Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SATC

As you may know, I missed the Sex and the City movie when it came out in theatres. I had arranged to go with a group of girlfriends, but I got confused. I thought we were meeting for dinner and THEN going to the movie. Turns out, we were meeting at the movie theatre, THEN going out for dinner. Sheesh. How many brain cells have I lost since giving birth? The world may never know.

Anyhoo, Stace bought the DVD, now that it's out, and came over Monday morning for breakfast, mocktails, and some girl power. The doughnuts were delish (and don't judge. I made her some healthy stuff, too.), the mocktails were refreshing, and the company was pretty awesome!

Here's my take on the movie:
1.) As usual, Charlotte was the best-dressed. She is the only one of all four women who I ever even remotely dress like.
2.) I expected a few crazy things from Carrie (What the heck was that blue, feathered thing on her head? And wasn't she wearing SOCKS and high heels in one scene? Eh?!), and she didn't disappoint. (Oooh, but that blue dress she wore for the party at her new apartment? Divine. I even loved all the jewelry.)
3.) Miranda/Cynthia Nixon has to be one BRAVE woman to let them shoot her naked in that sex scene at the end. Talk about comfortable in your own skin.
4.) Samantha had some pretty crazy junk going on, too, like that HUGE hat she wore on the balcony while she ate the guacamole. But I think her silvery dress at the end, when all the girls go out and drink cosmos, nearly made up for it.
5.) Jennifer Hudson/Louise looked FABULOUS in the holiday party scene. I hope she took notes from the costumer on this, because she looked pretty darn amazing throughout.

And lastly, (spoiler alert!) I'm way too much of a grudge-holder to forgive a dude who has literally deserted me at the altar - "Oh, you don't think you can do this? You should have thought about that a FEW WEEKS AGO. Not on the morning of our WEDDING, five minutes before we are supposed to be MARRIED."

And then, after he comes crawling back - "Oh, you will love me forever? Perhaps you should have considered that before you LEFT ME AT THE ALTAR. That might have been PRODUCTIVE."

Any soft feelings I had for a man would probably not be able to survive such a betrayal. And, even if they did, my poor intended would never hear the end of it. So it would probably lead to us breaking up eventually anyway.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Out and about

What have you been doing lately, Nicole? Why, I'm so glad you asked. Let me tell you.

Last Wednesday, I went to the home of a friend for an Arbonne party. Now, usually when I am invited to sales parties, I blow them off. But I hadn't seen this friend in a while, and she's pregnant, and I wanted to just see her again and wish her well with the pregnancy. Plus, she's moved into a new house, and I always love to see people's houses. (Her husband served as general contractor on hers, and it's a beauty. Too bad her new little bundle is going to be destroying it in a little over a year.)

The party ended up being nice. The products were really fun, and I enjoyed trying them out. And, of course, I ended up spending some money on stuff I didn't actually need, but that's kinda the point of these parties, isn't it? (Which is probably why I don't usually go to them.) BUT, I enjoyed myself, plus I got to see my friend and her house, which was the point in going, in the first place. That and inhaling the spread from Newk's that she had laid out. Chicken salad, brownies, no wonder I started buying spa products! I was on a calorie high!

On Thursday, I went a wonderful fondue party with a group of friends from my professional PR days. OMG. Have I mentioned how I love fondue? She had cheese fondue, and chocolate fondue, and this great tomato/black olive/herb stuff that tasted divine smeared over a piece of bread. I ate a metric ton, caught up with the gals, and just had a great time. I love getting together with this group, and I haven't done it enough since leaving the office to take care of booger. I will try to rectify that in the future.

And the today, booger, hubs, and I all went to WellsFest! What fun!

WellsFest is a free family festival produced each year by the folks at Wells United Methodist Church. I first learned about WellsFest years ago, when I was working for Millsaps College. I was writing a story about Keith Tonkel, a Millsaps grad, who also happens to be the minister at Wells UMC, and he told me all about it. I've been several times in the years since.

Basically, it's an alcohol-free music/games/crafts/etc. event that benefits a different charity each year. (This year, it benefitted New Life for Women, a non-profit that attempts to rehabilitate chemically-dependent homeless women.) They hold the event at Jamie Fowler Boyll Park off Lakeland Drive, which is a GREAT venue, because the park is big, fairly level, and shaded by mature trees. (It didn't hurt that today's weather was awesome.)

They have a stage where bands are always playing, a few food tents, a really fun children's area (You buy 25-cent tickets to play fun little games, have your face painted, ride ponies, etc.), and a stretch of craft booths selling various things (jewelry, handmade wooden toys, home decor, etc.).

A note - Every year, there is a heinous line at the food booth, where they serve hot dogs, hamburgers, and the like. However, there is also a vegan/vegetarian food booth. And there is hardly ever anyone waiting in line there. I think people avoid the vegan booth because they are afraid to try new things, but I ALWAYS eat there. (Mainly because I hate standing in line, but also because I'm usually pleasantly surprised by how good the food is.) One year, they had FABULOUS red beans and rice. This year, I took a chance on a "tofu pup," which is the vegan equivalent of a hot dog. You could smother your dog in bean chili (which was very well-seasoned) and mock cheese (which was actually a yummy blend of roasted red bell peppers and ground-up cashews; I know it sounds weird, but it was really tasty). Again, I was super-pleased with the meal, and we didn't have to wait in line AT ALL. YAY!

Clay didn't know quite what to make of all the children's games. I thought for sure that he'd climb into the "Lucky Ducky" baby pool, but he was content to watch all the other kids fishing around for things. He played a bit in the free sand pit and ran around a ton, looking at other babies and children. As his nap time neared, hubs and I packed him up and headed for home, where the ENTIRE Bradshaw family took an afternoon nap.

