Arabia Mountain

Back in August, Erin and I woke up in the pitch black of an early morning to watch the sun rise over Arabia Mountain. Seeing everything quietly light up in such a geographically unique spot was nothing short of spellbinding. The rocky surface of the mountain is swirled like marble cake and the cairns look like martian traffic signs. I’ve gotta go back next year to see the red moss!

Flag(pole) Football

Eep- I can’t wait for football to start again! Made some tiny fan portraits at this week’s drawing club:It’s crazy to think that until kinda recently, my opinion of football landed between indifference and dislike. And it’s not because I didn’t grow up with it: I was adopted into an exceptionally athletic family of football fans and players; I filmed Stony Brook University’s home games for college TV; my British husband rooted for the Seahawks before they were champs (to be fair, he follows ALL the sports). Plus, I’ve distractedly watched a bunch of Super Bowls. I’m just a non-sporty weirdo who had to come around to football in my own time. (And for the record, I don’t think it’s without serious issues. It’s one of several problematic things I’m a fan of… like Lars von Trier movies or shopping on Amazon… but it’s also a great game.)

So last year, I joined the Flagpole Fantasy Football league and it was like “bloaw!” Practically out of nowhere, I got really into the NFL. At first, I didn’t have a firm grasp on the rules of the game (like, football itself but also fantasy sports) and totally bombed the draft. Yahoo gave my picks a D-, ranked me dead last, and predicted I’d only win one match. I picked Aaron Rodgers first because he was the only available player I’d heard of, then muddled through the rest with a list I’d compiled of players who looked friendly, hadn’t been charged with anything horrific, and weren’t Washington Redskins. It didn’t look promising but then I won my first match! I was at work on a quiet night, refreshing my phone 10000000x to see what was going on (answer: Carlos Hyde, tearing it up!). Every week, I was sure I was going to lose but I ended up winning the next 7 games, beating every team in the league once. The third week in, I was distracted by an IKEA breakfast and didn’t realize until kickoff that despite being on my team DeMarco Murray wouldn’t be playing. I stopped in the middle of the store to curse the football gods but, amazingly, I still won! The nerd-rush that hit after my odds-crushing streak was nuts. In the end, I lost reeeally bad in the playoffs but I was so invested by that point, it was ok. LOL LOL LOL, Yahoo!

And truly, football’s appeal goes beyond the thrill of winning. I used to think it was boring (??) but now I see it’s like a giant, brutal chess game. Way more exciting and interesting than I’d thought. Second, fantasy football taps into my love of superstition. Carlos Hyde was injured early in the season but I kept him in every possible lineup as good luck. Conversely, I blamed my losing streak at the end on DeMarco Murray who was a “can’t cut” player even though he was abysmal with the Eagles. Finally, I became a fan of specific players. My favorite right now is RB Doug Martin. Apparently, he hates the nick-name “The Muscle Hamster” but, c’mon, that’s adorable. Also, Tampa Bay runs a lot so he’s got plenty of opportunities to shine. This is my second drawing of him- I mailed the first to One Buccaneer Place (my second fan letter ever). Devonta Freeman was one of my last draft picks which was stupidly lucky cuz he ended up being a superstar. So impressive and unstoppable that I realized- yeah, the Falcons are pretty cool. Finally, phew! It turns out, Aaron Rodgers is famous cuz he’s a solid QB. Even on a bad week, when he’s running for his life and nothing’s going right, you can tell he’s awesome. Haha. Now I know… Anyway, it’s highly doubtful I’ll be half as lucky this year but I’m getting super psyched in the pre-season. Life is funny and I guess I love football now!

Rockabilly Road Trip with Mum & Cliff

This is the longest road trip and longest vacation Dean and I have taken together and we’ll never forget it. I still have 1000s of photos to sift through but here’s our vacation video. Rockabilly Road Trip 2016! Helen → Chattanooga → Nashville → Franklin → Jackson → Memphis → Oxford → Birmingham → Kennesaw

One thing I admire about my in-laws is their real-deal grit. Everything in this world gives me anxiety but my mother-in-law is so chill that when she cracked her teeth, she superglued them back together like it was no biggie. She beat cancer like a boss and can laugh about the time Rod Stewart gave her a ride home while playing his own songs in the car. Cliff tours Europe with his rock-and-roll band and shows no sign of slowing down. He can drink 30 beers in one sitting and Brenda Lee has sat on his knee at a party. They dress up as devils and drink out of shoes with the rock-and-roll crowd. Mad revelers.

