Saturday, July 31, 2010

I often find myself asking: WWASMD?

One of the things that I have personally discovered about being a mother is that, it's not the mothering part that's the hardest part - there's more than enough love, joy, and wine to paper over the tough-spots for that - but life itself. If the business of life - work, chores, dramas, relationships - didn't get in the way, being a mother would actually be easy-peasy. Ok, I exaggerate a little, but this, by the way, is why our parents seem to have so much of a better time with our kids than we do - the time they spend with them is almost 100% devoted to our kids' wants and needs, not to shopping or laundry or vacuuming.

Case in point today. My mother and I had been out getting some groceries at Safeway. Although I get most of my food at Trader Joes these days, I still have to venture into the major chains for things like laundry detergent, paper towels, spreadable butter (which we seem to go through in the VAT-LOAD) and the like. So we were heading home from a late afternoon shopping trip with a trunk-load of mostly cleaning supplies. We get home, Mum unloads Daisy and I head back to the trunk to grab a couple of bags. Right when I lift up the first one, I am overcome with the fumes of bleach. 

Wow, I think, that bottle of bleach I got really smells! Yeah, well, with reason - the whole thing (and I mean the whole thing) had spilled out of the bottle, through the bad and was sloshing around the trunk of my car, coating every grocery bag and anything else in it's wake. No sooner did it dawn on me what had happened, than I looked down and saw the tell-tale stains on my favorite yoga pants, spreading from knee to hip. Then, I started to look and realized that the whole trunk was awash in the stuff. Everything was covered - everything!

If I was a better photo-journalist, I would have raced into the house to grab my camera so that you would have a visual at this point but, honestly, capturing the sorry mess for a blog post was not the first thing on my mind. I'm sure I'll get to that state of blogging madness eventually but I'm not there yet.

Fortunately, I have a plastic trunk liner and so the damaged was containable. Unfortunately, the plastic trunk liner meant that, instead of the bleach being absorbed on impact, it just drifted around to find other things to ruin.

Luckily, as I said, I had my mother there and she whisked Daisy inside while I grabbed some towels and a hose and set about the 30 minute process of taking everything out of the trunk, including every grocery item out of every bag, separating into piles on the front lawn, and then washing and drying, or throwing away, as appropriate. 

As I was doing this, I couldn't help but wonder, as I often do in situations like this: what would I have done if I had been on my own? I certainly couldn't have left Daisy in the house on her own while I cleaned up, nor could I have kept an eye on her in the front yard while I did so. It's also not possible to contain Missy in any pack-and-play (even if I had one) or other cordoned-off area (even if I could think of anything I might have to make that happen.) Leaving the bleach until she went to bed, two hours from then, also not an option unless I wanted everything in my trunk to be ruined and my car to be engulfed in toxic fumes as the stuff baked in the heat on the driveway. So, my first thought was that I would have simply called my parents and had them cover over, thus bringing me back to my current square-one.

And then I gave myself a mental slap in the face because I thought that was just a horrid cop-out. Seriously? I could't figure this out on my own? I mean, what would a single mom do?

This is something I ask myself from time-to-time, by the way. The very fact that I HAVE more help than most makes me sometimes wonder if I could actually do all this alone if I had to. It's not that I don't appreciate the help I have - I thank my lucky stars - but it does niggle at me occasionally, especially when I find I am having a hard time getting something practical done, like laundry, or making the bed, or putting on my make-up, and realize that I often resort to waiting until Hubby comes home, or baby-sitting arrives or something. I mean: what would I do if there was no "other" person to wait on? What would a single mom do? (WWASMD?)

My solution, by the way, in this particular case, I decided, was that I would have grabbed the pre-cooked meatloaf I had bought for dinner, popped it in a bowl, dragged Daisy's high-chair out onto the driveway and plopped her in it for dinner, while I sorted, cleaned, and dried. 

Having "solved" my entirely fictional dilemma, I felt very pleased with myself and waved at Daisy and my mother through the front window as I finished up.

My yoga pants are ruined, by the way and they were my most favoritist, most ass-flattering ones. Which is just sad in itself - ass-flattering yoga pants? On a Saturday afternoon? Out of the house? Ack! Yes, it is possible that I have lost all pride, sense and feeling.

Also, I can't get the smell and feel of bleach out of my hands, no matter how many times I was them in Bath & Bodyworks' Honeysuckle hand soap and lather them in cocoa butter lotion. They feel like I soaked them in acid for an hour and if I so much as even rub my eyes with them, my eyes start to smart. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Yesterday evening I went to a photography class on exposure and DSLR cameras. It's a two-part class, two hours on Tuesday evening for two weeks, and last night we went over the basic trio of controlling light in pictures: ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed.

I've done a class like this once before with Penny Silvia, our Goddess of family photos, but I really felt like I needed to hear it again - not because Penny didn't do a good job of teaching it (because I think my photos have improved immeasurably since her class) but because it still isn't coming naturally for me. In short, I need it pounded into my thick and aging skull one more time. What has been stumping me more than anything is the relationship between the three elements in controlling how your photo looks. Separately, and theoretically, I got it. Together, and when standing there with the buttons in-hand, I was having problems making each element work with the next successfully.

The teacher, Jordan Farmer, was very good, by the way and I would highly recommend his class for anyone who has a pretty decent understanding of their camera already but needs to get more in-depth on mechanics and technical elements relating to exposure. He did a great job of explaining (in simple English) how the three legs on the exposure stool balance one another out, as well as the side-effects and impacts of playing with one vs. another to let-in or reduce light.