~Sigh.~ Life is good.

Energetic reader.

Clay loves books. He wants us to read to him all the time. He particularly loves the "Sesame Beginnings" series, which feature all the Sesame Street characters and are geared towards specific ages.

His favorites are the ones with pop-ups and flaps that you can lift/close. So Big! features Baby Elmo doing all kinds of things, and the last page is a big pop-up of Baby Elmo. Peekaboo has lots of the Sesame Street characters in it. On each page, you lift the characters' hands (flaps) to show their eyes, so all the characters play peekaboo with the reader.

Great, right?

Well, it WAS great. Until Clay started dismantling all of his so-called friends. Clay got ahold of So Big! the other day, and Baby Elmo is now decapitated. He doesn't pop-up anymore. His bottom half is pictured on the page, forlornly. When we turn the last page, Clay looks pretty disappointed, but unfortunately, Baby Elmo was mutilated beyond repair.

Ditto for poor Zoey. Once a proud denizen of the Peekaboo book, she is now an amputee. Clay blithely ripped off one of her hands a couple of weeks ago. I tried taping it back on, but the tape doesn't withstand many readings of the book before it weakens again. I'm trying to decide if it would be cruel just to throw the disembodied hand away. Any advice here?

Keep those hands dirty.

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous lately, and booger and I have spent alot of time outside. While he piddles around the yard, I do a little yardwork here and there.

So far, I've re-potted three plants that had outgrown their containers, moved two gardenias to better locations, and dug up/re-planted two lorapetalums. I also pruned the crepe myrtles a bit. (Don't worry - not the future flowers! Just small suckers from around the base of the trees. I don't want to end up with bushes; I'd rather them to keep their tree-like shape.)

We planted 20 red lilies out in the front today, and I can't wait to see them bloom in the spring! We ordered them from Breck's, and they arrived yesterday. (When you order bulbs via mail, it's important to plant them as soon as you receive them. They are mailed to you during the best planting time for your season.)

I've also done a ton of weeding and general cleaning up out there, hauling fallen limbs, tons of pinecones, and other sundry yard waste out to the curb this week.

I cashed in some credit card points this week for Home Depot dollars, so I'll be heading out there when my gift cards come in for a few odd shrubs and some bulbs for fall planting. Oh, and for MULCH. Geez, I need a ton of it.

Oooh, one last thing - we bought a hummingbird feeder and hung it up off the back patio. We got the feeder because I kept seeing this one hummingbird coming out every morning and sniffing around the fall garland I put over our front door. It was like he was thinking it was real, but then when he got close, he realized it was fake. I felt sorry for the little guy, so I figured the decent thing to do would be to help him out. The feeder has quickly become the place to see and be seen for hummingbirds in our neighborhood. Brian and I counted four hummingbirds out there (at one time) the other afternoon! They are so tiny and beautiful.

A sad day.

Sad news today: Paul Newman has died. I don't know if you loved his work as much as I did, but he was a class act regardless.

Boo and hoo.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Superheroes and shaved heads

I bought Clay's first official Halloween costume today! He's going to be Superman. Hubs will be Lex Luthor (I got him a bald cap and everything), and I'll be Lois Lane. Should be fun!

Clay looks super-cute in his costume, and it's basically just a decorated fleece sleeper with a detachable cape. (Which is great, because we all know it pays to keep a toddler comfortable, right?) I got it at Party City for about $20. They had other costumes that we considered (Yoda, a lion, etc.), but in the end, hubs wanted a little Superman. PLUS, we won't have to buy that much stuff to make ourselves into Lex and Lois. (The bald cap for him and a cute brown ladies' hat for me is about all we'll need.) So that's nice.

Brian offered to shave his head to be Lex Luthor, but I put the kibbosh on that idea pretty quickly. Years ago, not too long after we got married, I went out of town for a few days on business. When I returned home, I couldn't find Brian in all the usual locations (in the kitchen, on the couch in front of the TV, etc.). I finally popped my head into the guest bedroom. The light was turned off, and I could tell Brian was in bed. I started to creep back out when he threw the covers off his head to reveal a very bald, very pale, nearly shaved skull.

And, people, Brian has a rather large skull. And he has a rather round face. And he's the whitest white boy in North America. So, he was not really rocking the Yul Brenner look, if you know what I mean.

I'm sure more tactful people than I would have handled this situation with aplomb. But I nearly burst into tears. I remember saying, "What have you DONE to yourself?! It looks awful. AWFUL!! Oh my God. What have you DONE?! I swear, I leave town for TWO DAYS and THIS is what I come back to?! I can't turn my back on you for FIVE MINUTES!!!"

Needless to say, my reaction hurt his feelings. I agreed not to keep harping on it, as long as he promised NEVER to shave his head again. Nev. Er.

Every once in a while, when I'm pissing him off, he still threatens it. The evil little gnome.

Busy as a bee

I have been running non-stop lately!

First of all, I've been doing a good bit of freelance work, which I'm trying to squeeze in while the baby is at Mother's Morning Out or when he's napping. The only problems with this are that a.) The main project I'm working on is HUGE. Thank GOD it's almost complete. I only have a few more deliverables on it. and b.) Clay has decided that he doesn't need to nap lately. Sheesh.

At any rate, it's been very nice to keep that part of my brain working. And the extra money never hurts, you know?

Secondly, my social calendar has been filling up a bit. I've had the usual brunches here and there, but my parents have also been treating us to dinner, plus I've had some evening events. (I've got two of those scheduled for this week.) So that is keeping me hopping.

