Pocket Pondering

We love a cool pocket on something. But why? Not really for containing things because people like my professor who fill all of their pockets with phones and wallets and receipts and pens seem somehow slightly deformed and/or unhip. Yet, we crave them like caffeine. Crave them anywhere we can fit them. Pockets are fashionable. Like the pockets on these super slick black yoga pants and bulky army coats on the girls in my class, cool just because they create a sense that they might have a purpose for all of these extra-body boxes. Flesh so tight and soft that they needed more layers. Just clothes, just covering isn’t good enough. Their lives are so big they need extra space but the right kind. Pockets are controlled space, a buttoned, flapped, streamlined way of discretely adding volume without sacrificing figure. Carefully placed aerodynamic indications of extra volume that accompany their entrance into the room. Pockets are drama. But in practice, aren’t these just more places to heighten costs of superfluous garments? More places to dirty? More places to lose things? More places to hide secrets? Empty. Easy places to forget.

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Romans & Rambling

I’ve been putting too much pressure on my writing lately. It’s like I expect every single sentence I write should come out complete and expressive of exactly what I am thinking, but ultimately it just frustrates me and I compulsively bake some bizarre dessert or research careers in PR. It’s crippling. But recently, the good people of my life have forced me into some free flow spaces that stop me from focusing on those barriers and just let me explore what’s floating around my head. It’s hard in a way, to begin. But then I get going and all of these things start pouring out, and after I’m done I think I’ve just written my best work. It’s delicious. So, here’s where I pledge to do that more often. To make my mental wanderings a little shelf on the internet where they can live and even grow maybe if I let them.

Why not begin tonight right? As far as emptying my brain contents goes, tonight I reflected on my current reading material. Romans 6. You might have heard of it. Anyway, that’s what I’m sorting through at the moment, along with some poetry and some Margaret Atwood. This very small pocket of the very never-ending list.

Here’s the spillage:

Romans has provided the kind of basic field guide that I need right now. It’s a call to Christians to stop trying to pull our faith apart and start getting stuck to the most crucial tenants. It lays out the most important things to remember so that the getting lost in the world becomes easier. Actually, now that I am thinking about it, Romans is really a great counterpoint to the book I’m reading for poetry A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Both works are sort of personal letters to a larger audience. Both are maps someone’s understanding of faith or life or what have you. Both encourage you to be less afraid to live & try new things.

I have a lot more writing to do about that before I know all that I want to know about the connection that I just made, so I will get back to the reflectiony part here.

I think also it’s been really important to me that Romans is such a meaty, beautiful text. It’s full of all sorts of glorious soaring phrases and really up there imagery that gets right at your heart strings. It’s rich and daring. There’s no fear about making claims that are too much. It’s clear and yet its enormous. It is how I want to live and how I want to write and how I want to approach my faith. Reading this particular document has also made me realize how interested I am in reading similar accounts from Luther, Lewis, Bessey, etc. that could help me start to maybe account my faith in such specific, a thing that I have largely been unable to do ever.

Romans is jewel tones. It’s blood red, cobalt blue, gold, vermillion all shining out of the page in words that I learned forever ago, realized were gorgeous, and then forgot until I saw them embraced by these sentences again. I want to bathe in them like I do the light of stained glass windows. Romans is terrific. I wish I had been the lucky first Roman to receive this letter. I wonder what the Romans thought of it… I bet they knew it was wonderful.

The Wine [Documentary] Enthusiast

I’ve never liked bubbles. It all began when a blotchy pink toddler me was raced to the doctor to treat the particularly vicious consequences of a seemingly innocent bubble bath. And of course, rather than risk being called exclusive, I promptly spit out the fizzing glass of ginger ale my grandmother gave me to treat my first stomach flu. From then on I am proud to say I was bubble free.

For years it was easy to do because it flew so low on the radar. No one really has to know what your bubble habits are if you’re discreet. Just take showers and stick to water instead of soft drinks at restaurants and no one gets involved. Until college. Your party refreshment choices become awfully limited when you’re trying to avoid bubbles either directly in a neat drink or in its dirty chaser counterpart. My options were down to unadulterated hard liquor and boxed wine. Vodka intimidates the shit out of me. There’s something about that opening scene in Indiana Jones when Karen Allen pounds the vodka in front of hordes of frozen siberians that makes me feel permanently not up to the task.

And I’ve never liked wine either. Every sip of it makes me think of communion and dried wafers made of some unidentifiable substance that bridges the gap between paper and bread that so many kindergarteners have tried so valiantly to cross. Are they gluten free? It’s impossible to tell what they are once your mouth is consumed by the rancid grape wafer paste that sticks to your gums worse than peanut butter. So no matter how seductive the curve of the glass or the blood of the burgundy, all I saw was the spawn of dusty-lipped gallons of port that emerged from the depths of the altar guild cabinets every Sunday morning.

