Monday, February 27, 2006

No, this isn't the replacement picture, but a placeholder.

My friend Shannon, a professional photographer and the master of all things photographic, had this to say about it when I asked his opinion.

It's an interesting shot and I like the neutral expression of your face. It's
most definitely preferable to the last pic you had but the light on your cheek
makes your cheek look fuller than it is. It's not the most flattering shot
you've ever had.

I agree with him. However, I was sick of the old one and didn't have the time nor will to look for a better one.

I spent the entire weekend hunting for upholstery. The fabric on my couch has reached the point of no return, with years of exposure to sunlight, the cats, three moves and usage. It's a gorgeous couch that deserves a facelift to bring it back to its original beauty. It was my first real furniture purchase almost ten years ago, and was very expensive. I knew I'd have it forever, so I shopped about six months until I found it. Then, I waited another three to get it while it was built.

As far as the fabric shopping, the reason why it took the entire weekend is because it consisted of two long drives to discount fabric places and I'm incredibly picky. Because of our extremely helpful neighborhood bulletin board, I learned about a wonderful place that teaches women upholstery and visited it on Thursday. The women are underemployed or getting back on their feet from a life of hardship I could probably never imagine, and they are mentored by two master upholsterers. I went there and was not only impressed by the craftmanship, but impressed by the pride that these women took in their work and their trade. I walked in and was greeted with smiles and friendliness as the director, also named Anne, but without the "e" led me around and showed me the program. I wondered about all the women's' backgrounds. Where they had come from and the pain and hardship they had experienced. But something inside them knew that they had it in themselves to not give up. And now, here they were proud, greeting me with genuine smiles and very welcoming. I was humbled, and their positive attitude was infectious. I was very moved by it. Honestly, it would be an honor to have these women work on my couch. Good for them for picking themselves up and believing that they were destined for better. We all have it within ourselves the ability to fly, and they had discovered their wings.

This weekend, I set out on the fabric quest. Once on a mission, I'm unstoppable. My first trek took me to the rolling hills of Thurmont, Maryland, a drive that was a little over an hour and beautiful. Once I exited the Baltimore metropolitan area, I was out in the expansive territory of the Maryland countryside. Majestic hawks surfed the air with outstretched wings, rolling hills covered in tall leafless trees and grassy fields sighed and heaved, horses, sheep, and cows wandered in prairies. It gave me wanderlust, and I fought the urge to drive even more to see what beauty unfolded in front of me.

When I arrived at the out of the way fabric store, I saw a farmhouse across the street where two black and white calves were leashed to what I can only describe as cowhouses. Three young girls stood outside with the cows, along with a yellow lab that went from smelling the calves to touching noses with the babies that already dwarfed him. It was a scene I couldn't pass up, so I crossed the street and walked up the driveway toward the girls. As I approached, the lab spotted me and trotted toward me in that curious, trusting way that only a dog brought up in the country could do. I posed no danger to him because he hadn't experienced anything to make him think that I might. He stuck his nose under my hand and I petted him and talked to him, then approached the three girls and their bovine friends.

I greeted them and said I hoped they didn't mind me coming over to take a look at the cows, because they were just too cute. Like the dog, the girls weren't wary of the stranger who had come on their property. I asked them if the living inspirations for Gateway boxes were theirs, and they said they were their aunt and uncle's cows and that they were just visiting from a mile away. I asked them if they'd been brought up around cows, and they had. They were very sweet girls who possessed a sense of humor and appreciated mine, even though they were more interested in talking to each other than to me. I stayed there for a few minutes and touched one of the noses of the cows, so pink and soft. For babies, they were bigger and stronger than I'd imagined.

I bid everyone goodbye and crossed back into Discount Fabrics USA. It was really just a gigantic warehouse with tons of fabric at unbelievable prices. It was really amazing, the prices they were going for. I walked around for a couple hours, taking everything in and touching the different kinds of upholstery. I entered my own world and just let myself experience the colors, texture, and patterns.

