Photo of the Week: the Chill Out, Already edition




Whee! Hard to believe that a mere 5 months ago I was going out to my yard and marveling at everything being covered by snow and ice, like all the trees were being dipped in that jar that you made rock candy with when you were a kid. And that in 2 months it will be fall, and I will be able to go outside without an oxygen tank and/or a personal dehumidifier, and breathe the cool air of autumn. I love the south, but by god I am so glad that I live in the part that has seasons, as opposed to Florida, where I grew up. There they have two seasons: summer, and not summer. Summer is when you stick to the tarmac in the parking lot. Not Summer is… summer. But less sticky.
A friend of mine sent me a photo of snow in Yosemite he took a few years back and said he was meditating on it to cool the brain. Here’s my version (his is much more artistic and, also, in focus). With everyone going nutty in the heat, I figure we can all use it.
Meditate, be calm, chill. Repeat.

The Big Move





So my boyfriend showed up last night with the news that his ongoing struggles with his bank to get pre-approved for a home loan have finally borne fruit, and he can start making offers on houses. This worries me.

A little backround: about a year ago, he became obsessed with the idea that he was going to buy one of the multitude of foreclosed houses in our city, so that we could live together, have more space, lower our bills, all that good stuff. (I was originally thinking that there would be a wedding ring somewhere in that equation as well, but I’ve since disabused myself of that notion.) He began working with a banker, we looked at a bunch of houses (from the outside), and he began thrashing thru the paperwork. Since it was his project, I’ve kind of stayed out of it. And that’s where things have stood, for about a year.

Suddenly this mortgage-approval-thingy has been, well, approved, and suddenly the “moving into a new house” idea has become One Step More Real.

I am not at all sure I like this.

I like my house, though it’s clearly too small for both of us. I like the location. I like the neighbors, except for the psychos who made me get rid of my chickens, and they have the sense to keep to themselves. I like that I’m five minutes from the farmer’s market. I like the huge yard, even though I hardly use it, and I like the deep, arching trees that go back to the woods. I like my landlord, who lives in upstate New York and could care less if I keep bees and paint the house purple, as long as I don’t burn it down.

This moving thing, I don’t know. I don’t think it will save money (I’ve moved lots of times, and I can painfully remember cleaning out my bank account to move into this house). I don’t like the idea of adjusting my indoor-outdoor cat to a new (albeit safer) neighborhood. I don’t like being outside the perimeter, like some suburban square. And I will lose my Mexican joint, which is an outpost of the local Los Bravos chain that I eat lunch at at least twice a week. Everyone needs a place like this – the one you go all the time, and they don’t even bring you the menu any more, they just bring you your usual, and you can go in alone and not get the hairy eyeball for taking up a booth by yourself (in fact you have “your” booth) and you can go in looking nice or go all ratty in track pants, claiming you just came from the gym, when everyone knows you actually are coming off a three-day sudafed bender in Las Vegas and you need your fajitas NOW. I don’t like the idea of disassembling my entire life, putting it in boxes, taking it to another place, and trying to reassemble it, only to find that there are bits that you are missing. And they were never things that fit in boxes to begin with.

Probably I am just saying that I don’t like disruptions of my routine, and I should look forward to this exciting new household chapter, full of challenges and changes and positive things. A quieter street! An office that’s not in the living room! Space for more shoes!

I don’t like this… at all.

Rose photo above, from somewhere in Spain. I love the warmth of this photo and the slightly melancholy lean of the roses – are they waiting for a princess? – and I would tell you where I took it but I have gone off coca-cola again, to try to be healthy, and my brain is rewarding me by turning into a sponge, and I’m sucking down green tea in a desperate attempt to stay caffeinated and not sink into the throes of withdrawl. So you’re out of luck. It’s probably in Granada, though.

Photo of the Week: Sausalito Summer Nights edition




Monday! Trying to get this post up before the summer heat utterly, competely drains me of motivation and leaves me on the couch gasping for air, with only the energy to munch TerraChips.

