Monday, February 28, 2011

Thinking about balance: long-term and short-term goals

Duchesse of Passage des perles brings up a good thought: balance.



My several resolutions are all about bringing balance into my life in multiple ways. I realized a couple of years ago that my life was way out of balance. If my life was a pie chart, it would have been 90% job and 10% everything else, which made me cranky and sad. I felt stuck, which wasn't only about particulars of this job, but about how I was approaching the whole of my life.

Long-term goals had been ignored or disabled to handle the daily/short-term goals thrown at me by chairs and deans, requiring re-actions rather than planned actions. And the drah-ma of other people's emergencies obliterated by energy and personal goal planning, making me depressed and disconnected.

This has changed, thanks to my own new awareness and redirection.

My total long-term goal, in fact, is to become more conscious about the balance in my life and to slowly, slowly make adjustments until I am spending part of each day investing in each area: resources, living situation, community, health, and creative work. Or at least, part of each week. To identify and balance daily/short-term tasks with long-term tasks, and then to bring both to completion. To eliminate re-action in favor of conscious and planned action.

For example, one long-term goal is to buy a house. But in confronting my current need to move, I have also (re)discovered that I might not want to buy here in DFW, but instead find a vacation/retirement house for long-term use. That would require redefining my housing goals and broadening my field of possibility.

This month, I have been really fulfilled in putting forward the scripts of my students for performance, making sure the process of their rewriting and the nightly rehearsal hours were fruitful for everyone--including directors, actors, and stage managers. This week we'll have audiences, and this project will come to an end. It was a short-term goal that started really in October and is now almost over: 5 months in length with over 52 collaborators.


The next short-term task connected to a goal--which is moving to the new apartment--will start mid-month. This will be shorter in duration (hopefully, only about 4 weeks) and less of a production.

The terrible thing about moving is the upset and the hoisting, hiring movers and being ready for them. The wonderful thing, for me, is being in a new place and nesting. I am really looking forward to having more space to put out my furniture and belongings, especially with the monthly rent savings. To spending the next six months "nesting."

Two apartments ago, the space was too big. This apartment is too small. I think this new one, like Baby Bear's bed, will be "just right."

Just about the time that project is complete, I'll be looking at the long, hot summer without an extra class to teach. Which--glass half-full--means freedom. I can indeed spend most of every day writing.

Halleluyah!

With most of May, June, July and August open, I can set short-term writing projects that must be completed by 8.15. Long-term project: get writing career up and flowing. Short-term: finish specific projects, save money, stay cool.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Goals for March 2011

Already! It's March and I'm trying to set goals.

February got sucked into the "student project" vortex, and actually, I'll still be there until 3.11. The outcome is completely worth it, but time has been scarce for anything else.

With that in mind, here's what I want to do in March:
  • start moving into the new apartment (and maybe finishing, too!)
  • sell several things out of the old apartment on Craigslist and Amazon
  • continue the pantry challenge into and through March, so I won't be moving all that food
  • ride the bike to school twice weekly
  • go to the batting cages once a week
  • read 5 books on my list of 50
  • find a site to learn to shoot

In addition, I want to plan my summer completely, given that I probably won't be teaching any classes. I intend to go to Utah to see a friend at the Shakespeare Festival there, but otherwise to stay in Big D. I will be writing a lot, riding the bike, decorating the apartment, and doing research. And... ?

Blessings in Disguise

Surprises came up in the past couple of days.

First, I got a second birthday postcard for a free Starbuck's drink...

And someone gave me a free copy of the Patti Smith book that I'd been dying to read.

Then, my neighbor noticed the weight I'd lost and commented on it when we met in the courtyard this morning. Confirmed I actually look better and yes, have lost weight.

I got a ticket for running a stop sign, by an Anderson Cooper-like cop... which was actually a good thing since I was not driving mindfully. Yes, I earned the ticket. But he also advised me how to get out of it.

I got a phone call I'd been waiting for since early December, the kind of life-changing phone call that makes one aware of the big ol' universe... in a good way. I'd pretty much given up on it.

