Thursday, September 30, 2010

Something happened on the way to Chicago

  1. I (almost) had a meltdown. It was one of those "I'm fat, ugly, and have nothing to wear" meltdowns, coupled with a toddler-like kicking and screaming of "Noooo! Noooo! Noooo! I don't want to go and network and be all schmoozy" - and mashed-up with a healthy dose of mommy hormones - just the thought of not smelling Daisy's little head first thing in the morning and last thing at night, had me on the verge of blubbing.
  2. I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm was due to go off at 4am but then managed to sleep through it for 30 minutes, making me a half hour behind schedule.
  3. I missed the freeway exit to Sacramento airport because I was zoned-out listening to an NPR story. Again, making me even later.
  4. The Day Parking for my terminal was closed, forcing me to race, with luggage, on foot from one terminal to the other. Again, making me late-late-later! (Although I made the flight... barely.)
  5. I had the taxi ride from H-E-L-L from the airport to the hotel. Instead of friendly Chicago Cabby I got a mute, Kamikaze Asian dude with a beanie. Even with my significant tolerance for speed, this guy sent my heart-rate through the roof, doing 100 down freeway exits and ducking-and-diving with alarmingly wild movements between cars, reminiscent of 007 escaping the KGB,
Then I got in town, unpacked my suitcase, set-up my little exhibitor table, downed a glass of Chardonnay, and headed-out for a shopping trip in the city. There is nothing like walking in a big city to snap me right out of a funk. Add to that SHOPPING and it was a recipe for afternoon bliss.

Deep breath and E-X-H-A-L-E.

I didn't bring the big camera but I did remember my trusty little point-and-shoot. Here are some cityscape pics I snapped on-the-fly and on the way to Loehmanns.

Then it was game-face on and off to schmoozey-woozey at the networking reception slash cocktail hour. Three hours of mindless small talk and repetitive sales pitches later and I was sitting comfortably with my good friend, Kim (who is in the same industry and at the same conference with her company) in the lobby bar, drinking a Lemon Drop martini.

Our goal was to have one cocktail and then retire to bed. Yeah, weeeeell, that didn't happen. First we chatted with Kim's boss, then one of my competitors sat down for a chat (we talked kids and families, not business, thank God) and then, before we knew it, we were on cocktail #2.

A little light-headed, we decided go back to our room and then, we looked at one another and confessed we were starving hungry. It was now midnight and only in a large city can you find good food at midnight. But find it we did, at Smith and Wolensky, right on the river. There we chowed on pretzel bread with butter, to-die-for Mac and Cheese with truffles, and a yummy flat bread pizza-type thing. By which time we were lapping up this whole crazy post-drinking, city-supper thing and HAD TO try the Drunken Donuts which were, exactly as they sound: donuts with alcohol saucies. Delish!

It was 1:30am when I crawled into bed. Kim had to be up for a 7am working breakfast (oy vey) and I wasn't far behind. It was brutal, let me tell ya, BRUTAL, being woken up by the room-service coffee I ordered at 6:45.

Two more days of this folks and I won't even have the energy to melt down.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

From city folk to hill folk

We spent the weekend in my domain, the city, but this evening we took a drive up the hill to Hubby's domain, the Sierra foothills.

Hubby grew up in an old gold-mining, then-logging town, Foresthill, about 3,000 feet up on a mountain sliver that divides the north and south forks of the American River. His mom still lives in the 1,000 square foot house that he grew up in and where we still spend Thanksgivings. We also got married in the only hotel in town, The Forest House.

Obviously, with so many connections to Hubby's life, we had to take Uncle Grahame and Aunty Janet for a quick tour. (Although Grahame did come out for the wedding, so this wasn't his first time "up the hill")

On the way we cross the Forest Hill Bridge; at 730 feet above the river bed below, it is the 3rd highest in the U.S.

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Notice how Janet is standing a foot or so back? Walking that bridge is not for the feint of heart. It's a sheer drop and whenever a car passes by, the whole thing shakes like an earthquake. Wheeee!

