Category Archives: pretty things

Novel Inspirations & Memories Captured

I’ve been focusing on editing my manuscript lately. I’ve been loosing myself in the lush rainforests of Costa Rica, dreaming my toes are sinking into the black sand beaches where much of the story takes place.  I look back on the photographs of my journey through that wonderland daily, coaxing memories of the sound of howler monkeys in the treetops, the scent of orchid blooms mixed with gallo pinto, the feel of the pregnant air, heavy with with imminent rain.

Since I wasted spent an afternoon playing with my photos on Picnik, I lessened my guilt by using images that would inspire my writing, and words to go along with my characters and story.

Inspiration is everywhere
if you just take a moment to look…

I’m linking up again with Galit Breen of These Little Waves and Alison of Mama Wants This  
for the Memories Captured meme. 
Check it out!

Memories Captured

I once dreamed of roaming the world, photographing awe-inspiring natural wonders for National Geographic or charismatic celebrities as the next Annie Leiboviz.

In time, I discovered I fare better shooting house cats and husbands.{With a camera, people, not a gun.}

I still love taking pictures anyway.

My parents bought me my first camera when I was somewhere around age eight or nine. With that Kodak Disc, which looked more like a deck of cards than a camera,  I captured pandas playing at the National Zoo, buffalo roaming across the Black Hills, and the last Dusky Seaside Sparrow before the species faded into extinction. Good stuff. Things I can only recall now because of my aged photos.

By my tween years, I upgraded to a Minolta 35mm, a treasure I still yearn to experiment with, if only I could find film. I took a couple of photography classes in college, learned how to coax images from film to paper, and went through several more cameras before I bought my current Nikon.

The art of photography transformed with the arrival of the digital age. I am now utterly spoiled by my 8 gig memory card, which allowed me to take 2,500+ pictures over a ten day vacation in Costa Rica. Unreal. Compare that to the twelve rolls of film I shot while on my wedding and honeymoon journey through Italy — only 288 chances to record a momentous journey, and no knowledge of if the images turned out until weeks later when the glossy 4x6s were finally in hand.

But I just can’t keep up. The technology advances at break-neck speeds and the costs are, well, prohibitive. I don’t own a digital SLR camera or Photoshop. Yet.  But I do adore my little Nikon P90 and Picassa, so when I saw Galit Breen of These Little Waves and Alison of Mama Wants This decided to host a Memories Captured link up, I simply couldn’t resist.


Pure joy captured: a boy, an ice cream cone, a gorgeous day at the park with his parents. I should have used this for my holiday cards last year.

I couldn’t decide which version I adored more. I could have kept playing on Picassa for hours, but I do have a few other things with which to occupy my time. I love the timelessness of the first image; it could have been taken in 1960, 1985, or yesterday.  The second image captures the vibrant sparkle and deep indigo of Kiddo’s eyes. They get me every time.

Which do you prefer?

Just for today…

Source: via Vinobaby on Pinterest

I fully resolved not to make any resolutions this year.  But while perusing the Sunday paper this balmy New Year’s Day morning, I came across Dear Abby’s list of New Year’s resolutions. She adapted these credos from the original Al-Anon manifesto, so technically, they are twice over NOT my resolutions. They are pretty dead on, so I’ve only slightly modified them to suit my place and time.

Just for today: I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not let all of the hooplah about the Myan Calendar freak me out.  I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once, but not because I believe the world is going to end on December 21st.

I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime. But if I can just do it for one little day, it will be enough.

Just for today: I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine (or images of lounging on a Costa Rican beach, or my son’s smile). I will not let rainy days and Mondays get me down. I will go to yoga and actually try to breathe instead of using the time to dwell on mental to-do lists.

Just for today: I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things I can correct and accept those things I cannot. I am not an alchemist; I cannot turn lead to gold.

Just for today: I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought, and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer. I will not rot my brain watching reality television or Fox News. I will not waste too much time on Pinterest. I will write something.

