurance companies are like banks which is to say they don't understand four by four drop top love. They're all about numbers on an excel spreadsheet. Thus, there was limbo.

As I have been waiting the past week for a resolution on all this, I realized I needed to look at the whole situation in a different light. Not the accident itself -- that was immediate, I knew it could have gone a very different way and I could be lying unclaimed in the L.A. County morgue right now instead of having coffee and typing this ditty. I had that on lock right away. GRATITUDE, check! Why you think I've been walking so much? The simple movement alone became ridiculously pleasing.

What I needed was after, I needed a new way to look at the logistics of the aftermath. (The shrink says that in some areas of the also-mysterious psychology world some see the car as an extension of self. INNERESTING.) I'm not that far gone, but I do think of my Jeep as the one object that has endured the test of time in my life and of course it has a storied history. I don't need to defend my decision here. Pure and simple it's a cool machine and I like it. I hate to see it mangled and scratched up and dented.

So I decided to view this chapter of my Jeep in Los Angeles terms. After all, while still a beauty and still remarkably healthy there comes a time in every aging actor's life when he or she needs a nip, a tuck, a minor facelift. So what if the Jeep needs some re-bar restalyne and bumper botox? It happens even to the most seductive redheads.

When I think of it as an aging B-movie actress everything seems to make sense. After a few weeks and some cosmetic surgery she'll look brighter and younger and ready for a closeup. And it will not cost one everloving dime.

We so crazy.

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I have a thing about moody motel pictures.

Posted by laurie at 9:24 AM

May 16, 2011

A pretty start to the day OR an extremely boring beginning, depending on your opinion of foliage.

Many people mistakenly believe Los Angeles has no weather. This is not true. We have wind, we have fire season, and during the winter we have mist (it's THE BIGGEST NEWS STORY EVER). This is May, which brings my favorite Los Angeles weather -- May Gray. The marine layer comes in low off the ocean and blankets the coast with clouds and fog. The clouds even creep inland and the weather is perfect and cool during the day but still temperate at night.

June brings the exact same weather except for obvious reasons it is then re-named June Gloom instead of May Gray. We are really very snappy around here with the catchy titles. Right now we're in the middle of a stretch of May Gray days and tonight it might even MIST, which is extra exciting since it's not our rainy season. I like our gray/gloom weather days best because you know it won't last and soon summer will be here baking the asphalt off the roads and turning the bougainvillea into dry paper lanterns.

Reader Sandee G. emailed me to say the white roses I saw on my weekend walk are called "Iceberg Roses." I love that name! It somehow perfectly describes the flower:

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You know, I've never really been a person who takes many flower pictures. Until recently, anyway. Maybe it's because now I have no garden or patio or terrace so all of Los Angeles has become my garden. Everything is incredibly vibrant right now and colorful and blooming. When it's cold outside in the mornings (read: 56 degrees) I can wear my hoodie on my walks and bring my camera in my pocket. I probably look like a goofnut taking pictures of shrubbery. Last week I passed a sidewalk full of guys practicing monologues for some acting workshop and when I stopped to take a picture of a flower I was the weirdo in that scenario. Go figure.

These are the flowers I stopped to photograph:

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They're all over L.A. and they come in so many different colors. Is this Lantana? My flower knowledge is pretty sparse. I can name every herb in the book but when it comes to flowers I'm not much help. I love the way the tiny flowers cluster together to form a single flower and the colors are wild, proving once again that nature was the first great graphic designer.

Here is one of my all time favorite things about the flora and fauna of this sprawling urban mess I call home:

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See that lush green shrub at the far right side of the frame? It's ROSEMARY, a big dense pile of herby rosemary growing right there in a cruddy alleyway in Hollyweird. Rosemary grows everywhere around here hardy and thick as a weed, and when you run your hands through it it smells delicious. Another favorite is lavender, also a weed in this climate. Here is a giant lavender and a giant rosemary sprawling together:

rosemary-lavender.jpg

That picture above is the hedge on someone's beautiful yard. I snapped the picture just before heading up this hill for a walk:

hollywoodhills-bottom.jpg

Notice the house at the very tippy top? I walked almost all the way up there. I would have made it to the top if it weren't for the big gate and armed guard and surveillance cameras and large dogs and so on.

Here's a view from the hills on a cloudy morning:

lone-palm-tree.jpg

Who says we have no weather? We have May Gray!

One last flower picture on my way home:

pinkflowerpurty.jpg

Pink flowers are my favorite. While I suspect this is a hibiscus I prefer to call it Shocking Pink O'Keefelike Lady Flower!

