« April 2009 | Main | June 2009 »

May 2009

small gardening quandary

This is a little garden bed the homeowners built for what reason I can't say. There are little beds all over, which is neat, but putting this behind a fence makes it really hard to work with. I tried to condition the soil last year and put in some tomatoes and basil, because it does get "enough" sun, however, they largely failed.

I can't really remove the fence without causing some wreckage. The bed is about 5.5 x 2ft, and gets, oh, 4 hours of direct sun, and about the same amount indirect. But all through that fence. It sort of faces west-southwest. We're in a little mild pocket of west-central New Jersey which is zone 7a, and quite rainy through July and August, except occasionally when it isn't.

I could do more herbs, but unless I could find something really interesting around here, I'd rather do something different. It's hard to find the old-fashioned or unusual ones I read about, and was able to grow when we lived near the shore.

I certainly have far more sage, oregano, thyme, and spearmint than I'll be able to use. There's lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, onions, sweet peppers, and a couple of green things I'm hoping the rabbits under the shed won't eat. And some pansies and violas, nasturtiums, and a few miscellaneous clearance plants I've collected.

The final point, of course, is that I don't actually have money, per se. It's always a sort of theoretical prospect, but I manage to pull it together here and there, now and then.  

Okay, and the final, final point is, how annoying to have that narrow space for access to the bed. Who thinks of this?

If anyone from Twitter reads this, who doesn't have a Vox account, you could just tweet me with a suggestion or a link. I will be very, very appreciative.  

living room update

This weekend I painted the TV wall a darker color than the rest of the room. You can't tell in the photo, because I did not try hard to take good photos, and these three are rather grainy. Perhaps when I have the whole room done I will. Certainly I will!

I also repainted the hearth and brick around the fireplace. It's deeper and warmer than before, but not much different, as the owners' aesthetics must somewhat come into play. The paint color is called "black bordeaux," and that is exactly what it is, seen live, and not in a bad photo. Clearly, the mantel is a bit of chaos. I'll attend to that shortly.

Then I'm repainting this long wall, which color is better illustrated above, and putting up a color block to frame one or two of my paintings—likely I'll do new ones this summer for it (I like to paint. Some of it is here. But my best is yet to come.) There are two new pillows on this couch as I try to come up with the perfect combination. They are more than just decor; the back of this old couch has almost no padding, and is uncomfortable without them. The pillow on the black chair doesn't belong there; it's one for which I'm making a new cover, as the old one was fussy and scratchy. 
In this flat photo, you can't see how the couch is angled out slightly in front of that end table; it looks more balanced in the "before" photos I took nine days ago, which are here.

Vox Hunt: Excerpt from One of My Favorites

Share a sentence from one of your favorite books.

I found I could not share only a sentence. There are just too many from which to choose. Instead, I offer passages I have reread many more times than I can count.

I like letters in books. Here are examples of two.

This first is an excerpt of a letter from a man to a woman, fellow poets, whose correspondence resulted in a brief physical relationship.

What a walk, in what a wind, never-to-be-forgotten. The clashing together of our umbrella-spines as we leaned to speak, and their hopeless tangling; the rush of air carrying our words away; the torn green leaves flying past, and on the brow of the hill the deer running and running against that labouring mounting mass of leaden cloud. Why do I tell you this, who saw it with me? To share the words too, as we shared the blast and the sudden silence when the wind briefly dropped. It was very much your world we walked in, your watery empire, with the meadows all drowned as the city of Is, and the trees all grown down from their roots as well as up—and the clouds swirling indifferently in both aerial and aquatic foliage...

Next week we shall walk again, shall we not, now it is very clear to you that I am no ogre, but only a mild and somewhat apprehensive gentleman?

And did you find—as I did—how curious, as well as very natural, it was that we should be so shy with each other, when in a papery way we knew each other so much better? I feel I have always known you, and yet I search for polite phrases and conventional enquiries—you are more mysterious in your presence (as I suppse most of us may be) than you seem to be in ink and scribbled symbols. (Perhaps we all are so. I cannot tell.)

...Let me know, if you are able, that you have received this first waiting-letter. Let me know how you are, and that we may meet again soon.

From Possession, by A. S. Byatt

This one is a letter from a man to the woman he could not have when they were both too young to overcome obstacles of the day regarding fortune and name. But they never forgot each other, and when they met years later, understood what they truly meant to each other.

