Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Search for the Perfect Window Dressing

Going through some photos today, I came across a screen capture I've been holding on to for a while.

What interesting thing might this be?  Why, the curtains in a TV kitchen, of course!  (Yes, this is going to be a home decorating blog post.  You may want to sneak out right about now.)

These curtains hang in the Gilbert family's kitchen.  ...In The Vampire Diaries.  (I know, I know.  But it's better than you [probably] think.)

Anyway, here's the photo:

We need curtains for our kitchen/breakfast room windows.  When we repainted, we took down the tired, lace valances that we'd "made do" with for so long, and now I refuse to put them back up, for fear I'll decide to just continue "making do" instead of replacing them with something nicer.

I just have to figure out what kind I want to make... buy the fabric... and, um, make them.  (Have I mentioned I've never sewn any type of curtain before?  But I do know how to work a basic sewing machine, so I think I can handle it.)

I like the ones in the photo (which is why I saved it), but even if I could somehow find that exact fabric (...which is what I like about them), that set up wouldn't work for us.  You see, people in TV shows, movies, and glossy-paged magazines always have these beautiful windows framing "views"-- with nary a blind in sight.   (Frequently, they have no curtains, either.  I guess TV/movie/magazine people don't require privacy and never get that prickly-necked feeling that Someone-- or Something--  may be lurking just outside, watching... Must be nice, huh?)

I, on the other hand, live in the real world-- and more specifically in the Southern U.S. region of the real world, where the summer sun shines hot and the A/C drives up the electricity bill.  Blinds are pretty well a necessity, it seems to me.  You could do a shade instead of blinds, but I don't have any experience with shades, except those hideous dark green ones they used in some of the older classrooms in middle school.  Those things blocked out all the light-- not good, when you need them pulled down for hours at a time, during the hottest time of a summer day.  I am considering using some type of shades in conjunction with more decorative curtains, but I'm afraid I'd still feel like we need blinds, too.

...Maybe this is some type of mental illness-- a bizarre addiction to blinds.  I suppose you can still be addicted to something even if you hate it... ;o)

Anyway, I need to figure out what to do.  I'm tired of those empty windows--  empty save for those ugly blinds, that is.  (It's funny how I hate empty/curtain-less windows so much more than empty walls... I need to work on that some more, too, though.  We have things that need to be hung.  --But where??  The eternal question...)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One More Book...

This morning, I remembered that when I wrote my book blog post the other day, I didn't mention that I'd read the last in the Huger Games trilogy, before I finished the last Lucia book and picked up Never Let Me Go.  (So, if you haven't read The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, this probably won't be interesting for you... and there are spoilers, too.  Beware!)

(No, seriously.  There are **SPOILERS** down there.  Just walk away now and nobody has to get hurt.)

I had been looking forward to the conclusion of the series, because I enjoyed the first two books-- especially the first.  I didn't really know what to expect, but I didn't expect what it turned out to be.  It wasn't necessarily a bad book, but it just felt... weak, somehow, and weakening.   

Honestly, much of the book has already faded in my memory, but from what I recall, Mockingjay felt too, too dark.  Yeah, I know it's about war.  However, the first two books also dealt with dark subjects, but for whatever reason, they never felt utterly hopeless and despairing like this one did.  It was like this:  "DARK DARK DARKER *occasional spot in which Katniss is (annoyingly, inexplicably) Little Miss Perfect Heroine™*, and now back to your regularly scheduled DARK DARK DARKNESS." 

Side note:  Maybe I've forgotten something... but didn't it turn out that Katniss' attempt to get close enough to President Snow to kill him-- the decision to sneak into the heart of the city-- was... well, totally unnecessary?  Argh!  I mean, (again) yeah, sure, that's probably realistic.  But that makes it even more frustrating that so many characters ended up killed during that "special operation".  (And this is just one example of how irritating this book was to me.)

Even the conclusion, in which the romantic subplot is finally resolved, just doesn't feel like nearly enough.  Maybe it's realistic, but it's a very sad reality... and it didn't feel in keeping with the beginning of the series.  It was a let-down.  It just fizzled.  I felt that we readers (not to mention Katniss and Peeta) deserved something a little better than that. 

