Monday, November 29, 2010

Winter Reading

This is the view from the couch as I tuck into Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film by Peter Biskind, the fourth book of my vacation this week.  Tis the season for a good book and I hate that work will be getting in the way!

Any winter reading recommendations?

Spending Saturday Night with David

I found out this week that David Sedaris would be in Salt Lake City doing a reading Saturday night at a local independent bookstore that I had never visited before. Last minute, about 5pm when the event began at 7, I decided to go. I asked A. if she wanted to go and she at first wasn’t interested at all but then came around to the idea. I did warn her ahead of time there would probably be a long wait in a queue.

From the outside, Sam Weller’s looks like kind of a small shop and when we drove past looking for parking it didn’t look like many people were inside. Ha! Boy was I wrong on the size of the place as well as the number of Sedaris fans. David had arrived early and offered to start signing books before the reading at 7 so people were already lined up.

We headed to the back of the line which was on the upstairs balcony and found out from talking to staff and to some other folks in line that we were in a perfect position to watch his reading so we skipped trying to get our book signed before the show and got comfortable to watch the reading. He was brilliant as always reading a story from his new book, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, as well as sharing some material not in his book. He’s been asking people on this book tour if they know a good joke and he’s planning on putting something together using that material.

Then the wait began…it wasn’t too bad with company. Why is it that sometimes in restaurants or waiting in line you can hear one voice above others and it can be very annoying? As we waited in line A and I would look at each other occasionally because a girl standing behind us was talking very loudly about her life, especially her boyfriend and EVERYTHING he does wrong. When we got outside A said she wanted to yell back at her, “Dump him!”

When it was our turn to meet David I told him that I was getting this book for my friend L in London and that we’d seen him there together. So we talked a bit about London and he asked A some questions. He also said he always brought teenagers gifts so she could choose from a chocolate bar or some lotion from the Little America hotel. She chose the chocolate. We both enjoyed meeting him.

A word about the Little America Hotel, during his Q&A someone jokingly said to him, “Do you want to know more about the Church of Latter Day Saints?” which made the whole crowd laugh. He went on to say that he always likes coming to Salt Lake because you can tell you are in Salt Lake where if you are in Cleveland, you might not right away feel like you’re in Cleveland. He was staying in the Little America Hotel which he went on to describe as a large motel that would be kitschy somewhere else but it is well cared for and there’s always families with eight children staying there that are always well-behaved, which all give SLC a unique feel. I’ve stayed at that Little America Hotel and me and my friends have very similar descriptions of that place. Where other big cities hotel landscapes are dominated by chains, Salt Lake City has these weird independents like the Little America. I recently was wondering if Brandon Flowers took the pics for his album cover at the Little America, because it captures the d├ęcor perfectly.
A few things about the bookstore that the signing was at, we will definitely go back because it is massive and has a mix of new, used, and rare books. We had a lot of time standing in line and I was looking down at the Childcare/Parenting section from the balcony and noticed something funny. The section was made up of two bookshelves and the top of the first bookshelf started with books on conception and then the “What to Expect” line of books about pregnancy. It moved through infancy and adolescence and the very bottom shelf on the second bookshelf was labeled “teenagers” and the very last book on that shelf was called something like “When They Kill”. Was that book written for the parents of teenagers who didn’t read all the previous books and follow the advice or is that what happens if you do?

We were talking with one of the staff about the store when we were in line and I asked questions about the store. He asked me if I’d been in the basement which has a lot of material too. He added that ghosts have been seen in the building. The building was built in 1902 but they wondered if some of the ghosts came with the used books they sold. What titles would ghosts attach themselves to? After getting our book signed I said to A that we should go visit the basement. It was the end of the night and I don’t know if was a combination of his story, the fact that there was no one, not even staff in the basement and the lighting was kind of creepy but I wanted to get out of there as soon as we walked downstairs.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Vibrant Ginger

I love this photograph. A was laying down on the floor, feeling low energy and Sebastian wanted a cuddle. I love his little paw on her shoulder. I also haven’t posted any pics of A’s hair since she got it coloured in the summer. In England her girl’s grammar school was very strict about makeup, haircolour, and jewelry. A had a friend that would push the boundaries of the hair colour rules but we strictly forbade it. We didn’t think she needed to give her teachers any reason to dislike her since her attitude took care of that all on her own. But I swear every other week I’d be driving her to school as she’d have herself a rant on how her school was denying her her individuality, which I would respond with, “Exactly, that’s the whole point!”

