Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Implied fireworks

My favorite Katharine Hepburn movie of all time is "Summertime", where she played an American spinster who travels to Venice and falls in love with (sigh) Rossano Brazzi:

In honor of New Year's Eve, I present you with a scene with old Hollywood's way of getting around the sensors by the use of, shall we say, implied fireworks:

Wishing you lots of fireworks this New Year's Eve!

I am Katharine Hepburn

Not long ago, tangobaby posted a delightful quiz to determine which female movie icon you most resemble. This remarkable quiz, The Are-You-a-Jackie-or-a-Marilyn-or-Someone-Else-Mad-menra-Female-Icon Quiz is based on only two questions, yet it is surprisingly accurate. Tangobaby learned she was Marilyn Monroe.

I was very happy to learn that I am a Katharine Hepburn. I would have been thrilled if I was Audrey Hepburn, but I'm not sure that was even an option in this test. Even if it was, it would have been inaccurate. Audrey was too sweet and graceful to resemble me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy enough to be Kate. I love her no-nonsense, confident spirit of independence, her integrity, quick wit and honesty. I respect that she was so accomplished and productive. She was a hundred percent comfortable in her own skin. She was one of the first big stars in Hollywood to take control of her career during the era of the studio system. I also truly respect that she was impervious to public opinion and lived an authentic life. She survived the harsh press coverage about her and the love of her life, Spencer Tracy. She lived with the fact that his wife never granted him a divorce yet she accorded her enough respect by not showing up at Spencer's funeral.

But there was dark side to Kate, which unfortunately I would have also have to own. She was honest to a fault, little candy-coating might have served her well, and she liked to control things:


As painful as that was to watch, I have to remember that this is the same person who delivered top notch performances every time she appeared on the silver screen.

Though I think I would have preferred Audrey's ethereal gracefulness, it will just have to remain an unattainable goal because if my personality was like hers, I would have wished that I had Kate Hepburn's moxy.

Here are the results to my quiz:

You are a Katharine -- "I am happy and open to new things"

Katharines are energetic, lively, and optimistic. They want to contribute
to the world.

How to Get Along with Me
* Give me companionship, affection, and freedom.
* Engage with me in stimulating conversation and laughter.
* Appreciate my grand visions and listen to my stories.
* Don't try to change my style. Accept me the way I am.
* Be responsible for youself. I dislike clingy or needy people.
* Don't tell me what to do.

What I Like About Being a Katharine
* being optimistic and not letting life's troubles get me down
* being spontaneous and free-spirited
* being outspoken and outrageous. It's part of the fun.
* being generous and trying to make the world a better place
* having the guts to take risks and to try exciting adventures
* having such varied interests and abilities

What's Hard About Being a Katharine
* not having enough time to do all the things I want
* not completing things I start
* not being able to profit from the benefits that come from specializing; not making a commitment to a career
* having a tendency to be ungrounded; getting lost in plans or fantasies
* feeling confined when I'm in a one-to-one relationship

Katharines as Children Often
* are action oriented and adventuresome
* drum up excitement
* prefer being with other children to being alone
* finesse their way around adults
* dream of the freedom they'll have when they grow up

Katharines as Parents
* are often enthusiastic and generous
* want their children to be exposed to many adventures in life
* may be too busy with their own activities to be attentive

Who are you? Find out here: The Are-You-a-Jackie-or-a-Marilyn-or-Someone-Else-Mad-menra-Female-Icon Quiz

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oma's Apartment 6

I used to be a Christmas neurotic. For years and years, I had a goal to be finished with Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving. Some years I actually achieved this goal, which meant I picked up presents year-round and stepped up my game in earnest by about September.

I still buy gifts throughout the year when I see something perfect for someone on my list, but every year I get more relaxed about finishing early. I never got to the frenzied state of last-minute preparations - until this year.

