...wherein a girl packs up her dissertation and moves to the Pacific Northwest to learn what it means to build a life as a someone's partner, finish a dissertation, and make a life and home in Seattle, WA .

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

OMG insomnia

For me insomnia hits at least once a month.  It is one of those nights when I wake up at about 3am and despite all of my best efforts I just can't get back to sleep.  Last night was one of those nights.  By 4am I gave up and ventured downstairs to do some work before heading to barre class for a good workout.

sculpture by Constantin Brancusi 

The workout was awesome, but a rigorous workout coupled with a sleepless night means that I am feeling like a zombie.  This zombie has done some work, but may need a mid-morning nap before getting down to the big stuff.

What do you do when you can't fall asleep or back to sleep at night?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Learning new tricks

Most of the people in my family are very skilled when it comes to things like knitting and sewing, etc.  No, I am serious, they are super, super skilled.  My aunt is a vendor at many of the craft shows in the Pacific Northwest, she is also married to a fellow crafter, and my mother is a hatter with her own store and supplies Disney is 100+ hats a year.  Yup. Super talented people.

Me, well I can barely knit more than a scarf, and my sewing machine collects dust unless I am hemming a pair of pants.  So, in truth, I am pretty darn proud of this hat I finished. 

I only ripped it out twice while knitting it to start over.

I was a little worried about not having enough yarn to finish it, but I managed to pull it off. 

I just mailed this hat off yesterday as it is perfect for a friend's baby.  It is super soft and oh so white, so I do hope she has a few cute moments in it before trying to eat it or spit up on it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Healthful, Nutritious, Low-Calorie, No Sugar Added Vegetable CANDY!!!

I wish.

No, really, I do.

Chapter 2 of my dissertation was written fueled mostly by 3/4oz Cabot Cheddar Cheese Snack Packs and 1L bottles of Vintage Seltzer.  Both are awesome. 

Having a consistent snack is one of those mind tricks for me.  Like how if you chew different flavors of gum when studying different subjects and then chew that same subject-specific flavor of gum during a test you will remember more/do better.  A consistent writing snack is grounding for me in that same way.  It helps put me and keep putting me back in that right frame of mind.  Similarly, I make sure that my writing space has a consistent scent.

Aww, man!  In looking that up I just learned that West Elm no longer carries diffusers.  Oh, West Elm lapsang tea scent- you are so often what has been that little pick-me-up in my writing-day.  Okay, I will deal with that potential mini-crisis another time.

With the dissertation, as Chapter 2 concluded and I moved into Chapter 3, the snacks which fueled my writing took a nose dive. 

Maybe it had to do with moving back to Ohio from Vermont where Cabot Snack Packs of awesomeness cannot be found... not sure.  It definitely had to do with an increasing sensitivity to dairy - which I also rediscovered in the past two weeks as I started eating cottage cheese again, which I will soon stop eating again.

Vintage Seltzer was still available in Ohio and I still consumed it in quantities that would make me ashamed to put out my recycling each week. But still, as Chapter 3 took on a whole new life force of its own, my writing was increasingly fueled by Starbust and Coconut M&Ms. (Hmmm, that might be a possible explanation as to why Chapter 3 on its own is 100+ pages.)

The revising and editing phases of the dissertation have not been fueled by anything on a consistent basis since moving to Seattle.  Heck the whole writing process has not been as consistent as I've needed it to be.  Vintage Seltzer is not available out here, which makes me sad.  Not because I am brand-loyal or anything like that.  (Although I really, really, really do like them)   Rather, it has to do with the fact that you can't get bottles of seltzer out here in reasonable sizes.  And by reasonable I mean, socially acceptable to carry around/fit in a purse. 

Talking Rain - that which seems dominate the market place - is only available in 2l sizes at the grocery store. 

