3 Pictures – Aesthetics, Unconditional Love and Portraits in Honesty

August 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

When I see things, I am 100% opinionated.  This is a bad side effect of going to art school and learning how to turn abstract ideas in to concrete arguments.  Which is interesting sometimes, like why I decided I really liked my boyfriend’s band and why I didn’t like the footstool used in the installation in the display space at MECA on my walk home (it is too big, and too navy.  it should have been more of an aqua).

One thing I did like for sure was Mike and Rebecca’s wedding in Orono last month, on July 3rd.  I don’t very much like Orono, and I don’t very much like driving, but I do think celebrating your love with BBQ and buying all your champagne flutes at Goodwills/Thrift shops all over the state are two items at the apex of aesthetics.

pretty much just a beautiful angel

So, I may have been “rapped at” on Congress St. walking home (“She’s swingin’ her keys, watch out for them GAnGSTAS!“) right outside of Angela Adams, of all place.  And I might have been put in the strange position of wondering about a good friend’s parenting practices, while still feeling overwhelmingly unsure about questioning seeing as I have not lived with children since I WAS one.  And the girl at Otto’s might have blatantly ignored me, reluctantly took my order, then played with her hair, then started eating behind the counter, then touched her face and made me feel super confused since all my previous experiences there have been big city, efficient and wonderful.


All those things might have happened but I’m not really worried about it when at the end of the day this little girl, swinging boldly off a branch of our family tree, clings to my leg when she’s unsure of things;  she thinks I’m great fun when I chase her on my hands and knees.  That she disappeared in to the kitchen for a minute and quietly pushed the kitchen chair to the sink, climbed up, and started pretending to do the dishes.  And when she finally figured out how to climb in to the chair that was just a liiiiiittle to high for her we applauded her and she clapped and blew kisses to the room.

As long as all those things are true, all the other shit of life can fall away and I can be really really psyched.

honesty in portraiture

So now lastly I’ve just dug way deep (almost two years back) in the photo archives.  I wanted to find and see a portrait that truly honestly showed who that person is at the very core of them.  I snap a lot of shots of ‘camera face’ – a phenomena in portraiture where people actually end up making themselves look worse in an attempt to make themselves look better.  A thrust jaw, weight purposefully on one leg, puffed out lips:  the list goes on.

But nothing nothing nothing looks more wonderful in photographs than unabashed honesty.

When I see this one I see a wise woman, watching thoughtfully.  Her distraction looks intentional like she is making sure a conversation in the other corner of the room is going well for both parties.  Her white hair flits around her head like a dove and although she is 81 years old there is warmth and energy under her cheeks that could go on for 81 more.  Her clothing makes her look cultured, a traveler.  Because I know her well, I know that all these things are true.  But I think and hope that if someone just stumbled across the picture they might feel at least a couple of those things, too.

This all was a bit serious, I promise I’ll be funny again next time.

BULK buying mysteries uncovered…

August 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

The women at Wal-Mart (I go to the Five County there on my lunch break sometimes…and buy spray paint…or mason jars, or other items at the end of the aisles) with the carts overflowing with monolithic cubes of paper towels and toilet tissue have, up until this point, seemed so psychotic to me that I intentionally cross columns and aisles to avoid their carts cum palette jacks and any deal-tackles I presume they might make when they see that Ball jars have been “rolled back” to $6 for a dozen this week (true.)

Because, up until this point, our toilet paper buying regimen involved the following flow chart:

Woah, looks like we’re running low on toilet paper!–>

Woops, we’re out of toilet paper.–>

Use bits of paper towels for a day until environmental guilt sets in–>

Use coffee filters for another day because they’re non-bleached and MUST be better, for some reason–>

Snap out of it and buy a roll of Scot Tissue toilet paper at 7-11 for $1.19.

coffee filters are for coffee, not for your butt

This situation only got slightly better when I realized that equidistant from our apartment to 7-11 was also a Rite Aid.  Rite Aid has this cheap, acceptable quality 4-pack of TP for $1.00 extending the life cycle of the above scenario for about a week.  Don’t even get me started on how I handle tampon shortages.

So yesterday all day I had this obnoxious Walgreens coupon burning a hole in my pocket.  Because I signed up for their online whatever it is they sent me a coupon for $5 of $25.  Call me crazy, but 20% off at a place that a)is already cheap and b)carries living essentials that I will definitely go through unless something in the next two weeks puts me on a catheter or colostomy bag…well that’s pretty good!  So when I got home I told J. that part of the nights errands would be to try our hand at “stocking up.”

