Saturday, May 24, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

A while back, a cake-decorating contest was held in the strip mall near my apartment. I went in to buy some hairspray at Ulta (cosmetics store, we don't have one in Lincoln) when I ran into crowds perusing these fabulous confections. I ran back to the apartment, grabbed the camera and shot up the scene. So as a reward to those of you who take the time to read my wordier posts, here's some eye candy:

How cute is this? The categories spanned beginners (ages 12 and under, like this cake), through professional.

One of my favorites, it's a wedding cake and the rings are in the shell on the top--that said, I don't think seashells are very appetizing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

La Jolla ~ The Jewel

These are some pictures of my lovely part of town. I'd love to say I took them all, but my mother definitely deserves the credit for some of these too. Thanks Mommy!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Loving a Library

Though a home church still eludes me, I've found a library I'm coconuts about! The La Jolla Public Library is the sweetest of its kind. Just off of Draper Avenue, the outside is painted a buttery color with terracotta roof shingles framed by bright purple-pink flowering trees.

Verdigris benches graced with seashell designs stand guard, one on either side of the library's doors, and offer respite to homeless men and women. To see these bedraggled individuals at the doors of such a knowledge-saturated institution strikes me as ironic and sobering. These ghosts of their former selves haunt the La Jolla Library; a place set in one of the most privileged areas of the United States, a place that offers free knowledge. It occurs to me that if we, its more fortunate patrons, were somehow clever enough, wouldn't we be able to arrive at some solution for the helpless at the doorstep? I imagine what it must be like to be them each time I walk past. A week ago, I observed a woman reclined on the bench with her bags of who-knows-what acting as cushions with a half-drunk soda which, I suspect, was from a trash can given that its cap was no where in sight. She wore a flower absurdly tucked in her matted hair and was perusing a book, whose title I missed. She stroked her skin on the arm that led to the hand that held the book while she hummed to herself as she read. While I was looking at her, I squinted my eyes in order to blur her image, as I would've done when I was a little girl to make lit street lamps look like fuzzy points of light. Thus distorted, the woman was just a shape with color, and I imagined her as some artist's abstraction of one of those paintings of an elite woman, finely attired, reclined on her chaise taking in a novel. I didn't feel pity for her at that moment, I was happy for her, as she sat contentedly in that sun-drenched spot where one can smell the ocean.

Yesterday I returned to the library to return some DVDs and CDs I'd borrowed. I was in sort of a hurry as it was one of several errands I needed to run, so I felt a twinge of impatience when I saw three females surrounding the outdoor drop-off box. I'm not a patient person. I took a deep breath and told myself to not be a jerk, which meant smiling kindly at them and standing an extra foot away so as not to disturb them. I picked out the little girl out of the three first. She wore only a lavender bathing suit with yellow polka dots and a ruffle around the waist, not even sandals, and her fine brown curls rested on her head like a little cloud, so light and wispy they were. Her process was thorough and deliberate: slide one book at a time off of the stack her mother held for her, reach up on her tiptoes and open the mouth of the metal receptor, drop the book in, let the spring-loaded mouth shut and swallow the book, repeat. The stack of children's books was at least 10 high. Her mother smiled at me with a look of appreciation, sans apology which I liked because there was nothing to apologize for and I understood from her smile that she recognized my exercise of patience. The child's grandmother held a canvas bag which, I supposed was the book carrier, and watched the child with fondness. Though I'd be lying to say that all impatience had evaporated, I'm glad I got to watch the collaborative effort of these three generations.

I finally returned my items, went inside, and found the CDs and DVDs I'd been looking for quickly. I heard a couple teens talking and laughing loudly down the corridor and watched a librarian speed walk past me leaving a wake of strong perfume, puffing air, headed directly for them. She stopped and, standing an uncomfortably close distance from them, rebuked them in whispers saying, "High noise levels are jarring to our patrons!" I resumed my perusing when a minute later I was greatly startled by a snorting, guttural sound to my left. I glanced over to see a library guard in a chair against the wall from where he was presumably charged to keep watch. Yet there he was, slumped in the chair and emitting what this patron would refer to as a most "jarring" snore. His head was supported by his second, third, and fourth chins and his hands were folded over his plump middle. He let out another sonorous snore which the librarian, who had returned to her post, conveniently ignored. But when I started to laugh and was joined by a guy next to me who was now snickering too, she, naturally, leaned over her desk and frowning at us, shot us a sharp "Shh!"

