Saturday, 31 October 2009
She is a tiny cat with slim, sophisticated black paws.  In fact, she has a chic all-black coat.  Her yellow eyes are enormous, lined with a tiny bit of green.  I love her and she is my foster kitty.

My friend Kim is moving to South Carolina and wasn't able to take Violet with her on the move.  Since I've baby sat Violet before, I couldn't pass up the chance to give her a home rather than let her go back to the pound.

Violet meows in a tiny, quiet "mewwww" and she purrs when you give her a bit of attention.  When she would like me to pet her (on her head) she will stand up and put one paw on the arm of my computer chair until I notice.  What a doll!  She is helping me not feel lonely without Kingsley and also keep life in perspective.  It is fun to play!

In this picture, she shows her disapproval of my black toe polish for Halloween.  Sorry, Vi.

Since Violet is not a pet that Kingsley and I agreed on to adopt forever (maybe he'll change his mind?) I will continue to look for her permanent home.  She is certainly the most cuddly kitty I've ever met so I'm sure it won't be hard to find a great spot for her to settle.  Thankfully, Kings loves animals as much as I do so we will be able to provide homes to other sweet orphans.

Scary Parking

Friday, 30 October 2009

The Art Institute of Chicago

Be warned.  The Art Institute of Chicago is not cheap.  But at $18 per adult, be assured, you will see lovely Impressionist art and a thorough collection of modern art.  Casey took Mel and I to the museum after an impressive brunch at The Gage near Millennium Park.

I photographed some of my favorite works by the best artists (my opinion) there.  Hope you enjoy!

First up, is Pierre-Augusto Renior, Woman at the Piano, 1875.  Renior painted this when the upright piano was becoming popular to have in one's home.  I love the colors.

This is Vincent van Gogh's The Bedroom, 1889.  He painted this of his house where he had his "Studio of the South."  (If you are ever in Amsterdam, do not miss the van Gogh museum.)

Another favorite of the Impressionist period, is Claude Monet.  His Water Lily Pond, 1917, is one of my favorite works of his. The colors reflected on the water are amazing.  He painted this after the death of his wife and some time off from painting to deal with the pain.

And the odd ball painting of the day but incredibly moving... Ivan Albright's That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door), 1931.  The idea behind the painting is regret.  Live your life because when you are on your death bed you don't want to have regrets.  The door is mounted on a tomb and the flowers are for a funeral.  Albright's technique is amazing because he captures the look of aging.  The hand is elderly and the door is decaying.

Even though most of the works at the institute are paintings, there are also many sculptures and even furniture and household items that were impressive.  This Sitting Buddha was quite large and I'm sorry that I didn't write down details about it.

The Doggies

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Since Casey and I do not have children yet, we have to fuss over our pets.  These are pictures of Casey and Bert's lovely little girls:  Annie and Layla.

We also celebrated Mel's daughter's birthday by buying cute little outfits and books but Fi stayed in Florida with family so mom could take a vacation.  That's why I don't have pictures of anyone's "real" children.  But aren't the doggies sooo cute!?

Table 52

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

On Saturday night, we put on our fancies and went to 8pm dinner reservations at Table Fifty-Two.  The restaurant is in downtown Chicago on Elm Street and run by Chef Art Smith and Julie Latsko.  Table Fifty-Two calls itself "the home of Southern hospitality in Chicago."  Smith was Oprah's chef for many years and has traveled the world learning about different cuisines.  I would describe his dishes as fancy "comfort food."

The chef sent out his deviled eggs presented on a small platter.  They were tasty but could have used a bit more vinegar but aren't they adorable?  The best part?  They have tiny potato chips in the dressing on top.

We dined upstairs in the high-ceiling dining room.  The decor is very Southern and makes you feel like you are in a Georgian mansion somewhere near the shore.  The walls are papered in wide strips that reach to the paneled white chair rail.  I was also impressed with the fresh flower arrangements on the tables.  Flowers - to me - show a bit of extravagance and allow the patrons to feel pampered while eating.

Casey's sister Jordan met up with us and we even toasted our reunion with Melody with pink bubbly.

I ordered the lightly breaded, fried Catfish.  It was beautifully presented but over-salted and lacking layers of taste.  The service was wonderful and someone was always on hand to refill our water glasses and we had a charming waiter.

