Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I Find These Paper Towels Troubling

I tend to think that paper towels with little pictures or designs on them are tacky, but whatever. I can ignore a low level of tacky. I'm not one of those people who decants all of her bath and toiletry products into plain containers, like all of life is a photo shoot in Real Simple. But when paper towels start addressing me in actual words, it catches my attention. And look at this.

Yeah, the paper towels say "Home Sweet Home." On every towel. But it's not perfectly aligned to be centered on each towel, so here and there a towel says "Home Sweet" along the bottom. When I saw these Home Sweet Home paper towels, I had to pause and go, "Hmm." So let's take a moment. These paper towels are, of course, referencing a work of handmade needlepoint. Like this one, from the 1880's.

These later Victorian needlepoint pictures were often worked onto paper patterns, as this one is (sorry for the tiny pic). The paper patterns were mass-published, but would be hand-embroidered at home by women and girls. This is well after the heyday of girls creating "samplers" to show that they'd crossed the threshold of competence with a needle. You've seen those--they would usually have the entire alphabet and each numeral. Also a little picture of the girl's house was typical, or the floral motifs that she knew how to do, and her name and the date.

Such a sampling of her abilities was a way for a girl to prove that she was on her way to being an accomplished and eligible (marriageable) woman. Some of them are much, much fancier. Some samplers are also genealogical records--the girl would embroider a family tree. Truly, major works of art, but even a simple sampler is literally one-of-a-kind.

That dark one is from 1786. In the 16th and 17th centuries, and even well into the 18th in colonial America, most girls were not "literate," in the technical sense, meaning that they could not compose and write with a pen. They might have been taught to read in little house schools, called "dame schools," but for centuries, being taught to read and being taught to write were completely separate things. Therefore, many, many girls could make letters and words with a needle, but were not able or were not in the habit of writing the "real" way. Or, they learned to write long after they learned to embroider. Needlepoint was their writing. So the samplers and works of needlepoint that have survived from those days make up a real women's textual history, a kind of alternative tradition --historical documents that happen to be outside the covers of books. It totally rocks.

So what was the cultural, cognitive, or industrial design process by which "Home Sweet Home" came to be printed on those paper towels? I mean, really, what was the thinking there, if there was any identifiable human thought at any point in the chain? Was it as simple as, "Here's a homey motif to make people feel cozy about this roll of paper?" Like they're just words, totally cut off from any real history, and floating free, ready to be re-valued as a way to "decorate" disposable paper products.

I ask you, is this not weird? It's way more bizarre than cereal shaped like vampires, or whatever grocery store monstrosity you can think of. The "Home Sweet Home" paper towels repeat those words 150 times or so, each sheet intended to be torn off, used, and thrown away. Whoever designed these meant them to be blandly cheery (or cheerily bland?) but they actually forcibly remind us of the alienating and non-human aspects of mass production and consumption. And they really bug the crap out of me. Those paper towels hijack and deface a real, rich history. Like, it's come to this?

Not to get all super serious. Was I raving?

I swear, I am this close to busting out Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, because it might help us crack this nut, but I will spare you. For now.

Anything bugging anybody else?

Gratitude Death Spiral

Have you ever wanted to send a thank-you note for a thank-you note? I know this is not done, but sometimes I am so gratified to get someone's note of thanks that I want to let them know how much I appreciate their gesture. But where would that end? Possibly in an endless and recursive volley of cheery little missives, each shorter and more strident than the last. Thank you! You're welcome, thank you so much, now PLEASE don't mention it again. No, THANK YOU!

Lately I have gotten several handwritten thank-you notes. I don't really think manners are in decline, though they've been said to be on the wane for about three hundred years. To the contrary, in my corner of the social world, I find myself awash in timely RSVP's and sweet notes. Today I was pleased to get a note from Pretty Neighbor. I long ago confessed my girl crush on her, and finally I've gotten a hint that she feels the same! In her thanks after her non-traditional baby shower, she writes:

"I was so happy to have you there and it meant so much to me that you came. I am so glad to have a friend in the neighborhood who I am truly comfortable around."

I won't write a thank-you note for this note, but if I did, I would totally say:

"OMG I feel exactly the same!!! What is with these weirdos around here?? Thank goodness I have you to talk to! I hope you never move! Call me tomorrow so we can discuss what we're going to wear to swim-team registration. BTW, I love your new haircut and your sandals are sooo cute! LYLAS!"

Okay, so that's what I would say if I were answering her note AND I were in the seventh grade. But it is how I feel. Sometimes I think we were more fluent in the language of friendship back then, in middle school. Plus we had those awesome pens with the liquid metallic ink.

Of course, if someone sends you flowers as a thank-you, then a note or phone call is needed, to say thanks and that they arrived. But it should end there, right? We all need to get on the same page about this. Because with the thank-you-flowers-thank-you-note situation, we're already at a few degrees of remove from the originating gracious event. Any further, attenuated expressions of gratitude just risk confusing everyone involved, and in a real Doomsday scenario, could possibly lead to miscommunication and hurt feelings. Which could then only be remedied by another gift or generous gesture, setting off another barage of thanks. Maybe that is what's meant by "friendly fire."