So, now I have homework before next week's class. I have to take 7, maybe 8, photos:

  1. A photo with a blurry background. (Meaning a photo with a shallow depth of field.)
  2. A landscape photo. (Meaning a photo with a deep depth of field.)
  3. A photo where something moving is intentionally blurry (playing with shutter speed)
  4. A photo where something moving is frozen in time (again playing with shutter speed)
  5. Two shots of the same subject in the highest and lowest possible ISO mode (to compare "noise" or "graininess")
  6. A shot in the darkest place we can "safely" take a photo without a flash. ("Safely" here means that we can still get our shutter speed over 125th of a second, which is considered safe for hand-holding a camera.)
  7. Optional bonus shot is for a silhouette - a subject totally blacked-out against a light background.
It sounds like a lot and I guess I could do most of them very simply around the house or yard but the creative and competitive streaks in me are determined to come to the table with images that at-least vie for the "best in class". So, I'm hoping to get up to Foresthill this weekend with the family, and use that setting for most of the shots.

Any suggestions, by the way, of subjects or settings or tips for any of the assignments, are much appreciated.

Of course, I will post the results of my homework here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's official: Ms. Ranty Pants joins the World Wide Web

Having tweaked the blog's design, layout, and name, this lunch time I set out to purchase plus for Missy's blog.

The names are now mine, all mine, and all the forwarding is taken care of. So now you can view both blogs, wherever they live, now or in the future, without all the "blogger" clutter.

I've also opened up my twitter feed. It was previously locked/private but I sort of forgot why I did that, so it no longer is. However, I changed my twitter name to "msrantypants" (click the name to find my feed and "follow me") just for a little added identity protection. Most of you know who I am already but, for the occasional drop-by, I like it better that way.

I have NO IDEA what the purpose of this tweaking and spouffing-up is for. I have no grand plans for my blogs. Just felt a need for a change.

Speaking of change, I have a hair appointment next week and am going to tell my hairdresser to send me blonde. My mother will be soooo excited but most of my friends seem to prefer me as a brunette. Either way, I'll make someone happy. For those of you that know me personally, you're already aware that I change my hair all the time, so this is no big shakes. Don't panic, though, I won't be throwing bleach on my head anytime soon. We're talking a sort of dark, golden blond. This is the pic I'll be taking with me to the hairdresser... maybe a little less red but we'll see...

Thanksgiving 08 048b

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Daisy's Sacramento: July 24 2010

Cough and cold be damned! Ms. Daisy and I were not going to be stopped by a few sniffles from making this weekend the first in our quest for world domination. Ok, well, let's reel that back a bit and say just Sacramento domination.

(If you've no idea what I'm talking about, then you're majorly CAPTURED. You missed a post, dear friend. Catch up and read more often!)

I had originally planned to drive us to midtown Sacramento for the new "Midtown Bazaar." Well, I executed that plan and it was bunk. One small parking lot of uninspiring jewelry and t-shirt vendors. Poor Sacraghetto tries so hard to have these little community/cultural shindigs but seems to come up short every time. Enough of that, though: one of the reasons for this new photo project was to stop bagging on Sacramento and start finding some interesting stuf... from Daisy's perspecitve.

It started off rocky, I don't mind telling you. Trying to find something for a sick, cranky toddler to engage with on a fairly dead mid-town street on a Saturday morning, was hard. We walked blocks and I took some pictures here and there, me trying desperately to ignore some folks who looked at me strangely. Some even stopped their conversation to stare at me as if I was being rude! And no, I wasn't taking pictures of them just near them. After said blocks, we ended up at Starbucks. I was thirsty and hot and missy was cranky, plus I needed a distraction to get a binky out of her mouth since she doesn't interact with her environment when she has the darned thing in.

After Starbucks, an apple juice and some bread with mayonnaise (hey, you do what you got to do), Daisy started to lean out of her stroller and point at things. That's when I grabbed my camera and began snapping.

So, artistically or not, these are the things that Daisy found interesting today on J street in Midtown Sacramento...

Fishy Tiles... on the side of the OfficeMax building, of all places

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A Tattoo Parlor Building and Sign
(SNAKES AND TATTOOS!? This does not bode well!!!!!)

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"Man!" Which she would yell at any man she saw within 50 feet
Again, not liking the trends here. Tattoos, snakes, men...

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Herself, in reflection.
Oh, gawd... the list is not flattering, is it?

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And a few other random things along the way...

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A pole smothered in flyers, old and new...
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A colorful booth of kids' clothes...
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Sacramento Memorial Auditorium
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Murals on the The Bread Store
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Everything was either taken from Daisy's view-point (stroller-level) and/or because she showed an interest in it. Much of it required shooting on-the-go because, every time I stopped, Missy started thumping her feet agains the stroller.

You can see the whole set here

GNO, MNO, whatever it is you want to call it

Through being a mom/mum, I have met some truly awesome women.

I was lucky enough to make friends with a few of the other pregnant ladies in my prenatal class and, after our kiddos were born last year, we kept in touch. We started off with play dates on Friday lunch times when everyone was on maternity leave, sharing the usual war stories of early motherhood - sleepless nights (sleepless days!), inexplicable and inconsolable crying fits, breastfeeding and formula, how to take a shower, stuff like that. But, increasingly, as we have become more familiar with motherhood (and more exasperated at the same time) we have begun to drift more toward GNO or MNO (Girls/Mother's Nights Out) in which we share similar stories but minus the kids, plus some alcohol (ok, truthfully, there was wine at the play dates too) a lot more humor, and a lot less desperation.