Yet, it was my only hope, my only gateway into the chic Sex and the City fantasy future for which college was mere pregame. I needed it. I needed that thing to indulge in every Friday night while trading sex stories and feminist critiques with my closest friends. I was already cultivating francophilia and reading award winning books and going to museums. The photograph was slowly developing, hinging on that final touch. What was my vice?

Enter: the wine documentary.

After exhausting the taste-tualization possibilities of every online restaurant menu in town, I was back on Netflix again, searching through the documentaries hoping I would find a way to satisfy my food fantasies. I quickly realized I had burned through most of the critically acclaimed options and began pouring further into the suggestions. There it was. Somm. Typographically interesting. Four letters. Innocent enough. I pressed play and set it on the counter as I set to mixing up a batch of my surrogate guilty pleasure, mini greek yogurt muffins.

The muffins turned out horrible. All eggy and wet, with just the hintiest whiff of the dark chocolate flavor from their title. No character. I, on the other hand, was a new woman staring dreamily at the flour covered counter as the credits rolled. Somm follows some mixed up male 20 somethings training for the test to become the elitist of the elite Master Sommeliers and take the wine world by storm. Even though it was not a revolution on the documentary scene, and none of the characters could be called particularly endearing, their stories included me, bubble-hating alcohol averse me, and exposed me to deepest pleasures of the world of wine, with only the slightest edge of snobbery. I was intoxicated by the grapes, the grapes, the grapes, the geography, the game faces, the restaurant interiors, the prestige. I contemplated becoming a Master Sommelier for myself for a moment, a fleeting moment, before the communion wine seeped back into my conscious.

This time, though, it wasn’t as jarring. This time, I was a wine documentary enthusiast. I pressed play and began my next indulgence, A Year in Burgundy. All of the intoxicating adoration of the ancient mystery that is souring grapes, none of the tastebud assault. The fantasy clarified. In the unfloured bits of kitchen counter, I saw my eyes glance knowingly across the table at my gorgeous gal pals as they sipped from their slender glasses and cut bits of steak. Nothing could stop me now.

Manhattan nightlife, beware.

Dancing in the Kitchen

Sometimes when it’s Monday afternoon and you’re home alone and you can’t concentrate on any of the work/chores/french pastry recipes you put off all weekend, sometimes all there is left to do is put on some jazz and just let yourself dance.

Rental Sweet Rental

After a heated two hour intermission between church and a relaxing Sunday afternoon, my two roommates and I dropped off our borrowed car and walked triumphantly across the scorching pavement to our apartment with our new cable modem and 343 Mb/s router burning in our spoon-ringed hands.

The Martha Stewart paper lanterns sway gently in the breeze as the door opened into our bright white living room. I inhaled strength from the air conditioning and got to work. Twenty pain free minutes passed and we had Wifi. Turns out even a doodle-less Google looks unspeakably glorious after several days of “Server not found.” Crisis averted, and status quo replaced, I began surveying the apartment with new eyes as the roomies buzzed busily away on dinner in the kitchen. 

An eager to please walnut bookshelf on the left side of the desk holds the required basic office supplies and chick flicks so that its partner on the right has room for the desired cookbooks and novels. Spots of light hit the room for a moment and shoot the eye over to kinky gold chain slinking its way up the wall until it reaches the kitschy pink and gold chandelier that demands a smile from the student at the second desk, so damn cheery that for a moment I think I saw a student smiling in spite of their grim reflection in the shiny black desk top. Across the wall, a burgundy cello case carries on a much quieter conversation with the unnamed couple dancing in the mist of an elegant gold frame. Just as I started to wonder again who the couple was and why they were dancing in the fog, the intimate scene was pleasantly interrupted with the sound of tonight’s fresh chicken breasts heating up the soft blue and white kitchen. 

For the first time in my life I understood what Debby Reynolds must have felt just before she popped out of that birthday cake in Singing in the Rain. 

And the icing on my cake was how earnestly, like kids on a playground comparing the lost rings and smooth rocks they’ve found between the wood chips, my foodie roommates compared notes on marinades while they shucked sweet corn. 

In the midst of this colorful finery, there was positively nothing to do but plop on to the tweedy cream couch cushions and snooze underneath Grandma Gerty’s diamond patchwork quilt and the lovingly arranged wall of our personally crafted decor.

After three days of unpacking, decorating, adjusting, shopping, and re-docorating, apartment 311 is in full bloom. 

Living Room

 

Mad Hat[box]er

It’s an indefatigable life truth for materialists everywhere, packing is ghastly. It doesn’t matter if you’re packing up for an overnight or for an estate sale. The idea that you suddenly have to identify exactly which items are supporting your life is terrifying. As I am currently throat deep (loading truck tomorrow) in the packing process for my new apartment, questions like “Did I use more than a travel size bottle’s worth of mouthwash last year?” or “Do I usually switch over to my flannel sheets before November?” crowd the air around me like the flies that took advantage of the open door to the garage. 

