Friday, March 31, 2006

An Open Letter to Mother Nature

Mommie Nature Dearest,

Now, listen up, you little bitch, and listen good.

For years, I have been extolling the virtues of organic produce. You give me gas.

I don't color my hair. You give me strands of gray.

I stopped using my wonderful acne medication so as to create a safer environment in which to become pregnant. You give me no child and plenty of zits.

I give the "natural method" many, many opportunities. You choose not to exploit a single one, instead preferring that I undergo surgery.

I avoid artificial sweeteners. You widen my hips. Yet, you keep your own all slender and wood-nymph-ish underneath your gauzy dresses.

The final straw?

Every month, as I wait and worry, and abstain from alcohol and sushi and soft cheeses and generally all things fun, you give me the following:

1. sore breasts (though almost no increase in volume, you slut);
2. headaches;
3. vivid dreams;
4. occasional nausea;
5. tiredness.

BUT I'M NOT PREGNANT. This is just your idea of PMS.

This is really, really sick of you. This is on a par with making it so that one of the side effects of Clomid is a late period. You've got some nerve. You're supposed to be our sister, our friend. Father Time has been far nicer to me, giving me greater wisdom and perspective.

I have had just about enough of your bullshit. I've got a good mind to knock that crown of daisies right off your fucking head.

You'd better hope that you never meet up with me in a dark alley.

I'm off to buy some Pez now. AND EAT IT AND ENJOY IT.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Golden Girls Would be Proud

When I woke up this morning, I told Ty how I'd had a really scary dream about biting lions and tigers.

"Well, at one point during the night, you uttered this word, and then you rolled over and went back to sleep," he said.

"What word?"

"It sounded like, 'CHEESECAKE!'"

There are probably several researchers in Vienna who would love to attach some electrodes to my head.

Many, many, MANY thanks to Chelle for the beautiful new blog header!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Secrets of Marital Bliss, Part I

(Now that I've typed this, it'd be just my luck for my husband to leave me for an 18-year-old gymnast with strawberry-flavored lip gloss.)

I've asked for a sewing machine for my upcoming birthday. When I say "asked," I mean that I went to Ty's computer, found two sewing machines that I liked on Amazon, opened them in different windows, minimized them, and then walked into the kitchen, where Ty was cooking dinner for us, and said, "I sure would love a sewing machine for my upcoming birthday. There seem to be two from Amazon in minimized windows on your desktop right now. I would be happy with either one."

To which, ever the good husband, he replied, "You know, I think I need to go order some....books now."

I love that man.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

While I'm on the Subject of Magazines...

From time to time, sandwiched in between dermatologists' advice that 30-year-old women "probably only need a little Botox" and pictures of Sienna Miller with bandannas wrapped around her ankle, Allure will do something really fun: they'll talk about old, discontinued beauty products. Some of them were great and should never have been discontinued, and some of them, in retrospect, were surprisingly ridiculous.

I'm not sure why, exactly--perhaps it appeals to my fondness of kitsch--but I LOVE this.

In this same spirit, I have compiled a list of products that I remember from when I was a teenager.

1. Halsa hair products:
(Picture an umlaut over the first a; I STILL can't figure out how to type it.)

Though I found the claim that their products "uncover your highlights" to be dubious at best, these were the most beautiful-smelling hair products I've ever tried. Using them made me feel like a busty, hennaed hippie traipsing through fields of wildflowers in Scandinavia while wearing a gauzy dress, and not a disgruntled suburban teenager trying to grow out a bad haircut to cover her acne.

2. Maybelline Dial-a-Lash mascara:
This was an incredibly fat and funnel-shaped tube of mascara with a dial at the bottom, so that you could crank your lashes up from 1 to 10 as you desired. 1 was ostensibly doe-eyed, innocent Disney character living in some humble cottage in the woods; 10 was full-on Vegas showgirl moonlighting as an occasional hooker.

They all looked the same to me.

