Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sense & Sensibility

I'm pleased to say I am almost finished with the first of three parts. I honestly didn't know the book was split up but when I flipped to the end to see how many chapters there were, the last chapter was like, 12 or something and I was on chapter 11 ... that's like a 200 page chapter? Then I realized the section breaks.

A picture of my $2.50 book. =)

Anyway, I'm getting there! Slowly but surely! I grabbed a copy at Half Price Books the other day and have been reading in bed, reading on the couch, reading while tanning in the backyard ... the language is dense and sometimes she (Jane) tends to go off on Dickensonian rambles about what someone thought someone else said (or wore, or the shabbiness of their carriage! lol) but they really didn't say it they just heard someone else say it and were talking about it themselves and were confused ... ??? Yeah. I'm getting there. ;)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Offices of Note (or: An Ode To Books)

I have always had a soft spot for a really great office. Nothing modern and stark though or too 'cookie-cutter'; I prefer vintage offices with walls of bookshelves, revealed brickwork and lots of windows (If you've seen 'Stranger than Fiction', I want the office where the character played by Dustin Hoffman works).

There is something about vintage, academic-looking offices that appeals to me: like the professor's office from the 70's with entirely too many resource books piled messily on shelves and then stacked on the floor once the shelves are crammed full; a paper-smattered desk with a few cold coffee mugs and a couch and lamps casting a yellow glow ... comfortable and haphazard.

Also, there is something lovely and artistic and relaxed about books themselves - heaps of them - just sitting around the office or the bedroom, waiting to be read or reread. I guess it's just the nature of books -  thoughtful, educational, intuitive? - that lends a smart but candid air to any room where they sit randomly stacked upon each other in colorful, dusty towers. They are a design element in themselves - all the paper and cardboard and glue and dust jackets eclectically mingled with completely unmatching neighbors. Joan Didion, Jane Austen and a study of Christian end-times theology, making friends in a corner.

In an age of progressively less and less paper and more and more technology and apps and touch screens, there is something wonderfully librarian and tangible about scratchy pages and dark black ink that you can see and smell and touch in your own hands ... don't you think?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Flower Power: Yellow Irises

The other day I noticed that our small bed of irises has started to bloom. We have noticed the buds for a week or so and I was excited to see they had bloomed at last in all their sunny yellow glory. They are a bright spot in our backyard among all the green. I look out my kitchen window and see them dancing against the old wood fence; and then to the right some tiny hot pink flowers, just under the bird bath where the crows hop and peck. And behind that a short row of Rose of Sharon Double Purple along the side fence by the shed.

Whenever I see irises I think about Mike. I think he would be able to tell me what breed they are and probably a few random, little-known iris facts. I smile and think of his annual Iris Crawl and remember the picture of him literally crawling on the ground by his huge bed of irises along the fence by the road, laughing. He can't tell me about my irises now and he won't be hosting another Iris Crawl. But I like that they remind me of him.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Recipe: Steak Picadillo Soft Tacos

This was one of the best dinners I've had in a while and can easily be adapted for vegetarian, vegan, or just different meat-eating preferences (meatless with more bell peppers, shrimp, chicken, meat replacer, etc). I don't usually eat beef but it works here - and we had some in the freezer that needed to be used up!

I found the recipe on Shine - you might think the addition of green olives and a handful of raisins would be weird but they both add just a little 'something' to the dish, nothing 'off' or overwhelming at all. Easy and delicious for a weeknight dinner. If you try it, let me know what you think!  

- I used golden raisins since that's all I have on hand and they worked great. The recipe doesn't specify (just says "raisins").
- Also, I did not use "skirt steak", just some cubed steak (like for stew) that was about a 1.5 lb package.
- To prepare your corn tortillas, just warm a stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Place one tortilla at a time in the pan and warm for about 40 seconds on each side, more if you like to try for that "charred" look. Don't use any oil or butter. Once the tortillas are soft, remove them to a plate and keep them covered til you're ready to use them so they stay pliable.

Draining the steak while I saute the peppers.

One large bell pepper ...

 Enjoying a little Root Beer while I cook. ;)

 Chopped green olives and golden raisins.

 The finished product - the whole kitchen smells edible!

I sprinked some chopped cilantro on top. It offset the heat from the spicy tomatoes.

mmm...dinner is served. =)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nail Polish Review: Sally Hansen Salon Effects

A few days ago I decided to purchase some of the much-discussed-and-reviewed Sally Hansen Salon Effects nail polish strips. They are essentially nail polish stickers than you apply to clean, buffed nails; file off the excess from the ends and you have (or are supposed to have) nicely polished nails for "up to 10 days".

