Friday, May 30, 2008

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates...

You never know what you're gonna get. I thought I was going to get an ordinary Tuesday evening sitting in front of the television, watching a movie with my family, checking my e-mail, taking the dog out to pee, maybe making some popcorn. But nooooooo, instead I got a night of heart pounding fear, the ER, and no sleep.

Hubby has this annoying habit of trying to die on me every couple of years, usually by some sort of bizarre medical emergency. I'm starting to take it all a wee bit personally. Whatever, I'll tell ya, it's BEGINNING TO PISS ME OFF!!!!

This time he had some sort of seizure/passing out thing. Not sure what caused it. He'll have a work up early this coming week. In the meantime we're keeping watch over him to make sure he doesn't do anything weird or unusual again. Which is difficult because he's usually doing something weird or unusual, so I have to sort out which behaviors are his ordinary weird and which are medical weird.

So, not a lot of blogging the last part of this week. Of course no matter how large the crisis, it's always the little things that are the last straw. I can't get my blog to scroll for me. I think there's a photo that won't load and it's making the page unresponsive. But it's more than just not loading, it makes the complete page, even the toolbars, unresponsive, so that I have to delete the entire page and start fresh. GRRRRR.

Is anyone else been having trouble with my page? Hubby says he has, but other people have been commenting, so maybe it's just our computers? The only thing I can think to do, short of deleting all the recent photos, is get them to fall off the main page, so I'm just gonna rattle on here for awhile about nothing much, in hopes of fixing things.

Speaking of chocolates, which are your favorites? Any you leave in the box to dry out and toss? I go for the dark chocolates first, milk chocolates only when the darks are gone. Nuts and caramels first, then maybe chewy or coconut or a light truffle. Cream fillings are last. I was eating enormous amounts of chocolate there for awhile but recently I've lost my craving. Or rather, I've become more selective in what chocolates are worth the calories. I'm all out of my favorite chocolates and the rest of the stuff in the house is just sitting around getting old.

We went to a potluck and football scrimmage last night at the high school. William's been having spring football practice after school for two weeks. It's a way of getting the new combination of players (the juniors from the varsity team moving up to seniors next year and the sophomore JV team moving up to varsity as juniors next year) to start to work together as a team. I'm always so ready for football to be over by November but now it was fun again to sit in the bleachers, say hi to old friends we don't see much between seasons, and watch the boys play. This was just a "flag football" scrimmage. The weather was cool, the clouds were picturesque. The rain held off until the boys were done and then the sky (and umbrellas) opened up and poured. Even that was fun.

Uhm, let's see, what else. Oh, right. I've decided to join this Refashion pledge group. I can't tell though if the information on the sidebar is up-to-date or old and useless. I tried to see the other participants but the link doesn't work. And it says the next round starts June 15th. Is that 2008 or was that last year's info? I guess it doesn't really matter, I'll just join and add a button (if I can figure out how to add it that is). What does matter, or rather, what's stalled me from actually signing up, I can't decide whether to sign up under this blog or my studio blog. It fits in this blog because my goal is more focused on not buying new clothes than the actual refashioning part. But I like the refashioning idea and if I were to miraculously get organized and find the time and energy to do any refashioning, well, then that would be better to post over on the studio blog because it's arty and sewing and all that creative stuff. I don't get near as many readers on my studio blog and I'd like to encourage people to visit there too, so maybe that's another good reason to sign up with my studio blog? Or will that just mean people will miss it altogether? So, what do you readers think? Here? Or there?

La la la la la.... what now.

How about books? I got a new book order in the mail today - YAH! And I've almost finished up the books I really felt I needed to finish before I could dig into these new ones. There are a few more half read books sitting around, but they are things I can read in bits and pieces without losing interest, so I'm not worried about finishing those up yet.

I joined a book club. It's a brand new one that we're all creating together. We haven't figured out how we'll select books each month yet, but we've gone ahead and picked the hostesses for the first three months and decided to let each of them select that month's book, just to get us started. The first book selected for next month's meeting is Plain Truth by Jodi Picault. I've never read Picault but her books seem very popular. The July book is some sort of color/personality self help book that's not even in print any longer. I have to admit to being less than thrilled about the choice. The combination of out-of-print and the fact that I'm planning to be out of town helping with a new grandbaby during the week of the July meeting leads me to believe I won't be reading this title.

I decided to hostess August, get it over with while the weather was nice and perhaps we could meet in my garden - I have a tiny living room. That meant I got to pick a book. I decided to let the group pick from the stack of books I'd brough to the planning meeting as suggestions but they all insisted I choose, so how could I resist - I picked Joshilyn Jackson's first novel, gods in alabama. It will be fun for me to reread it and I know everyone will enjoy it. How do I know this? Well, I have yet to meet anyone who hasn't lost sleep trying to stay up all night finishing it.

I was delighted to discover that Joshilyn's books weren't unknown to the group - several women had read her second title - Between, Georgia, and loved it. They were excited to hear she had a new one out as well (The Girl Who Stopped Swimming), but I didn't pick that one because the practical consensus was that we wouldn't select hardcovers.



I just finished Charles DeLint's Memory and Dream. I so love DeLint's world and so I don't know why I haven't read my way through his books more quickly. This is probably the eighth or ninth book of his I've read and there are so many more. I grabbed this book to read on the plane and while in Paris because a) it was compact but thick and b) I had a duplicate so if I finished it I could leave it behind and have more room in my suitcase. I didn't finish it until now, for some reason it was dense and slow going, but I don't mean that it was difficult to read or that I didn't enjoy it. It's just that it made me stop and think so often and I've been busy. It turned out to be, in an intuitive "coincidental" way, the perfect book for Paris as it was about the world of writing and painting and the magic that comes of messing with the muse.


The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

Another book that's really been slow going for me is The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. I'm about 100 pages from the end and trying to finish it, but even more than DeLint, I find myself stopping to reflect or question or mentally respond to some point or story at least a couple times on each page. I'll find I've been staring off into space, lost in my own thoughts for a couple of minutes, and then have to find my spot on the page again. Again, a worthwhile book, just not a fast read for me.


Last night I finished The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. It's a mystery that's written from the first person perspective of a 15 year old autistic boy named Christopher. I find I can't decide if I liked the book or I didn't like the book. In either case I couldn't not read it. It was compelling. Sometimes I found myself relating to some of the different ways that Christopher sees the world, in the sense that we all have our own unique realities, something that we don't think about very often. Sometimes I found myself relating to the adults that he interacts with in the book and feeling sad and frustrated at how difficult it is for him to deal with a world that isn't designed to fit the needs of someone "different." A couple of minor points bothered me. I really couldn't get past the dog dying (which happens on the first page, not a spoiler) and since I have such a fear of literary spoilers, there were a couple of times in the book when Christopher talks about a book he'd read and in the process tells the entire story. THIS BOTHERED ME SO MUCH, each time it happened I had to shut the book and leave it for days and days. It doesn't slip past me that there's a certain irony in the fact that my quirks made it difficult to handle Christopher's quirks.



