Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Parking Signs: Pop Quiz Edition

Pop quiz, Readers!  Only one question, and it's multiple choice.  Post your selection and reasoning in the comments.  Good luck!  Discussion and solution written below.

It's 4:10pm and you should have been at the event at 4pm.  But it's hot--97 degrees radiating off of the city streets--and no one moves fast on a day like this.  As you wipe the sweat off of your forehead, you realize you'll have to leave the AC-comfort of your car when you park said vehicle.  The streets are somewhat empty since it's a holiday instead of a business-as-usual Monday.  Now where to demonstrate your mad parallel parking skills?

A. At the street meter near a sign.  Hmmm... a valid option, but got quarters?  Coin-only parking meters are seem like relics from last decade.  Where's the Pay To Park that accepts credit cards?  Drive on.

B.  Between the 3-part, small-print signs next to a bus stop.  Wait.  Do city buses run on holidays?  Does "holiday" impact (read: void) these parking signs?  Better safe than sorry with the 10 minute parking between 9am-8pm....  Drive on.

C.  Safely in the Pay to Park zone.  (Don't forget the really, really small print on the meter.)  Fine print's no friend of mine (see the red box on the Pay To Park meter).  Get back in the car and drive on.

D.  At the last possibility within one block's walk.  The hours look good even if it is Pay to Park.  Not likely to snow anytime today.  Is that the LAST open spot that car's pulling taking?  Drive on.

E.  There's always another city block with more signs.  Well.  Two blocks away isn't so bad.  Especially when Husband drops you off so you can take pictures of the ridiculous parking regulations on your way into the air conditioned auditorium.

The Presstman Preachers' show made all the trouble worth while anyway.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Intrinsic Beauty

Figure Drawing Class wrapped up yesterday, and I don't have any amazing sketches to show.  The classes focused on turning figures into two dimensional planes, looking for the skeleton first (think lines: squares, triangles) and then at muscles/flesh (think curves: ovals, circles).  Next we learned to see through an image, transforming 2D shapes into 3D (think cubes, cones, cylinders with "bracelet lines"--very much like Spiderman suits).  Finally, we lightened our sketching to allow the silouhette to emerge, and added shading to render the figures human once more.

Drawing for a three hour class took more effort than I anticipated.  I fidgeted a lot in the first class--to wear glasses or not, to sit or stand, to listen carefully to the teacher or vaguely delve into practice.  I also forgot how different graphite and conte pencils feel compared to the smooth sweep of charcoal, my favorite medium.

Half of the time I came home frustrated about the mediocre quality of my work; the other days I remembered practice cultivates skill.  Yet in the end, as I flipped through my less than noteworthy sketches, I'm reminded of how much I love taking time to draw.  No matter how amateur my work appears, there's always some small element of beauty emerging on the page.  One gesture drawing emphasizes the arabesque of a graceful neck to waist curve.  Another pose follows the light falling on the angles of waist and thighs in a difficult pose.

The practice of drawing consumes time, but this is one way I've learned to see through ordinary objects into the intrinsic beauty hiding beyond a cursory glance.  After hours of scribbling pencil on paper, the world metamorphoses from the familiar into the exquisite.

Has learning an art, or something else, ever opened your eyes to appreciate beauty hiding in plain sight?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Feisty Ball of Fur

About three years ago Husband & I took an atypical early morning walk before starting the day's responsibilities.  Stressful is too mild a word for how life felt then, and we were desperately clasping each other's hand while combating our individual challenges.  As the sun burned off the morning fog and we discussed who'd take the first shower, a car pulled over just in front of our apartment complex.  The office manager stepped out holding a teeny ball of fur in her hands.  A tiny orange and white kitten named Sherbet.

