The Neighbor Got Me High

And gave Drew the munchies.

The smell of something special wafts in through our open living room window regularly enough to assume our downstairs neighbor could be the culprit.  (The fact that I can look out my window and see a hand holding the aforementioned “something special” may provide a further clue, but I digress.)  When I collapsed in a fit of laughter and related hysterics only moments ago while attempting to get a photo for this blog entry, the thought crossed Drew’s mind that I might be on “something special” myself, thanks to our neighbors – and he promptly went to the kitchen for more Oreos while pondering that thought.  So, uh, what are the kids calling it these days?  Is it still cool to use the word “chronic”?  Where are my fellow 311 fans out there?  I mean, who’s got the herb?

Believe it or not, we’ve never smoked pot.  Ooohhhh, that’s catchy.  That could be our extremely geeky catch phrase…  Anywho, back on topic; what was I saying again?  Oh yes, the photo…

After spending a portion of this weekend throwing a fit about my mother’s passing and researching a beautiful man named Harry Patch, I had hoped to write a lovely little bit about coping.  Jennifer Huddleston is an organizer.  I like it clean and in its place (whatever it is), but I am severely and adversely affected by too much stimulus (i.e. too much stuff to organize).  That being said, I would like to promote the healing properties of the shoe organizer.  Organize your spices with it (no matter what Drew says), separate your socks, make sense of your small office supplies, group your scrunchies into meaningful piles, and whatnot.  Your “whatnot” may or may not be as provocative as mine, but to each her own, I say.

Whatever you do with your shoe organizer, get a photo of it for your blog – even if it means stealthy-as-can-be-with-one-foot-asleep-in-flipflop maneuvers around the bed, over your sorted piles of dirty laundry for washing in the floor, and squeezing by the fan in the corner. (Can you get an image of me getting up to pee at three in the morning?  Why, oh why, don’t I sleep on the side nearest to the bathroom?!) Crouch, if you must, on the bed in a pile of bed linens like you are secretly photographing some exotic animal in its natural habitat – still with one foot asleep and your butt in the air for just the right angle and lighting. If you get your shoe caught between the foot board and the mattress and catapult the iPhone into the floor when your husband sees you in the crouching tiger pose, just collapse in hysterics and thank God for carpet.

shoe organizer

[By the way, do you know what is growing in your washing machine? Ick. You are going to want to investigate that. You might also need some elbow grease, oxi clean, and vinegar. My friend Trisha told me today that washing machines have a filter. What?! Gloves, mask, goggles – on the list.]

Better than organization can ever be for what ails me, I love giving things away. I have a bag of goodies for our friends at The Marksman and a nice pile of recycling.

recycling

Best of all, I have laughter. It is certainly true that when your body or mind is exhausted, the act of laughing is the best relief. I am thankful that when I could not find reason to laugh myself, my body (and/or my neighbor) took over.

B Lush. MMmmmm, Yes, Please Do.

What a strange few days I have had! The things which have given me such a fit before have started to become more comical and I think I feel a bit braver. Something has come over me that feels similar to armor, but with a sense of humor booster built in.

They must have flagged my account at the bank after all of the complaints I have made; now, every time I go in they are determined to get me “sorted out”. Unfortunately, though my faith in truth and fair play is strong, I may have lost the energy to play their game. I will dig deep in my pocket next week to see what is left for them.

In lighter and certainly more fragrant news, there is a beautiful rose on my desk and the office smells like warm porridge with maple syrup. (In case you aren’t sure, it’s a lovely, comforting smell.) Ah, the scent of a Friday exploration… But before we dive in to that I’ll catch you up.

On Thursday, my temporary neighbor knocked on my door; she and her husband are here from Italy to attend a wedding. She needed scissors to cut the wrapping paper for the wedding gift, then she came back for a pen and lastly for a plastic shopping bag to protect the gift from the rain. I was pleased to have all three! Before she left the last time she invited me for coffee the next (Friday) morning with herself and her husband. When Drew came home he insisted that I take the entire day Friday to do something for myself, like have a massage. I felt a bit strange by the waves in my routine. Human contact and day to myself?! At first I wasn’t sure how to act. And I felt a lot of pressure to do something really magnificent, but I couldn’t think of that quintessential experience that would provide the renewal for which Drew was hoping.