Posted by laurie at 7:38 AM

May 14, 2011

A New Day

After my proclamation freeing myself, I woke up this morning feeling physically lighter. Which is not usually how I feel after a dinner of all tater tots. Lighter! Free!

Then I walked 6.94 miles this morning or so says the shoe sensor. It's all May grey and cloudy so the weather is cool and I feel like I could walk forever. While out and about I took this picture for you:

bouganvilla-sidewalk.jpg

The whole block of this sidewalk is covered in beautiful blooming bougainvillea. Before coming to Los Angeles I'd never seen this kind of flower and I still think it's one of the prettiest things about L.A.

Here is a home up in the hills with two colors of bougainvillea covering the gate:

mixed-bouganvilla1.jpg

mixed-bouganvilla2.jpg


This morning on my walk I was thinking maybe all those people who say getting older has its benefits are right after all. Oprah says turning 40 is the best ever and all this time I suspected she was smoking a bowl or just rolling around naked in a pile of money every night. But now I see she was on to something. Perhaps this is the part of life where you decide once and for all to let your freak flag fly and you don't give a damn because you just spent 40 years playing nice and being a good girl and now you're done. DONE, I tell you.

It is so liberating! I even feel taller, people. Maybe later today I will take over a small country! I hope they have watermelon.

As promised comments will re-open in a while, probably next week (definitely for Gatsby) but with a big change, which is that we have all made a solemn pact not to tell each other how to live, who to love, where to worship, what to drive or how to be a "better" human being. There is a whole world of awesome commentation that can go on instead in that space. I am up to this challenge, I hope you are, too.

If this is any indication turning 40 is going to be EPIC. Is this what happens to women when we get older? If so I am totally into it. We will discuss this in the future, I am very interested to hear if you also just woke up one morning and discovered you'd had it up to here with being a good girl who lets people say any old thing they want at any old time. Especially Southern girls, which is a whole special flavor of repressed crazypants. Then we will write a book about it and make ONE MAGILLION DOLLARS.

Now, cat picture:

soba-over-it.jpg

I was born being over it, lady.

And one last flower picture. This is a rather scrummy and sketchy portion of the city and smack in the middle of it there is a wall tumbling over full of pure white roses that smell like rosewater and rain:

roses-parking-lot.jpg
I love city life.

Posted by laurie at 12:40 PM

May 13, 2011

The art project has ended. Officially.

The first online diary I started was in 1998. It was bright pink. Back then I wrote my daily essays using a pseudonym. It was a character I played, no one knew my real name. There were forums and tons of people posted messages but message boards are not quite as personal and direct as blog comments. Here there is no pseudonym, no buffer. The stuff I write on this site is personal. My name is on it. You know what I look like. The comments feel more like a conversation.

Most of the time I love that conversation. I love reading about your lives and kids and dogs and cats and shoes and what you're eating. I adore those comments because they make me feel like I have a social life! Through the blog comments I have learned about all kinds of great products and recipes and websites. I appreciate it and it makes me feel good about life and about writing. I like the way you see the world.

Then there are all the shoulds. You should do this, no you should do that, no you shouldn't clean your house so much, you have OCD and should be on medication, you're an alcoholic and should be at a meeting, you should find Christ, you should buy a new car, you should have a baby, you should leave L.A., you should you should blah blah blah.

It makes me insane. Some folks thrive on that kind of feedback. I do not. It makes me want to stab someone with a knitting needle. It makes me want to end this website and start a new website but with a fake name where I can be free to be myself and not have strangers pee on my cornflakes.

And that is absurd because I already have a great website. And most people who comment are fantastic and I love them. Why should I leave my own house because one or two or 200 people have no filter? This is nuts! So things are changing. Today. Now.

While the rational portion of my brain reminds me people are just trying to be helpful in their own way, and while I constantly remind myself not to be sensitive it isn't working. I am sensitive. The louder part of my brain says SHUT IT DOWN. It's changing the way I write and not in a good way. I self-edit in anticipation of what the naysayers and pickers and pedants will say, sometimes to the point that I give up altogether on a topic and just post a cat picture.

No more. I need to be still and quiet and real and I need to write. That's how I stay sane. In the past month and a half I lost a home, a friend, a lot of money, and now my car. That is a lot of fucking turmoil. It's perfectly normal and natural to be a little fragile when your whole life goes berserk. So listen, I have not handled the recent shoulds all that well. I'm sorry I snapped at people. I know I have been touchy. It's not your fault. This is my responsibility. I made the mistake of letting the comments stand, thinking I could will myself to be a different person that I am. And I didn't set any clear ground rules.