Of course, Daisy had no problem with it. Unlike her Dad, who is not to be seen in these bridge pics.

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This is the view below.

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Before zooming up the windy Foresthill road, we stopped to take a couple of family pics.

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(And yes, Daisy was wriggling. I don't usually stand like that.)

It was in the triple-digits in the Sacramento area yesterday and so we had left late in the afternoon for our drive. This meant that it was dusk by the time we hit "downtown" Foresthill, such that it is.

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Yep, this is pretty much it. The other side of the street is just about as interesting. This building houses the "Ore Cart", the main restaurant in town, where you can enjoy a steak on blue tin plates, or a Teriyaki Chicken dinner with blue sauce. Ahem.

The goal was to show Janet where Hubby and I got married but because it was a Monday and late in the day, the Forest House was closed. So we got to peek through windows and stand outside while we regaled stories of Hubby's hillbilly childhood - like getting hit with a blow dart when he rode his motorcycle over someone else's land - as well as sordid tales from our weekend of drunken debauchery (aka: our wedding.)

For instance, you may remember this:

What did I marry?

and this:

Can someone shut the cats up?

Anyway, moving on...

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This is the notice board that, according to Hubby, has not changed in almost 36 years and from where he would find most of his odd jobs as a teenager. He's had some odd jobs too - caring for an elderly man and working with loggers are just two that I remember. I can just imagine Daisy begging him to tell her more about all this when she is older.

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The Forest House itself has undergone some improvements since we got married there 4 years ago. These updates extend to the outside too, where a new sign stands outside the hotel. For those of you who came to our wedding, you may remember the sign looking nothing like this...

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Personally, I'm kind of partial to the old sign. Not that the new one isn't lovely and significantly more sophisticated but, if you know anything about Foresthill, 'sophisticated' isn't the first word that springs to mind. So, to me at least, the new one seems a little out-of-step with the location.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Janet in the City - SF days 2 and 3

As you know if you read the previous post, I spent the weekend in San Francisco with Daisy, my parents, and my Aunt and Uncle who are in from Blighty. (Hubby stayed home, cleaned house and put the closet doors up. I LOVE HIM!)

It was my Aunt's first time in SF and so we took her to all the usual haunts.

Union Square

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China Town

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Fisherman's Wharf

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The Golden Gate Bridge

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While juggling the jobs of tour-guide and mum, I did manage to stop once in a while to capture some pics of things that caught my interest...

Fruit on steroids (Pier 39)

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Colors and Clutter (Chinatown)
Who is stuck with the task of putting this all out and then away every day? Nighmare!

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A little European
I've always wanted a Vespa And a flirty little scarf for around my neck as I fly around the city to go with it. Ahhh...soooooooooo European.

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Honesty as a sales tactic

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Mr. Binoculars
Can't help but see a face on that little machine

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Rolling fog
Even on a clear and sweltering hot day, the fog flocks to the Golden Gate Bridge like a moth to a flame.

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And finally, just a sweet snapshot of Daisy and her Nanny at the Golden Gate bridge

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If you want to see all the pics I took that are worth sharing, you can click here.

Some are better than others. It wasn't the kind of trip for playing fiddle-diddle with my camera. Enjoy!

(p.s. Elena - there are a couple in there, especially for you.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

San Francisco Views

I'm in San Francisco right now, with the family: Mum, Dad, Aunty Janet, and Uncle Grahame, as well as Miss Daisy. We're doing the whole tourist thing and I am playing tour guide, which I love.

City + me in control  = bliss.

We're staying at the Hilton Union Square, which has some of the coolest views in town. Usually I don't get any of them (especially after the deals I negotiate) but this time was quite the exception.

Looking west, from the 25th floor of the Hilton, this evening...

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Here are some other city views, completely unedited (obvy) from this evening...

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This artwork was beautiful, by the way, wish I'd had time/opportunity to explore in more detail.

Until tomorrow, with Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Am I too messy to be a photographer?

