Day 154 : Tablescape Envy

I admit it. I have tablescape envy.

I spent the entire morning going through a linky party from Between Naps on the Porch, looking at beautiful Thanksgiving-themed tablescapes. Did you know there’s a whole blogging world out there filled with people who set their tables just for fun? Once again, I’ve been living under a rock, since I didn’t know this world existed — except in my own dish-room addicted heart.

I needed to share all this bounty.

Instead of just drooling over the photos myself, I decided to share them on my Pinterest board. I’m hoping that you can see them. While reading all these blogs, I learned some lessons about layering textures and using shiny things to add interest. Since I never met a shiny thing I didn’t like, I should be able to find a “few” items in my house to jazz up my own tablescapes.

There were a few misses among the tabletop hits. While the setting is beautiful in every other way, these white pumpkins on the column-like candlesticks are a bit much.

Hard on the heels of the tablescape linky email came another one from Apartment Therapy. It says that some people have given up entertaining because people don’t RSVP anymore. We’ve experienced this in our little book club; people don’t RSVP for a Monday night dinner until Sunday or even on Monday during the day. This just makes me so mad — when is the host supposed to shop if you don’t respond until Monday?

Despite rude people, I still love to get out my dishes, set a beautiful table, and even cook a nice meal for friends and family. I also hope they will invite me back and show me what they’ve got hidden away in their dish room. 🙂

P.S. I’d be the first one to say yes! if I got invited to this Mad Men party — as long it’s 2012-style with no smoking. 🙂

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Day 152: Redundabundance

Dr. Internet has finally figured out what’s the matter with me. I have Redundabundance Disease.

Thanks to my blogging friend Leslie, who says that she also has this disease, I have been able to correctly diagnose what’s the matter with me and why I can’t get my house in order.

Redundabundance
NOUN.
1. Disease of excess, caused by repetitious acquisition; the continual desire and ability to obtain more and more of what one already has too much of.
2. Cause: affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more
3. Cure: reduction in possessions.

I followed Leslie’s 31 Days of Home Staging posts during October and it quickly became very clear that I was not crazy when I said it would take five years of retirement for me to get our house to the point where we could actually sell it. According to Leslie, who is a professional home stager, data shows that a staged home sells much faster than a non-staged home. She calls this the Pottery Barn/Timeshare mentality; a prospective buyer should encounter a simplified and neutral decor similar to what you find in a Pottery Barn catalog. Let’s just say that our house represents the opposite of this concept and leave it at that.

Leslie also hit our personal problematic nail right on the head. It doesn’t do us any good to just keep moving stuff around and buying more and more storage bins and shelving units. We need to get rid of it, not store it. The fact that we have hobbies is our usual excuse for keeping stuff, and I do have some hope that someday I’ll make that Christmas quilt and those pieces of jewelry. But those items don’t take up our entire crawl space.

Last night we had book club at a beautifully decorated home. Our hostess says that she loves decorating for the holidays and has many bins of decorations that she uses. Her rationale is simple; a house that is always ready for company is a happy home. This was her mother’s credo and it has become hers. Her house is always ready for company and I’d like mine to be that way, too.

Between now and Christmas I have six weeks to be ruthless. I need to go through my house and purge, especially the two spare rooms. While it’s not yet time to Pottery Barn-ize my house, it is time to get it ready for company.

Merry Christmas, darlings.

Day 147: A Book Riot

The list I’ve been waiting for arrived on my Facebook page today. 

One of the most important goals of retirement living was supposed to be to give myself time for reading. When Book Riot posted their poll on Facebook, I was quick to vote for my fave five. Happily, they are all here, plus some others I had totally forgotten about. I’m going to group them in order to make them easier to discuss. I’ve denoted in red the ones I have not read. That does not mean I liked all the other ones; some of them I read under duress. 🙂 So let’s get started…

1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (126 votes)

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

4. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Of these five fabulous classics, I vote for The Great Gatsby. While I love J.K. Rowling and what she’s done for a whole generation of young readers, I’m not sure that I would put Harry Potter in the same grouping as these other four amazing classics. And, although I love, love, love Mockingbird, I question whether this poll is heavily weighted on the side of younger people for whom Atticus Finch was a life-changing character.

6. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien

7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

I tried to like Tolkien; I really did. He’s just not my cup of fantasy tea. In this section is my personal number one, Gone With the Wind, but I don’t think I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye. How did that happen? Just in case you didn’t catch it, GWTW allusions are so ubiquitous that Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy used Scarlett’s red dress, Rhett’s cravat, and the escape-from-burning-Atlanta wagon on Dancing With the Stars.

11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

12. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

13. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

15. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Okay, now we’re getting down to cult classics. Marquez I like, but I’ve never even heard of The Secret History. Apparently I’ve been living under a rock for the last eight years, as it is a highly regarded “modern classic.” I’m putting it on my TBR list.

16. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

17. The Stand by Stephen King

18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

19. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

20. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

This group has some great authors, but given that I’m currently working through Anna Karenina and eagerly awaiting the November 16 release of the movie starring Keira Knightley, I’ll give Tolstoy the nod here. I’m also putting Infinite Jest on my TBR list.

21. Persuasion by Jane Austen

22. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

23. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

24. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

25. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

To put these authors together in a group is kind of laughable, especially comparing Diana Gabaldon to Dostoevsky. That being said, I devoured all of the Outlander books with a spectacular guilty pleasure!

26. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

27. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

28. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

29. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

30. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

While I haven’t read all of this section, I have to give props to my literary hero, Ray Bradbury. He knew where our society was heading when he wrote F451 in 1953. If you have not read F451, it should be on your Must Read list. But then, so should Persuasion.

31. 1984 by George Orwell

32. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

34. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

35. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

I did pretty well in this section. Obviously, Little Women was one of my five votes; I’ve loved Louisa May Alcott since I was a child. I still shudder to think of the graduate class on American Renaissance authors in which I was forced to read Moby Dick. Thank goodness, Melville was punctuated by Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne who made me fall in love with this time period of American literature.

36. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams

38. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

39. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

40. Ulysses by James Joyce

This is another interesting group to compare. Considering that I have a complete set of du Maurier’s novels with their original bookjackets still on them, you probably know what my choice would be here. But how does one compare Douglas Adams to James Joyce, or to Nabokov, for that matter? It’s all a matter of taste and interest level.

41. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

42. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

43. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

44. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

45. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Considering that I’ve only read two of these, I don’t know how to rate them, but Middlesex was one of the more interesting books I’ve read in a while. I know, I know; I have to read the two that are currently out in the movie theaters.

46. Dune by Frank Herbert

47. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

48. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

49. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

50. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (13 votes)

And that brings me to the last group. Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 and is historical fiction in the same ilk as Les Miserables, although it’s set during a different war. The Poisonwood Bible is also an epic novel with a complex plot. The other two are both mystical even though they were written many years apart and each is an extraordinary book in its own right. My final vote is for Les Mis and I’ve included the movie poster just in case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know that there’s a blockbuster movie coming out on Christmas Day in the United States.

Now it’s your turn. What are your top five novels? Did the Book Riot readers get it right?

P.S. I still love every little thing Jane Austen ever wrote. 🙂

Day 145: A Lot of Fun and A Little Knowledge

You may be wondering what happened to me over the last week or so. Life got in my way.

I worked with a family member to book a cruise vacation; because I’m new at this, it took a lot of time and energy. But I learned a lot and am ready to work at my friend’s travel agency for the next week while she vacations in Europe. I’ve been training with her on a regular basis; I don’t feel very “retired.”

I photographed a friend’s glass party. I was scared to death, but it all turned out well. Some of my photos were even good.

We also had a series of social events that just plain wore me out. It’s hell getting old. Going to the Angels Ball to support Rainbow Hospice is always fun, but Music Man and I are both having knee issues. He was a good sport and danced anyway to the amazing band, The Gentlemen of Leisure Band. Awesome music! We played a band concert with the American Wind Band, and I had a solo that was a little nerve-wracking. We celebrated Music Man’s birthday with friends in their home for a lovely surf-and-turf dinner. We also had friends and family in from out-of-town and we went to Saigon Sisters and Kiki’s Bistro for fabulous food and enjoyed visiting. Fun, fun, fun, but by Friday I ran out of steam.

Knowing what happens to me when I’m exhausted (it isn’t pretty, folks), I decided to take a break from the world and I read two books in two days for close to 1000 pages. The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s new adult novel (512 pages), was engaging and worth reading, but its teenage “disaffected youth” characters brought me too close to the kind of kids I want to avoid. Rowling is very concerned about disadvantaged youth and it was an integral part of this novel, which is ostensibly about filling a vacancy on a local government council in small-town England. Bring Up the Bodies (432 pages) is the second book in a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s councilor. It’s rare that I read a book where I learn something new about the Tudors, but Hilary Mantel’s research is wide-ranging and she sheds a new light on Cromwell. It was really good for me to take a break; I needed the solitude and quiet to re-energize.

After that mini-break from life,  I’m back on the exercise and eating-right wagon and tomorrow I go to the office full-time again. I know just enough to be dangerous; I’m a little scared of what I could do to Nadya’s computer system. Keep me in your thoughts; I’m hoping that good karma will hold me up while she’s gone.

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Day 137: In search of a pain au chocolat

I wasn’t asking for much — or so I thought.

A yearning for a simple chocolate croissant has emerged on my consciousness like an enormous elephant standing in front of my garage door. It won’t get out of the way.

