Yes, I survived Germany and the flu

…but re-entry, as they say, has been a bitch.

Well, not really, but we caught the flu when we were overseas and I’ve been a little run-down ever since, and just haven’t felt like updating the blog. But, just a little note to say I survived. I’ll post photos and a recap soon. It was a wonderful trip, even though we spent about half of it sick in bed with the flu, which did entail some amusing German-pharmacy adventures, and lots of hot tea, but we had a great time anyway.

And I did get to read a lot — which is good, because my book was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (with about 1300+ pages) which took me roughly three forevers to finish and which I’m going to blame for the fact that my book count for last year was SO LOW (I swear I’m missing a couple of books from the list…I counted Third Reich for last year although technically I didn’t finish it until mid-January). This year I vow to do better — I’m hoping for 52, averaging one a week. I’m already behind (due to Adolf Hitler) so I’d better get cracking. I’d like to re-read all of the Little House books this year so that’ll help…

Some other thoughts for the new year:

  1. Move more. Walk at lunch at work, do some walking after work, bike rides on the weekend. Poor creaky body needs more exercise.
  2. Read more. See above. I moved my laptop away from my favorite spot in the living room so now instead of reaching for the computer, I reach for my book. That will help. Bad habits, and all that.
  3. Make more art. I have a nice WIP nearly finished, will hopefully show that soon too.
  4. Get married. Wait, what? Yes! It’s true! It’s a lovely story with an even lovelier ending (and a wonderful new beginning). I’m very happy, very blessed, and extremely lucky. I count my blessings every day — I take none of this amazing happiness for granted.

That’s good enough, right? Sounds like a good year.

Photos and more details to come.


Off to the land of Christmas and beer

We are off to Belgium/Germany/Austria tomorrow! I am so excited. Our itinerary goes something like this:

1. Belgium. Here we will tour Brussels and Bruges (second time for me, I loved it so much the first time). We will have much beer and look at much surrealist and Art Nouveau. Then we hop a plane to…

2. Berlin. Here we will witness the fall of the wall, eat currywurst, see funky grafitti and modern art, and try our hand at extremely faulty German. Then we catch a train to…

3. Rothenburg ob der Tauber: to absorb all the adorable Christmas-land medieval beauty that we can in two days and one night, and then back on the train to…

4. Munich! Where we will balance light and dark by visiting both the Hofbrauhaus and Dachau on the same day, inspect the BMW museum, hopefully visit castles (my first castles ever!) and take a side trip to…

5. Salzburg, to see the birthplace of Mozart and try both Linzer and Sacher tortes.

Then home, exhausted, happy, and probably 10 pounds heavier. I cannot wait!!

Reporting in on Kindle Paperwhite: I love it. It was worth the upgrade. I love the backlight and the touch screen is much easier to use, and it’s only the tiniest bit heavier than the other one. I also like that all it is, is an e-reader. We have an iPad as well which will function as portable computer/video player/internet hub/second e-reader, but I’m happy with my little Paperwhite. Definitely worth the upgrade.

I’ll be back in a couple weeks (!!) with photos and more. Happy Holidays to everyone, thank you all for your friendship and love. Right back at you!

A few book thoughts, and Kindle upgrade?

I’ve been reading a few books.

1. The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama (and some other guy). I know, it’s utterly blasphemous to say this, but it’s… boring.  Not that the *message* is boring, because it’s not. The Dalai Lama is pretty much the best person on earth, period. And everything he says comes out so light-hearted and fresh; that part is great. The other part (the “other guy” parts) is so dull and plodding and is just really… slow. And uninteresting. How can you make the Dalai Lama boring?! I don’t know, but this guy did. I don’t even remember his name, that’s how uninteresting it is. Probably not going to finish this, although I might leaf through it some more.

2. Henry and June, Anais Nin. This, however — fabulous. Her unexpurgated journal entries from the period of when she had a tempestuous affair with Henry Miller and some pretty interesting involvements with his wife, June. Oh, and her husband, Hugo. All in 1930 Paris. It’s… pretty much the exact opposite of boring. I’ve never really read Nin, but this is really pretty terrific stuff. Love it. I want to be a frisky young wife in 1930s Paris and have an affair with a hunky writer! Well, maybe not. But it’s pretty fun to read about it!

3. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Umm… what? Well, we’re going to Deutschland in a few weeks and I’m kind of fascinated with the Nazis and WWII, and this book has been recommended so many times. So I started it, just to get a fuller sense of history before we went. It is REALLY good. Not dry at all, very interesting, written like a novel but full of super-interesting facts about Hitler and how everything happened. According to the Kindle I’m only 4% into the book but it’s already really gripped me. It’s also 1200+ pages so I’m not sure I can get it done before we go, but so far so good.