As I peruse other photographer's blogs for ideas and inspiration, I occasionally get a peek into their home - a shot of their family room, their dining table, their kitchen. What occurs to me from looking at most of these shots is that these folks' homes are very clean, very tidy, and very stylish. They make for GREAT, clean and a little minimalist backgrounds for their shots.

Here's just one example on an e-newsletter I subscribe to: 

Then I look around my house and, to frame similarly clean pics, I realize I need to replace my beat-up baseboards, re-paint my worn walls, re-grout my tiles, clean-off my tables, move wires, toys, papers, shoes, bags, dog fur, and/or all of the above.

Which begs the question: is the disorganization in my house somehow symptomatic of personality traits that are not compatible with being a good photographer?

I mean, yes, I yearn for a beautifully set table with just a cute runner and a flower arrangement, set against shiny hardwood floors that meet lines of crisp 5" baseboard, and back-dropped by beautifully framed windows with plantation shutters but... who the heck has time (or money?) to make their house look like this? Certainly not I.

Or at least, not the me who likes foreign vacations, expensive camera equipment, and dinners out ;o)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The (more) Brits have landed

My Dad was in England for two weeks, catching up with friends, and he returned this past Monday with his younger brother and sister in tow. That's right, folks, we have single-handedly increased the red-coat population of the Sacramento region by 2. Run for cover!

Although I'm working and can't spend too much time with them, we did invite Aunt Janet and Uncle Grahame over for a barbecue last night so we could show off our humble abode and they could witness Daisy in her full glory.

It's actually super cool that my Aunt is here because she isn't exactly fond of world travel. In fact, this is probably only her second flight in her entire life and certainly the longest by far. I'm very proud of her for getting beyond her distaste for flying and making the big trip.

Janet isn't much one for having her photo taken (too bad, I say - you enter my house, you submit to the camera) and made me promise not to upload the photos I took to Facebook. I am taking her literally. I will not post them to Facebook. However, she didn't mention all online sites or my blog. She'll have to be more specific next time ;o)

Aunt Janet

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Uncle Grahame
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Janet and Mum
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"Gandy" (Daisy's name for my Dad) home! We missed him.
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Daisy and her pointy finger at work in the yard.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Great Weight-Loss Shame-Off - Week 2

Ok, so one solitary pound lost this week. Not exactly FALLING OFF ME, is it? Still, a loss is a loss. Wonder how Jess is doing over at

This coming week will be a real test. I'm in San Francisco with family all weekend then in Chicago for 4 days for work the following week. Big cities with cool restaurants always make me want to eat my face off.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Something old, something... well, old.

This weekend I made 3 purchases that made me very happy. Part of my happiness is that I only spent $60, total, on these beauties:

A kitchen for Daisy

Purchases ForWeb-1

Yesterday was our big neighborhood garage sale and, as usual, we spent some of our profits before we'd even made them.

It just so happens that, across the street from us lives a little girl who is about three years older than Daisy and who takes very good care of her toys. Each year she sells some of them at the garage sale and recently we have been good customers.

Daisy eyed-up this beauty and threw a "I have to have it" tantrum that we just had to give in to because it was only $30 and it was really cute.

It also had a lovely lot of bags containing all kinds of fake food and play kitchen equipment. Lots of fun to try and clean up at the end of the night. Indeed, if I ever had ANY hope of having a tidy house again, this thing ended that for quite some time.

Purchases ForWeb-2

Purchases ForWeb-3

Am I worried about setting her up for gender stereotypes in the future? Of course. But most parents will understand that, if you can get half an hour of peace out of your munchkin as a result of any toy, you'll tolerate it no matter what.

Having been inspired by some photographers who use some really cool stuff to frame kids and newborns, I had to have these two items today as I was perusing a local Antique Fair.

Better still, the pram was $10 and the rocking chair was $20.

Purchases ForWeb-4

Purchases ForWeb-7

Purchases ForWeb-6

Yes, they're beat-up and close to falling apart but that's exactly what I like about them. I'm thinking of enlisting the help of my mother and her sewing machine, to produce to bright and colorful pillows and quilts for them both. I have a vision. Hopefully you'll see it all come together soon!

