Friday, March 30, 2012

Fun Trick To Keep Rats Away

This is a vent on the side of our house (it's not exactly an attractive part of our house, but bear with me):

About thirty years ago, our roofer Carl was an exterminator who dealt with rats and termites.  When Carl was at our house on Tuesday, he noticed this vent and told me that rats could get into our house through the hole in the wire mesh.


Fortunately, Carl told me an old exterminator's trick: rat's hate steel wool.  If you stuff any holes in your house's vents with steel wool, that will keep the little bastards away.

I already had plans to go to Target, so I picked up some steel wool pads and viola:

The holes in our side vents are plugged with steel wool and any neighborhood rats will just have to seek shelter elsewhere.  DIE RATS DIE. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our House Smells Like Plastic (which, by the way, totally sucks)

A few months ago, a wind storm hit Pasadena.  I talked about it here, here and here (with tons of photos).  The hurricane-force winds tore shingles off our roof.  At first, we thought the damage was minimal; but the next time it rained, we discovered some fun new drips.   

Long story short, we are getting a new roof.  We have our roofer lined up, but it might be another week or two before the construction starts (they have to get permits, survey the roof and other boring stuff). 

As a telecommuter, I cannot tell you how excited I am to work in the house while a new roof is being installed.  It is going to be awesome!  So much fun!  I bet I'll barely hear the roofers as they pound thousands of shingles into the beams above my head.  (In case the tone is lost in print, my words are dripping with sarcasm.  And hey, does anyone know what sarcasm looks like when it drips?   I bet it's a dark gooey substance that smells like roadkill.) 

In the meantime, we had our roof tarped.  This was a smart move.  It has already rained several times this month, and water was dripping into the light fixture in my bathroom.  But now, the vent in our roof is covered with a heavy sheet of plastic.  Guess what happens when the plastic gets hit by the afternoon sun?  The house smells like burning plastic!

Many products are scented with a pleasing smell.  You can buy laundry detergent that smells like lavender, soap that smells like citrus, and candles that smell like vanilla.  But have you ever seen a product that is made to smell like "burning plastic"?  Of course not!  You know why?  BECAUSE THE SMELL OF BURNING PLASTIC WILL MAKE YOU THROW UP IN YOUR MOUTH.

Our house's Eau De Burning Plastic has put a slight damper on my telecommuting gig.  But not really.  If I had to choose between working in an office that smells like fresh citrus or working from home in a house that reeks of burning plastic, I'd choose the burning plastic in a heartbeat.

I just hope the plastic fumes are not poisoning my brain.  I'm quite fond of my brain cells and don't want to lose too many before our new roof is installed.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Random Adventure (that was not actually an adventure)

I recently found myself here, in this hallway. Alone. 

Doesn't this look like the hallway that time forgot?  Or like something you would see in a horror movie?  Can't you hear the echo of the killer's footsteps as the young heroine is trying to escape?  And the killer's footsteps are extra creepy because he has a peg leg, so instead of "step-step," you hear "step-thump, step-thump, step-thump..."  And you are urging the heroine to RUN as fast as she can, except her left leg was badly injured by a Rottweiler, so she is dragging that leg and leaving a big bloody trail for the killer to follow.  And she just needs somewhere to hide, but the hallway stretches on forever and ever, with no doors in sight... 

Fortunately, I was just in a weird old tunnel at LAX and a few moments after taking this photo, I emerged into the hubbub of the baggage claim area. But if a herd of wild animals had come stampeding down the hallway, I would not have been surprised.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Whitney and New Girl

I am not a television critic, and I know there about a zillion blogs that analyze television shows.  But I just have to mention two of my new favorite shows: Whitney and New Girl.

I have been watching New Girl since it first aired, because I love Zooey Deschanel and want to go shoe shopping with her.  (She can try on all the shoes.  I'll just hold her bags).  I assumed it would be a girly show, but if anything, Nathan likes it more than I do.  Last week, we were so excited for the new episode, that we watched it live, with the commercials.  We just had to wait eight minutes and then we could have watched the DVR recording and skipped the commercials.  But no.  That was unimaginable.  

We only started watching Whitney about a month ago.  It is hilarious. If I had to choose between Whitney and one of my old comedies, like The Office and 30 Rock, I would have to choose Whitney.  The characters are so well-developed, and the cast has great chemistry.  It feels like a show in its fourth or fifth season, but it's just the first.  I hope Whitney airs forever.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Life is Good

Since my last post was on the gloomy side, I wanted to write about some things today that are making me very happy.  In no particular order:

  • Television: Mad Men is back!  Woo hoo!  If you have not watched Mad Men, I highly recommend adding it to your Netflix queue immediately, if not sooner. 
  • Baking: I hosted my book club on Sunday and baked the most scrumptious loaf of banana bread.  I got the recipe from my new favorite cookbook, Joy the Baker Cookbook.  If you have any interest in baking, GET THIS BOOK.  If you just want to bake some amazing banana bread, that involves chocolate (yes!) and bourbon (hell yeah!), the recipe is available here
  • Reading: I am about 200 pages into Gone With the Wind, and I love it.  Is it politically correct?  Oh my lord, no.  But Scarlett O'Hara is an entertaining heroine, and I am happy to spend the next few weeks following her adventures.
  • Spring Cleaning: By "spring cleaning," I mean "spring purging."  I am moving through the house, one small project at a time.  This weekend, I spent an hour attacking the cupboard under my bathroom sink.  It was scary down there.  Every time I opened the cupboard to get a new roll of toilet paper, I was attacked by half-empty shampoo bottles and abandoned toiletries.  The cupboard door would not even shut fully.  Now when I look at the cupboard, I smile and feel light, like I unloaded a heavy burden. 

Friday, March 23, 2012


The little hummingbird I tried to rescue died yesterday. 

As I explained in yesterday's post, I found the hummingbird on Tuesday afternoon.  Wednesday morning, I brought him to the Pasadena Humane Society.  On Thursday, he died.

I know it was just a hummingbird, and I only took care of him for a few hours.  But in those few hours, I fell in love with the hummingbird. 

Although he didn't make it, I'm glad I tried to save the hummingbird.  I'm grateful for the few hours we spent together.  That I got to carry him out of harm's way and feed him drops of nectar.  That I got to watch him breathe and watch him try to fly.  And that I was able to flip him back on his tummy whenever he fell on to his back and got stuck. 

My poor little hummingbird never got to fly.  But damnit, he fought hard to live and he did not give up.  That little hummingbird lived fiercely, despite being so small and fragile.  He inspired me.   

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Operation: Rescue Hummingbird

On Tuesday morning, I was watering the plants on my front porch when a red-breasted hummingbird appeared.  I froze and watched the hummingbird sip nectar from my flowers.  Aren't hummingbirds amazing?  They are like the bird equivalent of a Pause Button: no matter what I'm doing, I have to stop and watch the hummingbird. 

About six hours later, I saw a different hummingbird.  It had brown and green feathers and was lying on the sidewalk in front of my house.  Oh no!  I leaned close... it was breathing!  I ran inside and searched online for tips to save the hummingbird.

Tip One: Walk close to the bird.  This might be enough to startle it back into flying mode.  I got really close to the hummingbird and tried to startle it back into life, but the bird continued to lie on the sidewalk.  Damn.

Tip Two:  Feed the bird nectar from a hummingbird feeder.  Hummingbirds need to eat constantly.  If the bird flew into something and stunned itself, it might just need a sugar jolt to revive.

Problem: I did not have a hummingbird feeder on hand.

Solution: I raced to the hardware store and bought a hummingbird feeder.  The store only had one feeder left in stock, and it cost $20, but this was not a time for bargain shopping.  I had to get back to the hummingbird!

When I got home, the hummingbird was still there and breathing.  Thank god.  I was worried a dog would eat it or worse, maybe an adolescent boy in a "cruelty to animals" phase would find it. 

I sat down on the sidewalk and tried to feed the hummingbird.  The hummingbird was too weak to drink directly from the feeder, but it sipped little drops that I angled towards its beak.  As it gathered strength, its tongue darted out more rapidly.

I didn't take too many photos.  I was mostly focused on the hummingbird.  Every few minutes, I offered the hummingbird more drops of nectar; and every few minutes, he got a little stronger.  He did not appear to be injured, but he also could not fly.  He tried like hell to fly, but always ended up on his back and once on his back, he was stuck.  My neighbors sat with me for awhile, and we speculated that maybe this is a young hummingbird who is not ready to fly. 

Eventually, I got him to perch on a stick.  Isn't he handsome? 

When Nathan got home from work, I was still sitting on the sidewalk with the hummingbird.  We gathered some sticks and leaves, and Nathan built a nest in our garage.  He opened the garage door about a foot so the hummingbird could get out, and I put the feeder by the makeshift nest.  We felt like we could not bring the hummingbird into the house (it is a wild animal, after all), but we thought it would have the best shot at surviving the night if we set it up at the edge of our garage.  With the bird perched on its twig, I transported it to the garage (slowly, carefully, and crouching as close to the ground as possible).

After dinner, I went outside to check on the hummingbird.  He was about 15 feet from the spot where I had left him and lying on his back, totally stuck.  I carried him back to the garage. 

I was so sad that night.  We played Mario Kart but my thoughts kept returning to the hummingbird.  I had done everything I could and I felt so humbled and honored that I got to spend a couple of hours trying to help this little creature.  I know that many hummingbirds meet untimely deaths, but I wanted this hummingbird to survive.

The next morning, first thing, I went outside and looked for the hummingbird.  I could not find him anywhere.  I did not see any feathers, so I decided he must have survived the night and flown away.  Yay!  Elation!  Party time!

I went on a walk and when I got home ... I spotted the hummingbird.  He was lying on his back, near our trash cans.  I had not seen him in the morning because he was hidden by a fence.  My heart broke and I crept towards the bird, assuming he was dead.