Years ago I worked with a woman who had a lot of children and I always appreciated her thoughts on motherhood. She told me once that as long as her kids were getting good grades, they could do whatever they wanted with their hair. Hair grows back so no matter what, the damage is temporary. I agree, and if I could get away with it, I’d probably have purple hair myself. So coming back to the States, one of the first things that A wanted to do was colour her hair. We did it at home but the colour wasn’t as vibrant as she wanted. I told her I’d make her an appointment at a salon but she had to pay for that herself with her allowance. When I called the salon to make the appointment the assistant started asking me additional questions about what colour A wanted and I told her, not sure what she’s going to want but it won’t be a colour found in nature. Her response was, ‘’Huh?” I had to explain that this was a teenager wanting to rebel with her hair.

So four hours later, voila, fire engine red. It suits her much to H’s dislike.

A few weeks ago we were walking into a store when one of the employees said to me, “How’d you pull up a redhead like that?” I had to explain to him that it wasn’t natural. As we walked away, A repeated what he said and then added, “He makes me sound like a carrot”.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Okay, so this whole Black Friday thing has massively changed since I left the country. Stores used to not open at 3am. My reaction – this is ridiculous. Call it sitting at home and being bombarded by the ads, call it spending all day Thanksgiving looking at the sale papers, I started to warm to the idea slightly, mostly because I really want a Dyson vacuum cleaner. We decided just to hit a couple of stores, A and I were headed to Old Navy at midnight and then a nap and then on to Sears at 4am for my Dyson.

As we were preparing to head to Old Navy I got a text from my best friend C in Kentucky who was camped out at Wal-Mart in line for a computer for her daughter for Christmas and bored. We talked for a bit and then on to Old Navy. Let me add that it was about 20 degrees last night, not the kind of weather you want to stand outside in. We waited in the car in the heat until they started letting people in the door and then went in. It was packed but not crazy packed where people were fighting over merchandise. I got a pair of jeans and A got two cardigans, unfortunately no jeans for her because they never seem to carry her size in long. I felt like it was a successful trip in that we bought nothing unnecessary which easy to do when you get caught up in the frenzy.

We came home and went to sleep. A was pumped and saying she would be ready to go for the Sears run at 4. At 3:30 she wasn’t moving so I bundled up and headed out myself. Sears is an interesting place to go on Black Friday, especially if you enter by the tools. I always thought of this ritual as a women’s only event but not so! The men were running around the tool department like their pants were on fire. There must have been some crazy good deals.

I made the fatal mistake with Sears…I had no idea where the vacuums were in the store. Bad move J, reconnaissance would’ve helped. Then as I realized they were upstairs I made another stupid move, getting into the elevator because it was close instead of looking for the escalator. I think the doors attempted to close five times before they actually did as people kept piling in, nothing like getting stuck behind the fatal baby buggy. As I finally made it up to the Dysons, the DC 14, the model I’d had my eye on for the price, were all gone. I grabbed a DC 17, which I’d also done some research on and headed to a salesperson in the mattress department who was helping out, just to see if she would scan it and tell me what the price was. As I stood there waiting for her assistance, in front of me was a woman who was buying two of the DC 14s and talking out loud to her granddaughter asking her, “Am I buying the right one?” and also yelling for her daughter who I guess was running for another bargain. She turned around and looked at me and the box that I was carrying and she started saying to her granddaughter in a particularly shrill voice, “What kind does she have? What’s different about that one?” as if I was invisible. It was as if she had gotten caught up in the moment, grabbed two vacuum cleaners and headed to the register and was going through the stages now of uncertainty and maybe buyer’s remorse. Meanwhile I was standing there thinking it’s way too early for this shit. After the salesperson scanned the price and I went into sticker shock, I put the vacuum cleaner back and headed home. When I got there I got online on Sears and actually bought the DC 17 for a much reduced price and went and picked it up at that very same store later in the morning. I don’t understand how these things work sometimes. I would have bought it on the spot if they would have given me that price in the store, but instead I had to go home click send on my computer and go back later.