Friday, September 17, 2010

2 Random Rants

The end of the 140 character tweet?

If you're a tweeter or a twitterer, as I like to call us, you've probably seen a growing trend lately for people's 140-character tweets to trail-off mid-thought with a  "(cont)" and then a link.

This is due to a new twitter plug-in called "TwitLonger". Basically it enables you to extend the length of your tweets. You type your tweet into TwitLonger and it sends most of it to your twitter news feed, truncating and providing a link to the full tweet.

I'm a bit disappointed by this, truth be told. I'm kind of enjoying the daily practice to condense my thoughts into the short space twitter provides. I tend to be wordy by nature (I'm sure you've noticed) and so it's good to force myself to be more to-the-point while, at the same time, sending the same message and (sometimes, even, if I can) be amusing or provocative at the same time.

Plus, it opens up twitter to a sort of Facebook-like essay-writing, that cannibalizes the very point of twitter - to provide short, frequent, bite-sized, thoughts or status updates, that can be read quickly. Now, to read the rest of some people's thoughts, I have to click on a link. Meh. I just don't want to. Plus, people were forced to be creative with 140 characters. Notsomuch when you have all the space in the world to ramble on. I mean, HELLO, look at this blog!

A glimpse into the future

Yesterday evening, Daisy played on her own in the living room for a whole hour while I cleaned the kitchen, drank a glass of wine, and even (simultaneously) talked on the phone with a girlfriend. It was a marvelous and epiphanic moment; a glimpse into a future when I may again be able to get something significant done around the house without having to stop to pick a whining Missy up, kiss an owie, fix something she broke, help her with something she can't do, or ward-off a tantrum.

Given that Daisy only naps perhaps one hour a day now when I'm with her, long gone are the hours I used to have to quietly putter around the house and get the odd thing done. So, it would be nice to have at least one hour a day where I can tackle a floor cleaning, a toilet cleaning, a drawer reorganizing... just anything that makes me feel a little bit more in control of my environment and, therefore, life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The new chair

The new chair
Originally uploaded by Travel Vixen
On Tuesday, I bought a new chair. Finally.

After being incredibly attached to the tangerine-colored chair I lobbied so hard for with the matriarch of the company I used to work for, it was hard to let go. But let go I had to - the thing was murdering my back, butt, and shoulders. The only days I would experience back pain would be the days I sat on it. So it had to go.

I've been sitting on chairs in office supply stores for a few months and watching sales for the ones I liked. Finally, Office Depot reduced this one from $100+ to only $79.99. Turns out, it's the best $80 I've spent in a while.

So far, old pain... gone. I mean, like, gone-gone. I don't mean less I mean non existent. It's crazy amazing. If I'd known the chair had this much bearing on my day before, I would have done it sooner but honestly I was skeptical. Sure, I knew the old chair was not HELPING but I didn't really lay enough blame at its door, as it goes.

The funny thing is, I haven't even got it set right yet. It's too low, the desk is too high, and the laptop is at the wrong angle on the table. Turns out, it doesn't matter. It was the chair all this time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Great Weight-Loss Shame-Off - Week 1

This is going to a quick one because I've got to get out the door this morning...


Honestly, I have not been as good on my diet as I could have been this past week. Shame on me. So any loss is a win. Eyes on the prize. Eyes on the prize.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Random Rants

I've been too busy having a life (I know, get out of here!) this weekend to blog. Saturday was a whirlwind of activity and Sunday was pretty choppy - plans got made, plans got changed and canceled, stupid traffic snarl-ups sucked-up time, that kind of thing.

Here are some random ranties. Just stuff that is on my mind right now...



Do I buy a new DSLR or a new laptop?

My personal laptop is about to hit its 6th birthday and, since every human year is like 10 for a computer (my own, personal formula), that makes it just about ready to retire. At the very least, it's slowing down and no longer equipped to run the forty-thousand windows that I have open at one time, without grinding to a Ctrl-Alt-Del halt.