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Tale of Two Lodgings, Part Deux: Hotel Kabuki in SF

On my last trip to California back in December, I was very interested what I drank and what I wore. The thematic focus of last weekend's trip was more location, location, location. I stayed in a part of the city I'd never seen before. Nothing could have really topped Borg's, but I would also recommend the Hotel Kabuki in Japantown.

View from the Hotel Kabuki

That was the view from our room on the 16th floor. Click to embiggen, because that's the motherfrackin' Golden Gate bridge, my friends! Or a very good matte painting that was hung three feet off our balcony. Either way it was nice. The weather was that gorgeous the whole time. And because I am totally getting my Fodor's on, as one of my wonderful readers said, I want you to know that this place is also very affordable if you need a city getaway. I booked on Priceline and paid $110 a night. You can pay less for a smaller bed, lower floor, etc. I didn't know what we were getting, exactly, but we lucked into a corner room. And since I already showcased the bed at the Borg, a "thrilling bedscape" as a friend commented, here's the bed situation at Kabuki.

Hotel Kabuki, Japantown

You know, perfectly nice, kind of generic hotel comfort. The only really Japanese thing about our room was the deep soaking tub in the bathroom, with a little bathing stool and faucets outside the tub so you could get clean before getting in for a soak. This place had two bottles of water on the desk, each wearing a little sign that announced it would cost us $6 if we drank it. Plus a minifridge stocked with things you dare not touch. Um, no thanks. But they made up for that lapse in taste by having excellent bathrobes.

Anyway, the main thing to recommend the Hotel Kabuki is its location. I had never been to Japantown, and it's really nice and not too far away from everything. A few blocks, and you're in the Fillmore, and Union Square is a short bus ride away. Or you could walk there, if you're Matt, because that's what he did. The most wondrous thing of all is that the Hotel Kabuki is practically next door to the Ichiban Kan store. This is like a Japanese Ikea, if everything in Ikea cost a dollar. It's just housewares, tools, paper, dishes, really any kind of small goods. And it is awesome.
Ichiban Kan

More Ichiban Kan

I went in this place like three times, and all of the gifts I brought back were from here. They are most famous, I guess, for all the bento boxes and supplies they sell. I picked up these babies, egg molds.
Love! Plus I got like a ton of other stuff--little his and hers rice bowls and chopsticks for the kids, more bento stuff, a silk dressing gown for Betty, donburi bowls and tea cups for my parents, something advertised as "nipple covers" (I'll let you know), bamboo flower holders, paper products, and little candies. Also down the street from the hotel was a Nijiya Market that sold delicious sushi, and there were good restaurants all around. We ate at Dosa one night, which was South Indian, not Japanese, but it was delish.
Japantown in general, and the Hotel Kabuki in particular, have the Suburban Matron Seal of Goodness. This concludes my travel reportage. We are heading to the rainy mountains this weekend. Y'all have a good one and keep it classy.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Lodgings, Part One: Borg's Motel in Pacific Grove

I kinda fell in love with a motel. Friday and Saturday nights we were in Pacific Grove, California, on the Monterey Peninsula, for a wedding. What I really like about PG is that it is everything wonderful about coastal California, without the slightest whiff of pretention or even fanciness. Maybe all the fanciness has been syphoned off by Carmel, its neighbor. But all I know is that, right smack down on the prettiest part of the waterfront, where you would expect to find something expensive, swanky, or trying-to-be-swanky, you find this precious gem. My friends, I give you Borg's Motel.
Borg's Motel, Pacific Grove, CA

I want to kiss it right on the mouth for wearing its "motel" label so unashamedly, especially in this age, when anyone with a spare room can call themselves a B&B, and any tiny lodging place, no matter how dingy, is a "boutique hotel."
And here is the key: Borg's is so dated, so seemingly untouched for the last 45 years, that it is almost hip. Like, if I read that some high-end designer had bought Borg's as a pet project, I would be, like, "Yup, I get it." Kind of a Prada Marfa thing. But, I mean, just look at it.
Borg's Motel

I mean, the floating side tables, the dark and light veneers, the Master and Commander-ish seascape? That painting alone is like, so perilously close to an ironic quotation of period motel décor. But this is the thing itself. So lacking in furbelows and "luxury" that it looks totally fresh. I don't know about you, but when I saw that room, I was in the mood for romance.
Borg's Motel, Pacific Grove

When I checked in, the friendly desk guy Frank told me, "Don't forget, from 6 to 9 every morning, here in the office, we have hot beverages." He didn't say "coffee and tea," allowing me to compose a mental list of other delectable hot beverages they could surprise us with. Sake? Hot chocolate? Mulled cider? But it was just coffee and tea after all.

Borg's Motel Breezeway
I liked this tiny breezeway. And here is the view from the Borg.
View from the Borg.

That's Lovers' Point. And the view in the other direction was just as pretty. When we arrived at this place, I said to Matt that it was like the Bates Motel, but I didn't mean in the Psycho, mummified corpse of Mother, way. More in the modern, California-in-the-60's sense. Kind of a Hitchcock-blonde vibe. After all, Hitchcock lived in Scott's Valley for a while, just up into the hills from Santa Cruz, and now when I watch his movies from that era, like Vertigo and The Birds, it's obvious how taken he was with the look and the landscape of Northern California. So stylish.