Lastly, fall is a time of year when I love to do certain things. I make certain recipes. I decorate like crazy. I put the garden to bed for the winter. I obssess over Halloween costumes. In general, I enjoy the busyness of fall traditions. So there's that to do as well. (Today, I got the most gorgeous pumpkins for my front porch. The Farmer's Market near my house has a nice selection of different varieties, and they are well-priced. Yay, fall!)

So anyway, I apologize that my posts haven't been very . . . well . . . good lately. Next week, thankfully, should slow down a bit. By then, I'll have finished the meat of one of my freelance projects and will be able to take a breath.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tender is the Night

I just finished reading Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. WOW. It was on my great books list, and I've enjoyed several of Fitzgerald's other novels, so I thought it would be a good book to try. I was not disappointed.

Though there are a few slow areas in the plot, the story picks back up quickly. At first, it appears that the novel will follow Rosemary Hoyt, a young American actress traveling abroad with her mother. Rosemary meets Dick and Nicole Diver, a young, affluent couple, on a beach in France, during her travels. She soon finds herself falling in love with Mr. Diver.

From there, however, the story takes an abrupt turn. We learn the history of the Diver couple. Dick is a psychoanalytic doctor, and his relationship with Nicole began as a clinical one. An impossibly rich young girl from America, she'd been committed to a mental facility in Europe after a disastrous turn in her relationship with her father. Dick happens upon her one day in the facility grounds, and the two begin talking and writing to one another. Later, Dick almost seems compelled to marry her in order to fully cure her of her illness.

At any rate, the remainder of the tale primarily follows Dick and Nicole (with brief re-appearances by Rosemary) as their marriage evolves and eventually disintegrates. It is a sad tale, indeed, and it definitely smacks of Fitzgerald's fascinations with social power and money. It also sadly rings with autobiographical elements in Fitzgerald's later life - adultery, mental illness, the feeling of failed potential.

Despite its sombre tone, I enjoyed this novel. I will be reading more of Fitzgerald in the near future.

Every vote counts?

I watched that HBO movie Recount this week. Shivers. Though I thought the movie was weighted heavily towards the Democrat point of view, it really did make me think alot about how elections are decided, how control/power is obtained, and what people are capable of when the stakes are really high.

If you haven't heard about this movie, it's a dramatization of what went on behind the scenes during the 2000 presidential election. The movie follows the voting process as it played out in Florida, which turned out to be the deciding state in selecting George W. Bush as president. The film stars an impressive lineup of actors, including Kevin Spacey, Dennis Leary, Laura Dern, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr., and Tom Wilkinson.

Performances were uniformly good, I thought. Laura Dern seems to almost channel Katherine Harris, and all the other members of this ensemble cast are very strong. I particularly enjoyed Tom Wilkinson, because he brought a layered version of James Baker (lawyer for the Bush/Republican interests) to the red side of the movie.

Also, Dave Grusin's haunting, vaguely unsettling piano score for the film was one of its primary triumphs. It captured the mood of the picture perfectly, and its spare, haunting strains added soooo much to the scenes in which they were used.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A coat that will change your life.

On Thursday, I met a friend for lunch at Little Tokyo (I've actually begun to branch out. I got the gyoza and tempura obento lunch, not just gyoza, edamame, and rice!), and then we headed for Northpark Mall. We were originally going to visit the art museum, but I worried that I wouldn't have time to enjoy it and still make it back home in time to put booger down for his nap. (Plus, their newest exhibit doesn't technically open until Saturday, and I'd rather go back and see that, once it's installed.)

Anyhoo, we were walking around Northpark, and I saw it from afar. It was a GORGEOUS, deep-V-neck, cinched-waisted black dress coat. It was hung on a mannequin, and it was even making the crappy dress they had underneath it look good. Now, do I need a black dress coat? No. But the force of the universe drew me to this coat. I crossed the mall, went straight to the rack that held the coats, and tried one on. And I loved it. And I looked fabulous in it. Kinda like a cross between Doris Day and Trinity from The Matrix. I felt sexy, my figure looked great in it, and it was just a great piece of clothing. It was retailing for about $160.

Now, I don't need to tell you that, as a stay-at-home-mom, I balked at the idea of paying $160 for a coat I don't need. And I haven't bought much, apparel-wise, for myself since booger was born anyway. (I already have a closet full of business clothes that I'm hardly wearing.) But I knew that if I didn't buy this coat, it would haunt me forever. (I have almost composed poems before about cute, strappy sandals that I loved, didn't buy, and never ever saw again. Sad but true.)

So I bought the coat. It was one of the more expensive impulse buys of my life. But you know what? That coat was so damn amazing that my friend bought one, too. Sometimes, you just have to take life's little gifts where you find them.

As soon as it gets the slightest bit cold, watch out, world.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

OUTSIDE!

We have had glorious weather the past few days, really glorious. Sunny, warm (but not too hot), breezy, all in all just about as good as it gets. So Clay and I have been spending lots of time outside. We went to the park yesterday, played in the grass, watched boats on the water, and chased these five poor ducks around for about 20 minutes. (Clay had never seen ducks up close before. He pointed at them continuously and toddled after them as fast as his chubby little legs could carry him. Eventually, the beleaguered ducks looked at me like, "We're blowing this joint," and flew into the water, where they could get a moment's peace.)


When I was a college student, and weather like this came along, I'd be walking to my class and decide, on the spur of the moment, to skip it and lie in the grass all morning instead. Seriously. Great weather was one of the few things that could make a Phi Beta Kappa chick like myself skip class. If it was a really pretty day, I felt the same way on my way to the office, once I had a 9-to-5 job. (But I'd skip work WAY less often. I always had too much stuff to do - meetings, conference calls, etc. - to miss.)

