I Might Even Consider It

I know I made fun of the ridiculous and goofy wedding cake toppers, but here are some that I might consider, ...if we were having a wedding cake.
They come as singletons too, for everyday, or maybe cupcakes. How can you not love the scarf and beret?

From Ann Wood Handmade.

The End of Tupperware?

Among the household necessities at the top of our wedding registry wishlist was new Tupperware. Although not being brand conscious in this area, it could also be Rubbermaid or whatever brand, it just has to be new, and better, and matching.

We have the inherited hodgepodge of plasticware from my family. There are lids that somehow continue to take up space in the cabinet despite their not having a container to match with. (After just finishing Boss by Mike Royko about Daley's Chicago patronage system I now think of these lids as the old neighborhood guys Daley kept in jobs at City Hall even though they could barely walk down the hall lucidly.)

Being people who live in a limited amount of space (as well as guilty citizens of the planet who are loathe to throw something away if it can still be considered to function) as every new registry item has come into our home we've tried to identify some old houseware item to go to the Salvation Army. But when I look at my current Tupperware I wonder if it would be disrespectful to think that anyone would want this. Even people who have survived hurricanes and fires and are rebuilding their kitchens deserve kind of nice stuff.

And then I stopped myself, if I wouldn't even give this Tupperware to the Salvation Army ...why am I continuing to use it myself? I know that stained tint is from Dad's spaghetti sauce, so it's not so bothersome? Wait, Dad died over 10 years ago now. 10 year old spaghetti sauce stains... yuck!

These are the kinds of things that blogs give you enough time to think about to facilitate decision making. If it's something that you're kind of ashamed to admit in a blog, it's something that you might want to change. Time to replace the tupperware.

But with what? I was surprised that it's kind of hard to find Tupperware or Rubbermaid at Bed, Bath & Beyond. (I think Tupperware still works through the house party shopping system, very '50s. There are still at-home shopping parties these days, but the wares are certainly different. You might want to click that link from home, not work.)

But on the other hand, it's very easy to find grocery store shelves filled with those little Glad reusable but disposable containers. Should we just switch over to them? I find the idea of little tuppies all in a row, matching lids, stacked containers very appealing. And this would be a lot easier than searching out the elusive permanent plastic containers. If there's a stain, throw it away with less guilt.
And there are even holiday designs, and sparkly versions.

I wonder if Tupperware ended and no one told me. (As though it's some kind of smack in your face sign, their factory did recently catch on fire in South Carolina.)

Figuring Out Our Finger Food

This year's solution to a lack of New Year's Eve plans is to throw our own small party. Finally I have time to feel prepared for a party, since I'm enjoying this entire week off of work.
Today I am considering appetizers. To my mind there is a three-tiered decision set here:
Basic: Harkening back to college days we serve chips, salsa, and maybe count on someone bringing some chips or oreos.

Basic Plus: Progressing to my post-college, first apartment days, we have the chips, salsa and also add a cheese plate with grapes. Tres chic.

We Act Like Adults: We prepare a few little homemade nibbles and we hit Costco. I hear that even the doyennes of Washigton entertaining are doing it today. (Best quote from the linked NYT story comes from the caterer:
The ultimate awkwardness, she said, is when clients want to buy their food from Costco but disguise it: “They’ll say: ‘Why don’t you bring the fancy glassware, and we’ll get the rest from Costco. And could you put it on one of your fancy plates? Oh, and how about some of your fancy ice cream on top?’”

I was not aware that there is another level entirely which the New York Times calls simple, as in "101 Simple Appetizers in 20 Minutes or Less." But there a few obstacles here:
#13. I don't know what it means to cooks garlic until it "mellows."
#16 for garlic shrimp calls for "pimenton." If we'd like to keep things simple, why can't we just call it paprika? (I had to look it up, so I can only imagine the crossed eyebrows I'd get from my grocer.)
#17. Calls for shucked clams. I'm not sure, can clams be shucked in 20 minutes or less? Does my grocery store carry clams?
#40. Flash-cooked squid. Enough said.

I am quickly retreating to my "Basic" comfort zone and have not even read halfway through the NYT's list.

Happy Holidays!

