Monday, January 30, 2012

A Passion for Shoes

Do they look weird to you?
My mother once told me I had "weird" feet from birth.  I wasn't sure what that meant, as I always thought my feet were relatively normal. Weird evidently means that I was born pigeon-toed and the solution in those days was to equip my little toddler feet with ugly brown lace-up shoes with a steel bar connecting them, the theory being that my feet would eventually turn outward.  I wore this torturous device for quite some time.

What can be sexier than red shoes?  I still
don't know why Chris didn't buy them...
I guess I've repressed those memories, but in a way, perhaps it fostered a deep love of pretty shoes and the desire to possess them. 

My husband's favorite saying to our grandchildren is "Shoes are bad", so all manner of little sneakers and sandals can be found at every door. As much as I like going barefoot, I love shoes.  Unfortunately, my "weird" feet gave out on me during my corporate days of high strappy heels and pointy toed pumps, so my tootsies have a hard time finding comfortable shoes today that don't look like I am about to trek up Mount Whitney.



When you're a junior in high school, you can where anything...My granddaughter and i wear the same size, BUT......
Granddaughter shoes...
Some of my favorite shoes I've saved, but they still hurt my feet....I remember them pinching my toes as I walked through the garden to meet my beloved...
My wedding Shoes...circa 1984



Backless shoes are the best for weird feet these days....


Can't figure out where the heck I could wear these little jewels or why I bought them...

 
My collection of tiny little shoes...
Just the Right Shoe
 
I would so buy this shoe..if it were just larger than my fingers...



Nordstrom find....sexiest shoe in America

And of course, my all time favorite shoes are just one step away from being barefoot...flip flops! I must have a dozen pairs.

Notice that I didn't take any pics of my ugly, comfortable shoes...you know, the ones that you can walk all over Europe in. Okay, I will admit that though the Naots, Romikas and Easy Spirits are the best fit for my weird aging feet, but I just can't abandon the hunt for the perfect, sexy and yet comfortable strappy 4" high-heeled evening shoe.  And of course, being able to walk more than two or three steps would be a bonus.
Is that an oxymoron??



Saturday, January 28, 2012

Animal Lover?

I grew up on a ranch in the country.  It wasn't a real ranch, in the sense that it was my family's livelihood, but over the years we had a lot of animals: cows, horses, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, dogs and cats.  Animals on the ranch were never "pets", even the dogs and cats. Cows gave milk, chicken laid eggs and eventually ended up in the frying pan,  horses packed hunted deer out of the canyon, sheep provided leg of lamb dinners, cats kept the mice population down and dogs barked and scared away the strangers. Everything had a purpose.

As a child, there was a dark side to living with the ranch animals.  Every horse I ever tried to ride drug me under a low hanging limb or dumped me in a blackberry bush.  We had a goose that would chase me around the yard trying to bite me. Ducks only poop on cement for some reason and a great game of tag on the lawn was ruined by the dog's little presents (you don't pick up dog poop on the ranch). Coyotes and wild dog packs chase down your cows and sheep.  Animals are eaten. Animals die.



Miss Bella
Me and Murray, Stevie's "brother".
In Germany, it's a law that you have
to walk your dog every four hours...

So it is no wonder that I am not particularly enamored with animals, much less having them as pets.  Even though I do have a cat whom I love, Miss Bella, I don't particularly like sharing my living space with animals.


We took care of my mother-in-law's poodle Stevie for a brief period after she passed away. For some odd reason dogs seem to sense when you don't like them, and that just makes them try harder to change your mind. Stevie was attached to me...maybe because I rescued him out of the fishpond twice. But I eventually sent him back to Texas to live with my hubby's sister.



In Germany...stunning duck that poops on cement walk.
Despite what seems to be my natural aversion to my four legged friends, there must be some snippet of admiration and awe, as I seem to love photographing them. There is just something extraordinarily beautiful about a quarter horse, for instance. (Just go check out Strom Ranch to see these beauties http://www.stromranch.com/ )

Zoo animals are often captivating to watch. And certain dogs are just plain adorable.
Urban farm animal in Seattle
Mean goats...but cute




Capturing the essence and personality of an animal with a camera must appeal to me, because I seem to have some great shots of my furred and feathered friends.

In Cambria
If I had a dog, it would be like Roxie:)
  And they make me smile...so, me thinkest I protesteth too much:)



Monday, January 23, 2012

Recycled Couture

I love a bargain - especially if it's something to wear. I remember when I was working, I would think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars on wool suits, silk blouses, and expensive high heels.  I rationalized the expenditures by reminding myself that good, well made clothes of quality will last for many seasons...like the Dalton wool and cashmere three piece suit that I finally gave to charity after 10 years.

Several years ago...I don't know if it coincides with retirement...I got cheap.  I don't mean trashy cheap, but fiscally conservative.  I started perusing the second hand stores.  I started off with the high class ones where they only took in designer labels and gently used name brand apparel.  After the first taste of a Talbot's sweater purchased for $5.99, it became clear that bargains were out there everywhere.  My scope of stores began to branch out to other less classy establishments where an INC skirt could be found amongst the strapless Lycra tube tops and denim mom jeans, if you just took the time to look for it.  ECO Thrift became an weekly obsession.

