30 August 2009

The Horse that Beer Built

When I first began imbibing alcohol (not a moment before the very day of my 21st birthday, Mom, I swear) beer was anathema to me. I'd show up to crunchy skater/hippy keg parties with my drink of choice - a $2.99 bottle of Andre pink sparking wine tucked under the arm of my faux fur coat - and wrinkle my nose in disgust at those red cups full of the sudsy, sour brew I loathed. (Because the Andre's was so much better, right? [Insert eye roll here]).
I was friends with a group of elegant bachelors at the time who had a penchant for Pabst Blue Ribbon, often enjoyed of a Monday evening, over viewings of Melrose Place. In time I came to imbue the thought of that beverage with their charm. Not that I drank it or anything. Gross.

I can't even recall when I finally crossed over to the amber side, but at some point I discovered the liquid joy that is my German birthright. One night at his bar my friend Joe filled a pint glass full of ice with PBR for me, calling it a Texas Shandy, and thus was my love affair with the Blue Ribbon finally consummated. How typical that it took giving it a fancy name and putting it on ice for me to enjoy.

Did you know PBR was once brewed right here in Los Angeles? As a further testament to the beer's general awesomeness, once the factory was decommissioned, it was turned into an enormous art colony, now known as The Brewery (above). I recommend you visit their annual open studios It's a fantastic opportunity to snoop into people's living spaces, I mean, appreciate local art. Ahem.

But let's get back to beer. Saturday, Mr. Sybarite and the Bunni and I are attending a first birthday party. It is our first visit to this home. We don't know the host & hostess very well, and as you do, I'm trying to figure out who they are based on how they've filled their house. Upon entering the kitchen I spy the placard you see at right:

My thoughts: "Hmmm. A fellow PBR fan. With a questionable sense of humor." I stow this mote of information away without making much fuss. Lots of people drink the Blue Ribbon. Even more make jokes about *wink wink* the ol' Ball and Chain. It doesn't make us kindred spirits or anything.

But then. I step outside and am immediately struck by this Thing of Beauty:
Please pardon the crappy picture - it was all I could do to keep my head from exploding as I snapped. Yes, ladies and gentleman, it is a Trojan Horse. Made of PBR cans. Let's admire it together, shall we? Here's another photo, for a sense of scale.

Now I knew I was among brethren. Not even so much for enjoying the beverage, as for the creativity, the sheer obsessiveness it takes to invent a reason to drink that much beer, to lovingly save that many cans, and the skill to turn one man's trash into treasure. Talk about Art - look at the Bronze Age-esque, pointy stylized mane. Look closely at the first photo, and note the ladder hanging down.

Here's a photo of the creator - we'll come him Colonel Mustard - with Mrs. Mustard and Muffin:

Aren't they adorable? Cheers, guys! And thanks for inspiring not just this post, but a very special Greek event you readers will be hearing about soon. Stay tuned!

27 August 2009

Hot Hot Heat

I'll be honest with you, I'm not a huge fan of the heat and dryness all up in my grill this past week. Of course, I've got it easier than those forced to evacuate their homes, so file this post under "Spoiled Person's First World Problem".

For those of you living outside the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, or otherwise under a rock, allow me to fill you in. Forest fires rage all around us - one just a few miles away over the hill - making breathing a bit like wearing a diving helmet hooked up to the exhaust of a 1972 Ford LTD fueled on a blend of astroturf and Nair. And did I mention it's hot? The kind of hot that verges on requiring measurement in degrees Kelvin.

As I said, I'm not a fan of this. As a native Angeleno (or would I be an Angelena? Oh hell, just call me Angelyne and be done with it) I should be used to this sort of thing. After all, every fall just when I'm really in the mood to wear a sweater, the Santa Ana winds kick up, making life generally miserable. It's not just their heat. It's the dryness they bring. Days like today, or when the winds rear their satan heads, the moisture is literally sucked out of the air - taking away with them all the good humor in a person's body. Don't believe me? Better writers than I have written about about the havoc the winds and their dryness wreak.