I love these outings because they are a study in how our lives have changed. We all arrive frazzled, the latest nightmare toddler story babbling from our lips at a hundred words a second before we even sit down, and reach immediately for the drinks menu. Then, after laughing a little at whatever mess we left our husbands with that evening and expressing our gratitude for being able to get out alone for a few hours we... spend three hours talking about our kids. At some point in the evening, someone notices that the topic of conversation has been kind of narrow and we all make a half-hearted attempt to switch to a subject unrelated to kids or motherhood - work, music, books, current events or something. But it always comes back to the kids. For instance, one of the moms was talking about a book she was reading but then it turned into a story about how her daughter was sitting on her lap while she was finishing a chapter and ripped one of the pages right out from under her nose. Which prompted us all to tell our stories about toddler destruction and there we were again, talking about the kids.

The great thing is, it doesn't matter. None of us is bitter about it. In fact, despite the fact that our stories are usually of the "OMG, you'll never believe what she/he did today!" kind, they're always told with humor. There's never much need for commiseration. It's entertainment pure and simple. Even the tough stuff is fodder for a good giggle. Of course, the cocktails help too!

We also talk a lot about feeling "older", which just makes me laff, laff, laff because I am the oldest of the group by anywhere between 3-6 years. Last night everyone was talking about their 30th birthday parties and all I could offer was: "I promise to invite you to my 40th!" My 30th birthday feels like a LIFETIME away at this point. I remember it well but hardly can identify with where I was and who I was then - just 5 years ago!

One of the group is pregnant again, by the way, and a few of the others are already plotting their next bundle of joy. Therefore, I expect that about 10-12 months from now, I will be the only one left with a drink-in-hand at these get togethers. Hopefully we will still get together, if just for dinner, but I remember what it was like feeling all heavy, tired, and gassy - it didn't inspire you to party, that's for sure - so we'll see.

For now, I'm just grateful to have met them all. Because of them, I think it's likely that I actually go out more often on my own NOW than I did before I had Daisy. Most of my friends prior to motherhood, lived too far away for frequent get-togethers, already had overly-booked schedules, and/or couldn't find a babysitter. Our group is fortunate that we all live pretty close to one another and have husbands that willingly take over for a night. They're a good group of guys, actually.

Next time we go out, I'll have to get a group shot. With the exception of moi, they've all lost their baby weight and are hotties. Of course, I'll have the last laugh when they're all big and pregnant again.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Indentity Crisis


AKA: How to better represent these many people (all me!) via this blog?

As you read in my previous post, I am thinking about overhauling my blog. I've been writing on here more recently, especially since I've been sharing my adventures in amateur photography, and coming here every day has left me increasingly more dissatisfied with my current set-up.

First is the look and feel, which I previously addressed. I obviously yearn for something much more professional looking (why, I don't know - it's not a professional blog and I have no intention of making it so) but lack the time or knowledge to do anything too spiffy. I'm also reticent to pay money to maintain it. What's my ROI? Like I said, it's not a business and I refuse to feature tacky ads just to make a dime off it. Once you start that then it's a slippery path, in my opinion. When it becomes more about writing to attract readers, to generate income from click-thrus or whatever, your focus (or at least your editorial radar) has to change. I already have a full-time job where I write primarly for the purpose of generating action and I don't want to turn this blog - my outlet for personal expression and the mundane details of my life - into just another money-making chore.

So, I'm thinking on this one. As you can see, I've already played around with my design a bit. I like it better than before but I'm sure that will change in a day or two. Maybe the problem is me? Maybe I just can't commit to a look-and-feel? Another reason why I'm reluctant to put any money into something new: it discourages me from changing it up on a whim. I like change. I don't like to feel held-back from making changes in my life. It dampens my enthusiasm for life and makes me feel suffocated. (I know, I know, it's just a blog!)

Second component is the name of the blog. Since day one, it's been called "Random Rants of a British Ex-Pat." Nothing entirely wrong with that since I do have my fair share of ranting on here and I am a British, living in the U.S. But something has been nagging at me for some time: does it represent me or what I blog about any more? I'm not sure. It seems... negative, angry even. Sure, I can be both things (I'm sure there'll be no arguments there) but, when I look back over my posts, that's not what the majority of them are about any more. Back in the early days, I used to blog a lot more about current events, politics etc... and, although I still do some of that now, this blog has become less and less about commenting about "what's out there" than sharing "what's going on over here". Being a mom has been instrumental in that, of course: there's a lot more going on over here.

On the other hand, I don't want to narrow down the focus of my blog too much with a name that limits the type of posts I can put on here. So, although I love photography and travel, I'm reluctant to use a title centered around either. Obviously, I'm not actually limited because I have control over the blog and can post whatever the hell I want (one of the very many reasons that I like blogs in the first place - I am my own and only editor) but I want the title to reflect the content. If someone from the blogosphere drops by and finds me, I want them to get a sense of what to expect from what I call it. Not unreasonable, right?

Then, adding to this, I have been thinking for some time now about getting a custom URL. Something more catchy than "" and that can follow me to any blog hosting service so, if I do make a change, people won't "lose" me in the cavernous virtual world.

I've GoDaddy'd some possibilities and the following are open but, again, not sure if I'm going to stick with the current title of the blog.

