Friday, February 29, 2008

a really good post

Cakespy found an amazing use for homemade breads: dessert sandwiches. These delightful-looking confections made me want to get out the yeast and throw together a loaf of good, white bread so I can try them out. Since NH's birthday is alarmingly soon, I have a whole lineup of treats to make in his honor for the coming weeks, and I may just have to add these to the list.

I think my favorite concept may be the cookie dough sandwich, but the pink frosting sandwich is just so cute!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Bride's Book

This was my first blog-related purchase, it's a 1902 Scottish edition of what I think is an English book called The Bride's Book, a smallish guide to everything related to proposals and weddings, plus some suggestions and musings on the nature of early married life. The author is a Mrs. E. T. Cook.

This book was actually slightly awkward to purchase, since the couple who owned the shop wondered aloud whether it was a hint about an upcoming engagement (sorry folks, the title of this blog won't be legit for a while, if ever) but it's a blast to read and when I'm procrastinating I find myself flipping through for an interesting passage. My love for quirky old books burns onward.

I've scanned here the passage that inspired NH and me to purchase this volume, essentially a list of the various types of proposals with a brief description of each. It may surprise you, reader, to discover that the next several pages of Mrs. E. T. Cook's book focus on the meaning and delivery of the "Vague Proposal".

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

100% whole wheat bread

The addition of vital wheat gluten was excellent. Seriously, I now regret every other time I have made whole wheat bread without it, because the texture is that much better. As I sat in the dining room reading about Animal Behavior, I couldn't stop lightly squeezing the cooling loaves because they were almost pillowy. I've frozen the bread already (made three loaves, heading into that "hibernation" period of the semester where I act like a chicken with no head), but even the toast yesterday was a bit chewier and lighter than my past loaves have been. This is a super simple bread that wasn't too demanding to make. I usually like to fuss with different flours and grains and so on but since this was an experimental loaf (or three) I went with basic. If you decide to try it, pump up the amount of sugar by a little bit if you use regular or brown sugar, or try agave sweetener if you're in on that trend.

whole wheat bread

1/4 cup warm water (warmer than your body!)
1 packet active dry yeast
1 egg, beaten
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water (a little cooler than your body!)
2-2 1/2 teaspoons salt (use a little more if you don't plan on buttering your bread/using spreads)
1/4 cup honey
5 1/2-8 cups whole wheat flour
12 tablespoons vital wheat gluten (or so)

Put the warm water and yeast in a pretty large bowl, mix up a bit and let sit for five minutes or so until the yeast granules are nice and dissolved. This is a good time to beat up the egg and melt the butter if you haven't done so already. Add the egg, melted butter (I let it cool a bit first), lukewarm water, salt and honey to the yeast mixture and stir until well combined. Now, start adding the flour and vital wheat gluten a bit at a time, it'll be easier if you mix in a cup or two and then add more, rather than pouring it all in at once. Also, since the weather, the price of tea in china, and how exhausted you are might affect how much flour the bread needs on any given day (hence the wide measures), you'll have to pay careful attention to how the dough is looking. I used about 6 cups of flour and 2 tablespoons of gluten per cup, arriving at about 12 tablespoons vital wheat gluten. That'll change depending on how much flour you end up needing. Once the dough is neither dry nor sticky, knead for ten minutes or so (I usually spend about 7 minutes kneading and 3 minutes complaining about how kneading is such an arm workout) and when the dough is nice and satiny, make sure it's a ball and set it to rise in an oiled bowl for an hour, or until doubled. Make sure you oil the surface so it doesn't dry out (I usually cheat and spritz on some Pam Canola) and cover the bowl. I favor a clean, dry kitchen towel but plastic wrap does the job. When the dough has doubled, punch it down firmly but not violently, and cut it into three pieces. Roll the pieces into logs, tuck the ends under, and set them in greased/Pam-d loaf pans to double again, covered. While the logs of dough don't need to touch the sides of the loaf pans, you'll want to make sure the dough is touching both short ends of each pan, which helps it rise. This is especially hard with silicone loaf pans, which is one of the myriad reasons I hate silicone loaf pans. You might want to get the oven going at 400 degrees now, so it's nice and toasty when the bread has risen. The loaves should take about 45 minutes to double (but again, that depends on the temperature, the price of tea, and so on) so use your eyes. Now pop them in the oven for ten minutes, then drop the temperature down to 350 degrees to finish baking. I'm going to say that the bread is done when it sounds hollow on the bottom, but if that isn't clear enough for you, Nicole over at Baking Bites has superb advice.