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in—

From Persuasion, by Jane Austen

the thing about men, and loving them

After I stated my oft-stated phrase yesterday, "I love men," someone asked me if I idealize men. This confused me, as I was saying I love men promptly after making fun of them. If men were nothing but an ideal, what would be so loveable about them?

In terms of idealization, I'm super picky. Probably, if the need and opportunity came up in my life to find a new man or men to physically love, I'd be even more picky. I mean, I get to be, right? I have no problem saying that. But this isn't actually about that. When I say a whole bunch of things about a whole bunch of things and then someone seizes upon one little innocuous thought like "I love men" and stretches it into Something to Discuss, I get kind of bored and frustrated. I say I love men quite regularly, every 4 weeks or so. Why ask why?

But now I will discuss. Briefly, with myself.

Suppose that statement was only based on, oh, Bret Maverick, Captain Picard, Dr. House, and Batman. That wouldn't be very connected to reality in one sense, but in another, it certainly would. Men wrote those characters and men portray/portrayed them. So I'm loving them for wanting to be those characters, even the pained and painful House.

Women write those characters too, and why do you think that is? They aren't making them up out of nothing. They're making them up out of bits and pieces of real life, the best and the worst of it. They're taking what they see and combining it with what they want to see, what they want to believe is possible, and throwing in a few deep flaws just to make things interesting. We like interesting.

What do the characters I enjoy have in common? Many, though not all of them, have physical attributes in common, a tendency toward the tall, dark and lean. They all have inner strength, some of them also have inner pain. They're smart, and tend to be witty. They make a woman feel both strong and weak at the same time. I will never apologize for appreciating that. It's how I was made.

On a parallel note, I really, really hope Dave Gahan is okay.

Out roaming the physical universe I inhabit, I don't see many Bret Mavericks or Captain Picards, at least on the outside. I see men with pants belted below their bellies, dumb shoes, and even dumber senses of humor. But I watch them try at life, and most of the time it cheers me instead of irritates me. At least around every 4 weeks it does. I love seeing the Effort of Being that men do. Sometimes it's cute, sometimes it's irritating, but I generally find it kind of irresistible. And when I occasionally see one all dressed up, especially in one of the new long and narrow suits, and he smells good, and smiles with his eyes, well, life's extra pleasurable to behold in that moment. Life is made up of a long series of moments, after all. They don't all have to be down-to-earth.

I love men both for exactly who they are with their odd habits and boyish hobbies and ridiculous senses of humor, and for all they could be and try to be; cowboy and spaceman and super hero and amazing lover, and all is okay in my world in this moment, right now, today.

Craig Ferguson 5/8/9B Late Late Show SHATTERING MONOLOGUE


This week in 1965, part two

1965 was a weird year to be born. On the one hand, people listening to folk music, starting to let their hair grow, freaking out at Lyndon Johnson, who promised a Great Society in America while sending young men to Vietnam on a futile mission to sort out society there. On the other hand, a great deal of Dacron, Fortrel, hair cream, tight dresses and fast cars.

It's fairly awesome. Possibly it also explains some of the duality of my nature. Hippies always sort of grossed me out. But so do unnatural fibers. Kind of. 


Check out this young man, studiously attending to Social Triumph!

Here's something special I scanned just for Aubrey.
See there? How they did that? So clever.

Here is the beautiful Stella Stevens. She kind of corroded after awhile, as so many of those blonde Hollywood types do. But it's a lovely photo, much nicer, I thought, than the May pinup girl, whose nipples really kind of annoyed me. Plus, since many people can't tell the obvious difference between basic pleasant nudity and the prurient sort, I'd have had to perform antics with links and things in order to share the fold-out. 

And finally, Playboy humor. Playboy was always dual in nature as well. So carefully appointed, such demands on the development of good taste and refinement. Along with a healthy mix of tacky low-brow humor. Gosh, I love men.

I like to think that perhaps someone was playing this record while enjoying his copy of the May 1965 Playboy.
Recado Bossa Nova (1963)
Laurindo Almeida & The Bossa Nova All Stars (Brazil)
Okay, not precisely this record. Probably it would have looked like this one from 1962, instead:

This week in 1965, part one

Doing this in two parts because I want to share lots. Also, I have a gripping headache.