Anyway, I suppose it's a good enough book for what it is-- thought-provoking, moving, and so on.  It's just not one I'm clamoring to re-read. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This & That

Autumn has finally come... then gone away again... then returned.  I think it's here to stay, now.  (The hummingbirds also disappeared with the first taste of cool weather, and though we spotted a few stragglers a week or so later, I doubt we'll see more of them until next year.)  It's already difficult not to take the cooler, drier air for granted (how soon we forget the long heat and humidity that is summer!), and I've moved on to grumbling that we need rain.  Of course, the first rain we're likely to get this month would coincide with the day I need to drive in slightly unfamiliar territory-- but isn't that always the way these things work out?  I doubt it'll be blinding, flooding rain, at any rate, so that's ok. (A summer gusher can be scary when you're behind the wheel, trying to see a couple car-lengths ahead of you.  Fall drizzle is just atmospheric, so long as everyone else on the road behaves themselves.)

Parts of Sweden are already seeing snow this month.
...Nothing more to say about that, really... Just an observation.  (g)

- - - - -

We bought four new crepe myrtles recently.  There's one Natchez (large tree type crepe myrtle, white flowers, cinnamon bark), one Victor (smaller, bushy / dwarf type crepe myrtle, dark red flowers), and two Tonto (smaller tree type crepe myrtle, red flowers). 

- - - - -

Donald ran in the 5K Mullet Run in Fairhope, last weekend.  He had a time of 25:29 (which I would never have remembered if I hadn't asked him and written it down).  This wasn't quite as good as he'd hoped.  It still seemed pretty good to me, since if I'd tried to run it (which I didn't, being a sensible, lazy sort of person who preferred to walk the short-cut at a leisurely pace, pausing now and then to take photos), I'd have had to walk much of the way and would've ended up with a truly pathetic time.  Apparently, one part of the race-course is a hill/incline that lasts for about half a mile. (Donald's usual "track" doesn't have anything quite like that.)  And the whole thing was on asphalt (whereas Donald does most of his regular running on the soil/grass/pebbles of the easement).  So-- if it were me, I wouldn't worry too much about the time I got on this particular run... but then, I'm not really a runner, so what do I know about such things? ;o) (The not caring about my "personal best", etc. is probably a big part of why running holds no appeal for me.  Well, that and the aforesaid laziness.  I'd rather do a sprint than a 5K, any day.  Go as fast as you can for a brief period and call it a day.  Or better yet, let's just walk there, shall we?)

None of my photos from the run turned out great, but they're something to remember the day by. 

Here are some of the runners getting started (Donald was ahead of this group):

Running, Running, Running...

...And here's Donald getting near the finishing line:

Donald in the 5K Mullet Run

About to Finish the Run...

- - - - -

I finished my Project 365 (such as it was) earlier this month.  I've been taking a little of a break from the camera since then.  In one way, it's nice to not find myself thinking, "Oh, it's 6:00 and I still haven't taken my photo for the day!  What can I photograph this time that's not a dog, a flower, or a bug?"  But I am missing taking photos... which is silly, since there's nothing stopping me.  Whatever I might say about Project 365, it did do a pretty good job of "forcing" me to pick up the camera almost every day for a year.  I might need to come up with a few (smaller) personal challenges or goals to give myself a little direction/inspiration... 

- - - - -

Also this month, we received the disc with Donald's family's home videos.  Donald, Ingela, and Thorbj√∂rn went together and had their family's old 8mm (? ...I think...) home videos converted to digital as a gift for their parents.  Donald says that they probably hadn't watched the film for perhaps 25 years, since they didn't have a projector.  There was something almost magical about watching those old bits of film.  It's the first time I can remember watching people I recognize in such old, soundless films-- so that in itself made the experience unusual.  Also, because I wasn't there the first time around (like Donald was), I recognized the younger faces and old location details (wallpaper, etc.) only from photos.  Add to that the fact that (although good for old film) the quality has a definite vintage feel (just like the old photos), and what you get is something that feels vaguely impossible-- almost like watching an old photo come to life (as in the Harry Potter books/movies). 

It was a real treat to see them!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Trixie's Great Escape

Trixie's Great Escape:  Long, Rambly Version
(For Short Version, see below.)

One day (sometime this month), the gorgeous fall weather inspired me to take Trixie on a walk down toward the pond.   I hooked the retractable leash onto her collar, and we were on our way.  She wasn't particularly keen on walking, but then she never has cared for walks as much as you'd expect her to, given how enthusiastic she is about fetching, catching frisbees, and generally putting everything she's got into her playtime.  Still, we managed to plod along.  (Until...)

We came to about the mid-point of my parents' clearing (heading from our yard to the pond).  Their dogs (Mandy and Kolby, both Shelties) hadn't seen, heard, or smelled us-- and they never did, despite the fuss to come (probably because it was a windy day, with a northern wind carrying our scent and sound away from them)-- but Trixie was acutely aware of their unseen presence (in their temporary pen adjoining the new house).  She stared straight toward the pen, nose twitching.