Blessings.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Frugal Pantry Challenge, Week 3

This week I cooked:
  • red beans and rice, using brown rice and the last of the dried red beans in my pantry, as well as green pepper, onion, garlic, and spices from pantry and bacon from freezer. Delicious!
  • salmon with Old Bay seasoning, poached on stovetop, from freezer. Delicious, part 2!
  • banana bread, with old bananas

Next week, my plans include:
  • lentil soup, using lentils and canned tomatoes from pantry with frozen broth from fridge
  • potato-leek soup, with potatoes from pantry and leeks from fridge
  • more banana bread (more brown bananas!)
  • maybe some apple cake (lots of fading apples in my crisper)
  • cranberry-orange muffins for students/rehearsals with cranberries from pantry, etc.
I'll be overseeing my students' projects in performance Monday through Sunday, so a quick bowl of soup (something that can be microwaved hot fast is a good thing... especially with lots of protein in it). That will replace my annual binge of fast-food as my usual fare during this time... ugh. I give myself a pass to eat McD's every night usually, because hey! drive through, french fries, open really really late: not good!

Again, it is more about planning than anything else. If I procrastinate on making the meals, it won't get done "later," and I will be eating McD's. So although I want a nap, I gotta cook... or I'll be sorry.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Elgin Marbles, at the British Museum, summer 2010

Finally posting pictures taken this past summer at British Museum. Beautiful things...





If I were in Paris... February 25, 2011

Weather is cloudy and 46 degrees.

Oooh, an excuse to visit the Galeries Lafayette and eat at the top floor cafe. And shop. An exhibition called "Cover Girl" includes photographs focusing on the art of the model and how it has changed in the last fifty years. Covering a select few of the most important fashion photographers of the period, the exhibition also allows the visitor to see the gorgeous permanent exhibition space within the Galeries Lafayette.

I love the store, from the beautiful vitrines outside to the amazing stained glass dome inside, to the displays of fashion, cosmetics, and accessories that flow throughout the store. Bliss. This is the main store, on Boulevard Haussmann.

I would definitely follow this up with the exhibition on the photographs of father and daughter Pierre and Alexandra Boulat, "Reporters sans Frontieres" which closes on Sunday. It is at the Petit Palais, which is a site I love anyway; I saw the Kurasawa and Saint-Laurent exhibits there. The museum has one of the best museum/bookshops in town.

Then, from here, I would walk up the Champs d'Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe and down the othr side to take a yoga class with my favorite teacher, Julie. The 90-minute class relaxes and stretches me, and then I can enjoy a light dinner and a glass of red wine.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Confession: Minimalism... maybe not

I may not be a minimalist.

Probably not.

While I have been joyfully shedding clutter (and will continue to do so as I move), it is clear that I will never live in a room like this.


First, I am a disaster in an all-white room. Coffee, red wine, Jack the cat.

Second, I am also dangerous to myself around sharp corners and hard surfaces.

Third, this room just feels empty and cold to me.

But I love these.





A minimalist house doesn't have to be bare or cold or empty. In fact, it shouldn't be any of those things at all. It should simply be free of the non-essentials in one's own life.

I won't get rid of my books, for example. Besides adding color and texture and personality to my rooms, I realize that many of my books carry memories for me in a way that makes them important objects in my life. They're not clutter--well, most of them. I am certain that moving will shed me of the remaining non-essentials, but still keep me in need of 5-6 bookcases. That's just who I am.

My goal for my living space--whether house, apartment, or hotel room--is a user-friendly, serene, elegant space that includes color, texture, comfort, and surprise. A place that is clean and easy to keep clean (since I am not a Virgo!) and welcoming to friends. Where I don't rattle around alone. Where my memories and affections live, too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Minimalism: Drah-ma, Dahling!

Since last October, as you know, I have been focused on decluttering and minimalizing. This has taken focus on my small apartment, my closet, my email in-boxes, my pantry, my freezer, and my bookshelves. This material action has been a pleasure for me, since I already knew my apartment was cluttered--in 750 sq. ft., that becomes obvious pretty quickly!--but I had the feeling my life was stuck as well.

This startled and scared me, because when I was working with a life coach about five years ago, I told her that I felt like the characters in Dante's Inferno who were frozen in the slush. With my head barely above water. Am I in the same place in 2011 as I was in 2006?


I hope not!

Interestingly, when I went back to this image, I found it was the third circle of Hell where Dante encounters the gluttons (!) who are indeed stuck in freezing slush, stuck by the gluttony of their own desires. Ugh. And, to me, in the movie SE7EN, the most disturbing visual image is the glutton, forced to eat and eat and eat until he died. Again, ugh. (No pictures here!)

Rather than avarice, gluttony seems apt for the visual of myself and others gobbling up "stuff" and getting stuck, literally, in the muddy goo of ownership, especially of things I didn't really care about or use or need. The notion of letting go of those things has been liberating, as I said before, and while it has not created a naked apartment with plenty of room, it was a start.