I just started Donna Andrew's Owls Well That Ends Well because I needed something to make me laugh and Andrew always delivers the guffaws. And a damn good mystery. And a great collection of characters. This is the the sixth in her Meg Langslow series and I had to laugh when I realized it was about a woman trying to declutter and simplify her life by having the mother of all garage sales. Sometimes I deliberately select a book to read that goes with the theme of my life at a particular moment in time, but it's amazing how often parallels between my life and my reading choice happen without any intentional planning on my part. I guess the universe plans it. Or the faeries.

Speaking of faeries.... I'm already getting totally psyched about this year's Faerieworlds. We had such a good time last year and this year is gonna be more friends and family coming, more days, more costumes, more music, and more time with the faerie crowd (we're camping at the festival's main campground location). I've been trying to hold off of blabbering on about it here until we get a bit closer to the dates (first week in August), but since I'm trying to find things to talk about to fill up space, I couldn't help myself. I haven't had time to work on my costumes yet, but I've plans for two of the three going on in my head. I hope I can work on them before the last minute, I really want to have time for all the little details I'm imagining. I also want to make some faery decorations for the pop-up camper, to make it look a bit more .... magical, gypsy, fae. That reminds me, I want to do some thrift store treasure hunting. I'm on the lookout for some tent draping fabrics, as well as some baby clothes for the upcoming July grandbaby.

Well, maybe that's enough blabbering. Hope I didn't make any of you snooze off. Unless, of course, you needed the sleep. Let's see if I unstuck my page.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Rainy Day in Susanville and London

I thought after the long philosophical (or whiny, whatever) posts of the last week, I'd make today's post short and sweet. A rainy day here today, so some rainy photos from our trip. We did experience some rain in Paris but apparently it was so benign and infrequent that I never captured it in any photos. I did take a few of a fairly good pour we got caught in while in London.



It didn't seem to stop anyone, except that people paused under various awnings to wait out the worst of it. Umbrellas seemed to appear from out of nowhere. (I carried a collapsible one in my purse the entire vacation and used it on a handful of occasions. Jeff just pulled his hat down a bit and got wet.)

I didn't capture the end of the rain. It was quite pretty with the rain still coming down and the sun shining through from behind the storm so everything was bathed in a quite unLondon-ish golden light. This is just to the side of Picadilly Circus, a London location name most Americans seem to know but I can't quite understand why. It's not particularly picturesque although you can see it's making a minor effort at being a miniature Times Square.



Same area, a group of students all huddling together to be counted and accounted for.



I loved zooming in to capture all the different umbrellas. I put up a couple more photos of the umbrellas over on Laume's Studio, as well as a "dancing" umbrella video. Check it out.

Monday, May 26, 2008

An Award, Pants, Refashioning, a Tantrum, and Mason Jars

First of all, a dear blogger buddy of mine, Greenish Lady (love her blog name, it could fit me too), has graciously given me this award. Thank you. It's so hard to keep up with the ever expanding and wondrous blogging community out there. I have to add an updated version of "So many books, so little time" (wasn't the original original "So many men, so little time" by Mae West?) to say it's now also true that there's "So many blogs, so little time". It's hard for me to keep up with all the fascinating, fun, quirky, entertaining, educational, poetic, and thoughtful bloggers out there, as well as trying to keep my own blog fun, fascinating... well, updated at least. So I really appreciate it when someone bumps into me while floating around in the far corners of cyberspace, feels a connection, and comes back often enough to start that magical evolution from acquaintance to friend.



I'm flattered that someone thinks my blog is E for Excellent but there's no question that this excellent thing doesn't trickle down from posts into the maintenance and upkeep portion of being a blogger. I tried to add this icon to my sidebar only to get myself all all splayed about like a solitary game of mental Twister. Do I put this link here in this location bit or do I have to add the photo to another spot first? And if I want to put it in my own blog files, how do I do that before it's actually ON my blog? I called up a more technically savvy friend, Deirdre, who un-Twistered me a bit. Hopefully I'll be able to keep the suggestions in my head long enough to remember them when I finally get around to doing some template tweaking, which will have to wait until tonight or tomorrow or next month or....

And while she was trying to explain photo storage links to me, we discovered that the icons I'd actually managed to get up on my sidebar in the past, had mostly disappeared because the stored photos had been deleted. So. More work for me to do. And let's not even discuss how woefully, tragically behind I am on updating my Blogger Links section. When I see that a regular reader has placed me in their blog's link list, I get all twirly happy and want to reach right through the computer and kiss them. On the LIPS even. But me? My links? A good portion of them don't even work or take you to abandoned blogs. Some folks have moved URLs years ago. A pitiful few still work. And there are dozens of people I visit regularly who aren't even mentioned. I am.... sigh, what I am... as Popeye said. A chronically unorganized mess.

But, I haven't ALWAYS been an unorganized mess. Honestly. Cross my heart and stick a needle in my eye with a cherry on the end. Or whatever. I used to be Organized, with a capital O and no "Un". I used to be tidy. No one believes me. Least of all my children. I was just telling William yesterday (it coming up in a larger conversation about our family member's personalities) about how he can't judge me on what I'm like now because he wasn't around for the greater portion of my life and can't really have an opinion from the time when he was little. His response was something about how we can't rest on our laurels or use past accomplishments as a justification for what we are or are not doing in the present. Which is a frightenly wise point out of someone too fresh to have accumulated a lot of life wisdom himself yet. But I wasn't trying to justify myself to my son, I was only explaining that he couldn't see the whole picture, and I can. Now the trick is just to figure out what it all means. But, maybe another day. Moving on....

Yesterday I finally got through the pile of pants I wanted to sort. I blackmailed myself into it by telling myself that if I didn't finish the job by the end of the day I was going to post photos of the mess on my blog. (and I have conversations with myself too!) Crazy at it seems, it worked. I did it. I'm frustrated that I still have a bit of overflow left, but I have to remind myself to look at the bright side and be happy at how much I got done.

For those of you who crave details or simply want an excuse to sit in front your computer and finish your coffee now - When gathered together I had 49 pairs of pants, 7 capris, and 3 pairs of overalls for a total of 59 items. I tried on each and every one of them, a few of them I tried on twice. 16 of them went easily into the get-rid-of pile because they didn't fit, were completely worn out, or were hopelessly out of fashion. That makes 43 pair. One of those pair is for painting in only, which brings me down to 42. 7 pair I kept even though I hadn't worn them because they all needed hemming. I set those in the studio by the sewing machine instead of letting them get mixed back in my wardrobe. If I ever fix them, I'll figure out how to make them fit in my closet. If I never get around to hemming them, then I can get rid of them later. So we're now down to 35 pair. One pair of overalls was a little snug and I asked my daughter-in-law if she wanted them. She said no and I bravely added them to the get rid of pile. So, 34. Of those, 5 I set aside in a limbo/maybe pile. That's the part of the project left undone. But since I have so much more to sort through, I can let that go for now. I put 29 pairs of pants back in the wire cubby hole space allotted to pants (no, 30 since I put the painting pants there too) and they all fit with a smidgen of room to spare. YAH!