Most days I feel like running off to Mexico to join a cartel and wear billowly MC Hammer Pants and call myself Senorita Gatita. This is a sign that I need to settle down and clear my head. I need time spent in the pure pleasure of writing -- not worrying or defending myself or explaining myself or carefully wording things so that people don't peck at them.

I know other people are awesome at accepting all the advice of the internet. It's just not my strength. That's never going to be my movie. Let's accept it for what it is and move on.

I am no longer going to be the world's largest ongoing communal art project. It isn't working. What does work is this: you share your life, I'll share mine and let's make a pact not to tell each other what kind of car to drive or who to love or where to live or how to worship or where to volunteer. Also, let's all recognize that it's just rude to tell a woman she needs to be medicated because she likes a clean house. That is mad ridiculous, ya'll! Cleaning is great cardio!

The should chapter of this diary is officially over and done. Comments that should me will be deleted and IP addresses will be filtered. I don't need everyone to love me or agree with me or even like what I like. I do need to stop allowing crazyass finger-wagging from people I would not even ask for directions to the store. Like they say, good fences make good neighbors and this is my fence. I'm going to be in a whole new age bracket soon, this is as fine a time as any to start drawing big lines on how I allow people to talk to me.

Wow, I kind of sounded like a badass there. Go me.

And sometimes I may just want to write and not have chitchat, like now, and comments will be closed. That is not a bad thing. Not everything in life has to be a committee vote. Toni Morrison is right, she says each of us needs a place to breathe, a sacred space to cultivate and grow exactly as we wish. This is mine. I want to keep it and not have to run off and join a Mexican drug cartel and assume a new identity. Even though I do secretly think I would look awesome in some MC Hammer pants.

Posted by laurie at 10:17 PM

About comments

We need to talk.

Since everyone gets supremely interested in the comments on/off thing (and since I pretty much hate addressing it) no one ever really knows what's going on with me. So let's address it once and for all. Here is what's really going on.

I started this online diary for one reason: I love to write. I didn't write it for other people or for approval or for feedback or to start a career or a platform or to "social network" or for any reason at all other than my deep desire to blab. I love to yammer on and on about all kinds of things and I needed an outlet and that's how this particular website started. Prior to this blog, a word I still don't much like, I used to write a small, quirky online diary with no comments. That site was funny and kind of bitchy and mostly focused on how much I wanted to eat carbs and how dumb I thought the corporate dress code was. I stopped writing that website when my marriage fell apart.

Before the grumpy carb-crazed diary I wrote and managed an online magazine that was gigantic and had a huge message board community. But even with its massive size there was a buffer for me -- I wrote my daily essays using a pseudonym. It was a character I played, no one knew my real name. And message boards are not quite as personal and direct as comments. The stuff I write here is very personal. My name is on it. You know what I look like. The comments here feel more like a conversation.

Most of the time I love that conversation. I love reading about your lives and kids and dogs and cats and shoes and what you're eating. I adore those comments because they make me feel like I have a social life! Through the blog comments I have learned about all kinds of great products and recipes and websites. I appreciate it and it makes me feel good about life and about writing. I like the way you see the world.

Then there are all the shoulds. You should do this, no you should do that, no you shouldn't clean your house so much, you have OCD and should be on medication, you're an alcoholic and should be at a meeting, you should find Christ, you should buy a new car, you should have a baby, you should leave L.A., you should you should blah blah blah.

It makes me insane. Some folks thrive on that kind of feedback. I do not. It makes me want to stab Debbie Downer with a knitting needle. It makes me want to end this website and start a new website but with a fake name where I can be free to be myself and not have strangers pee on my cornflakes.

And that is absurd because I already have a great website. And most people are fantastic and I love them. Why should I leave my own house because one or two or 200 people have no filter? This is nuts! So things are changing. Today. Now.

I have tried to be graceful and accepting and shrug off the barrage of shoulds. The rational portion of my brain reminds me people are just trying to be helpful in their own way, and I remind myself not to be sensitive but it isn't working. The louder part of my brain says SHUT IT DOWN. It's changing the way I write and not in a good way. I self-edit in anticipation of what the naysayers and pickers and pedants will say, sometimes to the point that I give up altogether on a topic and just post a cat picture.

On the Friday episode of Oprah the great Toni Morrison spoke softly about her need for one sacred space that was all hers, where she was free to be herself. She said that everyone needs a small thing in life that is theirs, something they can put their whole self into. Something nobody else can dictate. And for me that's writing. Especially this website. I built it, I wrote it, I (poorly) programmed the database, I made the goofy artwork. It's imperfect and sometimes the writing is whiny or dorky or badly punctuated or way too selfhelpy but it's all mine. And I get to shape it into what works for me.