Dean and I are almost the exact opposite. I mean, decades of customer service have given us thick skins and limitless patience with fools– which is its own underrated brand of strength– but you couldn’t call us “tough” in the traditional sense of the word. We’re the definition of indoor kids. Born to be mild.

So, our worlds of “tough” and “not-that-tough” collided in the best possible way when Mum and Cliff flew over to stay with us for three weeks. Mum had visited the US once before over 20 years ago to see Nashville and Memphis but Cliff had never been. As a lifelong rocker (celebrating his birthday t’boot!), he had to see the sights for himself. Sooooo, we mapped out a trip and hit the road (in my very tame Prius, sadly not in this Cali ‘n’ Titos bus).

“Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache”- Warren Smith
“Memphis Tennessee”- Chuck Berry
“Green Onions”- Booker T. & the MGs

All Damn Day in Atlanta

The past week was awful– nationally heartbreaking and personally disgusting (TMI another time)– but Saturday was a nice break in the clouds. Erin drove us into Atlanta to hang out with our third AZN Girl Gang member, Bo. Without a doubt, it’s the longest chunk of time I’ve spent with a group of “girlfriends” since I was a teenager!

9 a.m. Dancing Queens at Dr. Dax’s Disco Kroger mural. This might be my favorite mural ever. Giant Dazzler!

9:30 a.m. Feeling blue while waiting for Bo then perking up with iced coffee at Octane

10:30 a.m. Breakfast and banana suits at Stone Soup Kitchen

11:30 a.m. Jerkface Kermit/TMNT mashup mural in the Old 4th Ward. Also picked up a couple paperbacks at A Cappella Books which I highly recommend to all bookworms 08azngg

12 p.m. Ponce City Market, the most stylishly designed and curated shopping mall ever??
1 p.m. Vintage and art vendors at Paris on Ponce and its killer backroom, Le Maison Rouge.

3 p.m. Ladybird is a super cute camp-themed bar/restaurant. I felt like we’d jumped into a scene from Moonrise Kingdom

4 p.m. We went back to Bo’s and I melted into her sofa while watching a show about plastic surgery. #Hotlanta is no joke. The heat wiped me the heck out!

5 p.m. Finally got to check out Junkman’s Daughter. It’s fun but it made me miss Archie McPhee.

6:30 p.m. Buford Hwy: Dinner at So Kong Dong Tofu House. I love that the soup comes out boiling and everything else comes out STEAMY. There we are getting steamed by our super hot food! Boba next door, bakery across the street! 19azngg

8 p.m. Half Dead at Bo’s. I was stupid full of food.

9 p.m. Goodbye, Bo! Erin drove me and Mickey the cat back in the rain.

Movie Diary: March & April

Brooklyn: I’ve been a loyal Nick Hornby fan since middle school, reading all his books and now watching all the movies he writes. This is almost definitely his best movie writing. Saoirse Ronan is extraordinary as Eilis–vulnerable but no fool– and I felt for her as she plumbed the depths of homesickness. And ya know I’m all about those plush colors and drool-worthy 50s styles.

Love & Mercy: Just enough storytelling experimentation to make it a more memorable biopic than most. I ♥ you, Brian Wilson!
Me, Earl & The Dying Girl: Any movie starring a high schooler doing his best Werner Herzog impression is a movie I will love but there’s a smartness and deepness here I wasn’t expecting. I laughed! I cried! My only gripe is that The Dying Girl (played to perfection by Olivia Cooke), remains more of a plot device than her own full character.
Belle de Jour: This was my second time watching Belle de Jour and it still fucking slays with style. Catherine Deneuve as Severine is so startlingly beautiful, it makes me laugh. Too much perfection in those ’60s coifs, not a hair out of place– and those stunning YSL outfits. Possibly the most elegant movie concerning the sex industry. I still see the ending as an unhappy one.

10 Cloverfield Lane: It’s only rated PG-13 but you’d never guess cuz the tension is off tha chain! I was completely sucked into the chaos, having a slow meltdown in my theater seat. The less you know about it going in, the better, but the minimal cast shines with Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character as a standout hero.