But he wasn't!  He was still breathing, albeit very shallowly.  His eyes were shut and he seemed to be in a deep sleep, almost hibernating.  I dropped some of the hummingbird nectar on his beak, but he kept sleeping. 

I found the contact information online for a woman who rehabilitates hummingbirds.  She told me to take the bird to the Pasadena Humane Society and if he could be saved, the PHS would get the bird to her.

I sprang into action and padded a shoe box with a small hand towel.  I tried to pick the hummingbird up but he was waking up and did not want to be moved.  I ended up moving him with a piece of paper and a twig. 

Just in case the bird revived enough to fly, I poked holes into the box lid and then covered the box.  As we drove to the animal shelter, the bird started to cheep for the first time.  The cheeps reassured me that he was still alive and whenever we were stopped at a traffic light, I opened the box to give the bird some fresh air.

Here is the last time I ever saw my hummingbird:

Doesn't he look minuscule in his shoe box?!?

When I said goodbye, the hummingbird was doing much better.  He was fluttering his wings and his eyes were alert and open.  I think he has a chance to be saved.

Although we were together for less than 24 hours, I miss my little hummingbird.  He is so sweet and gentle.  I touched him several times to try to help him fly, and he never once tried to peck me.  He did not struggle to get away or squawk angrily.  Instead, he sat with me quietly, as if we were meant to spend a few hours together.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Really Hate The Overhead Bins

The airlines of the world need to unite and outlaw passengers from storing suitcases in the overhead bins.  Let's limit the use of overhead bins to the following items: jackets, extra blankets and pillows, the flight attendants' luggage, and belligerent/scary passengers who need to be cuffed and stowed somewhere safe. 

The overhead bins awful-ize the entire process of boarding and unboarding the plane.  (Can you spot the word I just invented??)  Putting a suitcase in an overhead bin should not be that difficult, but apparently for some people, it is the biggest ordeal in the world.  Here are a few passengers that can be spotted on every flight:

(1) A weakling only capable of lifting five pounds, max, who has a carry-on bag that weighs about 80 pounds.  The weakling tries to hoist the suitcase into the overhead bin and instead drops it on top of my head.  A burly man offers to help, but the weakling insists upon trying again.  This time, the weakling falls backwards, and about ten passengers standing in the aisle are knocked over like dominoes.  Finally, the weakling agrees that maybe he is anatomically incapable of getting his suitcase into the overhead bin and accepts some assistance.

(2) A passenger sitting in Seat 30D gets to Row 30 and discovers all of the overhead bin space directly above her seat has been claimed.  There is plenty of overhead bin space available starting with Row 32, but this will not do.  Although there are about 40 people blocking the aisle behind her, the passenger insists that everyone back up so she can put her suitcase in the overhead bin space above Row 21.   Because she is the most important person on the plane. The flight attendant is never around when this is happening. 

(3) And then there's the person who puts their suitcase in the overhead compartment, sits down, and then remembers Oh no, I forgot my chewing gum!  WHY THE HELL IS YOUR CHEWING GUM IN YOUR SUITCASE?  COULDN'T YOU THINK ABOUT THIS WHILE YOU WERE SITTING IN THE TERMINAL?  IS YOUR PACK OF CHEWING GUM REALLY TOO BIG TO FIT IN YOUR POCKET???  Oh, I hate these people so much.  They just stand and block the entire aisle while they rummage through their f***ing suitcase, because their comfort is 1000x more important than, God forbid, an on-time departure.

And while I'm ranting, let's talk about safety. Does anyone actually think the overhead bins are safe? In the event of an aggressive turbulence pocket, do you really think all of those overhead bin doors are going to stay shut? And how do you think it's going to feel when you get hit in the head with a 40 pound suitcase? (Spoiler alert: it's going to hurt. So much.)

Humanity had its chance.  We have tried using the overhead bins for carry-on baggage and it just doesn't work.  We have therefore forfeited our right to use the overhead bins.

On the day the airlines of the world unite and ban the use of overhead bins for passenger luggage, I am going to throw a party.  I'm not talking about a party with some cake and stale potato chips.  I'm talking about a party with a moon bounce and a margarita machine and maybe a magician.  It's going to be the most awesome party ever, and you are all invited.

Unfortunately, I don't think the airlines will ever give me an excuse to throw my awesome party.  (Damn.  I knew I should have hired a moon bounce for my wedding).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sometimes, Our House Scares The Crap Out Of Me

Our house makes alarming sounds, especially when I am home alone and taking a shower.  Since I telecommute, it seems like I am always showering in an empty house.  I don't mind showering in an empty house except the sound of water in our shower pipes sounds like a rapist creeping towards my bathroom.

No matter how many times our shower makes the rapist sounds, I am spooked.  I freeze and stand very still and pray the rapist is just a thief stealing my laptop.  Because if a rapist is in fact wandering through our house, I'm f***ed.  We had the bathroom repainted last year, and since then, the bathroom door will not lock.  And, the bathroom is "room locked" and windowless, so I do not have an escape route.  If an intruder actually busts into the bathroom, I will have to defend myself with a razor blade and shampoo bottle. 