Oh, the possibilities! One of the aisles of fabric.

I finally chose a possibility for one of two chairs that need a new skin. At $6.00 a yard for such great fabric, I couldn't leave it there. And, if I go with something else, one can never have enough decorative pillows. The fabric is a pretty burnished gold, dark green, and green thin striped design. I sound so unbelievably girly on this post, but well, though I try to hide it, I am.

When I got outside, the three little girls were gone and the two cows were sitting inside their houses, looking like oversized dogs.

The next day, I drove to G Street Fabrics, which was recommended to me by a coworker. That was a much shorter drive to Rockville, MD and housed in a strange area on Rockville Pike. I say strange because the buildings were a clash of the decades and placed in such a way that starkly illustrated that it was an area going through growing pains. The fabric store was in an eighties style mall and stood next to apartment buildings from the 90's and 70's. It was striking, the thick lines and dark tinted glass of the 80's architecture against the thin airy lines of the later designs. Two black monoliths across the street were probably built the same time as the mall, with dirtied tinted black glass wobbling in the gale force winds we were experiencing. The scary thing was that I remembered when malls like the decrepit eighties one looked so new and exciting to me. Same with the all glass buildings. I remembered pulling up in the parking lot, driven by parents and being so excited about the big mall. My guess was that this one had sported fancier stores that moved out to fancier malls, and the outlets moved in. Fine with me. It's where I got my beautiful, gorgeous fabric.

This is the fabric that I bought for my couch. The photo does it no justice, and even less being on a computer screen. The green is the couch color, and the tapestry will be for the accent pillows. I love it and it was already 25% off, plus an internet coupon that gave me another 15%. I wanted it to look comfortable, not stuffy, but classic, timeless and romantic.

This is the couch as it appears now. Like I said, it was in dire need of a facelift. This is a crummy picture that I took really quickly to show to the upholstery people, but it gives an idea of the beauty that it will be brought to. It's just a gorgeous couch. When I brought up the tapestry to be cut, a woman loved it, and on the way out offered to buy it from me. It was funny. I needed the two and a half yards that were on the roll, but more can always be ordered. I told her so. She just loved it. I can see why. It's stunning in person. The upholstery people will pick up the couch on March 16th, and it will take 6-8 weeks to do. This includes any structural repairs as well.

I'll be so excited to see it finished.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The three day weekend has come to a close. I wish I could say that I spent it well, but that would be less than honest. And, the only time that I've been less than honest on this blog was when I was out of the country. The reasons for that are obvious. There is no reason to lie about wasting a perfectly good three day weekend that I've been looking forward to since the last one. At least it's only a four day week. I like the work that I do, but I hate the waking up in the morning.

One of the mind at rest ponderings that came up over the weekend was the choice between Fotki and Flickr. I'm currently on Fotki, but am seriously considering Flickr. I like the layout, the community aspect of it, and well, I'm right in the middle of setting up a photo blog of some sort and Flickr just seems to suit it better. So, I'm reaching out to you for advice. Can you help me, oh wise readers? You're my only hope.

But, back to wasting the weekend. I guess it's not considered a waste if shopping counts and cleaning my entire apartment from top to bottom. I also printed out 200+ pages of a story that I'm working on to see what I have and began to edit it. I did get to sleep in all three days and take long afternoon naps. Today I was able to wake up more easily, so perhaps all that rest was needed.

I haven't mentioned that one of the best things that I've done lately is start taking ballet again. Yep, this girl is back on the dance floor and it has sure been interesting. The teacher is a straight male, and yes, because it is a ballet class that is worth mentioning, and the women in the class are great. All ages, ranging from early twenties on. The teacher has the most amazing long brown hair. It is awesome. I'd love to know the background on why he wears it so long. It's easily down to the middle of his back and thick. He's a fun, positive and funny teacher and the women in there are all helpful to each other and in great shape. It's a ballet level two class, and I'd say I'm about at the bottom of the curve on skill as I'm just getting back into the ring. The great thing about taking an adult ballet class is the lack of competitiveness, and I came in there with a totally positive, friendly attitude which helped my cause.