This past weekend, a friend with major cat allergies joked that she didn't really get pet ownership.  While I completely understand avoiding allergens, pet parenthood boils down to laughter and love.  Sure pets shed and create art, but Husband & I never laughed as much as we did the first days Sherbet terrorized our home with her insatiable curiosity and bottomless energy.  Her fuzzy companionship, especially when she deigns to cuddle, makes every day a little more peaceful.  Despite the recurring need to refresh the litter box and the morningly meow-athon before her breakfast kibble, Sherbet's idiosyncratic personality splashes joy throughout our days.


Has an unexpected blessing ever been dropped into your life?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vacation, Minus Travel Time

With less traveling this year, I'm appreciating drop-by guests and overnight hosting much more.  A few weeks ago Mom came down for the weekend, somewhat unexpectedly.  Between her announcement and arrival, I barely had time to neaten up the apartment, finish a few tasks I'd already started, and develop a vague idea of what we would eat.

No Parking, Reserved for Irises.
Our unstructured weekend brimmed with adventures.  Friday night we viewed a MICA exhibt and shared a tapas dinner with a friend.  Saturday morning found us on a rainy walk to the Waverly Farm Market where we sampled Hen-of-the-Woods mushrooms and sorrel.  Sunday afternoon we braved the humidity to go window shopping in quirky Hampden.

Since a love of flowers and gardens runs in the family, we revisited the Vibrant Pocket Garden in its early summer glory.

Red roses, purple irises, and pink peonies.
Of course we talked, talked, talked ... over afternoon tea, making roast chicken dinner, and re-teaching Mom how to crochet.

Mom's visit felt like a stay-at-home vacation despite cooking and even packing a few boxes for the up-coming move.  Perhaps because Mom insisted on doing most of the dishes ....

Flowers v. Taxi: A competition in color.

I'm curious if anyone has ever deliberately tried a "Staycation"?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The War on ANTS

The skies are overcast, and rain is threatening near the Ramsey Apartment in Baltimore.  Here ANTS are beginning the latest phase in what seems to be part of a larger plan for world domination.  Previous assaults at the Bathroom Window were repelled, twice, by what experts believe is a new development in chemical warfare.  This toxic gas may have also led to ultimate triumph over the ANTS at the Kitchen Sink and Light Switch Wall after a combination of road blocks and internal sabotage (ant traps) failed.

The Kitchen Sink was clearly targeted as a strategic resupply hub for essentials, such as water, to which the ANTS tunneled along pipes from another apartment.  The assault on the Light Switch Wall, however, worried senior intelligence officials as it demonstrated the versatility and resourcefulness of the ANTS.  This location was reached by repelling from the roof along the electric lines.  The exact intentions of this offensive remain unclear, although some argue minuscule food crumbs may have been found at the adjacent Kitchen Counter.

Now ANTS are invading the Wall Behind the Microwave as the latest step to execute a hostile takeover of the Kitchen.  This strike's specific objectives are not yet known, but covert operations are preemptively moving supplies, mainly food, from the area and launching air raids employing precision tissue-squashing technology.  Chemical warfare may again play a role in repelling the ANTS, but it remains to be seen if this will be enough to deter further counter insurgencies.

This is SC Ramsey, live from Baltimore.  Good Afternoon.  

Anyone deployed effective anti-ANTS tactics?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pie Break

Today's a too-long-to-do list kind of day.  This afternoon's healthy snack of carrots slices with dip followed by peanut butter on crackers didn't quell the late afternoon munchies revolt.  Willing a more harmonious solution, I stared into the refrigerator and then into the freezer.

To my delight, a Ziploc bag of apple pie filling stared confidently back.  Husband froze this mixture after last autumn's trip to the orchard, and the apple filling clearly wanted to be eaten sooner than later.  When an extra homemade pie crust (from the last time I made quiche) winked at me, I realized I shouldn't keep these two apart any longer.

As the pie bubbled in the oven, I lamented the lack of a top.  No time to make the usual lattice top crust; no oatmeal to make a sugary buttery crunchy crumble topping.  Then Husband reminded me of some extra whipping cream in the fridgerator from last week's cooking experiment.  Who can resist homemade whipped cream with a hint of almond extract?  Especially when Husband volunteers to make it.

