Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More Pumpkins!

I don't think I've posted any of these pix before, but if I have, humor me, 'kay? Here are some random pumpkin inspirations saved in my travels throughout the World Wide Web. Of course I didn't save the source info. Who do you think I am?

I love this sweet photo of shoes and pumpkins:

Painting, not carving the pumpkins, is looking very attractive. It can be done ahead of time, and won't involve pumpkin goo:

These pumpkins have carving and paint, meaning double the work, but I think they look fantastic:

These are actually papier mache pumpkins. If I had an ounce of DIY creativity I would totally do these. They look awesome, and they would last!

More pumpkins as flower vases. This looks easy, and pretty:

This is more of that, only the colors are different. I love the pale grey-green pumpkin:

Monogram pumpkin. Both Mr. T and I like this idea:

And random glittered squash. I love the glitter. Again, this could be done earlier.

Beautiful cherry blossom-carved pumpkin:

And, for the finale, the Death Star pumpkin. Now that is awesome:

Review of Bumping Into Geniuses

I requested this book from the library because I heard the author on the radio one morning. He had some interesting stories about working in the rock industry, and my curiosity was piqued. I have a lifetime subscription to Rolling Stone magazine (although it's hard to keep up with my magazine subscriptions...I have stacks of unread mags throughout the house, making me feel guilty) as well as Spin magazine, and Mr. T and I are big music fans, so I'm always interested in a glimpse of the underbelly of rock.

Mr. T read this one first and dispelled me of any notions I had about this book. "There's a lot of name dropping," he said. You might think, "well, what would you expect, it's about the industry!" but I thought I knew what he meant. When I started to read the book, it became even more clear. Some of the paragraphs were just lists of names! It felt insurmountable. The beginning was the worst part; the author was just starting out in the business and meeting people. He seems to have felt compelled to not only name-drop but also to tell the life story of every character he named, whether or not they were relevant to his story, which is ostensibly the focus of the book. So he'd drop a name, detail that person's entire career in the music industry, and then return to the narrative pages later. It was so hard to keep track of what was happening because of all of the tangents.

There were a few good nuggets of info. Led Zeppelin tidbits are always fascinating, of course. I liked reading about the beginning of Stevie Nicks' solo career. As Mr. T mentioned, there was nothing really new in the section on Nirvana, but it was good to read it again. And sad. The book was unusual in that the author mentioned Courtney Love with a lot of respect, and seems to have tiptoed very carefully around the subject of Courtney in general. I didn't know much about Warren Zevon before reading this book, and it was interesting (and sad) to read about him and the making of his final album.

So, on the whole, I didn't totally hate this book, but neither would I recommend it to anyone. The author seems like the guy who has all the good stories at the party, but good stories do not a writer make. And apparently whoever his editor was was not up to the task either.

Officiant: Check

Mr. T and I have been mulling over who should be our officiant for a few months now. I mean, we've vaguely been thinking about it since we got engaged, but we really seriously began to talk about it in the last couple of months. We knew that, being the heathens we are, we were never going to get married in a church or by a religious official, so it became clear we should draft one of our friends into doing the job (thanks to the wonderful Universal Life Church...hey, I guess we are going to be married by a religious official...the ULC is a church, after all!).

We came up with some basic guidelines for our officiant candidates:

  1. Knows and is close to both of us. This seemed important not only because this is a very important day for us, but also so the officiant would feel comfortable talking about us as a couple in front of our assembled friends and family. And, as one of my friends put it, it's nice if the officiant is invested in your success and growth as a couple.
  2. Is comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. We didn't want to put someone on the spot...I know what it is to hate public speaking, and it's hard to say no to a friend, so we could potentially have caused someone a lot of anguish if we picked a wallflower.

We eliminated the MOH, although she was who I originally thought would officiate. Mr. T really thought she should be the MOH, though, and after I thought about it some more, I agreed. After that we discussed other friends...Mr. T was wavering between who would stand up with him as a groomsman, thereby possibly eliminating some candidates, but we finally settled on one of our close friends and popped the question to him at brunch on Sunday.

After the waiter took our order I launched into my unprepared speech, starting with, "We wanted to talk to you about something." He immediately said, "Oh my god, this is an Ulterior Brunch!" and we laughed and had to agree. Then I talked about how we loved him, etc. and ended with asking him if he'd be our officiant. He looked shocked but also very happy, so I knew we'd chosen well. He got super excited about it.

It feels good to have our close friends participating in our wedding (our officiant's partner is going to be our day-of coordinator), and it also feels good to check something off the list. It seems funny to think that we only have 11 months to go, now! OMG, we need to get some stuff done!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review of House of the Stag

I actually read this one a couple of books ago, so my memories of it are fading, but I have been mulling over what to say about it. On the whole, I liked it. It surprised me. In fantasy, that's hard to do...the story lines are pretty well established, and most folks don't deviate much.

