Seen and Heard

Trompe L'oeil Fauna

They are beautiful and amazing. But I have one I like best. I wonder which one is yours?

via Cool Place

Persian Puzzle Rug

What? Are you dying to build one up? Because I know I am. My kid and I would have so much fun with one of these rugs. Designed by Katrin Sonnleitner, the PuzzlePerser has 1225 pieces made of recyclable synthetic and natural rubber. A perfect marriage of fun and functionality.

Be your own Persian carpet designer.

A little Valentines Movie

It's short on dialog but sweet as anything. Go watch. It's called Signs.

Like Mommy

I was surfing the net the other day and found the image below. I wouldn't know if it is real or fake but it made me laugh.

Plano 2000

From Dutch Designer Egbert-Jan Lam and his buroJET design studio come these fold flat chairs that also double up as artwork on your walls.

"Plano is a flat reproduction of a well known design, in this case a chair. The idea behind this chair is a reaction to society getting flatter, literal and figurative."

You want more?

I can just see these chairs making it big in countries where living spaces are tiny and real estate is a pricey commodity.

A Muff For Your Cup

Ingenious. Perfect for winter too. I'm predicting they'll sell like hot cakes and, if you want one, you should order yours through Les M Design.

No tattoo snafu

Ever wanted to get a tattoo and you did and then you grew to hate what you selected? You could have saved yourself some tattoo grief if you had only used JuliAnn Miller's Tattoo Tester. Go ahead, be adventurous. Just like the Cracker Jack stuff. It comes off.

via ambalaj


Leaping Thought Wednesday - Did I say that?

Haven't done one of these in a while so the leapin' might be a little rusty.

On Pet Peeves
You know that book - Chicken Soup for the Soul? I'd be surprised if you didn't considering the gadjillion versions of it floating out there. Well, I'm tired of it. I hate chance encountering that specific grouping of words anywhere in the vicinity of books I might be perusing and furthermore, I have a proposition for the franchise: There are lots of other healthy and wholesome alternatives to chicken soup so why not switch things up a little? How about Tofu for the Soul? or Bulgur Wheat for the Soul? Just a suggestion but somebody really ought to take me up on it. Enough of the chicken s_ _ _!

On Truths That Must be Told
For your consideration: What if we shorten the word resolution to something like reso? If you think about it, a truncated version of the word is more in tune with the reality of life.

On Failure
Here's a lesson I try to teach my son everyday: Do not shout to be heard when speaking up guarantees getting listened to. In spite of my efforts, I'm both going deaf and hoarse.

On habits that don't die at all
After 20 plus years, I have again become a book defacer. Why? Because lately I just can't seem to stop myself from scribbling notes in the margins of the books I've been reading. I'm doing it in pen too! If the book is particularly good and note-worthily special though, I go out and buy a second copy which I keep in pristine condition within my public bookshelves.

On Culinary pairings
I think the combination of bananas and salami is a particularly fine one. Prosciutto and bananas come in second but with salami? Food for the Gods. Try it and tell me I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm eating some right now as I am writing this post. Do you have any sublime food pairings?

On stuff I find revolting
Speaking of pairings, I cannot abide chocolate and mint. It's like chewing on a piece of chocolate filled with toothpaste. I get chills just thinking about it.

On manners
Sometimes they weigh me down overly much even as I recognize that everywhere, more and more people are divesting themselves of the load.

On motherhood
It's like step aerobics. One moment you're up a step, then next you are down. Repeat.

On lacking good taste
I don't 'get' jazz. I know that is an awful thing to read, most especially if you are a jazz lover yourself (that goes double for you Bev) but try as I might, I've never been able to appreciate the genre beyond the most superficial of levels. I 'dig' madrigals though and far fewer people enjoy those nowadays. So that counts for something. Don't know what precisely but something...

On gardening
I'm a trained plant assassin. Too bad my expertise does not extend to weeds.

On being a carnivore
I'm mostly a meatarian with a dash of vegetarian and fisherian. I'm also a frutarian on the side. And then of course there are the nuts...

On bicycles
Once upon a time there was a little girl who never learned how to ride a bicycle. The end.

On tricycles
I like tricycles. I think they're very retro. Cool looking. More people should ride them.

