Stuff that irrationally pisses me off

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  1. Matthew McConaughey
  2. Cat puke
  3. The constant lawnmower sound in my neighborhood

Hrm. I thought that was a longer list. Maybe I'm just not sufficiently irritable this morning. Matthew McConaughey does drive me batty, though.

I'm not doing a lot of blogging right now because I've been bitten with a fiction bug and I'm seeing where that takes me. I doubt it will take me anywhere--I've always kind of hated writing fiction, and I'm sure I'll hate it again in no time. Until then, I suggest reading Suebob. Her rant against the Susan G. Komen foundation is priceless. Exactly the kind of thing I'd like to be writing, were I not to have been distracted by fiction.

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What I'm Watching: Sons of Anarchy

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FX's Sons of Anarchy is not a show I would have picked out to watch from the description. From the website:

FX's original series, Sons of Anarchy, is an adrenalized drama with darkly comedic undertones that explores a notorious outlaw motorcycle club's (MC) desire to protect its livelihood while ensuring that their simple, sheltered town of Charming, California remains exactly that, Charming. The MC must confront threats from drug dealers, corporate developers, and overzealous law officers. Behind the MC's familial lifestyle and legally thriving automotive shop is a ruthless and illegally thriving arms business. The seduction of money, power, and blood.

Jackson 'Jax' Teller (Charlie Hunnam) is the MC's vice-president, whose loyalty to the club is tested by his growing apprehension for its lawlessness; Gemma Teller Morrow (Katey Sagal) is Jax's force-of-nature mother; and Clarence 'Clay' Morrow (Ron Perlman) is Jax's stepfather and MC president. The triangle of Mother, Son, and Stepfather will ultimately reveal the dark secrets in this family's past and the lengths they will go to protect their sins.

Outlaw motorcycle clubs are really not a big area of interest for me. And Ron Perlman pisses me off when he's not painted red. Wouldn't have given it a second look.

But, a couple of weeks ago, M. and I were watching a movie on FX (OK, so it was Ghost Rider--embarrassing to admit that, but there it is) and every single commercial break featured an ad for the Sons of Anarchy Season Two premiere. So we gave it a shot. I was hooked by the 15th minute. Now we're keeping up with this season as the episodes air while simultaneously catching up on the first season via Netflix. And I'm doing what I always do with shows I really like--thinking up alternate plot lines and characters in my head while I'm trying to go to sleep at night.

It's a good show. First of all, Katey Segal (remember her from Married...With Children?) is fantastic. Her character, Gemma, is a sort of Lady Macbeth matriarch, with that great vicious/conniving/caring combination, and she plays the hell out of it. Plus, she's admirably tough (I'm thinking about reviewing SOA for Heroine Content because of her, depending on what ends up happening this season). She's that rarest of TV gems--a well-written and well-acted female character. When I learned that the role was written specifically for Segal, by her husband, who produces the show, I was not at all surprised.

Ron Perlman's character, Clay, is also really interesting. I am still not a big fan of Perlman (I just can't see anything but Hellboy when I look at him), but I keep imagining the same character played by Ian McShane and that helps me appreciate the character more. He's a ruthless guy, but also one who is dedicated to his family--both Gemma and the club. And the underlying plot device of him dealing with the onset of age (he has arthritis and has increasing trouble with his hands as the show progresses) is a good one.

Mostly, though, as far as characters go, I'm watching the show for Jax. Jax is amazing. He's a motorcycle gang Hamlet (you knew you recognized this storyline from somewhere, right?), but with less whining and more ass-kicking. I know I should be over it by now, but that whole poet-barbarian thing still definitely awakens something in me. And Charlie Hunnam is just about perfect (which I never would have expected from his roles in Cold Mountain and Children of Men).

The motorcycle gang aspect of the show is really not important, at least not to me. It's about loyalty and family and growing up and all that jazz, and the backdrop to that really doesn't make that much difference. Though there is overlap between the world portrayed in SOA and the one portrayed in another FX show I used to like, The Shield, the two don't really relate in my mind. Sons of Anarchy reminds me more of two other shows--The Sopranos and Deadwood. Though the backdrops are obviously very different, it has the same kind of intense character development and the same almost-melodramatic Shakespearean undertones. I'm very excited to see what comes next.