That's still a lot of pants, but half of what I started out with. And they're not all the same. A couple were only for dress up occasions, a dozen were capri or lightweight summer styles, the rest were winter wear. I only had ONE pair of traditional jeans left when I was finished since I'd literally worn out (way beyond cool ripped jean style) the rest of my jeans. I'm not going to run out and buy any more jeans though. I'm really trying hard to stick with my goal to "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." It's an accumulation of events, people and ideas that has me determined to change my consumer ways, including my friend Julie who has been quietly (and nonjudgementally) inspiring me by posting about the pledge she took last year not to buy anything new for her wardrobe but instead to "Refashion" what she already owns. It's been almost a year and she seems to still be going strong. If you want to join with other refashioning bloggers, click here.

Last night I had a tantrum. Yelling at hubby while all the while explaining I wasn't really yelling and I wasn't really mad, I just sounded mad because I was frustrated and I needed to SHARE with him - and yeah, even to my own ears I thought "What the fuck is WRONG with her!" Poor guy. If it hadn't been one o'clock in the morning he would have just offered to distract me with coffee out or suggested I call a girlfriend. But he didn't have that recourse in the middle of the night and so he just pretended to listen with his head under the covers.

I really wasn't mad at him, specifically. Part of my mini-meltdown was hormonal timing (which of course if anyone else suggested this, I'd bite their head off for speaking it out loud) but I also realize that this happens every time I try to climb out of the mess my house and garden has become. The family, assuming that a messy house is normal, and that pigsties are muddy but inviting places, just go merrily on their way leaving papers strewn all over the living room, filling up the kitchen pantry with junk food, naming the dust bunnies, and otherwise acting as if chaos is no big deal. Meanwhile instead of ignoring it, like I usually do, I'm manically following people around reminding them to carry their glass to the sink and stop leaving their catalogs on the table and when are they going to clean up that pile of theirs (yeah, the one next to three of MY piles) and basically making their lives miserable. It's hard enough pushing a goal uphill without the added weight of people riding on top of it.

Hubby is actually getting behind me in spiffing up, if not our house, at least our eco-habits. Not all of them, but at last he's trying. I finally glanced at a few months worth of newspapers that were strewn about the house and gathered them up for the recycling pile. I had to glare at hubby when I reminded him to put them in recycling and NOT in the burn pile. (when we heated with wood, that was fine, we needed all our scrap paper. But now we have a gas heater, so why burn what we don't need to burn?) He looked annoyed, I know he just wanted to chuck it in the fireplace when I wasn't looking. But he said he'd put it out on the next pick up. I also suggested we cancel 90% of the mail order catalogs that arrive in the mailbox. There two or three that we truly enjoy receiving in paper form (Northern Sun, a couple garden catalogs), but the rest can be accessed online on the rare occasion we need to order something. I don't even know how we ended up getting some of them. And speaking of junk mail, WHY can't we stop the insane flow of campaign advertisements? Do they really think I'm going to make a decision based on this biased crap?! How many trees do we have to sacrifice to these political blowhards!?

Last night I browsed through a catalog (before tossing it) that sold all manner of things for patio and outdoor living - everything from loungers, tables and umbrellas to barbeque tongs and ceramic wall displays. One of the items for sale was a set of four candle holders that were made to look like old fashioned mason jars with wire handles. Candles not included, it cost $29. I thought about that for a second and then looked up the cost of mason jars. A set of twelve at your every day sort of store like Target or Ace Hardware ran from $6.99 to $9.99. For TWELVE. I suppose if you didn't have any wire laying about in your garage that you could use to make the handles, you could add in the cost of new wire... but let's not because now that I think of it, you don't need the wire handles and even if you bought wire, you can probably get the four mason jars at any thrift store for a buck or two tops. Assuming you couldn't just use jars you already had, or find some in your mother's or grandmother's basement. So, I repeat - $29 for four candle holders that are supposed to look like old mason jars?!!

Okay, I need to get going. I've been laying about because I'm sore. Wanna guess why? How embarrassing. I think it's from trying on over 60 pairs of pants yesterday. I haven't done anything else that could be the cause. Who knew that dressing and undressing qualifies as exercise? But now it's time to go sort something else. Magazines maybe? That will only exercise my fingers.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Shakespeare & Company

Today is a cold and rainy day. Usually I like this kind of weather, but I was swept up in the promises of summer with the hot weather we had last week and the last few days of cold weather have taken some getting used to again. Today the rain that's threatened for days finally arrived and I finally got "in the mood" for it. A good day to drink hot steamy drinks and watch the rain spatter on the windows. A good day to clean out the vegetable bins and make a pot of hot soup for dinner. And I spent an hour or so in probably the best place one can spend a rainy afternoon, a local bookstore.

This makes a perfect segue to talk about a bookstore we visited in Paris, Shakespeare & Company. I knew a small bit about it's popularity and history - an English print book shop in the heart of Paris frequented by writers both famous and obscure, with some sort of tie to City Lights Books in Paris' bohemian sister city San Francisco. It was on our list of places to find.



It turned out it wasn't hard to find at all as it's just across the Seine from Notre Dame in one of our favorite parts of Paris. It's actually two side-by-side stores - one that sells "antique" books and the other that sells new and used books, as well as doing much more.




Here's another view of the antique book side, with a drinking fountain out front. Yes, that's a drinking fountain. We didn't go into this part of the store. I planned to, but was distracted by hubby and forgot.



And if you're like me, you'll want to know what those tall chalkboards say. Here's a close up of one.



And here's the other. I'm not sure if these are permanent prose or if they are changed from time to time.



Here's me sitting in front of the other shop. Those tarps behind me cover more carts of books. It was spitting rain but people just pulled back the tarps a bit at a time to see what was underneath.

Did I ever post about when I finally stopped to visit Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon? How exciting it was to wander around a bookstore the size of a city block and four stories tall?! Well, this bookstore had the same sort of bibliophile's mecca feel to the experience. It's a place where every booklover will feel an immediate sense, even not knowing anything about it's amazing history (we certainly didn't) that they've stumbled into a wondrous and magical place. I won't go into that history here, as they do an excellent job of it at the Shakespeare & Company website's history page (and don't forget the owner of the first S&C, Sylvia Beach), except to say that what I found the most inspiring was the sense that instead of being a place where history happened, that it's a place where history is still being made, as it continues to be true to itself.

But let's not dawdle outside anymore. Forgive me so many photos but I just loved them all. I would have taken even more except that my camera batteries chose to give up while I was inside.



The store had two stories. The first floor was books, used and new, for sale. Books crammed into every conceivable place from floor to ceiling, tall ladders, customers browsing. Check out the awesome, eclectic floor design. There were signs and quotes scattered everywhere you looked.



The Poet's Corner.



This is a quote that referenced the bookstore itself.



