Monday, January 31, 2011

Bedscape: Opryland Hotel in Nashville

opryland bed 2

When I got to my room at the Blissdom blogging conference in Nashville, naturally the first thing I did was photograph the bed. It's what I do.  The room was perfectly comfy, and the bathroom had two sinks, one inside the bathroom and one just outside, which is great if you're sharing a room with multiple ladies, all with different grooming commitments and schedules.

keely in room
Keely checking out our view of the snowy pool.
Blissdom 2001 Wisdom Workshops
Photo from Emmie's Mommy's Flickr stream.
The gift bag was an embroidered Lands End tote, very cute.  Happily, Blissdom did not reach BlogHer levels of swag, and I was able to escape with my dignity intact, not having bartered my soul for some canned-meat branded merchandise. Ugh, I still feel a ripple of shame when I think about it.

And this hotel, the Opryland. Oh my Lord, y'all. This is the place that got wrecked on the ground floors by the Nashville flooding last spring, yet they reopened in November. It is huge, like Vegas-huge, and is organized around three (or more?) glass-covered gardens. There are some exotic and beautiful plants there.  One of the gardens has a river running through it, and they give boat rides.  So it's all very over the top, but somehow not.  It's grand but still comforting.  Kind of like if Coleridge's Xanadu had been designed by Vera Bradley. 


Naturally, Keely and Beth and I had to take the boat ride.  Here we're setting out, and you can see that people's rooms face the garden with those little wrought-iron balconies. It's a pretty effect. It turns out that it's hard to take pictures in the dark while floating on the sacred river Alph, down to a sunless sea, but here are a few.


Just your typical purple indoor waterfall, like you have.

beth and keely

I love this picture of Beth and Keely because they look like the brightest, most attentive students in the world as they listen to our tour guide. At this point I think the guide was telling us that when they filled the river with water, at the hotel's opening ceremony, they poured it out of a giant Jack Daniels barrel. Which, of course they did. Please tell me something less surprising than that. You can't do it.

Putting aside the social aspects of Blissdom for a moment, I thought it was a good conference and well worth going to. It seemed a little more content-oriented than BlogHer, possibly because there weren't so many carnival sideshows going on all around and outside the meetings. I thought the sessions were useful, and a nice mix of big ideas and hands-on help with stuff, like photography.  The parties were nice and didn't have the sameness that the official BlogHer '10 parties tended to, as fun as they were.

The main event was getting to hang with my lovely friends, like Mary Anne and Michele, and meeting new people. I drove, which meant that I didn't have to be disciplined about my packing and could bring all the purses I want.  Also, every time we turned around, somebody was wanting to give us a manicure or a chair massage, or to stuff us with food every three hours like newborn babies, and who am I to argue with that?

And I got some ideas for this here blog. Also free panties.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Made A Delicious Soup

Reader, ever since I bought myself a big, enameled cast-iron Dutch oven for my birthday, I have been on a mission to figure out if there's anything that pot can't do. So far there is nothing.

Maybe I should put my broken laptop in it!

So I cooked some onions, celery, and carrots in a little butter. Then I added a tablespoon of flour. Then I put in half a head of cabbage, shredded, and a crapload of baby bella mushrooms, sliced. Then I added like four cups of chicken stock and two cups of water. And a sprinkling of rice. And some garlic.  It was really good.  Matt mused, "Hmm, mushrooms are the meat of the non-meat world." Indeed.

It was a quiet weekend. So quiet that soup is getting an above-the-fold mention.

And O Sweet Land, we are getting a new roof! We and a roofing contractor and our insurance company have been doing a delicate dance of trying to get the claims adjuster to come out here and agree that our roof has been damaged at some point in history by hail or some other precipitate, and that we can have a new roof for the cost of our deductible.  On Saturday, the adjuster came and climbed up there. Then his assistant adjuster climbed up there, then the roof guy.  They spent a long time, which I figured was good.  I wandered into Matt's office.

"I think the roofing guy kinda has a thing for me!" I said.  Matt said, "Yes, I noticed. I'm going to clear out of here and give you room to work."

But in the end, all I needed was my charm. And the probability that our roof has in fact suffered some meteorological insult. They came down, finally, and delivered the good news.  We all shook hands like old friends, and I immediately told everyone on Twitter. Then I texted my parents and Matt, who really had cleared out to let me work.

