Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Introducing Clove and Peppercorn Photography / Ombré Dove Portraits

Path to blogger domination:

* Use a weird synonym in the place of children (cherubim)
* Have a charming and twee nickname for your husband (Nate?) X
* Get an iPhone
* Go to hip restaurants all the time (Chick-fil-A represent!) X 
* Acquire moccasins for your baby/toddler (in all seriousness, these are actually super cute, soft, and affordable)
* Convince your husband to agree to purchase a DSLR and start your own professional photography business! ✓ohmyheck☺☻♥♦starfish emoji!!

I couldn't decide between my two best name ideas, Clove and Peppercorn Photography and Ombré Dove Portraits, so I decided to use them both (thank you, Erin, for your sage business advice). Clove and Peppercorn will cover the engagement and wedding side of the business, while Ombré Dove will focus on newborn and boudoir projects. I'm working on a scented, double-sided business card as well as a website that will take forever to load because of all the RAW format images I'll post.

This will be filed in the "Sports" section of my portfolio because the horse in the background was caught in the middle of a dramatic tail-whip.

I have my first shoot tomorrow morning at a gritty urban location. I'm getting paid in chocolate, which is totally reasonable because chocolate:money::my skills:real skills. I also get to tell my husband I'm finally using the camera I made him buy me after he bought an expensive, yet comfy, leather recliner. And the final pico on top: my favorite taco place is nearby so I'm planning to get some breakfast tacos afterwards because being a professional photographer is hard, you guys. I actually don't even know because I haven't done it yet, but I'm pretty sure I'll suffer the kind of fatigue that can only be ameliorated with a potato-egg-cheese Torchy's taco.

Ignore the line behind her. I haven't learned Photoshop, yet, sheesh. Stop criticizing.

Really, though, I love my new camera even though it weighs as much as a 24-week fetus. Despite my incompetence, it takes great pictures. And by "great," I mean way better than my old point-and-shoot that gave everyone devil eyes.

Sometimes the background is a little off and your kid looks like he has a purple monkey tail. These things happen, and the true professional knows not to let it convince her to give a discount on prints.

If you want to schedule a session, I charge milk chocolate for a family sitting, a box of Trader Joe's hot lava cakes for a newborn shoot, and a $5 donation to the Houston Public Library (in my name ... to be put towards my debt there) for individual headshots (20% discount for fellow aspiring authors, but you MUST pose with your fist under your chin, elbow propped on a stack of Reader's Digest anthologies, eyes staring into the post-apocalyptic future).

Book yours today!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Was Electrocuted And You'll Never Guess What Happened Next

When I was in middle school, sometimes dumb kids would ask me if my frizzy hair was a result of me sticking my finger in an electrical outlet. Then I cried myself to sleep every night. Just kidding: usually I said something rude back to them. I was kind of a know-it-all, self-righteous, frizzy-haired pill in middle school and high school. I probably still am. But an open letter of apology to my former peers is the subject of another post ... this post is about an electrocution that actually happened.

From my 2006 Halloween costume: dandelion.

Scene: My kitchen. Our unsuspecting victim (me), a twenty-something mother dressed in a bathrobe floral sun dress and coordinating sky-blue, peep-toe pumps, dances from cupboard to cupboard, collecting ingredients for a highly-technical recipe: no-bake lemon cheesecake.

She sets about combining the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon drink mix (real lemon zest? Ain't nobody got time for that) in her Empire Red Artisan Series 5-qt Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (buy a mixer from this link to contribute to my taco fund). After adjusting the mixing speed, she rests her arm against the top of the powerful piece of machinery, forearm grazing the metal attachment hub cover. An annoying tingle zings up her arm, sending the message to her brain that the Kitchenaid mixer has evolved into a sentient being, and is, in a dark act of subversion, trying to kill her. She moves her arm, halting the rebellion, and finishes making her cheesecake (fold in some cool whip, pour into graham cracker crust, chill, and top with fresh berries).

I don't care what anyone says; Papyrus is the font of champions. Odysseus used this font for his wedding invitations.

I put up with these minor electric shocks for about a year. Then I googled it to see if this was normal ... apparently it's not (duh), and I read the story of another lady with an unruly, Milgram-esque Kitchenaid who had contacted customer service and gotten hers replaced.

I chatted customer service, and when the lady on the other end (Susan) heard the issue, immediately requested to call me because Kitchenaid takes this issue very seriously. Susan called me, asked me a few questions about the serial number, my address, and whether I had been injured. Apparently they want to avoid having their products electrocute people, because Susan told me a replacement would be shipped to me right away, in the meantime I should stop using the mixer and unplug it (in case it spontaneously erupts into an electrical storm of fury over culinary slavery), and did I have any questions?

I did have a scandalous question ... could I get a different color? Of course, Susan assured me.