(Actually, I should probably defend myself with a conditioner bottle, since the conditioner bottles are always Almost Full and the shampoo bottle is always Nearly Empty).

The house itself also makes creaks that sound a lot like "a serial killer walking around on tiptoe and hiding in my closet."  Of course, the house never makes scary sounds when Nathan's home or during the daytime.  It only happens when I'm (a) alone and (b) it's dark.  You might say I just have a hyperactive imagination, but I think the house has a mean sense of humor and is toying with my emotions. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Telecommuting Confessions

Last week, I got dressed in a really respectable outfit, with pants, a clean shirt and a cute cardigan ... but only because a new dryer was being delivered and I did not want the delivery men to see me in my fleece sweatpants.  I changed back into my pajama bottoms at 12:44 p.m.

Most days, I only get dressed for a few hours, at most, if I'm leaving the house to run errands.  Sometimes I get dressed at 5 p.m. so Nathan can pretend his wife spent the day in real clothes.  We both know this is a lie.

Sometimes, I wear the same "I'm Running Errands And Want To Look Pretty Outfit" two days in a row.  Because, hey, I only wore the outfit for 45 minutes while I was at Target, so it's clean, and why should I expend the energy putting together a new pants-shirt combination?
Sometimes, I wear the same "I'm Running Errands And Want To Look Pretty Outfit" five days in a row. Because I am so shameful.  I'm putting this confession in really small font so maybe my mother won't read it.  Shh, don't tell her. 

p.s. I went to Catholic school for twelve years and wore a uniform five days a week.  If you think my aversion to picking out new weekday outfits is pathetic, blame the nuns. 

Unsolicited Advice for Brides-to-Be: This Is Not Your Last Opportunity To Buy Stationary (Seriously)

When choosing your wedding invitation, I just want you to remember one thing: this is not the last opportunity in your life to buy stationary.

It can feel that way.  It can feel like Oh my god I'm getting married and my wedding stationary needs to be amazing and I need to pick the best f***ing stationary in the world and that stationary must reflect the geography of my soul while also conveying the spirit of the wedding.  Choosing your wedding stationary can feel like the most intensely important thing in the world ... but it's not.  Remember, your Inner Bridezilla is a crazy bitch who is not always the most rational creature.

You don't have to find your Stationary Soulmate.  You found Mr. Right, and he's the only soulmate you need.  Here's my rule of thumb about wedding invitations: it needs to be one click above "not ugly."  That's it.  You can do better if you like, but so long as your invitation is "better than not ugly," you've chosen well. 

If you have a soft spot for stationary and get weak knees at the sight of a letterpress card, have no fear!  You get to choose lots of fun stationary FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.  There will be Christmas cards, birthday cards, birth announcements and thank you notes (because momma raised you right).  You can send "We Moved!" postcards and Valentine cards.  And holy crap, did you know you can send someone a pretty card for no reason at all?  You can! 

It might seem like your wedding invitations will be The Best Stationary You Ever Buy In Your Entire Life.  Guess what?  Not true.  Unless you are marrying a billionaire, your wedding will have a budget.  And guess what?  Wedding invitations get really expensive, really fast.  You might find an awesome invitation that turns into a musical light show, but if it costs $30 a pop, and you are inviting more than five people to your wedding ... you can see where I'm going with this. 

But let's say you find the most inspiring birthday or holiday card that costs $8.  Guess what?  Yes, $8 is a lot to spend on a card, but if you buy just one, it will probably not send you to bankruptcy court.  (Please note: my blog posts should not be read as legal or financial advice). 

So don't agonize about finding your Stationary Soulmate.  If you have a Stationary Soulmate, I guarantee he's not a wedding invitation.  He's a birthday card or a really cool postcard of Berlin.

I got married in July 2011, and now I have lots of opinions about weddings. My baby sister Katherine (aka Spucky) is ten years younger than me. Someday, she will get engaged and I will want to go into crazy big sister mode and inundate her with advice. Instead, I'm writing blog posts so when she gets engaged, she can read (or not read) my advice at her leisure.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Had My Last Sip of Caffeine On Friday, March 2

And I feel great!  I first tried quitting caffeine at the beginning of the year.  That attempt did not go so well.  If anything, it just aggravated my addiction.

But on the afternoon of Friday, March 2, 2012, I snapped.  I did not want any more caffeine or soda.  So I quit, cold turkey, knowing I would be dismembered by the wrath of the Caffeine Withdrawal Gods.

But the Caffeine Withdrawal Gods must have been torturing some other poor soul.  I've had a few headaches, but they were all easily dispatched with ibuprofin.  I've also fallen asleep by 9 p.m. a few nights, and that's it.  I thought I was going to be curled up in the fetal position, weeping and cursing the heavens.  Instead, I got some headaches and the sleepies. 