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Super Grace!

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Ooh, I found a fun toy last night! The HeroMachines 2.5 Super Hero Generator! There are tons of options, and you can build your own superheros. I'll do something more exotic later, but in the meantime, here is the superhero version of me:

super grace.pdf

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Yoga pants for the long-legged

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(Cross-posted from my review blog.)

Given my new capacity as work-from-homer, I have been expanding my wardrobe of comfortable, not business casual clothing. I could just wear pajamas all day, but, at least to begin with, I figured I'd pretend I'm making an effort. I want comfortable, casual combos that I can pull right on in the morning. Briefly, I considered track suits. Then I realized just how stupid that would look, and revised. What I really need to complete my suburban mommy look (i.e. fit in with the neighbors), I realized, was a selection of yoga pants.

I have loved yoga pants since they first came on to the scene. I understand that wearing them in public and not in a yoga class is a major fashion faux paus, but I just don't care. I not only love how they feel, I like how they look. They seem streamlined to me, plus they make my ass look amazing. The trouble is, they are very rarely long enough for me, and they look dead stupid when they're the wrong length. So, in my quest to invest in some new "office" wear, I started looking for some long-length yoga pants.

Google, of course, was my first step. This helpful article led me to check out Extreme Heights, Tall Women's Clothes, Fit Couture, Long Legs, and Sivana Spirit. All of these stores had pants that would likely be long enough, but I balked at the prices--$50 and up for yoga pants? I'm just not that committed to my work wardrobe. Maybe if I were actually really into yoga and I needed the pants to be functional, I'd consider paying that much, but since the whole idea here is simply for me not to wear pajamas, it seemed excessive.

Another Googled article seemed more promising, since the word "affordable" was in the title. It mentioned Victoria's Secret yoga pants, which come in long lengths and fun colors. I'd consider that, but as a last resort--I really kinda hate Victoria's Secret. The other suggest was the C9 by Champion pants at Target, which are only $20. Those are right up my alley, but my local store didn't have long lengths, so I had to bookmark them to come back to if and when I decided to go with online ordering.

Next, I checked Amazon. Searching for long or tall yoga pants, I found a few interesting options. Alternative Apparel makes a long wide-legged yoga pant that I like the looks of, and some of them are on sale for less than $20. No inseam length listed on Amazon, though, so I checked their website. On the website, I couldn't find any long length pants listed, but I did find out that the regular pants have a 33.25" inseam on a large and a 34.25" on an extra large. That's probably long enough, so I put these on the possibilities list.

The next interesting possibility that came up were long length pants from Land's End. The Amazon price was too steep for me, but I thought I'd take a look at Land's End's site to make sure they didn't have something less expensive there. They did--the Colorblock Performance Pants were on sale for $25. Without even checking to see what constitutes a tall inseam for Land's End, I ordered a pair.

They came yesterday, and I have to tell you all, I love them. They are made of thicker, more shape-keeping fabric than most yoga pants, and they look fantastic. I got the ones with the orange and coral waist, and they fit great. The thing is, Land's End's idea of a tall inseam in an XL is 32.75". They aren't really quite long enough. I'm keeping them anyway, but it only goes to show that you really have to look at merchant's individual sizing charts--they don't always speak the same language. Not understanding what tall really mean seems to be an ongoing issue with Land's End in particular--I ordered a long torso tank swimsuit from them (this one) at the same time, and it doesn't cover my nipples. That one is going back.

Another discovery I made while searching for yoga pants was We Love Colors. No yoga pants there, but colored leggings with long inseams! I have a ton of shorter dressed I'd love to wear leggings under in the winter, but I've only go the one pair of black ones (from Tall Girl). We Love Colors, however, has a 35" inseam in their XL leggings. They're $26 a pair, too, which seems reasonable. And they are available in (count them!) 50 colors. I ordered three pair (Maroon, Rubine, and Hunter Green). If I like them, I'll probably order more. What a find.