Yields three yummy loaves.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

perfect for vacuuming: special edition

I know I already posted a pair for today, but hello, these have polka dots. And patent leather. And are Valentino. They almost make me want to cry they're so pretty.

perfect for vaccuuming

The cure for the snow? Fantasizing about these babies from Miu Miu.

Pure fluff, pink and girly. Dreaded ankle strap, of course, but overall lovely. At for some unreasonable price in snooty British money.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Tonight I experimented with adding vital wheat gluten to my 100% whole wheat bread. It's rising now. Report to come tomorrow in the AM.

I am VERY excited about this because I have been using about 1/3 white flour in my whole wheat bread to improve the texture. 100% whole wheat is a little healthier, right?

I love fiddling with recipes.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

why vacuuming in heels is (maybe) good idea

My stepmother has one of those fun little calendars (it was a gift from my dad) loaded with quotes about shoes, which, if you've ever read this blog before, you know I am passionate about.

A few days ago she sent me this: "Nothing has been invented yet that will do a better job than high heels at making a good pair of legs look great, or great ones look fabulous."-Stuart Weitzman

Nothing earth-shattering but very true, but there are reasons many women don't do heels. Some of those can't really be addressed here (comfort, for example, is a personal decision), but many women just don't walk that well in heels. Since we actually do stuff (rather than sit around telling the servants to do stuff) it can be annoying to feel hampered in any way when it comes to walking, and as a result, many ladies resort to flats when a heel would add elegance and sex appeal.

The dirty little secret of high heels is that most people are not born knowing how to walk in them, and many people who wear them are bad at wearing them. Heels should always fit well and be in good condition, but it's especially important if you're not a regular high heel wearer (models wear heels all the time, which is why they can glide down the runway in the wrong size). You might just want to try doing your day to day chores in them.

If you don't mind wearing shoes in the house (or if the shoes you're practicing in are brand new), wearing them around the home is a great way to break them in and get used to them. Put the shoes on before vacuuming, washing dishes (don't do this one if they're say, satin, and will be easily ruined if splashed) , dusting, etc. As you walk around, try and correct your balance or straighten your spine. Practice going up and down steps in them, and see how they adjust with your feet as they swell naturally. As a plus, this is often a great way to find out if a pair of shoes ought to be returned; if you can't wear them for ten or fifteen minutes of normal activity, you'll never wear them out comfortably. Since the way most stores determine whether a pair of shoes is "worn" or not has to do with the condition of the sole, as long as your flooring of choice isn't concrete, the shoes will probably still be returnable. I've been wearing heels for years and I still do this with practically every new pair, since heel heights and shoe shapes are different. Many times after twenty minutes of walking around the house I will discover that a pair of super high heels requires an insole, or one of those neat heel grips. It's much more painful to learn your new red patent mary janes require an insole midway through a day at the office or a round of errands.

Do you wear heels? How do you break in your new shoes?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

perfect for vaccuuming

I thought I'd reign in the youthful craziness of the bright blue Louboutin t-straps with a pair of gorgeous, classic slingbacks.

These are by Barbara Bui and are at Neiman's.

the coworker, part deux

I was going to blog about the six dozen oatmeal and oatmeal raisin cookies I made today, but this was more interesting and has been waiting longer. Remember Evan? My friend with the rude coworker?

Things got worse. The aforementioned coworker contracted some vile respiratory illness that resulted in a hacking, deathly cough. The sort of cough that leaves your chest a bit sore. The cough progressed for weeks, without abatement, and in addition to the crunchy snacks (Evan and I cannot figure out how anyone who is practically coughing spleen up every five minutes can choke down a large back of corn chips daily). Anyway, Evan asked whether this fellow had seen a doctor for the loud, disgusting illness, and the coworker said he hadn't.

Now, I could make this a post about how rude it is to go to work sick, and make everyone else sick, and cause them to use up their sick days, which they really need in case their kids or sick or they want to take a spur of the moment three day weekend to Cape Cod. Everyone already knows that's rude and does it anyway because they're saving their own days for kids with the grippe (I played too much Oregon trail in my youth) or weekend jaunts in nautical-themed clothing.