Breakfast with our neighbors turned out to be a lovely way to start my morning! I found out that the husband is an American ex-pat who was born in Italy. The couple still lives in Florence. They are interested in American politics and have a very familiar feel. Both intelligent, they entertained me with their general views on things and insight into what America looks like to someone from Europe. I hope that they have a lovely visit and enjoy the city.

After breakfast I walked a familiar route through Chancery Lane, Holborn, and Covent Garden stopping in the stores that I had passed so often wondering what was inside. My destination was ultimately the Lush store in Covent Garden. You may remember that I have mentioned it once before. I can’t remember if I was at first too busy or too intimidated to enter, but my curiosity had finally gotten the better of me.

Walking into a Lush store is nothing like walking into the cosmetics section at your local department store and it’s really not like going into a Bath and Body Works or Body Shop store either. I’d say it feels a bit more like walking into the best smelling earthy neighborhood deli you’ve ever seen. Huge soap cakes are marked (and sold by weight) like huge wheels of cheese. All of the ingredients are clearly listed, except for perfume ingredients, which are rumored to come later this year. Almost 90% of the products are vegan, handmade, and a great emphasis is placed on sustainable packaging. There is even a shampoo cake that is package free; you can use a tin to carry and keep it in, but you reuse it. Even their little yellow bags are meant to be thrown on your compost pile. It cautions customers to get permission before throwing it on their neighbor’s compost pile in the case that they don’t have their own…

I was lucky to meet three absolutely lovely and knowledgeable staff members. Lush staffers are trained very well to understand how the skin absorbs what we lather on it, the internal processes related to the absorption, and the skin conditions that commonly plague discerning cosmetic customers – in addition to having a great appreciation for the product. After several demonstrations I was pretty well sold on the products. I think the most fun area of the store, though, has to be what I call the salad bar. It’s where the preservative free products are kept on ice. The samples are in aluminum mixing bowls just like the tuna salad filling at the the deli, except they look more like chocolate ice cream and creamy avocado dip that you wouldn’t mind eating rather than smearing on your face!

I inquired about vegan make-up products in casual conversation only to find out the Lush’s sister store B carries a complete line. And there happens to “B” one right next door. With a few soap samples in my purse, I headed to B to explore and see what other interesting things I might learn and intriguing people I might meet.

B is almost the opposite of Lush in terms of in-store feel. It gives the impression of being back stage at a fashion shoot, not that I have ever experienced that scene… Although the make-up is a sustainable product, the store, its products, and the range of colors feel quite glamorous. In the store I met a host of colorful characters. I had a short conversation with a lovely young vegan who is currently blogging about the positive effects of modified diets on breast cancer. She has been personally affected by breast cancer in her family and has a genuine interest in the ways in which we may be able to naturally enhance medical treatment – and in some cases, prevent the onset of disease. I also had the pleasure of meeting a model from Amsterdam who has relocated to London to pursue a career in make-up artistry, not that modeling is completely out of the question forever… It was another fantastic conversation revolving around a view of life, the universe, and everything from someone having a vastly different perspective from my own – a rare gift that I have now been given twice in one day.

I wandered through the crowds along the busy Piccadilly and Oxford circuses, stopping as I pleased. Mainly I hunted for more comfortable shoes to wear to an interview and boots to keep my feet dry on wet weather days. Besides, it would be nice to have something a little nicer to wear to the theatre. Although I returned home with only eyeshadow and a few soap samples, I felt pretty accomplished.  When Drew came home with a gorgeous long stem rose, I was pretty sure I had accidentally travelled to  a parallel universe where being an unemployed stay-at-home wife is not a burden, but a luxury.  I will try to remember to take everyone’s advice and consider that point of view more often from now on.

Of Bridges Burned

While Drew was busy today, I joined Emily and Kerry for a walking tour of the area near St. Paul’s Cathedral, on the south side of the City of London.  Apparently Emily has become friends with some credentialed London tour guides, Keith and Gordon, whom I had the pleasure of meeting.  It is amazing the amount of history they have stored under their hats!  These gentlemen surely have very full social calendars; they know the whole city by heart as well as most of what there is to do.  Keith gave us plenty more information than I could ever remember about the buildings in the area that had been destroyed and rebuilt, whether due to bombings or refurbishment requirements.

keith

tour statue

st. pauls

stationers

We ended our walking tour at the Museum of London.  Though it looks rather unimpressive from the outside, it houses a fantastic amount of information on the history of the city as well as precious artifacts.  The collection of exhibitions are well presented and inviting.  Currently, the museum is undergoing refurbishment on the lower level to accommodate for exciting new features.  I wouldn’t mind visiting the Museum again, less tired, less snotty, and less frozen.