3. Debbie Gibson Electric Youth perfume:
Long before Britney Spears had a Fantasy, Debbie Gibson had her own fragrance. My bottle, the smaller-sized version, was a slender tube full of light pink liquid, with a hot-pink coil in the center designed, I supposed, to simulate the "look" of electricity. This was my favorite perfume for a while; I still remember exactly the way it smelled. Sweet and teenager-y. Sexier than Love's Baby Soft, but softer than the red-tinged, liquid-sex Guess? fragrance. Kind of like jeans with strategic the knees. With a happy face drawn on the flesh.

Here is the part where you all reminisce with me and list your own.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Happy Ea$ter

There were two wonderful publications that I read when I was a "tween." One of them was Mad. The other was Penny Power (later Zillions), subtitled "Consumer Reports for Kids."

These publications had a surprising amount in common. Both frequently featured the great artwork of Angelo Torres. Most people know that Consumer Reports does not accept outside advertising; likewise, Penny Power/Zillions did not. Few people realize, however, that Mad accepted no outside advertising, and obviously no donations, for years and years and years and years. Remarkably, this black-and-white, hand-illustrated magazine with the rough pages, in spite of the attempted censorship of less-enlightened schools, libraries, and parents, stayed afloat on the strength of its own sales (and also cost significantly less than many other mass-market magazines of the time). Both PP / Zillions and Mad heavily mocked advertising through the use of humor.

Times change. Zillions ceased publication in 2000. A few years after the death of founder William M. Gaines, Mad "revamped" in 1997 and began accepting paid advertising in 2001; the magazine is now in color, and with glossy pages. Consumer Reports still exists, of course, relying both on sales and donations to stay afloat, and ironically, like many of the advertisers it mocks, sends sensationally-subject-lined e-mails to Arabella's inbox and endless snail mail to her mailbox.

The legacy of Penny Power / Zillions and Mad lives on, though. Each left an indelible impression in the mind of a sad, sarcastic, suspicious, and yet smart preteen girl (who was also fond of alliteration). To this day, I love to deconstruct advertising.

I purchased a Wusthof chef's knife set for Ty for Christmas over the Internet. Because, four months ago, I bought a gift for someone who likes to cook, I now receive e-mail "updates" from Williams-Sonoma touting everything from marshmallow-making kits to scented laundry detergent. Yesterday, one such update appeared in my inbox. One of the products it was touting was "Easter grass."

This "Easter grass" is made of shredded paper.

It costs $5.00 for three ounces.

Now, if I'm going to be spending $5.00 for three ounces of something, you can bet that it's going to be liquid, and burn the back of my throat at least a little.

In honor of the legacy of Penny Power / Zillions and Mad, please do yourself a favor this Easter season. If you want fancy "Easter grass," run a few sheets of colored paper through a paper shredder and put the extra $4.96 in the bank for your kids' education.

Or put it towards educational literature such as this.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

And I Shaved My Legs for This

Surgery it is! Yay!!!

Just in time to ruin my parents' vacation!

Time for more pictures from Los Angeles, the Land of Surgery:

the Pacific Ocean as seen from Santa Monica

Where do Italians go when they visit L.A.? Venice, of course!

Lush greenery

Venice street scene

Commence sympathetic commenting, please. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Hard Day's Afternoon

You know it's been a rough day when you think to yourself, "At least tomorrow I can just put my feet up and relax."

And tomorrow you're going to the gynecologist.

We Interrupt Our Regularly-Scheduled Vacation Photos to Bring You Some Pathos

Last Sunday, Ty and I were sitting side-by-side in a church pew. Church is usually poignant for the trying-hard-to-get-pregnant set, because it contains the maximum number of adorable babies and children per square inch, not to mention loving families. Some of the children even clutch stuffed bears and bunnies. Most of them sit near us and smile their gummy, minimally-toothed smiles at us from over their parents' shoulders.

The Mass had concluded. It had been a beautiful Mass, and we were feeling very much at peace. Announcements were being read.

"Please come and join our New Parents group. All parents of babies and young children are welcome to attend. There will be socializing and support, and an opportunity to get to know the other families in our parish with young children. Refreshments will be served."

Ty and I glanced at each other and, yes, I'll admit it, rolled our eyes.

Then he leaned over and whispered to me:

"And everybody who attends gets a free box of kittens!"