Instead, I'm going to post about how S and I decided it would be a perfectly simple situation if only Evan were a woman. Now, I know that sounds sexist, but if I were the sort of person who was overly touchy about feminism and social discourse and race issues etcetera etcetera etcetera I probably would have titled this blog differently. For one, both men and women seem more receptive to women. Maybe it's the nurturing thing or maybe women just seem like less competition (oh well, that was dumb!), but time after time I have seen the so-called "woman's touch" in action. The women in my life have always been better at getting money back after the return/exchange policy was up, convincing that guy in the movie theater to move one seat over, and fixing random stranger's tags, collars or drooping scarves. Perhaps this is just something women are raised to do, and I would venture an extremely unscientific guess that it's a difficult to assess combination of non-threatening-ness, ingrained sweetness and perhaps, sexual attractiveness.

S and I decided that if Evan were a woman, he could show up with a bag of cough drops and a cup of tea, which would probably give the coworker at least a small hint that his hacking was noticeable (just a small jump to "interruptive"). If he actually used the things, they might work and could give our female Evan a chance to make a few hack-free phone calls. Also, female Evan could use his womanly touch to seem like a caring and thoughtful person when (s)he recommended the coworker stop by the doctor's office. I'm not a man (and this gender switching is starting to confuse me, it'll stop soon), but I think if plain old man Evan were to ask the coworker more than once whether he'd seen a doctor, let alone gently encourage him to do so, it would come off in a much more threatening way. Not to mention in my experience men aren't as eager to share health information, they seem a little more close-lipped on these subjects. Of course, almost everything in the last two paragraphs is a massive generalization that could be proven inaccurate in sixty billion situations, but I think the main idea makes some sense. As male, non-friend coworkers, Evan and the coworker have a communication problem.

I'm still writing a post about what Evan could actually do, but I thought I'd find out whether readers feel the same way. Would this subject be easily more easily resolved if only Evan were a woman?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

it doesn't even fit the model...

and we're supposed to pay full price plus shipping for it? What's with the puckering in the cups near the sternum? There are many things in life a girl has to compromise on, but bra fit is not one of them. This brassiere (that's just not made for this model) is from Betsey Johnson and it's $36 at Urban Outfitters.

I had grown sick of Urban Outfitters, but their semi-recent redesign (or whatever they call it) tempted me to glance through the site tonight, and I found many cute and covetable things, like this really fun take on the spectator pump trend, by Pour La Victoire ($195).

But I also just can't get over the wacky fit on a lot of the lingerie in the pictures. I'm sure the stuff is cute and must fit (some) people correctly, I even own some Betsey Johnson lingerie. I wonder why they would feature it that way though, it seems kind of counterintuitive to you know, selling it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

things that hurt and how i fix them

So, I had my tragus pierced a few months ago on a half whim, a half whim being when I do something I've been wanting to do on a lark. I actually really love the piercing, but it just hasn't healed cleanly for me. No surprise there, an ill-advised belly button piercing when I was fifteen or so required a re-piercing, and worse, even though I haven't worn a ring in it for over two years, there is still a persistent hole above my navel, although it isn't a horrible disfigurement. My mother and I both had our tragi pierced by a young woman (she was a twin) and a man who looked a lot like Steve Buscemi, although he was incredibly offended when I mentioned it. My mother's healed just gorgeously but that's par for the course for her, I don't get sick a lot but I'm not a good "wound" healer. Someone once told me I should take up red meat.

So I thought the thing was all healed because during break it finally stopped acting up, but I was wrong, and it's been all tender and annoying and I'd consider taking it out but it really is my favorite piercing. Seriously ladies, if you want an extra ear piercing that's not as trite as another cartilage stud from Piercing Pagoda, consider the tragus. Bonus, you get to hear it crunch when they put the needle through the cartilage. Assuming that's a bonus for you. Anyway, I found the instructions the piercing guy gave me a bit cumbersome for any person who does more than watch reruns of Law & Order all day. So while I haven't been washing it with soap four times a day (or some other awkward number), I have been doing Bactine rinses a couple of times a day again and it's doing well again already. Of course, many people will sneer at my flouting of professional piercing advice, but who has time to whip out a dixie cup and some sea salt for a saltwater soak a bunch of times during a single day? No one, that's who. I've been trying to pare down lengthy routines in general.

Also, I flicked a bit of spicy Thai Basil Sauce (delicious!) into my eye today when I clumsily dropped a chopstick. This advice will probably be more generally useful than my piercing complaint/solution, and I got it from my neighbor C, who is fabulous. Anyway, when you get painful burning stuff in your eye most suggestions involve flushing the effective area with water for a long while, usually under the faucet. That has it's obvious disadvantages. If your contact lens is in there, it could get rinsed down the drain (and it's pretty hard to remove a contact with hot pepper covered fingers), and you have to get your head going at an odd angle. It's all very frustrating. C suggested I fill my palm water and bring my head to my hand, cupping the eye and blinking the spicy stuff out of my eye. This was very effective and I very strongly recommend it for anyone who can't handle their chopsticks well.