Although the headache was quite prominent by this time, the night was still very young.  The walking tour group headed to the Sir John Oldcastle pub; Drew joined our group there.  Drew and I celebrated our first beer of 2009 and enjoyed a curry.

curry

We met a few more of our group and were privileged with more information about events around the city and additional bits of history before moving along to our final destination.

The Slaughtered Lamb, in Clerkenwell, is a nice place to enjoy a drink, a hot pub meal, and live music in a part of town that is rather quiet on the weekends.  Trusting the expertise of our new dear friends, we are able to recommend the chips, but can only give three stars to the fish due to it’s low crunch factor.  The portions are healthy, and the atmosphere isn’t bad, but crunch is a rather important factor to this group.

I know you are wondering how we stumbled upon The Slaughtered Lamb.  Upon the urging of Kassi Thomas, and seeing how the venue happened to be in my neighborhood, it felt right to be at Levi Weaver’s show – despite the low grade fever, exhaustion, headache, and runny nose.  It was well worth the late night to say the least.

levi weaver

If Bob Dylan, Thom Yorke, and Coldplay had a baby I think they would name him Levi Weaver.  And I hope my saying so doesn’t offend Levi at all…  Armed with a pick, a haunting voice, a drummer, a borrowed guitar, two loop pedals (one of which may have fried mid-Of Bridges Burned), a harmonica that was missing early in the set and later returned by mic b (Mike B.), and a borrowed violin bow, Levi won my heart.  It might have taken a lot less, but I think it was the fried equipment and mislaid instruments that made the night so special.  It was cause for conversation that tied us all intimately into the performance – even to the very last note of Which Drink.  Kassi Thomas’ name did come up, in fact, and Levi spoke sweetly of my dear friend.  That’s good; I’d hate to get all redneck in public.  Under the lights.  On stage.  Like the time I was on Springer.

The lyrics are haunting and intelligently crafted, riding on a voice that lifts up one of your heartstrings in an unexpected way, and sneaks in.  If you aren’t convinced by the recordings you can find on his site, I would beg you to give it another listen live.  Experiencing his candor, wit, and spirit enhances the mere poetic vibrations – which are lovely on their own – and creates a tangible connection to the universal themes of love, loss, and the peace that only comes with hope.

We Came, We Saw, We Chugged Hot Apple Cider

So how about this new look, eh?! Props to a gorgeous webmaster and designer extraordinaire… More changes and updates to come, we hope you enjoy!

If you don’t have something to drink and more than just a few free minutes on hand, go make yourself some refreshments and come back with a comfy chair. The update you are about to peruse is lengthy. We apologize for the lovely inconvenience.

We awoke Saturday morning to a grey London sky. It was cold and spitting rain when we ventured out of the flat with a plan to head to the IKEA store in Wembley. After a stop for hot chocolate in the cafe downstairs, we bravely headed for the tube station.
barbican tube
Unfortunately, at the tube station we realized that all travel via tube in the direction we needed to go was suspended. Since our trip was more for fun than out of necessity, and because we had already made it outside the flat, we decided to head southeast toward the Borough Market.

Dang Gina.

People were crammed in the aisles between the market stands. The farmers’ market tradition looked to be thriving in this riverside town.
borough market

fuzzy vegetable stand

jellies
Despite the chill and the threat of rain, people weaved their way through pick-pocket central for things like artisan breads, fresh produce, direct from fisherman fish, sweets, savouries, free-range meats and eggs, hand squeezed juice, wine, beer, ready to eat foods, and fresh sausage cooked any of a hundred different ways. (Although the smell is still appetizing, I can barely look at a sausage.) We had lunch from an organic stand and then got in line for hot cider. The sign said something about mulled apples and fall spices. It should have said something more like “hot apple flavored piss, nasty–but hey, it’s warm!”. Hold your nose. Raise glass to lips. Swallow. Repeat.

I managed to bring home this cute little guy from a lovely bakery stand; Drew opted for a big, fat brownie. I can’t blame him, but look just look at this face…
robin cookie

Cold? Check.
Full? Check.
Damp? Check.
Photos? Check.