I applied them on Friday night after a jaunt to Target with the hubs. They were $8.50 which I think is cheaper than what I was expecting? For some reason I had $10 in my head. I asked him which pattern he liked and he picked out 'Girl Flower', a very floral very retro looking pattern - fun for Spring. I had my eye on 'Misbehaved' or 'Check It Out' but ... there's always next time (check out the link above to see all the available colors and patterns).

The application was simple enough. I prepped my nails (aka, trimmed and filed) and cleaned up my cuticles with the orange stick that was included in the package. Then I buffed the surface of my nails with the tiny file (also included), applied a bit of polish remover which was recommended in the instructions (apparently this helps the polish adhere better and stay put longer).

I held the strips up to my nails to pick out which sizes were best ... there are a bunch of sizes so pretty much every nail will have a (nearly) perfectly-matched strip of nail polish. Then you just pull off the protective cover, then the backing and carefully stick the polish onto your nail. From how I understood the instructions, you are supposed to use a new strip for every nail. But the length of the strips was enough for me to use one strip for two nails: one for both index fingers, another for both middle fingers and so on. I have pretty short nailbeds. ;) For someone with longer nailbeds or who likes to grow their nails out, one strip per nail would work.

Here is a photo of my nails on Friday night and then a couple from this morning ... they look just about the same, huh?

just ignore my sad, dry skin. hah! ;))

The polish has stayed on without chipping or scratching after I've showered, washed dishes and even deadheaded my plants in the backyard. I decided on Sunday to apply a layer of regular top coat just to give it some extra strength. This is not necessary though since the polish already has a sheen to it.

Overall I'm pleased with this product - but I still have 7 days to go!
We'll see how it holds up.

Let me know:
Have you used Salon Effects?
What are your thoughts?

PS - Here is my new favorite color of nail polish. It's called 'Moss' by SpaRitual and I found it at Aveda this weekend when I went for my haircut. I have it on my toes right now - awesome for Spring! Plus all these pastel colors seem to be 'in' right now so there is a nice selection of colors like this one as well as light pinks, blues, yellows and lavendars.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Dream and a Hail Storm

Maybe it was the hail storm (crazy hail storm! Crazy loud for like an hour and then nothing - quarter-sized hail pelting the roof like bullets) or being startled awake at 5pm by my insane cat who will scream - literally scream, not meow or hiss but SCREAM like a freaking alien (I guess?) - whenever she is scared ...

... But last night had some crazy dreams. This is probably a really uninteresting post to anyone but me but I like writing down my dreams - I think it's important for ... something.

Started at the office. I left my desk for the evening and saw C walking – almost hopping, really – down the hall to L’s office; she was wearing skinny cargo jeans and tall black boots. As I passed through the kitchen I found L and P sitting at one of the tables – I think L was wearing bright pink – both facing each other but also looking toward the wall like it was a secretive conversation. Neither of them said anything or looked up when I passed.

I went through to the elevators and found at least 20 people all standing in the elevator bank talking to each other – none of whom I recognized - it felt really cramped. Some were friendly, others were just blurred faces, forms; there was an older couple and another female, young-ish who I ended up riding home (or somewhere) with in their champagne SUV – a Tahoe I think. We were on the road and everything around us was black – not a dark black because I could still see around me and see the road, like everything had been painted black and was still illuminated. Even the grass was black and I could make out all the blades and the dirt. In the middle distance was a perpendicular road with tiny, whizzing cars passing, recognizable only by small white lights flying past from left to right. Beyond that was blurry moving fields and a black setting sun – I couldn’t make out much but I know it was there, moving and hopping unclearly in my vision.

We were talking and having a nice enough time together despite the feeling I got of being completely alone and left alone and alienated, lurid even though I'm not sure why; I remember the driver telling his wife that she needed to lose more weight and she agreed, tilting her head to the side and looking at us in the backseat as she nodded. I thought I was in the seat behind her for a while but then I was in the other seat later on. I was leaning forward on the driver’s seat talking and then noticed what looked like a small brownish frog on the hood of the car in front of the passenger’s seat. The hood was damp and glistening under its toes.

I realized we weren’t even on a road anymore, just a huge field of damp dirt and short-cropped grass with the appearance of a massive spotlight shining on us from the back-right of my vision – like it was coming from inside my own head; there was mist in the air, too that looked like glitter. We were going down a hill and everything was wet outside. There were at least a dozen frogs on the car and they would sometimes hop off toward the back of the car and to the sides. We were all curious but didn’t do or say anything about it. We were going fast and somehow a drop off surprised the driver and we were suddenly on a steep, slick incline of grass that fell off quickly from the hill and felt like we were turning back in on ourselves and the hill, defying gravity for a split second. The car lurched over the side and drove down for a few seconds – we were driving to the right, not straight down for some reason – and then we turned backwards and the car turned upside down.