Without much time at home before Christmas, I did not drag out the decorations this year, nor recruit Jason into one of his least-desired "things I do because I love her" chores: buying a real Christmas tree. A duty that includes pacing a cold, snowy parking lot testing each tree for height and freshness; cajoling the purchased tree into the trunk of the car (the one time a year I miss his SUV); dragging it up our three flights of stairs; and then watching as 2 out of every 5 five needles jump ship before the tree arrives at the end of our sixty-foot hallway.
This year Jason had it easy as while he stayed home and napped (he's been feeling a little sick lately) I went out and brought home a small tree all on my own. A dwarf Alberta Spruce. It stood up all by itself in the backseat.
And although I'm not one for theme trees, all matchy-matchy decorations, this year it was cheaper and easier to buy and match whatever Lowes had left to offer. I am quite proud of my little red tree. The two souvenir Christmas decorations I picked up in Hawaii coordinate very well with the red light string and red glass ornaments with sparkle green polka dots. The sand dollars are from our neighbors who picked them up while beachcombing on their own vacation and brought them back for us, thinking of our Hawaii wedding.

Since I was working with what was left on the store shelves, the light string is far too long. To use up the extra distance I fed the lights into a large glass jar and placed it next to the tree. It reminds me of the summer pastime of putting fireflies in a jar.

I was drawn to the vibrant red and pink of a wreath at the Four Seasons while we were there. I wish I could recreate it here at home. But like many of the items we considered while shopping in Hawaii (namely Hawaiian shirts) it might be one of those items that is so fitting when you're on vacation but you bring it back to the midwestern winter and it suddenly seems clownish and out of place. I am glad that I have the photo to further consider this question.

One of Those Days

Have you ever had one of those days where it seems like everyone's looking at you? Or paths that you would normally travel unperturbed are now littered with people eager to approach or make random comments? (Hopefully most of you missed the nasty anonymous comment someone left on this blog yesterday. Whoever you are, you can go to hell. Sorry readers, I know we're all normally above that language.)

Anyway, this 'all eyes' phenomenon happened a couple of weeks ago on the train. It seemed like my fellow commuters were looking longer, or more curiously and purposefully at me. With it being winter hat and hood season it is possible that this was due to some unruly hair. I have to remind myself to make a stop in the ladies room before morning meetings today, because my latent cowlicks are only encouraged this time of year. I tried to convince myself that the unwarranted staring was due to my striking, enigmatic beauty. (Hey, this is what keeps the commute interesting, all right?)

Last night I stood in line at Lowes (buying my 75% off Christmas tree - I purchased all the goods for an entirely decorated and lit tree for less than $25!) when the older gentleman next to me remarked, "Those are really nice pants." I swiveled, and sure enough he was looking down at my tweed herringbone twill pants. And this was not a "Hey babe, your ass looks hot in those pants," kind of comment. I believe he was truly admiring the pants with no undignified intentions. "You don't see that quality fabric much these days, and the pattern is reminiscent of the 70s," he continued. "Yes, they're among my favorite pairs, thank you." I replied, and scuttled away quickly, still not sure if this was a weird event, or just a odd but entirely pleasant and genuine interaction.

Mahalo (Whatever that Means)

I think I was in a little bit of denial. Posting the recap of the week away in Hawaii and marriage in Maui would mean that it was officially over.
Yes, I know, it was just the magical *beginning* but unfortunately we won't be spending the rest of our marriage in Maui.
It was a depressing return to earth as our plane touched down in 27 degree, icy Chicago. And then there were over 200 e-mail messages to answer. My Aloha spirit was frozen; then crushed by Lotus Notes. And I realized while driving home the other night that for the first time in ten days I had a headache, and the place where I banged my knee last year falling on ice hurt again, when I hadn't paid a thought to it the whole time away.
All I can say is, "We should have stayed for 2 weeks. We should have stayed for 2 weeks." Maybe if I say it three times and click my heels together I'll find myself back under the poolside cabana, a Four Seasons attendant offering me an orange slice or chilled facecloth.
Of our time away though, I can say "WOW." I so readily and hungrily fell into perfect relaxation. The weather was exquisite. Our accommodations were beyond belief, and the level of hotel service bordered on ridiculous. There is seriously a man who patrols the pool area inquiring if he might wipe off your sunglasses for you. Yet they time these helpful interruptions (Popsicle? More Water? Drink? Massage?) so perfectly that you never feel bothered.
We enjoyed snorkeling, especially once I figured out why my mouth filled with water every time I tried to inhale through my snorkel. That's not such a good situation, but once diagnosed it was easily fixed. We did a little "Discover Scuba" 20 foot dive.(See movie!) As we were zipping up our wetsuits, Jason confided, "I've wanted to SCUBA dive ever since I was little." It was cute to discover that there were still things to learn about the man I'd just married the day before. We bumped into a big sea turtle chilling on some coral and played hide and seek with a shy eel.

