Thursday, July 31, 2008


I'm afraid to admit how happy I am about the top four they've chosen for the finale of So You Think You Can Dance, lest I wake up tomorrow to learn that there was some sort of clerical error and my favorites will be auditioning for Burger King commercials next week instead of entertaining us on FoxTV.

Which almost makes up for the fact that I finally caught an episode of Project Runway, only to learn that the cast is comprised of rather scary people. Granted, I only saw the ones they focused on, but still...they seem an especially strange lot, even for creative types.

Is it just me? Is there someone I missed who is quirky rather than frightening?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dust to dust

I may be the first person to get rid of her spice rack and replace it with a vacuum cleaner, but that's how yesterday went.

We knew our old vac was on it's way out--THAT DOG sheds her weight in fur on a weekly basis, and for the past few months, our forays into housekeeping have involved shoving abandoned dog hair into new piles, while the machine emitted a high-pitched squeal of protest like a car left to long in second gear. Our vacuum cleaner had no gears (that we knew of) so we just shoved the piles around dutifully and hoped for the best.

Then came the burning smell, and that was all she wrote.

Last night we went out and bought a new vacuum cleaner (which was rather ironic, given that I'd spent the afternoon reading the rantings of an irate feminist who hates, hates, hates the idea that any woman would ever be excited about a new household appliance...) We got home and immediately tested it out on the small runner we installed so THAT DOG could get some traction (hardwood floors seem like a great idea until you watch your pet slide into the wall with a thud for the 47th time...) The new machine has one of those clear canisters on the front, so we could see what it was picking up.

Oh. My. Gosh. Horrifying.

"You should take a picture of this for your blog!" Steve said, staring incredulously at the contents of our new vacuum.

"No way!" I responded. "I'm not telling the whole world we've been living in a giant pile of dirt..."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Salt is a spice, right?

Today, at 11:19am, I realized that my spice rack is superfluous. I was cleaning the kitchen, talking to my friend Kristen on the phone and pulling out each of the 22 little vials of spices, trying to dust them into some semblance of shiny kitchen decor. Because honestly? That's all they are.

Steve and I registered for the spice rack before our wedding, and I was THRILLED when someone sent it to us as a gift; thrilled, I say. I envisioned fun evenings whipping up culinary masterpieces and sipping chardonnay, Steve and I chatting while THAT DOG lounged nearby being appropriately quaint and adorable. Really, it was a great picture, there in my head. And some of it has come true. Most evenings around here, wine is sipped, chat is exchanged, and a dog is adored. But to whatever extent food preparation is involved, the spice rack rarely comes into play (unless I prop it up in front of a steak or a roasted chicken to keep THAT DOG from forgetting how much less quaint and adorable she is when she's wolfing down our dinner).

As Kristen and I pondered what happens to spices when they simply twirl on a rack for four years, I looked closely at some of my spice options for the first time. What I saw there wasn't pretty.

Sage? It looks like ground up moths. Fennel? Rodent droppings. The last time I tried Rosemary, all those long little pieces CAUGHT FIRE in our gas stove, burning my pork roast to a crisp. Fun memories there. And what...on Marjoram???

Never mind. A non-profit in town is having a giant yard sale in two weeks, and I've placed my spinning rack of spices in the pile to be donated. Which means I've got room on my counter for some other kitchen gadget! Any suggestions? And PLEASE don't say the Kitchen Aid Mixer...if Oregano is too complicated for me, it's a safe bet that I'm not yet woman enough for the KAM...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Groovin down at the RMV

I spent two hours today at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, trying to renew my license. Due to some computer snafu, I got to have my case reviewed by a manager, a supervisor and two different people at the phone-in help desk. It was super-duper fun.

To pass the time, I adopted the habit of my four-year-old niece, who sings about everything she does. Putting on her bathing suit, going to the name it, she sings about it. Today, my song went something like this:

I'm sitting at the RMV...
(bump, bump, bump, bump)
Gonna move my family back to Maine with me...

My new license expires in five years, at which point I'll have to go back to that wonderful office to renew it. Or I can leave the state, and never go back there again. Guess which option I'm planning on? Steve and I have always talked about wanting to move north someday, to the town in Maine where I grew up (which has the nicest RMV you can imagine) Now that talk has a time frame!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Creative Habit

I'd planned on reading the final Harry Potter installation while on vacation, but I found myself rereading this amazing book on creativity by choreographer Twyla Tharp instead. Her words were exactly what I needed. They hit me like the firm, strong reassurance of a wise mentor, one who understands how creative gifts can be squandered when we spend too much time agonizing over how and where to start.