Well let me tell you.  Soccer moms and bargain hunters everywhere seem much less crazy to me and I’ll tell you why:

We loaded up with a 12-pack of toilet paper, 3-pack of paper towels, two candy bars and a huge thinger of Dr. Bronner’s (in lavender, to boot!) for $20, after the coupon.  So we will happily use and abuse paper products and delicious semi-religious but mostly-goodness soap for the next month or more without ever having to add them to our shopping list.

so much toilet paper we don't know what to do with it

Some other items that make me worried on a weekly basis which I may try buying in bulk:  rice, kitty litter, kitty food and beans.

How to Mise Tip #2: Reward Resisting Impulses

August 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Some situations that have presented themselves in the last week to me:

Scenario 1.  It’s Monday morning, and of course you forgot to pack the swiss, salami, bread and pickles you had planned for bag lunch.  Not only that but you set off the alarm at work.  Good start!  Come 12:30, you’re thumbing the menu for the generally delicious but sometimes disappointing restaurant down the street.  Even though there’s leftover pizza and soda in the fridge from last Friday’s workshop meeting.  What do you do?

Scenario 2.  You’ve just worked for 14 hours.  14.  And arriving home you find a sad situation in the fridge that is comprised of a half block of cheese, some seltzer water and, for some reason to difficult to go in to, two whole fish and a baby octopus.  You don’t even know how to begin cooking babies!  Chiang Mai II, the delicious thai place that just opened up on Washington Ave., one block away, is open for another thirty minutes.  Now what do you do?

So the normal turn of events would involve hopping in my car and getting a delicious BLT or phoning the incredibly nice family who owns Chiang Mai so that they might feed me in exchange for $7.95 (amazing prices, too, btw).  But what actually happened was I pulled the pizza box out of the fridge and cranked up the toaster oven.  I sorted through the cupboards and found chips to combine with the half block of cheese to make really awesome late night nachos.  (P.S. I put the fishes and the octopus in the freezer.  What the heck do I do to cook these?  Free food for anyone daring enough…)

In order to compensate myself for the caloric value lost from ALL THAT WORK and missed opportunity for the rush of endorphins I get whenever I “pamper” myself (food, a luxury!) I put my foot down and thought “I’ve got to figure out a way to reward this good behavior, now that my Mom can’t make me some cookies and milk and  tell me what a good job I’ve done on a regular basis…”  Hence:  my new reward system.

Every impulse resisted is rewarded by transferring $5 from my checking account to my savings account.  I’ve clocked $20 extra savings dollars this week (I usually put $30 in every payday, so this week it’s $50 total) and have actually *not* spent about twice that in impulse resistance.  Profit!  This is an easy project to stick to which is mission critical, considering how lazy I usually am.

AND I remembered that I had $20 in store credit at Find so I picked up a very cute scoopneck top with stitching details on the neckline and a vintage tennis skirt in a silky material with excellent little checker detail around the hem.  Also important to note:  I pulled two muscles in my shoulders getting stuck in the most amazing purple and black dress.  I’m cogitating some goals and rewards about getting myself back to my “college” size so that this doesn’t happen again.  And so next summer when I’m walking around in my adorable vintage tennis skirt people don’t wonder why I’m storing ham hocks in my underpants.

FYI the bathroom project is halfway done.  I just need to find the perfect fabric for the windows, shower curtain and kitty litter hideway.  Stay tuned!

Something Small: Trash.

August 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

All of the people in my family suffer from the fairly charming (but quickly obnoxious) feature of professional procrastination.  I grew up being supported and nurtured when I said “Oh, I’ll clean my room later, but right now it’s time to go out and play!!” leading to the inevitable thought, about three weeks later: where’s the floor and why is that pile of clothes moving?

I’m much better now.  I understand that a clean room is a doorway to harmony in other parts of my life.  But there are always these things that I just won’t DO.  Like cleaning up the hallway until my landlord asks me to, changing the litter box until it’s ABSOLUTELY time and, the topic of this post, trash bags.

Somewhere maybe 3 months ago I had the brilliant idea that Portland was just teeming with dumpsters that were unsupervised.  Instead of paying that $10 for 10 insidious blue bags we could pay $2 for 25 black ones and huck our bags in any dumpster we’d please!

So we did it for about two weeks (2 trash bags) and one of them made it to a landfill somehow or other, I honestly don’t remember.  But there was just ONE sitting under the porch, a symbol of failure for that brilliant idea which (not so brilliantly) lacked the foresight that I’d have to put trash in my car (soccer mom.  gross.) and, even if I was okay with that, there’s no room in my car because I have an enormous vintage print dryer for photographs weighing down my trunk taking up all the room:  another procrastination gem.