Just for today: I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. Even if it nearly kills me. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, even if they are cutting me off in traffic and flipping me the bird. I will improve my appearance, speak softly, and not interrupt when someone else is talking. I will strive to make my fake smile seem genuine, and to learn to bite my lip without causing pain.

Just for today: I will refrain from improving anyone but myself. Except for my kid. I’m a parent. That’s kind of my job. Adults, however, are not my responsibility. They are on their own.

Just for today: I will do something positive to improve my health. If I’m a smoker, I’ll quit. (Are there really still smokers out there?) If I am overweight, I’ll eat healthfully — if only for today. If I’m at a good size, I will try to eat more veggies and less crap. And not only that, I will get off the couch (or desk chair) and take a brisk walk, even if it’s only around the block instead of to the gym (where I’m paying for a membership anyway).

Just for today: I will gather the courage to do what is right and take the responsibility for my own actions. I will treat people as I want to be treated. Karma is a bitch, but only if I am. I will be enough.

Namaste, my friends, 
and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and sane 2012.

Prom Dress Confidential

 This is perhaps one of the most humiliating posts I recall writing. But I know all of you women out there in the  blogosphere must have some pretty hideous skeletons prom dresses in your closets as well. Tacky prom dresses are a feminine right of passage, like attempts at big Jersey hair and blue eyeshadow duos or your first hangover, bikini wax, and walk of shame. It wasn’t pretty, but we’ve all been there.

Dress #1
It’s 1989 (yes, I’m THAT old). I’m 14 and I had never been asked on a date or kissed a boy. I have more books than friends. I’m just a shy, pale L-O-S-E-R.

Suddenly, I was cast into a leading role in the school play. I ditched the bad perm and braces. And I started dating the play’s director — a SENIOR ! {gasp} With long hair! {gasp}  And an accent!
{cue Dad breaking out the shotgun}

Late one night after a performance, he knocked on the front door. I was still covered in white hair spray and old lady stage make-up. He danced me to his car while his friend played the sax in my candlelit driveway. He asked me to prom (of course I said YES) and I finally experienced my first French kiss. (ooh la la)

I believe the next day was recorded in our family history as the day I gave my mother her first grey hair. And she will never let me forget about it. 

Because of this sudden twist of fate, all the pages of dreamy satin and taffeta I had ripped out of the Seventeen Magazine Prom Edition became extremely important. Vital. A matter of life and death. I was a bookworm Cinder-fecking-rella going to the cool kid’s ball.  I had to find a dress. THE dress.   My favorite was a royal blue Jessica McClintock (for Gunne Sax?) number I drooled over in the teen fashion mags. It was only two weeks until prom, my mom was utterly UN-thrilled I was going, and I was desperate to find the dress.

Somehow, we managed to find the last one. In my size. I had my dream dress. And the matching royal blue pantyhose. And the matching dyed satin shoes. And probably the matching eyeliner as well. Now I want to gag at this over-coordinated ensemble, but back then, I thought I was the bomb.

A very, VERY nervous bomb.

The prom was uneventful. I was absolutely petrified. I was far too naive to hunt down some spiked punch in the ladies room to calm my nerves and force my tongue to work. I vaguely remember dancing to Madonna and trying to melt into the walls. My date was a perfect gentleman (despite nail polish and an off stuffed duck) and dropped me back home by my strict 12:30 curfew. Then he most likely went out with all his friends and got trashed.  I bailed on him before the prom pics even came in. I was not ready to leap from Girl Scouts to groping in a relationship with someone far older and wiser.

But at least I can say I went to Senior Prom as a Freshman.

Which is a good thing, because my actual Senior Prom blew corn nuts.

I went stag with a couple of girlfriends. I did not have a date.

But by then I had learned that poofy prom dresses were passe, for mere children, and not my style. I upgraded to reading Vogue and Glamor. I wanted to look stylish, sleek, and as sexy as I could get away with (which was not very). I wanted a dress they guys would notice, so they would not see the giant “L” glaring from my forehead. I scoured stores in probably six to ten malls in four counties until I found the one.