I know what you're thinking, particularly my Midwestern cousins and Southern sistren and brethren: at least it's not humid! Well call me crazy, but I prefer the humidity. For one it does fantastic things to my hair. For two, it keeps the skin supple, and not so much like Pancho Villa's saddle. And for three, talcum powder is a lot cheaper than lotion. Until you humid-haters live in a house without central air, I'm not even going to argue about it.

Over the years I've developed a routine to rectify the dessication situation. Fingers crossed you readers will consider this list on the charming, not creepy, side of compulsive. And don't think it only applies to denizens of Southern California. Anyone currently residing in a kiln or tandoori oven, and those planning to colonize the surface of the sun will find these tips helpful, too.


1. Drink as much water as your body will allow. Eat foods with high water content (cucmbers, melon, celery, etc.)

2. Shower early and often. Barring a dip into an enormous, chilled vat of Indian raita, this is your best bet to bring down the body's internal thermometer. Keep the showers short and tepid; overdoing it will dry out your skin further.

3. Before leaving the shower, apply oil to wet skin. (I like pure coconut oil, for its tropical island-y scent, found at health food and international grocery stores.) Enjoy the Maxim cover model-like effect of water beading up on skin. Go ahead. You know you want to.

4. Don't bother drying off. The air will do this for you.

5. Spray Nature's Tears Eye Mist directly into eyes to stave off Sandpaper Retina.

6. Snort a few squirts of Ocean Saline Nasal Mist (no one said this routine would be pretty.) Coat a thin layer of Vaseline to the interior of nostrils to lock moisture in and act as flypaper against the dust in the air.

7. Keep hair cool and moist by spraying while still wet with a fine mist oil. (Avoid anything with alcohol in it - hello, mousse? gel? - unless you're going for the Top Ramen look.) If you can, find something made with coconut oil. Its molecules are smaller than most oils, allowing for better absorption. After all, the Jheri curl is one look I doubt will make a comeback anytime soon. Though stranger things have happened.

8. Pull damp, oiled hair back off of face. (A french braid would be great; short hair is even better.)

9. Apply a liberal mist of a refreshing perfume spray (I'm gaga for Estee Lauder's Bronze Goddess which leaves me feeling more like this than this.) The scent fades quickly allowing for frequent reapplications. Even better, as it evaporates it cools the skin.

10. Now pack a bag. Into it goes saline mists, perfume and oil sprays, lip balm and Rescue Remedy (for your foul mood). Carry this with you for frequent on-the-go moisture surges.

So, feeling better yet? Phew! You may be on your merry way.

If, however, after all of this you STILL wish you could unscrew your skull and run it under the tap, you my friend are in need of a Neti Pot. But that's it's own entire blog, right there.

26 August 2009

Could-a, Would-a, Should-a

Sometime in 2005 I wandered inside the National Council of Stylish Jewish Ladies of a Certain Age Thrift Shop and unearthed a COMPLETE FREAKING SET of vintage Villeroy and Boch Acapulco tableware.

So many things about this set appealed to me. I didn't know jack about collecting anything of value, I just gravitated towards what I liked. And this? I liked. How perfect was it? Let me count the ways.

1. It was less than $150, for about 8 setting, including serving pieces.

2. It matched everything I own.

3. The sunny, Mexican-inspired colors and naif 60's motifs made me happy just looking at them.

4. Though some historians disagree, I'm fairly certain that when you sat down at Captain Steubings's table on The Love Boat, your filet mignon would have been served on it.

5. It was named after my fantasy home destination. When I live here, I'll be a lounge singer in one of those mammoth all-inclusive resorts. I'll exist solely in caftans and bikinis by day, feathers & sequins by night. After my midnight set of Burt Bacharach songs, Johnny Depp (circa Blow; in the white suit only, please) will drop by the house for churros y chocolate, served in what else, Acapulco plates, cups and saucers.

I still get grief pangs driving by that store when I think that I didn't buy it.

Now go on. Tell me your biggest "WHY DIDN'T I BUY THAT!?!?!" regret. You'll feel much better afterwards, I promise.

