Sunday, September 30, 2007


We bought our tickets to New York yesterday! And when I say "bought" I really mean we used a few thousand of Brian's parents' 180,000 frequent flier miles. I won't pretend my excitement at saving $338 doesn't overshadow the awkward feeling of having taken so much generosity from the Alexanders -- but they still have 141,000+ miles, so I think they'll scrape by.

Kelsey says she has an air-mattress for us in her very pretty new apartment. Flying and staying for free means we'll be able to do many more exciting things there -- in a perfect world, I could drag Brian to The Phantom of the Opera again. If not, there's Les Miserable and Rent and all kinds of little shows. Plus H&M, which I may go into Sunday and emerge from Friday. The irony is, of course, that I've started thinking about what I want to wear in New York, which makes me think maybe I should buy a few new things before we go -- buy things here so I'll have nice things to wear shopping when we get there.

My life is so difficult.
Brian and I went to the South Lake Grill today, for fabulously-half-priced Sunday victuals. He was disappointed by the jalapeno "mac" (actually penne) & cheese -- I think he regretted foregoing the roast beef dip, which he said, "holds a special place in my heart."

Though oversauced in vat of something between tarter sauce and aioli (I forget what the menu called it), the crab cakes were decent, good if I really thought about the flavors, with excellent mashed potatoes and giant hunks of just-tender broccoli and carrot. This is pretty typical of the food overall -- everything on the menu is just what you expect, nothing really thrills. Thoroughly satisfying (though again overdressed) have been the salads, Ahi and chicken with field greens, the blackened fish wrap (maybe talapia?), and Brian's beloved dip.

The staff is always nice, the place is clean and well-decorated. Some sport is always on TV, but it doesn't feel like a bar -- the level of fancy is somewhere between Red Robin and Palomino: Jeans and a teeshirt are just fine, but I wouldn't be overdressed in a skirt.

But would still we stop by if it wasn't half-priced all day Sunday? Brian says, "Definitely not as much." And, the looking at the real (reasonable) prices on the menu and having got used to half-off, I'd feel like we were paying too much any other day of the week.

No secret Martha Stewart is pretty much my idol -- ambitious, entrepreneurial, stylish, healthy, assertive, a little sassy, and accepting of her own wrong-doings. I love that she built an empire on cakes and gardening and the best way to fold a tee-shirt. She defies the sad misconception that a woman must be domestic or professional, dominant or lovely -- basically, manages to maintain a super traditionally feminine identity without being limited by the weakness generally associated with such a persona.

So I was very excited to hear she could be my MySpace friend. She has a blog, photos from her modeling career and her New York farm, Edith Piaf's most-perfect La Vie En Rose playing in the background, and, of course, a wall full of flattering compliments. Not exactly a personal connection, but I still feel very delighted to be one of her lucky few (thousand) friends.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Escaping Halo 3 to the IMA last night, I knew the evening TV would be a little different than my usual gym accompaniement of the Today show. But I had no idea how weird TV had become. I always thought VH1 was the more mature music channel, a step above the Real World and TRL (though who doesn't miss those two months of middle school when we could've set our watched by the regularity of KC and JoJo at number one every afternoon?).

Last night, VH1 followed an hour of Britney's most bizarre year ever (how did I miss her frenzied, bald, umbrella- weilding car smashing incident?) with The Pick-Up Artist.

A motley crew of awkward-but-seemingly-nice-enough guys role-play picking up hotties per the pseudo academic guidance of the magician and "former" nerd extraordinaire Mystery. That is his name, and, apropos I suppose, he slinks around all ruffled and feathered in a costume of flouncy shirts, cowboy boots, large hats, tight pants, and goatee -- in essence, dolled-up like a pirate too flamboyant even for Disney's Caribbean. One of few men for whom wearing an eye patch or a paisley ascot would seem more reasonable than not.

He also speaks very creepily in a slow, calm voice with big words, medium-sized social theory, and diminutive intentions. Possibly the magician is hypnotizing his audience with his uber-controlled speach?

I don't know that any individual recommendation he gave was particularly degrading or sleazy. His advice on body language seemed valid, his statement that there are no good pick-up lines correct, and his directives on approaching women in a nonthreatening way was very studied. But therein is Issue #1: people have been seducing and charming each other for centuries, but for the most part it's done through a genuine connection or personal charisma, not through a con man's formulaic checklist of do's and don'ts.