What happens when "things" starts to include other people's detritus, like emotional drama?

Well, if I hadn't started to give away or sell books, clothes, shoes, pans, etc. (or to simply and joyfully throw them out!), I wouldn't have made room for the next realization: I need a new place to live, one that is larger, brighter, and has less drama. Less drah-ma.

Because I just realized (two months into the year!) that my greatest resolution this year is to get rid of the drama that formerly cluttered my life. By this I mean my own drah-mas, brought about by procrastination and evasion, but also the drah-ma of others.


Example: one reason I have speeded up the moving process, the major reason in fact, is the "drah-ma" of my complex. Not only my landlord's problems which culminated in a 60-minute phone call in which he spilled secrets of his life  (boy, howdy!) into my ear, but the gossipy neighbors who introduced me to "the problems" he was having by spilling the same problems into my ear at the mailbox and en route to my car "for my own good." While I appreciated their motive of looking out for me--and they were--they were also interested in passing along in gossip private information they were privy to.

I was going to move anyway, to change my living situation, but this drah-ma seriously affected my timetable.



There was a surge in this drah-ma between mid-December and the end of January, when I decided to move (and I was gone for two weeks for Xmas). My anti-drama policy made to clear to me that I had to take action. I did, and have a brand-new apartment with no drama.

Relief.

Second a-ha!: I also have been slow to realize that I work in a department that likes drah-ma, with a former chair who loved drah-ma, and that that made life not only drah-matic but uncomfortable. People who live with a chaos theory of management (former dean, former chair) like to "change things up" just to act as if that is creatively stimulating. People who thrive on gossip (neighbors, landlord) like to insert buzzing into their lives as a distraction, away from what needs to be done or their own issues. I am so guilty of this, as well!

By eliminating (or minimizing) drah-ma in 2011, I really hope not only to make my life saner and more serene, but to expand time for creativity and conscious accomplishment.

Oops, afternoon drah-ma: a colleague just stopped by to say he felt left out of the information loop and that the student project I am working on now is disorganized, which it is not, and to unload his drama and that of his students' second-hand stories.


What I realize is that drah-ma is addicting, like clutter, and can feel like hugging a tiger. You clasp it to you, it is soft and warm, and it will eat. you. up. Without remorse. Living inside a drah-ma is draining and exciting and highly emotional... it can feel so satisfying, as if you are I am really experiencing LIFE. But it is, like all clutter, just holding you me down and wasting energy. It needs to be given away, put out in the dumpster, or sold for good money (write a screenplay?). In fact, drah-ma is worse, because it leaves an ugly residue if I participate, and a kind of nasty shadow/smudge even if I don't. Walk away, Jay.

It is also about control. By creating a drah-ma and enfolding me in it, you attempt to control my emotions. My immediate response is: Hello, dumpster! Goodbye, slushy goo of gluttonous drah-ma!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Surprise!

After yoga class I took my certificate for a FREE Starbucks birthday drink--any drink I wanted, any size, freeeeee!--to the nearest shop and got a grande mocha. Despite the fact that the certificate was one day over the limit.

Oops.

Nice clerk!

And he said to me, Don't you want something... else? You can have ANYTHING!

And I said, I usually get a grande drip. A grande mocha is a TREAT for me....

So he shrugged.

And it was a treat!

This week in frugality

This week went better. I confined myself happily to one meal out, one beer with friends, and one beer with students. Simple grocery shopping. Found a source for Jack's favorite cat food that is 30-40%. Put money back into savings.

Whew!

Also:
  • I went through my clothes again and pulled out the vintage pieces and a few more consignment pieces. My goal is to either sell these or get store credit for them. Either would suit me and lighten my closet.
  • My IRA fund is now transferred to its new carrier, and I feel soooooo much better about that.
  • I worked out a calendar for the rest of the year, based on the scenarios where I teach two classes this coming summer and one in the fall, or none, in order to assess paying back debt and saving money. Surprisingly even if I don't teach a single, extra class, with the new apartment, I'll still be able to save money and pay off debt.
  • I gave myself a specific task for every month, to save money or generate it.
This may sound silly, but for someone who never lived with a budget despite earning a steady paycheck (even in grad school) since she was 21, this is huge. Two years ago I realized that I was just not facing my income, my debt, and my future, just floating along (like most Americans!) earning and spending and continuing debt. Not good for a single woman hoping to retire in something more than a cardboard box.

