Monday, July 18, 2011

A Walk Down Jerry Maguire Lane

Jerry Maguire was on Bravo the other night and like every young woman who remembers when Tom Cruise was a sex symbol rather than couch-jumper, I sat down to watch. I think we can take for granted how a movie or a song or a commercial or some other (pop) cultural touch-point can bring us back so clearly to a moment in time in our lives.

Jerry Maguire was released in 1996, the year in which I can be certain I did not see it, seeing how I couldn’t watch Sex & The City until I went to college, let alone watch Dawson’s Creek in middle school. Nevertheless, I’m certain I was still a teenager when “show me the money”, “you complete me” and “you had me at hello” would join the ranks of “where’s the beef?” and “who let the dogs out?”

Fast-forward fifteen years and my husband sits downs beside me to tune in. He contributes gender-affirming masculine commentary – down to sports and Austin Powers references (For some, the as-memorable, “Mini Me, you complete me”).

We’ve arrived at the scene where Jerry Maguire is sitting in the room with his number one draft pick and his family and I realize that I’m really engaging with this scene. It reminds me of the “Year of the Quarterback” Tim Tebow episode when he waits with his family and friends to hear if he’s been drafted. Really?! I am watching a legendary chick-flick and relating it to ESPN?

I enjoyed the movie, but I think I enjoyed equally as much how differently a 15 year-old and a 25 year-old understands the relationship between Renee Zellweger and Tom Cruise…and of course, how much better I understand the draft. Some things remain constant, however, I still think the little boy is one of the cutest of all time, and I am still watching the movie over a latte.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Make It a Trenta

I was caught off guard on my afternoon Starbucks run when the person behind me ordered a Trenta. In case you haven’t heard, a Trenta is the largest addition to the Starbucks line: it holds no less than 31 ounces of coffee.

I’m not looking to rant about consumerism or nutrition or obesity or even supersizing, but “Make it a Trenta”?! Doesn’t that sound like something out of Star Trek?
I’m trying to imagine saying “…and make it a Trenta”. But as I visualize holding a cup that is larger than a reasonable purse and only a fraction smaller than my everyday handbag, I feel like I’d need to wear a sign justifying my 31 ounce decision. Perhaps it would read “I just took the red-eye home” or “All day meetings” or “Exams”.
And wouldn’t that much coffee or tea necessitate equal parts water to prevent dehydration? I wouldn’t want to go on a day long road trip with someone drinking equal parts water and Trenta (as a note: hours of driving would be another sign-approved reason for purchasing a Trenta, though I’m not sure it would be the wisest choice).
Who knows maybe six months or even six weeks from now 'everyone will be doing it'. All I know is, on my next trip to grab a latte, I do not intend to make it a Trenta.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

When I Think of Bastille Day

We moved to a then-new apartment close to our then-new jobs at the beginning of June of last year. And while at that point, I had moved five times in less than two years, I was by no means an expert. The joys of moving (from packing, to schlepping, to unpacking) could very well be their own or several blog entries, but the literal feats that must be accomplished aside, the hardest part for me is leaving the life built in the old place and starting over in the new one.

Some parts are strange to the point of being comical- like learning a new grocery store's layout. One skill I learned from many years of grocery shopping with my mom is guessing what products belong in an aisle together, products like shoe polish and garbage bags. Garbage bags means Ziploc bags means utility/light bulbs means shoe polish. I remember spending two-hours at the ShopRite next to where we had just moved: they might as well have had taco shells, pantyhose, milk and magazines in the same aisle with the sign on top of the aisle number reading 'things you'll need on a chilly night when you're going to eat tacos then wear a dress out so you'll need stockings and come home to want a glass of milk then read a magazine before bed'. This is trickier than you may think when you're standing next to the cream and can't find the milk and so forth...

Or how about the fact that when I got in the far left lane to make a left hand turn, I was suddenly far out of luck. 

There are big pieces of daily reality- where are you going to live and work? How long will your commute be? And smaller ones- which is the most reasonably priced dry-cleaners? What is the best route to avoid rush-hour? Where is the best cheap sushi/pizza/BYOB/fill-in-the-blank restaurant?