This year, Oma suddenly had a vacant apartment right around Thanksgiving. Up until this year, she was always able to prepare her apartments for the next tenant by herself. Though she is 90 percent recovered, her illness did weaken her. We also can't forget that she is 82 years old, not to mention that the apartment is on the third floor. Oma has five huge pins holding her hip together from an injury thirty years ago, so it is excruciating for her to climb up and down those stairs. By the way, climbing the stairs does have its reward; this is the view from the living room and the bedroom:

And if you squint your eyes and know where to look, you can see the tippy top of the Golden Gate Bridge:

Oma did quite a bit of the work, supervising and working alongside a few favorite workers, but she still needed help. My sister, brother-in-law, and I spent the last few weeks shopping at hardware stores, Benjamin Moore paint stores, lighting stores, and Home Depot, plus we hired some extra workers and managed the tenant selection.

We never had an open house during the holidays before so it was fun to decorate the unit with a few holiday touches. Overall we were all pleased with the end result:

This past Sunday, we held an open house while it was pouring rain outside. It was lightly attended, but we think we found a lovely, responsible tenant.

We usually get our Christmas tree around mid-December. This year, we didn't get our tree until the morning of the open house, December 21st, because I always had to take our big car so I could schlep around light fixtures, curtains, shower heads, and staging props for the apartment.

As for our Christmas preparations, my lovely daughter managed to cook our entire Christmas dinner while I was a wrapping fool at the kitchen table, preparing the rental contract, and trying to perform credit and reference checks while everyone was at the mall instead of answering my phone messages. I abandoned the task of decorating the tree because the Christmas tree lights decided to have a mind of their own. Fortunately, my sister and brother-in-law came to the rescue and decorated the tree before we sat down for Christmas dinner.

While it was hard work, it was also strangely liberating. Our holiday expectations were suddenly brought down to a human level and I was much more relaxed about getting it all done. Next year, I hope to take a page out of the same book.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Small Cowper Madonna
Raffaelo Sanzio (1483 - 1520), a.k.a Raphael

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold,
everything is softer and more beautiful. 
~Norman Vincent Peale

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ice Art by Margaret Oomen

With so much snow and ice covering our country right now, I would like to share some creative ideas by Margaret Oomen at Resurrection Fern . She truly knows how to embrace the cold weather. She used a bundt cake pan to create the ice wreath above. What a great way to greet your Christmas guests! Add a small bird's nest to create a lovely outdoor vignette:

Instructions on how to make one of your own are here.
Pinecones suspended in ice create a warm glow by the fireplace:

The doily ice ornaments make great outdoor Christmas decorations:

They even know how to dance:

Thank you for your inspiration, Margie!

All images by Margaret Oomen at Resurrection Fern 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gratitude and Dreams

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
Live the life you’ve imagined.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 -1862)

Nearly every year since 1998, we throw a "Gratitude & Dreams" party. We invite our friends to write what made them grateful in the past year and what their dreams are for the coming year. I now have a binder filled with our guests’ past Gratitudes & Dreams.

Here is a sampling of our friends' past Gratitude entries:

  • Thankful for “Popcorn” the school bunny.
  • Our son cleaned his room.
  • Being able to see stars again (after cataract surgery).
  • Boyfriend came home from Iraq safe and sound.
  • The robbers only took our jewelry and not our computer or committed identity theft.
  • How great it is to live in California, appreciating this more every year.
  • Survived 25 years of marital bliss(ters).
  • For having met a wonderful woman several years ago and in 2006 she agreed to become my wife.