What works for me is using this online diary as an outlet, not as a forum for strangers to tell me how to live. I need to be still and quiet and real and I need to write. That's how I stay sane. In the past month and a half I lost a home, a friend and now my car. That is a lot of fucking turmoil. It's perfectly normal and natural to be a little fragile when your whole life goes beserk. I have not handled the recent shoulds all that well. I'm sorry if I snapped at people. It's not your fault. This is my responsibiliy. I made the mistake of letting the comments stand, thinking I could will myself to be a different person that I am. And I didn't set any clear ground rules. Obviously it didn't work.

I need room and quiet to settle down and clear my head so that I don't feel like running off to Mexico to join a cartel and wear billowly MC Hammer Pants and call myself Senorita Gatita.

I need time spent in the pure pleasure of writing -- not worrying or defending myself or explaining myself or carefully wording things so that people don't peck at them. I know other people are awesome at accepting all the advice of the internet but it's just not my strength. That's never going to be my movie. Let's accept it and move on.

I am no longer the world's largest ongoing communal art project. You share your life, I'll share mine and let's make a pact not to tell each other what kind of car to drive or who to love or where to live or how to worship or where to volunteer. Also, let's all recognize that it's just rude to tell a woman she needs to be medicated because she likes a clean house. That is mad ridiculous, ya'll! Cleaning is great cardio!

That should stuff is now over and done. Those comments will be deleted and IP addresses will be filtered. I don't need everyone to love me or agree with me or even like what I like. I do need to stop allowing crazyass comments from people I would not even ask for directions to the store. I'm going to be in a whole new age bracket soon, this is as fine a time as any to start drawing big lines on how I allow people to talk to me.

Wow, I kind of sounded like a badass there. Go me.

And sometimes I may just want to write and not have chitchat. That is not a bad thing. Not everything in life has to be a committee vote. Toni Morrison is right. Each of us needs to have a place to breathe, a sacred space to cultivate and grow exactly as we wish. This is mine. I want to keep it and not have to run off and join a Mexican drug cartel and assume a new identity. Even though I do secretly think I would look awesome in some MC Hammer pants.

Posted by laurie at 7:55 PM

One dollar and ninety-nine cents makes MAGIC

Listen up local folks! Smart & Final grocery store has whole seedless watermelons (the regular sized melons, not the mini melons) on sale for $1.99 each! If you are not familiar with the vagaries of watermelon pricing, let me assure you this is a crazy low price. A similar sized watermelon at Ralph's right now will cost you about $10.

You have probably guessed by now that one of my all-time top favorite foods on the planet is watermelon. I could eat it for every single meal and this week I probably will.

This has nothing to do with melons, but thought you should see this:

bob-melon-belly.jpg

Since it's Friday the 13th and I'm no dummy I am not leaving the house today. Of course if you hear about a meteor or UFO or similar crash landing in an apartment in Los Angeles you know who will be on the evening news. It's gotten to the point now where it's just funny, which means I'm nearing the end of the clump. You see, in my life bad luck seems to happen in clumps. It's preferable this way. I'd rather get it all out of the way and be clear for a good long stretch. The year I started this website was a doozy but then it passed and life got good as it does. A bad luck clump involves a triad of major upheaval -- home life, personal life and transportation. Curiously, the trifecta of suck was completed this week (involves Jeep, don't ask, don't want to talk about it) and now it's got me thinking in deep philosophical terms. HEAR ME OUT.

Let's say for the purposes of this hypothesis that the bad luck clump rolls around every six or seven years or so. What would happen if in the future, let's say in six years, I moved to Paris and gave up driving altogether? Would the transportation sector of the bad luck triad switch over into failures of the mass transit system? I am actually very willing to test this theory. My apologies in advance to all the future commuters with the misfortune to be on the same train as future me, though. Tough break! Hope you enjoy the big metro strike/alien abduction/power failure that lasts six days. The good news is we all get out alive! But we need therapy.

Anyway, I have at least learned something from previous spurts of crapticular rearrangement: bad luck is just like good luck, it runs out. Life perks up and something good will happen. It's true! Trust me. I learned that six years ago. What I learned from this current clump is that when the good stuff comes in I'm not going to diminish it or make light of it or try to keep my voice down so as not to provoke the doomy gloomy proclamations of the Debbie Downers of this world. NO MORE, my friends! When the good stuff happens I am going to buy a billboard or similar and shout that news from the mountaintops. I support you doing the same in your own life. I refuse to be one of those people who spends more time bitching about the woes than whooping up the good times.