While you could turn to Google or Yelp for the answers, these are the moments when you are struck by the saddest part of moving away and the hardest thing you'll have to build in your new place - community. Your girlfriends you spent thismuchtime with for the past year live three hours away. Your girlfriends from the place before that live three hours away too. This isn't freshman year of college where everyone is brand new and eager to make new friends. The only people you meet instantaneously are your colleagues, and not that colleagues can't be incredible friends, but you usually want to do your due diligence in seeing what office culture is like before you start talking about the time you were in a rural village in Africa and a local person asked if you were on the Amazing Race. If you want someone to go to lunch, drinks or the movies with; to get your haircut at the place someone trusts; to have someone you're comfortable calling when your husband is on the road and you need a ride to the car repair shop at an inconvenient time: you have to have a community.

So how does this relate to the storming of a famous prison in Paris? Last year, on Bastille Day, someone affiliated with where I work who lives in town invited the whole office among others to her house for a Bastille Day party.  No one else I worked with could go, and I remember showing up with my husband and a home-made hybrid of cookies and cupcakes and being made to feel so welcome. We knew so few people in our new town, and here was this person I’d met once in passing and she had opened her home to us and invited us to the same party to which she invited neighbors, relatives, and her children’s friends.  It was truly one of those warm-fuzzy feelings: even if these weren’t our neighbors and relatives and friends, bringing a dish to someone’s home and talking to a group of people about the weather and sports and when we were getting married and where we were from and where they were from and what everyone’s summer plans were felt really genuine and made us feel a stronger connection to this new place.

This was one of many moments when people in the community extended themselves and made us feel a part of this new place. It made me feel that we could build these years of our life here. I smiled when I got the invite to this year's Bastille Day party. And, while we cannot attend, I am grateful for the invitation and even more grateful for the community we have become a part of and the friends I can call to grab a latte in this no-longer-new town.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Who First Asked 'Who Wore It Better'?

US Weekly, E! News and their cousins in the world of celebrity gossip and fashion often contain a segment called “Who wore it better?” where pictures celebrities and socialites in the same dresses are side by side and voted upon. I wonder where this question originated.

When Pia Toscano was voted off American Idol, a prevalent theory was same gender-envy: that women wouldn’t want a beautiful, talented woman to win. At first glance, who wore it better seems to fit conveniently within this theory. Women fear showing up somewhere wearing the same thing as someone else; however, the women in the pictures, because they’re famous, can be wearing an outfit to a different event in a different city in a different month and still be compared. They can even be compared to the invincible Victoria’s Secret Model.

I, however, have trouble buying into the envy theory. If that were true than Carrie Underwood, who won American Idol, wouldn’t have legions of loyal female fans. If a gender were to blame for this fashion competition, I’d choose men. While my husband has no interest in reading about the latest man to leave the Bachelorette, or the next girl to date George Clooney, he is more than happy to focus on the ‘who wore it best’ page where readers are asked to stare at Kim Kardashian and Erin Andrews in the same short, tight dress and pick a favorite.

Some outlets try to make answering this question more scientific. In the segment titled "Bitch Stole My Look” on Joan River’s Fashion Police, panelists comment with great care: shoes’ ankle straps height, lack of Spanx, poor choice in jewelry, wrong opacity of tights or length of leggings are all culprits of why someone did not wear it as well as someone else.

Now, I’m not trying to say that “who wore it better” shouldn’t be discussed or printed, nor am I pretending that I flip past it. I just think it’s interesting to think where this may have come about. Two famous women are in the same dress five times over and then we ask ‘who wore it better’? Not who had better shoes. Not who’s more likeable. Not who do we think came by their fame rightly.  But, Who wore it better?

I think it's time to grab a latte and this week's US Weekly. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Day From Seinfeld

You may have heard or recalled an unusual story and someone says, "That could be an episode of Seinfeld". This phrase is part of the American lexicon, and I would translate it to mean what a surprisingly implausible yet entertaining situation. All you can hope is that you're someone other than George in the equation, because if you're George it can be more closely translated to:You just may be the only person that has ever happened to because it not's only implausible, it is funny how completely ridiculous it is. P.S. I'm sorry.

