Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is that an iPad Case or a Conversation Piece?

Keith's generous birthday present necessitated some shopping. I just spent hours looking for the perfect iPad case. Naturally, it needed to be gorgeous, high-quality, and interesting. Protection and a stand function weren't optional. Bonus points for camera holes and no annoying elastic loops. These are the best designs I found.
Tree of Life leather iPad case by Oberon Leather, $126
.Look at the pretty matching button! They make pewter buttons to match each leather design.
Ramones Rocket to Russia Leather iPad case by Vindicated Vinyl, $110
Yeah, it's really made with leather, vinyl record, and the original album cover.
Dodocase customizable iPad case in Spring/Summer colors, $79.95
BookBook leather iPad case by TwelveSouth, $79.99
Memo Salamanca ChaChaCha iPad case by Vindicated Vinyl, $103
Made with leather and the 1956 album and album cover
Gingko leaf leather iPad cover by Oberon Leather, $126
This color is killing me. It's GORGEOUS.
Kate Spade Composition Notebook iPad folio, $85
The Oberon Leather designs are beautiful, but I'm not so sure about the bungees they use to close the case and hold the iPad in place. They include extra bungees, which makes me wonder if they often need replacing? No bueno. And the Kate Spade design is adorable, but the description is so sparse, I'm not sure it meets my basic criteria. 

Can you guess which design I chose?

Three Paint Trays, Two Cheese Fondue Pots, and One Very Happy Birthday Girl

My Mom called last week and asked me, "What do you want to do on your birthday?" Oh, right... birthday! I like making a big to-do over my friends on their birthdays, but I feel awkward calling attention to my own birthday. I don't want to be bossy, or act like a diva. Some people take it too far and say, "Don't make any plans; it's my birthday weekend." *ahem* Birthdays last for a day!

And as my mother likes to point out, she did all the work on the day of my birth, so perhaps the day should honor her instead? So when Mom asked, I was almost joking when I said, "Let's have a paint party. Come to my house and help me paint my dining room!"

I thought I was pushing my luck, but she loved the idea. On Saturday, Mom and Dad came to my house with rollers, paint pans, brushes, and a step ladder. We painted my dining room and hallway a gorgeous pale blue-gray. See it in the picture below--it's so much calmer than the red I previously had on that wall. Mom's enthusiasm made it fun, and it turned out beautifully because of Dad's careful attention to detail. I'm thrilled with the new color!

After we cleaned up, I took a nap and slept off a fume-induced headache. When I woke up, we went to a fantastic party thrown by new friends I met through GMX. I love these people; they're so enthusiastic. When I'm with them, I never feel like an idiot for giddily bouncing up and down when I talk about Neil Gaiman or Gary Oldman. Cool is overrated; it isn't fun. I'll take earnest "I love this!" over irony any day. We stayed late, and when we got home, Keith told me it was time to open my birthday present.

Friday, July 27, 2012

What Should I Put in the Corner of the Living Room? Reading Nooks, Bar Carts, Houseplants, and Feng Shui

The search terms people use to find me here crack me up. Some of my favorites are "How to paint poultry," "Badass cardiologist," "Hipster elbrooklyntaco," and "Kids medieval certificate of knighthood." What are you all doing?! I'm imagining you hunched over raw chicken cutlets, holding paintbrushes and clutching your hearts while children dressed in armor dance around you, clamoring for recognition.

But one search term I really like is "What should I put in the corner of my living room?" Good question! Empty corners look sad, but how do you dress a corner without creating a claustrophobic nightmare like this?  Take a look at these pretty corners for inspiration. First, consider a large plant. Yeah, it's a classic no-brainer, but that's because it works. Plants make a room look fresher, they bring positive Feng Shui to drab corners, and they filter the air. Even an amateur can keep these species alive.

I love the industrial lockers juxtaposed with bohemian textiles, and the contrast of red and green.
But imagine this room without the big green fern. Much less awesome, amirite? Source
That gorgeous painted hardwood floor is killing me. WANT.  But oh yeah, plants in the corner.
Here, I think the plant's rounded shape and height balance the low, square furniture. Source
This plant has such a great, sculptural shape. Imagine the room without it. Too sparse, right? It adds interest. Source
If you're like me and you accidentally kill every plant, a reading nook might work better for you. Duh, I'm a librarian. Of COURSE I'm going to tell you that you need a reading nook! Chair + shelf or end table with books = adorable vignette. I'll be honest: You won't read here much, if ever. But that's okay, because it means you can put a really cool-looking but uncomfortable chair here. Like one of these. Oooooh, what a pretty torture device! If you're like Keith and you have a chair-buying addiction, this is probably your best option.