24 August 2009

This Dance Ain't for Everybody - Only the Sexy People

Know what I love about transcontinental flights? The movies. It is there, hurtling through space, miles above the earth, that I get to indulge in the sort of mindless cinematic pap I'd normally consider myself too discerning to stoop to watching at home. Eleven hours in coach has broken many a stronger man than I. This is my excuse for willingly viewing "My Life in Ruins", the latest Nia Vardalos vehicle. I watched each of the 95 cliche-laden minutes of stale jokes, makeovers, and bizarre costume choices. It was so bad that when Rita Wilson showed up as the ghost-wife of Richard Dreyfuss (see what I mean?) I cringed for her, like you would if you saw Michelle Obama in a Mentos commercial. I mean, Rita Wilson, for chrissakes. Like she's some paragon of acting ability, some grande dame of the screen.

Anyway. It was worth it. Watching the movie, I mean. Here's why.

Picture it: Sicily, 1958...

Sorry. Joke.

Anyway, follow me to last week, one week after returning home from Bunni's first trip abroad. She was jet lagged, poor thing. I was jet lagged. Dad was jet lagged when - fun! - after six months of bouncing Bunni to sleep on the yoga ball, sciatica clamped down on him harder than a pit bull's jaw. When I say "fun!" I am obviously lying. We're talking incapacitated dad, here. Can't sit, can't bend, can't lay down, certainly can't pick up baby, because of excruciating pain. Fun! So on top of being the sole caregiver during the day, Bunni's jet lag-induced hourly waking became my solo responsibility, too. All night long - sing it with me, Lionel - all night.

(And now, let us have a moment of silence to honor all the parents who do this on a regular basis. Especially the single moms! Every CEO and each professional athlete in America should be tied down and forced to give 10% of their net worth to improving the plight of single moms. I'll admit, this is one of only a handful of times I've experienced the nightmare that is baby-induced sleep deprivation, so my hat is off to you parents who are overly-familiar with this.)

Needless to say, day after day of this routine sucked away any ounce of joy that may have ever been hidden in my marrow. By Thursday I was at my wit's end. Exhausted. Cranky. Depressed. Martyr-iffic. Full of self-pity and utterly lacking any charity for my pain-wracked husband. During one of his many trips that week to the chiropractor I plunged dangerously close to my personal nadir. Lemme tell ya, its freaking UGLY down there. I had the tv on for company. Despite my usual commitment to keeping it off while my daughter is awake I had inexplicably tuned in to the PBS telethon. Dr. Wayne Dyer was blabbing on about "making changes". Seriously, it was all I could do to keep from hurling the television onto the sidewalk outside and using the shards of glass to slit my wrists (fatigue makes me a little dramatic). When suddenly he said something useful: "Buddhists say that your future is created right now - by your thoughts. Change your thoughts and you can change your future", or some such irritating psychobabble nonsense to that effect.
So I decided I'd - just for an experiment, mind you - try this out. I hit pause on the "I'm tired I hate sciatica I'm tired I hate him for having sciatica" stream. And my mind went to My Big Fat Greek Sequel.

Nia, playing an uptight Greek-American, is fed up by how Greek people are running their islands. The tvs don't work. The beds are uncomfortable. The elevators break down. Its hot. "And what do they do about all of this?" she asks in annoying narrator overdub. "They dance. Just like when Anthony Quinn loses his life's savings in Zorba the Greek. They dance." You can tell she just doesn't understand! those zany Greeks. Why don't they just call a repair person? Who dances?

But maybe those zany Greeks are on to something, I thought. If it's good enough for the cradle of civilization, its probably good enough for me. Dancing has to be more fun than being an uptight American. Or a bitter stay-at-home mom. So I hauled out one of my favorite albums of all time: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass's Going Places. Dropped the needle on their version of Zorba the Greek. Danced Bunni around the living room, sending her into squeals of delight with my snapping fingers, our dips and twirls.

And you know what? It worked. You hear that, Dr. Wayne Dyer? Plato? Rita Wilson? I felt better. Maybe not coconut-margarita-and-a-three-hour-nap good. But better.

21 August 2009

Things to do today:

1. Tell T to grow a beard
2. Buy purple tights
3. Take mini vacation, compliments of Camera Obscura

I'd never have picked purple tights as a must-have item for a Parisian get away. Who knew they'd look so great in the city of lights?
They've inspired some reminiscing this morning... My first trip to New York City. We stayed at the Chelsea Hotel. I'd packed a 1970's caramel-colored wool cape. I wore it with a denim pencil skirt, black knee high boots and tied my favorite leopard print scarf around my neck. It was October. We walked in Central Park. I felt a little like the lead in an early Woody Allen movie. Sigh.