We thought we might as well follow the river west until we hit the Tate Modern Museum. Before we could make it inside, we were tempted in to the new Globe Theatre, whose roof is currently being re-thatched.  Wow.
the globe stage
It was really an indescribable experience to walk through the museum and take the guided tour of this attraction that has been so lovingly built– and restored as near as possible to the specifications of Shakespeare’s time. Those two semesters I chased theatre in college came in really handy, but I was amazed that there were people on the tour who did not know that all actors in Shakespeare’s day were men. I thought we all learned that in English class when we read Romeo and Juliet. Whatever. Moving on. Drew and I will definitely return for a play when theatre season starts. For now, everyone is talking about Panto. This is an art in which I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to participate. If you are one of those dear friends that dresses up and carries a big bag of toilet paper, rice, and newspapers to a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show to shout at the screen–you will appreciate this form of theatre that has survived on an undercurrent to its present day fame. The plays performed are usually kids’ fare like Peter Pan, but the adult humor whizzing over little heads is key. The audience knows their lines and the performers are over the top. Before we leave town, we’ll have to experience this!

Tate Modern has too many floors. I mean that in the nicest way possible. Of the seven levels, four have exhibits. Drew and I only made it through two before it was late, dark, and my eyes had started to look at each other for help.  I don’t think I could have made it through another collection, even if we had arrived at opening.  The huge exhibit on the first floor didn’t take long to see because we opted not to stand and watch the film portion. We did spend some quality time with a UBS Collection of the following:

MATERIAL GESTURES
Anish Kapoor and Barnett Newman
Material Gestures
Viennese Actionism
Expressionism
Distinguished Voices
Contemporary Painting
Claude Monet and Abstract Expressionism
Marlene Dumas
Paul McCarthy

POETRY AND DREAM
Giorgio de Chirico and Jannis Kounellis
Surrealism and Beyond
Elements of Chance
Natural History
Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso
Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer
Balka and Espaliu
Eileen Agar, Claude Cahun, Zoe Leonard
Realisms
Cornelia Parker

We’ll have to go back for the Rothko and Cildo Meirles exhibits as well the other collection put on by the UBS. And next time, I am going to get one of those kits they give the kids. It has crayons and paper so that the kids can attempt to recreate a piece of art they like. I think I heard someone saying that a member of staff tries to guess which piece it is at the end of the tour. I thought crayons would be an extremely bad idea in a gallery, but these British children seemed to keep the crayon in the right place. Maybe Super Nanny was standing behind them.

We had a long walk home, which started with the crossing of the River Thames via the Millennium Bridge. Even in the rain, and as dark as it was, the view in all directions from the middle of the bridge was beyond expectations.

Sunday started slowly, but I eventually made my way into the kitchen for glorious biscuit making. That is, until I opened the box of Atora Light Shredded Vegetable Suet, I was excited. What is this stuff? It cannot be what I should have purchased. It looks more like Gerbil food (or the after product) than shortening.
atora droppings
Anyway, I’ll test it out in a recipe soon, but I didn’t want to take any chances with it this morning. I opted to use butter instead. They weren’t the biscuits I had dreamed of making, but they didn’t kill us and they were all consumed by the end of the day.
biscuit
Most of of the rest of my day was spent tweaking and posting blog entries with bits of housework sprinkled in. Drew spent quite a while updating the look of our website, but he worked in a little housework as well.

For the grand finale to our big, lazy day I made a dash to the store for a few fresh baps, a green pepper, and a red onion to make Spicy Veg Sloppy Joes. There is something about that weird family tradition of eating Sloppy Joes on Christmas Eve that makes them irresistible in the days preceding the holiday… This may be the 10th wonder of the world.

I was very impressed with the color of the onion and green pepper as well as the bright red color of the final product from the special blend of simple ingredients and spices. Drew seemed really impressed with my skilled used of the hillbilly casserole dish.
veg
red

sloppy veg
I was quite pleased with myself as well. You would think we had real pub food. MMmmmm. Peasant-ish and uncultured. My stomach stills hurt a little when I think about how spicy they were; I look forward to the leftovers! (I brought a bottle of mixed berry Tums, Donna, don’t worry!)

Please be aware the English mustard is a lot like Wasabi; licking the mustard spoon may cause death or flaming nose drippings.

It was a lovely weekend.