You can get cases of super tiny ones from Costco, but those are like doing a shot of seltzer.  Plus, while we have a much larger recycling bin here than I did in Ohio, I was sill feeling bad about how much of it was filled by those petite bottles.  Do I have a whole 2L sitting next to me right now as I write? Yup.  Would I toss it in my bag and take it with me to the library? No.  Would I take one to class with me to keep me hydrated through 2 hours of teaching? Nope.

The best I've done is run across 1.25L bottles of carbonated mineral water (not the same as straight up seltzer) at Trader Joe's.  That .25 is actually a problem.  I could get 1L from Trader Joe's back in Ohio and they too I could toss in my bag and take to class or the library.   That .25 just makes the bottle a bit too big, a bit too heavy, and a bit too awkward looking to be caught swigging in public.

As of yet, I still have not found a food or snack that is fueling this portion of the writing process.  I know that I can't go back to Starburst and M&Ms as I've become increasingly sensitive to sugar.  I am a fan of hard candy, even those little green tea mints, so earlier I was wondering if I could somehow manufacture vegetable-based hard candy.  Could I compress a red pepper into candy like goodness?

I bet if I could do that and it could taste awesome, then I would not need to worry about this whole horrible job market for academics.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Desk Of Disarray

The revising must continue....

Exploring The New - Victrola

I still have trouble with a solid working routine. Some days I am productive at home.  Other days productive looks like doing house-stuff and surfing the web for articles semi-related to what I do.  While that is useful it really is not work.  Or, rather, really not the work I need to be doing to get the dissertation done.

So from time to time I try working elsewhere.  I am at my best  in the library, but my favorite library is 2,962 miles away.  The one which I've found that works for me here is not super convenient, but when I muster up the energy and pack up absolutely everything I need and hop on the bus, it generally is a fairly good day of work. 

Being able to drive to a working spot is always better for me -- I can take more books, food, change of clothes, etc.  But being at at GIANT state school means paying for parking, and I am just opposed to that on principle.

One of my Bread Loaf friends introduced me to an excellent tea place.  I have had some success working there, but yesterday I wanted to try somewhere new in my continued push to do one new thing or go one new place each week.  Plus, ScoutMob, another one of those daily deal sites (this one is hyper local and indie) has a 50% off deal going on at Victrola Coffee & Art.  I am all about the deal!

The chai was good, I was easily able to get a table, nice environment, and I was actually rather productive while there. All pluses.  The big minus was the noise - it was super loud.  I am not sure whether or not I will be heading back there to write this week, but for me the most important part was getting out and exploring a bit more.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Blues - SAD Lamp to Happier Self

I don't like talking about the fact that things get me down - life, the dissertation, the weather, stupid emails from stupid people, that woman who looked at me with such ire in Barre class, etc.  Nothing makes me happier than when my dearest Partner comes home at the end of the day and gives me a big hug.  But still, there are those 10 other hours of the day in which I must write, work, and run errands in this rather gray city that every now and again seems to sap a lot out of me.

The winter has always gotten to me.  Less so when I lived in a place where winter activity abounded or when I lived in places where I knew lots fun and awesome people - hello Bread Loaf!  But this year, because I am living with someone I love, who does not deserve to have to put up with my very moody self if I can help it, I invested in one of those SAD Lamps.

Verilux Lamp on our giant, shared desk

I guess I can't say whether or not it is working for me as I am not 100% consistent in my usage of it.  I think it is helping some as I am not feeling nearly as bad as I know that I could.  Today, however, I know that I need it as it is dark out.  I don't think the sun will be peeping out at all and I really could use something to pick me up and keep me going while I write, write, write away on the dissertation.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Holiday-ish travel and fun with the CDC

After the holidays Partner and I are leaving for a vacation to far-flung places.  I am very excited about our upcoming adventure.  (Yes, I am deliberately being cagey about our destinations, but in time you will know.)  This, however, is a trip that requires vaccinations and medications. Ugh.