What are your solutions to life's annoying little stings?

miss me? i'm in the library

I'll definitely be doing nothing but school work for the next couple of days (never fear, there will be oatmeal raisin cookies and etiquette issues galore come Thursday), but until then, check out this interesting assortment of quotes over at because i'm addicted. Addicted's post tackles the issue of just who women are dressing for, one that admittedly NH and I have come to heads over before, from myriad angles. Fun light reading: a really good post.

Friday, February 15, 2008

perfect for vacuuming, i'm on vacation so i can do whatever i want

I'm on vacation with NH, but while perusing (admittedly, for the first time ever), I couldn't help but notice these blue beauties. Now I'm not going to lie, like many of the shoes I post on here, the peacock blue Louboutin t-straps are "a lot of look" but they are also a lot of gorgeous and if dressed properly, would be striking. I'm seeing these with tights in gray or purple, but bare legs would be sexy as hell (and there is nothing quite as sexy as eternal hellfire and damnation, except maybe thumbscrews). Slim ankles required, of course.

On the other hand, these Rupert Sanderson pumps are a perfect shade of light blue with a touch of green or teal in the hue. They say afternoon tea, eyelet, and "premarital sex is wrong". See, who says shoes can't lovely and witty?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

perfect for vacuuming, maybe

I really love these Kate Spade heels, at least, I think I do. They're one of my favorite shapes (maybe it's all those years of private school but I find nothing quite so adorable as a round-toed, single-strap, high-heeled mary jane), and the color is a bit unexpected. The color even has its own cool name, "Thai oil patent", which sounds like it should be very pretty with nice sheen. I do wonder if these would be a little too shiny/iridescent though, perhaps evoking the dreaded stripper shoes, especially if worn with the wrong outfit. What do you think? Is the Kate Spade "katie" sexy or trampy?

At Nordstrom's.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

love for breakfast

NH spent most of the weekend here with me. On Saturday, while trying to decide what to have for breakfast NH suggested we scramble some eggs and purchase some instant biscuits from the store, which I immediately took as a challenge. I make biscuits from scratch all the time, but usually not in the morning, and since once you've had delicious homemade biscuits canned biscuits are far from ideal, I don't have biscuits in the AM too much. But since it was Saturday, I decided it was time to try out some morning baking. NH made the few blocks trek down to the further away, but far better, grocery store to pick up some last minute supplies (like eggs), and I got these started. I went with drop biscuits (faster, more tender) but you could cut down the liquid (by about a quarter) and roll these instead, if you prefer more uniform biscuits, which might be better for spreading with preserves. Cheese and/or herbs would be a nice addition, especially if you wanted to serve these with dinner. You could also change the liquids if you'd prefer a less rich biscuit.

dropped biscuits
roughly adapted from Joy of Cooking

about 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
about 1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons very very cold butter (I just took the chill off of some frozen butter), cut into small cubes
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cream (light, heavy or whipping will do)

Preheat the oven to 450. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter. Many people do this with knives or that funny looking pastry blending tool, but I prefer to do it with my hands, which is why I used extra cold butter, which can withstand the heat of my hands a bit longer than merely cold butter. Put the cubes in flour, mix it up, and use the tips of your fingers to break the cubes into smaller and smaller pieces, constantly incorporating the pieces with the dry ingredients. Do not let the butter melt! This will destroy your biscuits' texture. The goal is to incorporate the butter as discrete bits mixed in with the flour. When you're done, the flour/butter mixture should resemble coarse bread crumbs. Make a well in the flour/butter mixture, and pour in the cream and milk. Stir the mixture until just combined. Drop lumps onto an ungreased baking sheet (mine were about a scant 1/4 cup sized, but size is to your taste and intentions), and bake for about fifteen minutes or until a light golden brown. Serve warm. These will keep nicely for the next day, and can be reheated in a 250 oven for a few minutes.

someone actually ate suffered this for dinner

As mentioned in last night's preview post, this is a scan from an actual book. A book I paid money for (I'm geeky like that). It's a super old (1935) more than well-used manual for housewives entitled Homemaker's Handbook, written by Dorothy Myerson and published by McGraw-Hill (Whittlesey House is the imprint, I think). It's a treasure trove of outdated housewifery, from tips on what to feed children during a birthday party (preview, today's hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza wouldn't fly--too taxing on a young'un's  digestive system), to sample schedules for hired help, to recipes for every sort of food. These recipes harken back to a time when a single cocktail could land you in the hospital for alcohol poisoning, children didn't speak until spoken to, and gelatin wasn't just for dessert.