Pacific Grove, CA

Here's the town as seen from Lovers' Point. A friendly, pretty place, really just about the ideal little coastal town. More even than Santa Cruz, because here you're less likely to walk in on a homeless man washing his ass at the sink in the women's bathroom at the bookstore downtown. Just to give an example from my experience.

Map in Motel Office

So I give both Pacific Grove and Borg's Motel my hearty recommendation. I would love to get back there soon. And good grief, it's cheap! Our room was $82 a night (that's the winter rate), and the oceanfront rooms (which were all taken--practically every wedding guest was at Borg's) were just a bit more. It was clean, too.

Our San Francisco lodgings were about as different as they could be. More about that tomorrow. Thanks for scrolling, and I hope this makes you want to run away to Borg's a tiny bit. And if you go don't forget about the hot beverages.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Official Wedding Portraits

Just got back to the ATL from our trip to Pacific Grove and San Francisco. Matt is still out there; I took the redeye and got back this morning. I am wiped out and very thankful that my children still remember me. They had a great time being cared for by Matt's mom, and all was well.

This is just a quick post to say hi to the interwebs. And to offer the official portraits from the wedding. Or they would be, if I had been the official wedding photographer. Which I wasn't. But oh well, here is Matt, in the groove and stone cold lunching, at Hula in Santa Cruz. He was facing a giant window, and not just trying to go incognito.

Here I am at the wedding reception. Open bar anyone?

David and Michael, excellent tablemates and always photogenic.

And here I am hugging on the beautiful bride Veronica after the rehearsal. It looks like I was attempting to give her a sideways Heimlich maneuver, or that I was going to pick her up and spin around. It was a truly beautiful wedding, and a fun time was had by all. I hope y'all had a great week--just wanted to pop in. Coming tomorrow: A Tale of Two Hotels.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Oh, the Past, You So Crazy

I am running high on things to do today, and low on blog posts. But that's where Facebook steps in to save the day, right? No, I'm not going to complain about the new layout. There's nothing actually more boring than complaining about Facebook's new layout. It's not like they changed the layout of your house. Or deleted all your episodes of House from your Tivo. Or did a bunch of weird searches on Amazon using your computer, so that now Amazon is determined to have you buy some book called The Science of Sexy. So can we please just deal? There, I said it.

So I remembered that an old friend recently posted an appalling photo of me. Why not blog that, I thought? It's my Funky Foto Flashback:

Okay, so let's take a moment. Bracket the fact that we seem to be doing some kind of towel turban foxtrot. If you can. There I am, 18 years old, and I'm wearing a swimsuit that looks like it's from a 1940's synchronized swimming movie. And it does nothing for me. I promise you, internets, I was way cuter than that. And why didn't my mother say, "Honey, I think you need to wear something a little more revealing." (Maybe moms don't say that?) I think for a while I was into high-necked swimsuits because I thought they were sporty. Or something. Because if you know me, you know I'm so, so sporty. And the legs! I want to reach back in time and yank the leg openings up higher. Oh well, at least I was having fun.

And speaking of the past, I dreamed a dream in days gone by that there used to be one-hour dry cleaning. Am I deluded or does that still exist? Because I am feverishly trying to get ready to get out of town, and I left assorted errands to be done today. One of them was getting Matt's suit jacket and a couple of shirts cleaned. Which you can't do, the day you need them, as it turns out. Then I had a brainwave and realized that they were really already clean and I just wanted them pressed. Which, yes ma'am, we can certainly do that in a couple of hours, why didn't you say so? To me, like the whole point of dry cleaning is usually more about pressing. So why did I never think to ask for this before?

Matt and I are leaving at dark-thirty in the morning to go to California, first for Veronica's wedding in pretty Pacific Grove, then for Matt to go to a conference and me to do some work in SF. I'll be back on Wednesday morning, and then Matt returns Thursday. My sainted mother-in-law is coming to stay in my house and take care of the kids. I'm trying to get things all lined up for her so she'll have an easy time. Normal Neighbor is going to take Laura to school while I'm gone, and another mom will come fetch her to go to a birthday party Saturday. My only real worry is that, every time I leave town, Hank gets sick. Or that has been his pattern. I'm hoping for the best. So posting will probably be light. I'm sure I'll start having fun once we're on the plane, but first there are nine hundred things I need to do.

Have a delightful weekend, my lovelies! And go over here to look at more people's flashbacks:

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits: Things I Did, Thought, or Enjoyed

But which were too trivial to blog about, now on super-duper clearance, so you can scoop 'em all up.

1) This morning something unheard of happened. The garbage men came early, before we'd put the can out on the street. And one of the guys walked up the driveway, got the can from the side of the house, wheeled it to the street, and dumped it in the truck. Hosanna! They have never done this before. To what do I owe this favor? I don't even know how he knew where the can was, because it's behind a holly tree and you can't see it from the road. I think I need to make those guys a pie. Or tip them like I do the mail lady.

2) On Saturday night, after the Roller Skating/Neighbor Mashup Extravaganza, I went to a baby shower for Pretty Neighbor. It's her third baby, so instead of a traditional shower, we met at a nail salon, got pedicures, and then went out for Mexican. I've never done the whole pedicure-as-social-event thing, and it was fun. We drank three bottles of wine while this was going on. And I hadn't had a pedi all winter, so I basically had hooves. Heroic measures were carried out to deal with the hoof situation. The wine helped take the edge off of that. And now my feet are cute as can be.