Twyla doesn't over romanticize the creative life, which I appreciate. But she acknowledges that sometimes you have to take some winding roads to get to where you're going. Reading her techniques, and what goes into her choreography--much of which has nothing at all to do with dance--makes me feel normal about all the weird things that capture my attention. She suggests that I'm not nuts to believe that my artistic obsessions (Michelle Branch's song lyrics; the episode of Project Runway where they go to the finalists' homes to see how they're coming on their collections for Fashion Week; every piece Mia Michaels choreographs for So You Think You Can Dance...) are all tied in somehow with how and what I write. Sometimes I feel like a bird collecting odd bits and scraps, not knowing quite how they'll all fit together in the end but trusting that somehow I'll make a nest out of it. Twyla seems to think this is a normal way to approach life (and yes, I know, artists are not always the best place to go when looking to define your "normal"...)

She even offers some new random things to add to my collection. If you're at all creative, or would like to be, this is a great place to start--a trip to a foreign land, where a day's work involves rolling around on the floor and waiting to see what comes of it.

I'm off to try "egg." (Check out page 112 if you're wondering what this is)

What's the strangest place you find creative inspiration?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Not to say that I'm an old dog, but...

It was quite a week in the woods of Maine. I'll admit up front that I saw no moose other than the ones stitched into my favorite flip flops (indeed, the dead porcupine we saw by the side of the highway on the drive home doubled my total wildlife encounters for the week) but the adventures of THAT DOG more than made up for it.

You see, after twelve and a half years of absolute refusal to have anything to do with the water, THAT DOG learned to swim! Or, to put it more precisely, to boogie-board. I'm not entirely sure how it happened. One minute, I was bobbing along happily in the lake in my noodle chair, THAT DOG crying pitiously from the shore like always. The next thing I know, she's scrambled onto my niece's boogie board, and is being pulled through the waves to me by my sister. It was hysterical. I pulled her off into my arms, and she wiggled furiously and swam back to shore. But she swam! Like an Olympian! It was truly a sight to behold. The lesson of this vacation: you CAN teach an old dog new tricks :)

Which is good to know, given that I'm trying to mix things up a bit now that I'm back at home. A week with no TV, internet, or phone made me realize how much time I "fill" with little things--checking my email for the 97th time, running a Google search for the names of the all the Backstreet Boys, watching snippets of reruns of The Biggest Loser to see if it will push me out the door to the gym (it hasn't yet, and some of the food segments make me hungry)... You know, mindless time-fillers between one thing I have to do and another.

Now, I may never get to the place where I'm "mindful" every moment (perhaps because that word gets tossed around so much that it's become annoying). But being less mindless than I was before seems like a worthy goal.

So today, I instituted a new approach to time management: No internet until 3pm. No looking up the name of an author on Amazon, or checking the NYTimes Magazine for my friend's article. No pulling up the track titles for the CD I downloaded, or checking to make sure there wasn't an email emergency circling my in-box waiting for me to save the day.

My choices today, before 3pm, were good ones: writing, which I love (and which is, technically, my job and therefore what I should be doing with my daytime hours) and reading, which compliments the whole writing thing well when I give it space to do so. I'm finally at the stage of life I dreamed about in Algebra class, where I can focus on these two things and leave arithmetic out entirely. In it's own way, it made for the perfect day.

And yet... it was WAY harder than I expected. I'm astonished by how much my little dashes to the computer (which usually take at least a half-hour once I'm hooked in) are programmed into my psyche. It took everything I had not to invent some excuse to sign on, but somehow I didn't. And I had my most productive writing day in weeks.

Today's message? Here's to dogs on boogie boards inspiring us to try new things!

How was your week? What did I miss?

Saturday, July 12, 2008


We're heading out this morning for a week in the woods of Maine. We have bathing suits, bug spray, and mint for mojitos. (I've even learned that they're made from rum and not vodka, which seems like good information to have...) What more could we possibly need? I'll be back next week with new tales of moose sightings, lake floating, and THAT DOG's escapades in the great outdoors. See you then!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Those Men Can Dance

I just watched my DVR recording of last night's So You Think You Can Dance. The guest performance by Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre amazed me. It also brought back one of the most embarrassing moments of my entire college experience (and trust me, there's stiff competition for that title).

In college, I was part of my school's Dance Company (I've learned to phrase this carefully, ever since the time I told a someone, "I danced in college..." and her response was, "Cool--did it pay well?" I stared at her blankly, not comprehending that she thought I'd spent the hours between my Chinese Foreign Policy and Crafting the Long-Form Essay classes spinning around a pole in my underwear, rather than standing at a ballet barre...) Anyway...

One of our guest choreographers was from Alvin Ailey. I was terrified, and it showed. At one point, I did one too many pirouettes, lost my spot, and came terribly close to throwing up on said guest choreographer. "Are you okay?" he asked, looking at me with thinly-veiled horror. "I'm fine," I gasped. And then, without thinking: "It's just your's so's making me dizzy..."