On that last point: this book is laden with recipes for aspics and other gelatinous dinner dishes. I couldn't quite tell you when molded dinners fell out of vogue, but I'm more than happy to say that I've never had one. Still, the recipe above fascinates. It is a sort of chicken meat loaf, composed of chopped chicken set into chicken stock Jell-o. Now close your eyes. Imagine your mother is calling you to dinner, and that is what she is serving.

Probably someone will come in and say "oh, well that's what you'd be used to" or "don't knock it until you try it" or "tastes change" or my personal favorite (and one my mother pulled lots of times), "if you're hungry enough, you'll eat it". Yup, I agree with all of those statements. But as a modern reader, that loaf sounds downright disgusting. Would you eat it?

Later this week I'll post some yummy sounding chicken recipes I'd make for NH (I don't eat chicken) instead. In the mean time, for some more questionable recipe fun check out the Gallery of Regrettable Foods. Also, since they're packed with recipes that aren't quite to many reader's tastes, old cookbooks can be had on the cheap from used book stores, and are loaded with kitschy charm.

Monday, February 11, 2008

a really good post

I don't know if a new, super slim male body ideal on the catwalk will actually change men's behavior/self-perception (in fact, based on my conversations with men, they seem much less susceptible to messages about what their bodies "should" look like than women are), but I think Meg of Faking Good Breeding discusses the issue nicely in this really good post. I'd love to hear what others are thinking about this topic.

perfect for vacuuming

People love to talk about building a wardrobe. Building a suit collection, building a lingerie wardrobe, etc. Cue cheesy carpentry joke. I hate this phrase, because it conjures a vision of boring black pumps and pants with a sad fit (I should do a full length post on this, but what is it with stores calling any pants that have room for a bum "curvy fit"? Every brand seems to have these now, J. Crew, Gap, Banana Republic, and it's really quite strange and always makes me feel like my tag is a little smirky and a little euphemistic, and who wants a euphemistic tag staring them down at 9 AM?). These nude patent leather pumps (Giuseppe Zanotti at Barney's) would be in my fantasy "shoe wardrobe". A totally classic shape with the almond toe, relatively high vamp (although I do love a bit of toe cleavage) and an excellent heel, these would look gorgeous with and skirts or dresses, and would lengthen the legs for miles. Maybe it's just because I'm a little more coffee than milk in hue, but I like the slightly darker shade which is warm and would flatter many, many shades of person. These are simple and would let embellished duds shine while still whispering style and grace. 

I made bread tonight and it is delicious, and proves something in The Joy of Cooking totally bogus. I also scanned one of the most disgusting recipes I have ever seen from my Homemaker's Handbook, a 30s-era manual for housewives by Dorothy Myerson that I bought at a used bookstore in Virginia. You, darling readers, have both of these fabulous reads to look forward to in the next day or two. 

Friday, February 8, 2008

why i probably don't want a dishwasher

I grew up without a dishwasher. Unless you count my parents. Bad joke.

No, really, we never had a dishwasher. We moved around a lot and lived in all different apartments, etc. and my mother raised me washing dishes by hand. This might come as a shock to some people, in fact, it has. Someone once asked me if this method actually resulted in clean dishes. Not only was that insulting and rude (no, I'm serving that cake on dirty dishes...) but it made little sense. Dishwashers are a relatively recent invention, and only gained real popularity in the 1950s, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Website. This means that for the vast, vast majority of human history, people have washed dishes by hand. I'm guessing a good portion, if not most, of those dishes, were actually clean.

My feelings about dishwashers stem partially from living in a house where many people use the dishwasher, although I think it basically ends up as the model of how a large family might use a dishwasher. Many people I know are extraordinarily precise about how they rinse their dishes and load their dishwashers. They've honed this ability over time, so that the dishes they put in usually, if not always, emerge clean and pristine. Ah, clean plates with at least a small reduction in time input.

The problem is, when many people share a dishwasher, this doesn't happen. Everyone adds things to the dishwasher willy nilly. Forks and knives are stowed with the business ends up (ouch, for whoever is emptying the washer), vessels are placed facing up (and emerge full of filthy water). Either some things end up clean or nothing ends up clean. This is just how it works when lots of people use a dishwasher, and I imagine it would be much worse if the people leaving together included seven year old boys, not just adults. The issues surrounding who loads, who empties and who is responsible for dishes left in the sink while the washer is running (or clean but full) can be taxing. All that, and you still have to log sink time scraping and rinsing the dishes properly before you put them in the dishwasher. I don't know if, on average, dishwashers save or waste water (comparative to hand washing), but they definitely use up vital resources in the form of energy. Why not go the extra half inch and just wash them by hand?