I tried to be understanding.  I gave her some time to take in the new smells and then, when I'd concluded that she had become rooted to the spot, I gently pulled the leash to suggest that we continue.  No ma'am, she was having none of that.  There were (ohmygosh) other animals around here!  It wasn't safe!  She'd much rather go back home right now, thankyouverymuch!  Words of encouragement-- another little tug on the leash-- but no, still not interested.  In fact, she went so far as to pull back, and with almost no effort at all, she'd wriggled right out of her collar!  (That's taught me a lesson about leaving collars too loose!)

There was a split second before Trixie realized that she was free (free at last!), and then she turned and was off!  I spoke her name as calmly as I could manage-- I called more urgently-- I said the magic word, "Treat!  Treat!  Treat??"-- all to no avail (and I had treats with me, which Little Miss Super-Sniffer must've known).  I called after her, hoping to convince her that I'd seen how wrong I was to suggest she go on a walk, "Want to go inside?  Want to go see Molly?"  Nope, she wouldn't even afford me a backward glance.  Meanwhile, I was chasing after her, dragging my invisible-dog-style leash and empty collar along behind me.  I knew I'd never catch up to her if she didn't want me to, and I tried not to think what might happen if she took it into her crazy little head to run up to the road-- or even out on the easement, if a neighbor happened to be driving by-- but it looked like she was homeward bound.

There was a little while when she was out of view (because of the zig-zaggy nature of our path back)-- but when I got closer I was relieved to see her standing at the gate, waiting to be let in.  Whew!  Taking care not to spook her with sudden "I'm going to put this leash back on you"-type movements, I spoke more soothing, magical Trixie-words ("Want to go inside?  Want to see Molly?  Inside?  Molly?  Treat?"), opened the gate, and breathed even more easily when she walked right in, just as though this were our accustomed arrangement.  "There now, Michael, was that so hard?  Next time just do what I want and all will be well." 

Good grief!  That dog really doesn't like walks!  At least she ran back home straight as an arrow!

Following the old "get right back into the saddle" method, Donald and I put the harness on her and took her and Molly on a walk almost immediately afterward.  She didn't like the harness at first (tending to spin around, flop onto her side and stay perfectly still as soon as she felt any pull from the leash), but after a while-- with Molly's encouraging presence-- she decided it was livable.  Still, she's a little hesitant going out and pulls on the leash when she senses that we've turned homeward.  I think she may be more of a homebody recluse than I am... which is odd, given how playful and exuberant she is and how much she seems to enjoy meeting new people.

Trixie's Great Escape:  Short Version

I tried and failed to walk Trixie. That dog doesn't like walks.  Fortunately, she does like Home, and that's where she ran when she got away from me. Further walking training is needed.  Or...we could just not do walks, as she gets plenty of exercise from frisbee-fetching.  We'll see.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Musing on Books Recently Read

I know, I haven't posted in forever.  And now that I am going to post, it's just a little rambling about books.  I started it about a month ago, so about time I finished it, I guess!

It's very snippety, but here it is (such as it is-- the type of thing no-one will care about except possibly myself):

- - - - -

I'm on my last Lucia novel, slowly reading my way through it. (Present Day Me:  Actually, I've finished it, now.  ...Not that I have anything more to add because of that, really...) It's funny how much those characters have grown on me.  Some books you love instantly, but these took a little longer, I'll admit.  Now, that world of characters feels like a cozy retreat from the little troubles of everyday life. 

I found (and watched) a small snippet of the old (1980s? 1990s?) BBC adaptation of the novels and was not exactly enthralled.  Maybe the series is better in other parts, but even the affected accents were a bit of a put-off.  Yes, of course I knew the characters are British, but when I read they don't sound quite that "snobby British" in my head. (Great, now I've offended the one British person who'll happen to find this on a Google search. Sorry!  I'm sure you don't sound snobbish. (g))

- - - - -

Donald and I read Ronia, the Robber's Daughter a while ago.  It was... ok.  It's one of those books that I think I would've liked more had I read it as a child, but as an adult reading it for the first time... it was a little too simple for my taste.  (And why bother creating fantastical creatures in a book if you're barely even going to use them?)  I couldn't help feeling exasperated with some of the characters, since it was so clear that most of their problems could have been solved by just talking.  That's probably more irritating to me now than it would've been when I was eight or nine, though, and goodness knows, plenty of adult books and real-life situations are just as frustrating for the same reason.  (Note of dubious interest:  Apparently the book was adapted to film at some point.  I think Donald said he went to see it on a school trip-- what we would've called a "field trip".)

