Sunday, March 30, 2008

Not what you think.

Contrary to popular opinion, we are not supplementing our modest incomes with the grow-lights in the back room. (I know you're disappointed.) Rather, check out our baby basil, peppers, and radishes! If anyone knows how to get gourd seeds to sprout, let us know, because so far, our germination rate is exactly 0%. And we were kind of excited about making gourd bird-houses.

Pathos.

Crouton really hates being bathed. He shows his displeasure by looking as rat-like as possible. But who knew his face was so skinny?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dog poison.

Again, not for the faint of heart or those with delicate stomachs (you people should never get a dog):

I saw Crouton was chewing on something, and to my horror, it was a daffodil bulb, snuck right out of one of the shot glasses I've been sprouting them in. A couple of the forced bulbs live on a low-ish windowsill, where Crouton can apparently reach them.

Initially, I was horrified that he had ruined an almost-blooming bulb, but then he started to look a little funny, and a new horror set in. Ask any of my friends - they all agree - I have a very active imagination.

According to the internet, plants in the narcissus family are toxic to dogs, and can cause everything from stomach upset to "tremor, spasm, and death." (Note: What is this, a 17th century herbal? "Tremor" and "spasm"? I could be wrong, but I don't think those are modern veterinary diagnoses.)

As I was reading this, Crouton promptly puked. On the rug. As I was cleaning it up, we had puking episodes 2 and 3. I started to freak out.

So I called the local emergency 24 hour vet (because it was already after 8 p.m.). Yes, I am totally that crazy lady that calls emergency vets on a regular basis. Bless those folks for existing, and especially, for answering questions by phone. They said that while the bulb-chewing might cause him a stomach ache and some vomiting, he probably was not on the verge of death. Good to know. Also, please stop calling us. Okay. So I gave him some yogurt and refused to go out with my husband to play pool. Instead, I stayed home, watching Crouton closely for signs of lethargy or, you know, death.

Never mind that this dog will eat anything, and puke it up just as promptly. It doesn't matter how toxic and nasty it tastes. He firmly believes that he is on the verge of starvation all the time. Keep the Drano away from this puppy. Literally.

And sure enough, he's fine now. Crisis averted. Adrenaline ... wasted. Sheesh.

Crouton.


Steve took this gorgeous photo of our little ragamuffin cross between a swiffer and a vaccuum cleaner. Yes, he always looks that dirty.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Unless you're reading the Oxford English Dictionary (all 20 volumes) for fun ...

When I said that you need a largish purse to carry your fun reading, I did not mean this:


She's kidding, right? That's a joke £3,000 Hermes bag, right? In a sick twist, the Daily Mail includes this picture under the headline "Katie Holmes pays tribute to Jackie Kennedy." Oh, noooooo. Poor Jackie must just be rolling in her grave.

Erin over at A Dress A Day labeled this photo "Suri is IN the bag." Personally, I'm wondering if she could pull a hatstand and five foot ornately-framed mirror out of it, like Mary Poppins. If so, I retract all criticism.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Party ideas brainstormed with Linda over breakfast.

  1. Garden work party - you come over to my house, drink a white wine spritzer on the back patio, and pitch in with the garden. Pros: free labor. Cons: the dogs leave kind of a lot of land mines in the back yard - it could end badly.
  2. Apron-making party - you come over to my house with some fabric, and we all make aprons. Pros: you get an apron. Cons: I only have one accessible sewing machine.
  3. Tomato party - instead of having a pumpkin party, we have a tomato party. Everyone brings something cooked with tomatoes, and we gorge. Pros: maybe I enlist your help with canning said tomatoes and send you home with tons more. Cons: Eating that much tomato could give the guests acid indigestion.
  4. Felting party - all my knitting friends make use of my washer and drier to make felt. Pros: I might get some felt to sew up into cool bags, etc. Cons: I have exactly two friends who would want to attend this party.

Books you're gonna need if you decide to buy that farm or start that commune, Part 1.

This is the classic treatise on intensive vegetable gardening. It's been around since well before I could read, but it's still the best. It's required reading for small farmers and communes, but it's also the best advice on backyard gardening in small spaces.








This is fiction, but it's also a manifesto about the joys and pains of farming, and the all-important land.







How to build your house and barn and fences, raise livestock, grow crops, and sell and preserve your harvest.










More inspirational fiction. Take-away point: Even noblemen can get satisfaction from scything their own wheat.