When I returned to pick up my Dyson, I also stopped at the Borders across the street with my free latte coupon in hand.  That was the best deal of the day.  Borders was absolutely civilized and I got a completely free latte as I browsed.  Heaven.

Oh, on my way home about 4:45am I drove through the parking lot of Best Buy just to see the line. It was enormous. Whenever I see those Snuggie commercials where they show people wearing those things outside I think to myself yeah right, someone would actually do that. Well, I’m here to tell ya that in Utah at 4:45am there was more than one person in a Snuggie in line at the Best Buy. Every once in awhile there is truth in advertising.

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s been quite a nice day today. While H was at work, A and I did a whole lot of nothing, preparing for our Thanksgiving dinner out at a local French American restaurant. I really didn’t expect much so I was pleasantly surprised except for dessert. I have to agree with H, sage and rosemary does not belong in ice cream.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but now I’m just counting the hours to get our new vacuum cleaner in a Black Friday sale. Can’t wait to own a Dyson!

My gratitude list is long this year with things like employment, laughter, fireplaces, hugs, and beautiful views. I hope you all have had a moment to reflect on the things you are thankful for this year too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Winter Wonderland

Comfort Food

H has to work on Thanksgiving morning so we’re going out this year. My expectations aren’t super high on the food. I’m focusing on the fact that I don’t have to cook or clean up afterwards.

Monday night we had a home cooked meal that ended up making us feel as full as one does on Thanksgiving and harkened back to our days in Germany. H made pork schnitzel and the spaetzle. I made the braised cabbage. This braised cabbage recipe isn’t as good as H's but his manages to make a vegetable very unhealthy with lots of bacon and butter so I’m including the recipe here that I used which comes from Lydie Marshall’s book, Slow-cooked Comfort. If you make it, do make it a day ahead as she suggests. Enjoy!

Red Cabbage Braised in Balsamic Vinegar

1 ½ pound head of red cabbage

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups thinly sliced red onions

2 Golden Delicious apples about 1 pound, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (3 cups)

½ cup golden raisins or currants (I omitted this)

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar


Freshly ground black pepper

Discard the tough outer cabbage leaves; cut out and discard the core. Split the cabbage into six wedges and shred very thin; you should have about 16 cups.

Heat the butter and oil in a 7 ¼-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in the onions and add 2 tablespoons water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the onions are wilted.

Add the cabbage, apples, and raisins to the onions and stir. Add the vinegar; sprinkle with sugar, salt, and pepper; and stir.

Cover and simmer slowly for 2 ½ hours, checking the cabbage and first adding ½ cup water after 1 hour of cooking, then again every half hour.

Let stand at least 12 hours to develop flavor before reheating.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sometimes Trouble Knocks at the Front Door

Last night A and I went out to Best Buy in the early evening so I could salivate over a new camera and the weather at that time was starting to get nasty. Around 10pm, I was fully entrenched on the couch with a glass of wine watching telly and enjoying the fire with the snow falling heavy at this point. We heard someone in a car struggling outside to get somewhere, revving the engine very high. The roads weren’t plowed and it looked pretty nasty. I would have sat there continuing to be oblivious though but H walked into the room and started looking out the window. By the time I got up this car was in our yard and looking like from the kitchen he was planning to hit our house. All I could figure was he kept pulling into driveways trying to get a running start to get up the hill. His last effort left him firmly in the middle of our yard. He proceeded to get out of his car like he was leaving it here which made H open the door and tell him he didn’t know what he was doing but he needed to get that car out of here. After lots of struggling he ended up parking it in a neighbor’s driveway and leaving it there, only to return to our front door and knock and try to explain himself. He looked like a young guy and when H answered the door he started to explain how he was just trying to get out of there. The funniest part of the conversation went like this:

H – “Are you drunk?”