A few weeks ago, when I realized we were about 7 weeks out from our trip, I called our doctor to see what we needed to do about the vaccinations. When traveling overseas to various places, one is suppose to go visit a Travel Nurse or Travel Clinic, but I knew that we did not need to have too many shots and nothing super-special, so I saw no reason to fork over $350 a piece for each of us plus the cost of meds to go learn what we could learn from the CDC website.  (Insurance seems not to cover travel clinics, and I did not want to bother with the hassle of reimbursement forms.)

The medical-industrial-complex does not make it easy to do things on the cheap.  I spent a good half of a Tuesday on the phone with our doctor's office, the CDC, the King County Department of Heath, Swedish Hospital, and UW trying to avoid a travel nurse, get some prescriptions for vaccines, get those filled, and take them to our doctor so that she could shoot us up with all of what we needed. Yeah.... it did not quite turn out that way.

At the end of yet another exasperated conversation, this time with our local board of health - which managed to suggest a travel nurse to us that was about $100 less than I had otherwise been able to find - I asked the women with whom I had been speaking if she happened to know of any pharmacy that stocked the three drugs we needed.  I was totally surprised when she said something about Rite Aid in a neighboring town. Dude, I was on the phone to that Rite Aid sooooo fast!

After talking with the pharmacist and confirming that they had everything we were looking for, I promptly called our doctor's office and left very specific instructions about calling in the prescriptions for the two of us.  It took a bit of doing and a few more phone calls back and forth, but three days later everything had been faxed to the Rite Aid.  AND the pharmacist at Rite Aid would even administer the vaccines to us there so that we did not need to make an appointment with our doctor and drive around with the drugs.

Partner was waaaay better about the shot than I was.  Also, he was fantastic in doing all that he could to distract me from the needle that was being jabbed into my arm.  He even made it all better by bribing me with peanut butter cups and a trip to the movies afterwards.

Now we are fully vaccinated.  One medication we need to start a few days before we leave and continue throughout the whole trip, and I even had a prescription filled for something to help us sleep through the 20+ hour flight.  Soon, it will be onto planning for packing!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Tree Fashion

I am pretty pleased with how are tree has turned out.  It really is lovely and it makes me smile each time I venture into the living room.  We specifically selected a tree that would smell and make our house smell like a forest or Christmas, but the piny scent is not yet wafting through my home.  I am a bit bummed, but still, I think our tree is pretty darn bas-ass.

I am not one for overly decorated holiday trees.  Actually you could say I am not really one for decorated trees.  A beautiful tree, white lights, elegant stand or tree skirt and I am happy.  It took me years and years to walk my mother back from an overly decorated tree, to one with a few decorations, to one with just lights and bows.  Now, Partner and I have our own damn tree, no established traditions, and no people to please save for ourselves, so simple tree it is!

In truth, however, I got a little rebellious the other day.  When I was at Ikea earlier in the week I came upon these rather interesting looking lights.

Ikea's Strala - or giant balls - are intended to be outside lights, but I think they look pretty great on our tree right now.

If I had time, I would investigate making a tree skirt, but I just don't think that is going to happen this year.  We have many more holiday seasons to come, so I am sure I will get around to it at some point.  For now here are a few things I think would compliment my tree, or any holiday tree, very well.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Before & After

This is a little project I've been meaning to do for a few years now.

I picked up this mid-century modern magazine rack at a garage sale a few years ago for FREE. 

I had someone in mind when I found it and I have been woefully negligent in fixing it up and getting it to them.  It was totally sturdy, but rusty and faded, and I knew that with some elbow-grease it could look awesome. 

I am not quite done with it yet.  I want to go over it again - give it another coat and make sure I have all the spots. 


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Cards

In the past, while I have not much cared to bother with holiday stuff around the house, I take the sending of holiday cards very seriously.  I love papergoods: from fine and fun papers, to greeting cards, to stationary, to fine pens, to lovely postage stamps - it really is the small stuff which makes me smile.