Finally, I checked out with my favorite librarian, whose name I don't know. She calls me by my first name; still a novelty in a city where I'm relatively unknown. She always wears earrings that match her outfit perfectly. Sky blue shirt, sky blue earrings the exact same shade, coral, yellow, sage green ensembles are all accompanied their respective pair of earrings; her daughter makes them for her. A couple weeks ago she greeted me wearing a denim blouse with a farm scene embroidered on the front. As for the earrings, she had out-Heroded Herod; in the right ear was the cow's front, and in the left ear was the cow's backside, udder and all. They were a stitch. When she asked me if I liked them, I glanced at the left ear, then the right, again to the left a few times then suddenly I became worried she'd read my act of speechlessness a 'no,' so I told her they were perfect with her blouse. She beamed at me, leaned over the books, and proceeded to tell me all about her single grandson.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Book That's Just Dandy

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

This is what my vintage copy of Bradbury's book looks like, it's cover price is only 50 cents.

I confess that I was put off by this book initially. I like to read a science fiction novel every cusp-of-summertime. This genre serves me well as the thrill of rising temperatures, switching out winter clothes, and blockbuster movies make it difficult for me to focus on reading. But when I began Dandelion Wine I had to check the author's name again on the cover to make sure I was reading the same writer I'd supposed. This collection of summery coming-of-age short stories reads more like Mark Twain and less like the grandad of sci-fi.
I consulted an expert concerning the issue, and he assured me that I wouldn't be disappointed. He convinced me by relating this, "you can clearly see that he's trying to evoke memories of summer and'll fall in love with Greentown, and lime-vanilla ice cream."
I haven't gotten to that part of the book yet, but click this link to a recipe I found on for lime-vanilla ice cream (I love this site it for its recipes and it's creative name). I'm determined to try the recipe out as soon as it gets hot enough.
While lime-vanilla ice cream waits for me in later pages, so far I've enjoyed these quotes and exerpts from the story already:

"...the water was silk in the cup..."

" was only important that the darkness filled the town like black water being poured over the houses..."

"Gardening is the handiest excuse for being a philosopher. Nobody guesses, nobody accuses, nobody knows, but there you are, Plato in the peonies, Socrates force-growing his own hemlock. A man toting a sack of blood manure across his lawn is kin to Atlas letting the world spin easy on his shoulder."

"I'm Alice, she's Jane, and that's Tom Spaulding."
"How nice. And I'm Mrs. Bentley. They called me Helen."
They stared at her.
"Don't you believe they called me Helen?" said the old lady.
"I didn't know old ladies had first names," said Tom, blinking.

I'm sure there are many more quotable lines to come and many that have passed without my notice, but all in all, this is the perfect book to kick off your summer.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Think outside the box:

Alright, anyone who hasn't heard of NEEDS to check it out. I've done my best to ensure all my loved ones know about it, but for any stragglers, you need to have a listen. This is a free streaming online radio service that one can customize according to one's music tastes. Enter either a favorite artist or song title, and it will create a "station" based on your selection and proceed to play songs that feature the same musicality as your artist/song.
Stations I recommend (these are all group/artist names):
-Rufus Wainwright -The Postal Service -Regina Spektor -Sufjan Stevens -The Weepies -Mat Kearney -Spoon -Andrew Bird -Ok Go -Mika -Glen Hansard & Marketta Irglova

I'll be making a "Summer Mix" CD soon and I just bought a spool of blank CDs, so if you'd like a copy, let me know. Otherwise I'll just send them to my usual mailing list.

Friday, May 2, 2008

So...Read any good books lately?

Meg has graduated from college. Meg works 7:30 AM--3:30 PM. Meg is single and lives alone. Meg has time to read.
Blissful sigh.

No more third-person, I promise.