It was hard to get back into the leotard and tights because I was afraid of what I might see. My body, since I've not been exercising is not what it was when I last took ballet. I expected that, and told myself that I wasn't going to get discouraged. It was in Mexico where I really noticed my lack of muscle tone and decided that it was no way to spend my time inside this body. I was born with a body that was meant for activity and responds well to it. I still wear a size four jean, but size wasn't the issue. Lack of muscle tone isn't pretty no matter what size you are.

So, there I was in ballet class looking at my less than toned body and feeling it respond differently, not to mention a little begrudgingly when I asked it to do things that it hadn't done in a while. A crack here, a refusal there, but I didn't care. I wasn't in a rush and knew it was a process. It will take many classes to feel like I once did when I was doing it on a regular basis. But oh, how good it felt to be active again and vulnerable in that sense. To not be covered head to toe in sweaters and jeans and to watch myself move, no matter how awkwardly, in the mirror. To feel my lungs laboring after a demanding routine at the barre or on the floor. I could feel my body coming alive and realizing that it better make some adjustments to be able to accommodate what I was asking it to do.

What's really encouraging is seeing the women who are a lot older than I am with rock hard asses and their little girl figures gracefully moving on the floor. Ballet is one of the best exercises that one can do, especially if done right with the understanding that if you are starting at over 15, you aren't training for your debut at the Met. I say fifteen, because there was a dancer at American Ballet Theater who started ballet at the age of fifteen. Unheard of to start that late and make it into a company like ABT, but as she said, she had unusually strong legs.

Thankfully, I had a wonderful teacher in Los Angeles who taught me how to do everything right to slowly building strength and avoid injury. Now that I've started back, I remember her barre routine and do it in front of the television at home, using a tall chair as the barre. I have motivation now, to help my body get to where it was. It's such wonderful exercise and I can feel my legs thanking me. Not to mention, my spirit. Ballet makes me feel beautiful and feminine.

I've been back about a month and have already noticed the change in my body in the mirror, which is a completely honest assessment. In ballet class, you are under fluorescent lights and looking at yourself in tight leggings and a leotard in a floor to ceiling mirror that takes up an entire wall. That doesn't leave much room for forgiveness. My untoned "stuff" seems to be moving out of the way and rearranging itself so as not to be bothered with me. If it thinks that will make me forget it, it has a little disappointment in its future. The more it moves out of the way, the more I ask my body to do and eventually it find itself in the way again. I look forward to the day when it just gives up the ghost and leaves. I already feel better in my clothes. I have a long way to go, but it's been encouraging. Mostly because I enjoy ballet and the connection that it gives me with my body. Next is yoga to supplement the ballet. Pilates, my first choice, is just too expensive. It can cost $60 a class. If anyone in the Baltimore area knows differently, shoot me an email. I'm not talking just mat work, I'm taking true to the core pilates. I took it and was sold on it while I was in Los Angeles.

