Tuesday, January 10

On second thought...

It's no secret that I am a sucker for a good period piece.  I own pretty much every version of every Jane Austen film as well as some Bronte (some day I'll have to do a comparison of my beloved Rochesters).  They are my go to sources of comfort during difficult times.  It therefore came as a surprise when I didn't immediately fall for Downton Abbey as so many others in this country, and overseas, did.  What was my problem?  Well, I was genuinely upset by the pickle a certain Mr. Bates found himself in episode one.  It really bothered me so I just didn't continue watching.  Eventually the unavoidable attention Season Two brought with it got to me.  I finally succumbed and watched the first season a few weeks ago and... loved it.  I still worry about Mr. Bates and hate those two scheming servants and I'm still not so sure I like that Mary but I sure do love that crazy household.  Season two is shaping up to be just as much fun.

Over Christmas vacation I watched the Forsyte Saga.  This is one that my Mom watches pretty much every time it's on.  I had seen parts of it and decided to finally watch the whole thing.  My verdict?  It's another excellent period piece full of fraught, longing and a dreadful villain.  The only downside is that it made me hate Damien Lewis who I fell in love with as  Dick Winters in Band of Brothers.  Don't even get me started on my love of that mini-series! 

Yesterday I came down with an awful stomach bug.  Between sleeping and, eh hem, "breaks", I decided to give another overlooked Masterpiece Classic a second chance.  A year or two ago I tried watching Any Human Heart.  Like Downton it originally didn't grab me.  Again. that was an unfortunate mistake on my part.  I started watching it yesterday and it too turned out to be remarkably good.  I happen to love the main character, Logan Mountstuart, and his fascinating life and loves.  He rubs elbows with the likes of Hemingway and the Duke of Windsor (and that nasty Mrs. Simpson).   I really love the overriding theme that, when it comes down to it, life is luck and nothing more.   The story is told as an older Logan looks back on his life and the many people he has been during his lifetime.  I like and agree with the idea that a person changes several times during a lifetime and becomes many different people during that time.  Any Human Heart stars Matthew Macfadyen (Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice.  You'd think that alone would have kept my attention.)  and James Broadbent and is well worth a watch.  Again, I don't know what I was thinking when I skipped over this one.  It's one of the best Masterpiece Classics to air in a long time. 

So, now that I am reminded of my love of period dramas, what do I have to look forward to in the coming year?  Well, there is the second season of the Upstairs, Downstairs remake airing on PBS later this year.  I became obsessed with the original series a few years back.  I didn't watch it in it's entirety but found it downright shocking for it's time.  I know my parents and many of their friends watched it back in the day a loved every minute of it.  The first season of three episodes aired last year but I somehow missed them.  Given my trend of going back to watch great Masterpiece Classics it looks like I'll have to go back and give those a go as well. 

In other happy news, Joe Wright, Director of Pride & Prejudice, is currently filming Anna Karenina.  I was all set to hate Macfadyen as Darcy in P&P but the casting, set design, and ultimately Macfadyen walking through the moors at dawn won me over.  Needless to say, I have high hopes for Wright's spin on Anna Karenina.   God knows I HATED the book but I do like the story.  Have you read it?  God damned Tolstoy really knows how to trip over his own feet and ruin a good story.  He spends hundreds of pages on mundane farming life then drops in a few words about Anna being knocked up then goes back to farming again.  He goes on lengthy political tangents and... BO-RING!  The book is fraught with infuriatingly bad pacing.  I don't know how anyone can stand to suffer through it.  I trust Mr. Wright will manage to correct the tremendous pacing problems of the book.  Oh!  Best of all, Jude Law is finally a cuckold, if only on film, so that's bound to be a good time.

There is also a new Les Miserables starring Hugh Jackman (wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!) to look forward to.  Meanwhile, Leo DeCaprio and Carey Mulligan will star in a new Great Gatsby. I look forward to both.

I'm sure there will be other nice surprises in the coming year that I'm just not aware of just yet.  I keep an eye on all of my favorite period piece heroes to see what they are up to.  You know how those British actors tend to always come back to period pieces.  It's just one more reason to love them all.  Michael Fassbender as Rochester anyone?  Yes, please!

Friday, December 16

12 Again

 It's a silly problem but I've been needing a new alarm clock for a while.  Well, I don't really need a new one.  I'm just very dissatisfied with my current model.