Here's the guide for the urban farmer. A manifesto on dumpster-diving, community-garden establishing, sewage composting, guerrilla seed-throwing, protest-organizing, and other essential skills for the "off -the-grid" city dweller.








Um, you might not have to read this whole book to find out that the answer to life, the universe, and everything is "cultivate your garden."







Mostly, this is all about building your "off-the-grid" eco-green-house, with a little bit of advice on veggie gardening on the side.










This isn't my specialty (yet), but my friends inform me that this is the book on "putting up" your produce. Talk to me later this year, when I will be faced with harvesting no less than six (edit: now seven) tomato plants, a loquat tree, and a persimmon tree.




This is my favorite - Steve and I especially love to pore over the pictures indicating how to make the most of 1 acre, 5 acre, and 10 acres plots (there are also guidelines for city gardens). A lovely mixture of practical advice and eye-candy. Mmmmm.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Loop!Station.


Most of you are already aware of my penchant for dissonant, dark music. If you've often asked me "How can you listen to this stuff? This music sounds like a cat in heat!" (ahem, that's you, Stefani), you won't be interested in this band. But for those of you who, like me, consider pathos to be your favorite emotion, and often find cats in heat surprisingly melodic - well, you might want to keep reading.

So here it goes: If you like Cat Power, or My Brightest Diamond, you might like Loop!Station (go to their site and hear a sample).

According to their website, Loop!Station is "Robin Coomer [pictured above - yes, she's really beautiful] and Sam Bass. One woman, one man, one voice, one cello, multiple layered 'loops' hand tooled and shaped into lovely, cascading, provocative orchestral compositions with an immediate soul-rocking palpability." I would qualify this by saying that the looping cello is more soul-rocking than orchestral (at least, to me - but I tend to be turned off by the term "orchestral," which sounds hoity-toity and inaccessible to me).

They're also local, and often play around Oakland and San Francisco. Steve and I are inherently lazy, home-loving people, but we're going to try to see them in April.

You can download their albums on iTunes or CDBaby.

Monday, March 17, 2008

How to read buckets of books and impress your Goodreads friends.