Not to forget, the wedding day was super beautiful. Juliet and I enjoyed manicures and pedicures at the salon, and I watched as her hair was piled up in curls and flowers on the top of her head. I had the nearest to the Bridezilla moment, which was very mild, as I waited for them to finish Juliet's hair fifteen minutes after I'd hoped we could go get dressed. "She doesn't need any more flowers in her hair! Let's go, please!"

I think the pictures can probably speak to the majority of the wedding day. (I know you were waiting for that link!)I loved how small and easy it was. When the photographer needed us for photos on the beach, we simply turned to our small contingent of guests and say, "Why don't you just go to the bar over there and we'll see you in 30 minutes?" No fuss over cocktail hour arrangements, worry over how people get from Point A to Point B, or table place cards. For dinner, we just sat down at the table, all at one table.

Jason teased me about the delight I took in parading through the hotel in my gown, as every guest smiled broadly at me, wished us congratulations, or raised their glass with best wishes. No kidding, Japanese tourists took photos with me! When the restaurant apologized that we'd have to walk downstairs for the ladies room because their's were under repair, "No problem!" I declared, "I might just take another lap around the property for the notoriety!" I whispered into Juliet's ear. Outside of the restaurant, an older gentleman approached, took my hand and said, "It's not the dress that's beautiful, it's the bride," and offered a small kiss on the cheek. "Player," Jason pretended to grumble, "I bet he hangs around the lobby, waiting for all the brides."

There are more details to share, like the champagne that greeted us in our room at check-in, the yummy orange blossom mint ice tea always ready and chilled in the lobby, the perfect mojitos... and that's just the beverages! Maybe I'll post more later, but this should satiate the initial curiosity over our wedding.
It's still hard to believe that that guy in the next room in our apartment... he's my HUSBAND! (Who also just helped me figure out how to format my SCUBA video correctly. Thnx!)

Clairest is on Hiatus

See you in a little bit!

Advent Calendars P.S.

From another adorable blog, Yvestown, and then linking to another, I found a Flickr group dedicated to creative handmade advent calendars.
Is there something about Christmas that makes you feel more crafty too?
The shame of it is that there's really no joy in making an advent calendar for yourself, because then you KNOW what's behind every day. Unless, I make a 2008 advent calendar now? (Ensuring all treats are non-perishable of course. A stale hershey's kiss or moldy cheese bite would be no fun to discover next year.)

Would You Like Something to Read While You Wait?

Since I'll be out of pocket* for the next week, I want to share a couple of delightful design & style blogs I've discovered in the past week. Perhaps you'd like to read them while you wait for me to come back.

Oh Happy Day: Design and simplicity, "updated daily with pretty things", like advent calendars which I have adored since childhood. Not to get ahead of myself, but I can't wait to have kids and torture them with anticipation of Christmas with this little tradition! (But it's just all the other things about kids, like: labor, temper tantrums, figuring out childcare arrangements, less time to ourselves, adolescence, that moderate my procreation urge.)

Love Made Visible: This is a girl who I wish as I had as a best friend (read: free stylist.) We'd go shopping together, she'd tell me what looked good on me, as well as what fits my personal style.** Too bad, but she's doesn't update as frequently as 'Oh Happy Day.' Maybe it's because her other real friends are dragging her out shopping. But she took me online shopping, and I'm seriously considering one of these posters from Ork.