Kid – “Am I?” pause “No, I’m not”

And then a long ramble about where he lives and what he was trying to do. Nothing says drunk like standing in front of a large angry man and choosing to elaborate on your story.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What a Difference a Day Makes

They've been predicting a winter storm.  Saturday the sky looked like the snow was coming but the autumn colors were also still there.
The view out our window Saturday

This morning we woke up to a winter wonderland.
The same view Sunday morning

Saturday, November 20, 2010

M Visits

My friend M was in town this week for work. We have quite a history, she and I, knowing each other now for about fourteen years. It’s been at least three years since we’ve seen each other face to face and it brought back so many memories, memories of a different time and place when we were settled and living in the South. It wouldn’t be possible now to go back there, and I am glad for all the experiences since then but it did make me a little sad. It's always good to reconnect with an old friend and find there is still a connection, and for that I am grateful. And as always we laughed so hard my cheeks hurt.

On the Wednesday when she was here, I had a ticket to go see Brandon Flowers and Fran Healy, lead singer of the Scottish band Travis opened for him. Fran sang an acoustic version of Writing to Reach You and it’s stuck with me all week. That song to me is all about a sense of longing and feeling discombobulated. Seeing old friends always makes me feel a little bit like that. Here's the video.

The Brian David Mitchell Case

I have to admit I’ve been extra intrigued by the Brian David Mitchell trial since I can now read the articles and envision where these things have taken place. While the Salt Lake Tribune has been doing a good job of covering the story, I have preferred The Guardian’s coverage, since it’s more of an outsider’s perspective.  Great article.

I was talking to a co-worker who is a member of the LDS church and he said that it was fascinating how much Mitchell used actual LDS church language and practices and just slightly skewed them for his own benefit. It must have been very confusing and effective to a good Mormon girl.

Since my experience before I moved here was visiting Utah County, which is very conservative and very LDS, I was having trouble envisioning this Mitchell character panhandling in flowing robes and not sticking out like a sore thumb.  But now that I've spent time in Salt Lake City and seen that eccentrics seem to be welcome, I get it.

J's Pick - Nowhere Boy

This film was out in England before we left. I was wondering why it took so long to come here and then I read that they wanted the release date to coincide with Lennon’s 70th birthday. A. came with me and I didn’t know if she’d like it. She did. Her comments afterwards made me laugh.  Here they are:

1. Why can’t boys these days have cool hair like that? Mid-film Lennon starts sporting a rockabilly pompadour. As I’ve said before about boys today, it isn’t the golden age of hair for sure.

2. There’s a scene in the film where the family is eating fish and chips. Oh to go to the chippy again!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

State Capitol Building

A few Sundays ago A had to be downtown for an extra credit school event. I thought I would drop by the Utah Tourism Office close to the state capitol to pick up a few brochures and while I was in there, it was actually very busy, the volunteer mentioned that the Capitol building was open on Sundays. I’ve never been in the building, just up to it with some of our out of town guests. In fact, when the Brits were here, it was dark when we drove past and it was lit up beautifully. In one of my ill-fated turn arounds, I actually ended up driving where I don’t think a car is supposed to be, like right up to the side steps. The lack of security and my ability to do this was unbelievable to them. I was thinking about this that Sunday when I walked into a completely empty building with no security. It was more than a bit creepy. The rotunda is beautiful as you can see. The basement contains lots of great information about Utah’s bid for statehood and the polygamy issue.

In these parts I imagine Brigham Young has almost a messianic aura but the light in the building hitting his statue made it seem like he was bringing the apocalypse. Again, very creepy.