But now that I'm a SAHM, enjoying good weather is part of my JOB!! Taking booger outside and letting him run around actually makes me a STELLAR MOTHER! (Because, hey, he's not sitting in front of the TV, right? He's exercising, getting fresh air, learning about the natural world. I'm Supermom, dude.) What a perk!!

It's funny how sometimes the planets align, isn't it?

Monday, September 15, 2008

More movies

I saw two movies this week that I really enjoyed.

This first one was Waitress, starring Keri Russell. I loved this movie. I really loved this movie. Russell plays Jenna, a small-town Southern woman stuck in a loveless marriage. Her control-freak husband won't buy her a car (he doesn't want her to go anywhere), and he systematically collects her paycheck and tips each week so she won't have enough money to leave him.

In addition to waiting tables at Joe's Pie Shop, Jenna creates a daily special pie. All of her pies are delicious (her co-workers call her a "pie genius"), and they all have quirky names like "Spanish Dancer Pie," "Bad Baby Pie," and "Kick in the Pants Pie." Jenna loves making pies, and it's her dream to attend a pie cook-off and take first prize.

At the beginning of the movie, Jenna learns that she's pregnant. And though she's keeping the baby, she's pretty miserable about it. When she goes in to her obgyn to confirm the news, she discovers that her staid old doctor has been replaced. Her new doctor is young, hot, and male. Dr. Pomatter (played adorably by Nathan Fillion) is immediately attracted to Jenna, and before long, the two are enjoying a torrid affair.

As her relationship with Dr. Pomatter develops, Jenna begins to understand some things about herself and her life. She realizes that maybe she doesn't have to be stuck with her abusive husband. And that maybe her pie-making isn't just playing, but her own unique form of artistry.

This is a wonderful film. Great performances throughout. And though the plot is not an original one, the treatment of it is beautiful. The ending is satisfying, and nearly all the characters are rounded, likable, relatable people. I loved it. Did I mention I loved it?

I also finally saw The Bourne Ultimatum. Hubs loves all the Bourne movies, and I like them, too. It's weird how Matt Damon can look like an innocent little kid in some movies, and then in these, he's this killing machine. Anyhoo, this movie picks up after Bourne's love interest was killed in the last film (The Bourne Supremacy). Jason Bourne is trying to find out who was behind the murder, who is still after him, and (of course) all the secrets of his past.

There's a ton of very impressive action in this film - car chases, hand-to-hand combat, some pretty crazy feats of physical prowess, etc. - and it looks like Matt Damon did most of his stunts. (In alot of the shots, you can tell it's him, not a double or a stunt man.) Plus, in this movie, Jason Bourne finally discovers his true identity and ~appears~ to get his memory back. (If they decide to make more of these movies - who knows?)

If you like action flicks, you'll like this movie.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Poetry Project

Ok, this is not exactly a literary poem. This poem is stitched into a sampler that hangs on the wall in our pediatrician's office. I remember the first time I took my son to the doctor. (He was two weeks old, coming in for his first check-up.) I saw this on the wall, and I nearly burst into to tears. Now, part of that was definitely the raging post-pregnancy hormones. But part of it was that this is a very sweet little poem. So I'm putting it here, not only to share it with you, but to make sure that I keep it somewhere. So that I can remember how sweet and little my boy was the day that I nearly had a meltdown at Rankin Children's Group.

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow.
So, quiet down, cobwebs.
Dust, go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby,
And babies don't keep.

Fall!

Did I mention that I love fall? This year, I tried a new recipe that I really like. It's for pumpkin butter, and it's super-easy.

Pumpkin Butter
2 sticks softened, unsalted butter
1/4 c. canned pumpkin
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice

Heat pumpkin in a small pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until some of the water evaporates from it. (About 2 minutes.) Add pumpkin and spices to softened butter, combining well with a whisk or fork.

This is a recipe I ripped out of a Martha Stewart magazine long ago. (Hey, I don't care if she went to prison or not. The woman still makes a mean pastry crust, ok?)

Of course, I couldn't just make pumpkin butter, could I? Bless my little anal-retentive heart. I decided that, as long as I was making the butter, I was going to try preparing some MOLDED butter, using those silicone molds, and freezing it. Then, if I had dinner parties, company over the holidays, etc., I could whisk it out of the freezer for a special treat.

I went to this awesome site and bought two types of leaf molds. Then, I spread the softened butter into the leaf molds, froze them, and popped out gorgeous little "falling leaves" of pumpkin butter! They are sooo pretty! I wrapped them in saran and sealed them up in ziploc bags to store them in the freezer. They will be PERFECT for Thanksgiving dinner!!

In the meantime, I've been lavishly spreading the remainder of the pumpkin butter on cinnamon raisin toast in the mornings. YUM. With a cup of coffee and two slices of this stuff, I almost don't care that it's still 80 degrees outside.

Catching up

I love fall. It's one of my favorite seasons. I make pumpkin bread, I decorate the house, I drink cider, the whole bit. Well, lately, I've been making pumpkin muffins for the baby. He loves them, and we've noticed that, after he has a muffin, it isn't too long before he's pooping. And the poop is orange. (Apparently pumpkin not only keeps you regular, it also dyes your poop.)

This was our conversation as Brian and I were driving back home from visiting my parents:

Brian: Clay had a muffin this morning, so I'll let you deal with the retroactive poop he's going to have by the time we get home.
Me: Retroactive? Do you mean radioactive?
Brian: Yeah, I guess I do mean radioactive.
Me: Cause if I should be expecting some blow-out diaper, catching up on all the poops he might have missed since birth, count me out, dude.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Setting a fire

Hubs and I have hardly been to the movie theatre since the baby was born. It's just been too much of a pain in the butt to arrange. We saw the last Harry Potter film a few weeks after booger was born, and that's been it.