Oh my heck. Kitchenaid color decisions are usually made after years of yearning for the machine, planning out your dream kitchen colors, and finding the perfect hue that matches both your aura and patronus' favorite color! How was I to pick a new color in a mere moment? I scanned the options online with the panic of a baker forced to make a wedding cake at an unfamiliar altitude. Should I stick with Empire Red, making my mixer a charmingly bold statement piece on the counter? Though I do have dark green countertops that clash horribly ... What about the soothing Aqua Sky? The retro Pistachio? Sassy Green Apple? SUSAN IS WAITING. Cheerful Citrus Yellow? The classic Cobalt, the tradition of my father? SUSAN IS WAITING!!!!

Seizure.

Guys, I picked silver.

I am so mature and lame. Silver will not go out of style. Silver will go with any kitchen I ever have. Silver is the color my hair will be when this mixer finally dies and I can get a new color.

I am a yo-yo of emotions over here, one minute full of crippling regret, the next confident I made the correct choice. MOSTLY REGRET.

Validate my super-boring Kitchenaid color choice. Or make me jealous by telling me what color you have/would pick if your grandmother loved you enough (like mine) to get you one for your wedding.
  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Laundry and House-hunting

I'm sitting on my couch, the children are asleep, and I am thinking to myself, "I should write something, but I have no idea what to write about ..."

Then I realized I was surrounded by the most exciting thing, ever, and that I should write about it.

Laundry.

Laundry, and a blanket featuring polar bears and other arctic animals, oh my!

Oh my heck, it's everywhere. I'm thiiiis close to adopting my brother-in-law's uniform system, which is exactly what it sounds like. I think he owns ten black polos and half as many pairs of khaki shorts. When he's not working or exercising (there's another uniform for that), this is all he wears. I think this would make life easier, if a lot more drab. I wouldn't waste a second thinking about what I should wear, though.

This is not exciting to write about at all. Here is the recipe I use for homemade laundry detergent, though. It's saved me a ton of money, although sometimes the lack of scent makes me glum. I guess I could add essential oils (or something? I have no idea what I'm doing) to make my laundry smell not bland. That might help me adjust to a uniform system, if they at least smelled like they had a personality.

What else can I write about? How about how we are NOT moving to Qatar. Nathan heard at work that he was up for an overseas assignment to Qatar, the little pimple of land poking off of Saudi Arabia, so for a while I was excited about all the great Indian food I've heard is over there, and also for a maid (because YOLO EXPAT), but then today he heard it's probably not going to happen. So we are back to our plan of buying a house in Houston suburbia, ie Spring, TX. I've been perusing the Houston real estate website, har.com, and feeling judgy about Texas architecture. Also the photos some realtors take are embarrassing. Seriously, just put the toilet seat down and make sure there aren't any creepy people lurking in the background. Not that hard.

Not moving here.

A few months ago, har.com had an almost-perfect house for sale (gone now, of course). You could tell Mormons lived there (garden, telling artwork, general vibe--fellow Saints, you know what I'm talking about), and I just wanted to buy up the house and their entire life with it. I know that sounds super creepy, but I just want to find somewhere where I know a family like ours would be happy. I want Graham to have a ready-made buddy with a cool mom living next door, and a library close enough so we can go to story time together. I want my other next-door neighbor to have a catering business so she brings me sweet leftovers all the time. Across the street could be an empty-nester couple who dote on my children and Nate can mow their lawn while they offer me iced sweet tea on the porch, and then I say, "I actually don't drink tea because I'm Mormon, but here's some zucchini bread!" and then they laugh and we share some bread, and then I turn around to see Ruby drinking some iced tea straight out of the pitcher and it's funny but also a little awkward. Further down the street would live a mysterious old woman whom my children grow up thinking is a witch.

Other than that, I want a house with four bedrooms, an office with French doors, a decent-sized yard, an open floor plan, and vaulted ceilings and a ton of natural light in the living room. And Nathan insists on two sinks in the master bathroom. Also, no tile in living areas (because I am excited to lounge on a comfy floor while my children frolic in chaos around me).

If you are selling this house, please contact me ASAP.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

RIP, J.Crew Flip Flop

You know what's worse than breaking your flip flop as you are entering the Denver International Airport, late for your flight, pushing your preschooler in an unwieldy umbrella stroller with a car seat balanced precariously on top, a tired baby strapped to your chest whilst you are simultaneously struggling to, unsuccessfully, pull two suitcases behind you?

Breaking your J.Crew flip flop as you are entering the Denver International Airport, late for your flight, pushing your preschooler in an unwieldy umbrella stroller with a car seat balanced precariously on top, a tired baby strapped to your chest whilst you are simultaneously struggling to, unsuccessfully, pull two suitcases behind you.

Why was this such a crushing blow to my mother-ego? Because now I have been thrust back to that corduroy-lined circle of fashion hell: the place where mothers who own nothing from J.Crew sit around in synthetic-blend Walmart sweatpants and snotted-on t-shirts. There are no tailored blouses. Everyone still uses a flip phone. There is no Chick-fil-A there.