You’re probably imagining to yourself that I am writing this post because I’m a) putting off finishing that last bit of packing or b) decompressing after a nervous breakdown caused by said packing. Well, dear, I am happy to report that I am indeed c) finished packing. In fact, this post was caused by a revelation I had as I stood, sweating like a tall glass of ice water on a Florida porch, surveying the wall to wall carpet of apartment furnishings that covered the garage floor. Mostly it looked like your average garage sale haul, piles of Grandma’s never used cooking supplies and resale store vegetable peelers, bags of crumpled up orange towels and assorted white lamps. You could have walked in to any second hand shop in the tristate area and carpeted your own garage with comparable items. Heck, you’ve probably already got them.

But you don’t have the hatboxes.

I didn’t realize it until I was surveying my life bagged up on the floor, but between March and August I acquired the five hat boxes now dotting the landfill of objects waiting to be loaded in a truck driven down to my apartment.  Now if you’ve stuck with me through all of these sentences, you’re skeptical. You ask (a little bit rhetorically) “Is your life really supported by old hatboxes?” 

I pause. My cursor blinks a bit on the screen as I think about this.You see it all began with the brown leather hatbox…

There I was, standing at a booth in a vintage trade show with my mother, when it caught my eye. It was old, definitely old. But it still had the maker’s tag. In fact, it looked so good it could have fit right into an ad for Restoration Hardware. Something that wonderful had to be out of my price range like that gorgeous art deco cigarette holder at the booth next store. But as I turned to look at some dresses, the booth maven said she saw me admiring it, told me she was going out of business, and it was mine for $10. I was sold. 

Several weeks later, I was window-shopping at some Amish resale shop in Indiana when two more almost-new hatboxes jumped out at me in bright floral vinyl. Then, I got into the shop and discovered that the fully functioning zippers opened up to a novelty print lining covered with the names of famous international cities. And what was prominently featured? Bern, Switzerland. I’ve been there. Ladies and gentlemen, I call that Kismet. 

Then came the black and white hatbox. My grandma gave it to me as a gift, stuffed full of her old hats, right before she turned over the keys to old split level house and moved into a retirement village. On the brim of the lid she scrawled, in blue and black ink, the types of hats that once lived in that dusty old box. The types of hats that would make great brand names because nobody knows exactly what they mean anymore. I can see the Instagram account now, “@clochebyclaire.”

And finally, the night before my boyfriend left for school, I went to dinner with his family. Before we left, he and I were standing over a pile of unidentifiable crap that he claimed was clothes when his mother came up to me with the last hat box. She opened it and asked me what what do I think about this hat? Wide brimmed, beige, just enough structure, and UV protection to boot. It was wonderful. I loved it. She’d never wear it. It was mine. She handed it to me and said she better see a picture of me in it at the farmer’s market, okay?

The answer is yes. My life is run on hat boxes–four vintage, four circular, two floral, two cardboard, two empty, one leather, one square, five fabulous hat boxes–and they’ll make it into my new apartment if I have to drive all the way there with them stacked bang high on my lap. 

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Breadhead

IMG_0532To say that bread and the 21st century have not been the best of friends is an understatement. From Atkins to gluten, the few attempts to popularize the “French lifestyle” have not yet been enough to bring the boulangerie to the average suburban strip mall. 

When it comes to carbs, the modern customer wants either to indulge in outrageously gourmet cupcakes and farm fresh hand dipped ice cream or to power up with a paleo approved quinoa salad. Bread is just too much of a grey area for today’s well defined diets. It’s delicious, its filling, but its not metabolism boosting, muscle packing, or antioxidant bursting. So, we avoid it at all costs (excepting those rare cases where we convince ourselves to eat it because it’s “flat” and slathered with veggies and low-moisture cheese or a convincingly healthy brown like that bread from Cheesecake Factory) and condemn it as the evil of primitive diets of our civilization.

With this in mind, you can imagine my disappointment as I, an apologetically modern woman, I realized we were out of my Greek yogurt and granola and even bananas when I got back from my morning run. Aghast, I reluctantly approached the bread box, terrified of what pure white bagel or cinnamon swirl bread might be lurking inside.

Enter: Walnut Raisin Bread (WRB)

It’s a dark wheaty swirl with a hint of cinnamon on the inside, and thickish crunchy crusty on the outside. It’s sweeter than bread. It’s the decadence of cupcakes without the sugar coma superfluity of the frosting towers. It’s got way more proteiny nuts and mushy fruit bits than bread. It’s got a marble that rivals USDA Prime cuts. It’s more than bread. It’s like some new giant sliced biscotti. With coffee, it’s breakfast. With jam, it’s lunch! With soup, it’s dinner!

