Sunday, January 30, 2011

Beautiful World: Seaside

This is an oldie- the Santa Monica Pier at about 7:30 one October morning.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Beautiful World: Dripping Glaze

Glaze dripping down the inside of a pot- from the Christmas holidays with M's family.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Beautiful World: Water Colors Epilogue

In response to your request: Here is the finished project.

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Beautiful World: Water Colors

Painting a card for my mom's birthday. Really relaxing.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beautiful World: Scarves

There's nothing like making decorations out of what you already have and use on a regular basis!

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beautiful World: Sandwich

This is a croissant with bacon, goat cheese, and strawberry jam. I made it for breakfast on Saturday. Yes, it did rock my socks!

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Timewarp Post: When I Went to Ancient Rome

Okay, so I didn't really go back in time, but I got pretty close:

I should have posted about this the first time we went, in early October. Or perhaps the second time we went, with M's mother. But I didn't. Ha! So I'm doing it now.

The Getty Villa is this really awesome museum that is based on an actual, REAL Roman luxury villa called the Villa dei Papiri as yet still un-excavated from the ruins of Herculaneum. The Villa dei Papiri is so named because of the charred ashes found within that used to be thousands of precious scrolls. Plus, this amazing piece of Roman opulence was owned by Julius Caesar's farther-in-law, talk about connections! You might well wonder how an unexcavated villa could be reproduced in California; it is largely possible because in the mid 1700's a man named Karl Weber spelunked through it, making detailed notes, until the poisonous gasses drove him out. He saw incredible opulence and recorded it carefully in journals and sketches.

Image credits: If you click on the map, you can see the museum/villa ground plan better.

In 1970's J Paul Getty- a very wealthy oil man- decided to recreate the Villa de Papiri to house his collection of ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art. The idea was to house these works of art in a setting somewhat similar to the settings the works were designed for. It's awesome! They've even recreated the gardens to the best of their knowledge/ability including actual Mediterranean plants. There is a shrine to Hercules with a giant, god-like statue. The marble mosaics on the floors are actual re purposed ancient marble. IT's NUTS. It gives me museum-high. If only all museums were this lovingly cared for by billionaires.

Admission is free, but you have to make an appointment online so that the museum knows how many people are coming. They are careful to avoid overcrowding in the idyllic setting. You turn off the Pacific Coastal Highway, and rumble up the reconstructed Roman Roads to park.

The front of the villa also functions as the stage for the giant Greek-style amphitheater, which the museum uses to produce Greek plays. This fall they produced Elektra.

Once you walk through the front door of the villa, you are in the Atrium: skylight above, pool below, and a vision of gardens before you. If you were visiting the owner of the Roman home, you would only be invited into the Inner Peristyle if your business was deemed worthy, or if you were a member of the family.

The Inner Peristyle is a courtyard surrounded on all sides by cloisters. There are several rooms build on each side of the courtyard that would have housed the family, servants, and various belongings of the owner, but in the case of the museum, serve as art galleries divided by subject matter.

The center fountain originally would have been much deeper, and filled with eels, which the Romans kept as pets, even fitting their favorites with golden earrings. This garden also features Acanthus plants, the inspiration for Corinthian columns.

If you were a woman of the family, you might have continued down the primary axis of the Villa to the East Garden, considered a retiring and resting place for the lady of the house and her children.

This garden also contains a reproduction of the fountain from the aptly named "House of Large Fountain at Pompeii". It's a mosaic containing seashells. What a piece of work!

OR! If you were the man of the house, or one of his close friends or advisers, you might choose to pass over the intricate marble mosaic marking the East/West axis...

...and on into the Outer Peristyle:

This is a truly stunning garden, with a swimming pool in the middle, a walking path around the edges, and a view of the sea out the other side. The original owner would have been able to walk from here down to his docks, to watch his cargo ships ride the tide home.

This garden is also walled, and the walls are painted with detailed Trompe-l'oeil scenes.

The garden contains several replicas of beautiful bronze statues found and plundered from the original Villa, including Mercury and the lolling drunkard Silenus.

At this point you are faced with another choice in paths. If you go to the end of the Outer Peristyle and turn left, you will be led to a secluded alcove, where you will be invited, almost illicitly, to experience the various textures of a marble statue of Venus. The difference between her skin and her hair, for instance, is remarkable.