Friends (especially Goodreads friends) often ask me: "How do you read so much?" Contrary to popular belief, I do not read for two solid hours every night, foregoing TV, Rock Band, and other shallow entertainments. In fact, I rarely read for a stretch of more than thirty minutes - I'm too fidgety. So I thought I'd share 10 "hot" tips with y'all.
  1. Read all the time, everywhere. This is the only real advice, but I wanted 10 tips. Take advantage of all of those random minutes of idleness or boredom to read. You'll be surprised at how a bunch of 10 minute intervals can add up.
  2. Carry a book with you. Small purses are lame. Clutches and evening bags? Pshaw! Carry at least one book with you at all times. I usually carry two. I spend a lot of time moving books out of the way to find my wallet. But, I'm never short on reading material.
  3. Take advantage of bureaucracy. I try to spend my time at the DMV, the airport, and waiting at the doctor's office reading my book instead of People magazine (yet I still manage to keep up on celebrity gossip somehow). And then there is that interminable line at Trader Joe's. Rather than grit my teeth at the toddler who is screaming "But I WANNA COOOOOKKKKIEEE!!!!" at the top of her lungs, I put the iPod headphones in and pull out my book. Not only do I get good reading done, but I'm in a better mood when my turn arrives. (I have even been known to read during particularly bad traffic jams. This only works if traffic has come to a complete halt, however! Which means, this only works if you live in California. But, don't try actually driving and reading! Don't worry, if traffic starts moving again and you don't notice, the nice driver of the car behind you will let you know!)
  4. Read as many books at once as you can. I'm incredibly schizophrenic and easily bored. So I am always dabbling in at least five books. Seriously. This has at least one major advantage: if I forget my primary book at home (or if I'm too lazy to go fetch it), I just dive into another one. And then, as my friend Jeremy would say, "Rinse & Repeat." Before you know it, you are "currently reading" over 20 books. But believe it or not, you generally finish one or two of those, at least. And if you're not drawn back into the book, see tip number 10.
  5. Fill your house, car, and office with books. That way, you can always grab something to read, often without even having to leave your seat. It helps if you are a slob like me, because covering every useful surface in your life with books will come more naturally to you. If you think I'm kidding about my car being full of unread books, you're wrong.
  6. Read outloud to your friends/partner. You can always be enjoying a leisurely outloud stroll through "David Copperfield" on the side while you blow through piles of lighter books. Some people claim that they cannot keep up with more than one plot line at once, but I notice that these same people usually have no problem simultaneously keeping up with the plots of "Lost," "Sopranos," and "Friday Night Lights." I'm not buying it.
  7. Read while watching TV. Which brings me to the next tip. Read while watching TV. I notice the baseball season is especially good for this. I read my book during the games and only look up occasionally to see if anything's happening (but it's rare that anything's happening - it's baseball). Admittedly, it may be too distracting to try to read a novel while watching TV. You could end up rereading the same sentence over and over. So use your judgment. I find this to be the perfect opportunity to look at large-format picture-filled books about how to manage my imaginary farm or decorate my house in sinister-grandma-chic. I love melodramatic mini-series too, but I read during commercials.
  8. Audiobooks. Listen to books in the car! Or listen at home while you're quilting or knitting. Note - both BART and sewing machines drown out audiobooks - best stick with music. Steve and I listen to "All Things Wise and Wonderful" when we drive together, whereas I listen to "A Tale of Two Cities" when I'm alone. It's slow-going, but eventually, I'll have finished both of these just driving to see our folks or to work engagements. Listening to books on the way to work appointments is the best. I'm getting reimbursed for listening to Dickens! Suweeet!
  9. Skim, skim, skim. Behind my long list of "read" books, there is a lot of skimming, let me tell you. I'm not a fast reader, I'm just a good skimmer. My job has helped me perfect my abilities, but anyone can get good at skimming through practice. However, it's generally much harder to skim fiction than non-fiction. If you read more nonfiction, you'll read more, period. That's why you may have noticed I'm slower at getting through novels. My rules of thumb for nonfiction: read the introduction and table of contents first to get your bearings; read headings and look at the pictures; and in sections of interest, read the first sentence of each paragraph to see which paragraphs you want to read in more depth. Hopefully, if the author knows his or her Strunk & White and utilizes topic sentences, you'll save a lot of time this way. Note - this does not work for legal cases from the 1890s, before judges discovered the paragraph.
  10. Put down dumb books. It took me a long time to learn that it was okay to abandon a book. But life is short, and I have a lot of books on my to-read list! If I'm just not interested anymore, I let it go and jump enthusiastically into the next, more interesting book. I try to keep self-punishment to a minimum. Even if that book would have made me a better educated and more moral person, if I'm bored (even after skimming ahead to see whether there is something more interesting coming), I put it aside. Who cares if I'd rather read a book on fashion than a book on the history of the Vietnam War at any given moment? The well-read person should read lighter and heavier fare. You can always come back to the "good" stuff later.

Hey, you asked.

Edit: In thinking about this last night, I realized I needed an 11th tip - the hardest to implement tip of all.

11. Learn to tune the world out. None of my tips work for people who need silence and quiet surroundings to concentrate. I developed my better-than-average ability to tune out distractions when I was in high school and my little brother was two years old. If you can study calculus with a toddler in the background, you can tune out anything (and yes, I believe this is a positive thing, although my husband might not agree!). I do believe that this skill can be learned over time, with practice. Having an iPod helps, but that means that you have to be able to listen to music and read at the same time, which not everyone can do. But people who can tune out distractions are more productive at work and get more done generally, so I think it's worth working on it. The problem is not that everyone keeps distracting you while you're trying to focus on "War and Peace" - that's just life. The problem is that you are paying attention to the distractions! Good luck!

Current obsessions.

Here's what I've been obsessing over lately:

  1. I'm crazy about these shoes. I'm so excited about the return of 1940s/Beatnik wedges to mainstream fashion. Hopefully, they're still fringy enough that I don't need to fear them becoming a huge fad and then obsolete. And, Crouton has finally stopped eating my shoes (knock on wood), so I can enjoy buying them again!
  2. I'm also fantasizing about buying a farm. Maybe a farm is even better than Beatnik wedges? I'm fantasizing about this farm, to be precise. 57 Acres of Prime Agricultural Land outside of Woodland, with three houses on it. This house reminds me a little of the house in "Psycho", if it were only on a hill. Farm fantasies turn out to be the perfect antidote to thoughts of plummeting housing values and negative equity. I've already looked into getting organic certification for my imaginary farm. I'm nothing if not thorough.

