Sunday, April 29, 2012

Work and the Art of People-Watching

Last night was the opening for our new juried art show, so I got to work some overtime. I worked from roughly 8:30 AM until 8 PM. The first part was pretty chill, though, so I didn't really feel completely worn out from the 11 hour workday. Plus, I'm still hourly so yay overtime!

I've already got the books I plan to buy with the money picked out on Amazon. Maybe I'll just go ahead and buy them and call it good.

It was really just me, my one coworker, and the caterer for the first little while. People didn't really start coming in until like a quarter to a half-hour after the paper said the exhibit would start. This gave me plenty of time to sneak off with the delicious chicken salad croissants our caterer made, and some of the veggies from the veggie tray.

Once people started filing in, though, things got kind of manic.

There are two doors to the museum, and people were coming in through both. While I can technically see both doors from my desk, it's hard to really keep track when people come in both doors at the same time... as they are wont to do.

I was supposed to keep track of how many people came in.

I did my best.

Crowds like that, especially when entirely full of people I don't know, tend to be overwhelming. I clung to my desk like a life raft, even though I was technically allowed to go out and mingle if I wanted to.

I was... ambivalent about mingling, to say the least.

It was fun, though! I met my predecessor for this job, who is fun, and his lovely wife. I had some good conversations with some of the partygoers. It was actually really interesting - it seemed like all the artists and townsfolk over the age of 40 all knew each other and were having a good time socializing, hanging out, trying to meet anyone they didn't know yet, discussing the work...

All the artists in my generation group, though, came with a few friends and didn't talk to anyone but their friends that I could see. They clumped up, sticking to the same people they walked in the door with. It wasn't that they only spoke to artists in our generation, it was that they didn't want to talk to anyone new while their (slightly) older counterparts were fluttering around being social butterflies.

I thought that was pretty interesting, from a people-watching perspective. I guess it's a generational thing about the art world? I also noticed that the older artists and townspeople would come talk to me, say hello, meet my eyes... and the younger people seemed to think I was just a part of the scenery, even while I was trying to tell them where their nametag was.

The art itself... some of it I adored, some of it I could have cheerfully lived without ever having seen. That's true across the board of any open-media art show, though. There are just some genres of the art world I'm not interested in at all, and I tend to go for craftsmanship over concept when it comes to what I like, anyway. I'd rather have an excellently woven basket over a hastily-assembled bit of paint on canvas any day.

So today is going to be fairly lazy. We've already had breakfast, and sort of ambled around. I might buy books, might not. Who can tell? We'll have to leave the house eventually, though... it's just too pretty not to.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Starving Artist Cafe

I had planned a fairly lengthy review of the Starving Artist Cafe, and sat down a few minutes ago (after spending my morning with yoga and walking and wow now my legs hurt) to work on the photos only to discover that the above photo is the only one that came out well at all.

I suppose I wasn't paying a ton of attention when I took photos on Saturday.

Oh well.

So I'll leave you with this: We shared a warm baked-brie appetizer. It was topped with crushed almonds and served alongside Granny Smith apple slices, crackers, fresh strawberries, and a fig-and-apple jam. It was delicious and just the perfect warm starter-food.

Jason had the smoked trout salad for his meal, with a Yuengling beer alongside. Mixed greens, smoked trout, nice big cuts of tomato, walnuts, a good dressing, and a sweet croissant served with it. He really liked the salad and said there were a lot of 'palate cleansers' in it, which meant you never really felt overwhelmed by it or anything. Smoked meat can really overwhelm a dish, so that's definitely peaked my interest for the future.

I had a linguini pasta dish that had calamari, pancetta, garlic, olive oil and was served with an amazing broth in a bowl. It was definitely one of the best pasta dishes I've ever eaten. I love anything seafood, and I especially love squid, but it can be hard to find places that cook it well.

The cafe definitely did; it wasn't rubbery, but tender and the taste wasn't overpowering at all. The pancetta definitely worked well with the dish and wasn't too salty. I had the house Sauvignon Blanc with it.