And Pretty Neighbor's friends were not exactly what I expected. I really felt like I had stepped into an episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. They were all as sweet as can be, but just, um, a lot of boobs, really blonde hair, and various botoxed parts. Obviously good, loyal friends of PN though. And after that much wine, and then a margarita, we were like brushing each other's hair and cutting pictures out of magazines.

3) One thing I enjoy: Hank's quiet assent to Dora the Explorer's questions. He is sitting right next to me as I type this, watching Dora. When she shouts a question, like, "WILL YOU HELP ME FIND MY CUDDLY DINOSAUR?" He says, "Yes," so softly, but with determination. Like, "I will help you carry this burden, Dora. I am small, but I stand ready." He is a tiny mensch.

4) Matt and I saw Watchmen the other weekend. I thought it was rather stylish and I liked it, even though I had no knowledge of the source material. I was whispering, "Why is that naked guy blue? And naked?" And I thought the movie was kind of hot. Can I get a witness? Not the actual sex, necessarily, but just the whole naked, detached-from-humanity blue guy angst. Like where there are two of him making out with the chick? Hot. Did I mention that he's naked the whole time?

5) We also saw The International the other week. Clive Owen-y goodness! Why couldn't they have gotten HIM to be the naked blue guy? I confess that a few years ago, I ordered, from BMW, the free DVD of his series of short films he starred in for them. I guess that is one of the more embarassing things I could share with you, internets.

Thanks for stopping by! And check out other unconnected trivia at Keely's today:


Sunday, March 15, 2009

I Should've Liveblogged That Children's Party

It was a target-rich environment, there at the skating rink yesterday. We celebrated Laura's 8th birthday, and several characters from my blog--Frenemy Neighbor, my kooky Co-Room Mom, Normal Neighbor--were all together in one place. My only thought was of you, my Reader, when from across the room, I saw Frenemy deep in conversation with Jan the co-room mom. I wished fervently that I had miked everyone. I knew what they were saying, though, because Frenemy has stayed at Laura's parties for the past two years, where she picks one of my acquaintances, first quizzing her about where they go to church, then how her children are schooled, and finally moving into a more probing interrogation designed to determine whether this family would be open to involvement in a multi-level marketing scheme. Last year I apologized, later, to the mom she'd had in her talons. I think that Jan, though, probably gave crazy as good as she got. Party time!

And does this scene bring back memories for you?

It does for me. The skating rink scene has not changed a wink in 25 years. I had SO many skating parties as a kid, but the old me who could skate fast, then spin around and skate backwards. . .she is gone. The new me Hokey-Pokeys a little too exuberantly, then falls down on some kids. That's what it's all about.

The whole birthday party felt retro to me, not just because of the setting, but because of how little I stressed out over it (and how CHEAP it was). I know this isn't the mommyblogger fashion, but I kinda outsourced the whole thing. Nothing was carefully handmade, is what I'm saying. Two years ago, I made fancy finger sandwiches and set a pretty table with punch and teacups. Last year, Laura and I had a gorgeous bakery cake made, and this year, wait for it. . .the night before the party, we went to Target, and Laura picked out a little sheet cake that was sitting there, and they wrote her name on it. The cake woman was like, "I used the wrong tip for 'Happy,' so it looks different from the other words." And I said, "Looks great to me." The kids seemed to enjoy it. And the skating rink served pizza and Sprite. I mean, Sprite! Do you get what I'm saying about the retro? Love it!

I looked at these little girls and thought how beautiful they all are, each in her different way. I love trying to imagine what they'll look like as grown women. Mister Hank had a mighty nice time with all the ladies.

He even skated some, on the carpet. Hank skating on the wood floor was not something that worked.

Other things of note: Jan the co-room mom, who is actually pretty fun when you're not trying to accomplish anything with her, brought a big, fake ponytail for Laura. She also skated like a champ and flirted with the teenage boys who were working there. One of them offered her some of his gum. She's a party-enhancer. And here's that glamour hair.

And lastly, my own dear Frenemy Neighbor. When last we spoke, it was up in the air whether we would drive her daughter to the party with us. She never got back to me, so I filled our van with three other little girls. Then Frenemy and her daughter arrived an hour late, so P didn't really get to skate very much.

And AND, I was wearing this shirt, from Garnet Hill:

And Frenemy Neighbor asked me if I was pregnant. Oh yes she did. I thought that everyone on the planet had gotten the memo: you do not do that unless you actually see the baby's head coming out. But no.

It was a perfect Frenemy Neighbor moment.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wow, The Woman Is Really Into Safety

On the way home from the bus stop, Hank and Laura and the beagle and I stopped to chat with Frenemy Neighbor and her daughter, who were out in their yard letting their tiny toy dog go weewee.