Good times, I am ready for you. This is what I am saying. Also that I will totally move to Paris if you'd like me to test my theory scientifically.

So that's what I got today, a pocketful of hope. I'm staying home and knitting on my red scarf and having watermelon for dinner. Dollar ninety-nine! What a deal.

- - -

P.S. Don't forget we're chatting up The Great Gatsby in just over a week on Monday, MAY 23 (sorry about not adding the date and freaking you out thinking it was in two days, OOPS!!!) You can join in the book club from the comfort of your own hermit home. Have a good weekend!

Posted by laurie at 12:25 PM

May 12, 2011

8.72 miles

Yesterday I walked 8.72 miles. I got in a little over five miles in the morning and the rest last night. It wasn't a personal best (that happened on Sunday when I got in just over nine miles) but it's memorable because yesterday afternoon I went for a walk when what I wanted to do was melt into a wineglass. And I even broke into a little jog, which may tell you about the energy I am trying to burn off over here. Later I got to pet a big furry dog on the walk back to my apartment.

- -

Oh! A few days ago reader Lisa T. asked:

Since you mainly walk for fitness, have you tried any of the new toning kind of sneakers? I got a pair and love them. My legs are getting a work-out and they are really comfy (tho they take getting used to.) My daughter asked for a pair and she likes them too. There are a couple of places online that have them at pretty good discounts too.

Hi Lisa!
I've seen those commercials for the toning sneakers and they look so interesting. But I haven't tried them, actually when it comes to walking/running I go the opposite direction -- I wear the Nike Free Run, which is about as close as you can get to a barefoot running shoe without going all the way into Vibram five-finger territory. I am VERY happy with the Nike Free Run shoes, they give me just the right amount of structure but without the bulk of a traditional trainer. I made this switch back several months ago after I injured my ankle (at that time I was still wearing the more traditional Nike Air Max sneaker which has a thick, ultra-stable base).

My acupuncture doctor was the one who turned me on to the Nike Free shoes. I'm paraphrasing here but the theory is that a shoe with less heft and structure can work your foot in a more natural way and strengthen your ankles and tendons and stuff. I figured it was worth a try.

I can't verify scientifically that any of this is true and of course everyone has different feet and a different life and disclaimer disclaimer, but the Nike Free shoes have absolutely worked for me! My ankle is stronger and my feet are stronger. My whole stride has changed and evened out and the shoes are so LIGHT it's crazy. They weigh practically nothing. I LOVE THEM.

Another big and surprising benefit of switching to these shoes has been the total disappearance of all blisters. I used to get a weird blister right in the pad of my foot below my big toe anytime I walked over four miles at one time. I just assumed it was because my feet had to get used to walking that much but when I changed shoes all my blisters disappeared. And my feet don't get tired so quickly, I think it might be because the shoes are so light.

They take a little getting used to but now I am a total convert to the Nike Free thing. Since I do almost all my walking on uneven city streets they offer just enough protection from the road and rocks but still give the kind of workout you'd get from being (almost) barefoot. And of course I get to use my Nike+ Sport Band because I am a nerd and love to know my mileage, time and calories burned and I like to see it uploaded in a neat graph format. Honestly that sportband was the best fifty bucks I ever spent. I've had it for two years now and boy has it held up. One day when I am flush again (Dear Universe, soon, please) I might ante up and get the newer fancier GPS version (nerd alert! I love to map my walks!) but for now I am quite happy with what I have.

Also, apparently I am very passionate about my shoes. Sorry for the Novella of Nike. Thanks for the note!! I'm glad you like your shoes, too!

- -

Yesterday Frankie found The Spider. The Spider was in a box that I unpacked and when I got it out I thought, "Do I need to keep this? Do they even want to play with this weird toy anymore?" The Spider is a big uglyass Halloween decoration with long legs that you can pose. I've had it for a few years. It was in a closet at my other apartment and I kind of forgot about it.

But I guess we're keeping The Spider. Frankie was all over it yesterday, she was killing it:

franklin-spider1.jpg


Then she got some help:

franklin-spider2.jpg


But she vanquished him and later fell asleep still hugging that spider. Until I woke her up for the picture:

franklin-spider3.jpg


Cats!