We had a lovely time.  The wine was rich and smooth and the atmosphere was such that we could lean in and comfortably talk about life.  I don't care for restaurants that play music so loudly you have to shout over your dessert.  Plenty of time for girl talk which is what I was hoping for!

The Proust Questionnaire

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

While I was in Chicago this weekend, Casey and Melody were looking at the latest Vanity Fair magazine. At the very end, readers enjoy The Proust Questionnaire.

Different stars and artists will answer the questions for each issue. Martha Stewart gave her answers this time and I was intrigued.

Not that anyone cares about my answers are but I thought it would be an interesting exercise.

To other bloggers: copy the questions from the site and answer on your blog. If you do, post a comment so I can learn more about you!

"The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. Here is the basic Proust Questionnaire."

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Socializing over excellent food and wine with my close friends and family. People are laughing and enjoying themselves and our concerns are put on pause while we enjoy each other's company.

2. What is your greatest fear?
Failure. Not being smart enough or quick enough to work through a situation and bring about success.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I can be quick to speak and slow to listen. As I get older, I'm getting better at listening more.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Extremism, being close-minded.

5. Which living person do you most admire?
I admire survivors.  Whether it is death, disease, heartbreak or sorrow, those who get up and keep moving always inspire me.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?
My vintage (recycled) mink fur coat.

7. What is your current state of mind?
My sweet cat is lounging near me and I'm wearing a grey hoodie. Comfortable and content.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

9. On what occasion do you lie?
I rarely lie.  However, there are rare times when I avoid direct truth to spare another person's feelings.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Dark circles that will not respond to makeup, or sleep.

11. Which living person do you most despise?
I don't despise anyone but I feel Glenn Beck should not be able to influence others.  He propogates hatred out of ignorance.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My husband, Kingsley.

16. When and where were you happiest?
On my wedding day I was surrounded by those I love in the midst of an extravagant celebration.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?
Musical talent, the ability to play the piano.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I'd rather I wasn't so serious.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Earning my Master's Degree from the University of Westminster.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A bird, able to soar the sky.

21. Where would you most like to live?
Near the beach, within walking distance to the ocean.

22. What is your most treasured possession?
My laptop.  The pictures, articles, poems and videos I've stored there are important to me.  I'm also able to stay connected to the world.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
The loss of hope.

24. What is your favorite occupation?

25. What is your most marked characteristic?

26. What do you most value in your friends?

27. Who are your favorite writers?
Vanora Bennett, David Sedaris, Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemmingway

28. Who is your hero of fiction?
Carrie Bradshaw for her shoe collection.

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Joan of Arc was courageous and tred outside the lines.  She led the French army and was convicted later of wearing men's clothing and burned at the stakes.

30. Who are your heroes in real life?
President Obama for using diplomacy to lead instead of force.

31. What are your favorite names?
Decken, Demi, Alexander, Elizabeth

32. What is it that you most dislike?

33. What is your greatest regret?
Growing up too quickly.

34. How would you like to die?
In a way that would cause those who love me the least amount of suffering.

35. What is your motto?
ELM - Enjoy life more.

Chicago With the Girls

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Van Gogh, Monet and Frank Lloyd Wright are just some of the "artists" with work on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Mel, Casey and I walked around, took photos and came away inspired to be creative.  We also went to The Gage on Michigan Avenue for a tasty brunch.  Omelet with feta, oregano, basil and tomatoes.  Yummy.

Last night we ate sushi at Coast, dessert at Hot Chocolate and went for a drink at Bluebird.

We're having such a fun time catching up and hearing about how life has changed.  The three of us have been friends for 12 years!

Chicago is a happening town but it is chilly and windy.  I didn't bring enough warm clothes.  Perhaps a lovely glass of buttery Shiraz will help with the cold.

Pink Parking

Tuesday, 20 October 2009
You've heard of the Pink Panther but what about Pink Parking?  In Seoul, South Korea there are now close to 5,000 public parking spaces only for women.  They're easily noticiable with the spots lined in a bubble-gum pink paint.  Like so:

The spaces are similar to the ones you see in the U.S. for expectant mothers or "take-out only" spots.  Traditionally close to the building, these prime spaces make use of the real estate near a buisness.  