And yet bread it is. It’s new territory, kids. Throw your high maintenance diets aside and begin bringing bread back into your lives, one WRB slice (or two) at a time. With a fresh peach in one hand, and some WRB in the other, you’ll be amazed how different carbohydrates taste. 

Vive le pain! 

Welcome

I’m not sure where you are in your internet journey tonight, but if you’ve landed on this beginning blog of mine I’m sure you’re a much more sophisticated crawler than me, considering I’ve dedicated about five hours just to understanding the whole successful blog launch thing. (Okay maybe about 2.5 hours of actual not cooking dinner or watching The Next Food Network Star time). It turns out preparing a blog is no easy task this decade, but I am determined to assume the task regardless.

I have to admit: It’s freaking nerve wracking writing the first post of something you’ve spent countless hours titling and un-titling in your head. Now that I’ve claimed this domain as my own, well my own partnership with WordPress, I feel I must wield it responsibly. After all, if some impressionable young blog maker like myself comes across me one day on her own quest to create a dynamite title, I don’t want her to be bitter about the waste of a good one. (It’s clear that I’ve spent way too much time processing this).

So, I’m using this Welcome as a pact with you, reader, as a witness. I pledge to consistently update this blog as much as possible so that I can begin to train my ideas, my writing, and myself to be as dynamic as this thing we call the internet. No ifs ands or buts.

Here goes….

Appreciating Audrey

My best friend Mia and I had just shared a particularly rejuvenating (read: sweaty) mid-afternoon yoga class, and were searching for the best place to show off our new bodies. Enter, the local coffee shop. We were ready. With Mia in her crop top and me in my Birkenstocks, we were about to zen out all over the local downtown cafe. Until, I realized I didn’t have my wallet. By the time we stopped at my house to grab it and got back into the car, the easy parking access of the Starbucks in the stripmall down the road won our hearts. 

Five minutes later, drinks in hand, we figured we’d sit outside and enjoy the fresh summer weather to try and revive the cool post-yoga vibes. Unfortunately, good weather for sipping tea also meant good weather for the construction workers to kick it in to high gear just around the corner. We switched tables to something further from the area in turmoil but couldn’t even take any sips from our drinks before moving back inside the Starbucks, where Michael Bublé’s soothing ballads set a much pleasanter mood. 

We jumped right in to the small talk basics, comparing to do lists and nightmare fragments. We were just about finished with our drinks, in other words very well primed for conversation, as we reached our social media notes and Mia insisted I watch Fashion Film, her recent Vimeo discovery. It wouldn’t load very much, [insert free Wifi shade here], but just the first line, “when I’m alone, I like to pretend I’m in a movie” was enough to spiral us into a caffeine-driven conversation about our own irrationally passionate actress worship. 

Mia, future fashion designer, current New York art school student, structure loving, invisible hem sewing Mia immediately began swooning over Audrey Hepburn, specifically her Roman Holiday incarnation, but before she could reach Holly Golightly I cut in with my disdain for the cult that surrounds all things Audrey Hepburn. I said maybe it was the petite frame, or maybe it was my inability to disassociate her accent from the street child Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady, but I had never really been able to relate to Audrey. In fact, I was always a bit jealous that Gregory Peck had fallen in love with her in Roman Holiday, come to think of it.

I felt the evil of my words as soon as they left my mouth, but the caffeine empowered me to continue the argument nevertheless. Outraged, Mia demanded to know who my icon was then. Which of course got me very descriptive about the way Grace Kelly says “tomahto juice” in High Society. And then who could forget her utter sophistication in Rear Window. I was sure this was unchallengeable. Turns outMia finds her awfully dull, I was so noticeably flabbergasted that all we could do was laugh and leave the conversation at a draw. 

Until the next day, when I was searching Netflix for a good accompaniment to some closet cleaning and Sabrina, starring none other than Miss A. Hepburn herself, came up. Interest piqued, I clicked play and was instantly hooked. Where had this movie been all my life? The music, the romantic Humphrey Bogart, the Givenchy, the parties, the comedic ensemble, it was everything I love in a movie. I watched Funny Face to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Fred Astaire, modern art, beatnik cafes, fashion magazines, cheesy dance scenes. Another winner. I hated to admit it, but Audrey wasn’t as awful as I had contented. In fact, she was so un-awful outside of Breakfast at TIffany’s that I wanted more. Charade is next up on my Netflix queue. 

Blushing cheeks and all, I composed a remorseful text to Mia renouncing my attacks on Audrey, but ever more fervently  asserted my love for Grace and insisting Mia investigate more movies as I had. 

It was a valuable lesson kids. Never judge an actress by their cult incarnation.

It begs the question… what other icons do I need to be more educated about?