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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Bricks, Mortar, Paper, Ink


 

I have this not so secret dream of owning a bookstore someday. When I’m overly stressed or have an idle moment, I often daydream about my bookstore. I stroll around the low, sturdy, dark wooden shelves in my mind. They’re a little battered and they are heavily-laden with well-loved paperbacks. The walls are colorful; each one painted in a different comforting hue: blues, purples, maybe a splash of red here and there. On these walls would be paintings from local artists. I like to support the art community when I can. I imagine worn wooden floors strewn with mismatched oriental rugs and cozy leather armchairs lining the walls. My patrons would lounge with their new adventure in hand. I want more than just a coffee bar in my shop. I want to team up with a baker that would make fresh pastries each morning and I want a liquor license because nothing goes with a comfy chair and a good book like a nice glass of wine. When one enters my shop, they are immediately welcomed with the scent of paper, ink, fresh coffee, and baked goods. It will be a little slice of bookish heaven.

I realize a bricks and mortar bookstore would probably be a poor investment in today’s climate. More bookstores are closing down than opening these days. Online shopping and eReaders are starting to take the place of good, old fashioned browsing. But it’s just not the same. There’s something special about visiting a bookstore, especially when you don’t really know what you’re looking for. You can slowly walk up and down the aisles for hours, letting your fingers caress the colorful paper spines until something calls out to you. Until you find The One. You know the feeling, it’s like a little electrical charge. Something inexplicable draws you to that one book sitting patiently among the other thousands. I have to pick it up and feel it’s weight in my hand. I carefully examine the front cover, then the back. Lastly, I open to the first page and read. If the first page gives me goosebumps, I know that, for better or worse, the lives of these new character and mine will forever be linked. I will know their loves and their vices, their dreams and their failures. I will know them better than I know members of my own family.  I will carry them with me forever in my imagination, long after the last page is turned. Few relationships are as intimate as this.

I have to choose my literary companions wisely. This takes time. I’ve had my process for years. I can’t even remember when it started. When I was little, I used to crave going to the bookstore and the library. My parents would dread these outings because I could never just pick one. The very thought struck me as horrifying. I had to carefully comb the shelves for intriguing titles, I had to approve of the cover art, I needed to read the back cover, I had to know for certain that this story would grab hold of me and hold me under it’s spell until the last sentence. I was always shocked that so few people really understood this. One cannot simply walk up to a bookcase and just pick one. That’s just crazy.

At this young age, I promised myself that I would work in a bookstore someday. It struck me as the most magical kind of job. While most kids were wanting to be doctors and firefighters, I was aspiring to work specialty retail. Story of my life, really. At eighteen I got my first bookstore gig. I had no idea that I would still be a bookseller nearly seven years later. It was much less glamorous than I had imagined. I had only thought of being surrounded by my beloved books and book people. I didn’t realize that I would be spending so much time wrangling the typical array of mixed nuts that a bookstore attracts. Nor did I realize I would be monitoring people as they made their adult movie selections or fetching an alarming amount of used porn out of the restrooms. Yet, the job was still magical in a way. It had to have been to keep me in the business for so long. As much as it aggravated me some days, I miss it terribly now.

The people who work in bookstores are a rare breed. My coworkers consisted of an odd mix of artistic types and academics, all brought together by a shared love of the written word, music, and caffeine. We all tended to have a twisted sense of humor. I’m still not sure if this is purely coincidence or if the environment itself just collectively warped our brains. You can’t scare me, I work in a bookstore. In this group, I never really felt like a nerd. Nerddom was praised and encouraged. The bookstore was a shelter for us. I’m fairly certain that a vast majority of my Facebook friends are bookstore people. I can’t even set foot in a major local bookstore without knowing at least one person. It’s like we’ve got our own little secret society. I guess it’s kind of weird if you think about it. What will happen to the book people if our stores are shut down? I know that I don’t fare well in other retail jobs. I’ve tried. They never lasted.

While online shopping is convenient, there is nothing magical in it. You need to know exactly what you are looking for and the virtual book world is dominated by bestseller lists. I don’t generally like book recommendations. Reading shouldn’t be a popularity contest. Just wander into an actual bookstore someday and open yourself up to the books. Let a small gem quietly introduce itself to you. Give it a chance. You may just find your new best friend. You may also give my imaginary bookstore a chance to come to life.

 

No Pants, No Cry


 

Whenever I wear a dress, people always ask me why I decided to dress up. They need to know the exact occasion that causes me to don something cute and flowy. While I would like to respond, “Darling, I’m going to the ball!” the real occasion is more like, “Darling, I’m going to the grocery store!” I don’t lead a glamorous life. I just enjoy wearing dresses almost exclusively when the weather permits. The main reason that I choose to wear a dress is that I just don’t feel like putting on pants that day.

Yeah, sad but true.

I find pants uncomfortable and extremely bothersome. Unless they are pajama pants. Most pants tend to chafe and waistbands and buttons dig into the belly. The biggest offender, jeans, seem to get some sort of wicked glee out of making me self-consious. They squash any spare flesh that one may have up and out until one’s once-cute top now looks like you are using it to conceal the kiddie floatation device you may have gotten stuck around your middle. At least, this is the effect jeans have on me. I’m over six feet tall and have a curvy frame. If you want to ruin my day, take me shopping for pants. In most stores, the only options seem to be skinny, extra skinny, low waist, extra low waist, and the mom jean. Forget tall sizes. So our only options become: Do I expose my barely covered posterior to the world or do I button my pants over my rib cage and make said posterior look even larger? Hmmm, decisions, decisions…

Utilikilt Man!!!