This week in 1965, I had been residing in my mother's womb for 37 weeks. The Soviet spacecraft Luna 5 crashed on the moon. Eoin Colfer was born. And Louis Armstrong was busy knocking the Beatles off the top spot in U.S. music charts with "Hello, Dolly."

Louis Armstrong - Hello Dolly Live

Here are a few ads from the May 1965 issue of Playboy.
As you may imagine, clothing, booze, and music, mainly jazz, were the main advertising subjects. I've got an example of each here.

They were pushing the tapered slack heavy and hard, and also the "wash and wear" fabrics such as Dacron. Better living through chemistry, you know.

Especially for swingers in their penthouse pads with their hi-fi equipment and stereophonic Stan Kenton records.
Those women look so fully engaged in the Wall of Sound, don't they?

On a warm Sunday afternoon at the club, you might order one of these to cool off and also heat things up. But man, ditch the cube! Rocks are for squares.

My dismay that gin and vodka were considered practically the same thing** is heavy. It is one thing to mysteriously enjoy vodka and not really get it about gin. It is fully another to regard them as interchangeable. They're not Coke and Pepsi, for gods' sakes!

I'm going to do a part two later. (No, really. ) You want a peek at Miss May and some of the other more carnal delights of the season? Stick around. Or, come back by, as the case may be.

**There's not that much difference between gin and vodka except everything. They start out the same, but then modern gin is distilled with a variety of fragrant botanicals, the main one being juniper berries, and thus has distinct flavor notes which lend themselves in specific ways to specific drinks. High quality vodka is crisper and purer than low-level stuff. But there's less of a difference between them, and also vodka flavor isn't really meant to combine with other flavors; it's meant to allow them to stand on their own while following them up with an alcoholic kiss on the mouth. Which, whatever, that's groovy if that's your thing. Just don't confuse the issue in my presence or you'll get an even longer lecture than this one. 

desktop confessionals, Mother's Day surprise, Firefox

I fully remember now why I always used Safari and never Firefox. There are little attributes about this browser that drive me nuts. And formatting in Vox, while not a constant crash threat, is still kind of a crap shoot. If I want to use both text and pictures or other media, I can't always be certain I'll be able to follow one with the other, or where the cursor will end up or be allowed to end up. Also, the line breaks come out wrong fairly often whenever the paragraph is preceded by a photo or contains a hyperlink. It's crazy-making. I have to trick it to get it to work, using the arrow keys, etc. Such stress.

Anyway. A couple of weeks ago, my iPod, which I've had for three years following on an iPod mini which was stolen, bit the dust. Probably. It slid into a cup in the car, and got damp. I'd had water in the cup, and it was nearly empty but still wet. I retrieved it within seconds, wiped it off, and it worked fine. But the next day it wouldn't turn on and never has again.

It was kind of my 30gb external hard drive, because this computer needs to have about half its tiny bank of memory free in order to work well. And you can put a lot of music in 30gb of space. I have copies of most of it elsewhere, but not quite all of it. I don't have all the photos and other data, but I can't let myself be upset by that.

I've been wailing about it ever since, though, and talking about how it would be good to get a new high capacity iPod that would really serve well as an external hard drive. After all, I had the other one for three years with no problem. That weird water thing is unlikely to happen again. I thought I'd maybe be able to buy one in July or August.

I got one yesterday, for a Mother's Day gift. I nearly cried. Music is very important to me. But also, we never really "did" Mother's Day, and other than wishing they'd make me dinner or give me a little time to myself, I didn't mind. I don't need official calendar gifts from them to know they love me. An occasional Mother's Day breakfast has been a treat and they show me they love me often, anyway. Yesterday, though, LP fixed cinnamon rolls, bacon, and orange juice, and then set the iPod box next to my plate. I was so astonished. He and two of the girls shared the cost of it. A very sweet gesture. 

At first I named it James Clerk Maxwell, and I was going to name the playlists after important scientific achievements that led to our ability to have this technology, but then that seemed kind of excessive so now I'm calling it Enterprise, and the playlists are TNG episode titles.

The official capacity of the 120gb iPod is 111 gbs, and so far I've used nearly 3 of them, putting music back on from a few mp3 cds I'd made as backups, and from a site where I buy music, that archives the .zip files of the purchases you make. Please don't ask me the name of the site. I will tell you it's German.