Dress #2
A little black sequence cocktail dress. Classic. Chic. Sparkly. Different. It was rather rebellious at the time. I freaking loved it.

(The snippet of neon satin, lace, and crinoline on the left was much more the norm still in 1992.)

So I went to prom stag. I don’t remember much: dancing with some popular girl’s boyfriend, trying to entertain my self by rating boys attempting the African Anteater Dance in their matching pink bowties and cumberbunds, sitting in a South Beach cafe after we escaped the cheesy prom venue, swinging on a sandy beach playground under the stars….

But I still have that dress.  
And I can still fit into it 19 years later without Spanx
(although a stronger bra might be beneficial).
So all those smug girls whispered about my lack of a date can just bite me.
I do mean that in the nicest way, of course.

Join in my moment of embarrassing female bonding. Do you have an ugly prom gown story to share?

Thanks to Mama Kat for inspiring this moment of weakness I shall most likely soon regret.

Things I Can't Say

These Magic Moments {Costa Rica Edition}

Last night Kiddo was telling us how he wanted to move to Costa Rica. As much as we dream of that as well, we tried to explain that is just isn’t feasible.

“But I still have all our Costa Rica money,” he said. “We can move there and be rich.” He ran to his room and dug through his fire engine bank. He proudly presented me with 350 Colones…the equivalent of 69 cents.

Maybe not this year…

Looking back at photos, it’s easy to see why he was so utterly enchanted by that distant land full of magical moments…

An Italian Wedding

My favorite wedding photo…it’s impossible for me to pick just one.  I always considered myself extremely unphotgenic.  More likely, I was just shy and insecure.  But my wedding photos were the first pictures of me I truely loved.

My Hubby and I eloped in Rome.  Yes, Italy.  We had been planning the normal “big” wedding thing — a ceremony by the water followed by buffet and dancing at my MIL’s club —  and planned to honeymoon in Italy. Then I came down with a wicked case of cold feet. Not of marrying my Hubby, I had no worries about that, but the whole wedding biz was chilling me to the bone.

I didn’t want to pay $6,000 (over half my budget) for a decent photographer. I didn’t know over half the people on the guest list (Hubby has a bizarre extend family) and I refused to spend our day schmoozing with people I’ve never met and probably would never see again. Our day was suddenly about pleasing everyone else and I felt like a hired performer only there to make the audience happy.

My parents always encouraged me to elope, so when my Mom was actually concerned about what to emboss on the cocktail napkins (because apparently this is a big deal) I snapped.  I suggested to my (then future) Hubby that we just ditch this whole big wedding thing and get married in Italy.

He said, “let’s do it.”

And then he proceeded to plan almost the entire thing.

How could I not marry him?

It was springtime in Rome. We were married in Santa Maria in Tempulo, a deconsecrated 11th century monastery in the heart of the city.  Our brief nuptials were witnessed by five family members who were “forced” to take a European vacation to share in our moment.  I’m still not sure what I promised to do that day — although our wedding planner, Gabriella,  translated, the Italian matrimonial vows are far different (and much more modern) than the traditional American brand.

After the ceremony we traveled around the city on a photo shoot of a lifetime.  We were posed in front of the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and around Campo di Fiore.  Tourists stared and snapped pictures while the magnificent Gabriella cleared our path.  I was so embarrassed to be the center of attention, truly a bashful, blushing bride.  I can only imagine how many of the ubiquitous Japanese tourists posted their pics of the “Italian bride and groom” all over the internet.  Somehow Pino, our amazing photographer, managed to capture only the brief moments I actually looked up.

Hungry and exhausted, we enjoyed a late lunch (and amazing Italian wine, of course) at a local wine bar before going back to our hotel to nap.  That evening we celebrated at a divine trattoria in Trastevere.

It was small. It was unique. It was seeped in history and culture. It was absolutely perfect.

He’s taking off my garter, but I always thought it looked like Prince Charming sliding on my glass slipper.

It took several months for the thick, padded box covered with Italian air mail stickers to arrive.  The leather album, filled with timeless treasures beyond my wedding day dreams, was worth the wait. 