Fortunately, I did actually have the sense to let a really smart money manager set up my money when I first came to the Big D, before she moved on to other jobs. So things have been earning and flowing, but more like the natural prairie than a well-tended garden, if you know what I mean. Lately I've been doing a little weeding, a little putting in order. And it feels good.

Spending the last four months purging and decluttering and selling in a serious way--and definitely more to come before and during The Move--has been liberating. Paper, clothes, housewares, books, CDs, DVDs, and "stuff" has left my life. Cleaning out e-mail boxes and filing bins and so forth... wow! Great for me.

As well as realizing that a smaller TV, my old stereo, my bike, an old car, and a Nook could be enough.

I am not a minimalist in the "100 Possessions" way, or the "10 Piece Wardrobe." I'd get so bored! I like stuff and variety... but I want to have "stuff" that is essential, rather than something I bought to fill a void or time. DVDs I never watch. Books I never read. Clothes I never wear--as pretty as they were on the rack. Too much stuff is distracting, too little is boring. Finding the happy medium--which also means getting to know oneself--is much better.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Second Week, Student Project

My student playwrights are over the moon about their projects. Every one of them has rewritten their script nearly in its entirety -- one writers said, "I have about 2 lines left of my original version!"--and they plan to continue.

Now comes marketing, publicity, and selling tickets.

I have been contacting groups about free tickets, trying to target appropriate groups for each play's content and author. I have been mailing postcards for students about invitations and free tickets. I have created a poster. I will start with programs on Wednesday... "no budget" means do-it-yourself.

I have had two interviews for internal marketing. I am seeking more interviews for outside publicity.

Sigh. And answering about 30 emails and phone calls daily about scheduling, programming, conflicts, staging questions, and so forth.

It is great, exciting, wonderful... and I hope we'll get audiences!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Frugal Pantry Challenge, Week 2

I am pleased to say this week was successful from my point of view.
  1. cooked skirt steak with salsa in the slow cooker (freezer and pantry ingredients)
  2. continued to eat carrot soup, as well as gave some away to a friend
  3. cut up and bagged fresh asparagus, celery and peppers for snacks
  4. made another loaf of banana bread to take advantage of browning bananas (pantry)
  5. paoched salmon with Old Bay (freezer)
This coming week, I plan to:
  • make red beans and rice (pantry ingredients)
  • follow up with lentil soup (pantry ingredient)
  • make cranberry-orange muffins (freezer & pantry)
  • buy apples (on sale)
Checking through the cupboards and freezer once a week is now setting me on course for cooking and grocery shopping in a more efficient way. Besides, I don't want to move all those cans again!

Friday, February 18, 2011

If I were in Paris... Friday, February 18

If I were in Paris today...
I'm pretty sure I'd want to see two exhibitions at the Musee du quai Branly that just opened and are only showing for a short period.

First, an exhibition curated by Christian Lecroix, "L'Orient des Femmes vu par Christian Lacroix." With 150 costumes from the Middle East. I imagine it is fantastic, although my scholar-self says, Colonial much? What is the agenda of having Christian Lacroix curate such an exhibition? He isn't an art historian, an anthropologist, a cultural historian, or a student of Middle Eastern or gender work. He is a fashion designer and an artist. Probably a lot of beautiful and fascinating material, but I have to wonder how it is contextualized.

Then, "La Fabrique des Images." Five continents, 160 images... an exhibition that presents the theme of the construction of images of man. It sounds fantastic.

The museum itself is a site for the exhibition, discussion, study, and meeting of and about the cultures of African, Asian, Oceanic, and American cultures. It has a great website. I'm about ready to give my money to them right now.

Tonight, at the Swan Bar in Montparnasse, at 9:30, I could go see the Tara Petis-Pas Trio play bluesy jazz. I don't go to see jazz much,but this sounds like an interesting way to end a cool day in Paris.

Last night...

I went to a rehearsal of a student's play and helped dissect a scene so she can rewrite it.

I took myself to dinner at a favorite restaurant and read a book over dinner. The waiter brought me a free dessert--creme brulee, one of my favorites--and I only ate half.

But it was delicious.

I came home and chased Jack around the house (his idea!).

I went to bed early... bliss.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Minimalism and Luxury

One of the nice things about spending the last few months focusing on decluttering, minimalising, and saving money is that I have become more aware of the "luxuries" I find essential for a positive quality of life.

