Saturday, July 28, 2007

C'est Bon!

My sister Hillary is residing in Paris this summer and is now blogging about her European adventures. Thanks to her photos and lively writing, it's the next best thing to going to Europe oneself. Even if you don't know her, take a gander at it!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Two Worlds Collided

I can't believe that after multiple viewings of All About John Deere for Kids, volumes 1, 2, and 3, it took reading an article in House and Garden magazine today for me to learn that John Deere's world headquarters building in Moline, Illinois was designed by Eero Saarinen. Awesome.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


This is almost enough to make me want three more boys. Almost.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Trompe Not My Oeil

We've all encountered trompe l'oeil at one time or another, even if we don't know how to spell or pronounce it. Roughly "to fool the eye" in French, it is a painting technique used to make an object look real rather than painted. One encounters it frequently at homey Italian-American restaurants decorated with red and white buffalo-check tablecloths and votive candles in red glass jars--the prerequisite lattice-work archways affixed to the walls framing charming rustic landscapes. You've eaten there. Their house specialty is spaghetti and meatballs and everything comes with a side of garlic bread.

Trompe l'oeil can be executed so skillfully that it elicits a gasp from the viewer upon discovery of the deception. I don't know a thing about art, and therefore make no claim as to the merit of any art employing this technique. I will say that at its best trompe l'oeil can display a painter's technical virtuosity (though its trickery and unsettling quality takes away from any purely decorative enjoyment I would gain from it); at its worst, trompe l'oeil is utterly depressing.

It's a struggle to put into words what feels so wrong about bad trompe l'oeil. It's really architectural trompe l'oeil that I hate the most. Something in my human nature wants a real doorway, a real window with a real view, a real plaza. These contain mystery. Where does the door lead? Is there a breeze blowing in the vineyard? Who will walk across the plaza?

How can the failure of the door to open be anything but disappointing? This is why I hate Cinderella's castle at Disneyland. I hate things that pretend so earnestly to be real but aren't, things that should have moving parts but don't, things I should be able to use but can't.

Don't get me wrong--I have no problem with building facades (as long as they're admitting that's all they are), decoration for decoration's sake (I love a good pattern and another and another), and "realistic" books and movies and art. But things that should work and don't make me crazy. Miniatures. Ugh.

I wish I could think of more examples of purely decorative flourishes in buildings that pretend to be functional. I'm drawing a blank, so I will have to use one from the house I grew up in. When my parents remodeled our house, they added on a beautiful porch with a gazebo-shaped roofed area off the dining room. The perimeter of the gazebo's roof was edged with a very architectural, sturdy-looking wood fence. Very excited, I thought there must have been a change of plans and that there would now be a balcony on the second floor. No. No access to the roof. What looked like one of the most delightful locations in the house was actually a place no one could ever go. Well, not without a ladder, anyway. And certainly not to sip lemonade on a sunny day.

I was bitterly disappointed. In the bookish reality I inhabited, places and objects were always MORE than they appeared, not less. One could step through a wardrobe or a puddle into a different world. In the bed-time stories my step-dad told us, my sisters and I would descend a stair-case in a tree to a hidden passage-way. We were captivated. There is something so magical about a fort, a tree-house, a tunnel, a planet whose surface is covered entirely with water where the "ground" moves in waves. These places, real and imaginary, send off little sparks of "other place-ness" in us, a place we can't quite put our finger on and can barely dare to hope to see.

To make things that look real but aren't is the antithesis of this world of possibilities. "Ha!" these things say. "I might look like something, but I'm really just a wall. This is all there is. There is nothing more." Well, OK, they don't say anything of the sort. It's just the way they make me feel.