What one unforgettable item have you packed/ would you pack to a dream destination?

18 August 2009

She Sells Seashells

As much as I love the beach, I haven't been much since Bunni was born, because: taking a 5 month old? Who can't yet sit up on her own? She'd be like a sand-flavored Shake 'n Bake chicken thigh in no time. Fortuitously, my writing group met in Manhattan Beach this week, and after several glorious hours of sea-side reading, writer-talk, and the world's prettiest crudite platter, I got to wander.

I loved the store Magpie, on Highland. Their window display of appropriately beach-y, high-end housewares beguiled me, particularly the Indian block-print cotton scarves in blues and whites and the white glaze-over-terra cotta tableware in shell shapes.

By far the most appealing of all was this Vietri sardine plate:
Too much of this stuff on one table might be a little gaggy (just a One Finger on my mother in law's Scale of Gagginess), but I could really get into touches of it here and there. This single plate struck me as prohibitively expensive at $44, so I took only the photo home. [Post-script 1: I've since been researching Vietri prices and this wasn't so nuts, after all. This stuff looks pretty collectible, and now I'm starting to get the Would-a Should-a Could-a feeling best exemplified by the heinous "Acapulco" fiasco of 2005.]

Thus inspired, and with a sleepyhead napping in the backseat, I thought about which Westside store I could visit in search of further nautical-themed finds. I'd just decided on forgoing shopping altogether when the car nearly independently drove itself into a carpool lane from which there was no return, magically taking me to La Sybarite's Favorite Thriftstore #2.

With ocean decor on my mind,I found: a heavy Murano-type glass seashell shaped ashtray, but it was green (I'd have preferred blue) and not in the greatest condition. Nevermind that we don't smoke, it would have made a good soap/sponge dish by the kitchen sink. I also passed on a set of Arcoroc-type glassware - three bowls, one plate- also seashell shaped. I didn't LOVE them so I left them.

Here's, however, what I did purchase:

a set of outdoor plastic tableware in super-bright fiesta shades for upcoming BBQs

a tea pot and mugs to tide me over until I get my set of Cornishware [Post script 2: T hated these mugs. Oh well. I can't blam him; they are Ikea.]

17 August 2009

Cabinet of Curiosities

One of my favorite things in Dublin is the Natural History Museum, because entering it is like walking into the Victorian Age.

You couldn't have designed it better if you were a Hollywood art director. The building itself dates from 1856. Inside, glass cases overflow with taxidermy-ed "wonders" from around the world. If Hogwarts Academy had its own museum, this is what it would look like. Until they recently closed it for refurbishments (*gasp!* I'm terrified of what they'll do in the name of "progress") it hadn't been altered in 150 years. In other words, it was a museum documenting what museums used to be.

Believe it or not this post does have a point.

So a few weeks ago Mr. Sybarite and I were shmying (another one of my Mother-in-Law-isms, a faux-Yiddish word for non-committal commercial browsing , i.e. window shopping) at H.D. Buttercup (where you go when things get rough) when what to my wandering eyes did appear, but this chair:
The greatgreatgrandfather of the Egg Chair! What's that you ask? That taupe-y brown fabric? Why, yes. Yes, it is upholstered in burlap. Which gives it a real cabinet of curiosities feel, like the inside of the entomological specimen box to which you'd pin your rare Peruvian butterfly. Which got me thinking about those spindly black legs: also a little insect-ish, aren't they? And that bulbous dome, and the way the chair is segmented into thirds; it suggests head-thorax-abdomen, if you ask me. A little creepy, a little formal, a lot Victorian. Just like the Natural History Museum.

Thus inspired, I decided this chair deserved its own room, in honor of the museum.

The room would have to be a library or a conservatory (I'm talking to you, Colonel Mustard). Obviously the above chair would be the centerpiece. If in a library, it'd be next to the fireplace, backed by a wall (with its own rolling ladder) of leather-bound books.

Since India was the crown jewel of the British Empire until the year after the museum was built, this sofa's peacock color scheme and paisley pattern supply the necessary colonial element.