Our hair may turn gray, our teeth may yellow, and our skin may hang loose, but laughter is FOREVER.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Some Long-Awaited Photos

I'm just getting started; I promise there will be more. Think of this as an amuse bouche. An amuse bouche that took me an hour and a half to upload as laundry spun, the doorbell rang, and I tried to down a bowl of cereal while getting dressed.

You can get almost anything you want in New York City, but one thing we don't have is beautiful mountains by the side of the road:
Through the window of the rented car

Another is palm trees:

Venice Beach, gorgeous even when overcast

Below is Santa Monica Pier. When I look at this photo, I should remember the beautiful walk that my husband and I took to get here, hand in hand along the beach. I should also remember the stunning majesty and natural beauty of the Pacific Ocean. The happy, smiling children eager to go on the rides. The amazing skill of the surfers we saw. Man bonding with nature.

Instead, all I can think of is:

"Come and knock on our door..."

(One of the opening sequences of Three's Company was filmed here.)

Finally, here is the tiny little plastic chicken from my cosmetics drawer:

Ty thinks I should submit it to Cute Overload; what do you think? To show its scale, I have placed it next to a two-Euro coin, because the Trattoria Breve is so sophisticated and international and cosmopolitan. It occurred to me that, unfortunately, the size of a two-Euro coin is not immediately recognizable to non-Europeans. Therefore, I have included another bonus photo of the tiny little chicken, this time next to a quarter:

I even wiped off the kitchen counter for you. Never let it be said that I don't care about my readers!

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

Unfortunately, instead of green, I'm feeling a little bit blue this year.

I'm reminded of St. Patrick's Days past--one several years ago, spent having a wonderful evening at the now-closed McHale's.

Last year, Ty and I were in New Orleans for St. Patrick's Day. It was like a lighter, more family-friendly version of Mardi Gras, with beads and a parade and lots of festivities. This year I'm sure it's much more bittersweet.

I haven't uploaded my vacation pics yet, even though I planned to do it this week, so I haven't been able to tell all the stories I wanted to tell, and you don't seem to like posts about the contents of my apartment or interesting click-through people in quite the same way.

Of course, the notion of having recently been advised to have surgery loomed large over my vacation week. I think I did a pretty good job of not letting it ruin my good time, but now that I'm home I'm faced with the prospect of doing research and getting second opinions and just generally doing all the daunting work that a conscientious person in this position has to do.

I think the worst feeling, though, is finding out that something's going on in your body that you didn't know about.

I've always felt like I've known my body really well. I could get a sore throat with no other symptoms and say to myself, "This is because I didn't get enough sleep for the past three nights." After a solid night's sleep, I'd feel both physically better and intellectually vindicated. I know instinctively when to turn over in my sleep to avoid cramping on one side of my body. I know when it's time to apply sunblock, when I should deep-condition, and, generally, how to make myself feel better when I'm sick. I know my body's weak spots and strengths and sensitivities. I have astounded doctors with my intuitive self-remedies for minor ills.

Therefore, this recommendation-of-sorts really threw me for a loop.

It's enough to make me doubt my own highly-prized theories and notions about the workings of my own body. I feel completely in the dark, and a little bit betrayed.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Interactive Fun

All items listed are real items located in the stated places. If you'd like to participate, please pick your favorite letter for each number and post it in the comments. There are no "correct" answers, just the joy of participating and seeing what others have chosen.

1. Strangest item in my medicine cabinet:

a) lone, disembodied mascara wand with no tube;
b) beloved lipstick worn down to the nub that I clutch for dear life and refuse to discard until I've replaced it;
c) beauty product that says on the bottle, "Caution: This product contains mushroom protein."

2. Strangest item in a drawer that primarily contains nail polish, manicure instruments, and cosmetics:

a) tiny plastic chicken from a supermarket vending machine;
b) keys to a car that I had seven years ago;
c) do-it-yourself waxing strips.

3. Strangest item in my handbag:

a) hand sanitizing gel, "Crisp Citrus Herb" fragrance;
b) noise-reducing earplugs;
c) granola bar (actually, two granola bars).

4. Strangest item found in or on my bedside table:

a) small, decorative box shaped like a fish;
b) drink coaster;
c) two different kinds of rich, moisturizing foot cream (three, if you count a hand cream that I occasionally use on my feet).