On cooking
Everyone should be able to master at least one dish in their lifetime. And everyone should own at least one cookbook. Cooking is one of the most pleasurable, life-affirming, satisfaction-giving of pastimes. I really cannot understand how there are people who say they don't like to cook. It's like sex. What's there not to like about it?

On originality
Who am I kidding? I'm a copycat kind of girl.

On tea
Few matters seem as dire after a hot cup of tea.

On making the bed
Hopefully you wash your teeth and your face every morning and it is to be expected that you'd shower at some point during the day. Why not treat making your bed with that same imperative of daily habit? You get out of the bed, you make it. The rest of the day flows great. You get out of the bed, don't make it and the rest of your day is a disaster. Trust me on this.

On smooching at the movie theater when you look like you are 13 years old.
Listen I know I'm antiquated. You won't believe me I know, but I played with barbies until I was 15 or so. And on the basis of that meritorious innocence I can tell you this much: Some parents need to be doing some serious ear boxing. They're children for pity's sake. Everything in its own due time. Now enforce that. You're the parent.

On getting on my soapbox

I feel contrite immediately after.

I think I'll stop here. I can sense more ranting coming along. ;-)


Calvin reinterprets the news

The other day, after reading some quotes by Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame, I started to think about what Calvin might say upon reading certain headlines. The quotes and headlines below seemed like a good pairing. Tell me what you think.

40,000 planets could be home to aliens

Up to 40,000 planets could support alien life forms, scientists at the University of Edinburgh believe.

"The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us." — Bill Watterson

Headline and backstory at the UK Telegraph

Bush gets job offer as hardware store greeter

Texas businessman suggests the job will be less stressful than Bush's position as US President.

"Hold it! You know what I'd like to see? I'd like to see the three bears eat the three little pigs, and then the bears join up with the big bad wolf and eat Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood! Tell me a story like that, OK? " — Bill Watterson (The Complete Calvin and Hobbes)

Headline and backstory at the Guardian UK

Optimism is the cure for the downturn

Pessimism is the most serious cause for the global economic tsunami.

"That's one of the remarkable things about life. It's never so bad that it can't get worse."Bill Watterson

Headline and backstory at the BBC

Modern humans are still evolving

Humans may like to think of themselves as a fully evolved species, but natural selection is continuing to shape our gene pool.

You know what's weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon... everything's different." — Bill Watterson

Headline and backstory at the Los Angeles Times

Galileo puts us in our place

The astronomer proved we are not the center of the universe - now we need to start acting like it.

If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I'll bet they'd live a lot differently." — Bill Watterson

Headline and backstory at the Los Angeles Times

Talk is cheap but very sexy

But mastering sexy banter can lead to a delightful payoff.

Hey Susie Derkins! Is that your face, or is a 'possum stuck in your collar?" — Bill Watterson

Headline and backstory at the Chicago Tribune


A Rip in Time

On September 2nd, 1989, I remember putting my hand against a series of indented holes in a stone wall. Many decades prior, those marks I touched had been carved out by bullets. I was 18 years old and on a 1st time visit to Warsaw during the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Poland by German and Soviet troops. Though my knowledge of this period came solely from the pages of textbooks, for a brief moment I felt a very real rending of the cloth of time. It was the impression of a shifted instant; of someone dying in the same space I held while I, lived in mine.

Next to them a plaque poignantly marked the names of the men who had been executed there by German troops in 1940. That memory welled forth the other day when I saw the photographs below. If anything could describe the parallel sensation I had back in '89, then they are about the closest visual expression of what it is I felt on that day.

You are looking at images of old and modern St. Petersburg (formerly known as Leningrad) which have been fused into a hybrid time of co-existance by the Photoshop art of Sergei Larenkov.

"This was undoubtedly the most tragic period in the history of the city, a period full of suffering and heroism. For everyone who lives in St. Petersburg the Blokada (the Siege) of Leningrad is an important part of the city's heritage and a painful memory for the population's older generations."

"Less than two and a half months after the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany, German troops were already approaching Leningrad. The Red Army was outflanked and on September 8, 1941 the Germans had fully encircled Leningrad and the siege began. The siege lasted for a total of 872 days, from September 8, 1941 until January 27, 1944. The city's almost 3 million civilians (including about 400,000 children) refused to surrender and endured rapidly increasing hardships in the encircled city."