Speaking of my Los Angeles ballet class, I saw one of my former classmates in War of the Worlds. My sister and I went to see the movie in the theater when it came out, and all of a sudden I see Dendrie in a poignant scene with Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning. I was so proud of her. I had known she was an actress with lots of work under her belt and I'd been seeing her pop up on things like Judging Amy, and I think a Without a Trace episode. However, seeing her on the big screen like that was awesome. I turned to my sister and said, "Holy shit, I know her," and my sister couldn't believe it. Dendrie is a nice person and was always very helpful to me when I had trouble with steps. She was way more advanced than me and one of the best in the class. Back in Los Angeles, a few of us from that class, including Elspeth the teacher, Elspeth's parents, and Dendrie all went to see the Kirov ballet when they came into town. It was a fun day. Elspeth introduced her parents to us as Mr. and Mrs. Kuang. This is "Mr. Kuang, and this is Mrs. Kuang." I could tell that meant we were to address them as Mr. and Mrs. Kuang. Tradition, which includes formal addressing of the older generation, is a refreshing thing. Of course, I almost tripped Mr. Kuang as he nudged past me to his seat. As I helped him regain his balance to avoid sitting on my lap, I said, "I'm so sorry. I almost tripped you there Mr. Kuang." He sat down, got a twinkle in his eye and pointed at me. Funny American girl.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I keep thinking today is Sunday. It might as well be because a blizzard is on its way to us and that rules out any plans for the rest of the weekend. I'll believe it when I see it, as all we have now is a light dusting mixed with larger wet snowflakes. Nothing is sticking, but apparently overnight is when we are going to get the brunt of the storm. I'm at Starbucks now, and the parking lot was full from weather panicked people buying their bread and milk. I actually do need milk, and am going to buy bread pudding. Perhaps that will count as bread. Give me coffee, milk, sugar, Honey Nut Cheerios, my Smart White Cheddar Popcorn, some pasta, Classico sauce and parmesan cheese, and I'm good for a few days. It's the stir craziness that is the hardest to deal with, as I learned my first winter here in Baltimore where we were socked with 27 inches of snow and an unprepared city.

I got a call at work yesterday from my mom telling me that she had to have stitches. Because she was the one calling me, she was obviously ok, but it was unnerving. I'd been having a fear in the last couple of days of getting a phone call that my mom had been seriously injured… or worse. Of course, I imagined a kitchen accident, not that she'd been on a ladder doing something at the church, slipped and split her head open on the altar. She was by herself in the church area, but managed to walk downstairs to the offices, bleeding a ton, saying that she needed help. They drove her to the emergency room where the doctor put three staples in her head. The gash was three inches long. She added, annoyed, "and I'd just had my hair cut." Apparently, they didn't have to shave any hair from her head. They just stapled. I haven't seen it yet, but will see it tonight when I bring over the said bread pudding and cream. The milk is for yours truly to have for her delicious coffee that she brought back from Mexico.

I just looked outside and the snow has indeed picked up. I think it's going to be sporadic though until night fall. Still, nothing is sticking. Again, probably won't until nightfall.

I half watched the opening ceremonies last night, as I cleaned, but stopped for a few moments to fully watch the Ferrari, the lighting of the flame and Pavarotti. The man rocked the house. What a talent above all talent to be able to carry a note like that, and such power to his voice. He brought me to tears.

It did end up snowing a hell of a lot. I went to Starbucks on Sunday because I just had to get out. Luckily, the city was prepared and the streets were plowed. After getting my "out" time, I went home and mulled around the house a bit, then decided to rest. I turned on the space heater on my night table and snuggled into bed. It was still light out, but it was dead quiet outside. The city, and much of the east coast for that matter, was resting as well. A few minutes later, the cats thought I had a good thing going and hopped up on the bed. They snuggled up beside me, Scout purring and sniffing at my face beforehand, their two warm bodies shifting as they burrowed into their cozy spots, then were still. It was absolute contentment. I had nothing I had to do, nowhere that I had to be and the house was clean. The warm air from the heater petted my face and its soft whir lulled me into a relaxed state. Outside it was bitter and cold, but inside I rested in my own little heaven.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

It's amazing how much the media tends to focus on imbecile fanatics killing each other and burning buildings over cartoons than on something utterly incredible and beautiful as this. Absolutely fascinating and astounding, and for some reason gives me hope that such a place exists. A perfect pristine place that had yet to be touched by man, and based on how man is acting lately, how lucky for them. It makes me wonder how many other places like it have yet to be discovered. Worlds within our world, with inhabitants so innocent they have yet to learn to fear us.