Premiere Night, with Pitcher of Cosmos

Friday night, the "girls" and I had a date for the premiere of Sex and the City 2. Hosted by the local movie theater, the night's ticket included unlimited cosmos, served to you in your movie seat. It was lovely, although I can only imagine how sticky the floor was at the end of the night.

It was also hilarious to watch the movie with a theater full of tipsy girls and gay men. (Lots of "you go girl!" as well as hooting and hollering.)

I had seen an interview with the director, Michael Patrick King (also not surprisingly gay - and a v. funny guest), on The Daily Show and he aptly described the movie as an indulgent romp. This one (like Shrek 4!) is meant for the fans. I chided my coworkers who scrunched up their noses and said they'd heard Sex and the City 2 wasn't any good, before mentioning that they were headed to see Shrek with their kids. Were they expecting this to be an Oscar year for Shrek???I don't care what the critics say, I was just so happy to revel in the over-the-top fashion and see the other "girls" again. As well as Mr. Big, and one very gay wedding. I may have to watch it again without the gleeful audience so that I can actually hear the beginning of the movie.

With Carrie and Big now married and in Year 2 of their own, there were some moments that were more keenly funny for me than my single friends. Like the tension between staying at home on the couch with take out (his preference) and a fancy night out (my preference.) I think a happy marriage --a happy life-- has a bit of both...There are also a few scenes that the Mommies (who might have been in the Shrek theater this weekend) will enjoy as Miranda and Charlotte sneak a moment away from their kids.

Samantha is still Samantha, of course.

Automatic Rewind

Remember when the stereo had the feature to automatically rewind your cassette tape when it reached the end, so that you never had to get up and flip it over, or press rewind yourself? This obviously meant that some albums were quickly memorized as they stayed on automatic rewind.

With the hundreds of songs (maybe over a thousand?) on my iPod, now it's easy for new music to get lost, literally in the "shuffle" mode. Even with the smart playlist that pulls only music added in the last 30 days. But this week I am enjoying intentionally listening to one album over and over again, some songs over and over again.

Sleigh Bells - Treats
I thank the free months of Sirius radio on our new car for first introducing me to "Crown on the Ground" which is loud, driving, and strong, but with an overlay of sweet vocals.
My new favorite song is "Rill Rill", a little dreamy, a little classic.

I'm sad that I'll be missing Sleigh Bells perform this summer at the Pitchfork Music Festival. We have tickets, but it's the same day I leave for Vienna.

I have such a tough life.

Happy Either Way

I joke with my friends that I know enough about sports to have just one talking point on most in-season sports. It was a little hard to ignore the happenings on the hockey rink lately though, with hometown Philadelphia Flyers winning their playoffs to face the Chicago Blackhawks for the Stanley Cup championships. Who do I cheer for? The first impulse is the Flyers, since I grew up with the Broad Street Bullies being the favorites. Seeing the hockey jersey on William Penn's statue atop City Hall is always cute. (And the dressing up of Chicago City Hall's Picasso is a little awkward in comparison.)The fashion victory goes to Philadelphia.

However, it feels like I haven't lived in a championship town in a long time. (I can't remember one...but my sports memory is not terrific. No doubt someone may point out that just last year some Chicago team won something.) I suppose I will be happy either way. This is the joy of not caring about sports all too much.

Spring Arrives in Time for Summer

Finally, it was warm enough over a Chicago weekend for flower planting! I was off to the local nursery to pick up the flowers I had been doodling in my notebook for weeks. I also made quick visits to superstores Lowes and Home Depot for the variety of reliable peonies that I depend on for their color and easy care.

Home Depot was a zoo, where I was knocked into by other people's shopping carts three times! Where did civility and respect go? I left before being taken hold by the impulse to throw geraniums at people. Now from our deck, and down the little path in front of our building, a trail of happy bright flowers flows. I like coming home and seeing the building brightened, even though the plantings are just in their infancy. I'm eager to see them fill out as they grow and blossom. The turtle planter is waiting for his grass seeds to grow for cat munching.

Where Do I Sign the Adoption Papers?

I'm not sure which is the bigger impulse:
1. To adopt one of these *adorable!!!!* sloths from a sloth orphanage on Costa Rica. (I can only imagine what the cats would think.)
2. To wish to be reincarnated as a sloth someday. If my eczema follows me into a second life, their claws appear perfect for getting that itch.
Watch the video, smile, and wish you were a sloth too. Also, note sweet Lady & the Tramp moment. Thank you, Cute Overload for making me smile. The last fellow in his little hanging wicker chair is irresistible.