Homemade apple pie with almond whipped cream washed down with milky chai tea made my afternoon a little sweeter.  What brightened your day?

Note: Finished sari dress pictures are "developing"--my digital camera works best with natural light and the sunshine's been shy lately.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sari Dress: Creation (Part II)

My grandmothers, one a home seamstresses and the other a professional tailor, could sew.  The machine, pictured here, originally belonged to my maternal great-grandmother.  With a little oil and patience Mom keeps it in working condition.  Mom's a better seamstress than she'd ever admit.  My childhood showcased one-of-a-kind dresses and comfy summer shorts.  I survived the high school jeans dilemma by Mom's alteration skills.  Mom even stitched the final hem on the front part of my silk organza wedding dress.

Despite my family history, the gene that understands geometry and enjoys pinning fabric to patterns didn't make it into my predisposition.  Fashion and design, I love.  I've got an entire file of fashion magazine cut-outs of clothing and accessories, not to buy the items, but because some aspect of the design intrigues me.  Husband would say this contributes to my pickiness as a shopper, but I digress.

For me, this sari dress is about creating something beautiful to wear, not about becoming a seamstress.  From the start, I knew I would work without a pattern and based off of the intrinsic qualities of the fabric.  I would attempt as little sewing as required to make the garment wearable in public.

After a good deal of time wrapping myself with the sari in front of my bedroom mirror, I clarified my vision for the dress.  First, the material looked most beautiful as a tube dress which highlighted the gold embroidery and the dramatic shift from forest green into plum wine.  Second, the sari wanted to retain some of it's character, namely the texture called for some sort of drape or pleat or gather.

With this vague notion of a simple dress with a unique touch--like a bi-color twisted bust-line or an over-the-shoulder drape or an around the waist gathered overlay--I headed to JoAnn Fabrics for plum wine thread and something for straps.  I came home with the thread and the last 3/4 yard of "ribbon"--gold thread woven around purple-ish sequins (draped in the background).

As I rethreaded the machine to begin, I realized Great-Grandma's steel antique boasts two other features I love.  First, the machine produces a chain stitch (without a bobbin!) so seams can easily be ripped out--you pull on the one end and "frog" it as in knitting or crocheting.  This expedites the  many corrections I'm sure to need to make.  Also, the hand-crank wheel only works at one speed (how fast you whirl it) and in one direction: forward.  Ready or not, I ironed the sari and got out the scissors.

Despite the hours invested, the first day sewing wasn't pretty or, honestly, productive.  My first two hems were on the wrong side of the fabric (frog it!).  The seam at the top of the dress was so tight it took almost a half-hour of inching the elastic through on a small safety pin.  Then I tried the tube dress on.  Inspiration flared so I used the ribbon, originally bought to become straps, tied around my figure to create an empire waist.  The mirror said one thing: flattering, yet bulky.  Husband, leery of my "sewing" project, hesitantly agreed.  I needed to thin the dress by about a foot so I didn't look like a cinched up potato sack.  It was time to get out the scissors again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sari Dress: Inception (Part I)

Besides moving this summer there's another, bigger, game-changer looming on my life's horizon.  Life will be different come autumn leaves and apple butter.  To prepare, I'm over-compensating: finishing projects I've started, projects I've only dreamed about.

My brother gave me a sari after a trip through Southeast Asia.  The fabric is beyond exquisite.  Lustrous gold embroidery flirts across a field of forest green that abruptly blushes into a bouquet of plum wine.

Upon opening this gift, I immediately swathed myself in the sari--a disaster because (1) I was wearing a sweater and jeans underneath, (2) the fabric is too long for me to wear in the traditional style, and (3) despite growing up with multicultural influences, I don't know how to wear a sari properly.