I love the cluttered coziness here. This is what I imagine the Weasley family's house in Harry Potter might be like. Source
Don't you want to spend a rainy day curled up in this chair with tea and a good book? Source
I love this mix of old furniture and modern art. And look at the bird's nests they have on display! Source

What's that? You kill plants, and you don't read? Can I interest you in a cocktail (and a cart?) These pretty bar or tea carts could improve any corner. For those of you who aren't booze inclined, you don't have to place liquor on the cart. As the second photo demonstrates, a cart of prettily arranged objets d'art works just as well.
This is the "After" photo from a very impressive furniture makeover.
Follow the link to see the nasty rusted mess it was once upon a time! Source
No booze? No problem! Source
I love everything about this. Look, they have Rose's Lime Juice... I'll have a gin gimlet, please! Source
To complicate matters, corners are especially important to Feng Shui practitioners, who say the coners of a room and a house correspond to specific areas of your life. So those parts of your life might suffer if the corresponding space isn't arranged in a healthy way. Are you darting furtive, hateful looks at your corners yet? If you're going to work with Feng Shui principles, remember to check the Ba Gua and use the correct colors and images in your corners. For example, the Northwest corner of a room or home governs mentors and people who guide and help you, and it's associated with metal. So placing a picture of your hero (or most supportive friends?) in a metallic frame in the northwest corner of your home would be considered beneficial.

I'll leave you with this picture of my own living room corner in its current Keith-just-moved-in-and-stuff-is-messy state. This is the southwest corner, associated with relationships, so it has the things we love most that define us as individuals and remind me of good times spent together as a couple. It has Keith's chair and guitar, my craft supplies stored in suitcases, the dogs' toys, and posters for Beirut and Firefly. It's a little busy, though. Looking at this picture makes me want to get rid of the magazine rack! What do you think?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Penne Rustica is so delicious, you won't even care that it makes you fat.

I have fond memories of going shopping and then snacking on Penne Rustica at Macaroni Grill with my sister Erin, so this is one of my favorite dishes. That creamy, smoky garlicky sauce is dangerously addictive! But I normally only make it once a year, on New Year's Day. It's the perfect post-party remedy, but it also contains 2 cups of heavy cream...  UGH. But Keith specially requested it, and he deserved it after listening me whine so much about that uncomfortable question people keep askingI've modified the original recipe because Keith loves pepperoni and is indifferent to chicken, but if you want a more authentic Macaroni Grill dish, use chicken and prosciutto instead of pepperoni.

3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp Marsala wine
2 c heavy cream
1 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c milk
1/2 c chicken broth
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Other ingredients
1 lb penne rigate pasta
1/2 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
olive oil
salt and pepper
20 pepperoni slices
1-1/2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 tsp paprika

Helpful hints
1. This dish is much easier to prepare if you make the sauce a day ahead. It keeps well in the refrigerator, and having the sauce ready significantly cuts down on annoyances during prep time.

2. If you don't have a really big saucepan, make the sauce in a Dutch oven. If this stuff boils over (oops!), it's a bitch to clean up!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The next person who asks me when I'm getting married gets punched.

While Mercury is in retrograde, I'd like to give some fairly obvious communication advice: Do not ask a woman when she's getting married unless she's announced that she is engaged. We all know not to ask random women, "When's the baby due?" because the implication is, "Are you fat or hiding a baby in there?" Prying about a near-stranger's relationship is equally rude! 

Some people don't want to get married. Others are putting it off for practical or financial reasons. And some people want to get married, and being asked, "When's the wedding?" makes them sad and reminds them that it isn't happening yet. Whatever the reason, there's a good chance that if you haven't been told, it's not your business. Just don't ask!

In the last three days, two very nice and well-meaning older acquaintances asked me if Keith and I had set a date yet. They weren't joking; they honestly thought we were engaged. Since we're not, the question caught me off guard. With a deer in headlights look, I stammered, "Um... I don't know when we're getting married... Ask Keith?" Both times, the person who asked was very embarrassed and apologized profusely, which forced me to comfort them: "Haha, it's okay! Don't even think about it. No, no. Don't be sorry!"

The first time, it wasn't so bad. But the second time, I was like, Again?! I would love to be engaged, so PLEASE don't remind me that I'm not. I am already QUITE AWARE, thankyouverymuch!!! It was really stupid, because until they asked, I felt good about our relationship. We've talked about getting married. Basically, Keith told me that he intends to marry me, and I said, "Yay, me too!" and added Green Wedding Shoes to my feed. It's a happy, exciting time. But outside pressure takes the fun out of it!

Keith had a college friend who wanted her life to run on a strict, arbitrary timetable: Finish college at 23, get married at 24, have first baby at 26, etc. She was so obsessed with staying on schedule, she actually booked her wedding venue before her boyfriend proposed. I'm not making this up. Crazy, right? After she put down the deposit, she spent months working herself into a frenzy while she waited for him to propose. When the proposal came, it was completely anticlimactic: "FINALLY! Okay, whatever."

Relationships shouldn't run on schedules, and these well-meaning questions upset me because of the implied pressure. When you ask the guy who can't get ahead at work whether he's had a promotion, or you ask the woman struggling with infertility when she plans to start a family, you're implying that you think they should have babies or a better job. Why don't they? What's wrong with them?! This is the same.