So, I still don't have long length yoga pants. I'll probably order some of the Alternative Apparel ones, and report back, or maybe get some of the C9 ones from Target. I actually have a really old pair from Target's Mossimo line that are long enough and don't say tall anywhere on them, so that might be an option as well. In the meantime, I'm going to hang out in my too-short but super comfortable Land's End pants. Not like anybody sees me anyway, right?

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LBB Giveaway on Reviews site

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Get thee to WINOW Reviews and try to win a September Little Black Box!! One week only, so go now.

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Love Thursday: Other People's Children

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I love other people's kids. I don't have kids of my own. I may never have kids of my own. But I absolutely adore other people's kids. At first, when my friends started having kids, I was put out by it--nobody was going to be any fun anymore! They were only going to talk about their babies! All that child-free nonsense. But it didn't happen. My friends had kids, and remained my friends, albeit with some new demands on their time. And the kids each became a very important part of my life in their own right. My world hasn't contracted with the birth of each new friend-kid, it has expanded.

I wish I could show you pictures of the fantastic kids in my life, but since they aren't my kids to share with the whole wide Internet, I'm not going to do that. In fact, I'm not even going to tell you their names. But I will tell you that they are wonderful. They make me want to have babies of my own, of course, but they mostly make me very very grateful that I've been allowed to be in their lives. So, if you are reading it, and are the parent of one of the kids I love so much--thank you.

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Whiteout review on HC

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Field trips and in-law love

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Mark's parents have been here this weekend, and we've had such a nice time. Yesterday, we went and saw Mark's workplace, then toured around the downtown area of Leesburg, which is very nice. Lots of cute shops and restaurants, and really cool historic buildings dating from the late 1700s and early 1800s. We had a great lunch at The Wine Kitchen, which I absolutely recommend if you're ever in that area.

After we were done in Leesburg, we came home and Mark and his dad put together the Big Green Egg I got him for his birthday. That thing is going to be so cool! For our first trial run on it, Mark just used it to grill some late multi-colored corn and strip steaks, which we had for dinner with salad. He also grilled some fresh mozzarella in lemon halves, which we had with bread. It was really nice. The steaks weren't perfect, but that was much more a function of the quality of the meat (Whole Foods is just not Central Market) than the grill (or the griller).

Today, we set a slightly more educational and less decadent schedule. First, we went to the Balls Bluff Battlefield Regional Park. A small Civil War battle was waged there (the only one to have a sitting U.S. Senator killed, and he was from Oregon!). It wasn't what any of us expected--rather than being any kind of field, it was trails through the woods, winding past a small cemetery where unknown soldiers are buried and down to the Potomac River. Not a ton of interesting or useful information was presented, either, but it was a beautiful day and a nice walk.

Next, we went to the Oatlands Historic House and Garden, which is a restored plantation. We skipped the tour of the house (Irene, Mark's mom, said that if you've seen one house you've seen them all, and I kind of tend to agree), but spent quite a while in the 4.5 acre tiered formal gardens (where Mark took this really cute picture of me). The gardens were nothing short of breathtaking. It's not even a good season for gardens, but they were amazing. All sorts of different little dioramas, some cultivated down to the single blade of grass, some more organic. I'm not a huge garden person, but Mark and his parents are, so I thought I'd be bored there. I wasn't. It's worth seeing.

Finally, we went to the Aldie Grist Mill. It was a functional mill for almost 200 years (until the early 1970s) and was then restored as a monument. There were two tour guides there who did a great job, and they showed us how all of the old milling equipment worked. There I did get a bit bored, but mostly just because it had already been kind of a long afternoon and I wanted something to eat. The attraction itself is worth going to if you're in that direction.

Once we got back to the house, Mark and his mom made us an amazing dinner of crab cakes (John and Irene spent a couple of days in Maryland before they came to visit us and they brought us some lump crab), goat cheese stuffed hatch chilis, and salad with heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella. Then we all relaxed a bit, and now everyone else is in bed. John and Irene leave for home in the morning, and Mark is back to work. I'm lucky enough to have two more days off before I start back up.

This was a really exceptional visit with my (not)in-laws. I can't describe quite why, but it was great. I really feel like they've come to accept me as part of their family, and I really appreciate that. Plus they are just fun to hang out with--they really like to do and see things, they love good food and wine, and they're pretty excellent conversationalists. I'm very lucky.