Since my break-up with caffeine and diet soda, I have had some strange cravings.  For example, I've been craving brown rice and tofu.  Brown rice and tofu!  When I go to the grocery store, I just stand and stare at the vegetables.  I want to buy all of the vegetables and eat them at once.  And then, I bought myself a sugar-free, lactose-free ice cream at Wholefoods and it was delicious.

What's happening to me?  I feel like I've been possessed by an organic farmer/yoga instructor/vegan.  I don't want to be a vegan!  If that happens, I'm buying myself a case of Diet Soda and going on a caffeine bender.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

William Shatner!

William Shatner is currently touring the nation with his one-man show, It's Shatner's World: We Just Live In It and last Saturday night, I saw it at the historic* Pantages theater in Hollywood.

*Historic, in this instance, means "beautiful building with shitty seats."  By the end of the show, the entire left side of my back was in pain.  Also, the Pantages needs to learn something about climate control.  Some air conditioning is appreciated, but I was huddled under my overcoat throughout the show, shivering. 

The show was awesome.  You do not need to be a Trekkie to enjoy it.  (Although the gentlemen to my right were obvious Trekkies who were having an INTENSE Harry Potter conversation before the show).

Shatner is hilarious.  I have seen several stand-up comedians in action, including George Carlin and Sandra Bernhard, but Shatner is the funniest comic I've ever seen perform. (and he's not even a comedian, really, he's an actor).  

During the show, Shatner talked about his life and career as an actor.  Some of the stories were funny, like how he used to go joy riding at 3 a.m. on a neighbor's motorcycle.  Some of the stories were interesting, like how he got his big acting break playing Henry V at a Canadian Shakespeare festival when Christopher Plummer got sick.  And some of the stories were sad, like the story about putting one of his horses to sleep (Shatner loves horses more than my baby sister, and that's saying a lot).

Shatner is an inspiration.  He has done so freaking much, from Star Trek to Boston Legal, and so much in between.  Now, he is nearly 81 years old, but he is touring the country doing a one-man show.  He could be lounging on the beach living off Star Trek royalties, but he is still acting and entertaining (and thank God, because he is good at it). 

I hope Shatner's show is turned into a movie or at least a DVD.  Partly because Nathan missed the show so he could watch a soccer game (and to add insult to injury, his team lost), and I know he'd love the show.  But if I'm going to be completely honest, I mostly want to own the DVD of It's Shatner's World for my own selfish purposes, just so I can watch it again and again. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Questions We Ask Women

Romantically, I have experienced three different life stages: (1) life as a single woman; (2) life as a woman in love with a serious boyfriend; and (3) life as a married woman.  

When I was single, people always asked if there were any "cute prospects."  Please note: my parents never asked this.  Never.  They were so good and did not care if I got married or not.  They just wanted me to be happy. But other people asked - work friends, college friends, colleagues, cousins, and pretty much everyone else I knew. 

I hated and dreaded this question.  Eventually, I learned to answer with a mysterious smile and shrug, but the question always made me feel like a bit of a failure.  I was so happy with my life and did not feel an urgent need to fall in love and get married.  I had attended an Ivy League college, went to a good law school, and was a successful attorney.  But whenever someone asked me "any cute prospects?" it felt like a punch to my stomach.  As if, the fact that  I had not managed to ensnare a cute prospect diminished my other successes.  As if, I should be less happy because I had not found Mr. Right. 

Looking back, I wish I had been braver when asked this question.  I wish I had said, "Why yes, I noticed a cute prospect on page 48 of last month's Cute And Available Men.  I'm thinking of ordering the Architect/Likes Dogs model but I'm also intrigued by the Lumberjack/Lactose Intolerant Limited Edition Canadian.  What do you think?"

I know that my friends, colleagues and relatives meant well.  (At least, I hope they meant well).  When my college friends inquired about my love life, they were showing interest in my life and my future.  I get that.  They were not judging me.  But still, the question "any cute prospects?" felt like a judgment when it was asked by someone in a serious relationship.  (Of course, the question felt entirely different when asked by a single friend.  A single friend can always ask another single friend "any cute prospects?"  That is not an invasion of privacy.  That is commiseration).

Now that I am in a serious relationship, I remind myself to not ask single friends and relatives if there are any "cute prospects."  If they want to talk about their love life, I assume they will bring up the subject.  But a woman who is single should not be defined by the fact that she is single.  She might be single but that is not the only thing she can talk about.  She can talk about books, movies, her career, her hobbies, and upcoming vacations.  Shit, she can even talk about the weather and traffic.  There are plenty of things to talk to a single woman about, aside from the fact that she's single. 

Once I met Nathan and things got serious, I encountered a new question: SO WHEN ARE YOU GUYS GETTING MARRIED?  This question was even more obnoxious than "any cute prospects?"  A couple's decision to get married is a serious step.  And there is no "right time" to take that step.  Nathan and I dated for three years, and for us, that was perfect. Some people date three months and get married, and that's the right thing for them.  Other people spend their lives together but never get married - and that's perfect. 