I like to celebrate these moments with my tribe.

Other stuff that's going on:

I took the weekend off from working out, but this morning, Pretty Neighbor and I were back at it in her basement.  Later I realized that the single biggest benefit that I feel from exercising is the almost crazy sense of well-being it gives me. Like, my mood is so good afterward, it's total irrational exuberance. From a twenty-two minute workout.  Mind-altering drugs. 

And I am off to Blissdom in Nashville in a couple of days.  I have bought nothing new to wear.  In fact, I haven't bought anything at all (besides food 'n stuff) in 2011.  No Shopping Liz was my inspiration for this. I didn't make a big resolution out of it, but I've had it in the back of my mind for the last few weeks. And I want less stuff in my house, not more, so it hasn't been hard.

Anyway, when you see me in Nashville, please come hug my neck. I will be wearing my regular clothes.

I do think I will get a manicure though. And I'm trying to decide which purse to bring.  This is the time to let the nice bags come out and breathe the free air, but I am also rather attached to my unfussy LeSportsac hobo. I will obviously update you as this decision unfolds.

Oh, and my computer's fan is indeed busted and don't even get me started on how Frye's Electronics said it would cost hundreds to have them replace it, and how it would take "weeks" for the part to come in. We're ordering the part ourselves and they can kiss my grits. 


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Am A Second-Class Citizen in My Own House, Technologically Speaking

The laptop that I use, an IBM Thinkpad, will not start and only beeps, rudely, and says it has a "fan error." I tried leaving it alone for a few hours to rest. Matt and I both tried blowing on the fan. I tried swearing a little and then I tried acting like I didn't care. Then I crept back into the room, snuck up on it, and tried to turn it on. That did nothing. Of course the warranty has expired and it will actually have to be taken somewhere to be fixed.

This is really putting a crimp in my blogging.  The only computer in the house now is the one in Matt's office, which he spends most hours of the day entangled with, Borg-style. It is not a family machine.  I'm only able to type this because he's in the bathroom.

There are a couple of large posts forming in my consciousness, but I don't know how they will ever see the light until my computing situation improves. And have I mentioned that Matt is a computer game developer? Something about the cobbler's children comes to mind. Getting him to take the laptop to be fixed will require special pleading. 'Cause get this: he hates computers.  He likes programming, but he has mostly contempt for the actual machines, and anything to do with fixing them, buying them, talking about them. And who suffers? Moi.  Virginia Woolf was totally freaking right. See how the tools of literacy are being withheld from me? It's amazing that I didn't have to finish my dissertation on the backs of envelopes.

Somebody call the wahmbulance.

So I thought I'd tell you what I'm up to lately. What are you up to?

The last two days I've gone over to Pretty Neighbor's house and done the 30 Day Shred workout with her.  We were doing it the week before I went to California and got snowed out of Atlanta and took a giant break.  So I shred and then I come home and make sure to announce to anyone around, "I've already worked out today."

Then I read my daily chapter of Les Misérables.  I've mentioned this on the Twitter but I don't think I told y'all. Somewhere on the internet, around the end of the year, I glampsed the fact that Les Misérables has 365 chapters. Oh ho, thought I.  There are also 365 days in the solar year. A person could read a chapter a day and, through the magic of compounded interest, read the whole novel in the course of 2011.  The idea appealed to me, because it's not something I was otherwise going to read, so I downloaded it to the Kindle app on my phone. The book is basically free on Kindle.  So I've been reading along and I'm 18 chapters in.

Now, is it in fact true that the novel has 365 chapters? I have not verified this. It wasn't like an authoritative source that gave me this information, it was some discussion thread on Metafilter. I could be in for a rude awakening on December 31. But I'm really enjoying reading it, so let us defer this vexing question. The challenge is that when I get to the end of a chapter (they're pretty short) I sometimes really want to go on, but I make myself wait for the next day to read more. My rule is that each day's chapter is sufficient unto itself.

Now Matt's on the phone with his business partner, so I'm still bloggin'. Hee!