I offered to drive the daughter, Laura's friend P., to Laura's roller-skating party on Saturday. Normal Neighbor's daughter is riding with us, and I said it would be fun for the girls, and it would save Frenemy Neighbor a trip. Frenemy Neighbor hedged a bit and said maybe that would work. I said, Okay, just let us know, etc. FN then said, "But P still rides in a booster seat because of her weight." P is a skinny minnie, like a lot of little girls. But she will be ten years old in August. And she is not short. (She's shorter than Laura, who is nearly two years younger, but Laura is part giant on her father's side.) So I said, "Well, we can certainly make that happen." Then we said goodbye.

But I was like, really? And it's not the booster seat in itself, though she obviously isn't apprised of the latest studies showing that for children over two, car seats offer no reduction in fatalities or injuries over the regular seat belts. Whatever. Maybe P is more comfortable in her car seat. But it was another tiny example of the way she seems to be always trying to remove her kid from the normal run of kid life. So she can wrap her in bubble wrap or something. If you weren't reading me back in the day, this post might be the best little intro to Frenemy Neighbor. I haven't blogged about FN a lot lately, because we kind of stopped talking to each other in the run up to the election. Not due to any big blowup, but somehow we just avoided each other. Except for the crazy emails she sent me constantly. Those left a sour taste in my mouth, and I didn't seek out her company. But since then we've had a rapprochement. The girls have gotten together a few times.

P, who is in the fourth grade, used to attend a private Christian school, but this year her mom has kept her home to homeschool her, because, as she told me, "I want her all to myself." She also said she was sick of getting up early to drive her to school. Yes, there is a bus. But there are other children on the bus, some of whom might be older, or different, or unpleasant in some way. So now, P does go to one of those homeschool centers (they're kind of like schools!) a couple days a week, so she isn't totally isolated. But I always get the feeling from P that she is desperate for friends and company and amusement. She is very bright, and she loves to play with Laura and Laura with her. She always hates to leave our house, and she used to pitch little fits about it. So now she's home with her mom most of the time. Frenemy Neighbor told me that she's doing the PE portion of the state's mandated curriculum by teaching P to play golf.

Anyway, FN has always, as long as we've known them, been super, super protective of P. She won't let her play in their backyard unless she's outside watching her. She won't let her take the dog out front unless she's watching her. P carries a cell phone and is reprimanded if she doesn't keep it actually on her person all the time. Last summer, I let Laura and P play in Hank's wading pool on our back porch. It's a little plastic pool that is ten inches deep. I would never let Hank be around it unsupervised. But did I let a 7 and a 9 year-old? Yes. Frenemy Neighbor asked to see it, and then she clucked and clucked until she finally said, "Well, I guess that's okay." But she always makes me feel like I'm letting the kids juggle the torches too close to the vats of full-grain alcohol.

The over-arching theme of Laura's friendship with P is that Frenemy Neighbor exerts an intense level of control over every moment of her child's time. So mostly, when we try to set up a playdate, it's a non-starter. P can't play at 4pm because they're going to Granny's at 7, so she has to be taking a bath by 6, so obviously between 4 and 5:45, she needs to be home, being quiet and tidy and mentally preparing. But then, if FN needs to go somewhere, she has no problem asking if I will watch P for her.

I didn't mean for this post to be a history of my entire relationship with Frenemy Neighbor. And I know that it is not nice to question the parenting choices made by others. So I'll wrap it up. But the earliest indication that I ever had that our parenting styles might, um, differ, is when Laura was 5 and P was 7, and I let them watch Shrek. Afterwards, FN called me. She said, "You know, please don't let P watch that movie, because I haven't seen it myself, and I don't know what kind of ideologies it might put into her head." I said, "Uh, okay. What movies would be okay for her to watch at our house?" Because I completely believe that there are damaging messages making their way into our heads from the media and TV, so I'm like, let's talk about it. Then she said that all the traditional Disney princess movies were okay. And I thought, "Really? Because I think Snow White and the Little Mermaid are WAY WAY disturbing, if you want to talk about "ideologies." Yes, Laura has seen those movies, of course, but we've also had numerous conversations about the narrative conventions of fairy tales, and how those old Disney princesses seem to wind up nearly dead or maimed in order to get their men. We kept it lighter than that. But yeah, ideologies. And last summer, I mentioned how cute Enchanted was, and Frenemy Neighbor said, "Oh, but doesn't it have innuendo?" I was like, "Innuendo of what??? For the love, woman, cut the crazy!" She always makes me feel like I am barely parenting at all.

And the delicious, delicious irony is this: P used to have an overnight babysitter/nanny one night a week, so her mom and dad could go do Amway visits. And it transpired several times that the nanny picked her up from our house because the parents had to leave earlier than the nanny could arrive. The nanny told me that P is a total tyrant in that house, and that she's a nightmare to babysit because they have no bedtime routine whatsoever. FN and Mr. FN treat her like a little adult. P just goes up and plays in her room and falls asleep whenever she wants. I got a really unkind amount of enjoyment out of that fact. Here we are like the neighborhood bohemians--relatively speaking, you'd have to see this neighborhood--but our kids run like clockwork. And FN acts like a big authoritarian. She had this thing she used to do where, if P didn't do what she said or come to her, she'd whisper, "First time obedience!" in this kind of ominous way. So they're the big disciplinarians, but their kid is walking all over them. My soul is black and tarry.