And some of their past Dreams entries:

  • To master “Für Elise”.
  • Learn not to shudder when George W. appears on TV (January 2001).
  • Hike up Mt. Ranier.
  • Teach my daughter how to paint.
  • Music gigs 30 minutes or less from home.
  • Study to become an excellent Rodin art docent.
  • Start writing the stories in my head.
  • To grow more fragrant roses.
  • San Jose Sharks make the playoffs.
  • Stop comparing my children to vicious dogs or village idiots, at least out loud. (I assure you, she's kidding!)
Here are my entries for this year. In 2008 I am grateful that:

  • My family was blessed with good health and able bodies.
  • My mother has healed and can live independently again.
  • I am blessed with a saint of a husband who supports me, in spite of all my crazy passions.
  • We are blessed with two children who make me burst with love and pride.
  • Our daughter was super-organized about applying to colleges and already got accepted to two colleges.
  • Our son has a great set of friends and is enjoying high school.
  • I am blessed with friends who nourish my soul.
  • The right candidate won the presidential election.
  • I have been introduced to the wonderful world of blogging.
For 2009, I dream that our blessings continue and

  • Our president will continue his focus on leading our nation, from darkness into the light, for all the right reasons and that he will be blessed with wisdom and strength to be a guiding light for a better and safer world.
  • Our ailing family members will heal.
  • We can all weather these tough economic times and can show compassion for each other.
  • People will have equal rights and equal opportunities to succeed, be able to marry the one they love, and choose what happens to their bodies.
  • Our children find their bliss and continue on their path of becoming responsible and compassionate citizens of the world.
  • Our daughter will be happy and be able pursue her passions in college.
  • Our son will be safe and careful on his new BMX bicycle.
  • My husband continues to enjoy his work and will be able to spend more time riding trains and making films.
  • I give away what I don't need and organize every closet.
What made you grateful this year and what are your dreams for next year?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Subway Tiles at the Museum of Natural History

When we were in New York this summer, we spent a lot of time in subway stations. Yes, it was hot, muggy and not exactly aromatic, but the subway system is an impressive labyrinth that is the most economic way to travel in Manhattan and it can often get you to your destination faster than if you traveled the surface streets.

People-watching on the subways is immensely interesting,and often entertaining, but my favorite thing about the New York subway system is the tile design. We had a particularly long wait at the 81st Street Station after my kids and I spent the afternoon at the Museum of Natural History.

I amused myself, and those who observed me, by taking a picture of every animal mosaic I could find at the station. My teenage kids were horrified to be seen with their loony mother who was obsessed with, of all things, tiles. Here are some samples of those tiles:

You can find more on my flickr account here. Which is your favorite?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

This morning started rainy and cold. Cold by wimpy California standards, that is. I was bracing myself for a rough Monday morning drive because this is the first rain in a long time and the roads are slick.

Five minutes into my drive, I quickly rolled down the window and snapped the photo above before the light turned green. Well that turned my mood around. Then I was greeted by this sight:

Do you think there is there a pot of gold between those two trees?

Only a few hundred yards down the road, I pulled over once again because now there is double reason to celebrate:

All these rainbows made be think of Israel Kamakawiwo Ole's version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over therainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.
Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.

Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?
--music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg

May all the dreams you dare to dream really come true!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tangobaby Crowned Princess of the Blogosphere

Yesterday überblogger tangobaby was bestowed a great honor: her blog was named Blog of Note by Google's Blogger team. I don't know anyone more deserving. This is a huge deal, she was named right there on the same page as Linus Torvalds’ blog. Linus Torvalds is a rock star in the geek world; he is the founder and chief architect of Linux. He gathered no less than 1656 followers since his first post on October 2nd.

I met tangobaby 3 years ago when she still lived here in Palo Alto. She started her blog when she moved to San Francisco, a few months after she discovered the world of tango down here at Stanford. I knew nothing about the blogging world, I just loved the engaging way she shared her passion for dance:

her unabashed love for food, even if it's not the most nutritious:

her passion for classic movies:

and how she recounted all her San Francisco adventures with her beautiful photos:

It didn't take long for me to get reeled into tb's world. We share a lot of the same passions so the inevitable time came when I wanted to come out of the shadows of lurkerdom and leave a comment. When faced with the option of using my real name (thanks, but no thanks), an anonymous note (too cowardly), or a pseudonym (interesting idea), I had to come up with a name. I looked at the top of the comment screen and saw the tangobaby heading. Hm, that might work. I'm only one fourth Dutch but I liked the dutchbaby pun. I had no idea that this moniker would stick!