I am also, in addition to these pursuits, tending children. We went to the fourth grade musical tonight, the one for which Laura was Sacagawea's understudy, as you may recall.  Well, despite it being cold and flu season, and what I know to be several viruses circulating in the school environment, Sacagawea was able to perform, so Laura was relegated to the corps. In the car afterward I told Laura that I thought she would have been a hundred times better in the role, and Matt was all, "Whoa, now, I don't know if that's how we want to talk about this," because I was not modeling gracious behavior.  Whatever, I model that shit all the time, I was just speaking the truth. I am not a Tiger Mother, I guess.

Good night, friends. My housecleaner Fabienne is coming tomorrow, after a loooong snow-mandated absence, so I need to go half-heartedly pick up stuff off my bedroom floor.

I love you all.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rules I No Longer Follow

Here are a couple that come to mind:

1) I no longer turn off my phone during take-off and landing.  I always suspected this was kind of bogus--the idea that my phone could interfere with the navigational and control systems of the airplane--and then an episode of "Mythbusters" confirmed it. There could be no higher authority than "Mythbusters." I abhor busywork in all its forms, and powering off electronic devices is busywork. Sometimes I toggle the little switch in my iphone settings to airplane mode, and sometimes I don't even do that.

2) I no longer soak beans.  Who knows that they want to eat beans a day in advance? I am not gifted with this power of bean planning.  So I just cook the crap out of them and it works fine.

And A Rule I Would Never Break:

1) No parking in handicapped parking unless you, yourself, are handicapped.  At times I have known people--some of them were even members of my extended family--who gamed the system to get one of those handicapped parking tags without actually being disabled, or took advantage of the fact that they were driving in such a car to park in the handicapped spaces.  That is the worst kind of laziness.  I don't believe in hell, but probably just living their selfish lives is punishment enough.

Apparently I feel quite strongly about this.

Now, ON THE OTHER HAND, you know those fake cutesy spots at Kroger and other places that are marked "Expectant Mother Parking?"  I sometimes interpret that broadly to mean "Mothers of Small Children and Women Who Are Feeling Harried."   

And what about you, what rules don't apply to you, little miss?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Snow Removal Plan Is "Let's Wait for It To Get Warmer."

When you're in California, you kind of forget that there is weather elsewhere, you know? What I remember about living out there is that nobody ever, ever talked about the weather because it was too boring. Instead we talked about real estate.

So while I was at my conference late last week, I heard dire murmurings of a storm in the Southeast, but it all seemed improbable and fancifully distant, like Sarah Palin seeking the Republican nomination.  Still, early Sunday morning, the day I was supposed to fly out, I woke up in the pre-dawn and thought I'd better check my flight status.  That's when I saw that Delta had already canceled all its flights into Atlanta.  A soothing fifteen minutes of hold music later, the nice Delta agent told me they'd rebooked me for a flight Tuesday, a flight that would show me the insides of two other airports on the way to Atlanta's.

Tuesday?  This was Sunday morning.  I said, "Can't I get a flight on Monday? And a direct one?"  The agent obligingly re-rebooked me for Monday morning and I hung up.  Then I called home and was told, "Wait, the weather Monday is supposed to be worse. They just wanted to get you off the phone." Sure enough, Sunday night, six inches of snow fell on the ATL, and turned to freezing rain on Monday. Thousands more flights were canceled and when I tried to rebook again--this time on Twitter, thanks @deltaassist!--a seat on a Tuesday flight was a dream that had died.  So I knew at dawn on Monday that I wasn't leaving until Wednesday morning.

I texted Matt, snowbound in our house with the kids, the schools closed and the roads impassable, and gave him the news that he would be single parenting for a couple more days.  He responded, "Oof."

One syllable can say so much.

That day was sunny, 60 degrees, and beautiful in LA. You know, boring non-weather.  My friends and I went on a bike ride, had cocktails, watched a Big Love marathon.  At times, some mommy guilt tried to break through. Reports were that Hank had a fever and the dog had peed on Laura's carpet.  I called Matt.

"How crazy are you, on a scale of one to ten?" I asked.

"I'm not crazy," he insisted, sounding barely crazy at all, maybe only the tiniest bit.  To my daily texts, telling him that schools were again closed the next day, he only responded, "Man."  Matt strives for his texts to be no more than three characters.  But for Matt, "Man" is an absolute cry from the heart.

