Red Badge of Collecting

There aren't too many things I've collected consistently throughout my life: diary entries, postcards, half-informed opinions, books I think I'll read again, and patches. The patches must have been my father's idea, since the early patches are a geography of his business trips. It was my mother's idea to sew them onto my backpack in grade school, then later a denim jacket, and when room ran out there I collected them into a ziploc bag until a better idea crossed my mind.

I still look for a patch in the souvenir shops when I travel. A few of my favorites are the ones where I've added my own patch to the original one my dad brought home. The koala bear patch was one of the most precious growing up, because Australia seemed forever away, and someplace I'd never go. But I did!
And to the rest of the seven continents as well: I enjoy looking over the badges that are emblematic of historical transitions, when the USSR existed, and Hong Kong belonged to the United Kingdom, or when the EU was in its infancy. Finally, there's the comfort of the patches that represent the places I've called home. (Mental note to look for a buckeye patch when back in Columbus this weekend! Curiously my dad brought back a badge from Cincinnati once upon a time, but that's not the same. I wish he was around to ask, "What were you doing in Cincinnati anyway??)

In My Wealthier Life

In the life where I am very wealthy (but also very charitable), I have horses as well as pretty jewelery. Pretty jewelry like the stuff I've found on the Swarovski website.
I had no idea. This does not look at all like the cut crystal animals that crowd the shelves of their mall shops.

Hand Luggage

While Abby unleashed me on the streets of Portland with a map outlining the Pearl district, known for its shopping, it was only the size of my hand luggage that held me back. I couldn't buy anything that wouldn't fit into my carry on. And fortunately my purchases did fit:
- one book: Apartment Therapy from Powell's
- one calendar: from crazy fun shop Cargo (not Canoe, as Abby mistakenly called it, but quickly pointed out that there is apparently also a store called Canoe in Portland. With their outdoorsiness, I believe it.)
- one bouquet of lavender - trimmed down to fit in a ziploc bag on Sunday morning

I do regret that I think I finally found a perfect storage solution for our video components at Cargo. But it most certainly would NOT fit into my hand luggage. (This figure of speech always seems funny to me.)Look, its grid front allows for ventilation of the warm Tivo! And the beams of the remote could surely sneak through the grate too. It also fits with the new color scheme I'm concocting for our living room of black, white, grey and bold strokes of my favorite color, green. It would also make the Japanese tonsu look less lonely by adding an Asian brother to the furniture mix. (This cabinet is Chinese. I'd hope they'd be able to overcome their historical cultural conflicts.)

I wonder if there's shipping? Or can I put the cabinet onboard a plane as an unaccompanied minor?

51 Hours in Portland, Oregon

I'm back from Portland, and very happy for the days away from work and worries. (Unfortunately I woke up this Sunday morning and felt the concerns of home resurfacing, like my condo board responsibilities and assignments at work that carry lots of responsibility but little concrete direction.)

Portland was a very nice city for a weekend visit, and Abby & David were diligent and thoughtful hosts. Our schedule felt full, but never busy or rushed. I landed in time for Indian lunch with Abby, who then produced a google map with customized directions for what I might enjoy while she finished her day at the office.

I wandered the art museum until the inevitable art overload set in and I had to leave to sit under a pretty tree and clear my head. Then I walked around to Powell's books, which offered book overload!
(Funny what their sign says, I only noticed this after taking the photo.)

I never know if you notice characteristics of a city because they are true to the locale, or because it's what you expect. (If you believe that French people are rude do you make special note of every impolite Parisian?) I noticed that Portland lives up to its reputation of being into everything organic, sustainable and green. After I remarked that I'd probably seen more classic Mercedes in one block than I'd seen all year, David helpfully explained that they are popular because they run on diesel which is converted over to bio-diesel. I particularly like my misinterpretation of the sustainable tacqueria, which I took to suggest that perhaps there were bottomless pitchers of margaritas to be drunk.
I felt a little overdressed for everything, even though I spent the weekend in jeans and sneakers. The attire is definitely laid back and/or hipster in Portland.