Now someday I just need to scan the negatives to keep these images alive (and far less blurry) forever.

Cheers or as they say in Italy “Salute!”

This is a part of the Down the Aisle link up over at Mommy of a Monster — check it out!

Time Destroyed my Thyme: Failures of a Suburban Organic Gardner

I was Queen of the garden, guardian of nature, supreme boss of the land.

 These photos showcase delectable memories…

…of last year’s amazing garden.

 An army of multi-colored sunflowers stood guard against my garden fence, their bright and showy blooms following their namesake across the sky each day.

Plump, warm tomatoes hung from sprawling branches no cage could contain and mingled with sweet basil and savory green onions.  Oregano and thyme trailed over the garden wall, perfuming the air each time we brushed past. 

I scavenged through cookbooks and websites in search of new recipes to utilize the bountiful harvest.  Graceful flowers mixed with aromatic greenery covered tabletops and counters. The essence of summer permeated our home.

After the success of last Spring’s garden I decided to kick it up a notch: this year I would grow all my plants from seeds. I would be a suburban organic farmer and locovore extraordinaire. Better Homes & Gardens would be knocking on my jasmine covered garden gate begging to do a photo shoot.

I planted my two favorite varieties of tomatoes, basil, parsley, thyme, green onions, chives, sweet red onions, yellow squash, zucchini, four types of peppers and two kinds of corn.  I worked organic manure into the soil with my thinly gloved hands.  I tied homemade tomato cages together with biodegradable twine.  I nurtured my seedlings with daily waterings, organic fertilizers…I may have even sang to them a few times, encouraging them to grow vigorous and healthy.  I was going to have a garden to rival Martha-Freaking-Stewart.

Bees and dragonflies darted between the delicate blossoms.  Green tomatoes small as peas and mini ears of corn poked from beneath green leaves.

Then the trouble began.

A family of field mice conducted nightly raids on the yellow squash and zucchini decimating the harvest until Hubby wiped them out in revenge. The young plants never recovered (though neither did the mouse colony).

My tender seedlings needed daily watering. The lack of rainfall this Spring doubled my monthly water bill.

Finally the rains came and brought with them a plague of mosquitoes so thick I had to douse myself  with half a bottle of Deep Woods Off AND wear long sleeves, pants, and an utterly unattractive scarf/hat combo just to pull a few of the never-ending weeds erupting from the soil.

Then came this Amazonian heat and humidity. Summertime arrived with its red hot guns blaring. June brought afternoon highs topping 100 degrees. Nighttime temps hovered in the 70s. Just a peek at the garden and I was soaked with sweat. All I could do was stay inside and hide in the A/C.

  Unfortunately, my garden wanted to do the same…

The weeds and repressive heat threw a coup d’etat on my garden.  My harvest consisted of one dish of lackluster tomatoes.  One 3 by 5 inch dish. Only brittle skeletons of my beloved herbs and crops remain.  The once beautiful plot now looks as if it was the victim of a forest fire or plague of locust.  The wild weeds have taken over and mutant mosquitoes reign over the land like Dracula’s spawn.

Bye bye dreams of BH& G. Screw you summer and Martha-Freaking-Stewart.  Screw. You.

Next year I’m just going to hit the farmers market and save my sanity and my skin.

I get the point Mother Nature.  I know who’s the boss now.

Mama’s Losin’ It


Florence + Flowing Skirts + No Fights = Fab Night

{Not me}



After wasting an afternoon playing fatter, wrinkly Barbie doll attempting to find something hip yet age appropriate to wear to the Florence + the Machine concert (then embarrassing myself by posting my options online) I did what women usually do when suffering from a wardrobe crisis: I went shopping.  I kicked all the outfits back into the dark recesses of my over-stuffed closet.   I bought new dress. It was inexpensive. It was pretty.  I didn’t have to pick out accessories. It made me feel good.  Perfect.