Oh, and can I just tell one more story? Last year,P had to do a big report for school--that private school was big into projects and things that looked like real Educational Products. Anyway, the report was supposed to be on a figure from the American Revolution. So FN and P did a report on Ronald Reagan.

That is all.

The Big Weiner

We have a winner for our Giant Orla Kiely Tea Towel Giveaway! The randomator gave the magic number of 11, which is Cassie! Yay Cassie! I was so worried that the randomator would pick me, because I commented on my own post, duh, and then I'd have to pick another number, but you know, the integrity of the whole process would have been compromised. Everyone knows the first random number is the RIGHT AND TRUE one. But no worries!

And thank you to everyone who left a comment. I wish I had enough to completely wrap all of you in tea towels. Which might even be fun. But Cassie has two little children to wipe up after, so she is very deserving. And she also has a daughter with a wicked fashion sense. So email me your address, Cassie!

This was fun. Let's do it again, shall we?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Today's Preoccupations: Things Not to Say

I'd like to make a series of recommendations. Here are some phrases I would like to not hear anymore:

1) “Pops of color,” used in talking about decorating: This scourge started on the proliferating home shows on TLC and those channels. Now it has infected the speech of normal people. Anyone who says this automatically sounds like a twit. Instead, just say, “I like red,” or the color in question. Or just say nothing. If you are actually being interviewed by the editors of House Beautiful, go with “I like red.”

2) A “perfect storm” of anything. It’s not that I think this phrase should only be reserved for talking about the weather. But a simple coincidence is not a perfect storm. This phrase should be kept for a truly extraordinary confluence of circumstances, like circumstances that would result in the drowning of George Clooney and Markie Mark AND that other guy from Boogie Nights. Instead, maybe say “a confluence of circumstances.” And then explain what you mean. Help us make sense of what happened by putting the different aspects of the situation in a narrative. Thanks!

3) “Drill down” on something. In, like, computer-speak or IT, this means to move from general information to specific data, like by moving deeper into the hierarchy of directories on your computer, or by querying a database. But now people use it metaphorically, it seems, to just mean getting more information. It even has a noun, “Here’s what I learned from the drilldown.” Don’t talk this way. It’s jargony. And you sound like one of those bluetooth headset guys who tries to butt in line at the airport.

4) “At the end of the day. . .”: Just never say this. What are you talking about? You’re trying to cue us to the fact that you’re about to deliver a profound summation. It is irritating. Instead, maybe just stick with, “I think. . . .”

5) Fierce: This is done. It may have always been done. But I could see it being funny in about 8 years, so we’ll reconvene then.

6) "24/7": This is tired. And usually inaccurate. But it can be saved! Instead, say, “24/7 like 7/11.” Keep your delivery arch. Then it is funny.

And what I’d like to hear more of:

1) Great Caesar’s Ghost! Or sweet sassy molassy! Or sweet fancy Moses! Or heavens to mergatroid! Try these old timey sayings. Really put some relish into them. These phrases are like the Mrs. Dash of ejaculations (hee hee)! And speaking of ejaculations. . .

2) Really any archaic vocabulary: I cannot get enough of it. If you read a lot of old novels, you probably already sound a little like a nineteenth-century social comedy. But more is even better. If, instead of saying something “makes you sick” or “drives you crazy,” you say that if gives you "the fantods," you have my full attention. And I am delighted.

3) The Eff Word: Yes, the mother of all bad words. I know people always talk about how profanity is overused and loses its impact and we’re all desensitized to it. I disagree. I think the eff word never loses flavor or freshness. The anti-profanity people will sniff, “I think using cursewords is a sign of a limited vocabulary. Can’t you construct a sentence without those words?” Perhaps, but those words are words like all our other words, so why not take ‘em out for a spin? Lighten up, Francis.

4) Fo ‘shizzle, etc: Shizzle everything, I SWEAR. It’s funny. Again, keep your delivery slightly arch and enunciate carefully. Maybe, “For shizzle,” instead of “fo’shizzle.” Once, years ago, my sister had just had her first baby and I was visiting her in Dallas. We were driving around aimlessly with her newborn baby in the back of the car, trying to ward off postpartum cabin fever. We were hoping to maybe see a movie at the neighborhood theatre, but as we drove up, we could see a long line winding out of the building and down the block. We both, without premeditation, said in unison, “Forgizzle!” (Like, “Forget it.”) A new coinage, as far as we knew. And I don’t think we have ever laughed so hard. Maybe you have to be caring for a newborn for it to be funny. But it still makes my eyes crinkle up.

So what do you want to hear less of? Or more of? Unfold, that we may attend.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Giveaway! An Orla Kiely Giveaway!

Just like I'm a real blogger, y'all! I always see everyone else do this, so why the heck not?

When my mom came through here the other day and unloaded her Santa's sleigh of Orla Kiely she'd scored for me, I realized I had purchased more tea towels than is legal or natural.

So I thought I would compensate you good people for having had a front row seat to my obsession, and give away this set of two dish towels in the bright green pear print. They are brand new and I haven't even sopped up anything with them. I love them, I do. But. . .

If you love something,

Set it free.

If it comes back to you,

You didn't use enough postage.