In some online articles discussing this topic, writers claim these parking spaces are designed to specifically encourage women to wear high-heels.  After doing my own research, I think they're just high-heel friendly.  Meaning, if women want to wear high heels, parking spaces closer to the office are convienient. 

I'm just not sure if this modus operandi will balance the treatment of genders in South Korea.  Isn't this all a bit patronizing or is it fair because we live in a male-dominated society?  Thoughts?

P.S. I'm not one to always love high heels.  So there.  This fall, I plan to wear tall, leather riding boots that are comfortable and functional with a touch of sex appeal.  Such as these from Tilly Trotters:

Mango Weizen

Sunday, 18 October 2009

I met up with a few Twitter friends at The Been Stein in Downtown Eugene early this evening to chat.  Topics ranged from pets, building houses, jewelry, and cooking to kayaks, green living, holiday traditions and wedding planning. 

The Stein has an interesting wheat choice on tap right now, Mango Weizen out of Seattle, Washington.  It is brewed by Trade Route Brewing and boasts a heady mango flavor!  It has the traditional cloudy-orangish color of wheat beers and is light and crisp. 

Now that Fall is closing in, an Amber Ale or Rouge Chocolate Stout is a nice choice but the Mango Weizen would be a perfect beer for a warm summer evening.

Shot in the Arm?

Saturday, 17 October 2009

I'm not getting a Swine Flu vaccination or a flu shot this year and I'm not worried.  The two years I decided to get the regular flu shot, I came down with the flu and it was rough.  The other years, sans flu shot?  No flu.

My mother is politely outraged and might boycott my phone calls until I fax her a notice from my primary care physician that yes, I was stabbed with the vaccine but I just don't want the shot.  In my (sometimes simple) mind, I worry that the shot somehow makes me more susceptible to the flu.

My diet is decent.  I eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day.  My drinks at work are only green tea or water and I choose lean protein when I eat meat.  I exercise (not often enough) and I try to sleep more than 8 hours a night.  That could be enough to keep up a strong immune system and I'll take the chance.

While I very much appreciate the advancement of modern medicine, I'm not completely convinced the flu vaccinations (including the Swine Flu) will work.  The Swine Flu has been blown into Balloon Boy proportions.  We should all keep in mind, it is a strain of the flu virus with symptoms that are, at times, more severe than the regular flu.  This is not a flesh-eating disease that renders people dead in days.  

Remember, if you have a temperature, stay home.  You don't want to infect others.  Stay hydrated and if your temperature gets high (say 104) go to the doctor.

Disclaimer:  Media outlets have reported Swine Flu deaths but we don't always know the contributing factors.    I am NOT against getting the vaccination.  I'm just not convinced it is right for me, yet.

What about you?  Did you get your flu shot this year?  How about the Swine Flu vaccination?

Having A Moment

Wednesday, 14 October 2009
I couldn't fall asleep until 6:30 a.m. this morning (insomnia yuck) and when I woke up, I was in a baaaad mooooood.  So, what did I do?  The only thing any other reasonable, tired and cranky woman would do, I phoned my husband on Skype and picked a fight.

How dare he not know exactly what to say to make the moment better NOW and to respond exactly in the way I wanted (even though I wasn't sure what I wanted) NOW?

The best way to get this going, is to select a subject that you both feel passionate about.  Throw in irrational reaction, emotion and a dash of heavy sighing and BAM you've got it going on.

Will he ever forgive me?

I am passionate.  You really can't bend or break me unless the storm rages for at least two seasons.  My plan of action is to pull out the umbrella and say, "Well, we just need to walk faster and catch the bus."  BUT.  In rare instances which creep up on me slightly, the bark will split and the sapling comes down.  I'm left standing in a downpour hopelessly searching for cover.

It is not my nature to yell or curse or call names or throw things but I will not let up on being a downer, it seems, until the other person (the poor hubs) seems to "grasp" the grimness of the situation (do you hate it when you make things out to be worse than they really are?).  When I feel I have expressed myself (and possibly he is feeling bad) then the clouds start to break.

