Monsters + Books

Last night I went to bed early to help fight off the remnants of a nagging cold*, and promptly found myself too scared to go to sleep. Scared almost in the way that makes one take a running leap on to one's bed so as to avoid the monsters underneath. Scared in the way that makes one call one's boyfriend and sound like a silly dumb girl who is scared of monsters.

The monster, in this scenario, was Cathy Ames from East of Eden**. I am reading it for the first time and have been mesmerized by the tragic beauty of it from the start, but I was not prepared to meet Cathy Ames. You may find me a silly dumb girl, but yikes. Those cold eyes. I am thoroughly creeped.

And then today I saw this, about the secret life of books:

And yes, initially I was nearly as creeped out as I was by Cathy Ames. But then the music picks up and they swim and dance and the colors! It's like ideas and inspiration and history and truth and poetry all coming to life and having a party. It's like what happens when you read.

It's funny how creativity kicks in all at once, like these books coming to life when the door is locked tight. I wrapped this year's xmas presents in such a way that I wished no one would open them. It was a Pinterest-inspired masterpiece of brown paper, twine, vintage sheet music, paper doilies. And I didn't even photograph them. I also picked up a crochet hook and some yarn for the first time in months (I didn't forget how to do it). I've even been baking. Just a little. Twice, to be exact. And one of those times was actually a no-bake recipe. So I guess I've been no-baking.

And while I did not want to post another post about how it's been so long since I've posted a post, I just cannot ignore the hideous elephant in the room that is 2+ months away. Please know, I am not abandoning this just yet. I've just been fighting with some monsters.
*I can feel the NyQuil kicking in now, so please forgive any typos, blatant spelling errors, or weird subliminal messages.

**I will ask that anyone prompted to leave a comment please don't give anything away about the book. I am really weird about spoiled endings and will probably never forgive you. But do leave a comment! About anything else, related to the post or not. How's the weather where you are?


Falling for it

I am in the coffee shop by my apartment drinking a tea called "firestorm". It has ginger and cinnamon and a long list of other things that are burning my throat on the way down, though the water is now luke warm. I was going to go with the cranberry+orange but on one of San Francisco's first crisp fall days, I couldn't resist what sounded like a real warm-you-from-the-inside-out kind of thing.

We are just coming out of our -- for lack of a better term -- Indian summer here in SF. We pout through the fog of June, July & August and then, if you're me, whine when September and October are just too hot. One year in San Francisco has turned me weak against any kind of extreme weather. And by extreme, I mean high 70s.

To those of you who knew me in a former life, I know this sounds strange. I was the girl who wore sandals 364 days a year and it is still true that my natural element is water. But I like that in this city I can wear TOMS every day with no socks and I won't be too cold, nor will the bottoms of my feet sweat.

And so, I welcome the fall. Another point in its favor is that sleeping in is so much more delicious. There is a level of both discomfort and guilt that wells up in me if the morning sun is shining too brightly through my bedroom window. But rain? It's like a personal invitation to adjust the pillows and enjoy them for several more hours. This, combined with my rare lack of weekend travel plans, makes November Sleeping In Awareness Month.

Every wellie of the rainbow.
It will also be the month that I buy, for the days when weather does not permit canvas shoes, some serious rain boots. I am trying to decide between your classic rubber Hunter. Or, for the polar bear in me, Sorel's Joan of Arctic boots. The fur may be a bit much for San Francisco's mild 60 degree winter, but a part of me really wants to wear something called Joan of Arctic. It's got that chic+tough thing going on, no?

I've also got myself a shiny new clear plastic bubble umbrella, courtesy of my mom. So, yeah, the future's looking bright. Or, rather, dreary and wonderful. I will leave you with a little fall flavor, courtesy of Pinterest. I don't know about you, but I'm going to go put on some thick socks and read a book.

Source: imgfave.com via Shannon on Pinterest
Source: sahalie.com via Shannon on Pinterest



You know that feeling when you find the one little thing that just might get you out of your rut? Like you're down at the bottom of some dank wet hole, groping blindly at the slick walls for something, anything to grab on to and hoist yourself up, and then you feel it, a sturdy root or branch reaching out to you, waiting patiently. It's not much, but it's enough. And you start to move upward. You start to see light.

Forgive me if I sound dramatic. While I have been feeling like I need to shake things up in my life as a whole, the rut I'm referring to is a creative one. I like this blog of mine, and yet I somehow never want to visit it. Sort of like the yoga studio down the street, a place and activity that I know is good for me and I know I love, but lately lack whatever flutter of inspiration used to get me there.

I think change is what makes me tick, what makes me look at myself through a different lens, what makes me write. I recently observed the anniversary of my first day at my job, and that tired thought washed over me, the one we've all held in our hands time and again, turning it around and around like a Rubik's cube, trying to figure it out:  

It doesn't feel like it's been a whole year.

But then I thought, for the first time, how absurd it is to pretend I even know what a year "feels like". Has a year in my life, from start to finish, ever felt like any one thing? Have I ever really felt the passing of time in the same way twice?