Knock Me Over

I thought this would come eventually but not this soon…

Thursday night A was working on an assignment for school and it revolved around Edinburgh Castle. She’s taking a European History class and she’ll mention a topic like Henry VIII and I’ll start to say, “Remember when we visited Hampton Court Palace” and then I’ll quickly remember that was me alone because she wouldn’t let us drag her to many historic places. As I was digging up some of our pictures from our visit to Edinburgh turned to me and said, “You were right mom, I should have taken advantage of it when I was there. I miss it”.

I made her walk into the next room and say it again in front of H. :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

November Already

Hard to believe that it is already November.  Most definitely H will be working on Thanksgiving so yesterday when A and I were out picking up fixings for dinner she asked me what our plans were going to be for Thanksgiving.  I told her that since H was working, we could cook.  Her response was, “Seriously, what are we going to do?” 

Thursday Night

I took A. to a concert Thursday night.  I got quite bored and spent most of the evening in my car across the street reading the new Keith Richards autobiography which is brilliant so far.

I took this picture of the venue.  It looks so western, so Last Picture Show to me.

The Boys

At the food bowl together

When the decision to move back to the States came up this year and we decided it was time, one of the first things I said to H was “And when we get back we’re getting a cat”. I’ve been missing having one so much. But after we arrived back in the States and rented this furnished house with a large leather couch, the idea of a cat clawing it up and paying the damages seemed less appealing. A. however, did not give up on her quest for a pet. For her birthday in August she kept saying a cat was all she wanted and all she would accept. When H would say he didn’t want a pet because then if you go somewhere you have to worry about what to do with them her rather vocal response was always the same, “WE DON’T GO ANYWHERE!” In this economy, she’s on to something…
Cats do make naps look like a good idea

Finally H starts thinking that getting a pet might be a good idea so we waited until A had a sleepover and went over to the Humane Society thinking we’d adopt a kitten. H decides, not one but two! There were lots of kittens and many cute but none of them really jumped out at either of us. While H was looking at one of the kittens, in the cage above there were two full grown longhaired cats, exactly what we didn’t want. They were brothers, Michael and Josh and they were marked down pricewise which scared me for them. Michael was standing close to the door of the cage and being very playful. I noticed they were neutered, micro-chipped and completely declawed and had been brought in because the owner was allergic. I took Michael out of the cage and he was so friendly and sweet immediately. As we got to know him I looked over at one of the cages that had four kittens in it and at that moment one of them was hanging off the door while another was pouncing on another kitten’s head. It reminded me what a handful kittens could be. H said, “Well I guess he’s coming home with us, what about the other one”. In the end we brought them both home. When we went to the counter to say we wanted to adopt them, the woman behind the counter excitedly exclaimed, “You’re adopting the big boys!” One of the volunteers also said that we’d made her night. It’s easy to place the kittens but the full grown cats are a bit harder.

Looking at himself in the mirror

A. was none the wiser that we now had cats. So Saturday morning I go and pick her up from her friend’s and we walk in the house. I had accidentally left a bag of cat treats on the table so when A walked in she asked what those were for. Just then Michael walked in the room and A burst into tears. She hugged me so tight and just kept saying thank you so much. We had to go downstairs and peek under the bed to see Josh. She was still crying and couldn’t believe it. She is such an animal lover that I fear when she’s older we will come to visit her and she will have fifteen cats and nine dogs. The potential is there!

Pulling his Salinger pose

Next task, naming them. A. decided on Sebastian and Clive, which I love. They are much too fabulous for ordinary names! They’ve been with us for two weeks and their personalities have certainly emerged. Sebastian is a bit mischievous and Clive is a little nervous and less social. I had suggested to A that she name Clive Salinger after JD Salinger because of his reclusive nature. She didn’t get it.  For the first week they barely associated with each other which I thought was quite odd since our two cats used to love on each other and sleep together.  I joked with A that maybe for the past two years Clive has been wanting to get away from his brother and was relieved when this strange man came and took him out of their shared cage at the shelter.  Then here comes that strange man to get him.

They are definitely her cats. H often says, “I thought we had cats” because they are never with us, but always hanging out with her. This morning I walked into her room to wake her up because we had to take them to the vet for their boosters and they were both at her feet looking very happy to be there.

Clive, he is a beauty