This is a room off of one of the main halls in the Alahambra, in Grenada, Spain. Apparently, where we would put a broom closet or a panel of electrical fuses, the Moors felt the need to put a handmade fountain in a tiny, ethereal space, with zilj tile and a view of the Andalusian countryside. Which we would do, too, if we didn’t need a space to keep those brooms and fuses. This one is a little worse for wear, but I am putting it up because I am searching for a new studio space and the ones I have seen have been, shall we not say, diamonds in the rough. Man, are they rough. So I am using this photo to convince myself that with a little paint and curtaining and TLC, one of them can become the “room of one’s own” that we’re all supposed to have. Wish me luck!

And when you clean out your broom closet to make a niche like this one, bring me the broom. Boy, am I gonna need it.

Oh, and Sausalito Summer Nights is a totally cheesy 80’s pop song that came out one summer when I was in, like , 7th grade. I love it, and you can listen to it here: Diesel


Photo of the Week – now with more daylight!

boat in tunnel



I had a different photo planned for today, a lovely Parisian sunset that was going to perfectly capture the longest day of the year. But when I went to get it out of my digital filing cabinet I found this one, and decided to run it instead.

These are the Bateau Mouches (I am totally murdering this spelling), the big, flat-bottomed boats that you can pick up at various places on the Seine and take a water-borne tour in. They pass the Louvre, the Musee de Orsay, and usually make a U-turn at the Eiffel Tower. Completely, utterly touristy, so of course I can’t get enough of it. The night version of the tour is infinitely better than the day version, since the city is all lit up around you, glowing and romantic. The romantic part is wasted on me, since I always go to Paris alone, but the lighting – c’est magnifique.

This photo is taken just as we slip under one of the many bridges of Paris. You can see on this ride there aren’t many people up top – it was March, I think, and totally freezing – but I once took the very latest ride of the night (yes, I’ve gone more than once) and was grateful that I was virtually the only person on board, since I was feeling a bit of alone-in-Paris melancholy – when at the last instant a herd of schoolkids got on board, at least 25 kids. They all poured noisily onto the upper deck and my first thought was, “AAAAARGH”.

But you know what? they totally made the trip. They were French kids – so much for the theory that no French people ride the boats – and they were so innocently excited, scampering and laughing and going “whooooooo” every time we passed under a bridge, to test the acoustics – that it was like being on a field trip with the Harry Potter kids, a sensation amplified by the pre-teen Hermione look-alike sitting in front of me, whispering urgently in another kid’s ear. I spent the whole ride giggling at (with) them, enjoying their antics, and when the boat nosed up to the dock I was actually sorry to see them go.

But I wasn’t even concious of being alone anymore. And for that, tiny french children, I say merci.

Photo of the Week: the “Where have you been?” Edition



Hi, gang.

It’s been a minute.

It’s been a hell of a spring on the homestead. I started a new business which is eating me alive. I have people that actually rely on me to make their businesses work. Can I describe how terrifying that is, as a concept? My bees died in the last cold snap, about six weeks ago, and the bee box now sits silent and empty. My incipient trip to Brazil was canceled, smothered in the cradle by lack of funds (see starting a new business, above). And in a rank miscarriage of justice, the county code inspector came and gave us a citation for having chickens, and we had to give them away. No more fresh eggs, but more importantly no self-important chickies amusing me as they strut and fluster through the garden, scratching and pouncing.

It’s enough to make a girl tired.

But! things are looking up. The wintry spring we’ve been having has finally turned into a gentle early summer, with lots of rain for the garden, which I got in by fits and starts in April. My tomatoes are growing like weeds. My boyfriend got me a library card, so I can stop draining my bank account at Amazon. And best of all, I found a beekeeper who will sell me new bees (it’s late in the season, hence the difficulty) so I will have a functioning beehive once again. Oh, and Delta gave me my frequent flyer miles back. For a small fee.