Fortunately for me, I have an in-house antidote for "this is all there is." His name is Nels, and in his able hands an exercise step becomes a pirate ship, a cardboard holder for a six-pack of beer becomes an airplane, and a metal spring becomes an auger. Two nights ago Nels' dad fashioned him a rocket ship out of two boxes. It is hinged in the middle so Nels can climb in and out, and has a handle so he can pull it shut once he's inside. It has windows, a steering device (it doesn't move, but it IS 3-D), and drawn-on controls. When Nels settled in, drawing the top closed and peering out the windows at our family room from his new perspective in outer space, it was obvious that he was enjoying a glimpse into an "other," wonderful place.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Strange Day

Is there any crabbiness like the crabby that knows it has no right to be and is therefore compounded by a deep sense of guilt? At some point today I became Crabby Ungrateful McDourface, and it was entirely unwarranted. Thus making me more crabby.

I should not be crabby. Today brought many good things. I found out early in the day that Shaun would not be losing his job in the first round of lay-offs. This is no guarantee of job security, but we are going to go ahead and assemble our new Ikea bookcases anyhow.

Of much less importance but also good is that we watched the movie Stranger Than Fiction last night, and not only was it very enjoyable, but its lead actress was sporting the very hairstyle that I envisioned getting the last time I had a haircut. On my next visit to the salon I will be armed with still photos from the movie.

Really, how did I live without the Internet? One more good thing about today was that I sought and found recipes for Reibekuchen (Cologne-style potato pancakes), a guilty pleasure that de-throned funnel cake as my all-time favorite street/fair/festival food when I discovered it at an Advent festival in Germany.

Despite these good things, I was in a funk that could not be dispelled. A mature person would pray. At least take a few deep breaths. Under the diabolical influence of Reibekuchen recipes, I concluded that only a deep-fried dinner would make me feel better.

You can all guess how this went. Of course the fish and chips were a huge disappointment, providing neither culinary nor spiritual solace. After dinner it was off to Fred Meyer, where I was planning to buy some bar stools we had put off purchasing until we knew if Shaun would be keeping his job (for the time being) or not.

Of course there was no sign of the bar stools I had called about and put on 24-hour hold earlier today. I could write a whole post about the quest for these stools and the phone calls to the four area Fred Meyer locations and the utter cluelessness of the well-meaning Fred Meyer employees. But my energy has flagged, and rehashing it all will only exacerbate my crabbiness.

So, no bar stools. I figured I'd see if I could find some shorts. I headed for a longish denim pair only to discover to my horror that they had an ELASTIC WAIST in the back. Now, I'm a mom. Somewhat frumpy. I even got locked out of my dressing room tonight while trying on a pair of pin-striped Dockers walking shorts, which was traumatic enough. But being drawn to the elastic-waist shorts really unnerved me. As I retreated I caught a glimpse of the tapered-leg mom jeans and shuddered. Perhaps it's just a matter of time before I start inadvertently reaching for those.

I already knew it, and tonight reinforced it: I can't eat or buy my way to happiness. But a Nanaimo Bar from the Fred Meyer bakery counter has managed to perk me up a bit. It's not often that 79 cents can buy one two days' worth of calories and a bucketful of childhood memories. As I inefficiently multi-task, enjoying my Nanaimo bar, writing this blog entry, and watching Stage 2 of the Tour de France, the clutch of crabbiness on my chest has relaxed just a bit. Now if I could only get my brow to un-furrow.

Monday, July 2, 2007

It Figures

Within a week of Shaun's company announcing a major reorganization (which will include an unspecified number of lay-offs in Boise), I learn that an Anthropologie store will be opening 12 blocks from our house.

Our family has lived in three states and one foreign country in the past seven years, and I'm usually up for adventure by the time it becomes a necessity. But, for the first time, I don't feel ready to move on. We're only starting to get settled. And we did move to Boise on purpose. I'm hoping the Big Plan is not going to require us to hightail it out of here quite yet.

It would be nice if we knew WHEN we will know. Some people will be let go right away, but the whole process may take up to a year. My first thought was that living day to day with so much uncertainty would be egregiously stressful. Then I realized that this is the true state we are living in all the time. It is good to be reminded (cliched schmaltzy conclusion alert!) that we never know what the next day will bring, only that God will walk through it with us.