There are also these:

  • Which makes me sound like a lush, however, and defines me by being a mother when, in fact, most of my parental rants are on my other blog.
  • Which might be disappointing to someone looking for lots of interesting traveling stories because, let's be honest, I don't travel that much any more (if I ever did by some standards.) I see this as more of a wish-list title. Like, I wish I was the traveling girl.
The custom URL is scary though. More commitment with more consequences for change.

Ewwww! How is a married suburban mom commitment phobic!?

Aaaanywhosit. What do YOU think? You're reading this stupid thing (apparently, coz you're here). What would you call it? (And careful there... I do have an ego to protect!) Obviously the calling comes first and the URLing comes second, so I need a name. Or... not. Am I still Ms. Rantypants?

I'm having a creative crisis

I've been spending a lot of time reading other people's blogs recently. Not sure why exactly. I go through these phases where I get all plugged into the online world and then, suddenly, I realize how much freaking time I'm spending in a virtual world while the real one awaits just beyond the keyboard, and I disappear for a while.

I know that, if I want to build my blog readership I should be reading lots of other blogs and commenting on them, which will increase my profile and beget more readers and comments and blah blah blah. But that's not why I read other blogs. I'm just interested in other people's lives really; what they're doing, how they're doing it, why they're doing it and, because I like to consider myself somewhat a student of the written word, how the write about it.

Anyway, I digress. The point of this post is because I'm not satisfied with the design of my blog. If you've been reading for a while, you'll know that I've changed it up a couple of times in the last few months but, having seen a bunch of other blogs whose design/layout I like much better, I'm thinking of changing again.

I'm not sure if it really matters in the grand scheme of things; is what I write is more important than the space in which I write it? I don't know. I, personally, am very influenced by layout and design. It greatly affects my first opinion of a blog. In my mind it goes that, if the person has a well laid-out blog with a clean and somewhat professional-looking design, they take their blog seriously and are probably are going to write good stuff in it. However, there are good blogs I read whose design is uninspiring and amateurish to say the least. I think I fall somewhere inbetween right now.

The way I see it, this blog represents ME. Who I am. My personality. And right now I don't think the layout or design are doing that well. If I had to put myself into colors and images, I would see oranges and yellows and pinks and reds, crazy splashes of bright colors, planes, suitcases, cameras, pens, a martini glass, a bottle of wine, a map of Britain, and (LOL) a binkie... Busy but clean and modern at the same time. (Not like the bathroom wallpaper in a house from the 70s.) Needless to say, the current design of Random Rants is NONE of those things. It feels out-of-step, cold, cluttered and uninteresting. BLECH!

Yet, I neither have the talent nor the time to work on making this blog more "me." So, I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions? Free (or low cost) template or design resources? Simple ideas to turn this thing around?

All are welcome...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Plotting an eastern adventure

E (of The Gurly Life) and I are plotting. For some time we have been going back and forth on social networking sites and in person, skating around the edges of an idea: an exploration vacation together!

The more we keep saying it, the more the offhand thoughts begin to form into ideas, and the ideas into plans. Yesterday, on FB, we tossed out some countries.

I said London (for the 2012 games). She said New Zealand. I said Bali. She said New Zealand. I refused to go anywhere where the national language is English. She said Turkey. And I was sold.

I've been to Turkey thrice before. Once, back when I was a travel ingenue. I went on a school cruise (yes a school cruise - 1,500 teenagers between the age of 11 and 16 on a rickety old, Greek cruiser - not as fun as it sounds). It was one of the stops on our Mediterranean educational adventure. The others were Athens, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Rhodes. I was looking forward to Cairo most because of the Sphinx and the pyramids (one of my childhood dreams was to be an Egyptologist!), then Athens because of the Accropolis, then Jerusalem because of the religious mysticism that comes with it, Rhodes fourth because I'd seen pictures and it looked pretty, and Turkey last because, well, what the hell was in Turkey? I was 12. I had NO idea.

Turkey was our last stop before we returned back to Pireus port in Greece. I had not had a fun time in February on the choppy Mediterranean. It was my first time away from home and my parents, and I was on an old, creaky boat,  feeling seasick most of the time, and avoiding the odd food they dished up the rest of the time - burgers with bits of wood in it (WTF!?) and breaded camel; I kid you not, they tried to feed this stuff to English teenagers at a time in the 80s when Pizza Hut was considered exotic! I still remember using the pound coins my mother had sewn into the lining of my suitcase (because we were only supposed to take so much money and our teachers were supposed to hold onto it for safe keeping and ration it day-by-day - yeah right!) to purchase bars and bars of Milka chocolate from the gift shop. Me and my cruise buddies would sit in our tiny, wood-paneled cabins that shook as the engines toughed-out the rough seas, and devoured those bars of candy as if they were lifelines. I'm probably the only person who went on vacation, ate chocolate for every meal, and lost weight. I also wrote sorrowful postcards back home to my mother and father, and worried them sick - a story my mother still loves to tell from time-to-time.

I remember being disappointed at every port of call back then, although now, knowing what I know about travel and having seen what I've seen, I realize that I was looking at the wrong things, scared as I was to be somewhere so different and without my parents.