Food and fuel stocks were limited to a mere 1-2 month supply, public transport was not operational and by the winter of 1941-42 there was no heating, no water supply, almost no electricity and very little food."

"In January 1942, in the depths of an unusually cold winter, the city's food rations reached an all time low of only 125 grams (
about 1/4 of a pound) of bread per person per day. In just two months, January and February of 1942, 200,000 people died in Leningrad of cold and starvation. Despite these tragic losses and the inhuman conditions, the city's war industries still continued to work and the city did not surrender."

"In January 1943 the Siege was broken and a year later, on January 27, 1944 it was fully lifted. At least 641,000 people had died in Leningrad during the Siege (some estimates put this figure closer to 800,000). Most of them were buried in mass graves in different cemeteries, with the majority in the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery, resting place to over 500,000 people and a timeless reminder of the heroic deeds of the city."

Text via St. Petersburg.com and Sergei Larenkov's images via Environmental graffiti

Have You Ever Seen This Book Cover?

If you have a small child, then chances are that the answer is yes. The title of the book is only part of a very long name given to a little boy in ancient China. You want the whole of it? Prepare yourself. It's Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sa Rembo Chari Bari Ruchi Pip Peri Pembo. You should know that I just wrote that from memory. And how in heaven's name did I remember all that? Well, read it out loud say... a trijillion times and you may yet achieve my in-a-single-breath level of proficiency. What can I say? My kid loves the book and he loves the illustrations. Which is why it is so sad that Blair Lent, whose beautiful visual rendering of Tikki's story gave the story such charm, died in Massachusetts on January 29th. He was 80 years old. Tikki hopefully, will never outlive the glory of his name.

"Although Mr. Lent occasionally wrote and illustrated his own books, like “Pistachio,” about a green cow and a circus, he specialized in illustrating international folk tales retold by other writers. Using a broad variety of techniques, including cardboard cutouts, colored pencil, acrylic painting, and ink and wash, he provided the images for tales from Japan, Russia, India and Africa. His illustrations for “The Funny Little Woman,” a Japanese folk tale retold by Arlene Mosel, won the Caldecott Medal in 1973." Excerpted from the New York Times.

You may read more about Blair Lent and his work at the New York Times.

Abstruse Goose

I can't tell you who creates them or the why of the unusual title for the site. All I know is that the place is as puzzling as can be. Check out the About or the Angry Monkey link (and it will take you to an angry monkey) at the bottom of the Abstruse Goose page to see what I mean. The comics however are self explanatory and often very funny. I thought I'd share this one with you. For reasons I won't elaborate upon, it reminded me of me and something that has happened with my husband at one time or another. Ladies, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

Instant Library

"To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul." - Cicero

Considering how much I love books, this wallpaper by Deborah Bowness is quite the bibliophilist pick-me-up. I know I feel cheered just looking at it. I wish the books were more neatly lined however don't you? They're messy. I also wonder what kind of soul they'd give a home. Certainly not the one Cicero envisioned...

From Deborah Bowness' Wallpaper Collection. A different Style of Decorating.

"Since 1999, Deborah has been designing a collection of ready-made digitally and hand printed wallpapers. Private homes and businesses can be reinvented by installing these trompe l'oeil pieces. Each drop is hand finished so these ready-made ranges can be tailored to meet the need of your colour scheme."

The Meaning of Life

As ever, it remains unclear. Take a look.

You may get yours at Threadless

Chocolate Sharpener

Tell me, would this post in any way be complete without my featuring something sinfully chocolatey in it? Absolutely not. Which is why I'm showing you these chocolate pencils. I think they're divine. And if I had a restaurant, I would procure the pencils, the plates and the sharperners in a lickety split. What a fabulous idea, what ingenious presentation. I know I'd order a dessert like this e.v.e.r.y. day if it were available. Super sharp!

Via Nendo which states in its concept page that their aim is to give people "a small (!) moment" because,"there are so many small (!) moments hidden in our everyday." To see more exclamation point products from Nendo, visit their fantastic website and peruse to your heart's content. There's lots more where the pencils came from.