Issue #2: It's a how-to show for men about picking up women. Not for people to picking-up other people, not for establishing a good relationship, or meeting the right person, or any of the countless other issues people impose on the very natural act of mating. It establishes a clear gendered power structure via subtle manipulations, it promotes deception and objectification, and it pretends any two people can successfully play out the same prescribed interaction. The show is no more based in reality than Mystery's costumes are based in real style, and the men following him are as duped as the women they target.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Am I the only person who has trouble thinking of the Olsen twins as prolific? It's hard for me to see Mary Kate and Ashley as anything but troll-ish little brats.

I suppose I should applaud them for apparently escaping the child-star curse -- an eating disorder and a line of tiny overpriced copies of vintage clothes are definitely more praiseworthy than shaving one's head and passing out in hotel hallways. In the grand scheme of celebrity offenses, they're actually pretty sane.

And since the girls have thoroughly infiltrated the fashion blogosphere, increasingly referenced as legitimate style icons, I suppose I'll have acknowledging them as adults eventually. And if funny-looking little Michelle Tanner can pull off a career in luxury ready-to-wear, maybe there's hope for me dressing reasonably well for normal, non-celebrity life.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I could feel it in the way the wind carried mist off Drumheller Fountain to my skin before it could evaporate in the weakening sunlight; could smell it in the September-red leaves:

Today was a day for an Autumn coat.

Not a track jacket or cardigan or my new gold scarf. Autumn hung heavy in the air like the full red berries along the Burke Gilman; boots are everywhere, on par with handbags as a fashion-minded female obsession; I replaced my Ginger gloss with a reddish Khiels' balm -- a changing of the guards purely for my own entertainment.

Lucky for me, I've been preparing for this day since the Brooks Brothers Factory Store spring sale. This weekend I'm visiting the outlet stores up north again. Although I'm hoping for boots, maybe I'll find something fantastic on out-of-season clearance -- somehow, though, I just can't imagine having a heart attack over a springy pastel sweater. Maybe it's residual back-to-school excitement, my November birthday, or an affinity for leaves and rain -- but nothing quite matches the dramatic/romantic/transformative charm of Autumn and its dress code.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

GImme more?

A little anger can be good motivation for a workout, so I'm glad I only watch real TV -- as it's broadcast, with commercials, reality shows and all -- at the gym. If I watched it at home, I don't know what I'd do with all the angry energy I get from TV news.

I'd be a big hypocrite to criticize coverage of celebrity fumbles, since I tuned in when I saw a clip of Britney's Video Music Awards "performance" on CNN this morning. I expected familiar speculation about her lack of preparation and all-around crappy showing -- so I was pretty shocked to see the headline "Is Britney fat?"

Fat never crossed my mind. I don't mean that I thought, "Oh, she's kind of chubby. No, wait, she's normal. I'm not judging. I respect women and will not be part of our culture's system of body fascism," as I might think about someone like America Ferrera -- pretty and talented, but being rounder than most stars is a lot of her appeal, and it catches me off guard. No, in light of Brit's awful performance and her recent exploits in general, it never occurred to me to think of her size.

Udoubteldly, the spangled bikini was a bad idea. Even Vegas does not necessitate such trash from a mother of two. She should aim for a comeback that does not involve reverting to an old image.

But Britney's image nor the sexist objectification of the recorded segment were not what really appalled me. When we returned to the newsroom, the anchors bantered about this very important national issue. Then the (apparently Emmy-winning) anchor Tony Harris said, "Get that butt cheese off TV."

Excuse me? The entire newsroom seemed taken aback. Britney may have some serious issues with professional judgment, but she's not pretending to be part of "The most respected name in News." Who says things like that even in private company? I feel tacky just typing the quote.