Our server was super nice and friendly, and we actually ended up chatting with her for quite a while after our dinner was over. There was a musician setting up in the corner for live music.

It was a combination restaurant and art gallery, so it is very relevant to my interests. Unfortunately, the gallery part closed before we came in, but there are paintings all over the walls in the restaurant side too, so we were not hurting for pretty and interesting things to look at. Add to that, the booths and tables are well-spaced.

There are too many restaurants where I feel like, no matter how good the food is, I'm rushed to leave before I'm really ready because my elbow is bumping the shoulder of the people at the table next to us. In a lot of places, things are smushed too tightly so that they can fit in more tables. I did not have that feeling here - the restaurant has plenty of space, and if you just want to grab a pastry on the way to work, they have a counter you can head over to as well if you're not looking to sit down.

I took a lunch menu and a business card - this definitely seems like a great place to call ahead and then run and pick up some food on my lunch break for work. I am big on patronizing local places; I may love chain restaurants like Chili's when I'm in the mood for definite comfort-food-with-no-surprises, but I want small businesses to succeed and if I can find one that really works, I feel good putting my money there.

Sorry for the lack of photos... my local friends and family will just have to go try it out for themselves, I suppose.

Today promises to be a lazy day, now that I've accomplished my exercise goal for the day. I just need to work on dishes, run out and grab some sandwich stuff for our work-lunches for the week, and read.

Hoping to make mussels in white wine broth for dinner tonight.

And now?

It's time to make friends with some coffee.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Proud as a...

Not too much to say.

I just really like this necklace, and also Jason made biscuits and gravy for breakfast (and Cuban coffee to drink with them) and a really delicious salad for our super-late-lunch-early-dinner. Also also we have cheese with Guinness in it awaiting me in the fridge, which makes me very, very happy.

Yesterday we bought some local honey at the Azalea Festival (down the block from where I work, it was going on this weekend - your usual small-town festival kind of thing) and some Rocky Road homemade fudge.

Also we ate at a place called the Starving Artist Cafe yesterday, and it was awesome, and I'm going to tell you about it tomorrow. Or possibly later tonight if I get bored when Jason leaves for his usual guy-bonding-time engagement.

But probably tomorrow.

Let's not kid ourselves, it's kind of an accomplishment for me to get a single blog post up when it's my delightful, delicious day off... two is probably overachieving.

I still need to do my yoga video tonight. I have a book I'm working on reading, so I'll put some time into that.

Also I may need to completely undo all the good exercise does and eat some of that Guinness cheese. I may actually need to do that.

Sometimes, we need cheese to survive. At least that's how I feel about it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Well, I'm Off to a Good Start

So I woke up at 4 AM to what I can only describe as a clatter. Some sort of loud crashing noise, as though some precariously balanced pile of porcelain, glass, and some other kind of breakable object had just been pushed over.

I sat straight up in bed, my brain leaping immediately to intruder alert, intruder alert, andlooked over at Jason. My husband was still completely asleep. I sat very still, just in case the evil noise was coming back (what?! I only just woke up, rationality hadn't kicked in yet) and finally got up to check it out.

Which, granted, only involves putting my glasses on and leaning out the door to the bedroom, which allows me to see the entire rest of our tiny apartment.


It occurred to me, at this point, that I was probably dreaming, and I dreamed a noise so loud I woke myself up.

Amusingly, this is not the first time this has happened.

In any case, I laid back down to go to sleep... at which point our cat, always the opportunist, decided that my new status of 'grudgingly and angrily awake' meant that it was definitely time for petting. She walked on me, meowed so loudly I was worried that this, and not the imaginary evil noise, would be what woke Jason up. He did in fact start to shift around and sigh.

So I petted the cat.

When she finally decided she was happy with the arrangement as it stood and laid down herself, I started to settle back down into sleep...

and then my nose was, quite suddenly, completely stuffed up and I couldn't breathe. So I got up to go deal with that, and by the time I laid back down again, Jason had started to snore. I stared at him for a minute or so, willing him to roll over. I thought, as loudly as I could, If ever we had some kind of mental connection, you will hear me ask you to roll onto your side.