And yet I think they had a good time.  He is the fun parent, after all.  They played games and watched movies.  On Tuesday they hiked a mile, down and up a huge, snowy hill, to the Publix. Which they found closed. So you know, fun.

With my extra time in LA, I got together with blog friends: Beth, Gretchen, Elizabeth, and Jessica.  That was wonderful.  But I missed some folks.  Turns out, I know a lot of people in LA!  Next time I will be more systematic and set up some bloggy meetups.

Yes, so then, finally, I got on a plane on Wednesday morning.  Atlanta was still in an icy state of emergency. There were reports of people stranded in the Atlanta airport, having flown in but unable to get ground transport.  Matt told me that if I would take the Marta train to the northernmost point, he would come get me.  I texted around and farmed the kids out for the afternoon so they wouldn't have to get on the road. (I know you are familiar with the fact that when you, the mother, are out of town, you nonetheless are the hub of all family/social communications. That's another post.)

Now, when I'd left Atlanta, it was chilly, not cold.  I had a light down jacket--one of those Patagonia "down sweaters"-- and a hat that Erika had given me in LA.  When I got off the train at the Doraville Marta station, with Matt still crawling through traffic far away, I realized the flaw in our plan.  It was 21 degrees and felt a lot colder. There is nowhere at that station to wait out of the cold.  It's all open.  Matt told me to find somewhere close by to wait for him, so I set off down the road, dragging my suitcase through the ice.  I had to walk in the street because the sidewalks were too treacherous.  Even the middle of the street was so slippery I had to concentrate very hard to keep from busting my boop.  Luckily there weren't many cars around.

Fortunately I only needed one hand to pull my luggage; I had to keep switching hands or they would have both fallen off.  Did I mention it was cold? I wish I could say that everyone who drove by slowed down to ask me if I needed help or a ride.  But nobody did.  I was an abject figure, for sure.  And even the police station was closed.

So, half a mile from the station (okay, it's .4 miles, I looked, but a half-mile flows better, yes?) I saw a Waffle House sign.  I knew they would be open and they were.  Waffle House!  You can count on those people, you hear that, POLICE? I think the WaHo workers should fight crime, too.

I rolled triumphantly into a booth and ordered a coffee and a ham and cheese omelette.  But drat it all, Matt appeared right then and ushered me out of there with a to-go coffee and no omelette at all.  He was all, "It's almost dark and I barely made it and the roads are terrible and I'm worried about getting back and I had to put the chains on the car three times," and I, I, I, me, me, me.  Like it's all about him, and the omelette-shaped hole in my belly was nothing.

I was a little glad to see him, though.

The drive back was a nail-biter.  They weren't kidding when they told people to stay off the roads.  But we made it and collected the kids.  Hank said, "Now everything is back to normal!"  And Laura even hugged me back and the dog was so happy to see me she cried.

The snow is crazy here. Deeper than I've ever seen it.  They've closed the schools for tomorrow and Friday.

My Christmas tree is still up.  Reader, now you know everything.

I hope your winter week has been safe and cozy, wherever you are.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Are People Taller Here?

I am in Los Angeles, having flown here today to go to a conference and stay with my friend Erika. I will also hook up with Gretchen and Beth.

When I got here and Erika picked me up, I said, "It's like everyone looks familiar here. Why is that? Do I really know them?" And she said, "It's because they look like they're from California and you haven't seen Californians in a while and when you get here you're like, 'Oh hey, there you guys are.'" So maybe that's it.

She picked me up and we had a one martini lunch. Then we sat and looked at the ocean while we talked of important things and she tried my new lip gloss.

Then I went with her to her neighbor's house.  The neighbor is out of town and Erika is minding her house. I was inspired by the decor and took pictures of the kitchen.

Is it not inspiring? Lime green cabinets, baby.  Love it with the marble.

Then, while walking around the block, I trash-picked a rattan side table from a neighbor's rubbish.

So I guess you could say I am making myself at home.

Please have a nice Friday.  I have been so busy this week with the business of getting back on track after vacay, I haven't had time to pop in.  I've missed our little talks though.

West Coast Me

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Forgot I Even Said All That

Are we doing this? Listing our favorite posts from each month last year? I like reading people's digests of their blogs.  I like seeing what they enjoyed of the things they've written and what was significant to them, because sometimes it's not what I would have thought.  And so I maked a list for you.