Some other books I’m looking forward to: the Jim Henson biography that just came out, and Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield. I’m saving those for the trip — perfect airplane books!!

Speaking of books and Kindles, I’m considering upgrading my Kindle to a Paperwhite. I have the super-basic Kindle which I really like, but the lack of a light can be a hassle when traveling (or trying to read about Nazis deep into the night when someone else is trying to sleep). I have a booklight but it’s awkward and won’t stay clipped to the Kindle. And I like that the Paperwhite has even longer battery power. Thoughts? Anyone have a Paperwhite? I’m hoping it will go on sale on Black Friday.

I’m trying to keep up on my magazines as well. Silly, I know, but they sit around and then I can’t remember if I’ve read them or not, and then they sit around some more, and then I’m looking at the July edition of Martha Stewart’s Living in November. So I’m just trying to keep up on them, and I think I’m going to narrow down subscriptions to just Martha Stewart (which I love just for the photos and recipes — not that I do ANY of the things she recommends, but the whole magazine just makes me feel cozy) and *possibly* Real Simple, which is entertaining and I do use the recipes sometimes. I get Oprah but I’m totally sick of her. Somehow I also get a free subscription to Redbook, which is strange. Not sure how to cancel that; I don’t really read it. We get some other subscriptions to newsy/culture magazines (New Yorker, Atlantic, etc.) and those are nice to have around. But I’m pretty tired of Miss Oprah.

I think that’s about it for now. Other than booktalk, everything is going pretty well. The yard is a big mess (all the leaves came down at once and then it rained) but the house is cozy and Thomas is terrific and the boy is the best boy ever. So all is well.

Book: Others

A sort of after-Halloween RIP book, I just finished James Herbert’s Others. I’ve liked his books in the past, particularly The Magic Cottage and Haunted. A little creepy, relatively well-written, not-too-gory light horror. The jacket on Others wants to call him “a literary Stephen King” but I wouldn’t go that far. Literary? Not really. Wordy? Yes. Decent plots and fairly-well-rounded characters? Yes.

Anyway, enough of my nitpicking. The book was pretty good. Instead of straight-up supernatural horror, this was sort of a noir detective story, with some supernatural (and hyper-natural) elements. Nick Dismas — private investigator, hunchback — goes about his mostly-lonely life dealing with his deformities as best he can. Sometimes it gets to be too much for him (cue: “Why God? Why?!?”) but he does pretty well. Until one day… when an overwrought client brings The Big Mystery unto him. Suddenly he’s Mr. Psychic and seeing wings and creatures and coded messages everywhere. What does it all MEAN?!

Ostensibly a search for a missing baby, it turns into a deeper mystery about Perfect Rest (is that a creepy name or what?), a nursing home at the end of a secluded lane. What’s behind those locked doors? Why does Constance, the beautiful-yet-crippled (spinal bifida) care supervisor, act so strange when her boss is mentioned? And could they ever have a future together?

I think this book was overly long, especially certain scenes of tense escape. It felt padded. However, I loved the Nick-Constance mini-romance, and the secret of Perfect Rest was pretty awful and really nastily satisfying. Those of you who are easily turned off by over-the-top freakishness should probably not read this. However, if you’ve ever been fascinated by, say, The Human Centipede…. you’d do fine with this book. (and no, that wasn’t a spoiler!)

It was entertaining and moved along, and I liked reading a mystery. I’ve been reading parts of The Art of Happiness with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but frankly (call me jaded) it’s a bit boring. So… back to the good stuff! I’m currently working on Henry and June by Anais Nin. It is quite excellent; I’ve never read Nin (except for a few passages here and there) and she’s amazing. The book is fascinating. More about that soon.


a day to myself

Well, almost.visitor

1382433_10153393167925251_1993199140_nSeriously.  2 pm on a Sunday, little Mr. Raccoon sauntered through the yard, not scared at all, climbing up the redwood tree to watch me curiously. 2 pm! Broad daylight! Sigh. We have a bit of a problem. Not sure what to do. Urine and cayenne have been suggested. I’ll try anything. Needless to say, Thomas’ adventures for the day were curtailed.

K. had a class to help with today so I had a day to myself. I made a big list of what I could do, ranging from the incredibly lazy (lay on the couch reading all day) to the overly-ambitious (disassemble the dining room to put down the new/old Persian rug my dad handed down to me).