5. Strangest item in my refrigerator:

a) facial astringent;
b) batteries;
c) multivitamins.

Have fun!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More People Worth Knowing About

(Please note: many of those listed have two separate links, one for each of their first and last names.)

Rosalind Franklin

Will Lee

Evelyn Ryan

Berry Berenson

Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers was quite an interesting guy)

Artemisia Gentileschi

Jane Birkin

Judith Martin

More always welcome.

Don't Fence Me In

It's a toss-up as to whether my favorite thing about southern California was the coastline or the food.

Last week, Ty and I had dinner in a normal, non-swanky sushi restaurant a few hours north of Los Angeles. It was a weeknight, and the place was packed. The food was fresh and delicious, but what really struck me as the most positive aspect of the evening was the number of kids there, eating tasty, well-prepared "grownup food" and loving it.

I have long resented the limited (and often excessively fatty and fried) selection on restaurant "children's menus." I realize that many, many kids are naturally picky eaters, and I was, too, when I was a kid, but I'd wager that many of these kids would naturally be picky in atypical ways. Yes, lots of kids like fried chicken nuggets and hot dogs and shun steamed okra, but I wonder how much of that preference is spoon-fed to them by parents' and societal expectations.

When I was a kid, I liked fried chicken nuggets and hot dogs, but I also adored oysters, bitter greens, and countless other things that kids aren't "supposed to like." I also didn't care for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My parents did me a tremendous service--they exposed me to a wide variety of foods and didn't communicate to me that I was expected not to like certain things. They also educated me about what I was eating--I knew the names of different shapes of pasta and different kinds of cheese, and I knew about steaming vs. frying, artificial colors, and adding spices. My food wasn't dumbed down just because I was a kid. I developed an early appreciation for good food, was fed a balanced diet, and, consequently, never feared food, even as a teenage girl, when some of my friends were attempting to subsist on sugar-free Jell-O.

Now that I've written this, I'll probably have a child who will turn my good theory (and my foodie household) on its head and refuse to eat anything but deep-fried frozen mozzarella sticks and highly pigmented popsicles after I spend an hour crushing organic garlic and sauteeing it in extra virgin olive oil with baby spinach.

So, tell me, moms, how powerful a motivator is guilt?

Monday, March 13, 2006

An Open Letter to People Who Run Ostensibly Luxurious Hotels

Dear People,

I have a few suggestions for you:

1. Go to the little market about 200 yards away from your hotel.

2. Purchase a box of Lipton.

3. Bring it back to the kitchen.

4. Put it on a shelf.

5. Instruct your staff that when somebody asks at breakfast whether you have "Plain, regular black tea," they should not just smile, nod, and then ask, "Earl Grey?" Sure, Earl Grey is regular black tea--but INFUSED WITH OIL OF BERGAMOT. It's a little like my asking, "Do you have regular, plain coffee?" and them smiling and nodding and asking, "Regular with Irish cream essence?" Instead, they should go to that shelf in the kitchen, dunk a bag of Lipton in boiling water, bring it out, and say, "Of course we have regular tea. AND here is some cream for it, in case you prefer that to lemon."

Nice touch with the turndown service, though.

You didn't really expect me to return to posting and leap right in with a happy one, now did you? Well, now that that's out of the way, I can tell you that, in spite of the lack of regular tea, I really did have a wonderful time on my vacation. It was just what I needed.

C.S. is right about the food in southern California--it was fresh and delicious virtually everywhere we went. There was tremendous emphasis on organic ingredients. The local wines are terrific. It only rained a little. My new red shoes looked cute. The coastline was gorgeous. I didn't do laundry for SEVEN DAYS. Just saying that sends chills down my spine, but that could be because the "SEVEN DAYS" thing reminds me of The Ring.

It may take me some time to catch up this week, but I am very much looking forward to reading up on everyone's writing and seeing what I missed.

Just as soon as I finish my tea.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Gone Fishin'

Regular posting will resume Monday, 3/13, unless I get super-ambitious. I won't be available by e-mail until then, either. I will miss everyone terribly. Cheers!

Friday, March 03, 2006


I might have gotten a little bit carried away with the shoe-shopping:

L to R: Pair 1, Pair 2, Pair 3, and Pair 4.