NH says that he, having been raised with a dishwasher, could not live without one. But I think I could probably do pretty well without this costly convenience. Could you?

Updated: Fixed some typos and to include a valid point from NH, that quite possibly in a large house or large family without a dishwasher,  simply no one would do the dishes, which would probably be worse. The responsibility would likely fall on one person. 

a really good post

Allie (of My Wardrobe Today and Wardrobe Oxygen) discusses her experiences with eBay. Written in Allie's usual straight-talking style, it's a good jumping off point for eBay beginners (like myself).

Thursday, February 7, 2008

project runway

I really hesitated to post this because I wanted the beautiful Louboutins in the perfect for vacuuming post to remain up top for as long as possible (vanitas, vanitas), but tonight's episode was really quite hysterical, and good fun. I was pleased when Chris March took the win, especially as he is frequently robbed and/or pigeonholed AND his outfit was right on point with the challenge. His own matching outfit was a witty and fun addition. I know the cute boy who had to leave due to his unfortunate face infection has been quoted on the internet as saying that the Project Runway cool kids don't hang out with Chris March these days, but he'd totally be in my top two of contestants to meet. The other one being Jillian because I think she's fabulous and I wish she'd make some pretty pretty dress for me to wear. While I hated the styling of her outfit (those boots/socks are weird and not flattering), I loved loved loved the superhero blue fabric and concept which were extremely appropriate to the challenge and looked great while somehow still having a tiny bit of Jillian's retro flair. Loved it. Still, Chris' stuff was awesome.

Now, don't get me wrong. Ricky needed the auf and so on and I am as sick as everyone else of watching him weep and cry and moan about childhood poverty and pat himself on the back for his lingerie background and so on. So it's not like I was all upset to see him go. I just really wanted to see Rami go also. I was hoping this was one of those SURPRISE, you're both off sorts of moments, with Rami and Ricky leaving. Rami has proven himself to have an un-covetable attitude and he's really good at making women's breasts look lopsided (last I checked most brassieres are designed to reduce unfortunate but natural imbalances in breast shape and size), which is not "woman friendly" no matter what Michael Kors says. Women want breasts that are about equal in size and shape. And you know, a little lift and cleavage would often be a nice addition. You can't really see the breast thing in the picture of Rami's pink creation but it was pretty obvious on the runway.

This challenge was fun and funny and made me happy to watch the show while I downed way too much Ben & Jerry's Organic Sweet Cream and Cookies ice cream and chatted on the internet. Doesn't Chris' model/"diva" look like she could kill you? I know the season's nearly over, but the keep the episodes coming strong, Bravo. Or at least keep Millionaire Matchmaker around for a while. That show's hilarious.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

I've been spending a lot of time in the library reading (ah, the humanities) for classes, but there has been plenty of shoe fantasy time. A friend recently proposed that the best way for a man to propose would include a pair of Christian Louboutins. As crazy as her boyfriend (and NH) thought that was, I can't help but think that these would be excellent proposal shoes. I was in love with the pink sequined Manolos before, but these have completely replaced the Manolos as the object of my sequined shoe affection. At Barney's.

a bathtub for the ages

I've mentioned before that I live in a sorority house. I've lived here in doubles twice before (we reset the house each semester to accommodate women who go abroad, graduate halfway through the year, or otherwise adjust their housing arrangements). In my opinion it's one of the best housing situations on campus: centrally located, extremely private, I know every person who lives in the house. Probably one of the most covetable features of this home, however, is the bathroom to occupant ratio, which is 1:2.3, when most rooms at the university are at least 1:5, and in corridor style dorms, as bad as 1:20 or worse.

Right now I'm sharing a bathroom with two ladies, and the bathroom is quite large, with a good sized bathtub/shower in lieu of the stall showers that are ubiquitous in the various dorms. In fact, after five semesters, this is the first time I've had access to a bathtub. It's very pleasant, I'd forgotten how simple it is to shave one's legs when there is something to lean against.