But the question "when are you two getting married?" carries the subtext "you guys have been dating long enough, you should get married already."  If you ask a woman in a serious relationship, "When do you think he is going to propose?" you are insinuating that he should propose soon or something is wrong with the relationship.  That might not be your intention.  You may just be asking "when are you two getting married?" to make conversation.  But still, the insinuation is there.

I asked a dear and cherished friend this question recently.  She is in a serious relationship with a wonderful man, and they are so obviously in love and a great match, and I am so happy for my friend.  And when we were having dinner, I asked her questions about would they get married and when the wedding might be.  As I asked those questions, it felt like an out-of-body experience and Ghost Courtney was screaming at Real Courtney "What are you doing, you stupid bitch?!"  But I couldn't stop myself.  I kept asking stupid questions as to when my friend's boyfriend might propose, as if she might have a crystal ball stashed in her purse and would just whip it out in the middle of a sushi restaurant.   

Now I am married, and I am being asked a new question: so when are you guys going to have kids?  I have actually only been asked this about a dozen times.  Not bad for seven months of marriage.  And I do not mind the question.  Actually, it's a compliment because presumably the person asking the question thinks Nathan and I should have children, which suggests they think we would be good parents. 

But, I think this is a dangerous question to ask a woman without children.  One of my dearest friends had a miscarriage.  It was a horrible experience, and my heart broke for her.  She had the miscarriage early in her pregnancy, so people did not know it happened.  After her miscarriage, people kept asking when she was going to get pregnant.  Every time she was asked that question, she was reminded of the baby she had lost and it felt like she was being stabbed in the heart. 

If you ask a woman when she is going to get pregnant, you might be stabbing her in the heart.  She and her husband might be struggling to conceive.  She might have had a miscarriage.  You have no idea what is going on in her life and what pain or grief she might be struggling with.  Would you ask a married woman without children "Had any miscarriages recently?"  or "Having any trouble getting knocked up?"  Of course not.  But when you ask a woman when she is going to have children, you might accidentally be touching on these subjects.

These are the three questions that bother me: Any cute prospects?  When are you two going to get married already?  and When are you going to have kids?  I think these questions are best left unasked.  Let the woman raise these subjects.  If she wants to tell you about the horrible first date she went on last week or her hopes about having a baby, believe me, she will. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Unsolicited Advice for Brides-to-Be: Keep An Open Mind About The Dress

Before I went shopping for my wedding dress, I looked at photographs of hundreds (maybe thousands) of dresses in magazines and blogs.  I mentally tried on dress after dress and decided I wanted a short, simple dress. 

My dream wedding gown was actually more of a wedding summer dress.  It was approximately knee-length, short sleeved and very simple.  Very simple.  I cannot emphasize how simple my vision of a wedding dress was.  Like, take the most simple dress you own and then imagine a dress that is even more simple.   

After dress shopping with my mother and sister, this is the wedding gown I actually chose:

My Initial Vision was a thing of simplicity, and my Actual Dress ... well, here's a close-up:

Yeah, my Actual Dress was not exactly a thing of simplicity. 

Pre-wedding dress shopping, I would have been willing to stake my life on the fact that I was going to wear a short dress.  I chose a floor length gown.  Pre-wedding dress shopping, I just wanted a dress made from nice fabric and zero frilly details.  The dress I chose is elaborately detailed.  It's hard to tell in the photographs, but there are even a few feathers gathered at the waist.  Feathers, I tell you!  But I LOVE my wedding dress.  Sure, it's about 10,000 times fancier than my initial vision, but so what? 

When I was picking dresses to try on, I passed over this gown.  I looked at it on the rack, thought "no" and continued the hunt for an  simple gown.  But my mom and the clerk Wedding Gown Guru  chose this dress, and I tried it on.  (Thank you, Mom).

So Spucky, here's my wedding dress advice: keep an open mind.  You might think you hate lacey gowns, but you really won't know if you hate lacey gowns until you try one on.  You might think you want a Cinderella Ball Gown, but go ahead and try on the slinky Great Gatsby number.  Just do not lock yourself into a limited vision until you have tried on a dozen different dresses.  Otherwise, you might miss out on your dream dress even though you are just standing inches away from it.   

I got married in July 2011, and now I have lots of opinions about weddings.  My baby sister Katherine (aka Spucky) is ten years younger than me.  Someday, she will get engaged and I will want to go into crazy big sister mode and inundate her with advice.  Instead, I'm writing blog posts so when she gets engaged, she can read (or not read) my advice at her leisure. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Plant Experiments: The Abutilon Challo

I bought some new plants for our front porch:

The guy on the left is an Abutilon Challo.  According to its nursery tag, it is an airy shrub that can grow up to six feet high and is a "must have" for hummingbird lovers.  Check out its flowers:

This plant makes me think of Jack and the Beanstalk.  It seems like the sort of magical vine that could just grow into the clouds overnight.  This was the only Abutilon Challo at the nursery.  It was just hanging out with the azaleas, trying to look cool.  For $10, I decided I could give it a home.