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Collect

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As I'm unpacking the house, I'm noticing the things Mark and I collect. We don't collect any of the same things, of course--that would be too easy. Neither of us has formal "collections" that we put together intentionally--it's just the things that we accumulate. In Mark's case, cookbooks are a big one--there are nearly 100 of those piled up around here. He also has a small but redundant collection of Shakespeare books (four different editions of the complete works, plus a shelf or two of individual plays and a little bit of criticism). And he has 30 pairs of pants. For me, it's art books (thirtyish); craft supplies (bins and bins full, it's embarrassing); and more bath supplies (scrubs, washes, bombs, soaps, you name it) than I could count.

What does this say about us? When you look around our house, and see the things we have a lot of, what does imply about the way we live and the people we are? The cookbooks are pretty obvious, I guess, though not everybody uses those the same way. Some people don't love to cook, but do love to have lots of pretty cookbooks. Some people cook out of them directly. For Mark, they function as something between a coffee table book and a reference manual. He rarely, if ever, uses recipes directly, but he pores over them.

The art books are my analogy to Mark's cookbook collection (at least in terms of being a pain to move). They aren't references for me, though. I know only a very small amount about art--a year's museum job worth. So I guess I'm kind of an art book poseur. Having them, and having them out (they've always been in the living room in the houses we've lived in, instead of in the office or bedroom like the fiction paperbacks), makes me happy. They're almost accessories. The art and craft supplies are more functional--my urges to make art aren't all that frequent, but they are strong, and, especially given that much of what I ideally like to use has to be found and collected, I need to have lots of stuff available when the mood strikes.

So what about you? Look around your house. What do you collect? What do you accumulate? What's the difference? And what does it say about you?

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TVland

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So being home by myself, especially being home by myself and not having to work, I'm watching a lot of TV. A lot. In fact, I have been watching a steady stream of TV all damn day long. I know that should embarrass me, but it doesn't. It has been quite a while since I've watched much TV at all, and this level of vegging is really relaxing. And it's not educational programming, either, folks.

So, since I know you're dying to know, this is my daily line-up:
10-11AM: Jon & Kate Plus Eight re-runs (TLC)
11AM-noon: What Not To Wear re-run (TLC)
Noon-3PM: Wife Swap re-runs (Lifetime)
3-4PM: General Hospital (ABC)
4-5PM: Little People, Big World re-runs (TLC)
5-7PM: Bones re-runs (TNT)

Don't you wish I had a Neilson box?

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Art for my office

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One thing I am really excited about in our new house is having my own office/craft space. It's going to contain my desk and work stuff, as well as a large set of metal shelves to hold all my craft stuff, and possibly another small table for collage, if I can find one. The walls are off-white, and I'm not going to paint them. What I do want to do, however, is buy some art for the walls. Stuff I'll find inspirational and fun. So I've been browsing Etsy. Want to see what I've found?

This multi-media tree collage by Carambatack Design is, I think, something I've shown you before, but I just love it. It's the right mix of smart and creative and fun. The other work in the shop is great as well--especially the other trees. Wouldn't a whole series of them be great?

vast and amazing print.jpgAnother direction to go would be the great prints in the Freya Art & Design shop. There isn't one of them I'd turn down, but I think my favorite is "Vast and Amazing." I love the colors and the movement. And the fish. Again, wouldn't it be great to have a few of these, all grouped together?

I love the multi-media stuff. The Artful Apple has another series I adore. My favorite is "Perk." Wouldn't it look fantastic with "Relax" and "Sip"? Most of the rest of them are a bit too culinary for office decor, but I still really like them. Did you notice how they are collaged on to old cookbook pages?

I've been after Jen Skelley's exotic bird gocco prints for ages, and they're on sale, buy two and get one free! I think I'd choose "Mina" (shown here); "Spike," and "Waverly."

Still whimsical, but a bit darker, I love the work at The Black Apple. The Alice in Wonderland print set it awesome, but I think I'd have to go with the Books Print. And the Terrarium Print. And I love the Alphabet Print. You are My Needles and Pins, shown here, is probably my all-time favorite, though.