I wasn't expecting to like it, though. The beginning describes the protagonist's early years among a primitive people, and I was rolling my eyes as I read. Aside from Clan of the Cave Bear and its sequels, which are a guilty pleasure, I don't read much "prehistoric" fiction--I find that it's usually pretty trite and can't hold my interest for very long. I guess I'm an elitist for my imaginary friends--I want them to be smart and cultured and have witty conversation. Or something. Anyway, my interest picked up as Gard (the protagonist) grew up into a different type of person than the villagers who raised him. He is cast out for inadvertently causing the death of his foster brother, and it is revealed that Gard is half-demon. His foster mother curses him to a long life in exile, and this is the narrative device the author uses to show Gard's evolution from a simple villager to a trained fighter, mage, and strategist. Underneath it all, he retains a core of innocence, which makes him a likable character even as he tries to cultivate an aura of darkness to keep enemies far away from him.

Eventually he meets a woman who captures his heart (in a non-coincidence, she is the spiritual leader of the people who cast him out) and he marries her and has a son. The end, which is built up as an invasion of his fortress by a neighboring army, ends in a non-battle because the army doesn't get in, except for one mage and her guard. They are quickly dispatched and everyone lives happily ever after, even the demons and freaks that make up Gard's retinue.

Typically I would protest such a seemingly fast and underwhelming ending to a story. Don't even get me started on how The Historian ended. A whole novel that dragged on for hundreds of pages, with a resolution in one, maybe two pages! Such a disappointment. But this time...I didn't mind. And I think it was because the author had not ended it that way because she lacked the talent to create a different ending. She ended it that way because it was unexpected. She gauged, rightly, that the core of the conflict was the mage, and that the army was ultimately unimportant. The ending surprised me and left me wondering how I felt about it, which I've come to realize means that I think I liked it! She seems like an author that is willing to take risks.

The tone of the book reminded me somewhat of David Eddings and somewhat of Sheri Tepper, although not derivative.

I think I will check out Baker's first novel, which is set in the same world. I would recommend her.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Happy Bday to Me

I had a great time celebrating my birthday with everyone over the weekend. I had a moment or two of feeling a little discomfort at all the attention--which is odd, because even though I grew up very shy, I've knocked a lot of that out by performing for strangers with a bare midriff! Regardless, it struck me that I will have to get used to that sort of attention at our wedding, but it will be better because I'm sharing the spotlight with Mr. T. I hate the adage that it's the bride's day. It's the couple's day. There are two people up there getting married and changing their lives forever!!

A friend of mine asked what I wanted for the coming year and I came up with the following on the fly:

Health and financial stability for my friends and family (oh yeah, and happiness too)
To be in better physical shape
To have drama-free wedding planning, at least as much as possible (a friend of mine is having a dress disaster and her wedding is in 4 months)

Here's to all of the above! (Picture me raising my Camelbak at work.) I'm glad to get back to "normal" life after all the birthday stuff...only now, Christmas is coming up! EEEK!

Mr. T remarked that next year my birthday will follow pretty closely after our wedding and wondered what I wanted to do for it. I told him to ask me then. Really, I'm imagining I wouldn't mind skipping a year of birthday fuss, particularly if we're still on a honeymoon. But we'll see.

In other news, I set up a meeting with a wedding photographer today, for over Christmas break. She's in LA but I think she may just work out! More on that later. Also, we finally heard back from our venue, they will send us our contract as soon as we answer a couple questions, so that's almost set! They also said they'd be glad to do a second tasting for free. Love them.

PS--Happy birthday, Neil Gaiman! Scorpios rule!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Review of Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

In sharp contrast to the aforementioned Spellbinder, which took me days and days and days to slog through, this book took me a day and a half to read. Granted, it's young adult fiction, but I'm not agist--I'll read anything as long as it's good. And this one was.

It's about a group of mutant kids who are the victims of a scientific experiment--they were injected with avian DNA in utero. They were all born with wings, lighter (but stronger) bones, and stronger muscles, and some have other superhuman talents, like telepathy, or breathing under water. The narrator details that before the start of the story, they had escaped the lab with the help of one of the scientists there. He went missing (they assume he's dead), and they are left to fend for themselves until their hiding place is found and the youngest one, Angel, is kidnapped back to the lab.

It's up to Max, the oldest, to organize a rescue mission. This book chronicles the "flock's" journey to rescue Angel, their discovery that their guardian is not dead after all, but back working for the lab and apparently "one of them", and their travels after that to uncover their history. It feels a bit like young-adult Xmen! One of the interesting points of the book is that the kids each need upwards of 3000 calories per day, and it's hard for a group of runaway kids with no money to obtain that much food very easily. This kind of everyday detail is what makes the book so engaging, although it never approaches the all-encompassing (and IMO, overwhelming) Stephen-King level of detail.

It's true, 6-year-old Angel does speak like an adult, and the "Voice" that talks to Max later on in the novel is a bit annoying (and why is Max so trusting about it,after being so paranoid about everything else?), and maybe the writing isn't going to win the Pulitzer, but the book was engrossing and entertaining and I have already requested the sequel from the library.