I just finished reading a surprisingly good book called French Lessons in which French food plays an important part. Obviously when one is learning to speak French, ordering from a menu and choosing items in markets becomes very important. As the reviewers of this book say, the best part of it is Sussman’s vivid descriptions of Paris and I just wanted a pastry. That shouldn’t be so hard to find, should it?

This started last week; I went to my favorite bakery and was absolutely positive they would be able to satisfy my craving. Mais non! They only make pain au chocolat on the weekends.

Today I decided that I was going to find me some chocolate croissant action — I mean, give me a break. How hard can this be?

First I went to Corner Bakery, where I’m absolutely sure I’ve seen chocolate pastries many times. NOPE. Then I figured I would find something at Starbucks. NOPE again.

I was out of time so I caved in and got my second favorite guilty pleasure, a Rice Krispie treat and a lovely dark cup of coffee. Yummy, but not what I was craving.

While I was at it, I decided to try some more food photography practice, so I arranged said treat and the coffee on my lovely fall plates. My photography is getting better — I did this without flash in a fully manual mode. The big white coffee cup didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, though. I’m still learning, but I’m better than I was last week and the week before that.

Retirement is being very good to me, but I am still looking for that chocolate. Any ideas??

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Day 133: Words Not to Live By

Putting aside the “women in binders” awesomeness, this political campaign is just unhealthy for our psyches.

I was reading a post about how to be happier at work which wasn’t really applicable to my little start-up, but this quote caught my eye.

Criticizing has a brother. His name is Preaching. They share the same father: Judging.

If Emeril were reading my thoughts, he’d say “BAM!” three times. I’m criticizing others in my head, I’m preaching about my own opinions to my friends, and I’m judging all the time in the name of politics. None of these behaviors is good for my health or my happiness.

When I retired, I wanted to put aside my anger, resentment, and critical thoughts, but I can’t escape the ads on television and the junk people post on Facebook (and I’m guilty of doing some sharing myself.) Pretty soon I’m going to get deluged with political mail and people will be knocking on my door trying to drum up support for their candidates. I know I could choose escapism by not going on Facebook and not watching television, but that’s not really the point. I know who I think will make the best president and outside pressures are unlikely to change that opinion.

Even writing this post is a form of electioneering and judging — I know I’m being hypocritical.

This election can’t be over soon enough.

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Day 132: Retirement Reading

I’ve been reading up a storm during these first days of retirement.

In fact, I’ve gotten so many books from the library that I sometimes have to take them back and get in the queue again, with Bring Up the Bodies being a good example of this. Thank goodness a blogger announced that Bodies won the Booker Prize, because I rushed to get a copy from the library before the storm began. I’ve also “thought about” reading some classics, and I really do want to read Anna Karenina before the movie comes out. I never actually picked that one up when I got to the top of the library list. 🙂

Geoff Whaley, one of my blogging friends, talked about reading the classics, and this quote from his post really hit home with me.

I find it awesome that I’m reading books and authors who have inspired countless other authors, musicians and artists to create even more literature and art. The number of books I’ve read which have allusions to or direct references to older classics is staggering and the more I read the classics the more often I find these allusions and references or question whether an author/artist did do this.

Last night on Facebook after the debates, another friend quoted the line from The American President, where Michael Douglas tells Richard Dreyfus, “I AM the president”, which is one of the best movie lines of all time. I worry about the future of classic books and movies — will people “get” literature and film fully without understanding the allusions? I saw this in my classroom; many times I would quote a line from a movie or a book and the kids would look at me with blank stares. They had no idea what I (or the author we were studying) was referring to. It made me feel old, but it also made me sad for them. Do you remember this scene?

Am I the only one who cares about this?

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Day 130: How Old Is Old Enough?

I kinda want to go on a Mississippi River Cruise on a paddlewheel steamboat. How many days do I have to be retired to get away with this?

This cruise with Big Bands sounds like a lot of fun…

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Day 129: Question of the Week

This is the perfect saying for the week, courtesy of Pillows A La Mode.

Day 127: The Bare Refrigerator

My refrigerator is bare — it’s a good example of the meaning of the word barren.

I’ve been so busy burning the retirement candle at both ends for the last couple of weeks that I haven’t had the time or, quite frankly, the motivation to go grocery shopping. The top shelf is full of condiments and the door is full of salad dressing, but there’s nothing to put them on. There’s some floppy broccoli that’s going to have to turn into quiche or something. And I discovered this morning that there aren’t any eggs in the house. I can’t remember when that has ever happened. We ALWAYS have eggs.

Since I usually choose to take the positive side of stories, I’m going to look at my vast wasteland of a refrigerator as an opportunity to clean it.

And after that I’m going to clean my socks drawer. 🙂

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