Philosophy, posters, and another photographer trying to capture a bit of the magic to bring home with him. There were a lot of people taking photos inside and no one seemed to pay much mind to the activity. I think they understood that for some folk, it was almost like a pilgrimage visit. When you bought a book they even offered to stamp it for you, sort of the location equivalent of a "signed book". And yes I bought a book and yes I had it stamped.



In the middle of one room, a wishing well of sorts. I'm not sure what the signifigance is, but I'm guessing many of those pennies are filled with writer's and artist's dreams and traveler's hopes of returning to Paris again one day.

After wandering for a bit one finds their way into the back of the shop where a staircase leads up to the second floor. A sign tells you that none of the books on the top floor are for sale but you are welcome to come and read and use them at your leisure. A bookstore that loves books so much that they can't part with half of them. Ah, cool.



Books everywhere. And check out the old hewn beams.



It turns out, as I discovered talking to the young many in the foreground, that one of the things the bookstore is famous for is for offering a place to write and sleep to young traveling writers. There's a few expectations in the deal, but even though times have changed, the tradition continues.



This is probably one of the reasons I have such a hard time decluttering my house. Because musty (well, symbolically - it didn't smell musty at all) old rooms filled to the rafters with books and old furniture make me feel limp with happiness!



Here's one of two (or was it three?) beds for writers on the second floor.



And tables - overflowing with stacks and piles like my tables. Typewriters in case the muse whispers in your ear. Although I suspect that even poor traveling writers these days might carry a lap top in their backpack. This young woman was so engrossed in what she was reading that she didn't even seem to notice me.



You don't get a real sense of how hobbitlike this office is but it's only accessible by sitting down. Books are stacked even on top of this workspace.



This was the children's book area upstairs - I think that section did have books for sale, actually. Hubby is writing down some quote from the bulletin board overflowing with papers in the background.



On a landing halfway back down the staircase (or halfway up it if you're going the other direction) are more bulletin boards that I suspect hold memories to those that have been a part of the long history of the place. I should have come back another day with recharged batteries.



Books and music go together naturally. At the base of the stairs, this gentleman played several songs for us, or perhaps for himself.

Time tends not to exist for me inside a bookstore. Alas, hubby got hungry so it's time to go....



... back outside. Did you forget about the rest of the world too? Blinking at the daylight? Oh, there's people? And the sound sound of traffic? Hmmm, maybe I am a bit hungry.

But wouldn't it be lovely to return someday, perhaps on a rainy afternoon....

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ladurée

Some online friends and I have been chattering on about our love of tea the last couple days. Hubby and I are still sad about the loss of our lovely local tea room. I have lots of wonderful tea at home, but there's something about going out for tea that's uniquely refreshing of both mind and spirit. One of the experiences on my MUST DO list for Paris was to visit the famous Laduree tea room.



The company now has a number of tea rooms, or as they are called in France, salons de thé, but this was the original salon, opened in 1862. When you think of tea rooms, you probably think of England, right? Or maybe a Japanese tea room? But we saw more tea rooms in Paris (English, French, Middle Eastern, Asian styles, and more) than in three weeks of traveling all around the UK.



Laduree is famous as a tea room, but also specifically for their macarons (remember the macarons in my countdown?) and for these decorative and collectible boxes that their sweets and teas come in. Famous, I guess, is a relative term. Famous amongst tea aficionados perhaps. All I know is I feel ridiculously smug and giddy that I actually now have two boxes in my possession as I bought both a box of macarons and a box of tea. Notice, too, the macaron towers. I think this is a Laduree trademark as well. You can buy them, perhaps put together with icing for a buffet, but up close it looked like the displays in the window were put together with a glue gun so that they'd last awhile.



Forgive me the wonky photos, I felt torn between being "cool" and fitting in and acting like a dorky tourist with my camera. And I tried to respect people's right to stuff their face without getting photographed. We actually visited twice, the photos you see are from both visits. Here we were sitting inside at a window seat and I'm taking a photo back towards the front door which is to the left behind the folding room divider. What the divider does is separate the dining room from the walk in customers in line at two glass display cabinets while selecting sweets and tea to take away. Check out the peek at an enormous display of fresh flowers. And of course, the absolutely gorgeous gilded and painted ceilings and walls, which were created specifically for the tea room. There was also a dining room on the second floor, accessible near the display counters, that was a bit more modern in decor but still very nice. The bathroom was on the second floor, so that gave me an excuse to go up and peek around.



Here's another section of the ceiling.



And yet another.



This is towards the back wall, one of two that was almost exclusively covered in mirrors. The one to the right of this picture was ALL mirrors, the entrance was to the left, the front windows were behind me. It was very fancy and yet a bit shabby around the edges in a pleasant, comfortable sort of way. The tables were small and even a bit rickety. The "books" you see on end are the multi-page menus.



Check these out - there were .... I didn't count, eight? ten? twelve? pages or so. All in fine small print. They came with a ribbon bookmark so you could find your way back to your selection. You could order everything from a basic cup of tea to a complete luncheon. Even the waiters and waitresses (who I thought might be a bit snobby but were very friendly and pleasant) got lost trying to find items in the menu! The prices were a bit stiff, not bad if you ordered something simple, but more difficult to justify if you ordered a larger meal. So being on the "Euro Diet", as Paris Breakfasts referred to the painful euro/dollar exchange rate, we settled for a drink and pastry each.



Here's what we ordered on our first visit. Hubby got a chocolate macaron which he encouraged me to help him eat. I ordered this melt in your mouth cherry tarte which had a cheesecake-like base. As you can see, hubby stuck with his predictable espresso while I went for the tea, a blend called Thé Mélange Ladurée, Laduree Blend. I'm pretty sure I've never liked a blend quite so much as this one, which was a combination of rose, citrus, and spices.



Here's what we ordered on our second visit. I tried a different tea. Can't remember which one. It was good, but not as good as the first one I tried. I ordered a rhubarb tart but regretably they were sold out, so I decided to get another cherry tarte. This time hubby ordered a eclair and had no problem eating it all himself.



Here's a closer look at that tarte - check out the little gold sticker (not edible). That cherry on top was dipped in a sugar glaze that crunched like broken glass when you bit into it. Also note the paper pad to help you pick up the very hot handle on the silver tea pot. Trust me, it didn't do much to stop the transfer of heat from handle to hand. I don't know how the employees didn't drop these pots on a regular basis. They also poured them verrrry slowly. I thought that might be for show until I tried to pour it more quickly and discovered they are very old pots and the spout on one of them had a tendency to leak from the bottom if you tipped it too much. It might be silly but, I found all the imperfections endeared me to the place more than if it had been fancy and perfect in every way.



This might have been the most endearing thing about the whole experience however. See that fuzzy white lump underneath the chairs at the top of the photo? That's not someone's fleece sweater fallen to the ground, or knit purse. It's a poodle, resting quietly beneath his owner's feet. How awesomely cool is that! There were occasional signs saying no pets allowed, but for the most part we saw Parisiennes walk inside shops, restaurants, and food markets with pets in tow all over the place. And I bet there's no one falling sick from some dog flu because of it. Wish we were more pet friendly here in the States.