I needed a red top to wear to a Superbowl party one year, and after finding the perfect little sweater in a thrift store, I was so distracted by my brilliance at only paying $.99 for it, I sorta squeezed through a red light on my way home.  As luck would have it, the intersection was equipped with a nice camera. Needless to say, that after my "day in court", I had to do community service for 20 hours.  I chose "merchandising" in a Goodwill store. There you could get the "good stuff" as it came in, even if the real employees do treat you like a felon!

This sucker weighed at least 20 pounds!
As it goes with second-hand stores, you can't always find anything good on a particular shopping day. So I do wander back to the up-town consignment stores every once in a while.  On one occasion, I spotted this gown on the evening wear rack. It was a designer ball gown, custom made for some snotty rich woman in New York who reportedly spent over $4,000 for it in the 80's and wore it once. To say it was dated would be an understatement - it was made with the most beautiful golden silk satin, rusching at the waste, floor length and billowy.  But what  captured my attention was the exquisite lace on the ginormous bell-shaped sleeves and bodice.  It was studded with rhinestones and positively beautiful. All I wanted was that lace!

The shop's owner said they had the gown for over two years.  It had been marked down from $750 at least 3 or 4 times in an effort to sell it.  It was my lucky day, I guess, because with my 10% off discount, I walked out of the store a whole $27.00 poorer.

I felt like a criminal as I started ripping it apart to get the lace off those sleeves and bodice.  It was obviously hand made by a couture designer (I know this because I am an experienced seamstress).  The inner linings and support structure for the bodice and sleeves were meticulously sewn, and it took me over an hour to turn it into a giant pile of silk, tulle, interfacing, underlining and lace. To my joy, the billowy sleeves yielded almost a yard and half of lace.

After all that guilt for destroying some artist's handiwork and some pretty sore fingers, I was only able to make a scarf. I tried to work it into a small shell and I thought about appliqueing it onto a soft sweater, but the pieces were too irregular.

My "bargain" scarf is lovely and sparkly...and heavy! I guess it might be a bit much with those $2.99 Calvin Klein jeans I found in Goodwill, but I'm sure I'll find a place to wear it eventually. And when I do, I will chuckle to myself as I swoosh it casually over my shoulder in my best "you just wish you were me" snotty style.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Callers beware...

Okay, I admit it. I am terrible about talking on the phone.  I am not a gabber, I rarely spend time just chatting about stuff..unless it's my mother. I had this old friend who every time I sat down to dinner, I swear she could see through the telephone wires.  The phone would ring and she was ready to chat. This was prior to e-mail and texting, and despite the fact that I love the new techie ways of communicating, I am confident that just as many people hate those. And those are the ones who love the social network of the old fashion home phone.

So does it surprise you that I forget to check the messages on the stodgy old wire-line phone in the computer room?  It shouldn't.  However that's not the point.  When we don't check our old message  machine (not everyone has your cell phone number, dummy) we tend to miss out on important things and reminders, appointments, etc.

So it's Friday, and the Chairman of the American Heart Association's annual Heart Ball had called several weeks ago and left a message.  And getting no response, I'm she's wondering if I am just another one of those "artistic" flakes.  She calls again yesterday to cheerfully ask when I would be delivering my necklace for the silent auction.

There you have it. Didn't get the first message ( Dave swears he told me), so the necklace is not exactly finished.  In fact, it's non-existent. And since they are starting to count on my donation ( this will be my third year) I cheerfully reply back that I was just working on it this morning...which is sorta true, as I was starting a revamp of a piece I made a year ago.

It won't take me long to finish it, unless of course I get waylaid by a texting frenzy with 5 friends at once, blogging, posting on Facebook, or checking my email on my Nook, or surfing the Internet for recipes...or talking to my Mom on the phone.

But hey, do call me on my cell phone...I do answer it and I'd love to chat:)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dear Paula

Dear Ms. Deen,

I was so dismayed to learn that you have had adult-onset diabetes.  I have enjoyed your good recipes and funky Southern style for years.  I even attempted to come see you on a visit to Sacramento to obtain your autograph on a picture of me and my "Yam Balls", but unfortunately showed up at the wrong location.  My disappointment was overwhelming.


Despite the colossal failure of the Yam Balls, I remained a fan.  Your grilled corn smothered in mayonnaise was a little more successful and quite tasty.  And who can argue that Bread Pudding made with Krispy Creme donuts wouldn't just blow your socks off?  To this day, my favorite side dish remains Corn Pudding...that buttery baked corn bread made with creamed corn, sour cream and Jiffy Corn Bread mix, and of course, butter. Yummy.