Or, you may turn right, and wander back through another garden, this time an herb garden meant to supply the kitchens.

This garden also contains beautiful fountains, one of which is flanked by the papyrus plant itself.

In a haunting note, at the end of the herb garden is placed a giant pine tree of the species which Pliny the Younger used as an example to convey the shape of the cloud of ash which rose from the mouth of Mt. Vesuvius.

I hope you all get to visit one day. It's a lovely place and a world-class museum.

Beautiful World: Grandmother's Dress

This is my grandmother, we call her Honey, in her wedding dress. My great-grandmother made this dress. I used to try it on a lot when I was little. It's beautiful.

My dad and I are scanning a lot of old photos for a slideshow/photo book for my grandfather's upcoming 90th birthday. But it's okay, he doesn't have the Internet, so this won't give up the surprise

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Beautiful World: Odd Bird

This is the bird that lives next to my bed. I made him using a Martha Stewart card kit from Big Lots, and a lot of glitter.

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Dinner with Friends

There is a chocolate shop within walking distance of us that we love to go to. They sell chocolates from Belgium, and in October we went to a chocolate tasting organized by the owners. We learned all kinds of interesting things, and spent the evening discussing the flavor palette of various grades of dark chocolate. It was divine.

The owners are a married Italian couple not much older than us, and very fun together. We enjoy chatting with them, and they invited us to a pasta dinner on Saturday! We were so excited to find friends within walking distance of us (plus they have a pretty cool job/history to talk about, right?)

I insisted that I ought to bring something, and they agreed I could make a chicken dish to eat after the pasta. Feeling slightly intimidated by their offering: handmade whole wheat pasta, we picked a recipe and bought all the ingredients at Whole Foods. Weren't they beautiful? There are purple carrots ya'll!

We fought a little putting the meal together- we always fight when we do something stressful in the kitchen because neither of us feels like we're as good at cooking as we want to be- but it all turned out good in the end.

That's chicken with carrots, red onions, and prunes. Pretty yum! I was shocked at the difference having organic chicken made; so juicy! I am a total convert for special meals!

The fact that I cut myself while trying to debone the chicken breasts (we discovered that you need a meat cleaver- which we don't have- to cut chicken breast bone after having left the store) was somewhat mollified by the presence of the storm trooper spatula M's mom sent as an early birthday present.

The dinner itself went great. Linda and Roberto were amazing hosts: Linda's guacamole was amazing, and their pasta was so tender. We all lingered over the second bottle of wine (and sips of chocolate port!) to discuss opinions on the deeper topics. I've really missed those experiences since college. Friends made! I can't wait to have them over to our apartment, too!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beautiful World: Ingredients

Ingredients for Dinner Tonight! We have been asked over to have dinner (for the first time) by the Italian owners of the neighborhood Belgian chocolate store. We're bringing the chicken. They are making homemade whole-wheat pasta. Wish us luck!

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Beautiful World: Skink in a Jar

My mom took this picture, not me! And don't worry, she released the skink afterwards.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Beautiful World: Wooden Mouse

This is a wooden mouse that used to belong to my great grandfather. He is sitting on a pillow we just got from Bed, Bath & Beyond. It's absurd: looks like a lawn, but is incredibly soft!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Beautiful World: New Flower

A beautiful flower on my new plant

Beautiful World

omething New:

As a campaign to attempt to stay more current with my blog, I've decided to try adding a picture or a link on a daily-ish basis of something that I admired or felt inspired by. I'll hoping to share my smiles with you. These posts will be short, simple AND hopefully sweet; the rambling ones will continue at the usual pace.

If you would like to sort these, just go to the end of one of the posts and click on the link for posts labeled (tagged)either: "Musings" for the normal ones, or "Beautiful World" for the new ones. Or you can use the altered web addresses: or

Let me know what you think of the change. Believe me, I don't want to clutter your inbox; so let me know if this doesn't work for you.