Well.... if I am being honest about it, papergoods and cashmere.

But, yes, back to the point -- a paper store really is such a treat for me.  And I am really lucky that I have a best friend who loves this stuff as much as I do and a partner who is completely accepting of my quirk and is understand when I am perusing ebay for under facevalue beautiful stamps.  Yes, I am someone who still hand-writes letters at times other than the holidays.

Last week, while sticking to my trying one new thing or going one new place a week, I found myself in Old Ballard. (BTW - last week I reached my goal and then some!)  Originally I went to Old Ballard after an appointment on that side of town as I was trying to visit a vintage shop there.   Sadly it was not going to open for another four hours and I just was not willing to stick around that long.

Still, I figured that I would wander the cute streets that I had driven down and venture into the shops, as I was not going to give up on my continuing endeavor to explore my new city.  So, that is how I found my way into LUCCA great finds.

Picture of Lucca - courtesy of their website

Walking into Lucca was like walking into a curiosity shoppe - black walls, white ceiling, heavy chandeliers, large botanical charts on the walls, the chic animal heads that are popular right now, boxes of magic and palm reading type stuff, beautiful art, wonderful smells - soap, candles, teas.  It was such a delight just to walk in the door.

Picture of Rosner Soaps - courtesy of their blog
There was one smell that kept piquing my curiosity - it was a smell, something that I know rather well but could not place.  That was until I found the tiny bar of lemongrass soap nose-high on a shelf.  I am not sure who makes the lemongrass soap that they sell, but it reminded me so much of the soaps from Rosner Soaps in the little arts and crafts town of Sugar Loaf, NY.  The Rosner Soap shop (where I spent a few fun summers minding the shop while the owners were overseas) has a space is a bit more raw than Lucca's, but the spaces remind me so much of one another even beyond the smells.  Both are so inviting, and walking into both I feel is calming.

As I kept on walking toward the back of Lucca, I really was not sure what was in the way back room.
But when I walked in to find a room full of cards, stationary, wrapping paper, ribbons, and other such supplies, I knew that I was going to be there a while (and would have easily and happily have dropped about $350.
Image courtesy of Lucca's FB page.

Their holiday cards are just stunning.  LUCCA Paperworks - Vintage Art Rescue is seemingly separate from but related to LUCCA great finds.  The Lucca Paperworks cards are available in their shop - as well as cards from others like John Derian and Rifle Paper Co. - but they are also sold wholesale through their website so that other retailers may stock beautiful these paper treasures.

The process of taking existing vintage images making them into high quality cards is far from simple, if you want to do it right.  Anyone with an HP color laserjet can print out something, but the color, balance, sheen, paper stock, texture and weight of these cards is spot on.  The cards are works of art in and of themselves. 

I picked up a few holiday cards while I was in their shop, and another card of theirs which I framed and will soon be hanging somewhere in the house.

This year only a few of my nearest and dearest will be receiving holiday cards from Lucca.  But in my continued desire to give local Lucca, will be one of my first stops for treasures, unique finds, lovely smells, and beautiful papergoods.

Hopefully these gorgeous cards will grace the mailboxes of many happy homes this holiday season!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Shopping, Part 2 - Geting lost, frustrated and wanting to cry

I will say that my totally frustrating experience with yesterday's Urban Craft Uprising was 70% my fault and 30% their fault.  I could not find the damn thing!  Now, like I said, part of that was my fault.  I mis-read the information on the home page and listened to what my Aunt said about the event taking place at the convention center.  So, yesterday I learned that the Washington State Convention Center is not the same as the Seattle Center.  I believed them to be one in the same because the Seattle Center claims to be in the heart of downtown.  It is not. The Washington State Convention Center, however, is downtown.

So when I finally got back on the bus to return to way too close to where I had hopped on the bus to begin this adventure, the address the Urban Craft Uprising listed for the Seattle Center was, in fact, way friggin far from the Exhibition Hall where the event was taking place.