We're still learning how to be newly-weds (while miles apart) but I hope one day he is able to somewhat shrug off my breaks  in "strength" and I want to learn how to express myself in a way that doesn't bring him down but still counts as communication.

Maybe we can head back to Barcelona or something.  I didn't have insomnia on that trip.  :)


Sunday, 11 October 2009
Only occasionally I feel sad living on the West Coast away from my family and my husband. But for me, writing is cheap therapy - so please hang in there while I express myself this evening. Living apart from Kingsley is very difficult. This is what it's like seeing the one you love once every three months for more than a year and a half:

You don't think about the meal you'll share together or the bottle of wine you might open together, you think, "Do I really have to cook food tonight or do I have cereal left?"

When you get up in the middle of the night for a glass of water, you come back to a cold bed.

If something wonderful happens during the day, you can't call and share the triumph immediately, you have to wait five hours until he wakes up (in London time) and that's if you still remember.

When there are free tickets at work to a play or baseball game, you have to steel yourself to go solo.

Sunday nights are lonely.

There's no one to hug or hold hands with.

Going to a laundry mat by yourself is tough because the basket is heavy and there's no one there to hold the door for you.

When your partner is sick, there's nothing you can do except hopelessly watch them on Skype lay on the couch and try to sip a cup of tea.

You look over your gorgeous wedding gifts and wish you could open them and share them with your husband. It's not much fun to use them by yourself.

Finally, your wedding album arrives and you long to pore over the pictures with him and laugh about funny family shots and the details of the day.

I've always been an independent woman. My life story has played out as I'd hoped. I didn't want to be a young bride, and I waited until 29 to get hitched. I enjoyed almost 11 years as a single gal, living how I wanted to live, doing what I wanted to do but now that I've made the commitment to be with another person, I'm ready. Being single has so many advantages but as the above snippets show, it is also lonely. Plus, as a single women, there's always the option of dating. Kingsley and I can only "date" through Skype.

This challenge will pass but instead of pretending to be strong and plastic, I wanted to share a bit of my struggle. While I write this, I understand my problems pale in comparison to others' tragedies. Life is still very good most of the time for me and I am thankful for the many wonderful things I experience daily through friendships, family and work.

No, we do not know when we'll be together for sure. We're still moving forward with the Visa process and believe we'll get some good news soon on being together!

Go Ducks!

Some Duck fans just have way too much time on their hands. Like this guy...

Natasha and I were invited to the Fisher Suite two weeks ago to enjoy the football game with KVAL advertising clients.

The views of the field were incredible and even though the game was a blow-out (OR won by at least 20) we had such a fun time enjoying the ambiance of a winning team.

This suite had two rows of seats. I sat on the front row for the 1st quarter and could see everything...the fans celebrating, the players moving on the sidelines and even the cheerleaders performing stunts.

Before the game, we stopped by a friend's tail-gate party.

This was a pretty fancy "tailgater." The guy set up huge speakers, a flat screen TV, a table for beer pong and a keg. This isn't exactly how I'd choose to spend my time and money every Saturday (this guy feels it is an investment!) but it was exciting to be part of it for one afternoon.


Friday, 9 October 2009

I read the news this morning, noted the statements from critics, tuned into the strategy interviews with the Nobel Peace Prize committee, listened to congratulations wishes from leaders around the world and tonight, I'm proud to be an American.

President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize today. Why? He does not just read statements about peace, his actions show he believes in and operates through diplomacy. The head of the committee interviewed on NPR today and said all five members were unanimous in voting for President Obama for his courage to use his international foothold to promote a disarming of nuclear warfare and the respect of all religions, all races, both genders, all social classes and a union of countries. (Isn't that something to be thankful for?)

I am proud of this award to the leader of our country and believe President Obama will use it to motivate his work in a humble yet direct vein during international dealings.

Americans (even extremists) can't deny Obama's intentions when it comes to strict expectations for world-wide humanitarian rights and dignity.

Yes, this was a political move by the prize council but hey, if continues the momentum toward peace already set by our President, I'm going to celebrate the honor.

You Buy It, You Break It

Thursday, 8 October 2009
I read an article about a business in San Diego that is smashing. It's called Sarah's Smash Shack. Customers go to the business, purchase a stack of plates (or vases or glasses) and spend hours breaking the items against a wall. You can even bring your own items in, such as this lovely set of pink flowered dishes.

