Archive for January, 2008

Just for kicks, I’ve been playing around a little with some of the photos I took while I was in Europe – a mix of Photoshop manipulations and hand drawing over prints. It’s been awhile since I’ve scrolled through my thousands of photos; it was fun to review, reminisce, and revise:

berlin: grayed-out photo of Rotes Rathaus on a snowy January day, linework in ink.

prague: fantastically colorful street facade mirrored in Photoshop, pavement replaced with water, memorial statues imposed in front.

venice: favorite photos, lamppost cut-out, damask background outlined in ink.

munich: composition of snowscape, church, lampposts.

paris, cimetiere du montmartre: photo background with statue drawn in pencil.


Tonight was the night of the Ryan Adams concert at the Paramount (wanted to jot down my thoughts while I’m still on this post-concert high). I knew the show was going to be good when Ryan lit a cigarette and sat down at the piano to play “Rescue Blues”. But I had no idea it was going to be sooooo good. Whenever Shane and I are in the car and Led Zeppelin comes on the radio, Shane starts drumming on the steering wheel and says that he can “feel the music in his bones”. I usually just laugh at him for being silly, but when Ryan busted out the harmonica for “Oh My Sweet Carolina”, I knew exactly what Shane was talking about. I felt the music in my bones, my gut, my head, everywhere. Sooooo good. There were several times during the night where I caught myself grinning stupidly (the sure sign of a good show). And I hate to be one of those people that goes “Woooo!!!” at the beginning of every song, but tonight I just couldn’t help myself… It’s rare that I sit down and just listen to music; music is something I listen to while I’m cleaning the house or reading on the bus.  It was such a treat tonight to sit back for 2 1/2 hours and do nothing but soak up the songs. The concert was a reminder that listening to music can be an action in and of itself – I should pop in an album once in awhile and commit to doing nothing but closing my eyes and opening my ears.

In an effort to read a more well-rounded body of literature, I decided a few months ago that one out of every four or five books I read will come from the Modern Library’s List of the 100 Greatest English-Language Novels of the 20th Century. Thus, I decided earlier this month that it was time to tackle some James Joyce. Yikes. A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man was a difficult read. Even painful, at times. It started off alright, but I got lost somewhere in the midst of one of his 8-page philosophical stream-of-consciousness tangents and never regained my footing again. I had to read some sentences 20 times. Seriously. So I must ask myself the question: am I reading primarily for pleasure, or primarily for literary well-roundedness? Is it possible to do both? Probably. One thing is for sure: the next book I pick of the list will not be Ulysses.

Difficulty aside, I appreciate the simple premise of the novel: it is the story of a boy becoming a man, learning to think for himself, to form his own opinions on religion and nationality and art.  I just wish this simple premise had been expressed in slightly simpler terms…

I was really encouraged by this article in the Seattle Times: “Riders Pack Buses in Record Numbers“. I am a huge supporter of mass transit – major props to anyone who takes the bus to work every day. However, doing this favor for the environment can sometimes come at a cost. I have had some less-than-pleasant experiences lately while on my way to and from work. Cases in point:

A few days ago, a rather large, not-so-good-smelling man hopped on the bus and was absolutely convinced that he could fit into the 6-inch space on the bench seat between me and the woman next to me (this was a 3-person bench and he was #4). It wasn’t pretty. I ended up standing, while he and the woman I’d been sitting next to shared a number of 4-letter words with each other.

My bus driver was reading the newspaper while he was driving one morning last week. This made me nervous.

I took a seat next to a nice-looking gentleman one night a couple of weeks ago. I pulled out my book and before I could get my headphones on (yes, I am one of those anti-social bus-riders), he asked what I was reading. I told him it was a collection of poems by Sylvia Plath. He launched into a speech about the merits of strong, intelligent, well-read women. I buried my nose deeper in my book and tried to make it apparent that I wasn’t up for chatting. He took the hint and stopped talking to me, but then began to mutter to himself about how much he loves Yeats’ poetry and about how his high school English teacher was such a bastard. Creepy.