But lets not get too carried away. Rather than a giant piece of taxidermy in the "I say, big game hunting and that sort of carry on, old chap" school, in my ultimate fantasy, you'd have two of Brancusi's Bird in Space bronzes...

... symmetrically arranged to face one another, suggesting elephant tusks.

Naturally, we'll want some glass cloche bell jars around (available from this excellent website that flatters my inner gardener with serious gardening supplies at the same time as it tempts me with pretty "lifestyle" purchases) to house a collection of carnivorous plants. Creepy!!

And to make sure the room isn't a Victorian pastiche while still running amok with the biology theme, why not window blinds inspired by photosynthesis?

I know some of you out there have more ideas for this room. Don't be shy! Tell us what else would fit in. You'd better hurry, though. I'll have to submit these ideas to the Museum right away. Who knows, there might still be time for them to work an insulated, isolated bug-like chair into the room that loves it.

classic clothing items

Inspired by Martha Stewart Living's August issue and their classic clothing pieces worth investing in, her is my own list of items I will splash out for someday

christian louboutin ballet flats
hermes scarf
aran sweater
scottish cashmere sweater
pucci dress
strand of pearls
minnetonka moccasins/boots
white levi's a la Blow Up
shirt by Pink
paisley silk scarf
Frye Boots

14 August 2009

File under "Inane Things that Inexplicably Make me Happy"

The pleasure I take from this commercial is, I know, perverse. It is possibly the single most asinine, obnoxious tune ever penned. Which is its very genius. The song speaks directly to my inner 12-year old, the girl who ruined a soulful slow-dance for everyone in my youth group by shouting the lyrics of "Purple Rain" to the tune of Frosty the Snowman over it; the one who blasted Led Zeppelin every time it came on the radio of my first boyfriend's car - precisely because the band gave him the hives.

I know I'm a little late to the party here, but this blog isn't about the latest so much as what I think happens to be the greatest. So there. Seriously, if I'd seen this as a teenager, it would have made me want to be an ad exec the way my friend Jon was inspired by Angela Bower (and her enormous glasses - which, frighteningly seem to be back in style) of Who's the Boss.

Listen at your own risk. Then tell me about an obnoxious thing you secretly enjoy torturing others with.

04 August 2009

Will you have a cup of tea?

If we lived in Dublin, I'd ask you this question as soon as you walked in my door. That's what you do here to be sociable; you serve tea. I'll admit, there's nothing like a good, steady caffeine buzz to turn the taciturn into Chatty Cathy.

If I lived in Dublin, it'd be in a 4-story Georgian house. Back when Ireland was still under the rule of the English throne, during the reign of one or other of those Georges who were King, rows of these elegant homes were built across Dublin. They stand in orderly formation, like soldiers in full formal dress on parade rest around the city. I'd paint the front door of mine the hottest, glossiest, most inappropriate pink, instead of the traditional red or yellow, like this one. "That's where the gauche American woman lives," people would whisper as they walked by.

Kitchens in Georgian houses always seem to sit at the lowest level of the house, below the street, with their own door, where the servants once entered. Down in mine, I'd put the kettle to boil on my Aga "cooker" (as they call stoves here). I'm fascinated by these beautiful kitchen dinosaurs. They don't have temperature gauges, they run perpetually hot. Our Lady of Perpetual Perspiration, I'd call mine.

But back to having you over for tea. After the kettle boiled, I'd serve your tea in Cornish crockery - named for the blue sky and white wave crests of Cornwall. We all know what a fool I am for anything maritime. My Grandmother's side of the family came from Cornwall, so it feels especially appropriate. How excited am I that after these discontinued collectibles became prohibitively expensive, they are for sale again?

If I lived in Dublin, I would have bought these Port Merrion plates I saw for four euro each at a charity shop in Dun Laoghaire (I'll give any non-Irish person a dollar if they can pronounce that correctly). My mom has been collecting Port Merrion for years, but they always seemed a little fussy for my taste. But California is the land of The New. Here in Dublin they strike me as elegant and timeless. And just to keep things interesting, I'd use them with this vintage 70's set I found in the same Oxfam store:
Now then. Drink your tea before it goes cold.