Until today. People, it had been more than a year since I'd been to a movie theatre. That's just wrong, isn't it?

We hatched a crazy plan: we'd drop little man off at Brian's mom's house, then jet out for a quick lunch and whatever movie was playing at a convenient time. After eating Oriental Chicken Salad and a HUGE blonde brownie with ice cream, we headed out for a flick. We had to choose between Righteous Kill, The House Bunny, and Burn After Reading. Though I think that Righteous Kill is probably worth a watch, I wanted something funny (not depressing), so we ended up at Burn After Reading.

As I've stated before on this blog, I don't always "get" the Cohen brothers' movies. One of my favorites is their re-make of The Ladykillers, and critics panned it. (While the critics absolutely LOVED Fargo, and hubs and I couldn't stand it.) But we'd both read good things about this film, and the cast (Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, J.K. Simmons) seemed pretty dang amazing.

Burn After Reading is worth watching. It's usual Cohen fare - a motley group of folks - a former CIA analyst, a philandering guy who works for the treasury department, some folks running a gym, etc., accidentally find themselves involved in one another's lives. Pretty soon, bodies start turning up, nobody knows who's who or what's going on, and this all leads to a good deal of head-scratching up at both CIA headquarters and the Russian embassy.

I don't want to spoil it for you, but Brad Pitt is funnier than I have ever seen him, and he's playing the type of role that he doesn't often get to try on for size. The dude is FUNNY, and he hasn't done alot of comedy during his career. J.K. Simmons' scenes are good, too. And there are two GREAT scenes with Tilda Swinton and a little-known actor, J.R. Horne (playing her divorce lawyer), that are fabulous. (J.R. Horne could spend the rest of his career playing skeezy divorce lawyers. You can just feel his excitement about a divorce oozing out of every unctuous pore.) And Swinton is a hoot as a cold, elitist, bossy, controlling pediatrician.

Anyhoo, though it's not the best movie I've ever seen, I did think it was pretty funny, and I can recommend it. Wonder what movie I'll see next summer?

Books and more books!

I'm finally getting around to reading some of the books on my "great books" list. Over the past couple of weeks, I've devoured both On the Road and Wide Sargasso Sea.

I first read On the Road when I was still in high school, and I didn't think much of it then. I only picked it up because a guy in one of my classes kept going on and on about how wonderful it was. But I recently thought to myself that it IS, after all, widely considered to be a great book. And that, in the past, I've found re-reading books that I first read long ago has proven enriching, as my perspective of things has changed over the years.

Well, I read it again, and I still didn't like it too much, though I see why an 18-year-old boy would think it was the coolest thing EVER. I realize that this novel/memoir is hailed as the definitive book of the Beat Generation. I understand that the depiction of Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) is supposed to be representative of life, of the Christ figure, of the wild madness and crazy desire to grasp and understand life's meaning. But, overall, this is a book about some people who, at their core, are sad, lonely, unfulfilled, irresponsible, and out for themselves. At the end of the day, Dean Moriarty deserts his wife and abandons his children on a regular basis. Sal (Kerouac) blows his GI money on marijuana and Mexican whores. These guys are pinning all of their hopes on these epic road trips, but when they actually get out on the road, they are starving, miserable, sick, and start to piss each other off. Throw in some illicit drug use and the constant prowl for girls to have sex with, and you apparently have a book.

Remember how I said that my perspectives have changed over the years? They haven't changed me enough to make me a fan of this book. I thought Dean and the gang were crazy idiots back when I was 18, and I still think that today. Oh, well. I guess I should just be glad that I didn't grow up a member of the Beat Generation. I would have felt quite out of place.

My second read was much more satisfying. I'm a big fan of the Brontes', and I'd always heard academics animatedly discussing Wide Sargasso Sea. Here's the skinny: In Jane Eyre, we discover near the end of the novel that Jane's intended (Edward Rochester, her former employer) is actually already a married man. We learn that he'd been duped into marriage to a crazy, wealthy woman from the West Indies (she's called Bertha in Charlotte Bronte's novel) by not only her family, but by his own. (The arrangement was a financial boon for his money-grubbing family, and her family was just glad to get her out of the way). At any rate, this mad woman has been sequestered in the drafty attic of Rochester's mansion for YEARS, and she conveniently dies at the end of Bronte's novel so that Jane and Edward can live happily ever after.

Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, tells Bertha's side of the story. I found this to be a beautiful, wonderfully atmospheric novella. Bertha is re-christened Antoinette in the slim volume, and though her family does have its share of mental illness, Rhys also explains the history and relationships that have led to such outcomes. The language describing the landscape of the West Indies is rich and thick with scent, color and flavor. Racial tensions are starkly drawn, and the sinister nature of all the tropical unknowns (jungle, ruins, black magic) are always lurking on the page.

This one I can recommend, particularly if you are a fan of Jane Eyre. It will make you think of that classic in a new way, and it will also have you digging out your bikini and wondering if you can keep on orchid alive in your kitchen window.

Soooo much going on!

We have been super-busy lately! I have had a rather full social calendar lately, tripping off to brunches (Broad Street - Yummmmm), visits with family, actual DATES with my husband (?!).

Oh, and I finally got the chance to eat dinner at Pan Asia's new location. It's definitely bigger than the old restaurant; the new building is very narrow and deep. The bar runs all the way down the left-hand side of the restaurant, and the open kitchen area flanks the back of the building. Oh, and the menu has changed some. I ordered a seared scallops dish that came with a nest of crispy sweet potatoes and a nice mound of steamed spinach. I normally get Pad Thai, so this entree was a stretch for me! It was very good, though, with a slightly spicy sauce and great seasoning on the scallops. And for dessert, where I usually order the guilt-free sorbet, I chose the fried banana spring rolls. Oh. My. Lord. They are sooooo good! At Pan-Asia, I've had the lime tart, the sorbet, the creme brulee for dessert before, but somehow I'd never ordered the fried banana spring rolls. I am struck with intense remorse over how many times I missed eating it over the years. You MUST try it.