I opted for something in the middle:

  • A lounge in the hot tub first thing in the chilly morning
  • A little housework (vacuum, put some stuff away)
  • A little yard work (sweep up crabapples, think about mowing the lawn, decide NOT to mow the lawn)
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector
  • Make Julia Child’s coq au vin recipe (this took most of the rest of the afternoon)
  • Do a little art
  • Watch a dumb movie (Ghostbusters… seriously)

I’m sort of carrying over some of the Halloween spirit into November. I’m finishing up a James Herbert book (Others) and we’re watching some really great classic horror/scary movies. Last night we watched The Changeling (with George C. Scott); it was actually really quite good. I was impressed. We also watch Burnt Offerings a few weeks ago: that was the complete opposite. Cheese-o-rific. Oh well.

(side note: Rick Moranis is truly hilarious in this movie. Also this is a serious case study in 80s decor and style.)

Book: The Demonologist

The Demonologist (by Gerald Brittle) focuses on the work of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the duo who helped investigate the Amityville Horror house. I’m not sure where I heard about this book, but I’m kind of a fan of The Exorcist and demon-horror genre, so I thought I would check it out.

It was three things:

  • Poorly written
  • Sensational (lots of exclamation points!!!!)
  • and ultimately, terrifying

Claiming to be 100% true (!!!), the book is written in faux-journalistic style, sometimes feeling a little bit like a true-believer fan writing up a review of a favorite artist. However, that didn’t stop the actual content from being really pretty horrifying.

The two things I remember most are the story of Annabelle, the possessed Raggedy Ann doll (I should mention here that I have my own Raggedy Ann doll, made by my mother, definitely NOT possessed… I hope…). I have a thing about animated non-living things, ESPECIALLY dolls, dummies, figurines… I think I would lose my mind if a doll started moving around the house of its own accord (being in a different place every day) or started leaving notes around the house. I would completely freak out. So that’s a pretty good story.

The other thing that was really scary was the extended descriptions of what happens when your home becomes infested with a demon (or multiple demons). Apparently there are three stages: Infestation, Oppression, and Possession. Each stage was described with multiple “true examples” and quotes from tape recordings of Ed and Lorraine speaking with the “demons.” I found these to be terribly unsettling in their utter bizarreness.

Lesson learned: do not play with Ouija boards, do not attempt black magic conjuring spells (even those from a novelty book) and do not focus on demons. Wait… don’t focus on demons? THEN WHY DID YOU WRITE THIS BOOK?!?! I’ve been focusing on demons for the past week or so! I am doomed.

A funny story: The other night, after reading this terrible book and becoming completely freaked out, I turned out the light and tried to go to sleep. As I listened to the little scritches and scratches that inevitably happen when the branches scrape against the house, and heard the dogs barking in the distance, I couldn’t get the list of “demon infestation” symptoms out of my mind: “Scratchings, knockings, rappings, animal sounds, sounds of furniture being moved, telephones ringing with no one on the other end, doorbells ringing with no one at the door…” etc. So I was trying not to match up the things I was hearing with the list of symptoms (“Just because there’s scratching doesn’t mean it’s a demon. Just because the dog is barking doesn’t mean it’s a demon) when all of a sudden, THE PHONE RINGS. At 10:30 pm. I am absolutely petrified and cannot get up to answer the phone, becuase I am SURE there will be nothing on the other end except clicks and silence, perhaps a low inhuman moan… so I lay there in bed, trying so hard not to wake up my sweetie next to me… “Don’t wake him up for this, don’t wake him up for this…” and eventually I calmed down and went to sleep. Surprisingly, I did not have nightmares, but I was awfully glad to finish this book last night.

It’s poorly written and its claim to truth is somewhat questionable of course, but it was damn scary and really kind of disturbing. A great RIP read if you want something to really get you thinking those October thoughts!!

What now, little blog?

Poor little blog, all alone. I was thinking of abandoning it altogether, and pretty much have, actually… but then I started looking through some of the old posts, and my old old blogs, and I realized that it’s a valuable record of a lot of really hard, and also really good, times. I have kept journals of some sort all my life, in various formats, sometimes journalling more than others. Blogging has been a journal of a sort of many many years and I don’t particularly want to let it go. But clearly it has to change for me. My life has changed. My available time has changed. My focus has changed. These are good things, but change is always difficult and takes time to settle into ‘new normal.’

