Monday, March 22, 2010

Photo of the week

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

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

Flattering light is key, even if it's only in your imagination...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book Review - "The Happiness Project"

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Notebook

This is not a story about the totally-cheesy-with-a-side-of-extra-cheese book by Nicholas Sparks, because although I am sure he is a very nice man and my mother loves all of his writing, his books make my head want to explode. This is a different story.

You know when you do something, and as you are doing it you think, "mmm... this is a bad idea" and you do it anyway and it turns out licking the light socket was a bad idea, and you say (to yourself) "dumbass! I told you not to do that!"? This is that kind of story. Only without the hair styled by voltage. (I have, in fact, stuck a metal object into a light socket and your hair DOES stand up. But that's for another day.)

Pictured above is my notebook. Or rather, one of my notebooks, because I go through them like crazy - I use them as a combination dayplanner/notetaker/recipetester/
mileagerecord/gumwrapper/whatever-er, and if you ask anyone who knows me I am almost never without it. I take it to lunch, I take it on dates, I take it on vacation (even though I keep a detailed vacation journal), I sleep with it next to the bed in case I get a blinding insight in the middle of the night. I don't even like not knowing where it is. It's a college-ruled security blanket, and I always have 2-3 blank ones in the house, just in case I unexpectedly run out of pages. I pick them up whenever I see one with a design I like, even if I have like 5 already. I'm a little obsessed.

And as you can see, I have a classic OCD approach to using them - things to do on the right, spontaneous notes on the left, subjects numbered in order of importance, stars by things, highlighter you get the picture I AM REALLY INTO MY NOTEBOOK.

So of course, when I had an opportunity to put one down somewhere that I would be guaranteed to lose it, I did. Because that is sensible.

I was in Belgium. Intentionally this time. I've been to Belgium once before, unintentionally, but even though that is one of my best travel stories ever, filed prominently under "disasters" I can never tell it here, to protect the innocent. So this is my second trip to Belgium and I was getting off of the Eurostar with my boss, and the clients, and about eleventy thousand pounds of photographic equipment. The Brussels Eurostar station has no luggage carts, in an apparent attempt to thin the human herd of baggage weaklings, and we had a lot of stuff. A lot and a half. And one notebook.

One of us (I think it was the ever-amazing Brooke, but I really don't remember) found a station worker to take pity on us and they brought a rolling luggage container - essentially an eight-foot-high cage on wheels - and we loaded all eleventy thousand pounds of gear into the cage, and since I still had to carry couple of bags I tossed my notebook up on top of the cage. Why I didn't just stick it in the bag I was carrying I'll never know. And as I did so, I thought to myself, "Don't leave that up there, dummy."

Which, of course, I did.

And of course I realized it just late enough to ensure it was to late to go back and get it. Aaargh! All my notes. Schedules. Lists of blog posts that I wanted to work on (like that was gonna happen anyway, notebook or not). All enjoying an extended vacation in the Brussels train station. It's still there for all I know.

And of course it was in the most gruellingly scheduled portion of the trip, where we were racing from location to location and I literally did not have five minutes to run into a drugstore and find a replacement. I had made, with rare foresight, extra copies of our schedule, and when I could no longer jam notes into the margins and had filled up the back, I started writing on napkins, newspapers, gum wrappers, whatever I could find that would accept ink - including at one point the palm of my hand. My boss noticed my notebook need and tried to help.

"Do we need to stop somewhere and get you a notebook?"

"No, I'm fine."

"I know you like to have something to take notes in."

"No, it's okay."

"Because we can get you one. I'll give you some euros if you need it."

"No, really, I'm fine. Are you done with that napkin?"

 So there I am, suffering from the notebook jones, hanging fire for five whole days.  The last couple of days were in Amsterdam - my boss, in a display of generosity I can only categorize as awesome, let me stay behind after the shoot and flew home with all that gear alone - and in my wanderings I found a tourist store that sold notebooks. They had one with a cow on it that said, Amsterdam, and I grabbed it and ran to the counter squealing like a kid at Christmas and I took out my wallet and I was out of euros. I looked, stricken, at the girl behind the register, at the notebook, and then I stalked back to my hotel, notebookless, in the cold Dutch rain.

I flew home the next day, still empty handed, a little piece of my soul still sitting on a luggage cart somewhere in Europe...

I wonder if it misses me?

The Friday Wrap-Up - March Madness Edition

Is it Friday already? Gah. This week's story is still in the draft stages, so you'll have to wait til tomorrow for that, but in the meantime here's some odds n' ends for the past week:

- Is that picture above not the worst photo ever? Admit it, you think that's a paparazzi outtake, and Lindsay Lohan is behind that bush somewhere. But no. That, my friends, is a PHOTO OF HOPE. Because it's a photo of the first bloom on the Bradford pear trees, which I saw last night on my way home from seeing Shane at the Plaza Theatre. And when the pear trees bloom, spring is officially on the way - groundhog or not. So suck it, Winter!

- and in an additional note, that kid in Shane? Most annoying child actor ever.