If you'd like to read more about Laduree's history and products - warning, I'm not responsible if you drool on your keyboard - go here. (Remember to click on the English links, not the French ones, unless you read French of course.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Never Quite Got it in Gear

I didn't blog yesterday. I didn't get back to the clothes sorting. I was halfway through doing a lot of laundry and never took down any clothes from the clothesline or put any new baskets of laundry up. I'd planned to, but then I was startled to see it had gone from hot weather the day before to cold, windy, stormy weather. So why put up laundry if it was going to get rained on. Of course, following that logic, taking IN the laundry still outside should have been a priority.

Instead I just sort of .... puttered. Only not in a conscious take-a-day-off way. Or in a get-small-things-done way. I really just wandered in circles, answering the phone, picking kids up from spring football practice, buying a Starbucks, halfheartedly watching yesterday's primary results on television.

I did spend a good chunk of the morning on the phone with the IRS trying to figure out why they'd sent us a much smaller refund than we'd expected. Turns out it was their error, not mine, and we'll be getting another check sometime in the next decade. They said the problem was we didn't claim William as an exemption. There I was, phone to my ear, staring at a photocopy of exactly what I'd sent to them, with William's name, SSN, and relationship all neatly typed in the proper spaces. I don't know what they're smoking but.... sheesh. And then they said that the Stimulus Check that's presumably going to arrive some time this year, won't reflect William either and that there's really nothing to be done about it because it will be based on the original tax forms we sent in, which didn't include William. But, we did include William. GRRRR.

Since I can't go shove the proof of it in anyone's face, it's a stand off. They win. I'm not one who takes great delight in imagining conspiracies around every corner but, if they just "accidentally" don't see something on, say, every 100th tax return, and most folks don't feel up to figuring it out.... well, you do the math. I know that insurance companies regularly deny many legitimate claims the first go round because they absolutely know that a certain percentage of people will not pursue the matter - saves them millions. So, not a stretch, methinks. Anyway, my point is, I did deal with it and I figure just doing that one unfun thing gives me some excuse for piddling away the rest of the day.

And reading. That's really the crux of things. I've got all these half finished books sitting around the house and they're weighing down on me. I don't want to do anything but sit and read until I'm all caught up. Normally I only have one or two books going at a time. I don't know how I let things get so complicated. I've got some new books that I'm oooooooh so itchy to start, but I know if I don't finish these others first, I'll probably never get back to them. And it's not like I'm disliking the ones I'm currently reading. Au contraire. I'm just excited to get to the new ones. If you want to see the titles I'm reading, you can go here. And if you want to see books I've already read, go here. I've been stealing an hour out of the morning to read, an hour or so in the afternoon, reading instead of watching television, reading late into the night instead of keeping to my goal of getting to bed at a reasonable hour. I'd love to give the rest of the week to reading and nothing else but, I've got other things yammering for my attention too.

William once said he'd love if someone invented a way to simply download a book directly into a person's head, without having to go to all the trouble of reading it. And I suppose there's some appeal to that, if you were trying to make it through a college semester of thick reading, or needed the foundation in some new skill so you could move on to the fun part of using your new knowledge more quickly. But novels - the experience of reading it is part of the pleasure. A book by lamplight when the world is dark and quiet, a cozy chair by the window on a rainy day, a story that whisks you away from the boring waiting room or cramped airplane seat, the book you read at the coffee shop that causes folks to interupt to say "I loved that book" or "Is it any good?" Reading has pleasures beyond what the words on the page tell or teach you. In fact, I'm very excited, tonight I'm attending the first meeting for a new Book Club. It all started with a chance conversation about a year ago with a stranger at the local bookstore. So, that gives me something definitive on my schedule for today. And reminds me that it's not about how fast I read, it's about enjoying the process. (But, I want to read more books, so I still wish I could just read for the next week.)

Speaking of television (two paragraphs back), I watched American Idol last night. We're no way as addicted to it as we were the year before last, but we have watched it regularly, missing it only when we were traveling. I've always assumed, from the first, that David Cook would win it this year but after watching last night's show... I don't know.... Archeleta could be the one. I don't dislike Archeleta. In fact, if last night's show was the only criteria, I'd say he won without question. But I never could figure out his appeal through the middle episodes. I thought it was going to be Syesha and Cook at the end. Not that it really matters. If you follow past winners and almost winners, it's obvious all that matters is getting into that top handful. After that, it's more a matter of who's got the most marketable genre. Underwood had country western, Daughtry had rock. But what happened to Jordan? Nothing. I still stand by my Taylor Hicks though, I just think they mismanaged him, tried to make him into something he's not, tried to sell him to the wrong market. He's a performance artist, not a radio star. He should have been allowed to go back to his band and gone on a small and medium venue tour. Sort of like the Grateful Dead, although that's a stretch to compare him to such a huge phenomenon, but in the sense that it's about the experience, not the sound. I'm guessing I've just put 90% of my readers to sleep, rambling on like this. So, okay then.

Hopefully I'll get some mileage out of today. Which is half over. And I'm still in my pajamas. Shut up. I'm getting dressed as soon as I hit the "Publish Post" button. Phhhbttt.

Monday, May 19, 2008

To Keep or Not to Keep...

.... that is the question.

Now that I'm finally home and, knock on wood, staying home for awhile, I've been gearing up for another round of decluttering. I've got it in my head to tackle my bedroom first. Mainly because, while I was gone my mother "organized" all my piles of clothes by buying me new storage boxes and safely storing everything inside of them. It didn't get rid of anything but it did, according to her, make the piles less likely to get dumped over or dirty. What it really did was turn familiar piles where I knew what was in each of them into indistinguishable boxes and now I can't find ANYTHING. A room filled full of TOO MANY CLOTHES and I can't find anything to wear. Sad funny, huh?

The first couple days I was home I was frustrated by it, but then I decided my mom had done me a favor. I'd been meaning to deal with it all for years and she'd shown me how utterly crazy it all is that even after several serious rounds of cleaning and sorting that still nothing fit in the amount of space I have to store it all in! Yes, I have some legitimate storage issues, but that doesn't change that the space I have is the space I have. Pointing out that my closet is smaller than your average closet doesn't MAKE it roomier.

It helped of course that I had just come back from several weeks of contentedly living out of an entire apartment the same size as my bedroom and happily clothing myself out of a backpack not much larger than some women's purses! Hmmmm. Do I enjoy traveling because when I'm away from home I'm away from all my stuff? It's interesting to note that when I'm packing to be away, people often encourage me to bring things, certain I'll be unhappy without them or I will have need of them. I have to argue with people that I don't WANT to bring more luggage. How come I don't have this same "less is more" philosophy about what is in my house and what I bring into it? I mean, really, THAT is the question.