Facilities cleans bathrooms that are not inside of rooms, and ours is no exception. "Cleans" is probably a loose term, our facilities/maintenance guy comes in a few times a week and takes out the trash, leaving hardly any other evidence of cleaning action. Which is fine: a little untrusting (when it comes to bathroom cleaning anyway) by nature, I try to make a little time to clean it myself, although admittedly its been a little tough to get into a routine this semester. I did find some time to give the tub a good scrub with some bleach cleaner, because if there's anything that terrifies me, it's the prospect of some kind of fungal infection on my feet. I can't help it; I had ringworm once as a child.

I spent about twenty minutes scrubbing the tub, definitely finding evidence that facilities had been less than diligent (I'll spare you the details) the day before. Afterward it was considerably whiter, and the bathroom had that just-cleaned-with-bleach smell that I find rather reassuring. I almost surprised myself then, when my mother asked if I had any intention to take a nice, relaxing bath. This was a reasonable question, at home I'm a fiend for baths, and love to take a nice long soak while reading a book. But no matter how much cleaner I'd left the bathtub, I didn't quite think it'd ever be clean enough for taking a bath.

Last night, after an indulgent and yummy dinner with friends, I sat with S in her apartment drinking tea and asked her opinion: after all of my efforts, was I being a little picky? She felt the same way I did: too many people had bathed in that shower and it had gone improperly cleaned for far too long. My sorority has been using this house for at least ten years, I think. And while I'm sure the vast majority if not all of the women who've used these facilities have been cleanly, I can't vouch for the work of the maintenance staff. No, I'm not quite prepared to deem the bathtub worthy, even after twenty minutes with a scrub brush. Do you feel the same way?

Monday, February 4, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

While trolling the Saks website in the reference room, S located these Bruno Frissoni beauties, which retail for over a thousand (le sigh). If you've glanced through my past shoe posts you'll notice I have a penchant for bows of all kinds, and this bow is extravagant to the point of blissful excess. These might not be what pops into your mind when think "chic", but they're almost as fabulous as the girl who showed them to me.

respect for the craft

I am a creative writer. As in, I write fiction. I know this makes me an "artist" in some senses of the word. Art is subjective, it is creative, it is the product of the human drive toward expression of the chaos within. But in a way, I think that's a lot of words being thrown at something relatively simple. I write because I love words the way some people love numbers, or or shapes, or sex. I write because after reading Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men the word sockfeet resonated in my mind for two months. Producing stories, prose poems, etcetera is a task, and doing so with mastery and expertise is something I believe I can improve at (in my case, by practice combined with study in the form of reading and revision). I try to approach writing as a craft, whose guild is the community of student, working and aspiring writers, and whose task is simply to grapple with the human condition and reflect it with expertise and wit. This is both work and art.

This weekend, I saw There Will Be Blood again, with a friend (I saw it with NH the first time and was so exhausted that I admittedly slept through crucial bits), at the Chelsea Clearview. We were this close to hanging around and seeing the midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show instead, but didn't. There Will Be Blood is in my opinion a brilliant movie, but a difficult one (not unlike reading a rewarding author, like Proust, and yes I realize how cheap of an example that really is, but I am in the library with S right now). It is three hours or more long, and a bit light on the plot in some areas while maintaining far too many plot threads, but the acting is top notch and the score actually made me notice how much a score can change a film. I'm actually outraged that the score wasn't nominated for an Academy Award. For shame, Academy, for shame. We both left the theater feeling thoughtful about the movie, and while B stepped away for a moment I sat on a couch and listened to the various moviegoers exit the theater and comment on the film. This is a wonderful way to people watch and I recommend it to any writer; no one talks quite as much as people who haven't been able to talk freely for a period of hours or more.

Many of the patrons loved the film, some pointed out its flaws while expressing admiration for the whole effort, several didn't get it. This is, in my opinion, a fairly good indicator of good art, i.e. it produces a full spectrum of opinions from those who absolutely loath the effort to those who declare their lives changed by the experience. I did however hear a man with a British accent, probably in his thirties, remark that the acting was poor, that he could spit on someone too and it didn't make him an Academy Award winning actor.

I beg to differ.

Daniel Day-Lewis does an exceptional job in the film. He literally carries it, because the film is almost exclusively about his character, Plainview. Surely, if Daniel Day-Lewis convinced this film patron that he was simply spitting upon one character or another (and really, he does, the Plainview character is so disconcertingly both polished and rough), then he has done his job. He has removed the evidence of craft from his action and dissolved his regular trappings, becoming the almost primitive Plainview with oil smeared across his cheeks and a complete disregard for human beings. Acting, in my opinion, and I am no actor (I was wretched in high school musicals), seems like a craft as much as writing is a craft, with the goal of expression and with perfection or near-perfection existing in the eradication of the evidence of effort. When acting ceases to look like work, it is success.