Packing List

How cute is this for upcoming trip planning?
A smart leather cuff... with a little secret pocket on the inside for cash for an emergency or just a cab ride home. (I've had an exaggerated fear of pickpockets ever since seeing Diane Sawyer in Rome, assailed by gypsy pickpockets, on 60 Minutes, years ago.)Via etsy, of course.

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

It's hard to believe, and I admit blogging it made me fear that I'd jinx it... but look at all the places I am planning to travel to this year!

Vienna, for a conference!Then a side trip to connect with my roots in the Czech Republic: Prague. (Ok, my heritage is technically Slovak. Details!) Grandma says it's very safe and lots of people speak English. Also perhaps a detail that she hasn't been in this part of the world since before WWII.Let's hope that volcano doesn't flare up again. At least not until I get to Europe.

And today I learned that I should transfer one of our "major utilities" into Jason's name for proof of address on his visa to... India!The last one still has some planning involved, but we are very excited to travel with friends Dipti & Tushar for two weeks in India in November.

Hoping for an Appeal

And if Hello Kitty's potential retirement was not enough, the announcement of the cancellation of Law & Order was another arrow to the heart of my comfort zone.

There's nothing better on a sick day, or just a rainy Saturday afternoon, than to find 4 or 5 sequential Law & Order episodes. Ripped from the headlines being the best escape from the day-to-day. It's so formulaic that it's comforting.

I used to get perturbed (before Tivo) if I happened to miss the first scene, because how else would you know what clues the crime scene had to offer?

I find solace in the continuation of the Law & Order spin-offs like SVU and Criminal Intent. And let's be honest, there are so many episodes out there, I'd lost track of what night the new episodes appear, since I could always count on USA, or maybe Bravo, having an episode I hadn't seen yet.

I sometimes am incredulous to turn on the TV and *not* find a Law & Order episode. I feel like it should be constantly running, just waiting for me to tune in. The re-runs have the characters I miss the most, Mr. Big before he was big (Chris Noth), Benjamin Bratt (before he got all scruffy), Angie Harmon, Jesse L. Martin, and Jerry Orbach (RIP).

In a timely manner, Ice T was on NPR reflecting that many eighteen year-olds
know him mostly as an actor now, not a rapper. "Their mothers usually tell them."

Grandmas recognize him in the airport and tell their daughter, "Oooh, that's Ice T!"
The daughter will reply, "Do you really know who that is?"
"He's the police!"
"Mama, he's far from a cop."

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

I refuse to accept this: Hello Kitty, saying goodbye? (NYT) Over the hill by 36? Ugh, the same double standard applied to all older female celebs. Meanwhile Pierce Brosnan, Sean Connery, Snoopy and Garfield never age.

Apparently Kitty became over-exposed, over-merchandised. Which would explain why I saw Hello Kitty underwear discounted at Marshall's just tonight. Revenues have fallen and it seems Sanrio made some missteps in her development. This one was my favorite, "Because Kitty had no mouth, it was difficult for the cat to break into television animation, depriving Sanrio of a lucrative source of revenue."

One of my favorite uses of HK's image, was for the small website Jason built for me before my move to Columbus ("CK's Guide to C'bus" detailing the sites, shopping, history and good radio stations of Columbus, Ohio.) Although not officially licensed through Sanrio, I think Kitty looked pretty cute in scarlet and grey. Now she's rivaled by some character modeled on a jam-filled pastry. Really.

Rules to Eat By

In the spirit of healthy living that doesn't involve crazy fad diets or shakes with stuff that no one really should put in a blender, I recently read "Food Rules" by Michael Pollan. A good, brief book with tips to grocery shop and eat by.

The guiding principle: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

It's full of short simple rules that can guide your grocery cart, preferably on the peripheral aisles of the store, where the fruit and vegetables, fresh meat and fish, dairy and cheese are found. I also enjoyed the advice that you shouldn't buy anything in the grocery store that your great grandmother wouldn't recognize... like "Go-gurts." (Although "Nut Thins" probably also fall into this category.) Also a "no" on cereal that will turn your milk a different color.

It might inspire me to read Pollan's longer book, "In Defense of Food." Or maybe "The Omnivore's Dilemma."