So, what do you think? What direction should I go?

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No wind left in my whirl

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My God, you all, I am tired.

Within the past three weeks, I have: sold my house, moved across the country with all my stuff and five animals, worked 50+ hours a week, submitted a grant, turned 30, started putting together a new house, had a consultation for my first large-scale tattoo, flown to Boston, attended three days worth of wedding festivities, flown back from Boston, and made a handful of major electronics purchases. I can't remember the last time I cracked a book, wrote in my journal, did any yoga, or even took a long shower.

But now, I swear, it's going to calm down. My schedule for the next few weeks looks remarkably clear. Tomorrow, I get the big exciting tat. Next week, I may take a short business trip. In one to two weeks, I'll start a regular, no overtime work schedule. And so my nice, normal, scheduled life will re-commence. This is good, because I am so done with being this busy.

Some people are made to live like whirling dervishes. They love moving from one high-stress, exciting thing to another, keeping lots of balls in the air, constantly moving. I always thought I'd be one of those people, and it was just the need of some exciting stuff to occupy me that kept me from it. The older I get, though, the more I realize that it's just not me. I really like having time to enjoy things. I like moving slowly. I like having lots of time to make things, read things, watch things, write things. I really, really like to get enough sleep--maybe even excessive sleep. I like to be at my house. I like having no plans. Periods where there is a lot going on and lots of things are changing, like the one I'm just coming out of, do energize me, but they also exhaust me, and not in a good-tired, "I'll sleep well tonight" way. They exhaust my spirit. They dull me.

I need to regenerate. I need to slough off the stress that has built up on me for the past few weeks (this whole summer, really). I need to establish a new routine and work myself comfortably into it. And I really need to start blogging every day again. I didn't even realize, until having so much time away, how much I've come to depend on daily or near-daily entries here as lifelines, both to myself and to the little community of readers that has built up here. Not being around here much lately has added a lot to my feeling off-kilter, and I am very much hoping this is the end of that period.

What I'm saying, I guess, is I'm back. Thanks for waiting.

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Top 10 Weird Things About Living in the Suburbs

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  1. Everybody calls me ma'am.
  2. Cops doing a speed trap on foot, in a 25 mph zone.
  3. All chain stores all the time.
  4. All the roads are called expressways, parkways, or pikes.
  5. There are at least 50 places to get a manicure within five miles. Also an near endless stream of gyms, Montessori schools, and churches. But damned if I can find a liquor store.
  6. On the "expressways" there are nothing but small commuter cars. In the neighborhood, all SUVs.
  7. I don't think I've seen a woman not wearing makeup yet.
  8. The only tattoo shop I've ever seen that looks like it employed a decorator.
  9. My neighbors look like they're all related.
  10. In the evening, I can hear band practice coming from the High School a couple of blocks over.

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Thrifting it up Virginia style

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As I get my bearings in our new home, there is one important thing I have to do. Find the thrift stores. And once I find them, I'll be reviewing them here, just like I did in Austin. Right now, though, I don't have time to go out and explore much, since I'm still unpacking, and I wouldn't want to bring any new treasures in anyway, since they'd just get lost in the mess. So, step one is making a list of possible candidates.

A Google search led me to this Guide to Thrift Store Shopping in Northern Virginia. Gleaning it, I'm thinking a trip to Falls Church to visit Unique, the "granddaddy of all thrift stores," is in order. I'll probably also need to head over to Purcelville to visit the Blue Ridge Hospice Thrift Shop.

The Goodwill, so long my standard, go-to store, doesn't have a huge presence here. There is one fairly close by, in Sterling, which I will definitely check out. The next closest is in Falls Church, so I'll stop by there when I got to Unique. The rest, though, are all more than 15 miles away, so they aren't likely to be weekly outings the way they have been in the past.

The Clock Tower Thrift Shops benefiting Northern Virginia Family Service might be promising, and there are two of those in Falls Church and one in Centerville, so I'm adding those to the list.

Right now, that is, sadly, the entire list, with the exception of a store I spied on the way to Mark's new job that I will stop by as soon as I get the chance. I'm sure there are more, and finding them is part of the fun. I'll keep you updated.

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