Needless to say, I was in the back row for the rest of that piece.
And for the record, the money was terrible :)

One other thought about last night's show (aside from my LOVE for the top ten dancers): is it just me, or did Katy Perry look like the evil sister Lisa from Dirty Dancing? You know, in the talent show scene where she dressed Hawaiian and sang "You can wackle all you wanna, while I hula all the day away"? Just a thought.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

KG on the O

We caught Kathy Griffin's "I'm not Nicole Kidman" special the other night. Ohmigosh, that woman is funny. Do not try to consume beverages while watching this show; hydration will have to wait.

Rather than grasping at straws as so many creative people do when they finally make it and now have to produce new material on a tight deadline (I'm thinking of the sophomore slump we always read about with books and music--the one I'm hoping to avoid myself) this stuff is even better than what she did before.

My favorite part? The bit about Oprah, and how absurd our worship of her one-woman enterprise has gotten. Honestly, if there were a way for me to thank Kathy personally for this, I'd fly to wherever she is to do so.

Because honestly? The O thing is out of hand. Have you noticed? Last month's magazine contained a long feature on this spiritual book she has the whole country reading, and how the take home point is that the key to happiness is getting over our self-involvement and our ego. Not terrible advice, right? But then on the next page is a segment about how the roses featured in some picture are "Oprah roses" that she designed for some gala. That stopped me in my tracks. Why would anyone, other than someone with a PhD in plant biology who lives for this kind of thing, design their own rose? Because there no other pretty roses anywhere on the planet that would look nice in a vase in the center of the table? It just struck me as a strange combination, this "let's all ditch our ego" thing and the "here's where you can order my super-special roses..."

What inspires me about Kathy, though, is she doesn't say, "Oh, this is HORRIBLE!" Instead, she sees life through a different lens, and says, "Oh people, this is FUNNY!" I think that is a spectacular quality, one I'm hoping to cultivate. Because really, these opportunities are all around us; it's up to us what we do with them.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I don't think my Dad would go to Beijing, even if I were in the Olympics

When I was a chunky little gymnast ("sturdy" was a word I frequently heard used to describe my nine-year old build), I remember teasing my Dad about his reluctance to come see me do my tumbles and spins. "Don't be silly," he replied one day with a big smile. "Of course I'll come and see you...when you're in the Olympics, and the Olympics are in Maine..."

Assuming this would happen in my lifetime (and why not? Just because the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders don't hold auditions in my home state, that's no reason to believe that the Olympic Committee would overlook us), I set about practicing with renewed vigor.

I think about this now, as I imagine the parents of this summer's Olympians. Are any of them asking, "Seriously--Beijing? You couldn't have waited four more years so we could all go to London???" Now don't get me wrong--I imagine a visit to China would be life-altering in more ways that I have space to mention here. But to combine that with the single biggest athletic competition of your child's life? Sounds kind of stressful to me.

But back to my Dad, who is retired now and thus has time to travel:

If you were in the Olympics, and they were held in YOUR home state, where would my Dad need to go? What would your event be?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Outward Bound, Retail Edition

Steve and I were shopping on Saturday, looking for mundane but necessary items for our upcoming vacation--basic bathing suits, flip flops to wear into the water to protect my toes from the rocky bottom, sunscreen with SPF 940. Unbelievably, we went in and out of SEVEN different stores without buying a thing. Seven! Everywhere we looked were hoochie-mama bathing suits that were not exactly what one wears while floating on a noodle with one's five-year old niece, flip flops with high heels (???), and sunscreen made of baby oil. Everything we'd need to vacation on the Onassis yacht, but rather inappropriate for the woods of Maine.

I'll admit, the whole experience made me grumpy. Steve cast it in a new light, though:

"I like shopping without buying anything," he said, taking a glug of his giant (heavily caffeinated) ice coffee. "It's kind of like going on a hike..."

There you have it. When people ask what we did this weekend, "We went hiking," is my new answer.

I'm glad we didn't have to camp...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Things I love, part 2

I have an irrational attraction to things that come in kits. A few years ago, I almost bought a set of forty two wrenches at Sears, simply because they all looked so shiny and wonderful, there in the plastic carrying case with all the special little places for them to line up. It made me happy, just looking at them. The highlight of every childhood birthday was the matching plastic necklace/bracelet/ring set with my birthstone my Mom always got for me, and OH THE JOY when I got my first little manicure kit, with it's little scissors, trimmer, and file. Never mind that the file was useless, and the scissors dull--they LOOKED SO PRETTY, there in their little black felt envelope.

My most recent kit discovery is far more useful. Makeup, with magnets, that you can mix & match in a pretty little compact. (I know--this has been available for decades. I'm just late to the party...) Last week, I put this together--isn't it gorgeous?