I'm reading Joshua Foer's book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes to reevaluate how they see the world and themselves. I heard Foer speak at a City Arts & Lectures event last spring and he is just as charming in person as he is on the page. He's also the brother of Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote two of my favorite novels. A clever family, to say the least.

Anyway, there are many notable ideas in the book and I may write a separate post about them, but on the bus today, a line jumped out at me: "we forget our lives almost as fast as we live them."

This is true, is it not? Foer calls it an "elemental human problem", and it is, without a doubt, one of the major reasons so many of us post the every detail of our lives onto the Internet. At least the details that we want to make sure other people know about and we remember.

In the past four months, aside from living my daily adventures in San Francisco, I've been to New York, DC, Los Angeles, Nashville, Tahoe, and Colorado, and I'll be in Chicago this coming weekend. I have told you almost none of it, any photos are still shriveling up in my iPhone, and I haven't kept a journal in years. So aside from foggy, surface memories, much of it is, and may always be, lost.

Of course, this blog can play only a minor role in any attempt to remember everything, and I'm comfortable seeing it simply as a time capsule of that which I thought worth writing down. I think I feel the gears shifting again, shaking themselves free of rust, and I will be here more. I also think, however, that sometimes it's OK, instead of writing about stuff you just did, to go do more stuff. Or, equally acceptable, to go to bed.

And speaking of ruts, I did make myself a proper dinner tonight for the first time since Idon'tknowwhen.

And over the weekend I chopped off most of my hair. Hello bob!

Have rut-free, memory-filled week, my pets. See you soon.


Missing Something

Image by Tatsuro Kiuchi
There are a lot of mornings in San Francisco when the fog is so thick you can't see the tops of the buildings. You can't see what you know is there.

We're all looking for something, aren't we? Something we know is there because other people have it, or have seen it, or have told you it's there. Love, money, time, meaning. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am not the only one who doesn't have all the answers. I am not the only one who's missing something. Sometimes your world changes or looks different and you have to get it back where you want it. Sometimes the only thing you want is for everything to change.

Sometimes I can't tell whether my mind is too empty or too full to formulate rational, intelligent or creative thoughts. What I want you to know is that I have not forgotten you, despite all the answers I'm looking for elsewhere. What I want to tell you is that I know it's been a while, but I'm still glad you reminded me of it. And what I want to remember is that living more life is no excuse to stop writing about it. And that if inspiration is eluding me, I am probably just not looking in the right places. 

Tatsuro Kiuchi


Feeding Elizabeth Striker

My roommate is in Europe for a few weeks, which leaves yours truly to feed her pet fishes and, of course, her snake. I mean, what else would be named Elizabeth Striker? A hamster? Certainly not.

Now, Elizabeth Striker is a senior citizen. She has been on this earth some 18 years, and she's still scootin' --rather, slitherin' -- around. The problem is that she's turned into a rather fussy eater in her old age. From what I understand, she used to strike at live mice with the speed and accuracy of, well, a snake. A vicious predator. Unfortunately, when she moved from sunny Santa Barbara up to San Francisco (a snake's paradise?), she stopped eating all together. Simply could not be bothered to unhinge that rusty ol' jaw and enjoy a nice meal. So, the reptile geeks at the pet store made a few dietary suggestions, sort of like a doctor might for your withering grandmother, and (thank heaven!) Elizabeth took to it.

Now, I don't do a lot of cooking, so trying new recipes at home is always an exercise in caution. But this one was a total breeze! I am just so happy with how the dish turned out that I had to share it with you here. It's so simple and a total crowd-pleaser. I swear, bring this baby to your next potluck and you will be the talk of the party! Here's the recipe. You are welcome!

1 full-grown white mouse, frozen
1 cup rat seasoning (combination rat bedding and droppings)

  • Remove mouse from ziploc bag in freezer labeled "Not Food" (Note: it will be stiff as bone and soft as velvet. Try pretending it's a chicken. A small, hairy chicken.)
  • Toss mouse in rat seasoning in a small bag for one minute, or until seasoned as desired.
  •  Place mouse in small airtight bag and thaw in a bowl of warm water, about 15 minutes or until tender, like a hot dog.
  • Remove mouse from bag and serve in an empty cereal box. (Note: it will feel warm and squishy, and will smell like, well, a dead animal.)
  • To eat, unhinge jaw and take in slowly. Best enjoyed in a dark, quiet room. 
Now, if your guests look creepy as hell while savoring your dish, don't be alarmed. It means they like it. They will probably eat so much of it that they'll look as though they've just ingested something three times the size of their head. Don't worry, this is also normal.

Bon appetit! 


Planet Birthday

I always say I will never live in Southern California again, but I am glad I still have reasons to visit. My beau and I drove down to LA last weekend for some quick and dirty quality time with college friends and, of course, my beautiful niece (and her parents).  
Alice, rocking the pants-on-head look for summer.
That kid is a ripe 14.5 months old and I cannot believe this number means it's been more than one year since she was born. She is no longer an infant, all gums and swaddle and involuntary movement. She is a toddler, a girl, a little person with intentions and a sense of humor. She puts one foot in front of the other and reads coloring books upside down. I only get to see her every few months but within the first hour she was sitting contentedly in my lap as I melted, the love in me breaking down like sugar molecules into their simplest form.