In any case, I've decided to deal with my overflowing wardrobe. Of course just jumping in and sorting would be too easy. No, first I had to go online and find all sorts of inspiring blogs and articles that will help me be in the right "mindset" and put me in the proper "perspective". This worked really well, I was all fired up, until...

I wandered across a blog where the woman was all "I want to get rid of stuff but the economy is really bad and who knows what the future holds and what if I NEED this stuff....."

AHHHH! I mean, within a few paragraphs I could feel my heart rate go up. She's right! What if this!? What if that!? Oh noooooo! What if they stop manufacturing women's clothing and the 67 shirts I already own aren't enough!!!! (I made that number up, I have no idea how many shirts I own - but they fill up many dresser drawers so whatever the number actually is, it's a ridiculous amount.) Sheesh, I can't believe how quickly I got sucked into the fear of being deprived.

But really, what if the world really does go to hell in a handbasket? Will owning more tee shirts (or trinkets or coffee mugs) really help one to survive in an apocalypse? More land to grow food? Yes. Guns? Sad but probably true. More skills? Definitely. But even if life as we know it turns upside down tomorrow, I'm guessing there will still be thrift stores stacked with extra shirts and puzzles and stuffed animals and mismatched plates and....

What it all boils down to, if you think about it, is whether one wants to live life with the belief that there's not enough to go around and you better hoard your share (and more) OR that the world is a bountiful place with enough for everybody. I believe that mind affects matter, our beliefs help create our realities. So it's pretty damn important that we consciously choose what we believe instead of letting other people or our own fears choose for us.

I have definite pack rat tendencies and I spend a lot of time complaining about them but fortunately, by and large my clutter is limited to physical locations. In most ways - emotionally, psychologically, opportunities, relationships... I've learned over the years the benefits of sorting through, cleaning up, and letting go, secure that whatever my future needs will be (and that I probably couldn't predict ahead of time what they might be in any case), the universe will provide. And I have to say that by and large the universe hasn't let me down. In fact, when this creed hasn't worked is always where I can see a connection to my personal logjams, whether physical or psychological, where my fear of letting go has prevented me from keeping emotional and physical space open for something new or necessary.

It's not that I think one should - unless it feels right for you - peel down to a pair of sandals, a robe, and a begging bowl. Part of my procrastination is undoubtedly tied up with a stubborn resistance to "do what I'm told" by all those decluttering experts out there. By that argument, nature is a very cluttered thing indeed and we'd all be better off if we clean out all those weeds and bugs and simplify life by paving over our yards. That sounds downright stupid, right? But really, taken to an extreme, that's what some of these decluttering experts sound like to me.

It's not how much stuff you have or don't have, it's the nature of your relationship with it. I have a lot of books. I went through them last year and found a lot of chafe on the shelves and now own less, which was helpful and good, but I still have a LOT of books. I felt guilty about that until I finally decided, you know what? Why should I get rid of something that brings me so much pleasure just because some productivity expert says I should? They don't drag me down pyschically, psychologically or physically. They make me HAPPY when I see them all around me. They make me feel rich in pleasures that are important to me.

On the other hand, having so much crap in the garage that I can't even get in the door, and not knowing what most of the crap even IS, drains me just thinking about it. Having lots of clothes but nowhere to put them makes me feel cranky. Having boxes full of holiday decorations but not the time or energy to use most of them makes me tired and frustrated. It's not about how little or how much I have, it's about having just enough to meet my needs and NO MORE.

And now, it's time for less computer and more coffee and cleaning.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Moroccan in London

After yesterday's confused and impassioned musings, I thought I'd go back to something fun and light today, and always on the menu - food!

One of my favorite memories with William on our 2006 trip was of eating at a Moroccan restaurant we stumbled across on our last night in London. I really wanted to take Sam, Kyla, and hubby to this same restaurant. I didn't know the name or location of the restaurant but thanks to Google and Mapquest I managed to track it down before we left on last month's adventures. It was a place in Covent Gardens just off of an unusual meeting of streets called Seven Dials. The restaurant was called Souk Medina.

Arriving in London and meeting up with Sam and Kyla midday and famished, heading off to eat here was the first thing on the agenda. Finding it online was easy and I thought finding it in real time would be even easier, as I remembered exactly where it was once I had my bearings. Unfortunately it was complicated by the fact that, unbeknownst to us, there was more than one Souk Medina, both oddly within a few blocks of each other, and we were given directions to the one William and I did NOT go to originally. I got confused and we all went around in circles for about an hour each of us getting more and more exhausted, hungry, and crabby. If I had only walked down the street I was sure it was on, I would have immediately found the quietly marked entrance to the restaurant. But I was left uncertain by the insistence of several helpful people that this was NOT the location.

All is well that ends well, as they say, when we finally did find the second (smaller) location.



We arrived about fifteen minutes before they were open for the day. So we waited outside. Hubby was a little nervous about the hookahs. "Do they really smoke these?" he kept asking. I don't know if they do or if they're just decorative. William and I did see a group of young men smoking one in a train in Paris two years ago.



Still waiting. Sam was a bit suspicious of whether he was going to enjoy this. Check out the beautiful tile work on the wall and table.



Because we arrived for such an early lunch, we had the restaurant to ourselves for most of our meal. Here's Kyla - or should I call her Little Miss Muffet, sitting on her tuffet? - trying to make sense of the menu.



She was pretty excited about the whole thing once the ordering was complete.



Other people, not so much. Hubby was exhausted and took advantage of the low couches to catch a few winks before and after the meal.



We were too busy eating when the meal came to take any photos of all the wondrous dishes. Despite Sam's apprehensions, he enjoyed it all. We all enjoyed it immensely. Sam even seemed excited by the bottled water at each table. And after watching our waitress hold the silver tea pot high, pouring a long, thin stream of hot, sweet, mint tea into our thin tea glasses far below the spout, he had to practice doing it as well. The tables, as you can see, were simply large loose metal "trays" atop a base. Eventually we filled our table to overflowing with dishes. It's a wonder we didn't knock anything off. We ordered two complete "sampler" meals, one vegetarian and one meat. To my surprise, the kids enjoyed the vegetarian one the most. Sam was particularly impressed by the hummus. Really? He's never had hummus before? We have it in our refrigerator on almost any given day.



Even the bathroom was cool. I want a copper sink! Or is it brass?



Morre hookahs made a decorative display in a small arched wall inset. And check out the cool star lamp. The restaurant that William and I went to was rather large and grand, with many rooms that sprawled in different directions. This restaurant was small and cozy, tucked into a rather unimpressive side street, but no less charming or unusual inside.



And more cool lamps. Our waitress was very nice and helpful. And pretty. I didn't mean to "smudge" her in this photo, but let's pretend I did it to protect her anonymity or something. Nothing to do with being a bad photographer, nosiree.



Fortunately she was a much better photographer than me that day and ended up taking the only* photo of the four of us that we remembered to take on the entire trip!

*Turns out Kyla has one more of the four of us in front of the Louvre. I'll have to get a copy of it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose (A post that has nothing to do with roses)

A slow down is a down turn is a slight bump in the road is a ....