So leave a comment on this post, and Tuesday night or so, I'll use one of them randomator thingies to pick the winner. And then you'll email me your address at SuburbanMatron at gmail dot com, and BAM! Tea towels for you.

Sure, Dooce gave away four Wii's on her blog. And I have, well, I have these two tea towels. Thus you see our relative positions in the blog world. I don't love you any less, though. And if I had a million dollars, I'd buy you an exotic pet.

Friday, March 6, 2009

She's Bionic Now, or Her Mouth Is

Remember when I described Laura's various orthodontic issues? Well, on Wednesday she had her palate expander inserted to correct her crossbite. It looks like this:

Twice a day for a while, and then once a day, we give it a crank with a little key to expand her upper jaw. Right now she is a little sore, but she's a trouper. Apparently after the bone suture that holds the two halves of the jaw together separates, the soreness will go away. It's amazing to me that this works. Dental Maven, are you out there? I've been thinking of you and wishing you lived next door.

We are giving Laura ibuprofen, whether she complains or not. Right now when she talks, I can hear that she has something in her mouth. Maybe if she were older, this would bother her, but she showed off the device to her classmates, and seems to be doing fine.

So while we initially thought this would be the only treatment, it never turns out that way, does it? When Matt and I went in to hear the guy's treatment recommendations, he asked if anyone else in the family had an underbite. I was like, "I don't think so," and Matt was like, "Honey, are you forgetting your entire family?" Oh, he's right. Turns out that Laura has the same underbite that everyone on my mom's side of the family has (except for me). My sister actually had surgery in her teens to correct this, and it was a major thing. So I called my dad up and complained that he hadn't more carefully vetted my mom's genetic dowry. We never think of our future grandchildren's orthodontia when we're young and in love, do we?

So we're looking at the palate expander, and nighttime headgear, and partial braces on her front teeth. He thinks this will all be complete in 18 months or so. I kind of almost flipped out when he pulled out the headgear. I thought, "There is no way we're sending her to school in that." But not to worry--it's just at night. I don't think it will be too restrictive, and if it helps avoid surgery down the road, then we're up for it. After that meeting, Matt and I agreed that it was going to be both more trouble and less money than we feared. The whole shebang is $3000, of which $1000 will be paid by our insurance. I always love specific info on this stuff, so I'm giving the numbers for you folks who are googling "palate expanders" and such. So after a discount for paying up front, we were out of pocket like $1700. And this guy will really earn that--he has to see her every week for a while, then every two weeks, then monthly. . .it's like being pregnant, in reverse. Or not really, but you get it.

So that's this week's news from our checking account. And get this, my loving parents (the ones who gave Laura a genetic tendency to prognathism) are taking the kids to the mountain house this weekend. Leaving Matt and me at home to work our butts off on our own projects. And maybe kick up our heels for like, five minutes. So they'll be turning the magical mouth key, bless 'em! And we have a childfree weekend coming up. Gotta get the kids ready.

Have a good one,y'all!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Love for Orla Kiely Will Not Be Silenced

Or it will after this, maybe. But I need to show you some of the Orla Kiely for Target stuff I got. After I had trouble finding any dishes or table linens in the store near me, I was slightly mollified to find that you could order the dishes online. Which I did. But I also had my mom on high alert in Florida. She was a real soldier, and one day she visited all THREE of her local stores, striking gold and picking up some goodies. She called me from the store:

Mom: Becky, it looks like they have the canisters here.
Me: Oh be still my heart!
Mom: But now, they're different colors, do you know that?
Me: Yes! Grab them!
Mom: Okay, do you want all three?
Me: Quickly, woman, put them in your cart, and watch your back.
Mom: Well, okay, but there's really nobody around. . .

We had a lot of conversations in Targets that day. She ran me a tab. So really, there wasn't much I actually needed to bestir myself to go and get. Even by phone, she's my favorite shopping buddy. Thanks, Mom!

So here are some of my faves. These are the cork placemats that Laura was modeling the other day.

I think I'll use these a lot because they are wipe-offable. And I love the green, and the pear print is classic Orla Kiely. I'm still playing with what else to put on the table.

That is an old Red Wing Pottery console bowl and candle holders that I got an an antique store in Dillsboro, NC. I love the mid-century look, the freeform shape, and the two different glazes. I think that by mixing pieces that you already have with new stuff, you can avoid looking like you just brought the store shelf into your house. This is the fun part for me--seeing what works with what. And ooh, those are the O.K. coasters in the bowl. They are adorable and you should get them. There's one in every pattern of the line.

Here's another set of table linens that I like.

Laura was "helping" me set the table by putting down a stack of Nancy Drew books. Does Nancy Drew go to the right of the water glass? Or over the dessert fork? Those two plates are actually from two different sets--I'm not sure what I like with what yet.

The napkins are really great quality--nice, heavy cotton. Each set has four different colors that coordinate with the flower pattern. Also, those placemats reverse to blue or brown. But you know me, I like a lot of look and I like to play around. That's another Red Wing bowl. Not married to it. Not married to the glittery pears either. Not sure why I own glittery pear candles? Possibly the outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace. So what instead of the glittery pear candles?

Finally, the canister set that was sold out online in like, hours. It's still out there in stores, though. These are great. Heavy stoneware with nice lids. Hey cuties!