As if in response, there was a moment of sweet, sweet silence. I closed my eyes.

Then he settled himself even more onto his back and snored louder.

So I'm up now writing this.

A few minutes ago, Jason came wandering out of the bedroom.

"It's only 5:30," I said. "Go back to sleep."

He immediately did a U-turn and went to head back into the bedroom. Then he stopped. "Wait, why are you up?"

So I explained the whole story to him.

"Funny," He said. "That's what happened to me yesterday."

I should feel some solidarity at this, but mostly I'm just hoping that when he said that, he didn't mean that I snore.

Anyway, I just wanted to share the comedy of errors that was my morning thus far. I've been up since 4 AM and I have to work today. These two things can only end well when combined, right?

... right?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Note: Layout Stuff

Yes, I know the layout is super wonky right now. I'm working on it and haven't really had time to sit down and really dig in as far as fixing the problem. Should have everything the way I want it within the next few days.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Violets and a Song and Books, Oh My

Because I didn't get home until this minute... "this minute" being roughly 9:25 p.m. I worked, and we went and took care of my friend's dog, and had dinner, and hung out with the dog some more, and now we're home.

Above is a picture of violets I took at my parents' house - violets are everywhere, and they are my favorite flower, hands-down. I wrote a silly romantic poem about that in high school - if I'm ever feeling the need to embarrass myself in public I'll post it here for you.

Since, I don't have too much in my mind tonight, here is a pretty song for you:

Ryan Adams, "Nuclear"

Also, in the last couple of weeks i read some books and I thought you should know that. I'm on a nonfiction kick right now. I tend to go on binges of one or the other - read nonfiction until I'm tired of peoples' actual lives and then bury myself in sci-fi or horror or fantasy or something that couldn't possibly be real and clear all that actual life out of my brain. And then pick up a book on Krakatoa and start the cycle up again.

First, Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner. The book is essentially a somewhat fragmented memoir by a woman who was raised by a sort of lazy Jewish father and a lapsed Baptist mother, who eventually converted in early adulthood to Orthodox Judaism, and then a few years later converted to Christianity. Lauren's a great writer - she's got a poet's gift for a good turn of phrase. While she's occasionally super self-absorbed, this is still a great read. I actually read it twice in a row, the second time with a pen so I could underline things that resonated with me. I got halfway through and thought, "I should give this to my sister-in-law so we can talk about it." It's that kind of book.

Secondly, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, again by Lauren Winner. This book has the dubious honor of being the first book I've seriously wanted to take back to the store in... well, in a long time. It's sort of the follow-up to Girl Meets God, in that it takes place shortly after. After a couple of ill-defined crises (her mother dies, her marriage ends, neither of which is made exactly clear), Ms. Winner has a pretty definite crisis of faith. This isn't an autobiography or a memoir, really... it's just a jumble, sort of an unedited set of journal entries about what it's like to worry that God isn't there. It reads like a blog - confessional, navel-gazing, not going any particular direction, each chapter a self-contained entry. I didn't really like it. I love Winner's writing, but this book felt like she finished two-thirds of it, threw her hands in the air, and sent it to the publisher. I may not take it back - I don't like to do that kind of thing. I may just let it percolate, then pick it up a few months from now and see if I read it any differently this time. It's happened before like this - I hate something and then a year later I love it. Or the opposite; I thought Catcher in the Rye was awesome until I stopped being a teenager. Then I just wanted to shake him, tell him to be grateful and realize how good his life is and get off my lawn and turn down that music and whatnot.