Athens was dirty and busy and a mess. We didn't get to go up the Accropolis, in fact our visit to the city was reduced to a bus tour on our way to Pireus port to meet up with the cruise. Cairo was even dirtier and busier and more messy. It smelled funny and it wasn't a wonder - I still remember seeing a man openly urinating on the center divide of a busy street, from my tour bus window. The Egyptian tour guides were all over us too, in a way that a twelve year old girl with light hair just couldn't brush off. They grabbed for us as we stepped off the tour bus at Giza and tried to get us to leave our group to take private camel rides with them. We had been warned about a girl who had been separated from her guide group a month or two before, and had been raped by an Egyptian man in one of the secret passageways of the pyramids, so we were all scared of the strangely dressed and rank-smelling men. In fact, because of that event, we didn't even get to go into the pyramids, we only took pictures from the outside. It was also strange and odd that Giza was on a hill just above the outskirts of Cairo itself. Somehow I had pictured the great icons standing alone on a barren field of sand dunes. Overall, I was underwhelmed.

Jerusalem was intriguing but scariest of all. We went to the Wailing Wall and soldiers barred our entrance, towering above us, unsmiling in green uniforms and with rifles slung over their shoulders. I'd never seen a real gun before that day (yes, that's the reality of living in England, folks - guns of any kind are not an everyday reality) and so I remember my heart almost leaping out of my mouth. It added to the otherworldness of everything around me - the spices that sweat-out from everyone you passed, the sounds of discordant music, the domed skyline that seemed to vibrate with the heat and the tension, and the soft sounds of moaning from those at the wall. I did get to see the places where Jesus was purportedly born and laid to rest after the crucifixion. Despite not being religious now or then, those places and images still stick in my memory like photos on the wall. The sense of history, of gravitas, was awe-inspiring, even back then when I didn't really understand or appreciate such things properly.

And then we cruised into the port of Kusadasi on Turkey's Aegean coast slowly one sunny morning, on calm seas. I still vividly remember standing on the deck of the ship alone while everyone else ate breakfast, watching us pull into the harbor. Kusadasi was prettier than the other ports we had sailed into, the landscape more hilly and the buildings a pretty white, less decayed, and standing out like little Lego blocks on the green hills. I hadn't given Turkey a second thought, in fact I was looking forward to getting it over with so we could return home, but I knew right then that I was going to like it. In fact, I loved the place.

The people seemed kinder and friendlier, for a start. Whether that was because I was more accustomed to "foreign-ness" by then, or because this was a country at peace with it's eastern religions and westernized society, I couldn't tell you now; my perception is clouded from having visited so many other new places since. Certainly, they still pulled at you (verbally and physically) to visit their shop, and the men still eyed you or reached out sometimes to touch your light hair, which was unsettling. This was still the Turkey before Turkey became a popular European beach destination and so this group of cute, tweenage girls with their long, light locks, were just as new to them as they were to us. Yet, it did feel safer there.

Still, what grabbed me most about Turkey was it's startlingly fascinating history (the Greeks, the Huns, the Byzantines, the Ottomans, the Romans all conquered, ruled, or attempted to conquer the country), and the large number of well-preserved and fascinating historical sites that are still standing as a result. While we were there, we visited Ephesus, which to this day is still the MOST AMAZING historical site I have ever been to, and was the one place I ended up talking about the most when I returned home. Yup, that's right - Cairo, pyramids, sphinx, Jerusalem = meh. Ephesus = WOW! I also loved the town of Kusadasi, with it's mixture of beach-vacation, eastern-flavored bazars, and historical sites.

Not two years later I persuaded my parents, who had yet to travel on an airplane, to take me back to Kusadasi. We re-visited Ephesus and then an amazing place called Pamukkale, a hillside of calcium baths which has to be seen to be believed. My parents also fell in love with the Turkish hospitality and my Dad almost sold me to a young Turkish waiter for a camel. (A story for another time.) Then, not four years after that I returned with my boyfriend at the time and did it all again. (Aside from the selling me for a camel thing... my boyfriend at the time thought I was a keeper!)

It is not an exaggeration to say that my passion for travel, for going somewhere so completely out of my comfort zone, outside of my culture and beliefs, was born in Turkey. So it holds a very special place in my heart.

Yet, I have still only seen a small slice of it. A sliver. Just the portion that borders the Aegean Sea. One of my top ten list of places to go before I die is Istanbul and so I hope that E and I can pull this trip together a couple of years from now because it would be wonderful to check that one off my list and return to the place that made me who I am today: a travel-crazed suburban mom, just waiting to break out of her 9-5 cage at the first opportunity.

Photo A Day: Wednesday, July 21 2010

Originally uploaded by Travel Vixen
This photo was actually taken by Hubby, obvy. It's me and little miss, settling down for a round of story-telling before bedtime. As you can see she is bleary-eyed because she is not only tired but sick, poor thing.

Of course, I am now sick too. Pretty much no way that you can smooch with your sick 15 month old, without sharing in the "love".

Photo effects by moi, however, using my new play-toy (for 30 days while it's free, anyway) "Lightroom". Loving it! Turned an awful photo of me at the end of the day, into a half-way decent one.

Could be worth the $300 for that alone!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A new photo project

What? You say! Another one? What happened to the old one : Photo A Day?

Well, it has not been totally abandoned. Some days there is stuff to take photos of and some days there is not. Some days there is time to take the photo, transfer it to my PC, upload it to Flickr, and then blog about it and some days there is not. So, somedays there will be  a photo and somedays there will not. Maybe I should rename it my "Someday photo project". Ahem.

No, this photo project has been born out of a couple of different motivations. The first is to find something to do on weekends that gets me and Daisy out of the house, without shopping or eating ($$). The second is to attempt to remind myself that there are some endearing qualities about the area I live in, Sacramento.