Are we calling it a recession yet?

Because I think we can safely say it's official. I've started noticing it just as a matter of every day life. A lot of stores and shops (with the exception of our local Safeway which just did a complete makeover including installing an instore Starbucks, just two doors down from our local Starbucks, don't get me started) look a bit thin on new stock. Spring came and with it new spring and summer shipments for shelves, but far less of it than usual. Especially in shops that carry nonessentials. And restaurants. Less people in them, less waiters and waitresses on staff.

I know virtually all of these shop owners and workers personally and so I've talked with them about it. It's not just my imagination. Things are slow. Things are teetering on bad. Some people are hanging onto their jobs or businesses by the skin of their teeth. Others have already given up or been let go. Did I mention yet that our lovely, lovely, lovely tea room has closed it's doors?! SOB.

In Ashland, a town that's built on the tourist trade, it was even more dramatic. (Dramatic. Ashland. Ha ha. Get it? Theatre? Dramatic? Okay, nevermind.) Shops that have been there for decades are considering closing or were already gone. The restaurants and motels that are usually busy were ghostlike. It's nice to be able to get a table creekside without a wait but....

Hubby's job is secure, for which I'm grateful. (In fact, California's budget crisis has, inadvertently, been to our financial advantage.) Raising a large family, we've always lived close to the bone and tried not to live at the edge of our abilities. We've thrift shopped, bought used cars, lived in a house that was cozy instead of big. People thought we were crazy, or at least eccentric. Now it's starting to pay off for us and people aren't laughing at our choices like they did.

I wanted to make this post be about the economy, write another post about living a simple lifestyle, and pen a third post about the environment. But when I tried to unravel what I wanted to say, it wouldn't work. These issues are all intertwined so tightly that I can't just pull out one at a time. It's like trying to explain the taste of cake one ingredient at a time - eggs, flour, sugar.... It makes no sense to talk about each thing individually. It's how they all work together that makes a cake a cake.

So, yeah. Apparently we're in a recession. Which, I might point out, I've been waiting for ever since the big Shock and Awe display. You can't bleed money at the rate we've been bleeding and expect to stay healthy. I'm not so much surprised we're economically anemic as I am flabbergasted at how many people thought it wouldn't happen.

So here we are in a recession. This is where I could say that it's forced us to budget, cut our spending, make new choices, simplify our life. Everyone would understand. It's what everyone is doing. You do what you have to do. Only, that's not true. We are, knock on wood, economically stable enough for now.

After a couple years of financial frolicking (our first opportunities to do so as a family, ever) we do want to now settle down to a smaller budget. We don't want to spend less money so much as we want to spend it for different goals - our house needs some TLC and upgrading, college expenses for another child is looming in the future, and beyond that retirement in whatever form that happens. (In our case it certainly won't mean a condo and golf in the afternoons!)

But now that we've had a bit of fun, I'm ready to do be less of a consumer and more of a ..... I don't know what. Not necessarily a producer either, unless it's in a creative mode. I don't want to increase quantity, just quality. When you do without for a long time, it's probably a given that one will experiment with how much one can accumulate when it's finally possible. But you can't buy everything, where do you put it all!? It's not that I want to give it all away and move to Walden's Pond, but I am still, and more strongly, examining my relationship with STUFF, trying to form new and healthier ways of interacting with it alll.

And then there's the environment. I find it inspiring, bittersweet, sad, and amusing all at the same time that GREEN is back in style. Even my kids, who, for the most part, have spent the start of their adult lives rebelling from childhood, their hippy mom's vegetable growing, herbal tincture making, composting, recycling, Goddess song singing lifestyle, are now "discovering" things like clotheslines, compact cars, and local farmer's markets. Although I'm thrilled to see the tide turning - or rather, REturning - this new generation thinks they've DISCOVERED all these amazingly important and useful ideas and issues for the VERY FIRST TIME. Everything old is new again? I know back in the 70's, at the peak of the back-to-the-land movement, oldtimers must have found us amusing as we were growing gardens, making our own quilts, nursing our babies. That stuff was what they did as a matter of course, what they did by necessity not choice.

And then, for a lot of my generation, the dreams faded or were beaten down. Recessions, yuppies, world changes coming so fast it was hard to keep up, and just the everyday struggle to raise families, keep gas in the car and a roof over our heads - it was hard to keep the fervor. I remember outright derision from people when I was still worried about pollution and recycling and organic foods in the 80's. That was so LAST decade. Let's party! Let's all buy new cuisinarts and top of the line coffee grinders and these new fangled things called Personal Computers.

I admit, a lot of my ideals had the edges worn down. I kept up the whole foods, composting, ecology, living lightly on the earth as much as I could. But some years it was all I could do to keep a family of seven in shoes and snacks and make sure everyone got to their Little League practices on time. But now I have the time and opportunity to "get back to my ideals" in more serious ways.

Before we left for Paris I started to formulate a plan. When we returned, I wanted to do a stint of nonconsumerism. Take a month, say, or maybe a week at a time, or day at a time, whatever worked, and buy nothing but necessary items. Being a consumer is a lot like being a smoker, now that I think about it. Trying to quit is hard. It's addictive. It's a habit. It's tied up with psychological and emotional comfort in ways that aren't healthy but we've grown dependent upon.

I knew, even as I firmed up my commitment to the idea, that it was unlikely I'd be successful at such an extreme goal. I didn't really care about it as an absolute. It didn't feel like a competitive challenge or something I wanted to prove I could do it. It's more a longing to move towards something. A sense that this is a direction that will bring me more true content and joy than anything I can currently afford to go out and pluck from a store shelf. And since we've been back home I have spent less, bought less, and spent what little time I've been home being at home. No, I haven't completely done without the dinner out or the Starbucks coffee or the new book purchase. But for every item or service I've bought or used, I've walked away from buying dozens more. Not by strength of will power, but by disinterest. I don't want it. I certainly don't need it. (although, I'm still in a state of confusion about what to do with or about all the stuff I already own - stuff that owns me?)

Which, of course, leads me back round to the recession. In Ashland, it was as if the waitresses and shopkeepers and motel staff and gas attendants were overtly GRATEFUL to us for coming, for spending, for helping them hang on to their jobs. Locally I know the waittresses and cashiers, I know which ones are single mothers, which ones have children who go to school with my kids or who suffer from bad backs, have mortage problems or ailing parents. I want to cut back on how much we eat out and spend while at the same time I feel a sense of responsibility towards these people who I care about, whos lives I touch regularly in a small, drop-in-the-bucket way. It's an emotional conundrum.

And yet, stimulating the economy by spending, spending, spending can't be the only solution. It's a pyramid scheme that's doomed to eventually crash in on those at the bottom. There has to be a better solution, a sustainable solution. Just like the environmental crisis can't be solved by ignoring it or going back to being hunter/gatherers living in skins and weaving baskets. We have to find a fulcrum where we can balance it all. We have to find that balance on a global level, we have to find it on a national level, and I want to find it on a personal level - knowing that it's not one single spot, but a segment I need to find and then try to keep my movement within it's length.

