Friday, September 30, 2005

In Praise of the Pumpkin

Sept. 20 - Fuzzy with pumpkin

A more modest-sized pumpkin is this year's nod to Halloween at my parents' house. It's fitting that the pumpkin is smaller and less gaudy because my parents will be leaving that house two week's before the actual holiday.

I tend to view pumpkins as emblems of autumn, in general, though, so displaying pumpkins anytime from September through the end of November seems appropriate to me. I mean, what else but pumpkin pie do we eat as the finale to our Thanksgiving feasts?

It's really the Jack-o-Lantern that represents Halloween specifically. So I fully embrace pumpkin exhibition at any time during the fall, especially alongside a pile of colorful leaves or a pot of late-blooming flowers. I know I've probably conveyed this before, but I love everything that smacks of fall, and one glance at a pumpkin is enough to send me into full autumnal revery.

So enjoy my second pumpkin-themed post, and if you find the writing a little sappy and overwrought... as Lee Botts would say, fooey on you.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sayonara, Summer

fall pics 003

This picture was actually taken a year (or maybe two years) ago on my parents' front stoop, but I thought it appropriate due to the (rather large) pumpkin that is its subject.

I know fall officially began a few days ago, but circumstances in my life and the weather we've been having have prolonged summer to just about, well, now. Tomorrow I begin my second year of grad school (yes, that makes today, September 25th, the last day of my summer vacation) and the temperature, accordingly, is supposed to plunge down into the lower 70's.

Which makes one really want to start thinking about apples and acorn squash, red and yellow leaves crunching underfoot, and pumpkins, of course, which lead one to start thinking about Halloween. Which brings one to the following question: What to be for Halloween.

As I head into my own personal fall tomorrow (should I be worried, given the alternate meaning of the word?), I look to you, faithful readers of my weblog, for advice. Suggestions for any and all costume ideas should be left in the comments section.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Let the Road Rage Begin!

New license

Today I officially became a licensed Illinois driver.

Heading downtown this morning, I expected the worst. I was armed with passport, birth certificate, social security card, and voter registration, none of which proved I lived at my current address. After only a brief wait, my number was called, and I went up to the counter. The haggard government employee glanced at all my identification, not even flinching when I told him I actually lived somewhere new.

"Where?" he asked. I told him. He punched it in to the computer. And it was official. "Solid!" I said (not out loud, of course).

Then it was time for the tests. The vision one was easy enough. I didn't bring my glasses, which I worried might be a problem, but I think you must have to be really blind to fail the driver's license eye exam.

The written test took a little longer and presented a bit more of a challenge. Luckily, during my brief wait, I had had a chance to skim through the helpful "Illiniois Rules of the Road" booklet available to all patrons in the waiting room. This last-minute cramming paid off on 2 or 3 questions, but most were of the obvious, common-sensical nature. Here's an example: "True or false? It's a good idea to consume large quantities of alchohol and then operate a motor vehicle shortly afterward."

Still, I did get 3 wrong. (You can miss 8 and still pass.) I mixed up 2 of the road signs ("merging" and "lane-ending," but come on? who really needs to know the difference?) and I balked when it came to a question about skidding. I thought turning into the skid was the old, archane suggestion. Turns out it's still valid.

Anyway, despite my lack of mastery, the Illinois Driver's Services Bureau decided to present me with a crisp new license and, with this small piece of plastic, its complete confidence in my driving abilities. This visit might also have produced the only ID-type photo of myself I actually like. So all in all, a great success.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hanging the pot

Housewarming - fountain

Last night we officially warmed our house with the help of about 20 guests and a lot of Old Style. This lovely fountain was generously filled and turned on by our landlords/upstairs neighbors for the festivities. Those streaky lights you see in the water are floating candles and fake, light-up ice cubes. The constant trickling might have inspired more trips to the bathroom, but the fountain was really a great "conversation piece" as they say on all those home-decorating shows. I think only the chocolate-covered strawberries rivaled it for biggest hit of the party.

p.s. A "pendaison de la cremailliere" is a house-warming party in French. Literally translated, it means the hanging of the pot. Hence the title of this post.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Nutty, Gooby, and Good

Granola bar close up

Last night, while watching Good Eats, I discovered how bad for you pre-packaged granola bars really are. And since I've been wanting to make granola for a while now, I thought I'd attempt the bars Alton made on the show.

Not hard, not at all. The only difficulty I experienced was dealing with the heat in the kitchen on this balmy 87 degree day. And the bars themselves sure are tasty. All the good nuttiness and fruitiness of regular granola bars without all the preservatives. Maybe I should sell the things...

Granola 1

But then again, I'm not sure the market could support two granola enterprises born out of the same small town, their founders only one year apart in school. I guess I'll go keep studying my French literature after all.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Free Snip... and a Pricey Pair

Hair cut

Today I had two tasks to accomplish:

1. Get my hair cut
2. Get new running shoes

Accomplishing the first made me happy because I always feel kind of transformed after getting a haircut and because it was free. My hair salon evidently believed I felt loyal to the hairdresser I used the last time and, when she left the salon, they "lured" me back to their establishment with a coupon good for a free haircut by another stylist. I suppose some people stick by their hair dressers, but me, I feel no need to nurture a bond between me and someone who pretends to be interested in my life because I'm paying her an ungodly amount to cut my hair.

Anyway, the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from getting a free haircut was quickly washed away when I walked into the running store. I asked the salesman for advice on what shoes to buy, probably for the first time in several years, because I do generally feel very loyal to my tried-and-true brand of running shoes. This particular salesman (who claimed to have just earned his PhD. in exercise physiology) declared me a neutral runner. Can you believe that?! I mean, here I spend over 10 years of my life believing I over-pronate and he tells me, "No, unh-unh. You're as neutral as they come." You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Understandly, my feet were a little confused. I tried on pair after pair of neutral cushioned shoes and all of them felt weird. Except for the ridiculously expensive ones which had me wondering whether the salesman had laced actual shoes or down pillows on my feet. I tried the lower end ones; I tried the lower end ones with insoles; I tried the lower end ones with the lacing bolstered at the top so as to stop my heel from slipping. But in the end, I caved. I bought the pillows. And I have never been suckered into the primo running shoes before.

Galactic shoe

But these aren't just any shoes. They're galactic shoes. Silver and powder blue. And though I have yet to try them out, I'm hoping they retain their pillowy-ness at least through my half-marathon. After all, I did shell out the big bucks (and I mean the big bucks) for them.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

So Cal Gallery

Aug. 24 - Palms

Today's post is more of a photo montage than a real commentary on any one thing, but you know what they say, a picture's worth a thousand words.

Aug. 29 - Guard shack

Southern California is definitely a different world, but it's one that has a sort of elusive charm all its own, I think.

Aug. 30 - Getty garden yellow flower

"Well what on earth does that mean?" you ask. I think it means that, despite its hardness (the constant traffic, the walled-in mansions, the severe angles of a face molded by plastic surgery), the amorphous area known as Los Angeles can be beautiful and friendly and peaceful.

Aug. 30 - view of Getty from garden 2

You just have to hunt around a little and find the places that please you.

Aug. 23 - street warning

And if all else fails, I say head back to the ocean. Remember to go west.