Letters from Houston

Houston, February 2nd, 2009

Dear All:

Well we are having a very proper Edgar Allan Poe morning here. All atmospheric and foggy. It is a perfect day for remaining abed or for downing big spoonfuls of some rich stew or other similar food. I have half a mind to cook one of those thick soupy concoctions that most anyone would be happy to see on the burner unless they are otherwise dieting or on the extreme end of some food disorder.

I just dropped R off at school. For evident reasons, Mondays are always the most difficult in terms of getting him ready on time. Having had two full days in which to dictatorially mastermind how his hours unfold, he is understandably resentful of the "rude" early morning wake-up and of the rush-rush to get him to school before the gates close (whole 'nother story and I'll tell it some other time). In any case, Monday mornings are always a battle royal.

The child grouses in his bath and grumbles through the washing of his teeth; he then wriggles and whines while I struggle to brush his hair and fit him into his uniform. No mean trick when you've got underwear, socks, pants, long sleeved shirt and a cardigan to get through. But, nothing is as guaranteed to prompt his most pitiful expressions and absolutely astounding noose and choking pantomimes, like clapping eyes on his school tie does. It is an honest to goodness tie and not one of those fake, clip-on affairs mind you. Hence the noose pantomimes. For my 4-year-old Chaplin, the tie is where. he. draws. the. line. The unmarked Maginot of his unwillingness defeated by my adult strength. Can't say that I enjoy having to pin him down every Monday morning but when the talcum powder of struggle has settled, no Etonian surpasses the glory of my starched and tie-donning, if incredibly pissed, little boy. He looks great and I'm a mess.

R partially dressed in his school uniform

I'm sure that someday, when he is older, he will tell me how my forcing him to wear a tie has damaged something in his psyche. And then I shall tell him how forcing him to wear one aged me beyond my years.

So I'm sitting here feeling like a sea lion. I had a monstrously heavy meal at the home of my Persian friends yesterday. Our host was actually a professional caterer and the king-sized platter of koobideh, barg and jujeh kebab which they elephant-carried out of the kitchen, was easily as big as my dining room table. You know that Persians always cook as if they mean to feed entire armies and even then, they worry unnecessarily that they might not have enough. Everything tasted delicious. All 20 of us fell upon that meal like we'd been starved for weeks and ate until we could not fit another morsel in the belly. One day later I'm still feeling like a stuffed sausage and though truly a perfect day for making something sinful and carbohydrate-laden like the stew I was thinking of previously, I'll probably stick with cups of tea until tomorrow. By then this heavy feeling in my stomach should have gone away.

On Saturday we attended the Iranian Film Festival which is now in its 16th year here in Houston. I had to drag M to it. You would think that since he is Persian he would love to watch movies from his homeland but, that isn't the case at all. As M would explain it, if all Persian songs are about aching love, then all Persian movies are about some terrible tragedy. So far, and in my limited experience, he's been mostly correct. And Saturday's showing remained true to that spirit of the suffering that Persian films depict so well. With a sinking heart, I watched Santouri, a story about a famous musician who becomes a cocaine addict thereby losing his livelihood, the love of his life and his ability to create music. In the tragedy-o-meter, I'd give it a seven. A perfect ten being the story of the poor little Persian girl who loses her one and only pair of shoes. A more pitiful movie I have never been so unfortunate to see. By the end you just want to gouge your eyes out rather than watch yet another awful set of circumstances befall her. I'm not joking.

Not so the documentary Arusi Persian Wedding. We saw that one yesterday evening. Bucking the trend, it is the reaffirming love story of a Persian man and an American woman who marry and make their relationship work even with the hiccups of cultural differences. I think I loved this film especially because in many ways, it is my own story. I found incredible similarities in my life and that of Heather Tehrani. Both of us are non-Iranians who have married into Persian families and embraced Persian culture. Like her, I too have been enriched by all my husband has brought to my life. And would you imagine that M realized as soon as the film began showing, that he knows the Persian family depicted in the documentary? In fact, newly arrived in California during the early 1970's, he and his parents stayed with the Tehranis for nearly a month before they bought their own home in Piedmont. The world is a small place and, should you happen to be Persian, it is even smaller.

Alex and Heather Tehrani from Arusi Persian Wedding

Well that is it for now. So many errands to run and only a few hours before I need to go pick R up. I trust you had a good weekend also and until I pen my next letter, be well.