I've pretty much decided to keep only Pairs 1 and 2, which I think strike a decent balance between comfort and style. I've been wearing them around the apartment with thick socks (a tip my mother's friend taught me with my wedding shoes) to stretch them ever so slightly before I wear them on my trip.

Pairs 3 and 4 are the same style, and were supposed to be the same color. They are different sizes. Unfortunately, Pair 3 came packed with The Stick of Death, which is supposed to help shoes retain their shape, but, in my opinion, contorts the heel in such an unnatural way that the shoes feel like they are performing the ankle equivalent of that specialized neck pinch that's supposed to make a person pass out immediately. Pair 4 was blessedly free of The Stick of Death, but was uncomfortable and the wrong size and the wrong color anyway.

Pair 2 also came with The Stick of Death. I have spent the past several days squishing the heels of Pair 2 under my own heels while wearing them at home to try to soften the stiff leather and remold the shoes a little.

Pairs 2, 3, and 4 were all manufactured by companies who claim to place an emphasis on comfort. Pairs 2, 3, and 4 were the most expensive shoes.

Pair 1 is the most comfortable.

I also packed a fancy pair of heels that I've had for several years and that usually feel fine.

What have we learned from all this?

If you're going to be uncomfortable in clodhoppers anyway, just save yourself the trouble and buy attractive, cheapish shoes in a design that you really like.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


How does one go about packing shoes in a suitcase? My usual strategy is to wrap them in plastic bags and stick them in with the clothing. Anybody have a better idea?

Pleasant Distractions

I'm in better spirits today than yesterday; thanks for bearing with me. In honor of my impending vacation to La-La-Land, I present you with these Fun TV and Movie Facts:

1. The role of Summer Wheatley in Napoleon Dynamite was played by Haylie Duff, sister to Hilary.

2. In the adult film Behind the Green Door, one of the actors is credited as "Hadley V. Baxendale." Hadley v. Baxendale is a landmark case in contracts law.

3. Porn queen Marilyn Chambers, star of Behind the Green Door, was once the model on the box of Ivory Snow ("99 44/100% Pure!"). Her Ivory Snow box is displayed as a prop in many of her adult films.

4. In Goodfellas, in the scene in which Henry and Karen Hill are discussing whether to enter the Witness Protection Program, the U.S. Attorney is played by the real U.S. Attorney who discussed the program with the real Henry and Karen Hill.

5. Quentin Tarantino once appeared on an episode of "The Golden Girls," as one of several Elvis impersonators.

Do you have any to add?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Saying Nothing is the New Witty Title

Project Body and Soul isn't going so well. I forgot that it's nearly impossible to engage in such projects while also engaging in income-generating activities.

Having spent the entire weekend working on one personal project and three different work projects, I thought this week might be a little bit less intense. Yesterday, I received two quasi-surprise projects that need to be taken care of before I can relax on vacation. I also ran out of my beloved night cream. I'm not sure which event upset me more.

Ty cheered me up a bit by hanging Mardi Gras beads on our front door and making a garlicky shrimp appetizer. I skipped the 30 minutes on the Denise Austin bike in favor of dancing in the kitchen with my husband; definitely the high point of the evening, along with eating Ty's delicious dinner. I spent the rest of the night doing dishes, doing a load of laundry, and working on my assorted projects until finally falling asleep around midnight with the assistance of a Benadryl. My alarm interrupted a nightmarish dream, and I attempted to get up early and to go to church and get ashes; I say "attempted" because it didn't quite work out that way. I arrived just in time to feel completely rude and conspicuous and too guilty to receive Communion. The ashes had already been distributed. On the way home, I replaced my beloved night cream and also bought more napkins, because we ran out without my realizing it and then I started to twitch a little. By the time I got home (I was gone maybe forty minutes), I had one new voicemail on my landline and two new voicemails on my cellphone.

It's 10:38 now; I'm getting off to an extremely late start to my workday, given my workload. It's going to be another late night.

I just want to curl up in the fetal position with a nice, warm puppy. And NOT the fucking dog that keeps barking whenever there's any noise IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY IN NEW YORK CITY.