So the most pressing question is, if these were in your kitchen, would you line them up in order of size, or stagger them? I know you may need to clear some time to consider this. And yes, I got both the green and the brown pitchers. Why are you looking at me like that? I think they'll make great vases.

Because I am merciful, I am not inflicting the mugs (nice and heavy), the rest of the melamine (adorable), the seat cushions (cushiony) and the floor mat (um, just fine) on you. I would love to hear/see what you got. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart! But we don't ever have to talk about this again if you don't want.

It's a Things I Love Thursday!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What Actually Works

That blog carnival Works for Me Wednesday is a weekly collection of great household and lifehacker tips--things that make life better and your day go easier. Sometimes I contribute, when I have something to offer. But today I thought, "What if we just all got real about what is TRULY working for us, on a daily basis?" So with tongue only partly in cheek, I offer a partial list:

What Actually Works for Me

1) Money
2) Smiling a lot
3) Alcohol
4) Selective laziness
5) Having a spouse who is nicer than I am

There. I won't put my link on the WFMW thing, because I don't want to pollute their sweet round-up of helpful information with my post today. I love those guys.

So how about it? What's really working for you?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Today's Preoccupations: Fashion Edition

Appropriate attire, people. It's on my mind today. Okay, so there are those blankets with sleeves--Snuggies--that you can get, I think, if you plan to sit down on your couch and not get up for a very, very long time. Well, for some reason, people are wearing them outdoors now. That NYT article claims that its "use in public" is an "aspect of Snuggie that has been little explored." Oh do tell.

This whole situation makes me want to die. But apparently, Snuggie has fans in unexpected quarters. Young people in Brooklyn are wearing them on all-Snuggie pub crawls. (Will hipsters just do anything if it seems uncool enough?) Some kind of high-level, reverse snobbery, anti-chic at work there. I will admit, an organized all-Snuggie gathering kinda makes me smile.

So in the NYT's experiment, people were very welcoming and admiring of the Snuggie. The only problem that the reporter found in wearing the Snuggie out and about was that, being open in the back, with no closures, it was very cold. I have an easy answer: Duh, wear two, one frontways and one backwards, hospital gown style. (If you haven't read the post in that link, take a ride in my wayback machine. It concerns some very inappropriate attire.) So, what use if any do YOU see for the Snuggie? Like, do you have one at home? Do you want one for home? Do you want one to wear out on the town? I am all ears.

And oh Lord, check out this Snuggie commercial parody.

Also, over at my baby chucha's blog, Amy has raised the issue of guys wearing skinny jeans. I know a lot of teenagers are doing this. But who else is, really? Is it only the people who might also be prone to go on a Snuggie pub crawl, or be photographed by the Sartorialist?

And finally, my Laura, who agrees with me every night on what she will wear to school the next day, and then gets up and puts on anything she wants, knowing that her father (who gets her out the door in the morning) is oblivious to the finer points of fashion, seasonal appropriateness, or even if what she has on is hers/clean/in compliance with school dress codes and cultural norms.

This was today's ensemble, fresh off the schoolbus: her less-clean pair of Uggs, jeans, MY fresh produce hoodie, a polka-dotted headband with streamers, and her new brown and blue backpack. It's an eye-opening combo. Somehow she always carries it off, but I guess our days of matching Gymboree and Hanna ensembles are behind us. What is it with girls this age and the active avoidance of clothing that coordinates?

And YES, Laura is also modeling my new Orla Kiely placemats, more about which later, gators! And you KNOW there will be.

Stick a fork in me and call this my Random Tuesday tidbits.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hello Snow! And a Bloggy Project.

Happy March 1 to everyone. It was a corker! In the middle of the morning, the rain here in the ATL turned to this.

That's down in Centennial Park, courtesy of the NYT. The flakes were HUGE and fluffy, like biscuits. In like a lion, indeed. When Hank went down for a nap this afternoon, I took to my bed to watch it snow and finish a book that I didn't want to read in the dark. Being in bed in the middle of afternoon, good book, snow falling, sleeping toddler. . .Oh Baby that's what I like. If anyone wants to read something short and scary (and good), lemme know and I'll give you a rec. (It doesn't involve vampires or zombies.) None of the snow stuck--it just wasn't cold enough, but it was lovely to watch it fall all day.

Speaking of lovely, if you're not reading A Day That Is Dessert (it's over there in my blogroll), you should check it out. Lecia's blog is always filled with gorgeous ideas and pictures, and she has asked me to ask you to help her out. Lecia is seeking Flat Stanley stories and photos to publish on her blog. I had not heard of the Flat Stanley books by Jeff Brown, but apparently this is a big thing for Kindergarten and first-grade classes to do. As Lecia explains,

In the book, Stanley Lambchop has all sorts of adventures after he is flattened by a bulletin board. Your child will use their imagination to help create new adventures. Flat Stanley will go visit a family member or dear friend of your child’s choosing for the rest of the month. The job of the host family is to incorporate Stanley into their lives, create new adventures and correspond with the class.

If you've done the Flat Stanley thing with your kids, go share your pics. Or if your child's class is about to do it, go see what others have done. The Flat Stanleys that Lecia and friends made are so cute that they may inspire me to make one of my rare forays into crafting. Yikes!