Part of the reason why I haven’t wanted to blog is because my new life is so much… well, frankly, it’s a really good life right now. I didn’t want certain people stumbling upon this blog and feeling worse than perhaps they already did. However, it’s time to stop censoring myself, and to let some of those last vestiges of fear go. The truth is that being emotionally abused is a bad thing, and it takes a long time to recover from that. People can be wonderful people with many amazing beautiful qualities and still inflict terrible damage on the loved ones around them, and often they don’t even realize they are doing it. Yet the damage is done. It’s been almost two years since the breakup and I can see things more clearly now. I’m so much healthier in so many ways. I’m so much happier. There are many things I’m sad and sorry about. However, I am so grateful that I get a second chance to have a real life. Life is so complicated. Was my life before ‘real’? It was, but it was also so skewed and so far from ‘normal’ in so many ways… my life now feels like my ‘real’ life. At the very least, it is the life I want to be living, not just the life I am gritting my teeth and getting through. 

So I’ve been censoring, and that means I haven’t been writing as much. The truth is that my current (last, final, best) sweetie is someone I’ve known a very very long time and he means the absolute world to me. He is as much a part of me as my family is. I’ve known him for almost 20 years, and we’ve been through so much together and apart. I’m incredibly grateful to have him back in my life. It’s the best thing ever. 

It’s also very distracting. I’ve been doing house things (like painting the bathroom!) and gardening, but because I’m also doing things like watching baseball and going out and having a good time in the world, I’m not sitting on my couch reading, or writing, or killing time. I have very little ‘time to kill.’ This is good, but also leaves little time for things like journalling or blogging. After the past year+ of getting back into the swing of things together, we are now crafting some time to take care of things like meditation, reading, writing, blogging. I hope to use some of this time to blog, maybe weekly. Weekly would be good. I’m also writing in my paper journal as well. Blogging has taught me that things ought to be recorded one way or another. 

So what will this blog be now? Well, less focus on books, which is sad, but I’m just not reading like I used to (see above comments of no time). I still love it, and I’m still getting through some big chunksters, but it takes me longer. I’ll talk about what I’m reading and try to record it on my books page, but I probably won’t do big reviews unless the book really warrants it. 

I will try to include photos when they are called for, but this won’t be a photography blog. I just don’t have time to process and sort everything, and it’s an impediment to me posting. So I’m not going to put that pressure on myself.

Instead, I will write about what I’m doing, what we’re doing, how I think/feel about those things, and general thoughts. 

If you want to keep reading, I’d love to have you. If not, it will be just for me, and that’s just fine too. 

I miss blogging, and I don’t want it to be work. I want to be able to write what I want to write and not worry about it. I think there just got to be too much pressure (self-imposed, of course) smacked right up against Not Enough Time. Remove the pressure and make the time = more posts. 

If there’s anyone still reading, thank you. So many of you helped me through some really bad times. Now, let’s enjoy some good times!

A bathroom paint fix. And a few other things.

Turns out the solution to my paint problem was right in front of my eyes… literally. I realized that the extremely neutral off-white that’s painted throughout the house would be perfect in the bathroom (why did it take me almost three years to realize this?). I also happened to have a full gallon of semi-gloss of this shade (I don’t know the name of it — I need to take it to the paint shop and find out what it is) in the garage, ready to go. So this morning, I abruptly decided to re-paint the walls. I left the ceiling and skylight shaft the bright white, which make the project easier. It looks so much better now. ImageImage

Next up: replace the ugly sink fixtures with something shiny and pretty, put in shelves instead of the hutch, and I think that’s about it. Then this bathroom will be “done enough” for the time being and I can stop thinking about it. Next up: master bathroom!

What else have I been up to? I finally went to Yosemite. Loved it. Went with best friend and her kids. It was truly stunning. I can’t wait to go back. So sad to hear about the huge fire raging there right now. 

ImageBeen reading too, but not as much as I’d like. Life getting in the way and all that. I’m currently reading A Discovery of Witches, which is kind of silly but just what I’m in the mood for right now. Up next is The Snow Child which I expect to be amazing. I can’t wait to read it. Other recent reads include The Ocean At The End Of The Lane and Hallucinations. Both excellent. 

We went camping. It was really nice to get away for the weekend. The boy looks incredibly bored in this photo but actually he had a great time as well. We went swimming in the river, made s’mores, stayed up late talking ’round the fire… it was perfect. I don’t know if we’ll get a chance to go again this year or not, but we are already thinking of where to go next year. Image

The garden is doing well too! I got all these peppers all at once. We roasted them on the grill with a balsamic vinaigrette and they were seriously amazing. (there are some cukes and tomatoes in the basket as well)

ImageAnd summer continues to go by… it’s been a good one. I haven’t blogged much lately. Too busy living. I don’t know what will become of this space — maybe just periodic updates like this one, for the sake of posterity. Maybe I’ll come back to it later when I have more things to say. I just don’t seem to have time for it right now, which is okay. I’d rather be gardening or camping or painting or cooking or hiking anyway, right?