Have you ever had to field this question? How did you handle it? Did it secretly infuriate you?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Tallest Man On Earth at Cannery Ballroom

Keith and I saw The Tallest Man On Earth, aka Kristian Mattson, last night at Cannery Ballroom. Even though I've listened to The Wild Hunt many, many times, I wasn't sure what to expect. We thought the show was going to be upstairs at Mercy Lounge, which is much smaller than Cannery. Could one man with a guitar really fill that huge space with sound? Would he be as charmingly gravelly and vulnerable as he is on his albums? And does he really sound that much like Bob Dylan? Yes, yes, and yes!
I think he looks ever-so-vaguely like Clark Gable here. Source
When Mattson took the stage in a dirty wifebeater looking like a wiry version of Stanley Kowalski, I wasn't sure what to think. I didn't think he sounded like himself during his first song. He sounded like he was trying to sing rather than deliver his usual raw, reedy chirp. That changed with the second song, and I whispered to Keith, "Aww! He had stage fright, how sweet!" From that moment, I loved everything about the show. Mattson is a natural performer with a wonderful sense of timing, delivering his lines so that the audience hangs on every word, eagerly anticipates the next line, and knows exactly when they're meant to sing along. Without that sort of rapport, a technically good show can't be great. This show was great.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book Review: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

I just finished The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, and I'm ambivalent. Fforde has created a witty, interesting world in which gangs fight over art movements rather than turf, vampires and werewolves are fought by a small, underfunded government office, cults go door-to-door spreading the "good news" about who REALLY wrote Shakespeare's plays, cloned dodo birds are common household pets, and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre literally walks out of the pages and into the streets of London. It's a world in which I dream of living! 

I want to like it, but... Unfortunately, the reader is guided through this world by Thursday Next, a cyborg completely emotionless Crimean War veteran. Thursday has no discernible reaction to near-death experiences and cannot talk about love. She barely seems to care about her own life, so I  have a hard time caring about her.

Thursday has been stuck in a dead-end Literature Detective job for years. She finally finds her big break when one of the world's most notorious criminals, Acheron Hades, steals the original manuscript of Charles Dickens'
Martin Chuzzlewit. It's Thursday's case, and she quickly begins to rise in the ranks. Meanwhile, Thursday's eccentric uncle invents an incredible device that catches the attention of a shady para-government organization. They want to use his invention to perpetuate the Crimean War, which has raged for more than a hundred years. They kidnap Thursday's aunt so they can manipulate her uncle. When the two cases collide, Thursday must find a way to rescue her aunt and uncle from the pages of a Wordsworth poem, put Jane Eyre back in the novel from which she came, fight a seemingly invincible foe, and stay alive while doing so. It sounds good, right?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Sell Jigsaw Puzzles (Because Sometimes T-Shirts and Posters Just Aren't Enough).

So many good bands have recently been in Nashville! I just saw The Polyphonic Spree, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Queen The Protomen. The Edward Sharpe show was uneven, but I still loved it. They jammed out on "Awake My Body" for about 40 minutes, which was strange because it's not even an Edward Sharpe song--it's from Alex Ebert's solo side project, Alexander. I got bored during the long jam, so I waited 15 minutes for the bathroom, visited the merch table, and they were still playing "Awake My Body" when we returned! But that merch table visit was very fruitful.

I love weird band merchandise. I don't want shirts and posters; I want music boxes and... jigsaw puzzles! So I was thrilled to see that Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are selling a hand-numbered, limited edition 500 piece puzzle depicting a tiny Alex Ebert composing music in a village of mushroom houses. ADORABLE.

We bought #43; I wished that #42 was available: "Forty-two is the answer!" But they only had two puzzles for sale at that show, and #51 had just sold. Still, I perked up when I realized we had the answer and then some. This entire exchange might have definitely had something to do with the unexpected hugeness of "large" size wine cups at the Ryman. *grin*

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Three Days in Destin

It's been a rough couple of weeks. Keith moved in on June 24, and we spent the next week sorting through his boxes and asking each other important questions like, "Why do you have a half-pound bag of bay leaves?" and "Is this picture hung evenly?" and "Seriously, dude. Half a pound of bay leaves? Are you going to make a wreath out of them?"
Okay, so I was joking when I said that. But Williams-Sonoma says bay leaf wreaths are a thing!
Keith, you'd better hide your bay leaves from me, or I'm going to make one. 
The day we finished getting Keith settled, we both got sick. Public libraries are nasty, and I'm exposed to a lot of germs at work. People like to use toilet paper for bookmarks, so we know where that book has been. Consequently, I have an immune system of steel, and on the rare occasions when I do get ill, I get Oh-my-God-I'm-going-to-die sick. For a full week, I did nothing but flail about in search of Kleenex, sleep, and play Skyrim. I was all I hate everything ever! Except for my Orcish Bow of Scorching! It got really bad when I didn't even want to go outside to look at fireworks on the Fourth of July.

So our first two weeks of cohabitation were very glamorous. But the day after I kicked my cold, we jetted off to Destin with my family. Three days of white sand, rum drinks, crabbing, reading Jasper Fforde poolside, kissing in the ocean, Apples to Apples, shopping at Fossil, fresh fish, and laughing with my sister Kelly at Sterling Shores made everything better.
Hello, sunburn.