Posted by laurie at 6:53 AM

May 11, 2011

Gratuitous Cat Picture Wednesday

This week has been mad unstable so instead of transcribing what I hope is the last of my run of bad luck, I have decided instead to post pictures of stuff I like. Take that, Suckadelelic Universe. Anyway what I am thinking here is that things will either make a turnaround real soon (as things do) OR I will be writing my next dispatch from the remote badlands of Sinaloa where I will have run off to to join a drug cartel and write narcocorridos that feature bad 1980s hiphop slang. Represent!

STUFF I LOVE


I love all the bougainvillea growing wild in alleys and on hillsides in Los Angeles:

bouganvilla.jpg


I love the greasy spoon breakfast and pretty much everything about Dupar's:

dupars.jpg

I love looking up for no reason at all except maybe feeling like someone is watching me and seeing a cat chilling on the second floor window ledge:

cat-in-upstairs-window.jpg

And speaking of felines, I love my fur-wearing sentries who keep all the windows here secure and well-watched at all times:

cats-on-patrol.jpg
(Notice my awesome pile of boxes in the background. Decorating. It's a modern art installation, people.)

There is a lot going on across the alley, this new nemesis has proven especially daunting:

nemesis2.jpg


Bob has it under control:

cats-on-patrol2.jpg

What do you love today?

Posted by laurie at 9:43 AM

May 6, 2011

Friday Q&A & Cat

friday-frank.jpg

At ease, everyone.

A few recent reader questions:

• On the subject of decluttering, reader Connie asked, "I'm puzzled because no one has mentioned selling/yard or garage sales. Does no one do that any more?"

Hi Connie! I love yard sales. It's what I think of as Southern Recycling. I used to have yard sales from time to time when I lived in that little house in Encino-adjacent and had a yard. There are a lot of similarities between this re-adjustment and that one, like moving from a larger space to a much smaller space. But there's one big difference -- no yard! There's just no logical or appropriate place for something like that out here. And it's fine, I like the slower pace of filling up a bag or a box and putting it aside for charity. But I'm pretty sure there are still plenty of folks out there saling the yard!

- - -

• Reader Margot wrote: "I was mystified about why you were keeping either of the fondue pots or the saws. Going from 2 of each to 1 of each still seems like a giant waste of space and energy toward managing STUFF since you don't need either."

Good morning, Margot! The simplest answer I can give you is this: my goal is not to live a spartan, austere life with no decoration.

I love that cool, 1960s atomic-age fondue pot. It's awesome. It makes me laugh when I think about it and it looks fantastic displayed in my home.

The purpose of decluttering in my life is to fit better into my much smaller home, have less overall stuff to move next time and fewer piles of stuff to clean. For me, that means letting go of things that don't make me happy and letting go of things I can easily borrow elsewhere or do without to make room for the things I love.

There were a few commenters who mentioned they were able to get their entire collection of worldly possessions into two suitcases. Two suitcases! I found that astonishing, and while I was intrigued by it I know I am not someone who ever wants to carry my life in a suitcase or two. BEEN THERE. Maybe my childhood turned me into a person who wants to nest and have things, my poor shrink has her work cut out for her. All I know is that for me a two-suitcase life is not the goal. I enjoy all the worldly pleasures that God created, including decorative kitchenware.

The trick is to find a balance here in my home. My goal is no mystery piles, no stuffed closets, no duplicates, no huge unused items hulking in the corner (treadmill, I'm looking at you.) It's a far cry from austerity, but everyone works at their own pace.


- - -

Janice asked, "I wonder what your thoughts are on Kindles or ebooks? We share a great love for books... I'll never give up reading, but the thought of being able to store thousands of books on one device is very appealing. Then again, I don't know that I want to give up the paper version, or having a bookshelf full of my favorite books to display."

Janice, you and I are sharing a mind meld on this one! I love my paper books, too. This move showed me with a big blazing neon sign that I have to re-think my book strategy. I personally buy books as my way to support authors (my choice for obvious reasons.) But I can't move that many boxes of books again. So I'm still going to buy books (OK, if I ever become flush again, which I will, fingers crossed, and until then will read the massive pile of unread books from my own shelves) and when I finish a book I am going to do my very best to pass it along, either to my grandma or mom or the library.

And I'm going to embrace the eBook. I haven't figured out which reader to go with and it doesn't matter since I wouldn't be buying one right this second anyway. But I am getting on that train. This moving business is crazymaking, but if it helps prod me up the technology food chain I think it's not that bad.


- - -


• Reader Cathy in Wisconsin writes, "Just the paranoia coming out, but do you ever find it dangerous walking in the Hollywood hills? I would have a taser in one hand and a can of pepper spray in the other. This is coming from someone who lives in rural Wisconsin though!"