But will this plant actually thrive on our front porch?  I don't have an effing clue.  The plant supposedly does well in a "lightly shaded spot" and our porch is "heavily shaded."  Oops.  If it starts to fade, I guess I can relocate the pot.  Except the pot weighs about as much as a baby elephant.

This plant better learn how to adapt to a heavily shade front porch really quickly!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Love at First Sight: My Green Typewriter

On  a Friday morning in late February, I fell in love.  I swear, it was an accident.  I was supposed to go to the gym, but the weather was sunny and warm.  How could I do the stairmaster in a windowless gym when squirrels were frolicking in the sunshine?  I ditched the gym and took a walk in my neighborhood instead. 

About five blocks from my house, I walked by an estate sale.  I did not have my wallet or any cash, but I decided to pop inside.  As I walked inside, I nearly turned around.  I was not going to find any treasure at this estate sale.

Then, I looked across the living room and I could practically hear the twang of Cupid's arrow:

A green vintage typewriter.

Heart be still!  I walked over, pretending I was not interested.  I assumed that, upon closer inspection, she would be a piece of crap.  Instead, as I approached the typewriter, I fell irrevocably in love.  Seriously, how could anyone resist this beauty's charms:

Green in my favorite color, and I love typewriters.  In fact, I already owned two vintage models, so I guess that makes me a collector of sorts.  But a green typewriter?  That just seems too wonderful to be true. 

I quietly inquired as to Remy's price.  $50.  I know I should have negotiated, but I immediately agreed to pay $50 if the nice lady in charge of the estate sale would hold the typewriter for 10 minutes. 

Then I ran.  I hate running, but when true love is at stake, you run.  It was like the climatic scene in a romantic comedy, where the hero is running after the heroine in a train station so he can declare his love for her.  Except it was me, puffing my way home, so I could get my wallet and buy the most beautiful typewriter in the world. 

My typewriter collection is now officially complete.  Partly because no other typewriter will ever compare to my green Remington, but mostly because holy crap, typewriters take up a lot of space.  If I buy another one, we'll have to get rid of something substantial, like the couch.  And I know Nathan loves me, but if I replaced his leather couch with a typewriter, he would go bat shit crazy.  Seriously.  He would actually grow bat wings and fly away. 

But this typewriter will always have a place in our home.  I am still trying to decide where to display it.  I think that with a proper tune-up, it will actually work again.  But even if it never types another letter again, I will still love it forever.  That's true love!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Lucky Pumpkins

I still have the pumpkins that I bought last September.  I keep expecting them to rot and start smelling like death, but they are still going strong.  Apparently I bought immortal pumpkins.  I see nothing wrong with this. 

To keep my pumpkins in step with the season, I went to Party City and bought them some Irish gear:

I think they look festive but dignified. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Book Recommendations: The Graphic Novel Edition

For the past few months, I've been on a graphic novel bender.  I know some people hear the words "graphic novel" and immediately think "crappy comic book for adolescent boys."  Not so!  The graphic novels I have been reading rank among some of the best books I have ever read.  I kind of want to go back to school, get a PhD in English, and then teach a seminar about graphic novels at a small liberal arts college in New England. 

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is one of the best books I have ever read.  It's the story of a middle aged architect/professor who starts over and moves to rural America when his New York apartment burns to the ground.  Every drawing adds something to the story.  Mazzucchelli uses different drawing techniques throughout the book to show how the characters feel and to show how different people have different perspectives about the same thing.  I cannot say enough good things about this book.  I want to lend my copy to everyone I know, but I also want to keep it safe at home because I need to reread it every month, for the rest of my life.    

Blankets by Craig Thompson is a contemporary story about growing up and falling in love for the first time.  Except it is so much more complicated than that.  It's 592 pages, and I was sad when I reached the last page.

If Pride & Prejudice married Lord of the Rings, their graphic novel baby would be Castle Waiting, Volumes One and Two by Linda Medley.  Castle Waiting is set in a medieval fantasy world, but a fantasy story usually involves a quest or a villian that must be overthrown.  But not Castle Waiting.  It's a collection of stories about the characters living in Sleeping Beauty's old castle.  I wish there were more books like this.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is a graphic memoir.  It's about the author's childhood and her fraught relationship with her late father.  Bechdal learned that her father was gay shortly after she came out as a lesbian in college.  A couple of weeks later, her father was hit and killed by a truck.  This memoir unravels Bechdel's relationship with her father and explores the question as to whether his death was suicide or accident.  It is honest and raw but funny. 

If you are interested in reading a graphic novel/memoir, I highly recommend any of these books.  If you are not interested in reading a graphic novel/memoir, I still highly recommend all of these books. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Unsolicited Advice for Brides-to-Be: Don't Be A Hungover Bride

Do not be a hungover bride.  Do not be a hungover bride.  This is very important and I cannot repeat it enough: DO NOT BE A HUNGOVER BRIDE.