I thought this movie-going fellow seemed crass, and disrespectful and ultimately thoughtless about the goals of filmmaking. People will have their own opinions, and There Will Be Blood is certainly not for everyone. Still, it seems harsh to criticize an actor because we believe so much in his effortlessness, as it is really a mark of achievement, and perhaps the only mark of achievement.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

perfect for vacuuming: special edition

I just ordered these because I've had a major crush on them for days, and my mother suggested I finally order them. I might actually vacuum in these (actually, we don't have a vacuum in the sorority house, and we really need one).

But it's much more likely that I'd throw these on with slim jeans and a sweater to run errands. I spent a good portion of the day at The Cloisters up in Fort Tryon Park with NH. It was amazing, and I'll comment more on my post this evening.

Friday, February 1, 2008

offensive ugliness frumpiness

I am taking a non-writing seminar for my major, because my department suffers from a complete lack of sense. Bitter as I may sound (I don't understand why I can't just take workshops and you know, writing seminars, especially since I'm also concentrating in English), I sort of understand their logic, and more importantly, I understand that since my major is new, they haven't gotten themselves together yet. So I forgive them.

The professor had to cut some people from the class, because at my university, most seminars are capped (but the administration is a little dodgy, and so sometimes forgets to put an enrollment cap) but she did her best to take as many as possible and as a result we are packed quite tightly around the table. This is actually also fine, I much prefer it to another seminar-style class I am taking in which the ten or so of us spread out as though at least five of us suffer from a highly contagious and/or disgusting disease, like leprosy or bad breath.

Anyway, being tightly packed around the table is great, because it facilitates communication, and it keeps everyone awake (hey, two hours one hour and fifty minutes is a long time) and it makes the class feel like the hippy dippy kind of thing you might do at a small liberal arts college. Which is appropriate, because the professor is actually a professor at a very very liberal, hippy dippy kind of college outside of the city, and only visits to teach this seminar.

The downside, however, is that whenever in this class, you are close to others. Like, Listerine close. Did I remember antiperspirant close. Did someone have a bacon, egg and cheese for breakfast close (actually, you totally don't need to be in a tightly packed seminar room for that, first year I took a three-hundred person lecture and this one student would always bring a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich from the nearby deli and the room would smell all cheesy-bacon-y-sweaty).

Recently, I was minding my business, taking notes and so on when I was unfortunate enough to turn and notice that someone near me had exceptionally large, dirty pores, dirty glasses, frizzy hair, etc. Now, I have been a frumpy student once or twice, and the usual excuses are pretty obvious (early classes, no one notices, I'm too much of an academic to care) but none of them impress me. Seriously. I am an extremely hard working student who has pushed myself to the limit many, many times. But I care to much about my body and the way I present myself to others to just abandon reasonable health and beauty measures. 

Now, I know Mona Lisa Smile was a so-so movie (and the tie in book was much, much worse), but I'm using it as an example. Yes, the attitude of these fictional mid-century women is deplorable by modern standards (I only know one or two people who are legitimately seeking affectionately titled Mrs. degrees these days), but for the most part the portrayal in the movie is one of women who are diligent about school and appearance. These women are ladies, and they would skip neither their homework nor a thank you note to an annoying but lovable aunt. Yes, Hollywood magic is at work and I doubt anyone was ever the perfect fifties housewife or the perfect forties co-ed, and I wouldn't ask anyone trying to meet the demands of a top-tier education to set their standards this high.

But, when you know you're going to class, and sitting around a table, would it hurt to put on something decent and wash your face? Clean your glasses, brush your hair and floss? I don't think so. It takes about twenty minutes to do all those things, and unless you're deathly ill, I bet you can afford to cut sleep by twenty minutes. This goes right along with wearing something respectable to class (which Meg over at All About Appearances covers really excellently in this post). Maybe it sounds rude to criticize others for their appearance, but it's rude to the professor and rude to your fellow students to show up looking like you couldn't care less about being there.

Rant over.

real posts will resume tomorrow (later today)

The view from Thursday (aka the beginning of my usual four day weekend) of Tuesday. Boarding School Chic, I say.

my glasses

Can't sleep.

These are my glasses. I am obsessed with them. They are new, and I have worn my glasses more times in the last two weeks than in the last five years.

My mother wasn't a fan of the logos on the side, S, on the other hand, loved them. Then again, S's glasses are awesome and have pink wings. So that doesn't surprise me. NH didn't like them till I cut my hair.

Wow, I love these.