I tried watching his documentary, "Food, Inc." the other week, but got conflicted mid-way through. I like meat and chicken, but it's not easy to see what its delivery to market has devolved to over the years. Let's just say that I'm eager for the arrival of a farmer's market in our neighborhood this summer. I'm hopeful a poultry farmer might be there. One who allows his chickens a window or two.

Squirrel Nutkin Might Recommend...

In the now usual scouring of the grocery store shelves for the healthy and whole-grain, I stumbled across these yummy items: Blue Diamond Nut-Thins. They are in the cracker aisle, ...but made of nuts, ...however they crunch like a sturdy potato chip. I picked up hazelnut. There's also different almond flavors and pecan.

I don't really know what gluten is, but there's none of it here. When I was telling my friend about my diet lately she remarked that I could probably do ok with celiac disease (which her son had just been diagnosed with) because my diet was low on gluten. The South Beach Diet apparently also encourages living with less gluten. And judging from the pizza place that I pass everyday to work that now advertises gluten-free pizza, it looks like it's a growing trend.

But these you could just get because they are tasty and healthy.

It's Time to Fly

With the merger of United and Continental Airlines, the one thing I really hope they keep from United (besides my Premier status), is the advertising. The dulcet piano tones of Gerswhin are calming and make me remember the grandeur that airline travel is fabled to have once offered. When free peanuts were just the start of the adventure. Walking through LAX the other week it was even subtly piped into the terminal. Although I'd been hustling to the gate, I slowed my step. I enjoyed it for a few minutes. What was the hurry to just sit in the gate for my flight that wasn't leaving for an hour?

The illustrations are soft and dreamy. The ads tell a story about why we fly, and what we miss when we're away from home. They are like the long distance commercials that could bring a tear to your eye if they caught you at a weak moment.

A few of my favorites:

They each make me smile a little.

The Spin-Off

Jason realized he'd left his iPhone at home as soon as we stepped out the door, meaning he'd be 100% available for conversation over dinner at an outside cafe in our neighborhood last week. (I made mental note to consider hiding his phone before each future dinner, since dinner conversation is one of my favorite things in the world.)

Over our meal, Jason made the observation which is both funny and true, that a good 60% of my readers (maybe more,) are his family members and current and former coworkers. Not to minimize the loyal Claire followers, but I come from a smaller family, and also probably have a tighter, smaller cadre of friends.

If I were smart, I considered, I should just do a weekly Jason update. Folks might be reading about me hoping to get a mention of him. Is he the supporting actor stealing the show, ready for a spin-off of his own? (Although his college football blog gets more readers, by orders of magnitude, than mine. In this metaphor, I am the fly sitting on the rhino's back.)

He is so devoted to his blog that flipping through the newspaper the other week, noting the selling of the Peanuts cartoons rights, I had to laugh at the depiction of Lucy & Shroeder. To update this and put it in our home, you'd just have to make the piano a computer and you'd have Jason and Claire.

And our cat Teedie who finds it interesting to walk across your keyboard to see what's going on, and using the printer as a stepping stone to get to the window ledge.

Shopping List

It's either good news (I've wholly embraced healthy eating) or bad news (I've gone way too far) when at the grocery store Sunday afternoon I watched the green bottle swipe over the scanner and ride the conveyor belt towards the bagger, and thought suddenly to myself,

"Wait, did I make sure to get the diet/whole-grain/non-fat version of that?"


"Oh, that's dishwasher detergent. Nevermind."

Secret Identities and Flawless Fakes

You'd be kind of surprised how many Democrats work with me, but it's usually revealed in a quiet, covert way. We are within the walls of a big corporation, and a pharmaceutical company at that.

So it was both refreshing and interesting that Thursday my company's political action committee sponsored a talk by Democratic strategist, James Carville.

He opened by joking that "drill baby drill" should have been John Edwards' campaign slogan and then quipped his way through an hour and a half long talk. Now teaching at Tulane, he led a session that was much like a college lecture, getting feedback and thoughts from the audience, writing notes up on a flipchart. Carville conveyed one of his key themes by reflecting that 80% of the people in Arizona can't simply be bad people (the number who favor the new immigration law), but it may be driven by the sense of a world out of control with terrorism, global warming, etc.

Here's my barely adequate cell phone pic: Despite my lifelong political leanings, working for a pharma company, and my subscription the Wall Street Journal must have flagged my name somewhere because this week I received a survey from the Republican National Committee.

To identify your political point of view note that the only options are different flavors of Republican. The issues questions made me shudder.I'm considering filling it out just to encourage them to my side.