I picked it up a couple of years ago but was immediately annoyed by the fact that the volume for falling asleep and waking had to be the same.  WTH?!  What idiot made that choice?  I also hated how ridiculously bright the time display was.  Even in "dim" mode you could land a plane to that damn light.  Almost immediately I just turned the display light off altogether.  I can only read it during daytime hours and even then it's hard to see from across the room.  Instead, I rely on the cable box display to give me the time.  As a result I've been annoyed for about the past 2 years.

(Yes... I have a tv in my bedroom.  I know I'm not supposed to, but I do.  When I wake in the middle of the night and decide I'm just not getting more sleep any time soon I have been known to watch some 3:00 am television.)

Anyway, today I had a few more presents to pick up at Target.  I was looking for something and stumbled upon the clock radios. Do we still call them "clock radios"?  Regardless, I stood and spent a good 15 minutes staring at them and reading their boxes for features.

It seems I have very particular needs in a clock radio.  Obviously:
  • I wanted a display that could actually dim.  
  • I wanted my bedtime volume to have the ability to be lower than my wake up volume.  
  • I wanted to be able to dock my iPhone/iPod.  
  • I wanted to have a sleep machine/environments sound system available.  (I like to fall asleep to the sound of rain).  
  • The device had to have some weight to it. (A previous model was so lightweight that every time I tried to hit the snooze bar it would simply slide across the nightstand and out of reach.  Now THAT'S annoying.)  
  • I wanted a snooze button easy to find in a groggy state and FAR from the "off" button. (That lame lightweight model had a snooze bar that doubled as the off button.  When pressed once, the snooze would be set.  When pressed twice the device would turn off.  I learned this was a very bad system the hard way. I eventually retired it to the bathroom where it couldn't do any harm.)
  • The clock radio had to be compact enough as not to take up too much space on my nightstand.
  • I wanted a weekday/weekend dual alarm option.
So there you have it, the ludicrous demands for my dream alarm clock.

I found lots of grown up and sophisticated systems but most were too dang big.  I ultimately chose one with a new feature I'd never dreamed of.  I chose this delightful clock:

What's with all of the colors you ask?  Well, umm, my fancy new alarm clock is apparently designed with the tween girl in mind.  It slowly fades from one glowy color to the next and the time display changes with it.  It can also pulse to the beat of whatever music happens to be playing.  It can also stay on my favorite color.  Don't worry, I made sure I could also just turn the whole color thing off too.

The most surprising feature is the sound quality.  It sounds really good!  I am, however,  a bit concerned about the snooze bar.  It's flush to the rest of the buttons.  I hope I'm able to manage it in half conscious state of mind.

It doesn't have environmental sounds but my iPhone does so that's covered.

I'm not sure if it has a weekday/weekend alarm option but it seems to have a few apps associated with it that may do the trick.  I'll have to download them and see if they can help with that.

It has some new fangled "Time Sync" feature that's petty cool.  When I plugged it in I didn't have to manually set the time.  I just docked my iPhone and it instantly set the time from it.  Cool!

I'm on vacation for a while and don't plan on using the alarm for a while (yea!) but I will have to test drive it before my next work day to make sure I can manage it.

So far I really like my silly, glowy, new clock radio.  If it disappoints, I'll be sure to report back.  Until then, I'm off to create a cool "Wake Up!" playlist.

(BTW, I can't help but think how this whole iPhone/clock radio/color change/morning playlist thing would have BLOWN MY MIND as a 12 year old.  Sometimes I feel like I grew up in the dark ages.  Have you SEEN video games lately.  Holy crap!  Kids today have it made.  Remember these:


Friday, December 9

Lights out

Last Wednesday night I found myself out with some girlfriends from work getting a MAC makeover, dining and driving home during one helluva wind storm.  I had spent part of the evening making fun of the big "wind event" on the horizon... then it hit as we made our way to our cars.  Holy crap!  It almost knocked my off my feet!  I live in Southern California for God's sake!  What the hell was going on?!

I read a text from home explaining that the power was out but candles were lit and to not bother trying to park in the garage.  Got it!  I white knuckled the steering wheel all the way home.  The wind was really raging.  I had trouble sleeping due to the noise outside.  OMG!  I can't remember ever seeing or hearing anything like it in my life.

I woke up to see the damage.  It turns out we had experienced hurricane force winds of up to 100 mph.  I was happy to see that our recently pruned oaks and orange trees were fine.  Our neighbor's non-native pines, on the other hand, had blown all over our yard.  What a mess.