Hence, my new photo project is going to be: "Daisy's Sacramento"

I'm going to find interesting - either visually, historically, or otherwise - places or sights in the Sacramento region and go-forth to photograph them from Daisy's perspective - as in whatever interests her about them (if anything) and from 30" off the ground.

I'm thinking I will focus mostly on the historical because, the whole time I was living in the Orange County area, all I did was bitch about how there was no history. The historical downtowns and older buildings were one of the things I thought I would like about this area, so now I need to put my camera where my mouth is. However, every week won't be a history lesson. We'll see where life takes us.

Not that I'm promising something every week, either. It's a project, not a homework assignment and I don't want to turn it into a chore. It's supposed to be fun and practice.

Oh, and if you live locally and have ideas about places to go, please comment or email me. Or if you live out of the area and would like to know something more about the area, that would be great to know too. Although the project is about me, it would be nice if it also entertained YOU!

The great thing about this new project is that I don't have to try and separate the time I spend with Daisy and the pictures I take of her, from my photography practice. This way I get to kill two birds with one stone, thereby substantially increasing the likelihood that I'll do it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Two fabulous women having a fabulous weekend. FABULOUS!

My GOODNESS! It's taken me more than 2 days to finish this post. Busy, busy, busy and also lots to report.

This weekend (as you know if you read my previous post), I was in L.A. for my friend, E's, birthday. She turned the grand ole age of 24 on Sunday (yes, she's going backwards) and there was much reason to celebrate: she is, of course, fabulous, and defying time.


On Saturday, we took her little red Prius (named "Pixie") down to Orange County, my former "hood". Our destination was Laguna Beach and we were optimistically wearing our bathing suits under our clothes and hoping for a little beach-time. Sadly, the marine-layer thwarted those plans but we had a great time anyway, meeting her friend Christine for a delicious lunch and taking pictures.

Me and Christine, courtesy of E's photos, holding what turned out to be a $250 teapot. I know, WTH!? The thing looked like it belonged in a flea market. Somebody obviously knows something about this pot that I don't. It's value is definitely hidden at face-value.

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Then Pixie took us up PCH to Corona del Mar, my favorite beach (and million-dollar-home watching location) back when I was a footloose and fancy-free OC Girl and did such frivolously pointless and time-wasting things.

As you can see, the weather was (to quote E's post) "Gloomy"

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Corona del Mar beach, busy with very brave folks in that cold water.

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Expensive homes that line the streets above the beach and even cascade down onto the beach themselves. Sigh. I want to be a billionaire, so frickin' bad!

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Despite said "gloom", there were moments where the sun ALMOST broke through. I say almost. Anyway, it was enough to feel a little warmth threatening the day, and so we decided to grab whatever rays we could on the benches that line the overlook above the beach.

That was until a group of excitable, cackling hispanic teenagers parked themselves not ten feet from us. In truth there were only 4 - two girls and two boys - but the girls were loud enough on their own to constitute a "group".  Not only was the volume unbelievable (and completely unnecessary) but the constant, excited rise-and-fall of their cadence, coupled with every other word being "like", just gave Elena and I an anxiety attack. Ack!

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My traditional beach foot-shot, lacking the panache of the typical version due to the gray skies and bench vs. sand. But, you know, you make do. With lemons we must make lemonade!

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Elena catching some rays.

Later that evening, we went to E's office, to get some quiet time before we attended a charity-event, a summer Mardi-Gras celebration organized every year by her boss.

This is E's office. Very Official... except when you see what's inside. Teehee! This was how I remember my office looking when I worked in the OC.

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Being at a loose-end for an hour or so, gave us lots of opportunities to be thoroughly silly in the empty law office.

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Whose tootsies are whose?

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E practicing her head-stands, which is quite a normal occurrence in her office, from what I can gather.

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And then there was this photo, courtesy of E again, which I'm not sure if I like or not but I'm going ahead and posting it anyway just for the heck of it. It looks like I'm trying to be all posey and stuff but the reality was that I was a little irritated that E was taking a picture of me. Up until this moment, I was hiding behind my hands and turning my head. This was my final look of resignation, as I allowed her to pull-off a shot. Aparently, according to E at least, I came across as very "Femme Fatale". All I see is that my upper-lip is missing, I have too many sun spots, and that I need a tan bad. Sigh...

Michelle, femme fatale

Later, it was great to meet E's co-workers at the Mardi-Gras celebration and lots of smart, intelligent conversation ensued. Funnily enough, some of the communication and education challenges E experiences in her work with local city councils are very similar to challenges I experience in my job. It was interesting to hear her boss' advice and the way he delivered it to her, as well. There was no sense of her being "wrong" or that her personality dictated the responses that hadn't been working for her (as it is often framed in organizations I have been working for), it was just a teaching moment but on a very accessible, non-judgmental level. I like it much and got a lot out of the interaction, both as someone who needs to learn how to reach my audience better and as a manager and employee who both coaches and is coached.

Fortunately, I was off the drink for the weekend, so I managed not to embarrass E too badly during the event. Although there was that moment when I told the Mayor of Fullerton that he named his daughter (who is also called Michelle) something unimaginative. Ahem... let's move on from there.


On Sunday we only had several hours, since I was heading home in the afternoon, and so we did "The L.A. thing." Ms. Pixie drove us down the Santa Monica freeway to PCH and then up to Sunset Blvd., where we cruised through Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Bel Air, Brentwood (hello OJ Simpson crime scene!), Westwood, UCLA campus (where E graduated with her Law Degree) and then eventually the tourist mecca of Beverly Hills itself.