* When I first heard the term "out of pocket" I couldn't figure if it meant available or unavailable. At first I thought, "Oh, if you're taking someone 'out of pocket' it means that you're taking them out to USE them, like a set of keys, so they are available." I have learned that it's the opposite. Does anyone know if there's some esoteric origin of this term that helps it make sense?
** Working in Marketing, I've heard two different bosses coach me on developing and presenting my "personal brand." Claire Brand Hallmarks include: Diet Coke, being 'buttoned up' and knowing my information, enthusiasm tempered by maybe too much pragmatism (today's little coaching lesson), and a big backpack. My co-worker/friend tells me that a unique and extensive jewelry is also part of the Claire brand. I like that part. (I am so coveting this "peacock" necklace from Sundance catalog too. "Evokes the iridescent shimmer of a peacock’s plumage." Mr. Year-End Bonus may have found his purpose. Thank you, Mr. Year-End Bonus!)

Wedding Gift from Mama Nature?

There's nothing that will make us welcome the sun and surf of Hawaii more than a generous snow in Chicago. Let's just hope the runways are clear by Saturday morning.

My Own VW Ad?

I hate those VW ads, where there are folks my age(ish) in the car bantering and then "WHOOMPF! Crash!" Their VW is all smashed up and they are standing on the corner in dumbstruck surprise.
As Slate explains,
"The spots capture that out-of-nowhere moment at the heart of all accidents, when everyday mundanity flashes into a hyper-intense freak-out explosion. The ads also hint at an accident's aftermath: hours of jittery detachment."

Much was the same Friday night as me and three girlfriends jumped into a taxi for a pre-weddding girls' night out. (Can't call it a bachelorette, that brings to mind images of me hanging out the sunroof of a limosine, half-empty champagne bottle in one hand, homemade veil on my head, screaming in an ugly way.)
We began the evening at a small lingerie shop in Chicago, which was opened for our own little private party. My friend had even remembered that I loved sparkling wine, so we had two bottles of pink bubbling wine.
After packaging up our goodies, we were in the cab on the way to dinner, recounting our purchases, and those items we left on the store hangers, in carefree and giggling conversation, when the taxi came to a loud, jolting stop.
I looked up, "What happened?!" I exclaimed as I saw the side of a white SUV directly in front of the cab, and then, in slow motion, the SUV was tipping over, and coming to rest where we were staring at its underside. And it was very still and quiet, as we each breathed deeply and then asked, "Are you all right?" "Are you all right?"
Our taxi hit an SUV which had made a poor choice to cross into our path at a stop sign. (Our taxi had right of way, with no stop sign.)
Suffice to say, girls night out came to an abrupt end, just like in the VW ads. Each of my girlfriends emerged from the taxi with nothing worse than a smart little goose egg on their foreheads. Being the only one who wore her seatbelt, I was better off; I had no bump. I do have a heck of a muscle ache in my neck and shoulders, and woke up with a nagging headache, and discovered a small black and blue mark on my knee this morning in the shower. The neck pain is alleviated nicely by a heating pad, and I am very, very grateful for being so well off after an accident. It's very remarkable that an accident impactful enough to tip over a truck can leave each of us with just small bruises and strains.

Even the guy in the SUV stood up, in his now perpendicular-to-the-street vehicle, and walked out through the back window of his car. Cab driver was fine too.
Of course the loud and rather dramatic looking accident brought a flurry of police and firemen and an ambulance. I think I snapped angrily at some bystander who assumed that it was the girls who were driving the SUV that had made the driving error. "You girls were driving the truck?" "NO!" I said incredulously, rolled my eyes and huffed. The bystander skulked away.
Later, one of the cops called to us from across the intersection where he was standing next to the damaged cab, to clarify, "Were you the ones in the taxi?" We nodded.
"The meter's still running," he said with a wry note.

And She's Still Alive

The writer's strike has had a positive influence on me. Instead of spending 10-11 pm every night watching Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, I've been reading. The negative influence is that I'm now staying up past my bedtime on a regular basis (until midnight some nights) finding my book too hard to put down.
I'm currently enjoying a rekindling my love of Latin American author Isabel Allende. The first book of hers that I read was "The House of the Spirits" and it probably remains her defining novel for many readers. I then consumed "Eva Luna" and "The Stories of Eva Luna" quickly. After I finished one of her books, I quickly sought the next one.
Allende is a fabulous storyteller, with twisting plotlines full of tangible details, like the scent of orange blossoms, or the grit of wind. Unlike one of my other favorite authors, Jane Austen, who I regretted could never pen another book, I was so happy that Allende is still alive. Still writing! (Born in 1942, so probably still holding a few unwritten tales in her head for me.)
But then she had a few books which were duds: "Aphrodite" a book with an identity crisis, not knowing if it was a cookbook or a novel. And although I read it with sincere sympathy, "Paula" the book about her sick daughter, was a hard ice water bath, compared to her usual offerings which are escapist and romantic magical realism. And after that disappointment I held her following novels to higher scrutiny, and ended up let down.
But "Zorro" is riveting me! I was dubious, thinking it might be just a retelling of that Antonia Banderas movie, but it's not. It has pirates and magicians!
Isabel and I are friends again.