And finally - Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres. I've been looking at this book for a while, debating on buying it. While in Illinois I saw it on my mother's bookshelf and asked to borrow it. I'm nearly done with it, and it is intense. It's a memoir about Julia's childhood and adolescence and that of her adopted brother, David, who is black. They are raised by alternately vaguely neglectful and violently abusive parents, and eventually both kids end up in a "Christian reform school" in the Dominican Republic, where the idea is to break all the willpower out of them. Reading this right after the two feel-good, Jesus-is-awesome and Christians-are-cool books I read before them made this even more of a sucker punch. Don't get me wrong - I have no illusions about any particular group of people being better than any other group of people. Religion has been used as one of the hugest justifications for evil in all human existence. But it was unsettling to read Julia's mother echo sentiments that Lauren Winner states in her books - the former as justification for her deplorable treatment of her own children, the latter in genuine glad worship. Julia is a great writer and this is a fantastic book... but it will leave you with an abject need to rescue her and her brother from all the people in their lives, over and over and over again.

So that's what I've been up to when I'm not at work. Filling my head with words other people wrote.

Next up -

Well, I wasn't kidding.

I am actually going to read that book on Krakatoa.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Just going to leave this here for now

Yes, that is a giant Pal Bunyan holding a hot dog.

Yes, we got our picture taken in front of it.

My niece decided she wanted to be in the picture, too.

And yes, you too can have our picture taken in front of the giant Paul Bunyan holding a hot dog. Just go to Atlanta, IL and look for him. Trust me, he's not hard to find. Then go eat your lunch across the street at the Palms Grill.

Yes, I got my picture taken in front of a giant Paul Bunyan holding a hot dog because my mother told me to.

Then I got on a plane and flew back to South Carolina, where there are no giant Paul Bunyans holding hot dogs, and I chose to post this picture for you.

Nobody can ever say I don't have a sense of humor about myself.

I have meant to write something longer and more descriptive or purposeful since we got home, but frankly I've been too busy. I could have Monday, but I was busy getting groceries, shopping with delicious gift cards from Christmas and my birthday I hadn't used, and then hanging out with Jason to do that. Could have Tuesday, but I had to work and then I came home, watched Futurama, and almost fell asleep on the couch. Last night I worked and went straight to a friends' house afterwards for our weekly Wednesday get-together. Tonight I'm going to have my late day, where I go into work at noon and leave at 7:30 (meaning I get home around, oh, 8:15ish) and will probably fall asleep on the couch because I am boring.

But FRIDAY. Friday is the DAY.

Well, it's A day. I'll try to make it THE day. I make no promises, though.

I think giant Paul Bunyan holding a hot dog can keep you company 'til then, right?


Monday, April 2, 2012

Red Dirt, Gray Clouds

I never stop smiling at all the red dirt everywhere. I don't know; it just never stops being sort of novel to me.

Also, it's only barely April and it's already too hot.

I predict I'm going to spend more of this summer than I should hiding inside someplace with blissful air conditioning. Or hiking in the mountains, where it'll be at least a little bit cooler and dryer. You can cut the humidity with a knife outside right now.

Two more full days and then I fly to Illinois! My suitcase is already basically packed. I just have to stick a couple last-minute things in there and we're good. My carry-on bag is already packed, too: I have this month's InStyle and Garden & Gun for my magazine fix (and some old issues so I can show my family), a book called Girl Meets God about a woman who converted from Judaism to Christianity (the title is a bit off to me; Judaism worships the same God, so it's not like she's meeting Him for the first time or anything - but anyway, never mind, I haven't read it yet so who knows), and I think I'm taking along a library book, Dread, about how public opinion and reaction to epidemics and diseases affects how they spread and how severely they affect the population.

I like variety in my reading material, okay? And I pack books for trips the way most people pack their outfits. But then I pack my outfits the same way.

Really, we can just safely sum this up by saying packing takes me a really long time, so I start way in advance.

I will get to see more of the submissions for the art show at work tomorrow, which makes me really excited. Just being in the environment of the museum had kind of gotten my art brain going again... I've been sketching some ideas out that I'm pretty excited about. I might open Giant's Eye back up and start posting again, if I get myself together to start actually creating something.

So I did it again - I totally planned to post up that photo up there and like, one single paragraph of stuff, and then go on my merry way, and then I rambled on and on and on.

Well, at least you can all rest easy knowing that there apparently was not a single thought I had in the last couple of minutes that I did not feel far too free to share with you.

I'm just really giving that way.