For example, Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia cologne. This is the only perfume I wear now. I have always loved perfume--despite synthetic chemicals found in most scents, which fortunately don't bother me--and this is the scent I have been wearing since 2008. A spray bottle lasts about four months, costs about $50, and to me is a worthwhile expense. The scent is floral, green, and smells great on me.



It is definitely a luxury to spend $150 annually for a better smell--especially when there are lots of other, less expensive scents available. But the right perfume, to me, is the final accessory and tops off my look, no matter what I am wearing.

Another essential luxury is Lush's Happy Hippy shower/shampoo gel. It has a delicious scent of fresh grapefruit, doubles as body wash and shampoo (which makes it great for travel), and exfoliates as well as cleans. It is all-natural, too.



A large bottle costs about $20, but lasts 6 months. Compared to drugstore brands, a luxury; as a daily part of my shower routine, essential. There is a calculable difference in using this product vs. a cheaper version: the scent is first-thing-in-the-morning fresh and wake me up! At 6 am, that's... everything.

Third, luxury chocolate. I love drugstore brands and candy bar brands, but high-end chocolate, made by artisanal makers or simply the more expensive/higher cocoa content European names (like Lindt) are, yes, essential to my well-being. I can eat two squares of that kind of chocolate, for example, and be satisfied. The taste, the quality, and the afterburn is always worth the higher price tag and the smaller mouthful.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shakira -- Aquarius!

Confession: I like Shakira. I wish I could move my hips like she does. I wish I could sing like she does.


She is a singer, songwriter, musician, and (hello, Aquarius!) a major philanthropist. Her albums have been off-the-chart successful, her singles hugely popular, and she broke out of the Latin American market into America (which equals the global market--I guess--and is what everyone wants!).

Her video of the official FIFA/World Cup song of 2010, written and performed by Shakira:



And (bonus) those great looking soccer players!



She is from Colombia, but has not only used influences from Latino music and native Latin American sources, but was also highly influenced by gritty American and British groups like The Pretenders. Her influences range, to say the least. I love it. I think it is great that she sings in Spanish and English--why not?

But like Carmen Miranda, people from Colombia and the Latino world have criticized her for this, for turning her back on her roots for money... really?



I think it's pretty impressive that she can record the same song in both languages and it is successful... and you can hear the Andean instruments here.

The girl is constantly and consistently singing concerts for charitable groups. She has founded her own charitiable group which funds schools for poor children in Colombia. She worked against the Arizona anti-immigration laws. She has worked with and created groups performing for unity among Latino artists (and raising money for the region!). She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She has personally donated millions of her own hard-earned dollars...


On her own time and dime, right? On top of a hugely successful global career as a performer and writer... wow.

And she continues to study history and participate in academic programs around the world.

See: I love Shakira!

2011 Goal #4: Changing My Living Situation

Yesterday I signed the new lease and paid the new checks. Starting next month, I'll be transferring possessions from the tiny old apartment (with the #*%$@# landlord) to a larger new apartment with more sun, a back patio, a decent kitchen, a wet bar, and... a washer-dryer.

Sigh.


Goal #4: Done. Well, sort of. By April 1.

Now to call the movers, gather up boxes, and start the many, many trips to and fro...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Frugality Tuesday -- Report!

This week, not so good. Last week, I ate out too many times: two lunches on my own, and a lunch with a colleague to discuss this student project I started yesterday (she's my faculty director). I bought her lunch, too, so that's actually four lunches I paid for last week.

Oops.


And you know what I proved to myself? Don't go without making your lunch ahead of time! Pack a lunch and take it with you, including a morning and afternoon snack. Eat breakfast!


This week I only spent $29 in groceries, which is $16 under budget, but those extra lunches added up.

Today I meet to sign the new lease, too, which means I am paying out two months' rent plus pet deposit. A chunk of change in one check. Before that, I am getting my hair cut and, because it is deep winter, highlighted (which I do only in the middle of winter).

This means that I am about -$100 where I should be with two weeks to go in the month. Fortunately, I have gift cards, received for my birthday, and discounts, also birthday goods! And, frankly, a pantry still full of rice, beans, pasta, tuna, and tomatoes. No worries, then, just better preparation and planning.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Finally!

The week the HUGE student-oriented project I have mentioned on and off for about four months will FINALLY start!