The laptop I really want is a fancy MacBook which would be perfect for my picture editing. I love Macs and had one all the way through college but have been using PCs for several years now mostly because of work and price. Now I'm thinking about taking photography more seriously, I think it's time to return. But the price! Oh the price! Maybe I should get a PC instead, until I actually start generating some income from the photo thing? Or is that a waste and I should go the whole enchilada now? I don't know. Having trouble deciding.

And then there's my camera - the old Canon Digital Rebel XTi. It's been serving me pretty well these past few years but I'm beginning to feel it's limitations. Canon just released the new 60D, which is very swank but, honestly, I'm not sure I need a rotating screen - just one more thing for Daisy to twist and break off when I'm in the bathroom peeing. However, the 60D release has meant that the 50D (the camera I was originally thinking of upgrading to) has taken a nose-dive in price - from $1,099 to $675 in some places online. That's quite a discount and hard to resist.

Except, of course, I need a $1,500 laptop.

Decisions, decisions...

2. PhotoVision 2010

I recently subscribed to a DVD education series for photographers. 6 DVDs a year, with 8 hours of content, mailed to your home every two months, for just $39. Even better, Beth Jansen, the photographer I was raving about in my previous post, has a spot in one of them. I watched it on Friday night (woot, crazy fun in the Ranty Pants household!) and got more than my 39 bucks worth in the first 20 minutes.

Don't you just love it when you get something for a great price and then it exceeds your expectations?


My next couple of months are shaping up to be CRAZY busy and I'm having a hard time even scheduling things like lunch, dinner, or cocktails with friends - all things I HAVE TO fit into my schedule in order to maintain my sanity as a work-from-home mummy.

  • This weekend is our big neighborhood garage sale. It's been going on for 25 years or so, I think, and 30+ homes in the subdivision usually participate. This year we have A TON of crap to get rid of - mostly Daisy's old toys and clothes but also some bachelorette furniture that I've finally recycled out. At the end of it we may be missing a dining table and sideboard (until I can afford to buy new ones that I like). However, I am looking forward to having some empty space in my living room. I'd like to paint but who has time?
  • My Dad is currently in England for a trip to see his keyboard cronies and he'll be bringing back his sister and brother, my uncle and aunt, next week, for a two week trip. We'll be doing the whole tourist thing of course, after work for me, and on the weekends. I'll be in San Francisco in a couple of weeks, to play tour-guide because, you know, one can't rely on "the parents". LOL.
  • At the end of those shenanigans, I'm off to Chicago for 4 days, for a work conference. Groan. Although - happy - one of my good friends who also works in the same industry, will be going. This means cocktails and late nights and LOTS of talking. I will be exhausted at the end of it.
  • Once back from Chicago, our next weekend is blocked-out with back-to-back birthday parties for my niece and a friend's little girl.
  • The following weekend we're in the bay area for a photo shoot with my favorite local photographer, Penny Silvia. We'll be getting our Christmas Card shots on the beach this year.
  • Weekend after that, my cousin's daughter, Billi, who I was the first to hold after she was born but is now a smoking-hot teenager, is descending upon us, with her Grandmother (my mother's sister-in-law.) She'll be with us for 8 days and I anticipate a lot of shopping - HELLO! Teenager + girl + in my family!!! It's also my Mum's birthday that weekend. Thinking we'll do the annual Apple Hill trip that weekend because, well, when else WILL WE?
  • Last weekend in October now and it's Halloween. Daisy will be a ladybug (bought her costume this weekend) and I'm confident that the weekend will be chock-a-block with seasonal activities.
  • Blissfully, we then have one weekend off (yep, book me now!) before it's Hubby and my 4th anniversary. So we head to Cache Creek Casino for an En Vogue concert and an adult night away.
  • One more weekend off (mark your calendars, folks) and then it's Thanksgiving, which also coincides with my husband's birthday as well as my mother-in-law and sister-in-law's birthdays.
Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I'm doing some freebie photo-sessions for friends and family, to help me practice and build my portfolio.

YIKES! I'm exhausted just reading the list.
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