Monday, March 31, 2008

100 Things I Want to Do: Nos. 51-100

Well, NaBloPoMo's March Madness - aka, List-making - got away from me. So today, on the last day of March, I am finishing the last half of my 100 Things I Want to Do list.

Here goes:

51. Pay homage to a style icon.
52. Drink a martini.
53. Ride a camel (my grandmother beat me to this one).
54. Fly over a volcano in a helicopter.
55. Sip a margarita at sunset.
56. Build a custom jewelry box.
57. Give in to creative urges.
58. Stand on that bridge at Giverny.
59. Ride in a Checker cab.
60. Drive a Corvette.
61. Oh, and learn to drive stick.
62. Win a Monopoly game.
63. Memorize the Q-without-U words for Scrabble.
64. Play a scale on a Steinway.
65. Send a cartoon to the New Yorker.
66. Take photobooth pictures on every vacation.
67. Visit Morris Aboretum at least once each season.
68. Rent a beach house with people I like.
69. Ride a boat down the Seine.
70. Take a cooking class in Tuscany.
71. Follow an olive from harvest to first-press oil.
72. Take a suggestion from Clothilde for dinner.
73. Plant a new dogwood.
74. Make a fancy bow on the next gift I wrap.
75. Tour an artisanal chocolate studio.
76. Give everything my all.
77. Watch for the perfect moments that occur every day.
78. Get over my fear of fire enough to take a glass-blowing class.
79. Keep track of my goals all year long.
80. Worry less about what others think.
81. Use up my favorite beading supplies.
82. Eat a perfect mango.
83. Ride a bike every summer.
84. Open a stationery store.
85. Make more gifts.
86. Give things away.
87. Embrace fully the joy of celebrating another's happiness.
88. Get to the point faster.
89. Make mozzarella from scratch.
90. Buy flowers for no reason whatsoever.
91. Don't put off til tomorrow what can be done today.
92. Join in the chorus.
93. Ride the train into the city to save gas and savor the view.
94. Pitch every story idea and aim high.
95. Ask my nephew to coach me on throwing the perfect spiral.
96. Take out my frustrations at the driving range.
97. Eliminate 95% of the paper on my desk.
98. Color with markers for inspiration.
99. Write more love notes.
100. Let bygones be bygones.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

100 Things I Want to Do: Nos. 41-50

41. Post a podcast on iTunes.
42. Tour a Frank Lloyd Wright house.
43. Catch sight of a rare bird.
44. Kiss fear goodbye.
45. Hang 10 for at least 10 seconds.
46. Add 7 more delicious veggie recipes to my culinary repertoire.
47. Give someone else a leg up.
48. Continuously spark curiosity.
49. Experience what makes Austin (TX) weird.
50. Throw a barbeque inviting 40 friends from different parts of my life.

What things are on your list?

Friday, March 28, 2008

100 Things I Want to Do: Nos. 31-40

For previous segments, look over here.

31. Skim across clear-blue water on a sailboat.
32. Have more experiences than things.
33. Stand in a field of lavender.
34. Bang out a short story.
35. Stare in awe and wonder at the Grand Canyon.
36. Laugh out loud every day.
37. Make more sandwiches.
38. Sing with abandon.
39. Embrace my strengths.
40. Enjoy what I have.

What are the things you want to do? Post them in the Comments! Who knows? You may inspire someone else.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The "Whiching" Hour

You know what the "Whiching Hour" is.

It's the time of night where you wake up and have to decide which you want: to go back to sleep, or get up and act upon whatever's on your mind and keeping you from catching the rest of those Z's.

For me, the Whiching Hour is 4 am. Usually my alarm goes off at 6:30 am, so if for whatever reason I wake up briefly at 4 am and my mind is whirring about a project or my to-do list, I have a decision to make...

If I indulge those thoughts much longer than a minute or two, getting back to sleep can be nearly impossible.

After a few minutes of conscious thought, I'm likely to be engaged in problem-solving mode, or fretting over a confrontation that's to come, or working through a creative idea.

When I'm leaning toward waking and starting my day, I look at whether I can start and end work earlier than usual, before I crash. I try to assess my sleep deficit overall for the week.

But at 4 am, with 2.5 hours to go until the music wakes me from my slumber, that's a decent chunk of sleep to be had.

On those mornings that I'm feeling sleep-deprived, I reach for a notebook I keep on my bedside table to scribble some notes, hoping that writing it down for processing later will put my mind at ease.