I was holding onto the hand grab over my window and remember thinking it might be best to stay as seated as possible instead of flying limply around the car but that proved difficult and I found myself floating almost weightless through the middle of the car and looking out all the windows at the ever-tilting scenery. I can’t remember if we were screaming or just watching in awed silence as we turned around and over the hill and slid down to the bottom, slow and fast at the same time.

Then I woke up.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Photos of Inspiration ~ [04.12.11]

My Tuesday morning is going really well. Yesterday was great, too - and a Monday! Of course as soon as I say that something will go terribly wrong and then the rest of the week will suck. But I'm going to try NOT to let that happen; I think it's in our power to control what we feel and do. We obviously can't change people; people are the 'wild card' and are never what we want or hope or expect them to be, even people we've known for a hundred years and think we can rely on. So just control yourself and you can at least stay calm and carry on in the face of distress.

This morning, I have a few photos of inspiration, as I call them; photos (feelings, energies really) that inform my mood and my day, that I carry in the back of my mind ... an escape of sorts. Today's photos are about tea. Sort of. They are just downright lovely is what, and I wanted to share them.

What inspires me today is fresh cool air and warm sun on my shoulders; breezes on a sun-drenched day; the yellow of an old photograph; crisp grass whisping in the air; the feel of slick bark under my palm.











Monday, April 11, 2011

The Anthropologie Conundrum

I love Anthropologie. They have truly beautiful apparel, accessories, home decor, and tons of inspiration. I have a little twinge of "I wish I had that" whenever someone says they "Got it at Anthropologie" or does a What I Wore post with some amazing and well-styled piece from Anthropologie, like this one.

But I still can't bring myself to buy their merch until and unless it is drastically marked down on their super-clearance, you're-lucky-if-it's-in-your-size sale rack. I just don't understand $338 sandals asnd $228 blouses. I just ... don't get it. If I have $228 extra dollars sitting around (what a day!) I will spend it on getting that squeak on my car fixed, not buying a beautifully overpriced blouse that will look just as old and 'has been' as everything else in my closet after just a few wears.

All that to say, I still greatly admire (and esteem!) their stock and have browsed their webpages many times for inspiration. Here are a few of my favorite looks and pieces from their latest e-mail alert: perfect cool and light pieces for Spring and Summer.

Paint On Canvas Pants in Dark Grey

First Hints blouse in Ivory

Brickwork tee in Grey Motif and Drawing Parallels skirt in Plum

Bowtied Batik shorts in Gold

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jane Austen Confessions

I have a confession to make.
This is very bad.
I don't think I've ever really acknowledged it.

I haven't read any of Jane Austen's books. 

The stigma, of course, being that I have seen every book-turned-movie and nearly every version -- all 7 novels! American and BBC versions! -- some of them many times over and yet ... I haven't read the books that inspired them.

I grew up quoting this (oh, and recreating the dances with a group of friends like the huge nerd I was):

Then I converted to this version in 2006 (yes, there is a great debate apparently as to which version is the 'best') despite my best efforts at NOT liking it (gotta say I have not been a Keira Knightley fan):

I remember seeing this in theatres and then buying and watching it like a hundred times:

I remember LOVING this movie so much (still do) that I asked for and got the soundtrack for my (I think) 10th birthday. Yeah. nerd.

I remember seeing this lovely film and feeling so sorry for poor Anne and Wentworth and their embattled romance:

This is really, very awful. I resolved just this afternoon to set it right. I must read all of her books. I just ... have to. Actually I want to; surely it won't be a painful endeavor. I have simply told myself that it's something I must do to balance the scales.

I have read the 'Lord of the Rings' triology; heck I even read 'The Silmarillion' in all it's verbosity. I've completely earned all the 'Jane Eyre' films I've seen over the years (this topic calls for its own blog post!); I must have read that book 20 times (it is my favorite after all). I even did a character presentation about Jane Austen in costume AND British accent in middle school. Still haven't read her books. *slaps wrist*

I will read all seven of Jane Austen's novels before the end of the year.

I think I'll read them chronologically which, according to some moderate research on this website, means I'll be reading 'Sense and Sensibility' first.

That is my Four-Months-Into-The-New-Year Resolution.


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