First let's explore the former usage. I was at a Starbucks a few months back and the woman at the front of the ever-growing line couldn't decide what she wanted; then used a word us regulars frown upon, a word such as "medium"; then she tried to pay with a gift card with insufficient funds so she reloaded it; then she decided she wanted to by ground coffee for a friend - but she didn't know what flavor and if it needed to be ground for an espresso or coffee machine- then she counted out exact change for her purchase.

The woman behind me leaned in and said "That could be an episode of Seinfeld". East-Coasters at the end of their lunch breaks at Starbucks know what they want, how to order it, and how many minutes they have to make the crosswalk.

Now to explore the latter translation. Today was episode of Seinfeld, and unfortunately I was George. I was wearing beautiful trousers: best-fitting in the closet, coworkers commented on how great they were, bought at full price at Banana Republic because they were so perfect for work, haven't been worn too many times, but a season past enough than I can't find another pair right now trousers. Someway or another in this blessed heat, I must not have noticed sitting on a fully exploded ballpoint pen. That's right, all over the back of my trousers so that as one colleague mildly put it 'it looked as though a child had scribbled all over my rear-end'.

So there I was, at my desk in a towel, as my pants, which I tried to clean hung soaking wet in the bathroom to no avail, and I was George in this Seinfeld of a story. Can't you just see him yelling, "My Pants" and Jerry shaking his head and saying "a ballpoint pen? You must have just sat in it? You didn't notice?" It feels so real I think this show may have happened. And then Elaine comes in and says, " a ballpoint pen. Really?! " and then Kramer comes in and asks for an unrelated kitchen utensil, before suggesting some ridiculous remedy that doesn't save the pants anyway...

I'm sure I was being too materialistic, but I was really upset. My office door was closed mainly because I was sitting at my desk in a towel, but partly because I was angry. I wanted to pout and to swear under my breath to myself (and to my husband when describing the situation via text message). I didn't want a cupcake or a latte or to take a breath or to let it go: I wanted to be angry and I had my whole lunch break ahead of me.

When it was time to get back to work I reluctantly refocused: I wasn't going to let one could have, should have, maybe was an incident from an episode of Seinfeld ruin my whole day. Now that I'm home for the evening and I'm going to choose to be thankful for the topic for my blog and curl up on the couch with a latte (easier said than done).

Monday, July 4, 2011

Quotes to Live By

I am reading Bethenny Frankel’s A Place of Yes and one the facets of her storytelling I am most enjoying is how she often introduces pieces of her story and lessons she’s learned with quotes. I very much connect to and appreciate this aspect as I have had quotes which have pervaded my view of different chapters of my life.

When I was introduced to William Faulkner in high school, I frequently visited the idea  that “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past” How did this apply to my study of history and conceptualization of the world? How would this affect me – where did prior actions go and live if there was no past? Would the 1950s, 60s or 70s come back in more ways than fashion? What did this quote really mean?

After college, when I left an incredible job in DC for who knows what in rural America to be with the man who would become my husband, love quotes were paramount. Toni Morrison wrote in Beloved ‘Love is or it ain’t: Thin love ain’t love at all”.  There’s a historic African-American proverb:  “Tell me whom you love and I’ll tell you who you are. “ I love that idea: that the picture of who we are could be derived from our relationships rather than our 9 to 5; that by loving and giving of yourself, you could truly define who you are.

One of my most fashionable acquaintances on Facebook led me to the discovery of the Chanel quote “There is time for work, and time for love. That leaves no other time.” How fitting this quote is when you’re working and planning a wedding! Beyond that, this quote has at many times in my life been exemplary of how I would envision the ideal work-life balance: I’m not picturing grocery-shopping, or bill-paying or watching TV or even sleeping, eating or breathing: I picture one part of my time doing meaningful work and the other part with loved ones.