Washed in Translation

I try to be a responsible launderer. I read the labels. I separate the colors and the whites. I don't tumble dry something that says 'line dry.' If it says dry flat, I use the handy contraption I got from the Container Store that lays a netted platform across the bathtub, and I dry flat. I even endured the delayed response horror when I realized a male friend had asked to use our bathroom... while my 'line dry' undies where hanging over the bathtub. (Things I Miss About Ohio Part 1: apartments big enough to have dedicated laundry rooms!) He never said anything, and I guess there's some solace to be found in that.
If the label tells me what to do, I'll do it. And I can usually rely upon the kindness of the manufacturer to dispatch me to the washing machine with instructions that come in English. Not Egyptian hieroglyphics.
But my new cozy black cardigan (discovered in the aforementioned emergency Los Angeles shipping trip) has no English, and the only thing I can figure by all the little X's across the symbols on the care label is that maybe I shouldn't be washing this garment at all.
We find another reason to love the internet: I google "wash instruction symbols" and I find guidance.
The only thing without an X over it is the letter P in a circle, which I discover means, "Dry clean using any solvent except trichloreothylene." Should that have been obvious? Was I supposed to know that? Am I being punished once again for going to a high school that taught "Concepts of Justice" instead of Home Ec?
I can't exactly see myself becoming the most high maintenance customer at Kenny the Kleaners by inquiring about the solvents. Despite the desire to boast of my new-found knowledge and act like it's merely common sense. I think I'll just hand it over and assume it'll come back in good shape.

Breaking News: Our Ship is Sunk

Or at least listing, in chilly Antarctic waters.

I was a little shocked to open my NYT home page and read that the Antarctic Cruise ship, the Explorer, had to be evacuated after hitting (of course) an iceberg. After double checking photos from me and Juliet's 2002 cruise to Antarctica I confirmed that this was our ship. Talk about good timing! (Although Juliet and I had rocked the evacuation and life safety drill, being the only passengers who actually put on our coats and strapped up the life jackets. Yes, we felt like nerds when we arrived on deck to see that everyone else was treating the drill as a mere, boring formality, holding their jackets on their hips.)

It's apparent in reading the details that the tour company that we trusted with our polar safety had sold the ship to another company. So there should be no retrospective worrying from relatives reading this post!

Here are a few photos from better days on the Explorer, including me doing my bit to look out for icebergs and my time on the bridge, where I remember the first mate advising that lots of ships hit icebergs, but very rarely sink. Everyone just thinks of the Titanic. (I walked away from that conversation feeling just a wee bit unsettled by the nonchalance of our crew regarding icebergs, but had to figure they knew what they were doing.)

The last photo credit goes to Juliet, and I've always found it striking - particularly in its contrast to what happened to the Explorer today.


The Thanksgiving Cornish hens and the twelve sides that accompanied them (I exaggerate) were good and tasty. Far more than two people who are eyeing their wedding day looming on the calendar and trying to consume accordingly could eat. So we have the true Thanksgiving tradition in effect: leftovers.

Now I'm wondering how to get the smell of yesterday's cooking out of the kitchen. (Onions, garlc.)
I am taking advantage of the luxury of four days off of work to address chores that have nagged at me: fixing the hem on a skirt, cleaning the oven. As well as the things I always wish I had more time to do: reading, listening to the radio.