- - - - -

The "Jeeves & Wooster" P.G. Wodehouse (I almost typed "Wodestock"! which would be a great name for a Wodehouse convention, if such a thing existed... and maybe it does...) book we're currently reading (er, make that were currently reading)--Much Obliged, Jeeves-- is much what you'd expect, if you're at all familiar with Wodehouse and/or the Jeeves books.  So far, what has most impressed itself upon us is the increased frequency with which Wooster (our narrator) mentions his old school-days prize for Scripture Knowledge.  (g)  Poor guy, he must need an ego-boost.

- - - - -
What we're actually reading now is something by Jerome K. Jerome, author of Three Men in a Boat (which I highly recommend to people who like to laugh)-- a collection of essays titled Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow.  It's not completely even in quality.  The first essay, for instance, "On Being Idle", I seem to recall as thoroughly hilarious and insightful.  Then later on there was a bit that was just too, too flowery... and somewhat unflattering to women, I must say... and that a certain professor I once had would definitely have labeled as "trite".  Unfortunately, that style has popped up a couple of times, so far, but there's still plenty to enjoy.  It's surprising (thought it really shouldn't be) how little human nature and thought has changed since this piece was written in the late 1800s.  

(Why does that still feel surprising?  However, maybe it's not so much the fact that it's still true after so much time that's a surprise.  It's just that odd sensation of, "now, how did he know that about me?!"-- which can happen with books from any era... and which can be either unsettling or comforting, depending on how you choose to look at it.)
- - - - -

My last read was Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro.  This is my first experience with this author, though we already have two more of his novels (thanks to one of the big library book sales).  I probably wouldn't have started with this one if it weren't for the movie adaptation that's coming out (already come out?).  I saw it mentioned on TV and thought I'd better read it before spoilers began proliferating.

On that note, I should mention that there will be spoilers for the novel, from here on out.  So if you don't want it ***SPOILED*** by ***SPOILERS FOR NEVER LET ME GO***... I repeat BIG BAD SPOILERS DEAD AHEAD... then you might want to avoid the rest of this entry.

...There.  If I wasn't all alone before, I am now.  ;o)

Points of interest:

- Some of the story was given away in the blurbs on the cover-- and (as I mentioned before) now there's "entertainment news" chatter about the film adaptation to avoid, as well.  I wonder how the experience would've been different without any of those spoilers... As it was, since I already knew the children were clones, there weren't any shocking revelations I can recall.  I'm not sure if there were even meant to be any, though...  I like it when authors give me the chance to figure at least parts of the story out on my own, but in this case, I wish I'd been stunned at the end.  I kept hoping I'd be wrong about the novel's conclusion.  Unfortunately, not this time.

- Again we have the old "why didn't they just TALK??" issue (repeatedly). I mean, I guess it's a reflection of what frequently happens in real life, but it still irritates me beyond all get-out.  Maybe more than it does in real life... Also irritating:  Why did Cathy let Ruth walk all over her, so much of the time?  I'm annoyed with Ruth for being such a bossy you-know-what, but then I can't help but feel angry with Cath for not standing up for herself.  And then there's Tommy, who is also annoying because he's so needy-- too weak to express his feelings for Cath-- and just plain kind-of-stupid.  (Sorry, dude, but you're not the brightest bulb.)  Yes, yes, I still feel desperately sorry for the characters, but I still manage to find them annoying.  It's this special talent I have.  Maybe I'm trying to distance myself from the emotional drain of reading the novel by being miffed at every single character in it... Or maybe I'm just mean.  Draw your own conclusions, but please keep them to yourself. ;o)

- It seems that everyone asks this question-- except those who appear to be mortally offended by it, for some reason:  Why didn't they run away??  I guess the answer is that it simply doesn't occur to them, as they've been raised to blindly accept their allotted role as organ donors.  Then there's the practical thought that even if they had, there wasn't anywhere for them to have gone.  They had little-to-no real-world skills-- no money-- few possessions--  no family or friends to turn to for help (outside of the system of donors, carers, and clinics/"centres").  There was nowhere for them to run, I suppose, but the absolute hopelessness of the situation-- sensing from the beginning that they wouldn't escape, but still reading on and hoping that maybe they'd at least try, even if it meant only a week or two of comparative freedom... It was a painful, "heavy-heart" read.

The story certainly makes you grateful for the opportunity and freedom you've had in your own life (and also makes you question how you've used those opportunities and just how free anyone ever really is... and then there's that whole, "oh yeah, we're all going to die, someday" thing!), but I can't see myself re-reading this one.  Once was enough. 

After that heart-wringer, I'm ready for something familiar and comforting... Either Jane Eyre or some L.M.M., maybe...