But, woes aside, taking the bus has its definite perks. I get a lot more reading done now than I did in my pre-bus days, I never have to worry about finding a parking spot downtown, and I’m decreasing my ecological footprint. And so I ride.

things that are bringing me joy these days:

cooking something, then watching Shane wolf it down (this is the only sure-fire sign that he likes it)

Sunday afternoon naps

having an empty laundry basket (this does not happen very often, but it’s amazing when it does)

thinking about being able to hold my soon-to-be-born niece or nephew in my arms

SUNSHINE (even if it’s cold sunshine)

walking through our house and thinking “wow! we own this!” (well, techincally we won’t “own” it for another 29 years and 2 months, but at least we’re slowly getting there)

the view of the Olympic mountains as seen from Beacon Hill on my way to work in the morning

the falafel plate from Falafel King on 1st Ave, complete with the most garlicky hummus you will ever taste

the soundtrack of “Once” piping through my ipod

coming home each night to a husband that is always eager to greet me with a hug and a kiss

the buttery, flaky deliciousness of a pain au chocolat at Cafe Besalu in Ballard (this is a recent discovery – thank you Jack and LaVerne!)

new episodes of Project Runway

the sound of French being spoken

occasionally taking time to sit back and breathe deeply

Finally wrapped Le Petit Prince up last night.  This was my first real attempt at reading a substantial piece of literature in French (yes, some consider this to be a children’s book, but there are parts of the book that go 4 or 5 pages without any pictures, so I’m going to call it “substantial literature”).  I went through the book in two rounds:  Round #1 consisted of a sentence-by-sentence translation, where I wrote down any words or phrases I didn’t know and looked them up in my French dictionary (by the end of the book, I had a list of nearly 500 words…).  For round #2, I read the book out loud to myself, to work on my verbal skills a little and review the vocab I listed in the first round.  90 pages later, I was tongue-tied and mentally exhausted, but pretty proud of myself for getting through it.  And it actually turned out to be a great little story about the joys of imagination that we often miss out on as adults.  The illustrations were simple but whimsical and fun – I love the image below (the little prince imagines that baobab trees will engulf his planet if he doesn’t stay on top of his gardening).  Two thumbs up – I like to think that I will read this to our future children someday…


After re-reading my last post, I realized that while it’s fun to dream of faraway lands, I should not take for granted the city in which I live. So I made it my mission this weekend to embrace the offerings of Seattle. And God smiled on this plan by giving us a bout of sunshine!

My adventures began Saturday morning with a trip up to Fusion Beads. Shane had given me a gift certificate that was burning a hole in my pocket. I walked in and was immediately overwhelmed. This place is stocked with all kinds of shiny little treasures – glass beads, metal beads, plastic beads, wood beads, etc. Below is some of my loot (don’t know yet what I’ll do with any of this, but there’s some definite potential here):


From Fusion, I headed over to Irwin’s Cafe in on N. 40th to enjoy a latte do a little reading. I scored a table by the window and enjoyed the comfy-cozy, slightly funky, laid-back vibe. This place has a great neighborhood feel to it – flower pots and Adirondack chairs out front, people walking by with their dogs, newspapers strewn on the tables… I’m still waiting for a fantastic cafe like this to open Columbia City. Patience.

That evening, Shane and I met some friends up in Maple Leaf for dinner at Judy Fu’s Snappy Dragon (how could you not want to eat at a place that has a name like that?). Kind of a hole-in-the-wall, but clean and super-delicious. Juicy dumplings, broccoli beef, prawns with veggies, sweet and sour chicken, Szechuan green beans, mmmmm… I walked out of this place about 4 pounds heavier, but it was worth it.

Got up bright and early Sunday morning (is 9 a.m. early?) and headed to Joe Bar in Capitol Hill to grab a cup of coffee, a scone, and a table where I could get some studying done (I take my first architectural licensing exam next month – yikes!). I used to frequent this place back when Shane and I lived in the ‘hood and have really missed it. Great rotating art on the walls, good espresso, wonderfully varied clientele, and a little mezzanine which serves as the perfect perch from which to take this all in:


From Joe Bar, I walked over to Volunteer Park, where I could fully revel in the sunshine. Good Lord, this city is beautiful:


Some further wandering around the park led me to this completely amazing greenhouse, open to the public and stocked with everything from tropical, jungly plants like Birds of Paradise to all kinds of cacti. I opened the doors and when the warm, moist air hit me in the face it was like I was in a different world. Talk about an urban oasis!