Last night I even gave myself a facial! It was a gift, and one of those beauty products that if I did not make an effort to use, would probably sit on the medicine shelf until we move again. I'd screw off the top of the citrus scrub, sniff carefully, and wrinkle my nose at the smell of stale beauty product. Any beauty product that arrives in a package labeled "gift set" has a higher likelihood of this destiny. (But I still love getting gift sets! Something about the cute little bottles, and the yummy scents, when they're not expired.)
I almost changed my mind about the facial when I saw the instruction book was 32 pages long, but it turned out to be easy enough to skim. (I was incredulous that the 32 page guide was called out as an attractive inclusion of the kit on the outside box. Are you kidding?)
Of course midway through the clay mask, I hear Jason's office door pop open and his footsteps approach down the hall. I steeled myself for the teasing. "I'm giving myself a facial!" I called out in warning before he opened the bedroom door, so that he wouldn't be scared to see his fiance as a green-masked alien. "Can I take a picture?" he asked. "No."

New Leaf

I give thanks that there's someone far more technically savvy than me in the house. One who takes a keen interest in wanting to rewallpaper my blog, and does it in one hour with a design he led me towards on the web, while I sleep.
"When you wake up tomorrow, you'll have a new blog design." he promised. It's like Thanksgiving day was Christmas.
Thank you Jason.

Super Yuck

I usually think of those people who claim to suffer from "Seasonal Affective Disorder" (SAD) as melodramatic. Ok, there are people who really have a problem, but I think the others might just be looking for attention. Same goes for the many lactose intolerant and those who can't ride in the backseat of cars without whining of nausea. I carry a particular suspicion towards the last group that dates back to carpooling in grade school. The front passenger seat is a coveted position, and how convenient that a medical condition should necessitate your sitting there, instead of in the cramped back seat with empty soda cans and odd shoes rolling around on the floor?

This week has me contemplating my own fallibility though, because it's just been a glum week. Rainy. Foggy. Dark. And it's getting to me.
Tonight we might even get snow.
There has been the small consolation that my boss offered the "work at home" option today. Yay for telecommuting! I did not leave the apartment all day... but that might also be contributing to the feeling of isolation and too many thoughts trapped in my head today.

No Turkey, Because I'm Chicken

Thanksgiving looms, the supermarket shelves more full than usual in anticipation of us all tromping in with our 3x longer shopping lists. Jason and I will be in Chicago, leaving me with the first Thanksgiving dinner to cook.
Yes, I could take this opportunity to do a test run of the full turkey, in anticipation of years future where the family meal responsibility will come to me (not if my relatives are savvy, but it could happen.) I think I'd have the Butterball hotline on speaker all day, and in fear of undercooking the bird, I'd probably have a dry meat coming out of the oven. And then there's this thing about "tenting" the turkey? Or injecting it? (Do I have to ask my local hospital ER if I may borrow a syringe?) I don't even know which side is the breast side of the turkey!
The injecting part is kind of wickedly cool though.

Baby steps. Which is why this Thanksgiving we will be enjoying (fingers crossed!) cornish hens. Like a mini turkey, so much less intimidating. Look at the pictures, and you'll agree.
I figured a 20 lb turkey is a ridiculous undertaking for two people anyway, but with cornish hens we still get the carnivore's delight of eating something that still looks like the bird it once was, rather than a thick slice of turkey breast that I got at the deli counter.

I have my shopping list, and today I head to the store.

30 Days

In 30 days we'll be getting married. Well, providing Jason and I don't annoy the heck out of each other. Just 30 days left of being "single." Quotes because we've been attached for years already, with shared furniture and a two-year-old cat to prove it.
The cat was the first real tangible long-term commitment. I remember looking at our new little mewing kitten, as Jason teased him into falling in somersaults over his scratching post, and thinking to myself, "Shoot, this little guy might be around for 18 years. We'll be nearly 50 by then." It was like an accidental pact that we had to stick together for our little furball. (Wait, am I kidding myself? Did Teedie even notice I was gone all last week?)
A friend pointed out that I could start packing for Hawaii already, since none of the clothing I'd wear there would be appropriate for here. But no black fleece. Ever. Again.
We've made a small effort at a registry (Crate & Barrel and about 2 things at Bed, Bath & Beyond.) It's easy to get a little giddy with the scanning gun. "Yes, let's get that too!" It's just about things I want, not about stuff I have to buy myself. The headiness of retail euphoria. But I still haven't found the right towels, or exactly the right pots and pans.
It's crazy how expensive these housewares are, it gives me second thoughts about the adequacy of my pot and pan collection. The most recent addition was a pot that Grandma gave me, which might have been abandoned as someone moved out of a neighboring apartment in her building. Grandma can make sure that household goods get a chance at a life nearly as long as hers. And every time I call she tells me I have to come and pick up a bag of more treasures she has waiting for me: a good winter coat, kitchen towels, good fabric.
But the gift-giving can go on until our Chicago reception in June, so I guess there's no reason to rush into a hasty bed or bath (or beyond) decision.
I wonder if anyone would mind if I just maintained the registry after we get married too?