Beautiful World: BAD Sushi

Friday Night Dinner at our favorite restaurant: B.A.D. Sushi:

Best Quote from Night: "I know that we're walking side-by-side, but in my head, your soul is giving my soul a piggyback ride."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Christmas Morning Part IV and V

Christmas Morning is the precious culmination of the entire Christmas Season. No, it's not all about the presents for me; as I've previously said, I also really relish the cookie making and decorating and the time spent reflecting on how to be a better person, but it is undeniable that Christmas morning is the moment all the preparation leads up to. It is the time when everyone near and dear to you sits together, bathed in the glow of the glittering tree and reveling in the final moments of anticipation before the paper-ripping orgy. Christmas Morning is when everyone finally sees if the gifts they've been so excited about giving really pleased their intended mark or not. As I've gotten older, as my family-members also aged, and as I added new groups of people to what I consider my "family"- blood relations or no- Christmas Morning has split up into smaller pieces. This year I had Christmas Morning five times!

Part I was traditional- in the early morning with coffee, my parents, and the stockings ALWAYS coming first. Part II- was at my grandparents' house, after Christmas dinner was served and devoured- with my grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins. Part IIIa & b- were when I went to M's house a few days after Christmas to celebrate with his family, and when M came over to mine to do the same.

And this year I even got Christmas Morning Part IV and V!

Part IV happened when I got back to my apartment after a week's absence and a week's held mail. (It's really easy to hold mail guys, the Post Office does it on their website!) My mailbox was literally stuffed with letters and a few packages from my wonderful friends. This was a very special Christmas Morning, because it let me feel close to dear friends that I haven't been able to see in WAY too long, and who are sadly way too widespread to have all at my side at one time!*

And so, I'll offer you a simple phrase, to kids from one to ninety-two: Thank You to all my correspondents at Christmas and since I moved out to L.A.:


my bro, sis, and little elflings in the icy North,
my former kawaii roomie and future-life-saver in CT,
my bag-lady in MD (if bag-ladies' bags were usually full of crafting supplies and chinchillas),
my earth-saving superhero lately of DC,
my foodie historian, my magical/athletic/sparkling friend, and my dog-loving/cake baking cousin in the Old World,
my librsuperheroarian in NC,
my beautiful newly-minted nurse in AL,
my Navy-bride-Zumba-instructor in GA,
my parents, my grandparents, my former Orchestra teachers, my bouncy/giggly/wicked smart friend, my former M and his beautiful girlfriend in DFW,
my grace-filled math teacher in Lubbock,
my wise and giving newlywed friend formerly of College Station,
and finally my mathematical/theatrical philosopher, my pair of world-wandering stargazers/earth diggers/music players, my persevering bird-watcher, and my pair of van-driving/Mango-having/shoemakers in H-town,#

Thank You!

I can't wait to continue our practice of the ancient art of stamp and postal box in the New Year.

Finally, Part V was with M and myself, a week ago today, when we finally managed to get ourselves and our presents in the same place and the same time. M had to rush home from work to get Amazon boxes that had been held at the post office, and then we had Christmas Morning with each other.

So maybe having a Christmas Morning that lasts from December 25th to January 5th is a little unorthodox, and I'm going to shoot for a slightly smaller duration next year, but it sure worked for me this year!

* Yes I did steal the map idea from PLadd, even if I did fail to execute it quite as well she did.
# Feel free to scold me if I've forgotten you/anyone, I'm sure I didn't mean to!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


M and I made a few (very achievable) resolutions this year. Say what you will about resolutions: maybe they are good for you, maybe they are hokey, maybe they ultimately lead to failure and tumbling self esteem- but we made some. And so far, we've managed to keep doing them. 11 days! Go Team! I have graded each on how much better it's made me feel about myself/my life; the grading scale is arbitrary.

They are:

Quit being so emo about how L.A. isn't our kind of city and actually GO out and DO something in it/achieve projects at home. First Objective: Go to Chinatown with Joel.