- Just finished reading "Your New Sailboat - Choosing it, Using it" by the excellent and prone-to-rhyming editors of Chapman Piloting, and I can tell you what I've learned: I'm never buying a sailboat. I would be better off calling up Richard Branson and negotiating for a used spaceship.

- My friend Vere and I celebrated St. Patrick's Day in the traditional fashion, eating dinner in a Cuban restaurant. What? Mojitos are green.

- My boyfriend announced he wants us to take fencing lessons. He was an all-state fencer in high school. Why do I feel this will end badly?

- And looking ahead to summer vacation (in case I don't get stabbed) I just cashed in all of my frequent flyer miles and am going on an "adventure" in July. I always think of them as "adventures", rather than "vacations", because a "vacation" implies you will come home not racked with parasites or bitten by a poisonous snake. And why court disappointment? Nobody was more shocked than me when Delta actually agreed to accept their own frequent flyer miles, but apparently it's an early Easter miracle. I'll pony up more details as we get closer, but if you want to play pin-the-tail-on-the-globe, here's your first hint: I'm going to a country with a very large jungle in it, that's named after an online bookstore.

Or is it the other way around?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Photo of the week

Since it's a beautiful, sunny day in Atlanta (though chilly) I thought I would share this sunny beach photo from my recent trip to Puerto Rico. We saw this surfer on his way out to the point while we were bobbing contentedly in the water for our post-breakfast swim, and I particularly noticed him because - honestly - he had really pretty hair. Better than mine by far.

A few hours later I saw him on the way back and got this image of him framed by the waves. I bet he had fun. Even if his hair is now messy.

Go out there and get messy, people!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

And the Winner is....

I could beat this Oscar meme to death all WEEK. And I didn't even watch the show! Which I only regret because I missed the Crazy-Purple-Kanye-Lady. Lord, please let me be that wacky when I grow up.

Crazy-Purple-Kanye-Lady aside, you will remember that a few weeks ago I posted the First Ever Constant Holiday Give-away! I'm really into caps this morning. I got caught up in work, and in planning (and then taking) my Puerto Rico trip, so I haven't had a chance to announce my winners yet. So today's the day!

And yes, I did say WINNERS. In an atypical spasm of generosity, I decided to give both my copies of "How To Travel Anywhere" away (admittedly after I had read one of them. But they are used books so no one will ever know.), and randomly selected two of my reader comments, who obligingly sent in an account of their favorite vacations.

Drum roll, please....

K. Smith and P. Foster! Come on down and accept your prize! Or rather, wait feverishly by your mailbox. K sent in an account of a family trip with her mom and grandma to Chattanooga Tennessee, and P sent in this haiku-like description:

"Scotland, 2002.
What's a little freezing rain when
you're in a real castle?"

My thoughts exactly. I will be contacting these fine folks for your addresses and sending prizes out post-haste. BTW K is also the author of the excellent Amira blog, which I have linked to at the bottom of this page. You should check her out.

Champagne all around! We will have another contest soon, as this was fun and I have WAY to many books in my house.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

And the award for Friday Wrap up goes to... Tuesday

Yeah, I know. Late again. I'd like to say that I'm doing constructive things, but mostly I'm eating and getting sand out of my luggage, so don't waste that sympathy. Save it for poor James Cameron. Heh.

To the (late) Friday wrap up!

- we returned from our trip to Puerto Rico in one piece, and with a minimum of awkardly located sunburns, a key metric in how much you enjoy your vacation, I think

- I met an amazing photographer, who I am hoping to do lots of work with in the future, named Pat McDonnell, You should check him out here:

- my friend Amy and I went to Hae Doon Wae Korean bbq last week, and it was scrumptious. I have this game I play where I go to a different foreign food joint each week, partially to expand my palate and partially to annoy my boyfriend. The less recognizable the food the happier I am (though I passed on the barbequed tripe). Pictured above, the wreckage of our table.

- I also went to the Bookstore in Atlanta and had Duck Breast with mushroom risotto, which was so good I may have to let Jason, my buddy who recommended both the restaurant and the dish, date my sister. Her husband may mind, though. Jason, you can date my mom.

- Katheryn Bigelow! You go girl. Anyone who gives us Bodi deserves an Oscar.

- Please, PLEASE go to , website of the excellent writer Diane Vadino, who is Bunnyshop, one of my favorite travel and fashion blogs. She has audio excerpts from her last book, Smart Girls Like Me, up now, and is putting up excerpts of what looks to be a hilarious book about her Mongolian adventure, which I am still jealous off. Check it out.

- I just found out how to add multiple photos to my blog. Watch out, world.

And we're back!

Back from an excellent week in Puerto Rico - actually I've been back for a week, but laziness and procrastination is how I roll. So there. Above, view from my apartment in Jobos, on the northwest coast of the main island, complete with point break and surfers - in honor of Katheryn Bigelow's finest film, Point Break. You go, girl. Enjoy that Oscar.

Lots to come this week so stay tuned! And now we are done with the silly TV references.