On a more light-hearted note, that night I went to a local make-up artist, Sonia Roselli's shop for a "Flawless Foundation" class. My friends and I agree that we much prefer going to classes like this rather than going out to eat or drink.

Sonia was not only very instructive (SPF 50, ladies), but a spitfire with a great sense of humor. Plus, one of our classmates was the owner of local bakery Tipsycake Chicago, so I walked home with a flawless foundation AND free red velvet cupcakes, with amazing icing. Here's me and my flawless face... the cupcakes didn't last long enough for a photo.
Now that's not the face of a Republican, is it? Surely the scarf is very proletariat?

A Girl's Best Friend

Others may disagree, but I don't think you can have enough jewelry. (Like you didn't know that about me anyway.)

Which is why I covet the Pier 1 Hayworth Jewelry Armoire.

I stalk it whenever I'm at Pier 1, waiting for the day that they say it's 75% off, then considering how I'd convince Jason that a jewelry box that rivals furniture -- that IS furniture -- is at all reasonable. I was very hopeful months ago, hearing a rumor that Pier 1 was going out of business...but it was unfounded because it's apparently World Market that was going under instead. I was dancing on the wrong grave.

Besides, I'd need the necklace to match it.

And maybe the shoes too.

Keepin' it Real

The momentum of the exercise plan hit a few small speed bumps lately, keeping any skinny swagger in check.

#1. Ordering the official t-shirt of the plan, in my usual size M, to learn that it is a "girly" size M, which means super fitted. While yes, I can probably pull that off with a bit more confidence nowadays, I am exchanging for a larger size. Threadless allows shoppers to post pictures of themselves in the tees, and I have to wonder what size these people ordered. Maybe men's sizes? Darn you, girly tees!#2. The Easter basket that arrived from Aunt Eleanor. I could justify the chocolates that are really good as a fair treat (love you Cadbury creme eggs!)...but then I got down to the leftover dregs. The drug store chocolate bunnies that barely taste like chocolate. And confession: the other night I ate a whole fudge-filled bunny. But it wasn't even worth it! Ugh, so many calories so fruitlessly spent. In a fit of pique, I threw away the remaining marshmallow peeps and bunnies. This may have been a good lesson, like the chips and guacamole I enjoyed for lunch last Monday, only to feel the corn meal stone still sitting in my stomach two days later. Ugh, a Mexican hangover and there hadn't even been any tequila!

Best Customer Service Day

To make progress on the couch mission, I headed to the furniture store today. Since the usual places like Crate & Barrel weren't really appealing to me, I decided to try local furniture store Walter E. Smithe. They are probably most well known for their kooky television commercials, featuring the three grandsons that run the family-owned business. (The latest being a Sex & the City parody, but they've also done The Bachelor, and when we first moved here during a cicada year, their heads buzzed about on cicadas.) The experience was notably better than last weekend's visit to C&B, where the saleswoman didn't ask me if I needed help, but instead shadowed me, fixing the pillows on each couch after I'd sat on it, making me feel like my presence was more of an intrusion on the well-maintained showroom.

But at Walter E. Smithe, a pleasant older gentleman walked up to me (the third person in the store to say hello) and introduced himself... as Walter Smithe. Yikes, I wasn't expecting that. He asked if I'd been to the store before (no), what I was looking for (couch) and what might have made me come in (I mentioned those goofy, but endearing ads.) "Well, my sons say that if they come up with an idea in the morning, and they're still laughing about it by lunch, they just go shoot it in the afternoon."

So the good news is that I've narrowed it down and brought a few fabric samples home. Mr. Smithe checked in a couple times while I was in the store, even inviting me to lie down on the couch to see how it worked for naps. The salesguy spent a good twenty minutes listening to me describe our living room and finding the perfect taupe. It was crazy good customer service.

The spirit of the day continued when I stopped at the fish counter at the grocery store this afternoon. The woman paused while pulling out the shrimp, furrowed her brow, and told me it wasn't good enough. She offered to open up a packaged bag of frozen shrimp from the freezer, and just pull out the quantity I wanted. (I assume leaving an odd half bag at the store?) I was really impressed. I told her that I'd probably eat more shrimp the future, so I could just take the whole frozen bag. "I wasn't just trying to sell you more shrimp, are you sure?" she asked. I laughed and said it was ok.

Even our waitress at dinner was superbly enthusiastic and attentive. It was the best day of customer service...ever. And good news, we will be ordering a couch tomorrow! (Even if it's a similar price to C&B, I think they earned it.)

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