Many friends have said they experience the same thing. Similar forms of sleep interruptus must be at least partially responsible for all the tired and cranky people in this country.

And I know I've sent far more than my share of emails at 4:14 am.

How about you? How do you deal with your own "Whiching Hour"?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Visit to Port Richmond

Friday was my family trip to Port Richmond, for Easter fare. And it was lines, lines, lines in Krakus Market, the store packed with people rushing to buy the last of their Easter dinner supplies and the aroma of kielbasa filled the air. People looked so serious yet patient as they awaited their turn.

And oh, what a tease, to be standing in a store with the best smoked meats around, on Good Friday, when eating meat is not allowed.

Instead, we went to a humble little joint and had thick potato pancakes, fried to an amber-y brown with applesauce alongside. Boiled pierogis topped with caramelized onions and dollops of sour cream.

Julia Bakery had all sorts of delicious treats awaiting us. Boxes of cream-filled layer cakes, tarts, round chocolate cakes drizzled with more melted chocolate. It's a tiny slip of a store, with nary a storefront, just a simple Julia Bakery in script on the wall next to the door. You blink, and you'd miss it.

A quick jaunt to Stock's for pound cake finished up the trip. We picked up armloads of the stuff, some in the freezer for friends, other loaves to be enjoyed on Easter and beyond.

As we'd entered the store, we happened upon Timmy Kelly - a local elementary school kid with a beautiful voice who has sung the national anthem at Eagles games - giving an impromptu performance of an Irish lullabye. All the bustling activity ground to an immediate halt as he began to sing, all eyes trained on the boy.

Timmy's singing was earnest and sweet, and it filled the entire shop. He finished to a burst of loud applause, wished everyone a Happy Easter, and then the action started again, with orders being filled speedily.

Happy Easter, Everyone!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

100 Things I Want to Do: Nos. 21-30

The saga continues... If you're here from Mighty Girl, welcome! You may also want to read this, the list that Maggie quoted.

21. Help someone anonymously.
22. See more art every week.
23. Sink my toes into Hawaiian sand.
24. Bake a credible French baguette.
25. Visit all 50 states.
26. Learn to whistle.
27. Harbor fewer grievances.
28. Never give up hope.
29. Smile more.
30. See what happens.

Friday, March 14, 2008

100 Things I Want to Do: Nos. 11-20

Thanks to Mighty Girl Maggie Mason, who inspired this thought-provoking exercise. As another reader noted on her blog, thinking about this really made me look deep in my heart to find a few items that resonate with me, which started here...

11. Sing karaoke.
12. Visit my friend in Brazil.
13. Raise funds for my old music school.
14. Attend an opera at the Met.
15. Keep my orchids alive.
16. Help a graphic designer I know find a better job.
17. Obtain a patent.
18. Write a letter to the high school English teacher who inspired me the most.
19. Go canoeing in Maine.
20. Read The Bell Jar.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

When is the Next Full Moon?

A mash-up of meetings and proposals and family things are conspiring against my being the most creative and productive that I know I can be.

That's OK.

It's these weird times that can help you see the forest for the trees. Right?

I've been collecting the most awesome materials for jewelry lately, but I can't stop the merry-go-round long enough to sit still and think about the designs I want to create.

Too much going on, you see.

But now that I think of it, last night I was at a local networking event, when a woman stopped me to compliment the necklace I was wearing.

When I told her I'd designed and made the piece, she assumed this was my primary line of work. When I told her otherwise, she was stunned.

It made me smile inside for the rest of the evening.

And now, recalling that? It made me pull out a couple of pieces that I just might get started on tonight.

(Once I plow through my to-do list, of course.)

Here's hoping that your own to-do list doesn't get too far in the way of expressing your creativity.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Marc Jacobs: Hot Mess

The Victoria Beckham ads, where she wears that little Whoville hat/thing on her head?

The odd-colored, strange proportioned plucked-from-the-hand-me-down-bag dresses?

The backward-heel shoes?

The man is just a train wreck.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Musicians That I Just Don't Get



The Replacements

The White Stripes

Rufus Wainwright

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Project Runway Finale: Christian Nears the Breaking Point

As I said before, seeing the clothes in still shots of little online video snippets is one thing. But watching the show, seeing the designs as they're trotted out one by one, is another thing altogether.