This post concerns what I've been reading since I got here in San Diego. Prior to moving out here, I hadn't read a book from October 2007 to January 13, 2008. I was wilting without my leisure reads, but I had to focus on school (taking 15 hours all in the Spanish language didn't help me concentrate on fun, first-language reads either), and I was so busy being with the people I love. It was a great season in my life, but I'm glad I'm not in it anymore.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller is such an important book. I could tell you a lot about it, but honestly I'd rather refer you to my friend Peter's blog to read what he had to say about it (the post isn't hard to find, it's basically the only one he's ever written).

Next book was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, probably one of my all-time favorites to date. It took me YEARS to commit to reading this book, I'd started it numerous times and put it aside after the first 10 pages. But this Gothic novel has all the richness of language one would expect from a Bronte sister (although I hated Wuthering Heights), high drama, and wonderfully realistic yet sweeping romance. It's a long one though, I'll warn you. I read an illustrated copy given to me as a gift from my mother, the illustrations were quirky and added a lot to the book for me (illustrations by Dame Darcy). Also, for all its merits as one of the greatest Gothic novels, this novel is cherished by the fairer sex with good reason, any woman would swoon under the gaze of Mr. Rochester's hooded eyes, and melt as Jane did in his big all-encompassing embrace. (Bonus: just when you think it's ended and you eye the last third of the book with skepticism, the book offers a wonderful and unexpected addition to the story)
I followed up this last read with The Wide Sargasso Sea, which is loosely based Bertha and Mr. Rochester's characters from Jane Eyre when they met in the Caribbean. It's very dreamy, almost hallucinogenic and it's positively dripping with symbolism which isn't my style. I appreciate subtle allegory and tend to go for novels that limit the number of symbols to less than 5 per page (it wasn't that bad, but it wasn't good). Decently written, but the flimsy copy of this (200 pages tops) I carried around for two weeks seemed as long as its predecessor of about 500 pages. Overall, interesting idea, poor result.

Next I read The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. It was my first Hemingway novel yet, and I wasn't that wowed, overall. I recognize that it is a well-written piece, but I prefer more. Just more. His descriptions are almost like those of a child (albeit intentionally so), his dialogues meandering, and it's difficult to discern what the point of the plot is. I described it to others as, "like Fitzgerald, without the rich descriptions or vision." I will say though, that having attended a bullfight before, the whole novel was worth Hemingway's 25-page scene of the matador and his bull. I was transported back to Madrid, sitting in the stands watching something that was at once barbaric and beautifully artistic. I plan to read more Hemingway, but he's not a favorite.

Finally, my last read was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which I read for a book club in town whose meetings I continually miss due to hostessing visitors from Nebraska (a very happy conflict of schedule). If you read the back cover of this book, Stephen King sums it up nicely in his review, that this book is many things at once: sensual, mysterious, scary, suspenseful, and engaging. What matters most, is that it's written very well. It's a modern novel (published in the last decade, but written in the style of a Gothic novel. It's unapologetically melodramatic and over-the-top steeped in mystery, but it's so well put together and the characters are so endearing that you'll forgive the author for his cheesiness. The momentum of the book is great, it reads quickly and though it's totally not my kind of novel, I enjoyed it immensely. Note: one thing I'll say against it, I never read mysteries and I stink at knowing what comes next, but anyone with any experience in the genre will undoubtedly be two steps ahead of the plot at any given time.

So what's next? I'm currently reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, which is proving to be a pleasurable and unique fable. Next on my list: Water for Elephants (thank you Heather), We Are All the Same, Catcher in the Rye, Kite Runner (thank you Gina), finish Aztec, finish Aura (in Spanish--it's short, don't be that impressed), A Heartbreaking work of Staggering Genius (thank you Tiffany), The Picture of Dorian Gray, have about 20 pages left in Mere Christianity, and Screwtape Letters. Those are the immediate ones on my list. I can guarantee you I'll read one that hasn't even showed up on my radar yet, and I am going to purchase and read Everything is Illuminated (thank you Ben) as a reward to myself after I've read my tenth book this year (five to go, hurrah).