Other incidentals - they ring a gong on the hour at the restaurant. It sounded like it was coming from the bar area, and I trotted over there to look. But the gong is either not visible, or I'd had too many cocktails (gotta love those "Pan Asia Up" martinis), because I didn't see the darn thing. Maybe it's a recording? Or I am just blind.

Oh - a few TINY criticisms - they have new dishware, and they serve coffee in a handleless, Asian-inspired cup. The problem? Coffee is HOT. So the cup is HOT. So, my suggestion is to either serve cooler coffee (which I don't relish) or get some new cups - ones with handles. Also, they do not offer salt, pepper, or sweeteners on the table. I know this is common in some fine dining establishments. (It's the chef's way of saying that the food will come out perfectly seasoned, so you don't NEED salt/pepper/etc.) However, it's not the norm in this market. And it's tiresome to have to ask for sugar for your tea and coffee and then wait for it to arrive.

Another quick restaurant review - I've been to Sal and Mookie's a few times, and I think I've failed to review it here. It's run by the same guys who operate both Broad Street and Bravo!, and it's fab! If you haven't been, you must check it out. When I've visited, I've mostly ordered pastas and paninis, and I've never been disappointed. Portions are more than generous, and prices are really reasonable. They have a separate bar (which sits to the left of the main entrance), and then a large dining area (to the right). The place is super-family-friendly; there were kids all over the place when we went last week. Oh, and their jumbo cocktails really ARE jumbo; they come served in a water glass. So don't order one if you can't hold your liquor! If you're not up for such drinking, though, you can order a glass of house wine. (We got a half-carafe for the table - which ended up being something like 4 glasses of wine - for about $10.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wonderful things Clay's doing now

Another baby post, I know, but GEEZ, stuff is happening so fast!

He is saying "cat" now. (Or, rather, he is saying "tat," but he MEANS cat. He points at the cat as he's saying it, and he's consistently saying it every time he sees the cat.) So far, our words (or some approximation thereof) are "dada," "cookie," "hey," and "cat." He's saying "mama," but I don't think he knows it means me.

He is starting to point at pictures in the books when I say the corresponding words. Like, when I say "sun," he points to the sun in the picture. Now, this could just be a parlor trick. For months now, I've been pointing at the sun when I say "sun." But even though he is probably just copying me, it's still a step in the right direction, right?

No surprise here, but when I tell him to go get his shoes so we can go outside, he does it. He'll also go find a pair of shorts, because he knows I won't let him outside in just a T-shirt or a onesie.

He's bringing me tons of books to read to him now, often the SAME ONES over and over. I'm hiding some here and there and putting others in rotation so I don't lose my mind. And when he brings me a book, I'll take it and pat the space on the floor in front of me, telling him to sit down with me so we can read together. And he sits right where I pat the floor.

He is also deftly climbing up on most of the furniture now, and he can dismount from nearly all sides of it. Even (gasp) over the arms, which gives me a bit of a heart attack. Plus, since he can get up on the furniture now, I'm in as much trouble as the kitties! I'm never safe! He likes to claw his way up onto the love seat, where he'll straddle my stomach and demand that I sing "Trot Little Pony." Ooof.

He is HILARIOUSLY "talking" into his fake phones now. He wags them around, held up to his ear, jabbering away. Then, he'll bring the phone to me or Brian, and we'll pretend to talk to all sorts of people while he watches us. It is a hoot. He'll also grab just about any electronic device - the baby monitor, my old curling iron, etc., and put it up to his ear as if he's "talking" on it.

He's been stacking blocks for a while now. He can stack one block on top of another reliably, though when he goes for a third block, it doesn't always balance on top successfully. But if it does, he claps happily for himself. (He'll even clap for YOU, when you stack the blocks. It's pretty dang adorable.)

Oh, and he is really enjoying Mother's Morning Out! The first two weeks, he fussed when I left him AND when I picked him up. By week three, though, the fussing stopped. Now, he runs in there to play with the toys and the other kids, and he even IGNORES me sometimes when I come to pick him up! I'll be at the door, saying, "Clay! Mama's here! I've come to pick you up! Let's go!" The kid will be playing with a toy, and I swear that he will not even turn to look at me. I love you, too, son. Seriously, though, I'm soooo glad that he's adapted to being there. It's good for him, and it's good for me.

It all happens so fast! I think back to when he was born, and I see how far he has come. It's absolutely mind-blowing.

Monday, September 08, 2008

This blood is kinda sour.

We caught the premiere of a new HBO television series, True Blood, this week, and, well, I was distinctly underwhelmed. Set in "backwoods" Louisiana, the series is based on the premise that a Japanese scientist has created a synthetic form of human blood. It's so close to the real thing that vampires can live on it, which means they can finally come "out of the coffin" and let us mere mortals know they exist.

Anyhoo, they don't see many vampires out in backwoods Louisiana, so when a vampire walks into the bar where she waitresses, innocent Sookie Stackhouse (and I swear to God that's the character's name) is interested. (Anna Paquin plays the unfortunately-named Sookie.) Sookie's no run-of-the-mill waitress, either. She can hear people's thoughts.

Needless to say, Sookie and Bill (and I swear to God, the vampire's name is Bill) are drawn to one another. That's the main set-up of the first episode.