The Sugarberry lipgloss is a longtime favorite--if I didn't mention it in the "things I'd grab if there was a fire" post, I'm adding it to the list now. But all in all, I'm just excited for interchangeable sparkle power. Makeup application is the only artistic talent I have, in terms of the visual arts (one wonders what I might have accomplished had I spent as much time in my teen years perfecting acrylics and watercolors as I did studying the latest thoughts on eyeshadow application in Seventeen...)

Anyway, there you have it: part two of my Unpaid Product Endorsement series. If stuff makes us happy, we should pass the word along.

Speaking of happy: here's a picture of Steve test driving pillows in the store the other day. We didn't find what we were looking for, but I think this shot made the whole trip worthwhile :)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A strange thing to hug, but whatever

It doesn't happen often. Usually, as I stroll through our local BB&B or L&T store, pricing towels or bathmats or some sort of device to sharpen knives, I breeze on by the tv/vcr's playing infomercials on a three-minute loop. I just don't get all that excited about "AS SEEN ON TV!"

But then I heard, "Have you ever been embarrassed by shoulder bumps in your clothing? Do you wish you had more room in your closet?" It stopped me cold. Yes, and yes. My closet was a train wreck, and the shoulders of my tops all looked like they were waiting for the giant linebacker pads from the 80s to come back and fill them out. Four minutes later, I was walking out to my car with thirty dollars worth of closet enhancements.

I love these hangers. They make me bizarrely happy. My shoulders are smooth, and a sense of peace and order permeates my closet (I was going to say "has been restored," but that would imply it ever existed...)

I guess everyone needs something about them that's huggable. I'm perplexed to say that for me, it's my hangers...

(And tomorrow on Trish's Unpaid Product Testimonials, I'll tell you about the lip gloss that changed my life!)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

College mini-reunion!!!

I spent this weekend with my college friends Kristen, Francesca, and Tracy--aren't they gorgeous? We hadn't been all together in the same place since graduation, so we had just a bit of catching up to do.

If you've read He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, THESE are the girls who introduced me to the technicolor holiday light show that is La Sallette. And now that you have this picture, you can envision Tracy, Fresca and me sitting outside Kristen's dorm room, cutting pictures out of the J. Crew catalogue to cheer her up after some idiot broke her heart. We'd do the same for her today :)

Fresca & Tracy brought some serious paraphernalia to the party: the pile of CDs included everything from The Escape Club to Yaz, and the pictures in Fresca's giant plastic storage bin may be the funniest thing any of us have seen in the past decade. There was even a quote book, revealing deep thoughts that could be bound and sold in the self-help aisle in any bookstore today. Fortunately, we'd each had one of Tracy's stellar mojitos to ease the embarrassment of this trip down memory lane...let's just say that the 90s are not a decade that should be repeated, in terms of fashion, music, or anything else.

First of all, OH MY GOSH...the hair was simply breathtaking.
Fresca came to college sporting a mullet.
Tracy had hippie hair, long and flowing, like the breeze.
Kristen rocked a Hillary Clinton-esque bob w/bangs (from the stand by your man years).
And I had a hunk of bangs bursting forth from my forehead the size of a slice of pizza. (It was permed, teased, and sprayed to ensure architectural soundness; seriously, I should have had a building permit).

If the 90s had a signature shape, clearly it was the triangle. Three-point, asymmetrical hair styles, gigantic shoulder pads tapered down to pegged jeans (which were high-waisted, to draw maximum attention to the differential between one's waist and butt), t-shirts tucked into our pants and billowed out, giving us the shape of a Christmas tree...where were we getting these ideas? Where were Stacy & Clinton when we needed them?

And yet, if I was going to face such clear evidence of my fashion mis-steps, there's no one else I'd rather be with. It was amazing reconnecting with these friends, all together--it reminded me that a chapter of my life I'd sort of brushed off as "way back then," was actually a pretty important time for each of us, and totally worth remembering. I'd forgotten how good it feels to hang out with people who share your memories, who add bits you'd forgotten or never even known about, filling out the pictures.

And it also made me realize why we can't see the future. Because while each of the four of us are in pretty good places in our lives now, we've all been through some major $%#@ along the way that, had we seen it coming, would have made us utterly panic.

I had to leave our reunion early Sunday morning to get back to Cambridge to give a talk at church on how God guides us. I left Kristen's house at 5am, driving along thinking happy thoughts of awe and nostalgia, only to run into seventeen Massachusetts State Troopers when I crossed the border. Honestly, I thought, how much can be going down at dawn on a Sunday morning??? I was a little peevy about it, complaining to God that it would be REALLY uncool if I got a ticket on the way to speak at church... His response? Well, you could slow down...

As usual, he had a point.

Here's the link to the talk if you want to check it out.

And Kristen, Fresca, and Tracy, if you're reading this: I'm glad you guys have the other pieces of my college memories :)