Review of Spellbinder

This book wasn't good. I was going to be more scathing, but at the end of the book there's an author note about how she was struggling with mental illness before writing it, and that she wanted to write something totally new, unrelated to her other series, and in that I guess she succeeded.

I support authors trying new things, getting out of ruts, growing and learning. This book, however, should have been workshopped with her writing group, not published. It was bad. The dialog was bad, the story meandered, the characters were stereotypes, and it read like a bad romance novel. The main character was a writer, and the snippets of her writing were bad. It was just bad, bad, bad.

So, Melanie Rawn, I'm truly very sorry you've been going through a tough time. I hope things get better for you, and I look forward to your return to the Exiles series (still waiting eagerly for Captal's Tower!). I also hope your editor applies a heavier hand to your work. Best wishes!

Needless to say, I don't recommend this one.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Busy B

Yesterday Daylight Savings Time seems to have imbued me with some natural uppers. Here's what I accomplished:

Did a sinkful of dishes
Swept kitchen floor
Posted about a year's worth of photos to Flickr
Took our Halloween purchases our of their bags, photographed them, reorganized them, and stowed them out of reach of the cats
Did four loads of laundry, including our bathmat which takes TWO HOURS to dry
Fed the cats
Washed out the cats' fountain watering bowl
Emptied the cats' litter boxes, washed them out, dried them, and filled with clean litter
Cleaned the bathroom
Put away remnants of Sarah Palin costume, clean clothes, jewelry, etc.
Cleaned up my desk area, did filing
Shredded some junk mail
Went grocery shopping
Cooked dinner
Paid bills
AND...the point of this story...I updated our wedding budget and input the numbers from our venue's proposal into the budget. Mostly, we were right on target (Mr. T was hoping we'd overestimated, which wasn't the case), except in two areas (where I underestimated), which I'm kicking myself about: tax and tip. I can't believe I got that wrong! I thought I was being so careful!

Anyway, it worked out okay, because Mr. T decided that the wedding rings should be taken out of the budget and that we should be responsible for them ourselves. This gives him a raw deal, but if he insists...

So we contacted the venue back and said that we'd like to sign a contract and put a deposit down. Woo-hoo! We're on our way...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

After-Halloween Sale Shopping

The day after Halloween, Mr. T and I woke up (not too early), went out to breakfast, and strategized about what we needed. We then proceeded to go to 13 stores:

Ace Hardware
Halloween Superstore
Z Gallery
Restoration Hardware
Crate and Barrel
Sur La Table
Some random other home store in the same neighborhood as the last four
Paper Source
Pottery Barn

I was worried when we set out because it was later in the day (like noon) and I had gotten multiple calls and emails saying that stores were out of things and that some stores had started discounting items earlier in the month, but we did okay, actually.

Here's what we bought (I haven't totaled the receipts yet, but I believe we spent about $150?):

Ace Hardware: 6 strands of lights. There's not a ton of outlets in the room, so we were just going to light up the two sets of railings that separate the sunken middle section of the room:

At the Halloween Superstore, they were pretty cleaned out, and anyway, their stuff is always pretty cheap. I did pick up a cute plush bat bucket for the flower girl's basket:

Tikka agrees that the bat is very interesting:

At Andronico's, I picked up two high-quality pumpkin carving sets, two metal luminaries, and a spider candle holder:

At Z Gallery, they didn't have much, but what they had was 70% off! We got a glittery "tree" and a glittery black cat candle:

You can see that Dobby is very interested by the tree, or maybe it's that paper bag she's spying on:

Target, which I thought would be empty, actually had a lot and was our biggest haul. We got a 5-foot black tree with orange lights (we figured this could go in one of the two large niches in the wall, or over by the bar area), a smaller table top tree with vintage-looking Halloween ornaments for the guest book table, a black (fake) pumpkin with Happy Halloween carved into in orange letters, a cute box for cards for the gift table, runners for the cake and guest book tables that are silver with black velvet webs on them, and two orange frames for photos:

Pottery Barn was our last stop, and again, I was surprised they still had stuff. We probably got there around 5:30 and we were what my friend calls "hangry"--so hungry that we were very irritable. Mr. T didn't love their stuff, but I did, but it was one of those disagreements where it was very civilized and considerate, "If you like them, get them!" "No, if you don't like them, I don't want to buy them; this is not all about me." So, instead of buying their entire stock of skull and crossbones votives (Mr. T had mixed feelings about using a lot of skull imagery for our wedding), we compromised and got one set to help decorate the bookshelves. And we also got a really cool metal bone candle holder. They had cool feathery garland, but those were $15 a piece even on sale, so I thought I'd skip them.

After all that shopping we were exhausted! Our feet and legs even hurt, and this is from a couple of people who walk over 2 miles almost daily. We were also soaked, since it was pouring rain all day.

We still need table decor (and a fog machine for Mr. T!), but we might be almost set for the rest of the room, so that's progress!!