That is why I love the dress. From a fancier style of the structured bodice with an A-line skirt to a graphic T paired with a long, comfy maxi skirt, dresses are by far more comfortable and flattering than jeans. It’s true. Just try it. Men, I must say that I’m a bit surprised that kilts have never caught on. Just imagine a nice breeze and a lack of zippers. Where do you store your keys and billfold? In the utili-kilt, of course. After all, skirts with pockets are the best. Just try to avoid the “Marilyn moment” please and pay attention to how you sit. A little mystery is a good thing.

There are really only two occasions I can think of where choosing pants would be the better option: Very windy days and winter days when there is a foot of snow on the ground. Even then, I hesitate. I may need to leave Nebraska for somewhere more temperate so I can finally have my ideal wardrobe. C’mon Hubby, let’s go!

 

30 Indispensable Writing Tips From Famous Authors


30 Indispensable Writing Tips From Famous Authors.

35 Untapped Fashion Trends From Forgotten Decades


35 Untapped Fashion Trends From Forgotten Decades.

Some of this stuff is pretty cool. I really want all of the jewelry.

24 Of The Hottest Body Paint Transformations Ever


24 Of The Hottest Body Paint Transformations Ever.

These are amazing. I really love body painting and I would actually really love to try it some day…If I can get over the potential awkwardness.

Long Time, No Post


Hi Everybody,

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted in a while and I wanted to let you know that I am not dead and I still love you. There have been a lot of exciting things going on lately. I got my very first freelance design gig. I am working on rebranding a local winery. How exciting is that? I am also working on some illustrations for a friend who is getting her teen fantasy series published. I’m super excited for her. My husband is in a job transition phase and I’m back in school full time for both Graphic Design and Makeup Artistry courses. It’s been an all around exciting past couple of weeks. Hang in there with me as I get used to the new routine and I will do my best to post at least once a week.

Cheers,
Mel

In the Company of Chefs


In his book Kitchen ConfidentialAnthony Bourdain described working in the kitchen like

being on a pirate crew. Chefs are a bit of a rough and tumble crowd. They spend their lives playing with knives and fire. Their busiest work hours occur when the rest of the world finally settles down. They spend hours in cramped conditions while fires, tempers, and egos flare. When their shift is finally over, once the final beer has been emptied, they return home weary with fresh battle scars on their hands.

The shiny, clean, non-potty mouthed versions of chefs portrayed on food network seem a bit disturbing to me. Real world chefs are more Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey than Rachel Ray. Pixar‘s Ratatouille did a better job of portraying your common kitchen characters than the Food Network really does. You know the guy who supposedly killed a person using only his thumb? Those are my kind of guys. In a bit of a side note, Pixar actually consulted with Chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry during their production. Thomas Keller is one of the top chefs in the country right now and I would love to eat in his restaurant someday. Ratatouille’s legit. Ahem. Anyway, I’m not a chef, so how do I know about their wily ways? I’m married to one, and therefore married into the pirate crew.

I generally get the same reaction from all women when I tell them that my husband is a chef. They sigh and become extremely jealous exclaiming, “Oh my God! You’re so lucky!” I’m sure they all have this picture in their mind of coming home from a long day of work and finding Fabio in chef whites (hair still blowing alluringly in the wind somehow). He lays out a gorgeous gourmet meal for two, complete with candlelight and flowers with some sexy mood music playing softly in the background. I have to admit that there is something incredibly sexy about a man who can cook and my hubby does look pretty amazing in his whites, but the whole Fabio scenario is far from the reality. We actually eat a lot of Chinese takeout.

I have the good fortune to be married to a romantic. He does give me those lavish gourmet dinners when we have time and when we

My Chef, Jeff

can afford those kinds of groceries. What the chef groupies don’t understand, is that chefs have a very rough schedule. They work long hours over nights, weekends, and holidays. We have to celebrate Valentine’s Day a few days before or after because a chef would be laughed out of the kitchen if he tried to take that, the busiest of restaurant nights off. Chef groupies don’t imagine soothing burned hands and patching up cuts. I actually had to fetch half of my husband’s finger off of a mandolin slicer once. I’m scarred for life.

The best part of being in the company of culinarians is the adventure. We vacation with our stomachs. We are always seeking out new restaurants to visit and new and strange foods to try. Going to dinner with a group of chefs is a unique experience. The menu and our choices are thoroughly discussed before we even talk to the server.

No one will order the same thing off of the menu. When we receive our food, a communion of sharing and tasting dishes commences. We pass our plates around, and if something is exceptionally good, there is much shouting and elation. We have terrible table manners and the restaurant people either seem to love us or hate us. I guess it’s a good thing that the culinary community is a small, tight- knit network. All of the local chefs seem to know each other, so our antics are generally well-tolerated and even appreciated at times.

So, do you still want a chef in your life? Here’s my advice:

1. Be open to new experiences.
2. Do NOT be a picky eater. I’m not much of a veggie fan, but I am willing to try brains, so it works.
3. Leave you prudeness at the door. Cuss words will fly and massively inappropriate conversations will be had. You’re on a pirate crew now, remember?
4. Stop caring about things like Valentine’s Day. Know he loves you and don’t make him feel bad about not being with you on that particular “holiday.”
5. Get over any blood aversions. You’re a nurse now!
6. Cook for him once in a while. He’ll appreciate it, even if it’s just mac & cheese.

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