That was only the beginning.  We ended up enduring six days and nights without electricity.  I realize there are people in other parts of the world suffering through far worse but... it sucked.  We happened to have hot water to shower and wash dishes in.  Without that, I would have high tailed it to Palm Springs or Santa Barbara.  Turns out an ice cold shower just isn't for me.

On the bright side we were very resourceful and discovered what really comes in handy when surviving without power.  Here is what became most important to us and a few emergency supplies you might  want to keep on hand:

Hot beverages-
I remembered our ancient campfire coffee pot and just knew Dad would have never thrown it out.  It was right were I thought it would be.  I found that filling it with hot tap water then bringing it (close to) a boil on the gas powered BBQ worked quite well.  It was really cold outside so I quickly learned to just set it in the fireplace.  In this way we were able to make coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

Last summer I spotted this emergency radio and picked it up, just in case.  It was fantastic.  I live in the foothills and tend to get terrible reception but this radio worked like a charm.  It's a bit spendy but it's more than just a radio.  It has lots of great features (battery/solar/crank powered, flashlight, weather channels and it can charge your cell phone!).  I highly recommend it.

Candles and matches-
Just make sure your candles are unscented.  Seriously, our house smelled like a French whorehouse.  Blechh!  Unscented long burning tea lights to float in bowls of water can provide a some nice light. 

Friday morning it became apparent that we would be in the dark for the long haul.  Flashlights, batteries, candles, matches and ice could not be found for 20 miles.  I decided to hit the Home Depot near work and picked up the last two battery-operated lanterns they had.  Candles are great but really tough to read by (I don't care what Abe Lincoln said).  The lanterns run on 8 D-cell batteries, which is ridiculous, but those bad boys really became important.  We were glad to have them.  I suggest having at least one lantern per person in a household.

Camping cookware set-
I found the cutest set of camping cookware in the closet.  I was able to heat up some leftover pasta and it was quite a nice meal.  I suppose I could have used our every day cookware on the grill but I didn't want to risk it.  Cooking in aluminum pots meant for a campfire seemed more sensible and they worked just fine.  Ours look something like this:

Shut the Box-
I rediscovered this addictive game.  Have you ever played?  It's so simple and fun.  Try it some time.  I pulled out a deck of cards but didn't really play anything.  I also completely forgot about Bananagrams.  Bummer!  That would have been great too.  Time slows down in the dark, keep some family friendly games around to pas the time.  Trust me.

Those were the most critical items that kept us going.  Keeping warm was the most important business at hand.  I found that hopping under the covers in bed was the best way to stay warm.  The problem was that I tended to get so tired so early.  I now understand the need to wake at the crack of dawn to get a fire going to heat the house and to get a kettle going.  This, of course, meant falling to sleep by 8:00 or 9:00 each night.  It was a strange, cold, dark week but we learned a lot and will never take electricity for granted again.

We have since packed up all of our supplies for the next time we have no electricity.  Power will eventually go out again, this time we will be even better prepared. 

Saturday, November 19


Tonight I watched L'Amour Fou and loved it.

It's a documentary about the Yves St. Laurent as told by his partner of 50 years, Pierre Berge.  It was lovely but admittedly very sad. 

My friends all know that I believe if a film has great real estate I will inevitably love it.  This proved to be true, once again, in this film.  Those houses, not to mention their contents... wow!

The film hops back and forth between the past and present.  It begins from the time Yves and Pierre met, fell in love and launched the house of Yves St. Laurent to the recent extraordinary auction of the couple's belonging. 

Yves was the artiste while Pierre ran their joint venture until the end.  They seem to have broken up and lived separately as far back as the mid-70's but remained incredibly close while working together until St. Laurent's death in '08.

I happen to enjoy looking at classic fashion.  Even the ridiculous I can appreciate as art.  This film certainly showed lots of the famed couturier's fashion but it also spent lots of camera time lingering on the amazing homes of the couple.  Their home in Paris is packed with remarkable treasures as are those in Marrakesh and Normandy.  It was very sad to watch Christie's come in to pack up and haul away the spectacular collection of art.

My favorite moment was when Pierre throws questions at a young St. Laurent and films the answers.  The result is a completely charming look a the two before addiction and depression slithered into their lives.