In the next two weeks, 7 original full-length plays, written by my students, will be rehearsed for performance as staged readings between 3.1 and 3.11.
  • 3 of them will be directed by popular local directors, including the artistic director/founder of a key women's theatre
  • 1 will be directed by a faculty colleague
  • 3 will be directed by students, including two fabulous junior women!
  • guest actors including 2 faculty colleagues, 2 grad students, and 2 local actors who are former students
  • 25 current students will cycle through acting roles in 7 plays, each appearing in 2 plays
  • 11 night or matinee performances
  • audience discussions with playwright, director, and actors after each performance
  • NO BUDGET for this, beyond the stipends to be paid to guests
This is more 4 more plays than I usually produce, but in staged readings rather than productions... NEVERTHELESS! 7 plays, 7 student writers, 7 directors, 6 guest actors, 7 stage managers, 25 student actors, 11 days of performance... am I crazy?


Anyone in Big D area--want free tickets?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Eartha Kitt -- Aquarian

Eartha Kitt was a fascinating person. Most people know her as the sexy singer of "Santa Baby," but she was a dancer and actress as well.


According to sources, Kitt was born in South Carolina and her parents of mixed racial heritage, with her mother being Cherokee and African-American and her father German. She was raised by a woman she thought was her biologival mother, but it wasn't until she was 8 that she actually met her mother (or the woman she thought was her mother) in New York City. Prior to and after that, Kitt was abused; first by her South Carolina family for being "too white" and then by her mother. She ran away, began living off and on in subways, and finally--on a dare--auditioned for the Katharine Dunham Dance Company. She was accepted, and worked with the troupe for 5 years. In the 1940s, from about age 18 to 25 she appeared on Broadway and started her cabaret act, which she took to Paris.


Kitt sang in seven languages, although she is best known for her songs in French and English.

In the 1950s, she worked in films, especially for Orson Welles, who was reputedly her lover. In the 1960s, she added TV work to her career, most specifically as Catwoman in the third seaon of Batman. A different and sexier Catwoman.



In 1968 at a lunch at the White House, she clearly stated anti-war sentiments to Lady Bird Johnson, expressing sympathy for mothers who lost their sons and daughters in Viet Nam, as well as a definite statement that the protestors were onto something. Lady Bird burst into tears, and Kitt became persona non grata in the US for a while. She went on tour outside the country.

In the 1980s she returned to the US and nightclubs, finding popularity among gay male audiences. She also started to work for HIV/AIDS awareness and funding. In the last two decades of her life, she did voiceovers, TV roles, Broadway, cabarets, and film. She advocated gay marriage and gay rights.



As I said, Kitt was a remarkable and fascinating woman. Though most people only know her as a sex kitten-type who sang sultry songs, clearly she was a woman of character and intelligence, with a will of iron and a backbone of steel.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Express Checkout Wardrobe--New Thoughts

Yesterday as I sat in a very long, very slow meeting (4 hour+, people!) I decided what I needed to add to my current wardrobe for 2011:
  • nude pumps either closed or peep-toe with 2" heel or higher.
  • a cream sweater, heavy enough for warmth but could stand alone, not bulky (these two from Etsy)
  • gray flannel trousers
  • a red cashmere sweater, perhaps Eric Bompard in the next sale?
  • a plain black dress, probably from TravelSmith
Each of the above fills a gap in my current wardrobe.

I've found the shoes already, and might order them over the 'net. 3" heels, peep-toes, patent leather... slightly outside my usual choices.

I've also got my eye on the red cashmere and the black dress. I'll definitely wait on the sale for the cashmere, but Bompard has a gorgeous shade of lipstick red that would be great--on sale. The dress never goes on sale, but it isn't actually a necessity; it will roundout my wardrobe and be incredibly useful, but can wait.

The trousers are the most difficult, in part because of my petite height and rounded shape. I'd like a style in rather formal trousers in a good weight wool, which emans shopping arund as I did for the "perfect" white blouse. Finding a fit that works on my body is tough. Also tough because they're winter/fall weight, and it's a bit late in the season for them.

Don't you love the Etsy sweaters above? Both appeal to me (the second one especially), but I am also thinking about trying to crochet my own. Which might be a huge mistake, but I have a rather specific idea about what I want. I don't own any sweaters that are outside the traditional styles, but I think this kind of investment would be a real shot for my rather traditional closet.

Friday, February 11, 2011

If I were in Paris... Friday, February 11

Today's weather in Paris is in the 40s, partly cloudy.