These are in order starting from last January.  There are fourteen months in a year, right?

Three Things I Observed While Bowling
"It being 'boutique bowling' did not however mean that nobody wore overalls or chewed tobacco and spat in a clear plastic cup."

That Neighborhood Party: Houses
Embedded decor journalism. It's a thing.

Here's What's Going On with Me
From when I got diagnosed with breast cancer.

Y'all! I Almost Forgot!
Reading this makes me miss some of the drugs I was on.

Now That Was A Retail Experience
The one about my sister and the IKEA.

The Wrong Beach Reading
I always enjoy this topic and again, the comments are so much better than the post.

A Mommy Dearest Moment
You know, just yelling at the neighbor's kids, like ya do.

That Bar of Soap Birthday Party
Oh the humanity.

Suburban Matron, Ph.D.
Plenty of good things happened in 2010 and this was one.

Segway Tour: Walking Makes Me Sad Now
But this is the best thing that has ever happened in any year.

Suburban Matron on Ohdeedoh Today
I got lots of new readers from this (hey guys)!

Last Week of Radiation Treatments
I nearly have amnesia now about my radiation treatments but this post reminds me of what it was like.

I Don't Think We Are Four Loko Material
This makes me laugh.

I Guess That Does Sound Pretty Fun
One of my few very favorites of the year.  Sometimes you just really like a post, you know? It reminds me of how I was in a snitty mood around my birthday, a mood entirely turned around by my champ of a husband. I don't think it all comes through in the post, but to me it is a mood piece.  Yes, a mood piece like Solaris.

And, my favorite picture from last year. Maybe my favorite picture I've ever taken, from this post:


If you've got a retrospective post, please toot your horn in the comments.  Toot TOOT!

Happy Monday! Our kids are still out of school.  So maybe one more day of padding around in socks until evening.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Twenty Eleven

Matt says that saying "Twenty-eleven" instead of "two thousand eleven" sounds more comfortable and familiar, like you are actually living in a time and not imagining it from a distant vantage point. He says that "two thousand eleven" sounds like something people in the 1960's would be saying, with wild surmise.  I told him that I still feel that I am imagining 2011. I expect we'll get better acquainted though, this year and me.

How was your night last night?  We were up in North Carolina, at the mountain house with friends and my mom and dad.  We let the kids stay up until ten.  I love my children and delight in their company, but to me, ringing in the new year is adult time. The bigger kids asked if they could stay up, please please, and we said, "No."

We watched Inglourious Basterds, drank some prosecco, and watched the fireworks set off by some people farther down the mountain.  We know them only as The Two Lawyers, but word reached us via mountain grapevine that they would be setting off a whole mess of fireworks.  Word also reached us that, before returning to their house after Christmas, they had left the heat turned off and their toilets froze and broke. They apparently rallied from this misfortune, as they did shoot off some fireworks that we could see perfectly from my parents' deck.

When I say "mountain grapevine," I mean this old begrizzled guy who rides around on his four wheeler and will come into your house and drink you dry, if you are not very careful.  Dad said, of entertaining this visitor, "I just make no move toward a second drink."

One afternoon while the snow was turning to slush and Mr. Grapevine was inside drinking my dad's whiskey, Mr. Grapevine's dog was outside cavorting around by where the kids were sledding, and Hank slid right into him.  It was a scene.  Hank took the dog's legs clean out from under him, and for a few moments, the dog was sledding on Hank's lap.  Then the dog clambered off, leaving Hank in a state of shock as he finished his ride.  It didn't seem like it had been a serious collision, so naturally every adult in the vicinity started laughing.  It had just looked so ridiculous.

If it were a just and good universe I would have been filming this.

But then Hank began to cry large splashy tears.  I asked him if he was hurt and he said, "It hurts all over my body."  So I think it might have been a solid body blow for both boy and dog.  Both recovered just fine, though Hank's eye was swollen. I think he hit the dog's collar with it.

So that was about it.  We watched the Two Lawyers' fireworks, toasted the good company, finished watching our movie, and wished 2010 well on its way.

Happy New Year! Here's to getting acquainted with the future.