Even if you don't care a hoot about couture it's worth watching for no other reason than it happens to be so darn pretty to watch.

Check it out if you can.

Thursday, November 17

Outraged again

I love magazines but I can not stand the almost instant onset renewal notices.  They start coming about 3 months into a subscription and seem to come about every two weeks until the end of the subscription.  Of course, the trouble with this is that I never know when my subscription is actually up because I tend to ignore those pesky notices.

Today I received a particularly rude notice from Food Network Magazine.  I like the magazine and had planned on renewing until I received a passive aggressive/condescending renewal notice.  In part, it stated "we fully believed you would send payment upon receipt of your invoice" (how the hell would I know when an actual invoice arrives?) and "your good standing with us is at risk."  I promptly canceled my subscription (last issue arrives this month) with a note stating I didn't appreciate their tone in the renewal letter and that their "good standing WITH ME  is not only at risk but is in fact gone." 


Wednesday, November 16

High Ten

Today I received a supremely nice compliment.  I'd ordinarily keep it to myself but I wanted to document it here for me to find later.

My HR person was incredibly kind, helpful and encouraging to me from the moment Dad died.  Today I overheard her saying that she would be out of the office for 2 months.  I decided to stop by her office to see if she was ok.  Several years ago she suffered a debilitating paralysis from the neck down and has been recovering ever since.  She is now able to walk short distances with her walker but she is mostly in a scooter tearing up the halls in the office.  She will be fine but her doctor has been wanting her to take some time off to focus on rehabilitation.  That's what she'll be doing for the 2 months she will be away.

I was happy to hear she was going to be ok.  As I believe I've mentioned before, we are about to go through some major changes at work that will likely involve layoffs.  Nobody knows what's going on and we're all just waiting and hoping for the best.  I told my HR friend that she had picked a good couple of months to miss since the stress that we were facing would probably not be helpful in her rehab.  She agreed and explained that she had made these plans months ago and almost postponed but ultimately decided she had to take care of herself.  I was happy to hear this and reminded her that we both know that nobody will take care of us but ourselves.  She asked how I was holding up with all of the office drama.  I simply said "If I could keep breathing and living after that phone call when I learned Dad had died then I can certainly handle whatever work has in store for me."  She immediately threw up her hands to give me a "high ten".  We talked a while about how she had absolutely been through worse than any dumb layoff, as had I, and that we'd survive this whole work  thing too.

Here comes the nice compliment: She told me that in her 30 years of being in HR she had never seen anyone come through "that kind of tragedy with such flying colors as you have."  She continued with "I mean it's not every day somebody's dad falls down a mountain.  That was truly tragic.  It's like the last thing your Dad did before he left this earth was to take all of his strength and goodness and pour it into you."  Ok, that started out really harsh but I think she recovered nicely.  I'll take it as a compliment.

We talked a bit more about how she's seen this whole work drama bring out the best and worst in people.  From top to bottom she's been surprised by people, both positively and negatively.  I'll bet!  We're supposed to know our fate after the new year and have it fully integrated by the end of February.

I told her that I in no way wanted to lose my job.  I like it and (most) of the people I work with.  However, if I did lose my job I would be on an epic road trip the very next day.

So, that's the plan.  I'll try not to stress out about that which I have no control over.  I'll just keep my head down, do my job and have great weekends.  That's the plan and I'm sticking with it.

Tuesday, November 15


I don't always like my job but I do like my immediate team of co-workers.  Today I enjoyed the following exchange:

ME: Ok, so who do you consider hot?


ME: Ehh.  I don't get him.  He's always looks like he's seriously ill.  (Tapping away at iPhone Googling images of James Franco)

ME:  (Handing phone over) Here, find a pic that you consider hot.

FEMALE CO-WORKER: How about this one?

ME: Sorry.  Nothing.

FEMALE CO-WORKER: Yeah, he is kinda sickly but he's hot in Spiderman.  What about you?  Who are your Top 5 in Hotness?

ME: Oh, I gotta go Clooney.

FEMALE CO-WORKER: Eww, I don't like George Clooney.  Besides, I think he's gay.

ME: HEY!  The gays can have anyone they want except Clooney.  I draw the line there.  No Clooney!!

MALE CO-WORKER: Yeah, I gave them Travolta years ago.

LESBIAN CO-WORKER: What about me?  I'm gay.  Can I have Clooney.

ME: Yes. I think you've found a loop hole.  Congratulations!