  3. Short of buying a farm, what about a plot at the local community garden? Steve points out that I may be signing myself up for too much. I mean, I already have one garden, and also, inconveniently at times, I have a job. But I got really inspired by my step-mom's gorgeous plot at her community garden down in San Jose. It was so sunny! And tidy! And there were no dogs digging in it! You can see the appeal.

  4. Speaking of signing up for too much, can't I adopt Tyson? Please??? I mean, Crouton is finally housetrained (as of, like, today), so that means we can get a third dog, right? Look at that cute little shoe-chewing mug!

I think we've come full circle.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Traditional Proven├žal costume.

I'm so inspired by these dresses! Aren't they gorgeous? Why can't I run around town in enormous, heavy, quilted skirts and colorful shawls? Can't you just see me wearing this get-up to work? This picture came from here.

Observations.

My first daffodil bloomed!!! (Steve took this gorgeous photo for me.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Still Spring-obsessed.

I bought these a month ago, but I haven't worn them yet. Their time has not yet come. But soon, I promise.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Catch-up.

I know, I've been remiss in blogging lately. We've been busy. Here's what we've been up to:
  1. We got a huge folder of documents together and headed down to H&R Block to do our taxes. My good friend Sam works there. I like to drop statements like "our accountant has advised us to open an IRA" in conversations - it makes me feel like I've arrived. But really, she's my buddy, not my accountant. Getting my taxes done is one of the few times I get to see her now that she's working up in the North Bay and can't have lunches with me anymore.

  2. But what were the chances we would actually show up to our tax appointment with all of the documents Sam needed to do our return? Especially given that we bought a house last year? It turns out, the chances were slim to none. We were missing something called a HUD1. So we have to go back again this Saturday. In the meantime, I need to track down the HUD1, whatever that is. Wish me luck with this. If you've seen my house, you know I need more than luck. A miracle, perhaps.

  3. Last weekend, I planted two heirloom tomatoes - a grape and a cherry. I was in a colorful mood, so the cherry tomatoes will be yellow, and the grape tomatoes will be purple. The grape tomatoes are some kind of Russian variety. Our climate is pretty much the opposite of the Russian climate (whereas Russian summers are short but intense, with 20 hour days, ours are long and cool, with 12-14 hour days), so we'll see how this goes.

  4. I also planted onions, parsley, cilantro, peas, and marigolds (since I hear it's good to plant marigolds with your veggies - they ward off pests or something). But it all looks rather sad and small right now. I'll post pictures when there is more to see.

  5. Steve made "beer can chicken." I admit, it's a little disturbing to behold (is that can of beer where I think it is?), but that "spice rub" he uses is amazing. Just spicy enough. We should be rubbing everything we cook with this stuff. I'm thinking sweet potatoes and baked tofu for starters ... Props to Steve for incorporating our favorite Hank (from King of the Hill) quote into his blog. Said wonderingly, "Is there anything beer can't do?"

  6. I sold all of my old Folkwear patterns on ebay, and made about $50 off the transactions. Folkwear has discontinued several of their patterns, so they've become collectible. And I've realized it's not practical to collect everything. But I'm really lazy about going to the post office, so I don't think I'm cut out to be a major force on ebay anytime soon.

  7. I had a little sock-monkey gathering on Sunday with Krishna and Jaki. My sister made an almost painfully adorable stripey sock monkey, with a pink nose and ears. Pictures to follow. Jaki made a gruesome sock-alien, with intestines for hair and dangling button-eyeballs. I made something indecisive and hideous that I would rather just pretend never happened. I thought about giving it to the dogs, but it made a face at me, and now I'm scared of it.

  8. Practically every spare surface in the house has a shot glass with a sprouting bulb on it now. Many are promising to flower. Again, pictures to follow.

  9. Oh yeah, and I need these Prada heels:Yes, those are flower heels. Check it out:

I don't know what you're talking about. I think they'd go with everything! And they're a steal at only $790!

So, I may not have been blogging, but, as you can see, I was not slacking off.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Omie's cousin.


I found another cousin of Omie's! This is Leo, another Vick pit bull, who was rehabilitated by Our Pack, Inc., a pit bull rescue group based in the South Bay (Los Gatos, to be precise). "PACK" stands for Pit Bull Advocates for Compassion and Kindness. Leo has been certified as a therapy dog, so here he is being loved on in his little therapy outfit. Who better to provide therapy than a dog who has survived so much? Just reading about these dogs is therapeutic. Of course, I think that little brown pit bulls with dark snouts and "eyeliner" are the cutest possible "make" of dog. Not that I'm biased or anything.