Now let me rant for a minute. First of all, I thought there was waaaay too much sex in this program. There's a side plotline of Sookie's randy brother and his escapade with a woman (who, incidentally, has also slept with a vampire), which is all too graphic. I don't mind sexual content when I think it adds to the story, but it just seems really gratuitous here. I get the idea that vampires have been characterized as very sexual beings in the past, that it's part of the vampire mythology, but the sex in this episode wasn't focused on that. It was just regular old mortals being trashy.

Secondly, WTH is up with the names? Do they think people in Louisiana are all named crap like Sookie and Maudette?! (I swear, Maudette is another ACTUAL NAME of a character.) And some of the accents are really bad, which I guess I notice more because I'm from the South.

Based on my viewing of the first episode, I don't think that even Anna Paquin will be able to save this toothless thing.

Crime can be very, very funny.

Hubs and I watched a British comedy called Hot Fuzz this week, and we laughed our patooties off! It's by the same guys who made Shaun of the Dead (which meant something to hubs, though not to me), starring Simon Pegg (who also co-wrote the script).

The movie tells the story of police officer Nicholas Angel, a top cop in London. Because he's received so many commendations and made so many arrests (400% more than any other officer in London), he's making his co-workers (and supervisors) look bad. To get rid of him, management has him transferred to the sleepy little village of Sandford. There, he gets stuck with an inexperienced partner (who happens to be the son of the police inspector) and finds difficulty making the transition from lean, mean, policing machine to do-nothing keeper of a town where very little crime is ever committed.

But then, odd things begin to happen. A philandering couple is found beheaded on a local highway. A man is blown up after a gas leak in his house. A reporter form the town's newspaper is killed by a piece of falling stone from an old church roof. Local authorities insist that all of these deaths are just accidents, but Nicholas begins to think there's more to it than that.

For the rest of the movie, Nicholas and his bumbling partner try to unearth the thread that links all the murders. The truth behind the rash of deaths is comic gold.

This movie is a hilarious send-up of the cop genre, but it's also a decent action flick in its own right. Pegg is marvelous as the orderly, buttoned-up Nicholas, and Nick Frost holds down his side of the script as the naive Danny Butterman (Nick's partner). There were knee-slapping lines and situations throughout, with character-driven comedy playing just as large a role as all the funny plot-driven stuff.

You will recognize several other cast members as well: Bill Nighy as the Met Chief Inspector, Jim Broadbent as Inspector Frank Butterman, Timothy Dalton as Simon Skinner, even a tiny role by Cate Blanchett, who plays Nicholas' former girlfriend.

If you're in need of a laugh, I highly recommend this movie! We loved it!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Greatest Show on Earth

Hubs and I joined my sister, her son, and her husband for a trip to the circus last night! We showed up at 6 p.m. for an hour of "meet and greet" with the performers up close. Clay started out pretty well-behaved for this part of the evening, but by about 6:45 p.m., he was fussing ALOT and throwing absolute FITS when I wouldn't let him run wild all over the Coliseum. (Well, shoot. There were tons of other parents and kids all over the place, plus areas where patrons were not allowed. It was easier to hang onto him rather than put him down and have to keep telling him "no" or "be careful.")

Due to his foul mood, I was seriously thinking that we might miss the actual circus altogether. Luckily, though, once the show actually started, he was completely mesmerized by the acts. He sat happily in my lap and watched the tightrope walkers, the clowns, the rope tricks, the elephants, and more. We took the opportunity of intermission at 8 p.m. to slip out. (We'd been there 2 hours by then, and I was all circused out. Plus, we needed to get booger in bed at a fairly decent hour.)

But, hey, we did it, right? We took a 1-year-old to the circus. Do I get a patch?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Interesting vista

I read E.M. Forster's A Room with a View this week. It's been on my "great books" list for a while, but I am just now getting around to it.

In this novel, sheltered young Lucy Honeychurch (what a name!), traveling abroad with her spinster aunt, happens to meet George Emerson and his doting father. Lucy is not quite sure what to make of the pair, as they seem kind enough but are unpolished in their manners and way of thinking. One morning, during a day trip to the mountains, George comes upon Lucy amidst a field of violets and impulsively kisses her.

This indescretion is hurriedly hushed up, and Lucy returns to her home in England. There, she becomes engaged to a respectable young man, a good match by all social accounts, but with whom she has very little in common. Who should happen upon the scene but George Emerson? Lucy finds herself conflicted and confused, unsure of whether to make the socially advantageous match expected by her friends and family or to make a break with convention and think for herself a bit.

While this novel starts out VERY slowly, it picks up speed as one goes along, providing a very satisfying ending. Lucy is so intolerable at the beginning of the book that it is difficult to keep reading, but, thankfully, as she becomes more in command of her own thoughts, she is much easier to relate to. (I find this often with female characters in "classic" literature. It is all one can do to keep from shaking them by the shoulders sometimes. I understand that women were more repressed - oppressed?- when these stories were written, but it can be awfully trying for a modern woman to read such characters. In that respect, reading contemporary novels is sometimes easier.)

I also found the novel's debate about expatriates/natives versus tourists interesting, as the same arguments are traded around travel circles today - i.e. the "ugly American," those who are inseparable from their guidebooks, etc. It's funny to see that people's views on such a subject have really changed very little in the past 100 years!

Though some of this novel is set in Italy, do not expect much of the rich, atmospheric descriptive passages one would hope to find in a contemporary novel of this sort. During the primary character's time there, she is still very much mentally confined, and because we are seeing things through her vision, the novel is more concerned that she see the "right" paintings and statues so that she can say she's seen them. Eeesh.

At any rate, this book is certainly worth reading, and I believe that an award-winning film adaptation of the story was produced several years ago.