The Hubby and I slogged through rush hour traffic in the rain and eventually made it to the tourist side of town. As we ran through Universal CityWalk we placated ourselves with dreams of a fabulous show and cold beer. Yes, I said beer.  Wine is for home appreciation, good food, the Opera, and upscale bars.  Beer is for concerts, NASCAR, and our English Pub.

Once inside the Hard Rock we slithered our way through the crowd to find the perfect best available floor space.   I needed a clear view of the stage.  I needed to have room to dance.  And I needed to have no assholes in my direct vicinity.

Hubby claims I am an asshole magnet at concerts.  There is almost always some jerk who feels it is necessary to completely invade my personal space, yell over the music to his asshat buddy or into his phone, spill beer down my back, and accidentally grope me repeatedly.  Though I am shy and timid in everyday life, don’t f@ck with me at a concert.  I simply will not put up with that sh$t.

Until very recently, I never though much about what I wore to shows.  Standard uniform was black tank (velvet, sparkly, or vintage rock band), jeans and big black boots. Beer + big black boots = bravery.  Get into my space and I would stomp you like fine grapes in a barrel.   If someone dared to get pushy I would bum a cigarette and use it as a prop; a few burns and they would scurry away.  Worked every time.

But now I wear heels or occasionally flip flops if it’s raining or an outdoor show. Stomping doesn’t work nearly as well.  No one can light anything in doors anymore (which is nice because I hated coming home smelling like an ashtray).  And I am with my Hubby who wants to be The Man standing up for his woman, but can’t really get involved. He’d be fired in a heartbeat if he was ever arrested for fighting.  So I am on the lookout to avoid assholes and trouble.  We stood five feet from security.  I felt like such a grown-up.

{not Me, buy MY hair}

I did get a couple of “nice hair” comments and stares on the way to the bar and bathroom.  Florence Welch, the lead chanteuse/siren, has my hair.  I’m older, therefore it was mine first.  I thank her everyday for making my I’m too lazy to straiten my waves in this humidity hairdo stylish.

The audience for Florence was mixed:  emo teens, hipster adults sporting glasses and flannels, and a profusion of women.  Many holding hands.  Many whom I first thought were flannel-shirted hipster guys (sorry).   Hubby surveyed the crowd and informed me point blank, “You are NOT allowed to get in a fight with a dyke tonight.”   Nothing against lesbians whatsoever; most of them could have chewed me up and spit me out without blinking a mascara-free eye. Would not have made a fun night.

An Amazon stood in front of us with a child about Kiddo’s size.  He was falling asleep at her feet.  I don’t mind kids at concerts (we took Kiddo to see Paul McCartney last year) but not when it’s a sold out, standing room only venue.  The poor thing was hugging his lovey and fighting to keep his eyes open.  I feared he would be mashed into rock show road-kill.

As the floor filled around us, a perky, pig-tailed and bejeweled 40-something bumped into me. When I whipped around she hugged me and shoved her ten-year-old between us, raving about how he just looovveed Florence + the Machine.

Our one night out and we were surrounded by kids. Not funny, Karma.

Once the the band took the stage everything around us was forgotten.  Florence Welch enchanted the crowds with her powerful pipes, haunting lyrics, and sheer Gucci-goes-goth get-up (see hot pants).  Her gauzy costume floated across the stage as she whirled and danced like an ethereal pagan goddess while belting out tunes such as The Dog Days Are Over, Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up), and Howl.  The band was tight; her vocals pounded through the venue and mesmerized the awe-struck audience.

Florence + the Machine is one of the few bands who truly sound great live.  Florence proved how the award-winning debut album Lungs earned its title: she has one hell of a set of them.  Beautiful.  Ethereal.  Utterly fabulous.

Hubby left with a huge crush on Florence Welch.  Which I suppose I can deal with; when we looked up the YouTube videos of the show Kiddo raved how she looks just like me.  Well, maybe if I was ten years younger, taller, thinner, had legs up to my armpits, and could carry a tune anywhere besides the shower.  It’s nice to dream…

If you haven’t listened to them, give them a try.


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