So finally last night we did it.  We just walked downstairs and put that cheap, durable hefty bag in to a flimsy, easy-to-rip blue bag, dropped it on the curb and admitted defeat.  But overriding the defeat?  The same immense, “unjustified sense of satisfaction for doing something easy and small that I should have done months ago” that I get when I put windshield wiper fluid in my car or sweep the floor.


How to Mise Tip #1: Time Limits

August 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

After that first entry I sat down and made this list.  This reeeeally long list detailing everything from the kitchen sink, to the bathroom toilet, the boxes of picture frames I have lying around, to balancing my checkbook.  It’s entirely overwhelming so I had to take a day off, obviously.

Really, none of the cerebral stuff (itemizing receipts, planning my evenings better, writing letters to friends more often) can happen until I’ve hit the very basics.  And right now, that is the fallout site that is my apartment.  The prospect of spending an entire day cleaning and facing up to my filth is impossible, so I am employing the “hour of clean” method that j. and his old roommate, e. devised (much to the chagrin of their future live-in girlfriends).  This is also called “Sunday Morning Clean” more formally, like a version of worship for the OCD and coincidentally agnostic and/or atheists of the world.

But this is an emergency, so imposing limits on the scrubbin’ and shinin’ days of the week isn’t possible.  However —

Outlining a very clean timeline for cleaning is REALLY helpful.  Here are some approximates that might surprise you (I’ve timed these, however unscientifically, throughout the years):

Sweeping the kitchen and bathroom floors – 5 minutes

A sink of dishes – 10 minutes

Folding/putting away laundry – 15 minutes

Tidying the livingroom/bathroom/kitchen – 30 minutes for all three

The bathroom trifecta (toilet, sink and tub) – 45 minutes

So in black and white it really isn’t that bad.  Dedicating a chunk of time with a serious time limit means there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, making Comet and Windex psychologically easier to deal with.  Which leads me to my first goal and you, fine readers, will have the pleasure of seeing before and after (as soon as I get around to it, okay?!):  Clean, organize and decorate the bathroom.  Time limit:  3 hours. 45 minutes to clean the trifecta, 15 minutes to go through toiletries and throw away what’s useless (99% of it), 30 minutes to hang art on the wall and 1 hour 30 minutes to sew shower curtain and window curtains.  Ambitious!

This might just be the small victory needed to get the ball rolling.

mise en place (or, get it together, Audrey)

August 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

This whole thing started, appropriately enough, rummaging through my purse.

You see, there’s this one pocket in there where virtually everything disappears:  receipts, business cards, checks-yet-to-be-deposited, rubber bands, bleeding pens, chiclets, quarters, little pieces of candy bar wrappers and gift certificates.

“Oh, look!  I’ve got one for Borders…”

Where, 45 minutes later, I’d picked up 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School, a collaboration between Louis Eguaras and Matthew Frederick.  Highly recommend.  This is just one in a series of similar books where someone who knows whats what about something shares it with idiots who only know how to keep their purse messy.

Inevitably, the process of mise en place was highlighted.  For those of you who have emerged from or are still in the trenches of a restaurant kitchen I’ll keep it quick for those who don’t know:  “The Mise” (which we always called it) is the process of putting all the items the chef needs at a given station in the place that he or she likes it, the ultimate goal being to execute freshly prepared dishes in as little time as possible.

So I got to thinking…

I do this with photography.  Before heading out to a wedding I arrange the camera bag just-so, film in the outside pockets, back up lens easily accessible, extra batteries tucked away neatly somewhere indiscreet if needed.  And photography is just about one of the only things I truly create well, not to be a sad sap, just when compared to all the rest of the things I make a mess doing.

So why can’t I try to mise my life, then, too?

Truth be told, I’m a mess that just luckily happens to present very well.  My home boasts a family of towers made not just of paper, but binders, oddly-sized books and boxes to add the thrill of danger every time we walk by.  There is almost always an experiment in the back of the fridge made of 10-week old lemonade which comes off like I’m trying to start my own rare microscopic species library.  Most unnerving, every morning when I attempt to dress myself from the mountain of clothes that gives sage advice to me to help me go about my day is just pathetic.  I just pick up what’s on top, sniff it, and off I go.

I know how Wembley feels

So there it is!  Therapy in the form of public humiliation.  They say that works to correct the problem if you’re anal expletive (happily, my favorite term from Pysch 101) like me.  No poo jokes.  Keep checking back daily (or weekly, depending on how much of this I can handle) for tips, lessons learned, things that just won’t work, funny pictures, general sarcasm and maybe, if we’re lucky, some tidbit of information you can use to transform your sty of a life, too.

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