(ALSO! I have discovered that there has been a film adaptation of Byatt's Possession, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart! Be still my heart! I will be tracking this down and reporting on it soon!!)

I love Steve Carell.

I had the chance to watch Dan in Real Life, starring Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche, this week, and may I just say that I'm beginning to think Steve Carell can play whatever role he chooses? The man has displayed some range, people, range that you often don't see in a "comedic" actor. This tendency reminds me a bit of Jim Carrey, but I think that Carell's style is subtler and funnier.

In this movie, Carell plays Dan, a widowed newspaper-advice columnist with three daughters. Dan has carried a torch for his late wife since her death (which was four years prior to the events of the movie). As the film opens, Dan is bundling his little family up for an annual visit to his parents' house. Once there, he makes a short errand into town, where he meets Marie (Binoche) in a book shop. The two feel an instant connection, and they sit and talk for hours. Later that evening, Dan is more formally introduced to Marie. She's his brother's new girlfriend. (Ouch.)

During the days that follow, we watch Dan as he breaks down personal and professional barriers, learns more about what it means to put family first, and actually begins listening to some of his own advice.

Carell and Binoche, I thought, were both wonderful in this, and the script taps into something that many screenwriters fail to give enough credit to - women love men who make them laugh. Comedians can play romantic leads, if they are allowed to use the aspect of their personalities that makes them (in some cases) most attractive - their senses of humor. People make jokes all the time, and at least SOME of them are really funny. We don't see enough of such light banter in film, probably because it plays best when ad-libbed, and in scripts it seems so often over-rehearsed.

Carell perfectly captures the sort of giddy, joking high that one gets when one finds a kindred spirit. Dan and Marie make each other laugh, and they think the same things are funny. (Incidentally, Carell and Binoche have great chemistry in their scenes together.) This is a warm, funny story, and it's perfectly suited for family viewing. (It's got a PG-13 rating.)

I look forward to future incarnations of Steve Carell.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Update on My 101

I have been woefully derelict in posting updates on My 101 list lately. I don't think I posted AT ALL at the end of July. Whoops! Anyways, I've checked off a few big items over the last couple of months, mainly travel-related. As usual, items in bold are completed.

Nicole's 101

Record family history (Create a family tree with my grandmother? Photos? Stories?)
Take Clay’s picture professionally at least once every 6 months
Make a will
Make a living will
Talk with Laura about Clay
Send a Christmas card to an estranged family member
Write to my grandmother
Attend services at three local churches
Volunteer in a way that’s meaningful to me
Go back to the gym – at least 3 times a week
Lose 10 pounds
Keep it off for 6 months
Train to run 3 miles without stopping
Try a yoga or pilates class
Go to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures
Go to the Smith Robertson Museum
Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum
Take an art class (pottery, painting, etc.)
Paint a picture
Learn to play at least one song on the guitar
Write a food article and get it published
Write at least one poem or short story
Paint the front porch swing
Tile the master bathroom
Plant some flowering shrubs in the back yard and DON’T let them die
Plant an herb garden
Fix the patio table
Get a window shade for the baby’s bedroom
Have an energy audit done on the house
Paint the shed in the back yard
Paint the inside of the garage
Take Clay swimming
Drink wine in California
Ride in a helicopter
Ride in a hot air balloon
Go to Graceland - This one was new in July!
Go to New York City
Create a “great books list” and start reading (at least 5 books)
Create a “great movies list” and start watching (at least 5 movies)
Treasure hunt on Highway 49
Host a New Year’s open house party
Host a “dinner among the leaves” party
Host an Easter brunch
Throw a Kentucky Derby party
Celebrate the Chinese New Year
Pay off the last of my student loan
Buy some sexy new underwear
Attend at least one live concert
Go the fall flower show/festival in Crystal Springs
Visit a botanic garden - I completed this one in August. We visited three botanic gardens while we were in Portland.
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Watch a meteor shower
Give blood
See snow
See the ocean
Adopt an Angel at Christmas
Go bowling
Pay for the person behind me in line
Do an anonymous good deed
Learn to bake a good loaf of bread
Go on a day hike - I think my day of hiking to Zig Zag Falls and down the Salmon River trail qualifies here! Woo to the hoo!
Write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper
Go on a vacation sans baby
Let Clay ride in the convertible with the top down
Perform in at least one stage production
Attend at least one Mensa meeting
Attend at least one college alumni event
Get back in touch with some of my college professors
Learn how to play poker
Learn how to shoot a decent game of pool
Make a real paella
Make a real sangria, to go with the paella
Get a facial
Start taking vitamins again
Take mom to have her makeup done
Discover 5 new recording artists I really like and buy their CDs
Find a pair of sunglasses that will change my life
Find my signature fragrance
Take some pictures of leaves turning color in the fall
Set up and take some faux-tography shots of the baby
Write to Grace
Visit Grace in Oregon
- Another August accomplishment!
Go on a picnic and eat food that I MADE, not food that I bought
Visit a dermatologist
Book a session with a personal trainer
Buy sheet music for a song I like and learn to play it on the piano
Learn to do a passable waltz
Bring the baby to visit my dad at work
Take a bubble bath
Light some candles just for us, when we DON’T have someone coming over
Make mint juleps and drink them on the front porch swing
Go ice skating
Preserve Clay’s foot and hand prints
Attain APR accreditation
Buy or make Clay a kick-ass Halloween costume
Give a gift that I made.
Send someone flowers for no reason
Begin using my wine notebook again and identify at least three new wines that I like
Buy a birdfeeder and set it up in the back yard
Fix the broken window pane on the porch

Spend an afternoon lying in the hammock

First day of the challenge: January 1, 2008
Last day of the challenge: September 28, 2010