But now come on, who would want to break things!? The website invites singles, couples, birthday parties, children and even senior citizens to come out and get their smash on.

I think it would be fun to just abandon decorum and throw a few glasses against the wall (I've never hurled a glass, cup, vase or plate) but beyond that, it might get a little boring.

Prices go from $35 for 20 plates, $75 for a six piece setting of dishes and $12 for three champagne flutes. You can even box up "the wreckage" for $10 to take home.

How 'bout you? Would you go for broke? If so, what would you think about while glass is flying?

Salvador Dali's Museum

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

After an afternoon of heavy rain (see the poor people running into the flat behind Kingsley) we decided to go to the Salvador Dali museum (there is a small one in Barcelona). Dali was a Spanish surrealist artist well-known for being a bit crazy toward the end of his life. He always tried to pose in pictures with a manic look in his eyes and he won lots of attention for it. But before he started doing his strange, sex-induced art, he finished some beautiful religious works.

Christ on the cross with hundreds of nails coming in to represent the sins of the world.

Christ in life and in death.

Dali (on the right) was also inspired by nature and this photograph shows him studying an octopus. He would later use the real creature as a model for his art as shown in this work:

Even in this sketch of "witches" I noticed the hair resembles the octopus and its tentacles. Fascinating work and seeing lesser-know original work by Dali was well worth the entrance fee.

Under Attack

Saturday, 3 October 2009
I am growing in maturity and conquering fear in my life.

Last night while driving home from work around the appointed late hour, I was driving slowly watching for deer. I tend to lean forward slightly, with my brights on hoping to see the beady little shining eyes of kamikaze cats, turkeys and raccoons.

While peering out of the windshield and feeling the relief of the weekend coming on, I notice a huge spider crawling on the glass. I do a quick intake of breath and jerk back against the driver's seat. Out loud (why?) I say, "Um, is that on the outside or the inside?" and hit the wipers. As they scrape back and forth, the spider continues to walk across the windshield. Did I mention it's the size of a quarter?

I laugh nervously (to keep from shrieking and going into hysterics) and think WhatdoIdo? WhatdoIdo? WhatdoIdo? The road up to KVAL is narrow, bumpy and forest-like so there are few places to pull over. There's no "shoulder" per say.

The spider walks on it's long, curvy legs down into the dashboard and as soon as it goes out of view, I irrationally but immediately feel like something is crawling on my leg. Oh no. A spider has gotten in, laid eggs and now my jeep is full of them. I start to fake whimper and see the spider crawl back into view. All this time I'm driving slowly around the curves, attempting to miss the pot holes and watching for a place to pull over.

Finally I make it to a stop sign, whip on the hazard lights, put it in park, yank up the emergency break and turn on the dome light. The spider, sensing it is under attack, crawls to the left side of the windshield. I remove my shoe and patiently wait. As it creeps back out to try to bite me (I'm sure), I whack it. Not getting a good hit, it falls onto the steering wheel but I do not scream. It is curling up in defeat and I open the driver's side door and flick it out with my shoe.

Shuddering for a second, I slip my shoe back on, turn off the light, turn off the hazards, release the break, put the car back into drive and feel proud of myself. A huge spider tried to make me wreck my car on the way home from work but I stayed calm and dealt with it. This woman warrior is getting better with the spider thing.

Welcome to the weekend and overcoming your fears. :)

I Miss Dewey

Friday, 2 October 2009

He will not be happy with this picture, it doesn't show his face. But, it shows his pretty, shiny coat and adorable white paws. I left little Dew with my parents when I moved to London in 2006. He has lived with them since then and loves them.

My mom gives Dewey bottled water and microwaves his "wet" food. She also puts his "blankie" at the end of their bed each night to sleep on. Dewey gets up in the morning with my dad and has learned to push his head against my dad's arm when he wants to be petted.

I miss having a cat. They are such lovely company. You can talk to them, they cuddle with you and if you have a feather or plastic bag, they'll entertain you for hours.

If you think you might want a kitty to share life with (or a dog!), check out your local animal shelter. In Eugene for instance, Greenhill Humane Society is offering 50% off adoption fees for all black cats during the month of October.