Today I'd be tempted to visit a new exhibition "Paris, Avant-Apres: 1860-2010" at the l'Academie d'Architecture. The exhibition includes photos from before Haussman through the present, comparing specific sites in Paris then and now. I love these kinds of exhibitions, that compare an older city with the new one via photographs, paintings, or other visual representations. It reminds me how short the period of 150 years is, and how very great the distance is, in fact, between 1860 and 2010 in terms of culture, perspective, and identity.

The exhibition only runs until 2.24, everyday, from 11 am to 7 pm, for free. And the bonus is that the site is in the Place des Vosges, #9, the Hotel des Chaulnes.

Which would give me an excuse to walk the Place des Vosges in its entriety, as well as the gardens. It is one of my favorite sites in Paris (and I'm not alone).

Then I might go over to the Irish Cultural Center and see the exhibition "Lire plume a la main", an exhibition of books inscribed with notes by famous readers. 5, rue des Irlandais, in the 5th, not to far from the Pantheon, which is the next great idea.



I haven't been to the Pantheon for some time, and aside from the possiblities of some great photos, there are many many charming little student cafes to sit in afterwards for an aperitif or a coffee.

As usual, the lovely end of the day might be a walk down to the Seine, then across the Ile de la Cite to take the Metro home.

Frugal Pantry Challenge: Week 1

This week I made the following dishes out of my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator:
  • Lemony Grilled Sardines (1 serving)
  • Carrot Soup (8 servings -- still eating this!)
  • River Trout with Dill-Butter Sauce (2 servings--didn't make the sauce, bought with trout)
  • Banana Bread
  • Blueberry Muffins 
More frugal news:
  • I ended up spending the money saved on groceries on a "lunch out," so no joy there. In fact, it has been very hard not to eat out this week, after last week's enforced snow-in. Pure temptation and poor planning. I have lunch materials in house... and yet!
  • For my birthday I was awarded a free Starbuck's drink (coupon), free yoga class (coupon), discounted dry cleaning (coupon), and invitations to all sorts of ridiculous things like auto shows (huh?). I will be using the coupons, but not the invitations.
  • I am still hoarding the Starbucks' ground coffee bags that enable you to get a tall coffee for free. I love it! Walk in, hand over the bag, and get a free tall brewed coffee (my drink) for free. I've turned this into a treat for myself.
  • I have successfully negotiated my new lease and will be moving as of 3.1, overlapping with the old lease. By April, Jack and I should be in the new apartment. This move will require decluttering, selling certain items (on craigslist, I think), and donating others. Although there is more space in the new apartment (by 50%), I don't want to move all the same stuff (again) with no thought involved.
  • For my birithday, my folks sent me cash. Put it in savings or spend it on a nice dinner out? (Do you see a theme?) 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Carole King -- Aquarian

Because of my age, Tapestry was one of the iconic albums of my youth and Carole King one of the first women I saw on the cover of an album filled with songs she had written.


That was something, for girls my age, because rock and roll was full of male performers, all-male bands, and women singing songs by men. There were probably lots of women trying to do what King did, but she was the first one I saw and recognized as different.

And it wasn't all about the hair or the makeup or the dress. She didn't seem manufactured--although she had probably found an image that worked for her, which she's kept throughout her career and, frankly, personal life.

Plus, the songs were singable, the lyrics interesting, and they seemed to be about girls, or women, which msot rock and roll songs weren't, except from an objectifying, "Oh, aren't you pretty" kind of way. They were about being inside the feelings, feeling the feelings, doing the loving, being the friend, not just being looked at.

And from that standpoint, "You've Got a Friend" is one of the most Aquarian songs, ever. Right?

But if Tapestry is everything you know about King--and for a long time, it was, for me--you're missing 90% of the event. Before Tapestry she carved out a career as a spngwriter starting in 1961 ("Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?") through this past decade, when she was still releasing new songs, touring (with James Taylor among others), and appearing on stage on on albums with others. She's written songs for TV and film and continued to write new songs for other performers. Her roll of songs and recordings is amazing.

And kind of inspirational, considering she was a Brooklyn girl growing up in the 1950s: clearly, she had a big dream and talent, and followed that.

I also love that she's continued to write new songs, for herself and others, and obviously cultivated strong relationships with people in the business. Other artists want to collaborate with her, and songwriters and performers recognize her talent.