There is an Edith Wharton quote I keep mulling over these days. It reads: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” I love this quote, particularly being recently married. Am I the candle or the mirror? Can I be both? Who do I aspire to be? Is it a choice? Are we the candle for some and the mirror for others?

That I could spread light is noble in and of itself and figuring out how I may spread that light is part of the journey. I know this much, I’ll be considering this quote over many more lattes.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

According to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Newsletter

I subscribed to Gwyneth Paltrow’s newsletter at on a whim. I like to make, go, get, do, be and see; and who better to email me about it than someone who was making, going, getting, doing, being and seeing?

Critics see the newsletter as telling people they have to spend thousands of dollars or dine at five-star restaurants to be in-vogue. And while I may only skim the newsletters about the FAB-U-LOUS designer finds at Barneys in Chicago, I enjoy Gwyneth’s cheery tone. Her topics and opinions feel genuine, and in that way I find her approach rather egalitarian: she’s not assuming we cannot afford or understand her tastes, she’s just sharing them with us, the reader.

If anything, this is much like a dear friend of mine, who in true Sex & The City fashion can tell you the best place to get cocktails within a block of any intersection in Manhattan: just don’t expect any single cocktail at any place she recommends will be less than twenty-five dollars.

Goop isn’t all fashion and food: one of the posts upon which I have ruminated for weeks was the Be newsletter on “friendship divorce”. Gwyneth said her father used to say, “you can't make new old friends” and then had several experts comment. I felt as though I was reading what I had read before, about the power of girlfriends (which I am in no way discounting) until one said:

"‘Old friends’ and ‘true friends’ are not necessarily identical. Old friends have stood the test of time; true friends are timeless. True friends may have been in your life since your childhood or they may have shown up only yesterday, but it’s from the quality of the heart that you know them, not the number of years you’ve logged together."

 I have thought on this comment repeatedly. I have dear, old friends who are true and who’s friendship speaks to my heart, but I have also lost a couple old friends, who’s friendships I would have never imagined my life without. I continue to grapple with this idea of “what is a true friend?” and am thankful to Gwyneth for providing experts with unique perspectives on age-old questions.

Particularly during the workweek, I look forward to my break on a day when the Goop Newsletter is in my inbox. I grab a latte and sit down to read what GP has written me. 

A Tale of the Gourmet Gift Basket

I pulled lemon-ginger scones out of the oven about twenty minutes ago. I don’t like lemon or ginger, but if I did, I’m betting I’d like them (and I’m banking on that supposition, bringing them to a BBQ with my husband’s family tomorrow). Last night, I made white chocolate raspberry cupcakes with raspberry frosting- a departure from my standard chocolate or vanilla- they are decidedly moist and delicious.

You may wonder what has inspired this 24-hour baking kick. Our wedding gifts are finally all out of their boxes, and I am enjoying a truly wonderful gourmet gift basket we received.

I happen to be an expert on gourmet gift baskets, having seen no less than a dozen sent to my childhood home every holiday season growing up. They were usually some eccentric twist on a theme – everything covered in chocolate, everything stuffed into candy-coated popcorn, everything you’d expect to eat on a vacation through tropical Candyland. And don’t we all remember the year of the Edible Arrangement?

So here I am opening this gift basket of raspberry vinaigrette and Vidalia onion and peppercorn dressing, roasted red pepper fettuccine, Thai BBQ marinade, miso hoisin sauce, pure vanilla extract, strawberry mojito mix, and of course raspberry cupcake and lemon ginger scone mixes. Could it be: an extravagantly useful gift basket that begs to be used and encourages the newlyweds to get into the kitchen and mix it up a bit?

Our small kitchen necessitates that anything out of the ordinary must be out of the cupboards and used in the immediate future and with this gift basket that is an absolute delight. Dare I say my opinion of the gourmet gift basket has changed? Maybe I am not the expert I had presumed I was. Every item can be an incredibly fun and practical addition to one’s kitchen! (For the record, we can overlook the organic lollipops: I can bring those to work...)

I’m off to have a raspberry cupcake, and grab a latte to go with, bien sur.