I was sitting with one of my clients for the new business the other day, and showing him the list of tasks I had assigned myself to do weekly for him. “I won’t get to everything every week” I said, “but if we use this as a guideline, then we continue to lurch forward. It’s all about progress.”

And this morning I thought, while I was searching for a theme to this post, if that’s not a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is. Whether you are reinventing yourself, or writing a novel, or planting a garden, or raising a child, or, I don’t know, carving the Mona Lisa out of yak butter, it’s all about progress. Keep on keepin’ on, as they say. And somehow, in fits and starts, you make progress. Stumble some, run some, but stretch towards the light.


Photo of the Week

glowing louvre




This picture is a little soft and fuzzy, due to ill-advised hand-holding, but then it’s Monday and we probably ALL feel a little soft and fuzzy. I worked most of the weekend at my desk so I could use a little soft fuzziness right now.

Focus issues aside, I love the way the ceiling fixtures open up and draw you into the hallway. This is from a night tour of the Louvre (they are open until ten on Thursdays) and so all of the daylight that normally floods these halls is missing, leaving only the shadowy, gas-fixture light to illuminate the galleries. I like to think this is what it looked like in the past, with ladies in satin dresses drifting down the halls toward string music in the Apollo Room.

Flattering light is key, even if it’s only in your imagination…

Book Review: “The Happiness Project”



There’s some irony to me writing this review today, since I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and am being an impossible grouch. Then again, just thinking about this book makes me happier (at least a little) and if it can do it today, imagine what it would do on a day I’m not grumpy.

Seriously, here’s my advice to you – go out and get this book. Buy it, borrow it, check it out of the library, whatever you need to do – get it and read it. It’s one of the best, most practical books I have read in a long time. Gretchen Rubin writes of realizing one day that she had a great, fortunate life, and felt the need to appreciate it more, enjoy herself and her family more, and just be more aware of how lucky she (and all of us, really) was. She set out to make a series of simple, non-earth-shaking changes, and in the process improves her life and that of everyone around her – no drama, no damage, no running off to Indonesia and living with a medicine man. It’s the polar opposite of books like “Eat, Pray, Love” that imply the only way to improve your life is to burn it down and start over – not just thinking outside the box but trampling on it and throwing it’s mangled remains in the trash. (In the interest of full disclosure, I hate those sort of books, and I spent most of “Eat, Pray, Love” wanting to slap Elizabeth Gilbert in the mouth.)

Rubin breaks down her “Happiness Goals” into twelve sections, one for each month, taking inspiration from Benjamin Franklin’s “List of Virtues”, where he worked on one virtue a week for twelve weeks – and then goes from there. Vitality, Relationships, Work – I identified with all of them (well, except for the parenting one – no kids, just the cat) and found several useful pointers in each chapter.

Even today, when I am at my curmudgeonly best, I can dredge up her advice and nudge myself into a better, if not Pollyanna-ish, state. Yes, I woke up at 6.30 am on Sunday because I have so much work to do (and am breaking one of my personal rules, to not work on Sunday). Yes, the winery event I wanted to go to was rained out. Yes, my boyfriend changed his oil in the carport and now there’s  ^*&%^% oil everywhere that I am going to have to mop up. Yes, the store was out of red snapper.

But really, is it so bad? Take a deep breath and remember Gretchen’s advice: Fight right (yes, the oil’s a mess, but he also fixed my brakes last week. And don’t drag his mother into it). Be flexible (no red snapper, but grouper – just as good) Give yourself credit – I just went out in the drizzle and cleaned the chicken coop, and just accomplishing that made me feel better. Crossing “write book review” off my list will improve my morale even more.  And have some fun – maybe I can’t go to the winery, but I can watch Pirates of the Caribbean again, and I can do it in my underwear. Can’t do that at a winery. At least not until the second flight.