And no trip to 90210 is complete without a stroll down Rodeo Drive...

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Is it me, or is it completely IMPOSSIBLE to look at The Regent Beverly Wilshire and not hear Roy Orbison singing "Pretty Woman"?

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The shot had to be done. Although we were trying to be all "cool" and like we came here all the time, we failed miserably in the face of photo opportunities.
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Then there was this, courtesy of E's camera,... which neither of us could not resist. It's hilarious on so many levels for both of us. Only in BH is "Selfish" a sales strategy!


All of which made us incredibly hungry, so we hot-footed it back to Pixie and drove back to E's "hood", where we had lunch. Pause, however, to mention the plastic-surgery disaster that met us in the elevator down to the parking garage. Somehow she struck up a conversation with E (who, apparently, is one of THOSE people who everyone and their mother talk to) about something that was entirely left-of-field and thoroughly bizarre. So bizarre, I have blocked it out, it seems. But it was weird. Here was this woman, who once-upon-a-time may have been attractive but now looking like the nurse in the Foster Farms plumping commercials, jibber-jabbering nonsense away in the elevator. There was something about E's Monkey t-shirt but that's all I remember. All very odd to my dampened NorCal sensibilities, and yet very normal for L.A.

Lunch in E's hood was at The Alcove Cafe and Bakery, a thoroughly cool but non-pretentious hot-spot on Hillhurst Avenue, not far from the base of Griffith Park. People-watching outside on the patio was the major entertainment, although the food was pretty-darn amazing also. Sitting there kind of crystalized all that I miss about SoCal - the cooler weather, the variety of restaurants, the broad span of different people, the younger energy that vibrates.

And then it was off to the airport and back to Sacraghetto...

Friday, July 09, 2010

Woot! I'm in Lala Land

This weekend I am in L.A. with my long-time good friend, E, of The Gurly Life fame. It's her birthday on Sunday and I decided to give her THE BEST PRESENT EVER.  Me!

Of course, my gift is not entirely selfless. For a little over 48 hours I get to be childless, and footloose and fancy-free in crazy Lala Land. I miss Southern California, so getting down here once in a while is like a breath of fresh air for me. Although without the fresh air, of course - Los Angeles isn't exactly known for it's air quality.

Despite fervently looking forward to my away time, I had quite the issue leaving Daisy this morning, however. Being a mommy is hard: you know you need the "me" time but you can barely bring yourself to sacrifice time away from them to get it. Even though you know it's irrational, you wonder if they will forget you and you'll somehow be replaced as #1 by Nanny or Grandad or Daddy. Yeah, yeah, I know. I said it was irrational.

But I'm here now and already having a great time.

This afternoon and evening we spent in downtown L.A. and the new entertainment complex that has sprung up around the Staples Center, "L.A. Live". Now, before you wonder what on earth posessed us to go to downtown Los Angeles, let me explain: it's changed. It is no longer the armpit of Southern California. Quite the contrary, in fact. It's now a bustling metropolis full of new development and beautiful old buildings, living side-by-side. Cool lofts and chic bars, fabulous restaurants... it's quite the "in" area. And, get this - everybody walks in L.A! That's right... WALKS. What a concept!

E and I had quite the walking excursion, from Olympic all the way up to 10th street and back again, stopping to take pics along the way. Fortunately, E loves her camera as much as I do, so there was no foot-tapping as we moved around in 360 degree angles to try and get the perfect shot of this or that.

We stopped in one older building, The Hotel Figueroa, for almost an hour. If I ever come back to L.A. with hubby for a weekend excursion, this is where I would want to stay. It's just an amazing spot, with the feel of old Mexico. Cool tiles, elaborate lights, wrought-iron gates and fences, oversized dining chairs, and a fabulous bar-patio area that overlooked a beautiful pool-oasis in the back. You almost forgot you were slap bang in the middle of America's second largest city. And so much to take pictures of! It was an amateur photographer's mecca. E and I milled around, changing camera settings, experimenting, and sharing our results.

Here are some of them from our excursion...


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The great thing about L.A. is that you can walk around taking pictures of people and things and nobody pays you the slightest bit of notice. Pull out your DSLR in Sacramento and people look at you, wondering if you'll have the audacity to sneak a picture of them.

Did I say I missed SoCal? Yeah, Hubby's in for it for at least a month when I get back.

Right now, I'm off. I'm being a TERRIBLE guest, just sitting on E's couch and blogging silently. Off to be the birthday treat. LOL.

You can see all the pics here

Here's the link back to The Gurly Life's post on the same day (which I waited forever for her to finish. I mean, who takes 30 minutes to finish the last sentence and bothers to re-check the post for errors before posting!? Doesn't she know that posts are way more fun when they're full of typos and poor grammar? Sheesh. I could teach her a thing or two!)

Edited to add: I guess this shows how much I know about different decorating styles. I looked-up more about the Hotel Figueroa and found that it is decorated in the Moroccan style. Oops! Just a sea or two away from Mexico. Aparently it also used to be a YWCA and is purported to be haunted. We didn't see any ghosts, however, although I'm sure we would have taken a photo of them if we had.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Photo A Day: Wednesday, July 7 2010

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Yesterday, as Brandy and I were chit-chatting in my office, Ms. Daisy managed to pull-over the paper shredder (which was fortunately not on - I'd already made sure of that.) The top was heavy, so it dramatically collapsed on top of her, spewing it's mangled contents onto the floor of my office.