Lost in LA

Despite the glamorous sound of it, "week-long photo shoot in Los Angeles" complete with stops in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, it was like a bad camping trip. Cold, overcast and lots of time just standing around outside and waiting. Nibbling on nuts and granola too.
The weather forecast promised 70 degrees plus all week. After checking this, I considered taking some of the warmer items out of of my bag and throwing in flip flops. I'm glad I didn't, since my co-worker and I spent out first night in Los Angeles at the Nordstrom Rack sifting through the hangers for warm cardigans and hoodies. It was ~50 degrees everyday.
I hoped to meet up with future sister-in-law Courtney who lives in San Diego. Consider this my "late year's resolution" to take advantage of business trips that take me closer to friends and family. But after I realized that asking someone to drive from San Diego to LA is like asking them to drive from Philadelphia to NYC, and Courtney had scheduling challenges at work, we called it off. We'll see each other next month anyway in Hawaii, where the commute will be just a short beach hop.
That's where I was this past week, lost in Los Angeles. Wearing the same darn black fleece jacket every single day, and bundled underneath with layers of whatever I could find in my suitcase.
I am ready to burn that fleece. I considered this sleeker alternative at the North Face store on Michigan Avenue last night. Walked away without purchasing though, now suffering second thoughts!

The Snaps from Spain

After my last post, you might have been given the impression that I'd collapsed into the bed in my Madrid hotel room and slept right through my flight home. Or, due to the office aggravation, decided to stay abroad and never come home.
I'm home, with my tourist photos to share. As is the case with a solo traveler, you'll see more photos that I took, than photos that were actually taken of me. There's only so many times you can ask strangers to snap your photo until you begin to look like a narcissist. But you will see my having a go at tasting sauteed pigs' ears.
The photos of our flamenco dinner don't do the driving incessant rhythms any justice, of course. I had to remind myself to put the camera down and soak up the experience, because the photos would never be as good as the moment. One of my co-workers who had researched our destination more than me, explained that the guys who clap the rhythm for the dancers purposefully clap out of sync so there's a constant clapping fueling the rhythm of the dancer's jack hammer tapping footsteps. 'Dancing with the Stars' cannot compare.
It's unfortunate that I couldn't take photos of the inside of the Royal Palace which is luxurious and rich in its interiors. For example, the walls of The Porcelain Room are entirely clad in fine porcelain china. (Follow the link and you'll see that not everyone follows the no photo rule.)
Similarly, although photos were permitted "sin flash" in the Cathedral at Toledo, I realized that there was no way the grandeur of the place could be captured in the aperture of my point-and-shoot digital camera. It was built in 1226! But you can see my efforts, nonetheless. Toledo was a fascinating side trip, where the history of the place was apparent in every crevice and cobblestone. The entire city is a registered UNESCO World Heritage site. The streets are narrow and winding; the balcony of your across the street neighbor is just three feet away from yours. I read in my guidebook that staying the night in Toledo is worthwhile, because the tourist buses (like the one I rode in on) leave and the town goes back to its quiet historic serenity. Next time.