Achieved? Yes

Grade: B

We actually explored more of the city instead of sitting in our apartment like dopes, which was the point of the objective. Joel was fun/chill to hang out with, and having tins of dumplings shoved at us in a Dim Sum restaurant because we had white-people-body-language and couldn't appropriately convey "NO! Go Away!" to the cart wielding ladies was exhilarating if initially bewildering. The experience made me wish I'd been able to go to Yum Yum Cha Cafe in the village more than once. But mostly, Chinatown didn't provide us with much diversion, unless we (meaning "I" -the only girl of the operation) were interested in spending lots of money on trinkets and souvenirs. In fact the whole outing served to reinforce my suspicion that L.A. doesn't have that much to do. Not only was Chinatown far less exciting than expected- many of the shops were sadly closed, and the "most touristy" plazas were bizarrely empty despite it being a 60 degree Saturday in January. However, we achieved bonus points when M and I agreed- against our original plan- to go to a movie with Joel.
--> C and M Gain the Power of Spontaneity! <--

On a related note, go see The King's Speech; it's awesome, sharp, polished, moving and wry.

Sit together at the end of every day and record in our tiny diaries between 1 and 3 things that stood out from the day.

Achieved: Yes

Grade: A+

M found a pop-psych book: 59 Seconds which provides a scientific approach to self-help: It says "here are quick things you can do that studies show will make you happier". One of the things the book encourages is writing down something that made you happy at the end of the day- this can really, truly provide lasting warm fuzzies. So far it's really worked, plus it's a little moment of bonding, where M and I cap every evening in a few minutes of unity, sharing the things we did and experienced with each other, as well as with the eyes of the future.

I've often been interested in keeping a diary, especially after my thesis-writing last year, which wouldn't have been possible if nineteenth-century women hadn't faithfully kept diaries in the awe-inspiring circumstances (frontier settling and the Civil War fighting) that they did. I would love to be able to offer a similar, if hopefully less dramatic, perspective on my life and times to my future children and grandchildren. The trouble is that I always find myself either writing too much about whatever is stressing me out at the time- which is depressing/irritating to read- or forgetting to write at all. That's why I'm hoping that writing a diary twitter-style will work for me. So far, so good!

Go on a walk every day. It doesn't have to be far- we just have to get out of the apartment and walk somewhere EVERYDAY.

Achieved: Mostly Yes except for M one day when we forgot.

Grade: A

This has been great too. We don't have any mileage or weight goals- just a general wish to improve our health/stamina through going on a walk every day- rain or shine. I miss the boost that walking around the Rice campus gave me. Walking was the way I exercised, the way I experienced little moments of beauty, and the way I refreshed my brain. It's been great to find that again, plus it gives M and I more time to talk to each other about our days, rather than getting lost on our computer screens. Final bonus- it's helped us notice more of our neighborhood by exploring. Good deal!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My 2010 in Pictures

In 2010 I:

went to the Fort Worth Modern Museum with my parents,

took photos with Victor at the Menil,

hung out with friends,

went to 100 Days,

worked on the defunct Open Magazine Calendar,

went on early morning walks with Brian,

rode in the truck for Beer Bike 2010,

was visited by Ezra, Phaedra, and Sylvie,

went to Washington D.C. with Malcolm,

enjoyed the Texas spring wildflowers,

finally finished my thesis,

sang heartily at Folk Singing Nights,

danced at the Senior Gala,

had a final dinner with Wiess class of 2010,

graduated, and then said goodbye to Willy and a wonderful four years at Rice,

spent a summer enjoying the company of my best friend,

witnessed Megan and Lee DeBoom's lovely wedding,

visited Colorado with the Eckel family,

got a new look,

got my diploma in the mail,

finally went on the Famous Horace Butts home tour,

moved to Los Angeles with Malcolm,

found an apartment to share,

brought home Darlington Poirot,

worked for the spcaLA,

celebrated four years of dating Malcolm Eckel,

was visited in L.A. by my dad,

visited the Getty Villa,

started working for Apollo,

visited home and carved Halloween pumpkins with my dad,

found a great nieghborhood sushi restaurant and added it to my office's lunch rotation,

had Malcolm's friend over for Thansgiving dinner,

homemade Christmas cards,

shopped for, wrapped, and boxed Christmas presents,

enjoyed Christmas in Arlington with my family,

and finally, began finding Christmas traditions for myself in Los Angeles.

It has been quite a year! And there have been so many things that I did not get satisfactory pictures of: friends at Wiess, salsa dancing, outings with Christine, walks with Kelley, breakfasts with Teresa, a visit from Catherine, an awesome night with Joel, and countless wonderful letters, just to name a few. Thanks for sticking with me, my dear family and friends, I appreciate you even more from afar!

I'm hoping for an even better 2011!