Of course, Daisy, after recovering from the shock-and-awe of it all, found the bits of paper wildly entertaining and proceeded to throw them up in the air and all around. Lovely.

Even after somewhat of a hurried clean-up (I had work to do!) the floor is still littered with tiny little bits of what were once personal documents.

Hence the photo. Thanks Daisy!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Annoying gym guy strikes again!

Remember the annoying gym guy I blogged about a while back? The one who thought Scotland was in England and that Glasgow was a new breed of cow? (If not, read here.) Well, he struck again today. Or, more aptly, I almost struck HIM.

Today's topic was the Governator's desire to put all state workers in California on minimum wage, while we wait for the Democrats to compromise their values significantly enough that the few Republicans in the state assembly will actually get out of the damn way and approve a budget.

(No bias there, as you can see. In reality, I'm more frustrated with the system than the players. The whole 2/3 rule is ludicrious and proven to be completely bloody ineffectual.)

But, as usual, I digress.

Today's almost-altercation happened when I overhead gym-guy butting into someone else's conversation - as, we have established, he frequently does, to assert his "knowledge".

There were two women on eliptical machines chit-chatting and one of them brought up Governor Swarzenneger's plan. The other woman had apparently been livinig with her head in the sand because she had no idea what any of this was about (sigh) and so her friend began to explain. Her explanation went something along the lines of "It's not the state workers' fault and it's not fair to punish them." Amen to that. All good so far.

Except that's when gym-guy chimed-in (stopping long enough from trying to yank his back out using terrible form on a rowing machine.) "Ahh... they'll get it back, though," he said dismissively. "The state will pay them back once the budget is passed."

"Let's hope that's good enough for the mortgage company," the woman said politely, and I almost high-fived her.

Aparently this was of no concern to gym-guy who continued to poo-poo the effect on state workers. "For sure there will be more hardships," he said "but they'll get it all back at the end of the day."

The women went silent, which is when I almost crossed the room and gave the man a verbal smackdown. He is the epitome of everything that just drives me crazy about some American's attitudes to government workers and the well-being of others. I've been criticized for having a lack of empathy in my time but this guy, and others like him, take the biscuit. I wanted to ask him how he would feel if his employer suddenly said that his pay would be cut to just $8.00 an hour.

Just to provide some perspective, at $8 an hour that's just $320 per week for a full-time worker (40hrs/wk) or $1,280 a month. A number which wouldn't even pay half of my mortgage payment and likely not gym-guy's either, barely pays the average rent for an apartment in Sacramento ($960 2 years ago), let alone somewhere like L.A. or Orange County, and is equivalent to a salary of just $16,600 - a figure which puts the state workers at below the poverty threshold for a family of 3.

Given these realities, the fact that a state worker will get their involuntary loan paid back to them at some point, is neither here nor there. What matters is that, in the meantime, many of them will not be able to make mortgage, rent, or car payments right now. All of which is hugely helpful in this economy, right? Although the right-wing like to consider state jobs as somehow "fake", the reality is that people who earn money (from whatever source) pay taxes and spend money - both critical factors in an economic recovery for either the private or public sectors.

So, back to gym guy. He was close to a tongue-lashing from yours truly about how thoroughly insensitive, discompassionate and callous his dismissive attitude is to the welfare of others.  Fortunately for him, I'm on a time-clock when I'm at the gym and didn't have time to devote to educating him.

I see it coming down the line, however. The man irkles me no end. It's not just what he says but the superiority with which he says it. He needs to be taken down a peg or two and one of these days...


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Are you up for a little silliness?

A friend of mine posted a link to a video on my Facebook account over the weekend. The video, posted below, is a Volkswagen commercial (of all things!) but, as she knew it would, it strummed a little chord in my mischevious mind and almost even made me cry (I said almost).

The reason for all the nutty emotions over a commercial is it's whimsical nature and the sudden jolt of reality that something so simple can brighten so many people's days. It's so against the grain of our serious culture, where silly behaviour in adults is frowned-upon, categorized as "juvenile", "immature", "irresponsible" (what if you fell???) or just "plain crazy".

The fact that so many people (particularly adults) were open to jumping on this slide, in a public place, WITH OTHERS WATCHING, that they threw aside routine and any fears they might of had about being judged by others, tells me that something is missing in our culture's definition of adulthood. The smiles on people's faces say it all.

So, it got me to thinking... what could I do, what could YOU do, to bring a little silliness into your week?

That's why I'm throwing out a challenge, to me, to you, and to those you love, to do something silly this week. Something completely out of character (I say this because some of us are already more silly than others). Something that requires you to throw fear of being judged or labeled, to one side. Something goofy, a little wacko, a tad nuts, something that would have elicited the reaction "grow up!" from your mother or father.

Go on! You know you want to!

Do it and then post your experience here in comments, on my FB wall, or even shoot me a picture (if you caught it on camera) to If you don't mind (and tell me if you do), I'll even post the results on a future post here next week, including my own escapades, whatever they might be.


Here's a little inspiration to get you started, although I should provide a disclaimer and say that I am not promoting any dangerous behavior. Choosing to slide down the bannister with no underwear on is something you do at your own risk!

Experimenting with close ups

Instead of a picture a day for the weekend, I wanted to post some shots I took in my parents' back yard this weekend. I've been experimenting with camera settings and close-ups and I kind of liked the end results of these.

Agapanthus - my favorite flowers

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Wood grain
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Rocks and Bricks

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Apples - soon to be apple pie... yum!

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