Sleepy in Spain

My conference is wrapping up and tomorrow begins my two-day leisure time in Madrid. Jet lag has been wicked and consequently I'm averaging ~4 hours sleep each night. This is making me inordinately cranky. No help are two major projects stateside at work that are characterized by useless collegeues who are really ignorant and helpless. 10 days prior to a deadline is not the time to suggest getting together to review draft materials, especially when there have been bi-weekly meetings since APRIL! It leaves me wondering how some people manage to get to work in the morning, because they don't seem to have a clue how to do anything at the office. Stupid beaurcrats.
See, that's crankiness. But how would you feel returning the room each night after midnight and having your body tell you that for the first time in the day it's actually awake and ready to do some e-mails?
Exacerbating the problem is that the restaurants in Spain don't even open until 9 pm. (Even then we are the first ones seated, and sometimes not served until 10 pm.) Nothing like a group of loud Americans in a quiet, empty restaurant. Suffice to say there has been some glaring glances directed my group's way from the natives.
The food has fallen a little short of expectations. Is this because I've been raised in America tasting Spanish foods (paella, for example) that is not really Spanish, but the Americanized equivalent? Like the burritos from Chipotle, that taste nothing like the real things from the Mexican tacquerias in our neighborhood?
Oddly, most of the appetizers have been delicious which reinforces the notion that the best food Spanish culture has to offer the world is tapas - a dinner of appetizers!
We did have a flamenco dinner one night which was quite fun. But much to my chagrin, my jabbering co-workers were shushed by others in the restaurant.

Never Been to Spain

Ironically, that Three Dog Night song shuffled through in my ITunes this morning while I worked from home. Today, well tomorrow with flight times, that changes.
Me voy a Espana hoy!
Hasta la vista.

Temporary Decorating

Inspired by the ideas from one of my favorite websites, ApartmentTherapy.com, I experimented with Blik, temporary wall art. It did indeed inspire the reflection that with as settled as we're getting in our apartment, we might as well buy it.

The temporary wallart, which is essentially a decal, offered a small escape from our monotonous white walls. (The first thing I'd do if we purchased would be to speed down to Home Depot or Lowes and pick up a handful of paint swatches to give some color to our interior.)

I hung a two-dimensional chandelier in our bathroom. I like how this gives some intention the black & white tile. (Like if we had had the choice we might have picked those tiles.) Above the tub, this colorful flocking. As you can see, I had to discipline myself not to get carried away and stick decals up all over.

For more inspiration for living in small spaces you might not own, I recommend "Small Spaces, Big Style" on HGTV. (Our new Tivo figured out I like this show pretty quickly.) There are no "great rooms" on this show.

It's fairly typical on each episode that some resident, wearing their quirky eyeglasses and v-neck sweater, pulls a small knob on the wall, explaining, "And this is the closet where I sleep," and voila, a bed tumbles from the wall. Last episode I saw a bed that was cantilevered from the wall, and lit with white lights from underneath.

If You Can Fry It, It's at the Fair

You could have rolled me home from this week's business trip to Dallas. For Tuesday's breakfast: a half cup of fruit, but unless you wanted to spend the next four hours in the hotel conference room hungry, the other offerings were eggs, sausage and bacon. Lunch was pancake-size hamburgers, onion rings and fries. And for dinner, they dispatched us off to the Texas State Fair with a clutch of food tickets.
It's ironic that I'd never ever been to a State Fair in my life and now I've been to two (in two different states!) in the past three years. Fried fish. Fried chicken. Fried okra. Fried twinkies. Fried Snickers. Fried marshmellows. Fried guacamole. Fried avocados. Fried Coke. (I don't know how that last one works out chemically, the whole liquid to solid alchemy must be the magic of the state fair.)
I had an apparently famous Fletcher's "Corny Dog," and corn on the cob (sounds healthy, until I tell you that it was dipped in butter!)
It may have been a blessing to have come under the positive exercise-oriented glow of my grade-school BFF, Andra for dinner the night before. And for an omega-fatty acid full dinner of sushi no less. I had not seen Andra since we were... maybe 10 years old? (You'll see below that we go back to the early 80's.)
But as I made notice of the little details of her life it was a little spooky: Hello Kitty charm on her car's rear-view mirror. Hello Kitty charm on my cell phone. Economist on her coffee table. Economist on my coffee table back at home. Ann Taylor blouse on her, matching my Ann Taylor blouse. Her reflecting what it's like to be one of the few women in a business leadership class. My sharing what it's like to have my boss' boss' boss draw sweeping generalizations about women (and men) in business. And then sharing a collective "what's up with that? We are SO capable!" sentiment.
Too bad that Texas is not closer to Illinois so that I could see Andra again sooner.
Too bad that I am now feeling like my tummy has swollen so much that it might begin to cover the geographical gap. Andra, if you look out your window tomorrow morning and wonder whether that mountain on the horizon was there last night when you went to sleep... that's actually my navel.
Too. much. food. at. the. Fair.

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