The fourth season of Project Runway ended with a bang, in that the last show was edited well, and had a better feel overall than years past. I can't quite put my finger on why.

But like Jillian, I was surprised at how it all played out.

Runaway Rami

With Rami's collection, every piece that had a color looked just wrong. That teal that he opened the show with? Bleh. That muted raspberry tone? Looked like something you'd see a designer do for Target.

And I'm sorry, that gold lame number (the first of the last three long gowns) looked like a shabby afterthought. The last two gowns were stunning - the 30s lace zig-zag details were lovely. But that was the only thing that turned my head from his collection. The weaving? Yawn, just more fabric trickery, on par with the draping.

But the sheer joy on his face when he introduced his collection? That's a shade of Rami we never saw all season - having fun.

Jilted Jillian

Jillian should have been in 2nd place. But yes, I see where her collection was a bit all over the place. That pleated evening-pants-with-bustier thing? That was somewhat out of left field.

But her knitwear was beyond interesting - it was a material that few if any on Project Runway had really done since Jay McCarroll won.

If he's smart, Ralph Lauren will fund Jillian in some high-priced 2-year contract that gives her a real shot, giving her a huge investment in the upside if it succeeds.

Aside from the loopy-loop striped sweater that had real presence, I REALLY loved that sweater-jacket over the goldish pants (with the weird ski hat?), and the ruffled zig-zag front. Just superb. I would wear that in a heartbeat.

Clearly, however, wearability is a sin.

Christian Cracks Under Pressure

His season-long love affair with the camera and viewers was bumping up against the harsh reality of all the little details that go showing at Fashion Week. Models who bitch about the shoes or simply don't show up. Feathered bird pants that Tim Gunn hates. Near-tears on the runway.

Although it wasn't my favorite, Christian's line was totally cohesive, dramatic, point-of-view, all the things they say every designer should have. And I thought that although all those black pieces lost some of the detail in the show, you could see enough to know there was texture there from all that work.

And his last piece, that ombred feather gown? Alexander McQueen better just hang up his serger, toss his sketchbook into the bin and retire now, because there's a new enfant terrible in the world.

Throughout the season, I was never a Christian fan. His personality was so off-putting at some points, I thought "Yeesh, if this is what the Great American Designer is like, I'm so over it."

But actually, I'm thrilled the prize went to a designer who isn't as established, like Rami is, or like Chloe or Jeffrey had been. I just hope Christian has a good head on his shoulders and spends the money wisely, really making a name for himself other than as Posh Spice's stylist.

Given how they edited the show all season to make him look like a Bratty-Bitch, it was heartening to see glimpses of Christian being human - the choking up on the runway was a surprise, the lack of uber-confidence when Tim called him on it in the workroom.

Yesterday, I read an interview with Chris where he said that the show didn't do Christian justice, that he was really much warmer and full of heart than the show portrayed.

In the end, I'm glad that these three were the finalists, and hope to see great things from them in the future.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

100 Things I Want to Do: Nos. 1-10

  1. Triumph over my fear of inverted yoga poses
  2. Take a graphic design course
  3. Have tea at the Plaza
  4. Pick up the guitar again
  5. Write a screenplay
  6. Learn to paint a room
  7. Grow heirloom tomatoes
  8. Design the perfect jacket
  9. Flip an egg in a pan
  10. Convince my husband that Paris is a worthy destination

[Editor's Note: See Items 11-20 here.]

Project Runway: Missing March

Well, last week's Project Runway episode, in which Chris March lost to Rami Kashou and his anti-drapes, left me a bit deflated.

Surely Chris deserved to win based on the strength of the pieces he sent down the runway, human hair or not.

I'm still convinced that this combination of using hair as trim that made the judges gack, having "costume designer" on his resume, and being auf'd before they realized they'd have a too-short season once Jack left were the reasons Chris got his walking papers.

But that's all I'll say about that because in every post-auf interview, Chris has sounded gracious and grateful for the exposure, and has spoken of opportunities he's never dreamed of coming his way. And since actually winning Project Runway doesn't actually seem to do much for the winner other than tie them to the show forever (frankly, hasn't it been something of a kiss of death?), it's probably a blessing in disguise.

So enough sturm und drang - let's start the show! [Oh, Heidi, how I will miss your kewpie-doll announcements.]