The Stink of Flesh: If you’ve ever wondered how polyamourous couples carry on in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, this is a movie for you. Low budget, Troma-style effects, swingers, zombie killings, weird conjoined sisters!
Maggie: And in a totally different take on the zombie apocalypse, here’s a slow burn with Arnold as the loyal father of a zombie daughter. I think I’m in the minority of liking this one. The tone was interesting to me and, I dunno, I bought Arnold’s emotional range.
Amy: The highly-publicized tragedy of a self-destructive starlet, poignantly presented. A couple sillier observations: First, I didn’t realize Amy Winehouse was so petite. I guess the hair, voice, and tough-girl cheekiness made me think she was tall like an Amazon. The documentary definitely succeeds in showing how vulnerable she was. Second, Yasiin Bey/Mos Def and Amy woulda been a really cool couple.

Dope: Totally lives up to the hype. A drug caper/teen comedy set in South Central LA with Shameik Moore portraying Malcolm, AKA the most likeable, non-conformist protagonist in recent memory. Malcolm and his friends are “90s hip hop geeks” who end up dealing drugs. The trio is funny and fun but the stakes are real.

Coloress Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

“That amazing time in our lives is gone, and will never return. All the beautiful possibilities we had then have been swallowed up in the flow of time.”Nate got me into Haruki Murakami so picking this for Pen Pal Book Club was a no brainer. We actually read it right around its release date (about two years ago now??) but I only got back into documenting stuff recently. :) Tsukuru is an engineer in his mid-30s who, as a teen, belonged to a tight-knit group of five friends. Four of the group have names containing a color – red, blue, black and white – while Tsukuru is ‘colorless.’ One day, he is rejected by his friends without warning or explanation. The pain of this rejection is carried into adulthood until Tsukuru starts dating a woman, Sara, who urges him to find out what happened to his friends. Our thoughts below. Spoilers aplenty!

My Thoughts:
No surprise, I loved this book and finished reading it in three sittings (record time for a slow poke like myself). It’s definitely one of Murakami’s more realistic stories but the surreal moments are the ones that really hit me – particularly the story Haida tells about his father meeting the dying pianist who sees vivid colors that people give off. I thought that was haunting as hell and tied back nicely to Tsukuru’s pain in losing his colorful friends. Except, I guess, in reverse since the pianist gains a special ability to see extra color while Tsukuru must adjust to a ‘flat’ and ‘spiritless’ world view after his colorful friends cast him out. Similarly, there’s a hint of the supernatural when Kuro says she knew something evil was after Shiro. I’m still not sure what to make of that but the rape and eventual murder is a very disturbing mystery. Um, it’s also kinda random and interesting that Shiro’s mental unravelling resulted in Kuro moving all the way to Finland, right?

There’s been some discussion on repeated elements in Murakami’s books which doesn’t bother me since I like his style. However, the one theme that’s pretty central here and in previous works is how harsh it is to transition into adulthood. To a degree, I find it relatable but, HOLY SHIT. Dude really knows how to spin a living misery for his characters. Between this and Norwegian Wood, you’d think ages 19 and 20 were the most wretched years to be alive. The descriptions of Tsukuru’s weight loss and physical change is super drastic. Anyway, I liked how he ended up talking with three of the four friends as an adult. It made me curious about what they could’ve possibly talked about during their bonded teen years since their personalities are so different they’re uncomplimentary. I interpreted the ending of the book as optimistic for Tsukuru even though his future is uncertain. My only complaint is that there wasn’t more about Sara since she was the catalyst for so much of the story. I loved that she’s a confident woman, older than Tsukuru, and with an appetite for desserts. Oh yeah. As the recurring piece of music, I listened to “Le mal du pays.” It’s sad and pretty… and funny to imagine a college guy shelving it next to his Pet Shop Boys record.

I’m sure I missed a lot of talking points. Looking forward to your thoughts!

Nate’s Thoughts:
175bc-dI think I loved this as much as you. This is a real return to form after the ambitious but very flawed 1Q84. I’ve said before that Murakami isn’t a writer who benefits from writing long. It’s very tight and extremely well paced. It’s also one of his more grounded books. Not a whole lot of surreal/magical-realism stuff going on in this one. I think it’s his best book since Kafka on the Shore.