So the fabric, yards and yards of luscious beauty, ended up folded compactly and stored out of sight.  But never out of mind.

Occasionally I sketched dress designs.  Sometimes I peaked into the box to reabsorb the vibrant colors.  Yet, I hesitated.  Starting a project allows for the possibility of failure.  As my mother warned: cloth once snipped, always snipped.

Also, I hate sewing.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Dish Served Warm ... & Fluffy

At a moment's notice Sherbet, the cat, is ready to communicate her strong opinions with creativity and wit.  When so prompted, she demonstrates her spite in poignant ways.  Contain her in the bathroom too long, and she'll express her dislike:

aka "Toilet Paper Art"

While Sherbet despises forced containment, be it in a bathroom or in her pet carrier, she voluntarily folds herself into any other small space available.  With the impending move, the apartment is brimming with even more boxes than usual.  I've even held onto the new vacuum cleaner box just in case we need it.  While some say that revenge is a dish best served cold, Sherbet proves here that warm and fluffy can also do the trick.

"De-fluff this, new vacuum cleaner."

Today I wish I could express my dislike as vehemently as Sherbet.  I'd take that stack of paperwork-to-fill/figure-out on my desk and preemptively feed it through the shedder.

Anyone else wish they could unabashedly show a little revenge on something inanimate?

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Art of Saying No

I'm not a fan of clutter.

Moving from one home to another simply gives me an excuse to continue cleaning things out.  I've already run by the thrift store with a drop-off of random items.  Also, while contemplating the power of the shredder, I annihilated the no-longer-important papers I thinned out of our files.

Eliminating "baggage" for moving day.

However, when I visited my parents' house the other weekend I complicated my life.  I noticed an entire paper grocery bag full of to-be-discarded cookbooks.  Now, husband and I have more than one shelf of cookbooks.  And, he's always bringing home ideas from his favorite food blogs.  Yet I couldn't help myself.  I needed to peruse those books.  I ended up taking home a few.

The suspects.  Which one hides the best-ever recipe?

Cookbooks allure me with the promise of the perfect recipe hidden just another page away.  I spent too many hours scouring the pages for tasty, unique recipes.  I settled on copying a few easy recipes and keeping only two books.  The "Wine and Wine Cooking" could be a new way to explore food preparation, one bottle at a time.  The "New Baking Book" made my tummy rumble with its mouth-watering pictures.  While I'm proud of myself for not keeping all of them, a part of me wonders why I needed to add even two more cookbooks to our collection.  More stuff is more stuff to pack up, and it doesn't necessarily translate into more living.

What do you have more than enough of, yet can't decline?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Something Achievable

The last 24 hours have been too busy.  I survived Figure Drawing Class.  I set the cat up for her annual visit with a new vet.  Husband and I wrapped up the apartment hunt by securing "The Next Apartment."  We even remembered to belatedly write Mother's Day cards.

This afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to find a very achievable item on my daily list:


Sometimes taking a break is the best way to accomplish something.  What activites bring balance to your busy life?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ready, Set, Sharpen Your Pencils

Figure Drawing Class starts today.  I'm not prepared--it's been a long time since my last art lessons or since I spent any serious amount of time drawing.  Also, I'm not really sure what to expect: instruction and tips, or just diving in?  Time to find that pencil case....

What new project are you diving into, ready or not?

Monday, May 2, 2011

College Education Preferred

In the office jobs I've held "other duties as required" translated, at least some of the time, to paper shredding.  Ironically, there's a lot of responsibility in this mundane task.  Every time I shredded paper, I was the only one to go through the files and determine what duplications were no longer vital.

Moving preparations: Taking care of business at home.

Despite prestige of the shredder--how else can a temporary employee silence the rest of the office besides overpowering conversation with the shredder's ravenous whir?--I'm still not sure I really needed my college education to adequately accomplish this task.

What's the worst job your college degree qualified you to do?