One thing about me that is key to understanding my frustration is that I hate getting lost.  I really, really hate being lost.  There are few everyday life things that upset me more than getting lost.  About two weeks after I moved here Partner took me out to get me an iPhone so that I would no longer get lost in the city as it pained him to see me near tears each time it happened.  Yesterday he was wonderful when I called completely flustered.  He kept offering to come get me, but I was being stubborn and just wanted to find the damn Seattle Center Exhibition Hall already.

When I FINALLY arrived at the event, I was semi-glad I went to all the trouble of finding the place.  For many years now I have admired the work of Rachel Austin, so it was a treat to meet her and see more of her pieces in person.  A few years ago I purchased a small print of hers and I really love it.  It manages to cheer me up each time I look at it in my office. Talking with her and learning more about her process and her work made me want to buy a print and an original painting of hers on the spot.  Wisdom prevailed as I forced myself to remember that I was out holiday shopping for others and not myself.  Plus, in figuring out how to make a life with someone I am not yet sure how Partner and I do art acquisitions. For now I figure a joint approach is the right one. Although, I may go to Rachel Austin's etsy site later on today and order a box of her holiday cards, for we are running low after our epic session of card writing this weekend.

While roaming the packed event space, I saw lots of great things, but I found myself most taken by the dolls handcrafted by Hasenpfeffer Incorporated.  Truly, they are gorgeous, detailed, and impeccably crafted. Daniela upcycles a lot of textiles in making these.  She said that she often takes apart old, ugly clothes from thrift stores because they have amazing fabric and uses those fabrics in the making of her dolls. Partner and I don't have kids and I don't know of anyone who has kids old enough to appreciate these toys.  Still, I don't even know that I would given one to a kid because I want one for myself!!! 

See, how can you not love those faces?!? In general I am a big fan of people who do have the sense to make multi-racial and ethnic dolls, but there is something far beyond that which draws me to Daniela's work.  I find myself most drawn to what she calls "Binky Buddies" - something about the simple shape yet inviting details.  For some of the Binky Buddies she even puts rattles in the heads to make them even more appealing for even the littlest of kids (who will not be getting any from me because I am soooo in love with their cuteness!)
There were a number of other vendors who had excellent wears, but it was packed and I was tired from the tizzy into which I had worked myself while getting lost, so I just wanted out of there after not too long. As craft shows go, this one is really well curated. Should we be in town for their summer event, I may just have to go back -- after carefully examining all directions and maps, that is.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Shopping, Part 1

Having small families and a close knit circle of friends means our list of people to whom we will be sending holiday gifts is small.  This year we decided that we would try to go local with much of our holiday giving.  Our approaches are somewhat different, however.

Partner introduced me to Made in Washington, which I think will have plenty of neat things for some of the people on our lists.  I, on the other hand, have decided I will be venturing out to the Urban Craft Uprising. Why I am doing this to myself I am just not sure.  I hated these things as a kid.  Seriously.  My mother would drag us to the big holiday bazaar at the museum and science center. It was torture.

Let us leave aside for a moment the horrifying notion that I might be turning into my mother and embrace the whole shop local movement and blame that for making me think I can brave what I am sure is an even larger holiday bazaar than what I endured as a kid.  I will fortify myself with brunch and then see what this Urban Craft Uprising is all about.

How traditions come to be

This is my first holiday season with Partner and we are on our own this year.  As we are going to be off on far-flung adventures in January, we decided that we would not be traveling anywhere for the holidays this year.  Truthfully, I am grateful we will be staying put in our home.

As we aren't going to see family members, we are left to figure out how we want to celebrate the holiday season. If I was on my own, I would not do a darn thing besides the usual Jewish Christmas -- Chinese food and a movie.  Certainly in the past when I've been unable to travel to see friends or family, I have done absolutely nothing for the holidays.  I saw no reason to expend the time, energy, and effort when there was dissertation writing or candidacy exam reading to be done!