Hello Cathy! This question is timely as I am just about to hit "send" on this entry and lace up my shoes for a climb up into the hills.

I don't find it dangerous territory, the movie stars and labradoodles of the Hollywood Hills are fairly well-behaved. There is the occasional wild-eyed murder suspect running around but you know in advance because of the throng of helicopters hovering overhead.

The Hollywood Hills are spectacular, probably one of my favorite areas in the city. I love the houses barnacled to the hillsides, the strange architecture, winding dead-end roads and odd landscaping choices. I love the views! And the dubious human flotsam down at street level in Hollywood doesn't seem interested in making the trek uphill so it's surprisingly peaceful. When you come visit from Wisconsin be sure to spend a morning driving around the Hills.

Unless you see a throng of helicopters overhead.

- - -

Have a happy weekend filled with decorative fondue pots or similar!


catpants-friday.jpg

Cat pants crack me UP.

Posted by laurie at 8:27 AM

May 5, 2011

C'mon shake your body baby do that conga, know you can't control yourself any longer

My little offhanded mention of the TV show Extreme Couponing had so many folks talking about the show that I decided I had to watch an episode or two. Ever the TV overachiever I tuned in for a couple of episodes last night and once I got past my initial disappointment that it was not a show about people cutting coupons while skydiving, motorbiking or climbing Everest I was unable to look away. I wanted to hate the show -- the sheer overuse of the word "couponing" alone predisposed me to dislike it -- but it was oddly riveting.

The first episode I caught featured a single mom in Chicago who seemed really normal and frugal and lovely. It also followed a cute young newlywed couple who used a bazillion coupons to buy a truckload of crap for FREE and then they donated the whole load to charity. I liked them a lot. And they didn't just say they were going to donate it, you actually see them doing it. Not the case with one of the other shows where a woman vaguely mentioned the idea of donating one of her eleventeen hundred tubes of toothpaste but you got the distinct feeling she was never letting go of one item.

They may be hoarders but, wow are they organized. And I kind of admire that commitment even though I can't wrap my mind around purchasing or carrying or storing 900 bottles of liquid detergent. I can barely find space for an extra roll of toilet paper here in Apartment Of Unspecified Location. Mostly though I was shocked to learn that some of these folks spend well over thirty hours a week clipping, sorting and fussing with their coupons! This says more about me than the coupon fanatics but the first thought that popped into my brain was, "Thirty hours! You could be writing a novel, lady!"

Overall it was fascinating, though. One gal bought 93 bags of croutons for free with her coupons and nary a head of lettuce in the bunch. Listen, I love me some croutons. But even a loyal and devout crouton fan such as myself can't eat 93 bags of crunchified bread without some salad. But I couldn't hate on her, she seemed so ridiculously happy with her croutons. Whatever floats your boat. It did strike me that this whole couponing/hoarding situation seems like a distinctly North American thing. What do you think?

Yesterday it was hot as the scorching surface of the sun here in Los Angeles so while I watched my reality TV I did a little knitting. To be more accurate I did a little reknitting. When I first started down this wild road paved with so many skeins of wool I had just no idea what I was doing. Honestly. And I knew that everyone said not to knit a heavy scarf in stockinette because it would allegedly roll into a long tube. Yeah, yeah yeah. Why I thought the rules of physics and alchemy and stockinette did not apply to me is a mystery of my id. Oh the bravado of new crafters! So I knitted myself a longass stockinette scarf with big ol' pompom ends and sure enough I got myself a tube to end all tubes:

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The pompoms rock, though.

I carefully unfastened the big poms from the tube and started unknitting the tube and reknitting it into a perfect garter stitch scarf. I don't care how uncultured and uninteresting you think I am, I love me some garter stitch. This is a perfect project for a little afternoon knitting. It makes more sense that I would spend my winters knitting wool items that I can't wear here in my beloved city because it never really gets cold enough to require more than a windbreaker anyway. BUT I prefer to knit in the summer. It's my thing. I like hibernating in the heat of the day with sticks, strings and a furry yarn-holder-downwer:

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Aw, I love her.

Posted by laurie at 12:57 PM

May 4, 2011

Bits and Bobs

BITS

There has been so much going on in my TV life! There was of course the Royal Wedding and then the big international Navy SEALS Are Hot news and those crazy real housewives of New York. This is turning out to be a great May sweeps season. I love teevee.