And in case you’re wondering, Thomas is doing well too. The cutie. 




The Bathroom Saga Continues.

Hello! I haven’t been here in a long time. I’ve been elsewhere. However! The bathroom. The bathroom! It is a problem.

When I first moved into the house, the bathroom looked like this:

IMG_0289It was okay. I hated that peachy-apricot paint color, and thought it clashed with the tub and toilet and over-toilet shelving thing. I also hated the vanity — weird antiqued cream, ancient paint job.

So eventually, I painted it. Here’s how that turned out:

IMG_1860 IMG_1858Better… but with the unfortunate effect of clashing violet and peach. The paint looked much more purple-pink than it was, and the faux marble ended up looking very very yellow. Sigh. However, the white vanity was an improvement.

So finally today I painted it again. I liked the white that I had painted the vanity, so I thought I’d just paint the whole thing that color. I was aiming for spa-like serenity. Here’s how that turned out:

IMG_1487 IMG_1488Better… but as you may be able to tell, the paint, when applied to the walls, took on a distinct grayish hue, which did NOT neutralize the faux marble. It looked fine in the morning as I was painting, but as the afternoon wore on, and the clouds began to form in the sky over the skylight… the paint looked more and more blue-gray, not clean white, definitely not creamy white.

So. This is VERY FRUSTRATING. The problem is that the tub and toilet are definitely gray-white, and the faux marble is very very yellowy-cream-peach. These two things automatically do not go together. Right now, the paint really matches the tub and toilet. But does not enhance the faux marble. So, I think I will live with it for a little while, and then probably paint it AGAIN, this time, very close in color to this white, but leaning towards the creamy, not the gray. I think that will solve the problem… at least, as well as this particular color problem can be solved.

Lesson: pure white countertops, tub, and toilet. Makes things WAY easier.




Lately, plus Barney Frank; plus thoughts on blogging

I don’t even know what I’ve been doing lately. 

Did I catch up after the most recent trip to Florida? That was a few weeks ago. Then I flew up to Oregon for my grandmother’s 90th birthday party. In between and all around that, I’ve been trying to catch up in the yard/garden, maintain some kind of book-reading habit, stay somewhat focused at work, and going on bike rides. It’s been good. And busy. I’m ready to stop traveling so much for awhile. Blogging has fallen off by the wayside (sorry!) and I’m really not reading as much as I’d like, although I do make it through a few pages a night. 

I’m thinking of re-reading all the Little House books, which seems like a nice way to start the summer. I want to do more relaxed reading. I’m sure I have a book club book to read as well, but I have no idea what book we are reading this month, hmmm… Oh wait, here it is. On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan.

My head feels very scattered and distracted these days. So many things going on all at once, with so much travel. Work is busy and feels overwhelming, and although really everything is fine, I feel “off” somehow and need a break. We are going to try and do a lot of nothing this weekend.

However, before “nothing” is always “something” and last night we went to go see Barney Frank speak. He was hilarious, and also is a terrible mumbler, so what I could decipher was very witty and funny and interesting, and the rest of it I’m sure was, but I’ll never know for sure since I couldn’t understand him. Here is a really bad photo (I was quite a ways away)Image

It was a fun event and he was full of juicy Washington gossip and stories. We also went and saw Mark Bittman last week, which was also really wonderful. We joined The Commonwealth Club and are making use of our membership already!

I am having a hard time remembering to blog, which I think is a good thing ultimately. For so long, it was my way of reaching out into the world as my world became smaller and smaller, and I went more and more internal as I struggled to manage what was quickly becoming unmanagable. I turned to books and photography and writing to get me through the rough spots, to give me something positive to focus on, and as a way of translating my life into something that was interesting, positive, engaging and beautiful. So much of my life was really not any of those things, for a long time, and blogging helped me view things through a different lens. For that, I am really, really grateful.

Now, things are very different. I can live out in the world, traveling and doing things, and I don’t have to focus intensely on the one or two positive things — so many things are positive. This is wonderful, but I’m so busy living, I’m not taking the time to document. Which is okay and appropriate and good. I miss blogging, but honestly when I get home, I don’t want to sit and look at the computer very much anymore. I have gardening to do, cooking all sorts of things, someone who wants to talk about varied subjects, bicycle rides to take, after-work events to go to, movies to watch — a real life. It’s amazing and I love it. The computer is where it needs to be — there when I need it, but not a real focus.

It’s interesting to watch the cycles life takes, isn’t it? Sometimes, for a long time, you have to live one way, and then something happens and suddenly you are doing something else.