I'm talking about a continuum, a long line with extremes on either side. It's a tidy way to imagine it. In real life, however, it presents itself like a box of yarn, hopelessly tangled together. Which skein does one untangle first? Where are the ends from which to start? At what point does one give up on a tight knot and just cut through for a new start?

I took another of those "carbon footprint" online tests the other day. There are many of them out there and they are meant to show you how environmentally conscious (or not) you are, how lightly you do or do not live on this earth. I've taken enough of them now to feel a shiver of apprehension about how I will score. I think of myself as environmentally conscious and active compared to most folks around me but I always end up with a disappointingly heavy footprint as my result. I know why, and it's mostly because the tests don't accomodate certain choices or circumstances.

For instance, I don't get brownie points for using public transportation. But, HELLO, we don't HAVE any public transportation in our small town. It's really insane. Without a car, you literally can not arrive at or depart from our community. We're a hundred miles away through high chaparral and mountain forest from the nearest bus or train. We're a four or six hour drive to the nearest metropolitan commuter line system. Most of the local population live in the country, along dangerously narrow and isolated roads and highways miles and miles from services.

We live in town and I try to walk whenever I can, which only works if I'm not getting groceries or picking up a son with 70 pounds of football gear. Our town is tiny though, I drive a compact car, and I don't even take my car out every day. It probably average out to 2-4 miles of driving a day. This is much less than your suburban mom or average commuter - who, by the way, probably commutes not by choice but was driven far away from where they work by crime and/or exorbitant housing costs and so I think they're not the cause of our dependency on cars as much as they are victims of their gas guzzling commutes. America often offers no other reasonable options.

Another thing that twists my gas usage - long distance travel. I rack up minimum mileage at home but if I try to visit family up and down the Pacific Coast, the odometer spins so fast it blurs. Life has flung my kids all over the place. How do I balance family health with environmental health? And let's not even mention traveling overseas. We've already had people suggest it was unpatriotic of us to spend our money in another country. Forget "It's a Small World After All" - apparently global togetherness only counts if we're spending American dollars.

I also get notched down for not buying new Energy Star appliances - but I don't get credit for not owning a zillion energy using appliances in the first place. We don't have central heat and air, we don't air condition our home, I only use my clothes dryer in the winter. I used to grow the majority of the fruits and vegetables my family ate, but now I live in a harsh, dry environment with a short, risky growing season, and like may people, I don't have the LAND to grow my family's needs. We don't have community gardens available. It's not that I don't do it, it's that I can't do it.

There was a show on the Sundance Channel recently that highlighted a famous couple who build a completely green new home. While I applaud their environmental consciousness, I couldn't help but consider the fact that they were privileged to have that choice - not everyone can just up and build a new home or even afford to make changes to an existing one (assuming as well that they own and do not rent their living space) - and that while their home might have been completely green, it was also ENORMOUS. Easily six TIMES the size of our home. Where did "more is less" fit into their choices?

It seems like absolutely everything is a choice nowadays. Paper or plastic? Or bring your own bags? I want to make and bring my own bags but I don't because I know if I do then my husband will just go out and buy plastic bags to line the garbage cans (yes, I know you can use them unlined - tell my husband - or more importantly, tell my cats not to use their litter box that necessitates emptying into something disposable) instead of using the cheap plastic bags our groceries come home in. How do I buy local food when the only really local food is BEEF and I generally don't eat cows? Should I buy and spend less and watch people in our small town lose jobs? Should I visit my children and grandchildren less? Do I continue to use my old refrigerator or washing machine because they still work and replacing them would turn them into more landfill, or should I buy new energy efficient machines that will pay for themselves in energy costs in a few year's time?

We already cut down on driving just to "go out for a drive". We replaced all our lightbulbs with the new ones that look like Dairy Queen ice cream cones. We buy used, compost and recycle everything we can, turn off lights, unplug things when not in use, and buy in bulk when possible. We do all the small things that consumer's are encouraged to do. In fact we've been doing all those small things, and sometimes more, for decades. Still other people do not. And no matter that I turn off my porch light, businesses up and down Main Street keep their stores and signs lit up day and night, Walmart shines inside like a football stadium. People still buy water in pastic bottles stacked in cardboard crates and then shrink wrapped into even MORE plastic. Hello? Sigh.

I guess that's it. I've kept you here at your computers, depressing you for long enough. I have no words of wisdom at the end of this lengthy pondering. No moral of the story. No insights or thought provoking question to leave you thinking. Just me. Muddling. Untangling. Confused.

Maybe I'll go distract myself. We have a new Indian Restaurant in town and it's finally opened it's doors. Hey, I told ya. I'm not a perfect UNconsumer. Let's pretend it's for a good cause, for the sake of "currying" flavor.., I mean favor with other cultures. (Oh, that was bad!)

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Week of Photos

The car got fixed, we made it home on Friday, just a few hours before our son came home from his school's biology field trip. He was tired, hot, and happy. We were tired, hot, and happy. It was almost as hot here in the mountains as it had been in the valley! We jumped from spring straight into summer.

Just a few random photos from Ashland and northern California -



There's a costume museum. Or maybe it's a theatre museum. Not sure, I've never gone in it. They were displaying hats in the front windows. Here we have pretzel and beer hats.



And a sauerkraut hat.



So of course we need a sausage hat as well.



I liked the combination of the posters in the upstairs window of this building with the name of the shop on the ground floor. Maybe not a perfect solution but definitely the best option in the bunch.



I liked this decorative window treatment at our hotel.



This was a scene from our motel grounds as well. I liked the red berries combined with the red and white striped umbrellas by the pool. There were beautiful flowers and green lawns, terraces and fountains all around the grounds. Unfortunately they didn't translate well in photos. They were lovely. Everything was lovely actually, including the rooms. Except for one teensy thing which probably will keep me from staying there again. The room we stayed in had only one window in the front wall. To make the room lighter, it also had a skylight. Oh, pretty, I thought when we checked in. Not so pretty at 6:30 in the morning when the light came streaming down on top of the bed like a spotlight. ARGH.



New ducklings in the pond in Lithia Park. There were five of the little fuzzy creatures, with poor mom trying to keep count of them all. I could seriously identify with her. I knew exactly what it's like trying to keep track of the whereabouts of five kids all scurrying in different directions.



At least these three were taking off in the same direction for a moment.



On the way north, Mt. Shasta was crowned with one tiny cloud, perfectly shaped. We joke that the aliens keep it there to hide their comings and goings. There's lots of metaphysical stories about the area. I regret not stopping to take a photo. Coming home we drove through just as the sun set, leaving everything but the peak in shadow. She's quite a dramatic peak, ain't she? More visible than a lot of the more northern volcanoes because she's less likely to be hidden in clouds. This is taken from the northwest.



By the time we passed by the sky was washed in pink. It was even more beautiful in person. We are so fortunate to live in a part of the world with such a variety of beautiful scenes.