Fortunately I switched quickly to The Today Show, where the very respectable anchors spoke intelligently with Condoleezza Rice and Barack Obama, and TV redeemed itself in my too-forgiving eyes.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Story time

I finished Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows last weekend, and haven't really recovered. Beyond the basic disappointment of the end of the entertainment, I'm forced into this reoccurring realization my new best friend is actually a figment of the combined imagination of the author and myself. Is my mind unusually swayed to have these characters in my dreams, to find I pick up their dialect or thought patterns? Should I fault the enveloping nature of the fiction, or my own gullibility (and the fact that I read all seven in eight weeks), for making me wonder if people at work are secretly working for the Dark Lord?

Regardless of cause, I get quite smitten with some characters, and closing the book seems to flatten them into shocking nonexistence. Suddenly, they're nothing more than a body of words. I feel adolescent foolish all over again to have become emotionally involved with someone who can't possibly adore me back. It's embarrassing.

Usually it's a Jane Eyre or Anne Elliot, some moderately attractive but witty underdog heroine who leaves me to be married to the most fabulous man in England. Maybe I've read too few books with male leads, or maybe I just didn't relate to them. After Holden Caufield, I read Nine Stories and anything else I could find by JD Salinger; but Harry Potter seems even more gone for the fact that I've got nothing else written by JK Rowling.

I'm working through Sarah Vowell's The Partly Cloudy Patriot, hoping to be inspired toward the appreciation of US history I didn't grasp in Advanced Placement. Maybe it's too droll or too nerdy, but my ability to follow the essays merrily is dampened by irritation that Vowell is far too entranced by politics and history. It's like reading inside jokes among high school social studies teachers, jokes I just don't get. The Salem witch trials? Interesting. Not really entertaining in the novel way I've become used to.

In a similar historical-significance vein, I'm halfway through (Kelsey's) Dave Egger's What Is The What, an enhanced biography of a Sudanese "Lost Boy" refugee. I've guiltily avoided picking it up again, because it's a slow trudge through tragedy upon tragedy, though villages, deserts, violence, and US bureaucracy. Again, interesting, but ...

Brian says I should read another Octavia Butler, or maybe I'll go for a Nabokov, or 100 Years of Solitude, or reread the Vonnegut I thought I got in high school.

Or I might give up literature entirely and focus on this month's 840-page Vogue. Certainly not the same as a great character-driven novel, but at least the main players -- fall boots, shiny hair, semi-intellectual fashion commentary -- won't be gone when I close the cover.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Money buys happiness

I just bought every little baker's dream from Amazon. It may take a month to ship, but I've never seen a Kitchenaid standing mixer for less than $100 before ($99 price listed in "Other Buying Options" bar at right). Thanks to Brian for the afternoon pick-me-up!

I also ordered pet clippers from Amazon yesterday. Buster's excited.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Cutting corners and keeping Buster presentable

I cut my own hair for most of high school, and a bit of college I think, but I gave up around the time I stopped being to indie and discovered Aveda. I now see Dan at Phase 3, the holding space for stylists graduated from the Gary Manuel Training Salon but not yet moved to Seattle's most fabulous Gary Manuel Salon.

Our shih tzu's not so lucky. Although Brian's mom has trimmed him a couple times, we don't see her enough to keep his quick-growing fluffy coat trimmed by her for free, nor do I want to impose on her generosity. I also don't want to pay for, or trust, professional grooming. They may not all lop off ears, but the many shih tzu grooming articles I've read imply that groomers can often be insensitive to squirmy dogs (Buster hates bathing and trimming) and not particularly respectful of owners' requests for styling.

So I groom Buster at home. At least I snip off bits of fur, and hope he looks "groomed" and not mutilated.

Usually it's just a bit off around the nose and pads of the feet, those inexplicably fluffy areas that prove these dogs are not meant to survive in the wild -- they'd turn into stinky balls of matted fur, blinded by overgrown facial fluff, within weeks.

Generally my attempts to chop of bits of fur while he wiggles around the bathroom turn out surprisingly passable -- a little ragged around the edges, but nothing that won't be overgrown within weeks. Yesterday I took off quite a bit around the face and legs, and successfully evened out the bottoms of his ears. But left a few stray long patches that I still need to even out, and my attempt to leave his coat longer and "natural" over the body makes him just look like a fatso with skinny legs and a big round head. (Below, a before and two afters.)

I'm just glad Buster (much like myself in high school) is apparently oblivious to the silly, sloppy obviousness of an amature cut.