Just based purely on what I've seen of the designs in photos and such, here are my pre-show predictions:

Winner: Jillian
Second place: Christian

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Books We Have Known

The bookshelves have been sagging under the collective weight of all the Amazon purchases lo these many years, and so we're divesting ourselves of many books of which we have come into possession.

Herewith, is a random list of five of those books, some equally random comments on their contents or quality, and, potentially, what I was thinking when I bought and/or read the book:

1. It Takes a Village Idiot: Former Entertainment Weekly writer buys a house in sticks, only to be made fun of by locals. Hilarity ensues.

2. How to Be A Star at Work: Don't bother even taking this one out of the library, because the upshot is, there's really only one way, and the key is this: Make lots of money for the firm.

3. Confessions of a Window Dresser: The memoir of Simon Doonan, the mastermind of the Barney's shop windows. Got this in the bargain bin a couple of years ago. A few good anecdotes, but not as good as I'd hoped. The book felt kind of slapped together, like a collage of ideas someone had kept in a shoebox.

4. How Now: A new-agey, feel-good tome that I found amidst the stacks -- at our local Anthropologie store, no less. What was I thinking when I bought this book? I have no idea. What was I thinking when I read this book? "I should have bought the coffee-table book on Parisian style instead."

5. Television without Pity: Far more entertaining to make your own snarky comments about TV shows. Reading others making them? Not so much.

I give up. Good night.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Past Few Days: A List

  1. Making homemade gnocchi with my sweetie.
  2. A meeting with someone who sits at a desk covered with more paper than mine.
  3. My favorite pair of brown shoes, found in black at 75% off.
  4. A boy running out of school and into the wind while furiously combing his hair.
  5. The first unseasonably warm day of 60-plus degrees!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Continuing Education Or, A Cure for the Creative Doldrums

Today I took a class that has totally taken my creative energy in a whole new direction.

We took this teeny packet of pure silver mixed with clay and some stamps and texture plates and had a ball. Just look!

In a three-hour session, I learned how to make pendants with art clay silver, an extremely cool medium that lets you sculpt silver into any shape you want.

You can:
  • Stamp it
  • Poke it
  • Cut it
  • Roll it over a cool, texturized pattern
  • Or just manipulate it however your little heart desires.
Dry it out in a food dehydrator, then pop it into a 1400-degree kiln for just 5 minutes and you've got a sturdy piece of silver, imprinted with whatever design you've made.

Just sand off the matte finish, burnish it up and dunk it in some oxydizing fluid and the results are pretty astonishing.

The piece on the left is a little larger than a dime, and it's something I smushed together out of leftover clay. The oxydation made the color a kind of copper-patina'd green/blue.

The piece on the right is my piece de resistance. I know that sounds melodramatic. But if you really know me, you'd know I'm extremely bad at singing my own praises.

(But I can market the hell out of someone else's product, or skills or services.)

I'm just really happy it turned out the way it did, considering it was my first piece.

Really, the photo doesn't do it justice; the coloration in the lowlights changes, depending on the angle at which you're looking at it.

Sometimes there's a blue cast, other times a deep purple, then there's a rust-colored sheen throughout the spirals.

The mind reels at the combinations of other beads I can pair with this thing to really make it sing. I'm thinking of pairing it with a few special strands I've been hoarding to make a really interesting necklace.

So here's my tip for the day.
When you feel stuck creatively, get out of the house. Sign up for a class. Meet some new people. Pick their brains and enjoy how others think. Bat around a few ideas.

Support what everyone else is doing, because it's all good.

Then see how it magically opens up your own mind to create something you never realized you could do.

In a little over three hours, I made one decent-sized piece and three small ones that will always be a reminder of how trying something new and leapfrogging out of my comfort zone can result in really wonderful surprises.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Music: The Great Cultural Connector, or How A Radio Broadcast Made Me Cry

Earlier this week, I heard NPR's coverage of the New York Philharmonic's visit to North Korea. You've probably seen the coverage in newspapers or online.

But the performance? You could just hear the energy crackling in the air, delivered by the music, to the listeners and back again to the performers.

Although the orchestra was effectively playing to a concert hall full of elites, I had hoped in my heart of hearts that somehow people of humbler means were able to hear the broadcast in that country. That it made a connection to the outside world that they may never have experienced before. That it gives them hope that one day the world will open up for them more than it has so far.

It's what made me mist up a little - the thought that music could bridge the political and cultural gap.

And get to the part of just being a human, appreciating the expression of feelings through sound.