My final stop on Sunday was the Frye Art Museum, to take in some art. This place is great – it’s not large by any means, but the work is beautifully displayed and most of the galleries have comfy chairs where you can sit back and just absorb the paintings around you (I’m a big fan of seating in art galleries). I usually gloss over the paintings of cattle and many of the landscapes, but some of the portraits here are stunning. I was drawn to this one in particular (love the contrast of the dark, foreboding snake with her pale, glowing skin). It’s called “Sin” and was painted by Franz von Stuck around 1900:


And thus, my appreciation for Seattle is replenished…

I’m getting itchy. Not wool-sweater-itchy, but stuck-in-one-place-itchy. Maybe it’s all of this staying indoors lately (due to the incessant rain which feels like it will NEVER STOP), but now more than ever, I want to go someplace. Someplace far away. Like Paris, or Portugal, or maybe Switzerland? The European vacation that Shane and I promised ourselves we would take before we start a family seems to keep getting pushed back. I know that this is largely due to the fact that we chose to pursue a different dream several months ago and bought a house, and I wouldn’t take back that decision for the world, since our home and our neighbors have been such an incredible blessing to us, but a mortgage payment does seem to make a significant dent in the travel fund. Thus the itchiness. I keep reminiscing about the year I spent in Paris, which was so enlightening and wonderful and full of surprises. Around every corner was a fantastic cafe or a beautiful cathedral or an old tile-roofed, stone-walled, wrought-iron railinged apartment building. And I was able to do things like hop on a train to Brussels at a moment’s notice, to keep from letting that one remaining day on my Euro-Rail pass go to waste. The luxuries of student life abroad… But for now, we must be patient. And save. And dream about that picture-perfect day that we will someday spend again in Paris. It might go something like this:

Roll out of bed sometime between the hours of 9 and 10 (in typical Parisian fashion), shower, and step out onto the narrow sidewalk outside our room on Rue de Rosiers. Grab a pain au chocolat at any of the dozens of bakeries at our fingertips and walk across the Pont Marie to take a seat along the bank of the Seine to enjoy our flaky, buttery, chocolaty croissants. Find the very spot there on Ile Saint-Louis where Shane proposed (the first time), and enjoy a sappy-but-precious romantic moment. Part of the afternoon would have to be spent at the Centre Pompidou (a contemporary-art-lover’s dream). There are paintings there that have the ability to literally take my breath away… The rest of the afternoon would be devoted to aimlessly wandering and sitting on cafe terraces, sipping espresso. Maybe grab a falafel sandwich and swing by Place de Vosges to lay on the grass and people-watch for awhile. And once darkness falls, seeing the Eiffel Tower is a must. Touristy as it is, it is still beautiful, especially at night. A 2 or 3-hour dinner of French cuisine, a stop at the courtyard of the Louvre (this building lit up at night = wow!), and we will fall into bed contentedly exhausted. How lovely it is to dream…

Taken from the top of one of the towers of Notre Dame. So many gems to be found within those narrow streets…




2008 New Year’s Resolution #1: Start a blog. Check.

I’ve been delaying my blog debut for months now, arguing that typing on a laptop just doesn’t compete with the feeling of putting to pen to paper in my little black Moleskine journal. But alas, in an effort to increase my readership, I have jumped aboard the technological train. This website is a glimpse into what I’m working on, what I’m pondering, what I’m learning. I hope it will be followed by family, friends, maybe even the occasional stranger. But it’s not meant to be a substitute for phone calls or coffee dates – clearly, ear-to-ear or face-to-face contact still takes priority over “virtual” communication. Like I said, this is only a glimpse…

Blog-tastic features of “little black journal”:

  • I call myself a “wanna-be artist” because, honestly, I seem to only pick up a paintbrush a few times a year. But check out what I’m currently working on in the “now painting” page. I will update you as progress is made. If you don’t see progress being made, bug me about it. I often need a kick in the pants.
  • In the past year, my passion for reading has really taken flight. You’ll see quite a variety of a books fly through the “now reading” log. I made a resolution in 2007 to read at least one book a month and covered stuff ranging from The Secret Life of Bees (a touching story about the joys of female bonding) to Lolita (creepy). I welcome recommendations.
  • I love making stuff, and that passion has recently taken the form of knitting and sewing. There are few things I enjoy more than saying “Oh, you like my scarf? Thanks, I made it.” So keep an eye on the “now stitching” page and make sure to compliment me when you see me wearing my creations.

Signing off – check back soon for more bloggy goodness.