I find it ironic that despite the fact that Tapestry broke all business records and won awards (4 Grammys, for example) and defined "platinum" before that definition existed in the music industry, despite the fact that that album alone stayed on charts and held records for 11 years (kicked out by Michael Jackson's Thriller), it only made #36 on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums, and it took until 1987 for her to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and until 1990 to make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And both times, she was inducted with her former writing partner and ex-husband, Gerry Goffin.

She also has four children from her first two marriages, which can't have been easy: working in the music business (mostly in LA) and raising kids.

Express Checkout Experiment, or Living with a Smaller Closet

This semester thus far the continued experiment has been a bit of a bust. This week and last week, Snowpocalypse--or as my friend referred to it, Kaiser Snowze--has stomped its big snowy foot all over everything.

Thank goodness I bought the motorcycle boots!

At least they have waffled soles and don't slip 'n' slide like all myother shoes/boots. Right now, that's better than a fashion statement.

I have found myself dressing warmly, rather than stylishly, only because apparently I gave away all my heavy sweaters... thinking, hey. I live in the Big D and it is never that cold here. Foolish me! In any case, it's been jeans and house clothes, since even going out to remove garbage is slickly dangerous and cooooooollllllddddd! (I have become a wuss in the last decade!

I indeed have the 20 items carefully set, but with only one day of classes per week, I think I have to get radical. Meaning, I have to dress well even when I don't go out into the world. It is very true: when staying home, one should still dress (and act) professionally, because it does give you a leg up on feeling as if you're not simply "at home" lounging and careless. The same goes, I find, for showering, putting on makeup, and making real meals (like lunch) despite working at a desk at home. It is too easy to be sloppy and comfy, and the sacrifice is, frankly, time.

This will be a big shift for me. I tend to come home and change completely from "outside" clothes. I take off shoes, fold and hang up clothes to air out, and this does mean they last longer. I can also clean or cook easily, since putting on an apron or rubber gloves is all I have to add.

But yes, being in "inside" clothes means, too often, time slipping away. Not being focused enough.

Perhaps I won't go as far as skirts and dresses, but beyond sweats, flannels, and yoga clothes. And socks.

This weekend's plans: visiting the consignment store, finally.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snowpocalypse, Part Two

Last night, ice, snow, and rain fell on the Big D. But My U--having lost Tuesday through Friday last week--is not closed... despite acknowledged bad driving by Big D drivers, slushy conditions where the temps will drop before mid-afternoon, and some more bad weather...

Sigh.

I cancelled my morning class, and hope life will be clearer by the afternoon one... at 2 pm.

Susan Sontag -- Aquarian

Susan Sontag was a writer, political activist, and intellectual; she died only a few years ago in 2004, and wrote most of her effective work from the middle of the 1960s to the beginning of this century.


She studied at Berkley, but transferred to University of Chicago during its heyday. She did her graduate work at Harvard, Oxford, and finally Paris, where she found a home among the artists and thinkers there.

Her writing included fiction as well as artistic criticism and political essays. Her essays like "Notes on Camp" and "On Photography" changed how Americans thought about such things, leading to or opening doors for the digital age. She is also a playwright, best known for her play about Alice James titled Alice in Bed.

Sontag was often criticized for living outside US borders or for her poltical stances. She seemed to be a person interested in political and intellectual causes from that point of view, not as a personal or emotional situation, but always using an objectvity. I very much like both Alice in Bed and her last novel In America (about the famous actress Helene Modjeska) but both have a kind of detachment in the narrative that does set a kind of distance between the spectator/reader and the work of art itself. She is uninterested in moving one, but in arguing a particular stance and in engaging the spectator/reader as a fellow debator, who may or may not be convinced by her arguments. Even in a work of art.

Her prose is very clear-eyed and Aristotelian in style, and I can certainly see how it would distance some readers, whether of the novel or the essay.

And yet her contribution to American intellectualism and especially to the ways in which we culturally think about representation ("seeing" as a cultural practice, or "reality" as depicted in photographs, or disease) is huge, whether one has read Sontag or not. I love that she was probably in a relationship (she stated she was bisexual) with Maria Irene Fornes, one of my favorite modern playwrights. Imagining those conversations.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Biking in Paris...

Found this on one of my favorite biking blogs, Copenhagen Cycle Chic. Tina Dico, Danish singer, riding her Velibe through Paris...

What I did on the last day of Snowpocalypse




Not the greatest photos. A French press cozy: meant to keep your coffee warm longer. My big complaint about using a French press is the way the carafe cools too quickly.

Saw these on Etsy and decided to whip, er--crochet--myself up one.