It’s true that Murakami does recycle themes/characters in his books, but I think a lot of great writers and artists do this. Almost all of his books deal with alienation or purposelessness in modern Japan but each one takes a different approach. He is kind of like Wong Kar-Wai in that there is almost always that feeling of beautiful sadness in all of his stuff. This one I feel is going to hit pretty close to home for a lot of readers because I’m sure everyone at some point in their lives has experienced rejection from somebody very close. It’s a very compelling read, almost like a mystery as the pieces slowly fit into place even though the answers don’t exactly provide a close (but Murakami has never followed traditional narrative structure so that isn’t unexpected). We never find out what happened to Shiro or why she lied. But I also interpreted the ending as optimistic.

I think I need to revisit this one in the not too distant future. Shouldn’t be too hard since, like you, I finished this in just a few sittings. In fact, there’s a few of his books I need to re-read. I have read his entire (translated) bibliography with the exception of his non-fiction which are sitting on my shelf (his book on the Tokyo subway gas attacks and his thoughts on running). He also, apparently, has another collection of short fiction out this year in Japan but no news or dates regarding an English translation on that one.

In Conclusion: 10 (million) stars!
Recommended to: All of us who have been rejected and have learned that growing up is the pits.
PS: I can’t believe there’s more Murakami to discuss since this!


Dean and I have been homeowners for one whole year! We shoved a mountain of clutter behind the shower curtain and invited friends and co-workers over for a celebratory breakfast. Hausu played a couple times in the background cuz the concept of a Hausu-Houseversary is delightful (here are the party invites). We served 40 waffles and, luckily, no one fell through the hole in our kitchen floor. We also had the sweetest surprise guest: A BABY FAWN! Still dying over this precious thing, curled up at the bottom of our steps.**baby fawnWe love our technicolor dream home. Here’s where we started. Here’s where we’re at:hausu02

The Kitchen: This isn’t a starter home for us and we laugh when pros give us well-meaning advice about “resale value.” We splurged on the Wilsonart laminate countertops we liked over quartz/granite/wood/a more “versatile” pattern. We spent three late nights sanding and painting cabinets inspired by the live action Paddington movie. (We also got a killer deal on the dish knobs- a buck apiece!) Kitchen Models: Sean and Susan | Joan, Will, Forest (so sad they’re moving!) | Imke and Joshua (ditto!)

The Dining Room: May it always be unmellow yellow. We are cursed with black thumbs but were given so many pretty plants. Here’s hoping we can keep them alive! Dining Room Models: Hannah | Raoul and Missy | Rhys
No photo but Aleta was the first to drop in. She’s one of the few we trusted to hang out in our house pre-makeover.

The Living Room: Un, deux, trois cat. We try not to be couch potatoes all the time but this is where me n Dean spend most of our late nights. Watching too much TV, reading our phones and comics. The bookshelves are a lasting gift we’ll always cherish.hausu09Front Porch Models: Ryan, Priscilla, Poppy | Merrit, Iris, Blake | Tallulah and Jessica

Our Bedroom: Also the room we give our parents when they visit. We painted big, bloody chevron peaks on the windowless wall. We were going for Suspiria colors.Bedroom Models I: Eddie admiring Dave Holmes’ drawing of Clint Howard crying | Katie and SarahThis is the wall opposite the chevron. Leftover paint got slapped on the dresser. Clint Howard and our anniversary portraits hang above.The Pink Bathroom: It broke my heart to gut our itty-bitty pink tiled bathroom but we tried to keep the spirit alive in hue. The only idea Dean vetoed was “poodles.”Bedroom Models II: Josh and Marie (aka Jean Seberg’s beautiful twin) | Lauren and Tim | Jay

The Office: This isn’t finished either. We patched up plaster cracks and reset the walls to white for now. Maybe a curvy ’70s stripe or mural somewhere down the line. This room’s also a part-time hotel for foster kittens.

The Hallway: The last of the tan walls. We’re still color scheming…
Hall and Bath Models: Pete | Kenzie | Kelly

The Hall Bathroom: I’m still mourning the demise of this bathroom’s original basketweave tile… but it felt good to get rid of more goopy, dark brown walls (not original). Crisp, pastel mint and a maximalist clash of bright textiles. Jamie gave us the Merman towel back in 2008. We have our fave Esther Pearl Watson print here too. It probably deserves a better spot.