That was the end of the weekend, but our visit to LA started off a little more sinister. I had somehow forgotten the kind of weird you can find in Hollywood until Friday night when we went to the Nuart Theatre for a midnight showing of the cult slasher Sleepaway Camp. Note: this was not my idea. 
The movie was one of the all around strangest things I've ever seen in my life. The ending? Anyone? I won't ruin it for you but all I can say is wtf. Like, seriously.

Anyway, in what ended up being a wonderful illustration of the Hollywood absurd, we also got to see one of the child stars (now in their 40s) from the movie perform two songs on his acoustic guitar before showtime. And yes, he was wearing a wife beater tank, a necklace, and, you got it, bleached tips. The quiet, unassuming leading lady of the film was there as well and (can you blame her?) most certainly drunk.

And, though it is connected in no way other than that I learned about it the same day as Sleepaway Camp, I will now introduce you to Cookie Puss. You may have heard of Carvel, the chain of ice cream stores hailing from the East Coast, but have you heard of Cookie Puss? He is the mysterious dessert creature you see to your right. Let's read more, shall we? The name alone is worth a little of our attention.

"Cookie Puss is an ice cream cake character created by Carvel in the 1970s as an expansion of its line of freshly made products sold only in its stores, along with Hug-Me Bear and Fudgie the Whale. According to Carvel lore, Cookie Puss is a space alien (his original name was "Celestial Person" and his initials, "C.P.", later came to stand for "Cookie Puss") who was born on planet Birthday. In his television commercials, Cookie Puss has the ability to fly, though he requires a saucer-shaped spacecraft for interplanetary travel. During the 1980s Cookie Puss was repurposed to serve as a cake for St Patrick's Day, dubbed "Cookie O'Puss"."

Thanks Wikipedia! Does anyone else find that as hilarious as I do? Again, words escape me. I mean, wtf. 

Sigh. Image via.
Fortunately the rest of our weekend did not have me asking WHY DOES THAT EXIST?! But rather, we just caught up with dear old friends (otherwise known as "main bitches"), and made some new ones. We went for a hike in Runyon Canyon for a dramatic view of LA and all the clear turquoise rooftop pools you can imagine. We went for a swim and remembered what it feels like to lay down on hot brick as the sun and chlorine tighten your skin. We grilled on a balcony and wore dresses at night (me, not Ian). We celebrated my friend's birthday at a bar called the Parlour Room and found out the next day that Jon Hamm had been there too, that perhaps we'd brushed shoulders with him and didn't even realize they were the most classically handsome and manly shoulders ever.

Yes, just your typical weekend in sunny LA.



Source: etsy.com via Shannon on Pinterest

Do you ever let yourself sit somewhere so long that the room grows cold and dark around you? And suddenly you're uncomfortable and you don't know why? You would be so much happier if you just got up, turned on a light and donned a sweater, but you can't move. You've been there so long already, so there you stay, depending on your own limbs to warm each other. You are hopeful yet afraid that your roommate will come home, possibly with a friend you don't know, and find you sitting alone in the dark."Uh, hey?" they'd say.

And you would snap back to life.

In the months since I moved to San Francisco, I've let myself sink into an excess of stuff in just this same way, and suddenly I realized I was drowning. Piles of crap in the corners of my room, my closet regurgitating countless identical tee shirts that had been chewed up and digested, but that I thought I might one day use again. The thing is, when your bedroom is only a 10x10 square with one small closet, you can't afford to accumulate in the way that I do.

I love to wander through thrift stores and pick up $1 frames or funky knickknacks that are just like the ones I see on design blogs and would be oh! perfect! in some eclectic but clean arrangement on a beautiful bookshelf or brick wall that I might one day have. But I don't have that bookshelf now and I don't have the space/time/money/energy to commit to making my temporary month-to-month apartment look like Pinterest (oh god, the pretty of it all). I just don't care quite enough, because most of the time I'm not at home anyway. That's the thing about being 25, you do stuff, so you don't need to own quite so much of it. And you know? When I do have that beautiful bookshelf, that perfect wall or room, there will still be knickknacks out there for the finding.

So upon my return from 2 weeks on the East coast, when I realized I couldn't even unpack because I didn't know how I would put anything away, I set to work purging. I am getting rid of stuff and plan to make due with what I have. My place is nice enough for what it is, so I'll just keep changing out the fresh flowers and, for now, stop collecting junk. I cleaned out my closet and my dresser, I rearranged my bedroom furniture for the third time and have finally found a set-up I like. The hard drive on my computer is full to bursting, so I'm finally going through and deleting all the duplicates and duds from a 6-year-old, 20,000+ file backlog in my iPhoto. I'm growing out my bangs and gettingthehairoutofmyfacegoddammit.

But still, I've stowed away those piles of cheap frames and knickknacks because one day? I am going to do this:

I am I am I am.