I love Our Pack's motto - "Pit Bulls are for Lovers!"

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Textile art by Tamar Mogendorff.

Isn't this just beautiful? Forget sock creatures. What about stuffed mushrooms and tubers, with little thread roots? The thread roots just kill me!

For more gorgeous textile art, check out Tamar Mogendorff's website, here. I first saw her art on this beautiful design blog.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

More apron-talk.


I had a great (but too short!) conversation with my friend Linda last night about feminism and the domestic arts, and why we love pretty aprons but have difficult to articulate heeby-jeebies about the whole business. My take-away points (Linda, correct me if I'm wrong):


  1. We enjoy cooking, knitting, crafting, sewing, etc. For us, it's a choice. But we can never forget that until really recently, doing these things was not a choice for many women.
  2. We also find the above activities expressive and creative. But again, we can't forget that until recently, these may have been some of the only areas of creative expression in women's lives.
  3. Because these actitivies have historically been considered women's work, society still doesn't give them the appreciation that they deserve, either as "art" or as valuable labor necessary for the survival of civilization.
  4. Of course aprons are practical, and of course, making practical things pretty is fun. But cute ruffly aprons also reflect a 50s aesthetic that, at the time, was inextricable from a cultural aesthetic that said that proper, middle-class women should stay at home and out of the workforce.
  5. I forget where I read this, back in my UCSC Anthropology days, but someone theorized that fashion gets androgynous during major feminist upheavals, and gets wasp-waisted during the backlash. Case in point, the 1920s vs. the 1930s. Or even more dramatically, the 1940s vs. the 1950s. I'll keep this in mind while I'm sewing up my 1950s summer dresses! I'll let the waist out a bit to make it girdle-free, however.
  6. Fashion is also a mode of expression (traditionally a woman's mode, again), and the adoption of "nostalgic" and "retro" styles involves complicated, layered symbolism. That is, when I wear a vintage 50s dress to work, I am definitely expressing something about feminity and the feminine body, but in a completely different context than a 1950s housewife would have. That is, I don't think we can ignore the original context of our fashion choices, but we also can't ignore the current-day context. When I wear a 1950s dress, part of my statement is that I don't have to be rail-thin and flat-chested to feel pretty - other aesthetics exist. Also, I don't have to look masculine to be good at my job. These days, a lot of women prefer vintage fashions because they tend to be more forgiving and flattering to women who have a little meat on their bones. This is important too.
  7. At some point, I'm overthinking this and should just go back to enjoying life. After all, I believe that making things with you own hands and expressing yourself creatively is basically satisfying and essentially human. Another basic anthropological fact: humans are artistic creatures. We decorate ourselves and our surroundings. Cave people must have been pretty busy trying to survive, but they found time to paint on the cave walls. Frontier women were similarly busy trying to survive, but they took the time to put ruffles on their aprons. You can't completely forget the history of craft as a primarily woman's art, but at the same time, craft is much bigger than gender.

If you're still reading, you'd be interested in this book: "Make it Yourself: Home Sewing, Gender, and Culture, 1890-1930," by Sarah A. Gordon. I haven't finished reading it yet, but so far, I'm very excited.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

More spring fever.

Blossoms on our little peach tree:

Omie supervising the digging of the vegetable beds. That's swiss chard in the background. Omie says, "Steer manure is yummy!" Update (if you have a delicate constitution, stop reading now): Omie later puked up said tasty manure onto Steve's and my bed. No, I'm not kidding. If only I were kidding! I saw it coming (how much composted poop can a dog keep down?), but Steve was the one to discover it. He said it smelled like a hot day in Davis, California, where he grew up.

Are you feeling guilty about all of those bulbs you failed to plant last fall? Are you on a wagon and don't know what to do with that shot glass collection? Inder has the answer for you:

The Johnny Jump-Ups I planted last year are still going strong. It's crazy what ends up being "perennial" in Oakland. Have I mentioned that I love California? Not because of the pretty people, but ah, the lovely climate.

Inder ambitiously purchases onion starts, an artichoke, parsley, thyme, snapdragons, and more violets. But most likely, Steve will be the one to plant them, because you can't dig a bed, apply manure, and plant in one day. At least, not until after daylight savings.