On Saturday morning there was the Farmer's Market, full of fresh veggies and meat. I enjoyed a local black raspberry soda and took home some lavender for a project I'll tell you about later. Other highlights from the city of roses, were indeed, roses! Roses even appear on their sidewalk grates. During our visit to the Portland Rose Garden, Abby pointed out the signature douglas firs that appear on the Oregon license plates. I stopped to pay homage to 1920 Rose Queen, Claire.Thanks to the bounty of the farmers market, David's cooking, and Portland's food carts I ate really well all weekend. Crepes were a post-movie treat Friday night.Aside from the highlights that suit a travel guide, it was of course good to catch up with Abby & David, friends from college -- and Abby reminded me that this was fifteen years ago. (Really?) For all that's probably changed over those years, it was nice to fall right back in with friends that have known me for so long, and so well. (And to even see a few other faces from college days; it shouldn't be surprising to find Oberlin grads in Portland, I guess.)Thanks Abby & David for hosting me in your west coast home!

My Mini Sabbitcal

I'm packing my bag for a jaunt westward to Portland to visit friends Abby & David. Abby has kindly sent me an advance itinerary which includes the art museum, movie Julie & Julia (yay!), fabric and yarn shopping, Shakespeare and a farmer's market. And I think I'm earning my keep by hemming curtains. (Which means I should probably google this tonight to see if how I think it should be done is the real way to do it.)

Since I knew I'd be away this weekend I took a few days off of work this week. I enjoyed my three-day sabbatical with friend Alexis who is on a three-month sabbatical from her consulting gig. I think I could get used to weekday shopping in Andersonville followed by a late afternoon beer at Hopleaf. I'm drawn to the Lamp Bar at White Attic where you pick your own finish for a fun ceramic lamp, and a great new couch from Urbanest.)I also need to take more vacation days.

Happy Girls are the Prettiest Girls

Sometimes I catch myself frowning while sitting in my car, and I remind myself to smile. Why not try to make my resting face a happier, or at least a contemplative, neutral face?
Time spent frowning, especially when there's no one around to ask you what's bothering you, seems wasted.

(This poster from Etsy.)

Bean on the Scene?

Am I getting older or is L.L. Bean getting cooler?

Sura is my friend because she assures me that L.L. Bean is trying to evolve their brand to appeal to us stylish young(er) women, who are maybe a shift from their traditional demographic. I like the Homecoming Jacket very much.But if you find me in Talbot's next, then I am old. Chico's? Forget it.

White House Album

Hey Mister, did you pay for that peach?

I stumbled upon the official White House Flickr stream. It's kind of fun.

One commenter to this photo pointed out that there are lots of other cameras in that market, there to make sure that citizens don't follow their president's example.

Check out dog, Bo's leash.
More photos of the presidential beer garden also appear, which remind me that I heard of a very different approach to an uninformed police incident, by Bob Dylan. Vigilant neighbors in a low-income neighborhood in New Jersey called the cops when a strange man was spotted wandering the streets. It was Bob Dylan, taking a break from his tour. The cops called to the scene, both in their 20s, didn't recognize his name or face. But he calmly went with them to verify his ID. Maybe he's just observed how crazy it can get when you react in anger, a lesson from Professor Gates?

Cheeky Squirrels Always Ruining Things

Have you seen the photo circling the internet of the squirrel that popped into a couple's photo op, that they were trying to set up by using their camera's auto timer? Just before the shutter snapped a curious squirrel came over to investigate. Full story here. So funny. Especially for all the photos we took on family vacations in the Adirondacks trying to capture chipmunks on film. None of them ever turned out so good!

This has of course taken off as an internet meme, and now this little Canadian squirrel is popping up in all sorts of ridiculous places.

The Need to Read

I'm between books. It's a little weird to go bed with just the latest Pottery Barn catalog. I need more.

The last book I finished was so good though, that I'm wondering if the next one can hope to measure up. I recommend The Housekeeper and The Professor by Yoko Ogawa. It's short - I finished it on the plane to South Africa...which was unfortunate since I hadn't brought anything else to read.

Since we just booked a cruise, I will need some good poolside (oceanside? both?) reading! (Not Harry Potter.) It's not until December, so lots of time to cruise the bookshelves. Or to go back to the NPR story that tipped me off to the Housekeeper in the first place.

Brunch Club

Blueberry almond pancakes again this morning for the ladies who came for breakfast. Yum.

Saving the money of going out, I called it our Recession Brunch. I also love that there's no wait for a table. That's one of my least favorite feelings: being hungry, in the morning, and hearing there will be a 30 minute wait.