After a while leaving comments wasn't enough, I started feeding tb ideas for her blog and the inescapable time came when tb put her foot down and said: "Get your own damn blog!" She was right of course. So on June 4th of this year, I took the plunge . Then was faced with the next challenge: what should I use for my profile photo? Fortunately, I remembered that tb posted a very cute photo on my birthday last year. Perfect!

I feel so grateful to have been introduced to the fantastic world of blogging, which is so brilliant at bringing like-minded folks together, and to become part of this community of kindred spirits, all because of my friend tb!

I congratulate and thank you, tangobaby! You have been more than an inspiration to me, you opened up a whole new world for me!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fabrics in New York City

The next chapter I covered in Pamela Keech’s book The Curious Shopper’s Guide to New York City, Inside Manhattan’s Shopping Districts, was “The Lower East Side – Drapery and Upholstery Fabrics”.

Raul (above) at Joe’s Fabric Warehouse was extremely helpful; I was in search of black and white fabric for our guest room.

Modern Décor had some very nice options:

Most of these places are not exactly glamorous. For example, here is Zarin’s Fabrics staircase:

But you will be greeted with oceans of fabric boalts:

They had lots of black and white fabrics:

I had a nice lunch at 88 Orchard:

But I knew to save room for dessert. Il Laboratorio del Gelato had the most amazing gelato ever:

Since it's bitter cold for many of you out there, I will do a full post when the weather is more conducive to ice cream talk. I will tell you, however, that I had guiness-flavored gelato on one day and the next day I opted for the black sesame gelato - both produced in this gleaming lab, both delicious.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Olde Good Things Antiques in New York City

On the same day that I found all of the Bakelite treasures, I followed Pamela Keech’s other recommendations in the “Chelsea – Antiques, Collectibles, and Vintage Stores” chapter of her excellent book The Curious Shopper’s Guide to New York City, Inside Manhattan’s Shopping Districts. First, I was greeted by a lovable pair of laughing lions. Maybe the Circus Center that Tangobaby recently mentioned should procure them. I think they are water fountains; how fun would it be to stick your head in to take a drink of water? Then I stepped inside Olde Good Things:

While I waited for assistance from one of the “architecturologists”, the self-anointed title of the staff, I came across a striking statue of Diana the Huntress:

Keech promised that this was the place for architectural antiques. Staff members follow wrecking balls all over North and South America hunting for architectural treasures. I’ve heard of ambulance chasers, but I’ve never heard of wrecking-ball chasers. Once it was my turn, I got the undivided attention of one of the architecturologists. My husband is from New Orleans and I was planning to decorate our guestroom in a New Orleans style with a modern twist. I told her I was looking for vintage door hardware. Was I looking for strike plates?

Or was it escutcheons?

No, I was looking for door knobs. 

Like these?

Yes, very nice, but do you have glass door knobs?

I guess you do have glass door knobs. These porcelain ones in this glass case look very interesting to me, do you have more?

My goodness! I’ve never seen brown porcelain door knobs before; I love the black ones.

You wouldn’t happen to have matching black porcelain cabinet hardware would you?

Pretty remarkable isn’t it? It turns out I couldn’t quite make a set of ten compatible knobs, but I have the photo and I was told that I can put an order in and they will call me when the wrecking ball scores some mates for these cabinet knobs. This is only one example of the depth of merchandise they carry. You can even own a piece of history and buy a piece of stained glass window by glass artist Robert Sowers that were excavated from JFK International Airport. Their website states that they have over 2,000 doors in stock. I believe it! Down the street, I saw a couple of light fixtures that caught my eye. This chandelier is not really my style, but I'd never seen turquoise teardrops like these before:

This light fixture, however, is very much my style:

Oh to have an infinite amount of wall space!

Next time, we go fabric shopping!

Olde Good Things (New York)
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