Later in the day, I went shopping with the girls and one of them bought me a new summer outfit and a neat bottle of lavender lemon organic syrup to use in drinks. I mixed some with sparkling water last night. It was light and nice. That particular daughter loves to buy people things. I am trying to help her save some of her money, but I understand it's a true love language for her, this gift-giving, and so it just needs to be tempered with some good common sense.

I plan to blather on further today about such scintillating subjects as the condition of my closet and personal wardrobe, my garden, and possibly some thoughts on I Dream of Jeannie. Stay tuned!

no holds barred

what's that mean, origin-wise?

okay, whatever.

I have one of those barometric pressure headaches. But there's no rain forecast. For once.

Here's a picture of me, taken last April. And possibly more, if I start to clicking.

Does that look, to you, like a person who has suffered lifelong embarrassment of a huge overbite and teeth so crooked they don't quite work right?


Does it look like someone who adores Star Trek but wouldn't know a character from Battlestar Galactica if he bit me, and loves lounge music and hard rock and playing basketball but not watching it, and who loves, loves, loves to bowl?

Do I look like an incorrigible flirt? A prude? Both?

Do I look like I birthed and nursed six babies? Like someone who is creeped out at the sight of eyebrow tweezers, and also anything anyone used, rolled into a ball and discarded?



Do I look selfish? Prideful? Compassionate? Empathetic?


Does that dress look like I ordered it from the vintage section of eBay? Does my hair look like it's the natural color?

Do I look like I bleed green? Carry word puzzles that I tore out of puzzle magazines in my purse? Read dictionary pages when I'm bored. Do you guess that I read poetry? Paint paintings without using brushes?

Do I look like I have a loving and giving heart?

I'm turning 44 soon. I thought my teeth would be well on their way to normality by then. I was, sadly, wrong about that. I've struggled with health, physical and mental and emotional; the whole enchilada pan. Over the past year I painted more and wrote less. It's possible I should have a haircut or two. I still need to master a good savory pie crust, because it's not quite a certain thing yet. I used to say I'd get a book finished this year. Every year. I'm not saying that this year, so maybe I will.

I have several pimples. And my eyes are aging by the minute. I cried yesterday, overwhelmed by my surroundings. Then I made cookie dough. For my kids to bake. I brought a plastic cup to Star Trek last night and asked for water at the concession stand. It was in PA, and I was sort of grossed out by the amount of "snacks" people were consuming. It seemed like people eat more there. But this one lady was wearing a very old Spock "Live Long and Prosper" t-shirt and that was rather sweet.   

Not quite ready to take this year's "almost" photo yet. But here's something silly from last night.



Mid-century modern heart, frugal blood: a shell game

This is definitely not the modern living room of my dreams. But as a culled-together assortment of garage sale leftovers, close-out pieces, and the occasional astonishing new purchase, it's really not too bad.

If you can imagine a fusion of, oh, 1923, 1947, 1960, and now, with bits of customs gift shop clearance thrown in, you'd have a sense of what I've attempted to create, or what I was sort of forced to create in this space, which is about 27x13.

I like most of the little details, but I do not like clutter, so it's too much of an ongoing battle to keep it all in balance. It feels heavy in here, instead of light and fresh. I don't like the couch at all; the back is uncomfortable and the large pink 80s floral print has to be well-hidden, however, we need it, and it was only 20 dollars, so it remains for the forseeable future.

If there could be said to be an "inspiration piece," it would be the rug beneath the coffee table, but the whole thing is constantly evolving. I'm always dissatisfied with the throw pillows, because I can't really just splash out for the ones I'd really like, and buying discounted pillows one at a time turns into a weird game that never quite ends well.

The faux-African wall hangings fit that space well when we had a 30 inch monitor instead of a 42 inch one, but now they look out of place. And I've been meaning to do a big painting for the long blank wall. Now I'm thinking of making the wall behind the TV an accent wall, and painting a framed area on the long one for those hangings. We might take a tiny portion of the hearth paint and mix it into the current wall color in order to update the rest of the room with something fresh.

The people who lease this house to us on a long-term basis had a really neat sense of color going here, but the style was more formal and also rather Middle Americana in nature, very much in opposition to my own style. I despair of the stair runner, though I recently put my foot down and removed its matching partner in the hall.

I'd definitely prefer mini blinds to Roman ones, so I could twist in some light without having to raise them. But I like the way these blinds look when they are closed. I do not like drapery, unless it is sheer and unobtrusive. Those big rails from which once hung heavy formal drapes should be removed, but I haven't felt like climbing. I'll have to when I paint the walls, though.