Oh, speaking of New York... have you seen this video on youtube of a woman living in a 90 square foot apartment in Manhattan? I find New Yorkers to be utterly fascinating, like they are from another world. Apparently no one ever cooks in New York City and everyone uses the oven for storage. All I know about New York I have learned from TV and TV never lies.

And there is new Obesity TV, you know I never miss a moment of that. Have you been watching Addicted To Food on OWN? You could not pay me a bazillion dollars to get in front of a camera or sit in a group and talk about my mommy issues but it does make for oddly voyeuristic TV. Also, is it true that there is a television program called Extreme Couponing? Does it feature people with gigantic scissors cutting coupons while skydiving? This is what I imagine.

The most interesting interview I've seen in a long time was yesterday's Oprah show with Shania Twain. Half the time I was thinking, hello! She went through my divorce! Except of course I did not live in a Swiss Chalet. And I didn't personally know the other woman. And also I am not a famous country singer. But still! Such similar emotions. After I saw the interview I recorded a season pass to Shania Twain's new docu-reality-show also on OWN. Oh Oprah Winfrey, you and your network will keep me happily indoors on hot days.

LIKE TODAY.
It's going to be 97 degrees today! Summer came on early and strong! If you're not watching TV it's perfect weather to go to the beach with a book, and my book of choice is of course The Great Gatsby, our book club selection for May. Don't forget to come back on May 23rd to talk about the book! You still have time, it's a very slim little novel and you can read it in a weekend. And you'll feel smart at parties. "What did you do last weekend?" "Oh, just the usual, made spaghetti, did a little shopping, read The Great Gatsby, worked on a cure for cancer."

May 23rd! Great Gatsby Book Club Discussion!

OTHER STUFF

Reader Johann wrote: Can you do a blog post on tips for moving REALLY fast? I'll bet you learned something from your sudden move.

Well, I did learn many things and although I'm not sure how useful they will be I am happy to share.

1) When you have to move FAST -- even if you hate it and don't want to do it and have all kinds of emotional issues about it -- the priority is to move first, fall apart majestically later.

2) The essentials are: find new place, switch utilities, get your mail forwarded (you can do it online), get boxes and tape, get packed, get moving. I didn't have time to sort and file and pare down before the move and I didn't have time to be super organized and color code or label boxes and in fact I didn't even have time to clean this new apartment before moving into it. BUT I LIVED. Take care of the essentials and the rest will follow.

3) Get busy. The natural human tendency is to sit in the closet and gnaw on your arm but the process will go much easier if you just 100% commit to the move and get it done. You can even make a nice running list of stuff to complain about later, and stuff to worry about later. Resist the urge to huddle in a ball under the covers. Pack a box instead.

4) The world will keep spinning on its axis if you just throw all your stuff randomly into boxes. It won't be the easiest move but you will live.

5) Pack one suitcase or special box or bag with your underwear and REMEMBER WHICH ONE IT IS.

6) Ask the movers to move your fridge out last and in first so you can get it plugged in as quickly as possible. (I didn't have time to even clean out my fridge before the move and still, I lived!) (Of course maybe where you live apartments come with refrigerators. Not so in the city of Angels.)

I guess what I am saying here is that even if your move is unexpected and awful and afterward you have to go to therapy twice a week like some people and hide in your closet and cry into a pizza, it's OK. After the big sucking part you will, in time, manage to figure out a new normal. This is not comforting in the moment and probably not helpful during the move. But I figure if an OCD control enthusiast such as myself can do a massive throw-it-together move completely by herself in two-and-a-half days (except for the actual day of the move I hired some guys) and still be standing upright then anyone can do it.

(Wow that last sentence was crazy convoluted. Take that, editors of the world!)

A move doesn't have to be perfectly organized or plotted three months in advance or carefully coordinated. Yes, that would be ideal. But sometimes you just have to go with it and make the very best of what you've got.

I think that's what I learned from this whole experience. There was a part of me that deeply wanted to push against it and resist it and dig my heels in and complain like it was the World Olympic Complaining Marathon. But the very best course of action for me was to go with the flow, accept the reality, get it done and deal with the fallout later. It's been a few weeks now and I'm still worried about how much this cost and I still can't quite fit my sofa in my new living room in any configuration that makes sense, but I'm alive. I'm alive and I have a roof over my head and I finally got the yarn unpacked.

Hope your move goes well. Use the cheapy brown tape instead of the clear moving tape -- it's stickier and works better.

- - -


And now for BOBS:

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Posted by laurie at 9:27 AM

May 2, 2011

So Los Angeles

Yes, this is just what we need... a way to make kids even more adorably funny:

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Posted by laurie at 2:33 PM