Recently we all learned through the media about the health challenge you have kept hidden for several years, and like many Americans who cringed at the gobs and gobs of butter that you throw into your dishes, I too use to wonder how all that fat might contribute to your overall health condition.  So ask anyone...they all think your high fat cooking has led to this predictable outcome.

However, I beg to differ with all the arm-chair experts.  Natural animal fat (butter) does not make you unable to process the sugar in your bloodstream (diabetes)..SUGAR DOES.  Gobs and gobs of sticky sugar, whether pure cane, raw, brown, or hidden modified fructose in your diet is very, very bad on your insulin levels.  Even processed and low fat foods contain hidden sugar.  White flour, white rice, pasta and starchy vegetables MAKE SUGAR while they are being digested. Hel-lo! And after years of mashed potatoes, fritters, cakes, pies, and donuts, Paula, your poor little pancreas screamed uncle -  "I CAN'T MAKE ENOUGH INSULIN TO BEAT ALL THAT SUGAR!"
 THE ENEMY

So don't listen to the butter-bashers, honey.  You keep that nice animal fat in your diet...and in your own words "everything in moderation".  But you may want to start adding some vegetables and whole grains.  And for God's sake, ditch the sugar.  Best Dishes!

Love,
Laurel

Thursday, January 12, 2012

To Bead or Not To Bead

    As Shakespear puts it - "That is the question", at least for today...
    Let me back up...in my usual over the top ambitious style, I have worked my little fingers to the bone over the past few years creating jewelry. Some pieces were created for show and donated to worthy causes...
and some were custom pieces for friends
but most pieces were created to sell to fashion conscious friends
     Even though I have never copied any of the necklaces that I have created (save a string of pearls, as those are classic) the pressure of dreaming up new one-of-a-kind creations for a big show is enormous...and exhausting. I do all my designing in the middle of the night and wake up the next morning and produce the piece. Needless to say, I don't sleep well. I become obsessed. I am crabby.
     This past holiday season, I decided to forego the normal December show as I had too much on my plate already keeping me awake nights. And after some 6 years of making sparkly baubles, I think I just ran out of creative juice. And as of this morning, I'm not sure that I have retrieved it as yet. And I must admit, it's pretty defeating to walk through a Charming Charlie store and see the array of beautiful (and inexpensive!) jewelry.  It's hard to compete with all that plastic. I even buy it.
    In a fit of "Gee, that one's ugly" and "I wonder why this beauty didn't sell?" and "I really hate that piece", I removed all the offenders off "The Wall" last night.  Even if I am not inspired to create this morning, I am inspired to destroy!
    With pliers and wire cutters in hand I face the pile...it's going to be a good day!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chasing Victoria

Over the years I have read many magazines.  Some issues I have kept, largely those that have recipes that I want to make some day.  When we moved into our retirement hacienda, I did in fact toss boxes of Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, and other foodie magazines that I had saved for years, and, I might add, rarely cooked any of the recipes. 

Generally, after the year's subscription to a magazine is finished, I usually let it run out, as I am bored with the lack of content and overabundance of advertisements.

There is one exception:Victoria Magazine, published since the mid 1980's, and I have subscribed since 1989.  They stopped publishing Victoria for a few years in the mid 2000's and I was devastated, but rejoined when they started the press rolling again.  My mother first introduced me to Victoria, and she handed down her collection...and I have saved them all!

It's not so much that I love the Victorian era, or tea parties, or funky vintage clothing. Where Victoria started out with that theme, it evolved into a intriguing peak into the lives of amazing women, what they do, what they like, how they create...all exquisitely captured through the lenses of very talented photographers.  Who doesn't want a bed and breakfast...or at least stay in one? Who doesn't dream of owning a cute little shop full of antiques, lace and china?


And that's the hook: I can sit with a Victoria over a cup of coffee and dream about the things I could do, the changes I could make to my home, my lifestyle, and my creative pursuits.  I get lost in the beauty of it all, and let's face it, no one can make life prettier than Victoria.

Here's the reality:  my home is a Spanish style ranch house with a courtyard.  It doesn't snow here, my garden is lacking English randomness, and I decorate in bold purples and olives.  Hardly the Victoria style.  But it is beautiful, cozy and full of artistic touches that are all mine. It sings. 

After perusing the January issue with it's stunning pictures of "white" stuff, I realized that I too can create a Victoria moment.  I grabbed my camera and snapped some artsy pics, just to prove to myself that a picture does indeed say a thousand words and my stuff is worthy of a magazine page.



Pretty, pretty....
But in the end, it's just a picture...a photograph exquistly lighted and perfectly exposed.

Out of range of the camera lense there are dishes in the sink, cat hair on the sofa pillows and soap scum in the shower. Ah...if only life were as beautiful as Victoria...meawhile, take a few photos and dream.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Revamping Laurel's Quill

It's 2012, and I'm in the mood to start this puppy back up, but with perhaps a different slant. I bought a publication called The Artful Blogger, and not too coincidently, it was all about the way I wanted to change my blog. Go figure. So I'll be working on it...wish me luck and much persistance!!
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