Last but not least, it’s Erin’s Room! Our last experience left me disheartened and nervous about future roommates but this lady really restored the good vibes. We doused her room in a royal purple and my mother-in-law painted the trim electric blue. I like how Erin was able to make this work with her less-kitsch-more-bohemian style.

**Deer hang out in our yard all the time but we’d never seen a fawn this tiny before! It was cat-sized! We called Animal Control and our friend’s friend who is a wildlife expert. They both said our yard must’ve looked safe to the mama deer; she’d come back. The baby doesn’t need anything and don’t touch it. Our wait was brief: we saw the fawn had left then minutes later a rainstorm hit. Gotta hope that means our yard deer are reunited and safe. We hope we get to see this little dude grow up!

Here’s to many more years, Little Ranch!

Our House Before We Made it Our House

When we first met our li’l ranch, the inspector told us it was OK but needed real work and had what he could only describe as palpable grime. He wasn’t kidding. There was termite rot; the bathrooms were moldy with peeling ceilings and rotten subfloors; it was infested with bugs; almost every surface was sloppily painted tan or dark brown. And those weren’t walls that would pass a white glove test! We either had that thing confident homebuyers have where they “just knew this was the one,” or were naive enough to think these issues were no biggie. Either way, we dreamed of owning a house and this is the house we picked last year! Our little ranch has come such a long way from when these photos were snapped.

Here we are last June going: “Holy shit- we own a house!” Over the moon with joy!1house

The Kitchen: The kitchen didn’t look too bad on the surface but it was. Counter strips peeled off the plywood. And while roaches are an accepted ugliness in southern life, these guys were off the chain, living it up like our cupboards were Roach Disney World. Last, it looks like the cabinets are beige here but we scrubbed ’em down with TSP to reveal WHITE underneath layers of dirt and grease.2kitch

The Dining Room: We didn’t change much here except take an axe and knock out the kitchen island. Arguably this is the one DISrepair we made on the house. There’s still a hole in our floor.3dining

The Living Room: My erstwhile bestie and his girlfriend constructed beautiful bookshelves along the left wall. Everyone who visits compliments them. We’ve still gotta remember to put some support under that wall in our crawl space! Also, you can’t tell here, but fleshy-pink candle wax was spewed down the right wall where the windows are. A nice floral scent but not a pretty look.

The Pink Bedroom: As soon as a sander touched these taupe-painted surfaces, they peeled off in jagged sheets. Not only had someone opted to paint all the walls tan and brown but they had used latex painted over old oil-based. This setback launched what shall forever be remembered as The Great Peel: 20+ hours scraping, sanding and cleaning off tan and brown paint. I discovered a lot of great podcasts during those months.5pinkb

The Tiny Pink Bath: I was devastated to tear apart this pink bathroom but the subfloor was totally rotten to the point that the shower was not safe to use. I very carefully chipped off pink wall tile for a future project but that stunning pink floor is lost forever.6pinkba(I’ll tell you what we don’t miss though: these bizarrely hideous, brown walls.)7pinkba

The Hall Bathroom: Another bath it pained me to destroy. RIP, Basketweave Floor Tile! You are gone but never forgotten. Again, no tears were shed for the funky brown walls. The bathrooms didn’t have vents at first either so it’d build up a light shroom-y sick smell every couple weeks. We painted it a light green, then only recently corrected a well-meaning roommate’s paint job on the unsanded, unprimed trim.9hallba

The Office and Guest Bedroom: Lemme say something positive about our poor house that I keep putting down in this post. When we looked at most of the rooms, all we could see were the possibilities. Blank slates ready for color and design we were never allowed to implement as apartment renters. Also worth noting, it’s cool that we got a house with ceiling light fixtures that aren’t your standard “boob light.” Still pleased with ’em!8bedrs

Happy Birthday, You Handsome Devil!

Today is Dean’s birthday. We tried to take a family portrait a couple days ago but Matilda said “NO THANKS.” Haha. Totally worth it for a rare, toothy grin from Dean though. He doesn’t like “fake” smiling for photos so if you see him like this, he’s laughing for real. Love this guy.

PS: That’s our new kitty, Agent Cooper. We adopted him on my birthday and he already has our hearts.