I'm not going to tell you how much or what to drink the day before your wedding.  Only you know your limits and the effect alcohol has on your body.  Maybe you can drink a bottle or two of wine and wake up feeling like a healthy princess.  Or maybe you will feel wretched for an entire week if you even smell a whiff of vodka.  I don't know.  The point is this: know and respect your limits.

Maybe you think you can get drunk during the rehearsal dinner and shake it off the next morning.  Fine.  But what do you have to do to minimize your hangover?  Do you have to drink a gallon of Gatorade and eat six cheeseburgers?  Before you go on a bender, think about how much you want to eat and drink on the Big Day.  Can your dress camouflage a cheeseburger gut? Can your bladder handle a gallon of Gatorade?  Or are you going to need to pee/vomit during the vows?

Decide before your rehearsal dinner how much you are going to drink.  Our rehearsal dinner was at a Mexican restaurant that serves my favorite margaritas.  I could have easily imbibed an entire pitcher by myself, but then I would have been a zombie bride.  I indulged in one margarita and then switched to water. 

Don't be a hungover zombie bride who smells a little bit like vomit.  If you puke on the minister's shoes, that moment will be captured and posted on YouTube.  Forever.

I got married in July 2011, and now I have lots of opinions about weddings.  My baby sister Katherine (aka Spucky) is ten years younger than me.  Someday, she will get engaged and I will want to go into crazy big sister mode and inundate her with advice.  Instead, I'm writing blog posts so when she gets engaged, she can read (or not read) my advice at her leisure. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Muppets Mania Update

I blogged about my Muppets obsession last December in this post.  Update: I'm still completely obsessed.

Nathan and I have been slowly watching The Muppet Show on Netflix.  We are about halfway through Season Two.  We are not racing to the finish line because once we are done, that's it.  No more episodes.  I'm not ready to handle that reality yet.

For Christmas, Nathan gave me a Beaker doll.  Here's Beaker, watching television with us and looking appalled (from his expression, we were probably watching an episode of Shameless - but Beaker always looks horrified so maybe it was just Jeopardy). 

We've also been listening to the soundtrack for the new Muppets movie.  The music is fun and upbeat, and we listened to it obsessively during out Vegas/Phoenix road trip.  One of the songs won an Academy Award!  I did not realize the music was composed by Brett McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords until Brett was on stage accepting his Oscar.  (Note to self: write a blog post about Flight of the Conchords; buy both seasons of the HBO show; downloand the album I do not yet own).

And in case you are questioning the depth of my Muppets Mania, please allow me to introduce Murray:

Murray is my Muppet Whatnot from FAO Schwartz.  Isn't he handsome?  As soon as I took him out of the box, I took this photo and emailed it to Nathan (so he could check out his new competition).  Many thanks to my sister and parents for giving me a gift certificate to create Murray for my birthday! 

I wonder how my Muppet Mania will evolve as spring arrives.  Hopefully I do not do something reckless, like hang Swedish Chef curtains in the living room.  I'd like to keep my obsession in the "eccentric but charming" zone and away from the "crazy and a little scary" zone.   And I think we can all agree that Swedish Chef curtains would be a lowpoint, even for me.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Post About the DMV and Office Supplies

Last week, I went to the DMV to finally get my new driver's license with my new last name.  This should have happened last September but it took FOREVER to get our marriage certificate.  I could write an epic blog post about my three trips to the Department of Records - but I won't.  The world does not need a record of that ordeal.

My trip to the DMV was swift and painless.  I had an 8 a.m. appointment and was done at 8:18 a.m.  Not bad for the California DMV.  

But I still deserved a reward.  After all, I had started my day at the DMV.  As I exited the DMV, I saw my reward: Staples.

I have apparently come to a point in my life where a trip to an office supply store qualifies as a "reward."  I had been to the DMV.  I could have treated myself to a new pair of shoes or a cup of frozen yogurt.  But no, what I really wanted was office supplies.  

Did you know that Martha Stewart now has a product line at Staples?  This should come as no surprise, since Martha's product lines are taking over the world.  Actually, the surprising thing is that until recently, Martha did not have a product line at Staples. 

But she does now, and I could not resist buying three little notebooks and some chalkboard labels.  I always carry a small notebook in my purse, and I am powerless before polka dots.  There was no question that I had to buy these adorable notebooks. 

But I spent at least 3 minutes debating with myself whether I should buy the chalkboard labels.  I know there are at least a dozen ways that I can use them .... but I also know that I will hoard them.  That I will keep waiting for a better way to use them, and then I'll forget about them, and in five years, I'll find them - only to hoard them for another decade. 

But I love chalkboards and I love labels.  And there are multiple labels in the pack, so surely I can convince myself to use at least one.  Right?  Maybe I need to leave the labels on the counter and then pour myself a very generous glass of wine.  Except if I do that, my poor husband will probably end up with a chalkboard label on his favorite shirt.  (Hey, that actually sounds like an excellent spot for a label....)