Now that Partner and have a life and a home together I was actually a bit surprised that I found myself wanting to do something for the holiday season.  And so yesterday we ventured out to go get a Christmas tree. 

Let me be clear from the start: I only wanted a little Charlie Brown-esque tree.  We live in the city, so something small - around three feet - and low-maintenance was perfect in my mind.  Last weekend when we were at Metromarket we even espied such darling little trees. Oh, no! Partner had other plans in mind.

Truly his plans were awesome and it was an exciting adventure to go out to Carnation and cut down our own tree.  I had not been out to cut a tree since I was little when we would trudge through the snow to find the perfect tree, cut it down, and then put it on a sled to drag it out of the forest.  It seemed to take FOREVER! But maybe that was because I was about 5 years-old at the time.  Yesterday, though, Partner was excellent with the saw and getting the tree into the car.  The whole thing took no time at all.  But small.... this tree is not.  The top of the tree is about three inches away from touching the ceiling in the living room.  Not only did Partner want a taller tree than I wanted, but when you go out to a tree farm (so I learned) they charge by the foot AND they only let you cut down certain trees.  So it is in their best interest to not let you cut down the smaller trees that they have growing for the coming years.

It took a bit of doing figure out how to put the tree stand together and get the tree perfectly straight, but it is up and smells wonderful. 

One of the things I remember from holidays when I was little was my mother unplugging the lights on tree each night and taking her biggest Pyrex liquid measuring cup and filling the tree stand with water.  Yesterday I took my biggest OXO liquid measuring cup and filled the tree stand after we got it situated.  This morning when I came down it had already consumed all of the water, and so I quickly went to fill it again as I guess if you neglect to water it, the tree clogs itself with its own sap.  Hopefully I have not done irreparable damage to our tree.  Either way I am going to have to keep an eye on this rather thirsty tree over the next few weeks.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Yup, it was crazy

Yesterday morning's workout was quite something. My throat has not yet forgiven me for running around like a crazy person and jumping around on concrete in 32*F weather. Organized Chaos was good - it was hard, but good.

I am a bit of a perfectionist and a bit competitive, so trying out new things for me is always rough.  I really, really don't like being bad at things. Was I bad a running around the pond and jumping up and down concrete stairs and doing squats nonstop for an hour? No.  But I was not the best.  I don't like coming in last and feeling totally uncoordinated.  Plus it really was friggin cold.

This is a decent approximation of what I wore so that I would not completely freeze to death:

Goodness - can you tell that we are a bit addicted to merino wool base layers in our household?  If only Lululemon products came in merino wool, then I would be all set!

So, I am not sure what my plan will be re: working out.  I might go back to Organized Chaos, but I don't know that my body can deal with the sudden mid-winter transition to outdoor workouts right now. When I lived in New England, I would run outside all winter long and snowboard 3 days a week.  But I could do those things because I had been outside all summer long and throughout the fall.  My body was able to gently-ish transition.  Nope.  No such transition opportunity here.

While I try to figure that out, I will be happy to get myself back to Barre3.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crazy? ....perhaps

I am new to Seattle and this Seattle winter weather - is this in fact winter? But smart me knows that working out outside at 6am when it is 34*F out and there is zero visibility is really stupid.  Smart me seems to be asleep as I am up and dressed and ready to go to Organized Chaos.

I know the instructor of this early morning, frozen madness and she is excellent.  Truly, if I can manage to work one of her Barre3 classes into my schedule, I go to her over most all other instructors.  So when she invited me to join her this week for something different, I said "sure!" - not really thinking or knowing quite what I was getting myself into.  That was probably best now that I think about it. 

Still, I've been awake since 2am for various reasons, and I am fairly sure I could not get back to sleep because of the class.  It is a mixture of excitement and fear with a dash of delirium going on over here.  The whole zero visibility thing is not really helping me with the fear part, but I hope it will be awesome once I find my way there.