The house was built about 1957, and instead of making the living room a period showpiece from that era, the thing to do would be to make it a room that looks like someone from that period actually lives in it. After all, most people don't decorate according to one page in a catalog. Money to spend would make a huge difference in my thinking. I would turn this into a room that looked like it was decorated in by someone cool in 1960, with Bauhaus, Modern, and Rocket-Age elements, and then really good current audio-visual equipment synthesized into the picture.

In the meantime, with literally no money to spend on pre-War graphic prints, Danish Modern furniture, and Sputnik-influenced lighting and fabrics, I forge on with the leftover paint in the garage, and the hope for some really good garage sales this summer. Stay tuned. 

And in the meantime of the meantime, maybe I'll do a post with pictures of some things I'd use for decor if I really was going to spend money on it.

This Week In...1964

You may know that I've been wanting to share more ads and things from my old magazines for a long time, as well as from the cookbooks and advice books. I think I've found a way to fuse all that together, so I'm starting a weeklyish thing called This Week In...

This week in 1964, Melissa Gilbert was born. Dave Gahan turned 2. On The Andy Griffith Show, Barney pissed off Thelma Lou by taking her for granted, so she went out with Gomer, only when she kissed Gomer, he thought that meant they were engaged, and mayhem ensued. As it does. And Jill St. John was featured on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post.

Here are some ads I scanned from that issue. In the first one, Pitney-Bowes tries to cop a feel from men's wallets in honor of Mother's Day.

I think she'd rather have a bracelet.

Here, we are encouraged to call orange juice by its kicky new abbrev., O.J.!

...and drink it fresh from the can, all day long!

Back in the 60s, limited television programming meant children were forced to sit in front of a fuzzy screen each evening while horrible clowns shouted at them.

The bowl of popcorn is intended to placate and subdue the stunned boy and girl. In the background, Father is hoisting his third old-fashioned, while Mother is on the phone with her sister, who has moved to the city in order to try out a "career" for a few years before, for goodness sakes!, settling down and getting married, like normal girls do.

BONUS! What does this cartoon mean, please? No one here can figure it out.

You can click through to see any of these full-sized.

Next week, since I don't have a LIFE or Post from that time, I will be sharing from either the May 1965 issue of Playboy (if it arrives in time,) or a random, unseasonable issue of LIFE.

Summertime drink in an Eichler home (I wish!)

At the old blog, I wrote this last year about St-Germain liqueur:

Tonight I made a perfect cocktail with it. I used 2 ounces of Hendrick's gin (my most favorite gin,) 1 ounce St.-Germain, and 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice, shaken with ice and strained. If I were to garnish it, I'd add the thinnest slice of lime, floating it on top. I am calling it either Smart Girl or Sailor Girl. So far, anyway.

If you want to try such a thing, you must use a highly fragrant botanical gin. Martin Miller's (2nd favorite) is another one that would do nicely. These are expensive gins, but the difference is enormous between them and the ones that will be dumped into your gin and tonic at a restaurant. And some of the other premium gins make great martinis (or gimlets,) but would not be floral enough for this drink.

I'm revisiting the idea this evening, as the rain reappears on the horizon, and a Mid-Century mood is setting the tone for my evening. (And, hah! I went looking for a neat link, thinking I should come back and type that I would like to be drinking my cocktail at Bob and Helen Parr's house. First thing I clicked on? Bingo.)

As mentioned above, Miller's and Hendrick's both have a neat fragrant and cucumbery quality that goes well with the lime/St-Germain combo. But at the moment, there is Junipero gin in this house. It's also my 2nd favorite-so-far, but has a somewhat stricter (I need a better word) flavor that blends a little differently. (Like, I prefer Hendrick's for a gimlet, but maybe Junipero comes out ahead for a Gibson.) Plus, I have discovered that too much lime+St-Germain makes one think of grapefruits, something I never think of if I can help it. So I made the same concoction, only using lemon instead of lime.

2 oz. Junipero
3/4 oz St-Germain
1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Shake and strain. Garnish with peel.

What shall I call it? It's not an original invention, as it's a no-brainer to combine these ingredients together. I still get to name mine, though. For now, I think I'll call it Lily Alice. :-)