With the temperatures reaching into the 90's this weekend we opted for just looking out onto the front balcony, from the cooler air conditioning.

Next time, I'll have to unpack a few plates of my grandmother's china to suit the gentility of the occasion.

Don't You Forget About Me

How do you mourn someone who's responsible for about five years of the reply, "Claire is a fat girl's name" whenever I introduced myself?
John Hughes passed away this week. Just earlier this week Jason and I were talking about the Breakfast Club, in relation to its being set not too far from us in Chicago.

I remember standing in the Movies Unlimited video rental store when my mom asked me and Juliet if we'd ever seen The Breakfast Club. When the answer was no (with a tone that was dumbfounded by our mother making cool movie recommendations) she picked it up for us. The excitement of discovering a movie character with my then unusual name was quickly quashed by the lesson that it is apparently a fat girl's name.

BENDER: Claire?
CLAIRE: Claire. It's a family name.
BENDER: Oh, it's a fat girl's name.
CLAIRE: Oh, thank you.
BENDER: You're welcome.
CLAIRE: I'm not fat.
BENDER: Not at present, but I can see you really pushing maximum density. You see, I'm not sure if you know this, but there are two kinds of fat people: there's fat people that were born to be fat and there's fat people that were once thin but they became fat so when you look at them, you can sort of see that thin person inside.

Another Claire also weighs in on this problem.

(Fortunately Claire Danes came along and made Claire such a terrific, cool name with My So-Called Life. As we all knew it was anyway.)John Hughes made up for it with slumber party classics Pretty in Pink (his script, but directed by someone else) and Sixteen Candles, inspiring my adolescent adoration for Molly Ringwald in the same stroke.

I was surprised to see him gone, so relatively soon too. But it's also hard to know what to feel when he was like a once-close friend that I hadn't called in many years. "Don't You Forget About Me" from the Breakfast Club soundtrack seems an apt remembrance.

Like Sands Through the Hourglass

Looking at my calendar, I realized that every weekend from now until mid-September is booked. When I found my next free, lazy weekend, where did I arrive? Fall! Summer suddenly felt like it had slipped right through my hands. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of our Lives.

Which might explain why I was thinking of winter wear and accessories.
A fleece-lined hoodie(Should have thought about asking Sura if her hubby gets an employee discount at LL Bean!)
New UGGs, because the old ones are showing the salt from last winter's sidewalks and the treds are all worn down. (But when I remember the price of this footwear, I wonder if another season can be pulled from the existing boots.)

I think I really had to snap to, and realize that it was early August, when I was shopping Christmas cards today. But aren't the popcorn strands so cute?

But no, summer is still here! I must absorb every last minute and enjoy it. This Sunday: brunch with the ladies on the balcony again.

Hang Some Art

We're lacking commitment in our living room. There's nothing on the walls, except for the television. 20x200 might help remedy the situation. "Great art, $20. Really." is its tagline. And they believe everyone needs art. I agree.

A few of the favorites that I've already window-shopped:

Untitled #10 by Kent Rogowski Part of a series "...created using pieces from over 60 store-bought jigsaw puzzles. Since manufacturers occasionally use the same die to cut more than one puzzle, I was able to use each piece in its proper position within the grid of the puzzle."Red Plastic Plates by Anne ToebbeRawlings by Don Hamerman. And I'm not really even a baseball fan.Verlag 3 by Carol Padberg. Because I'd enjoy deciphering it.

Smart Souvenir

One of the last things I remember to pack for any trip abroad is always the freebie zip tote bag I was handed by an eager sales rep at a medical convention years ago. It's cheap, easy to fold, but expansive enough when I realize that I'm coming home with more than I arrived with, thanks to souvenir shopping.
One of my co-worker/travel buddies in Cape Town came up with a terrific souvenir idea that eliminates the need for extra luggage: stamps. With two little kids at home, she stopped at a post office and they kindly showed her a number of South Africa's signature stamps. To pack, she just slipped these souvenirs into her book for the safe trip home. While probably not something you brag about on a first date, stamp collecting is a cute little kid hobby. It's so vintage!I remember feeling like we'd found lost treasure when Juliet and I found our father's stamp collection from his own childhood. It was evident this hobby carried forward into his adulthood when I'd pick up packages from the college mailroom, covered in different colorful stamps to pay for the postage. Ever since then the boring printed sticker that you get at the post office counter to mail your packages have seemed so dull.

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