I've only ever owned three items from J.Crew, that mecca of stylish moms who can pull off wearing weird chambray jumpsuits or anything ever made out of linen. The first two items were a gift: a matching flip flop/headscarf combo. I promptly lost the headscarf thingy in the abyss that is my "hair things that aren't elastics that I think I'll use someday but who am I kidding?" bag/pile/bin.

Pair your sequined J.Crew mother-onesie with satin pumps for the perfect park look! #ootd #headedtomommyandmeceramicpaintingclassnext

But the flip flops--oh, the flip flops! They were the most comfortable flip flops to ever grace my feet (original Old Navy style included--gasp!). Soft cotton straps and foamy soles made me feel like I was walking through an Asian spa paradise. I wore them for three glorious years until a hole appeared in one of the soles ... and another in my own soul as I threw them away sent them to flip flop paradise aboard a flaming pyre set adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.

I was determined to replace them with an identical pair. I scoured J.Crew's website with no success, then turned to ebay with the hope that the old model still existed somewhere besides my dreams. No luck.

My destiny thwarted, I went on with my nearly-purposeless existence, walking the sad path of footwear-mediocrity in my ill-fitting, faux-leather Target sandals. (No disrespect, Target.)

Then one day I found myself at the mall, outside J.Crew. I hesitantly crossed the store's threshold. It smelled expensive, delicious, impractical. Would I find my Holy Grail flip flops? Perfectly-coiffed women perused the displays around me, neatly sidestepping my stroller ... the stroller that held the only child in the store. I spotted a jacket I loved ... I checked the price tag and almost shriveled into a raisin ... the kind of raisin you might find on the floor of the almost-expired specialty foods aisle at Ross.

Then I spotted a bin of ... flip flops. Clearance flip flops. There weren't any with the foamy soles I preferred, but there were plenty of the typical variety, marked down from $28 (!?!?) to $5. Huzzah! Cheap enough for me to look past the limited and weird color options. I snatched a dark gray pair with two-toned straps (gray on top, white underneath), and tried them on. Not as good as my foamy dream-pair, but way better than Old Navy.

Loved.

I bought them. Because $5 J.Crew (chanted to the cadence of $5 footlong, please ... which reminds me of the leftover white chocolate macadamia nut cookie I have in my bag ... from a week ago. Nooooo!!!).


I will admit, the mere fact that they were J.Crew influenced my purchase. They weren't labeled "J.Crew" in any way, but in my style-crippled heart I knew that wearing elitist-brand footwear, however weirdly two-toned and clearance-pocked, would add at least a smidgen of fashion happiness to my poser's heart. I could be wearing the worst stretchy pants and pit-stained high school t-shirt, but if I was wearing those flip flops, I was wearing J.Crew. They were my secret weapon against complete surrender to frumpiness and the oblivion of my stretch-knit-plagued closet.

"We'll always have J.Crew."

Then they broke. My J.Crew horcrux destroyed, a part of my soul was lost as well, the part responsible for style ambition and caring what I look like. 


There are no words.
This happened three weeks ago, and it's only now that I feel like I'm in a place where I can feel safe writing about it. Now that I'm a J.Crew-less lump, I only have the filters on my VSCO Cam app to make me presentable. Before and after below.



Treasure your J.Crew while you still can. Or else donate it to the Goodwill on 20th street in the Heights and give me a heads up so I can go buy it for cheap.
 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Poodle Reviews: Franklin and the Duckling

To my twelve loyal readers (including you seven from India), may I explain the blogging hiatus. The last eight weeks have been fraught with that most dreaded sucker of energy, appetite, and the will to do anything but moan on my floor whilst wearing only my unmentionables and a pilling bathrobe: morning sickness. And by morning I mean all freaking night and day. Yes, we are adding a third cherub to our collection. The bebe is due to arrive sometime around Christmas (surprise! No really, SURPRISE!). We are excited (except for the part where I get out of the habit of grooming). Especially Graham, who has declared that there are five babies in his tummy, and that the one in mine is named "Michael" or "Uncle," depending on the day. Hurrah for babies! Hurrah for microwaveable taquitos! Hurrah for generic Zofran covered by insurance!

Meanwhile, I've been anxious to review a library book that has been plaguing my book bin for a few weeks now. I give you an abomination of children's literature: Franklin and the Duckling.

It's all fun and games until someone fracks up your pond.

Graham picked it randomly from a shelf, was seduced by the playful cover, and in my pregnant daze, I checked it out for him without vetting it for inane content. There is no author named on the cover, which should have told me something, but I found the names of the guilty parties buried on the page with all the Library of Congress boring stuff. I also discovered this book is based on a television episode from a series inspired by the canonical Franklin and Friends book series written by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Brenda Clark. So this book is like a chocolate croissant that you reheated in the microwave because you were too lazy to wait for the toaster oven, and then when it came out all gross and chewy you wish you could unmicrowave it back to it's original baked glory, but you can't unmicrowave something, you just can't (true story). Such are the perils of book to television to book adaptations. I hope this metaphor makes sense.

Basic plot: Franklin goes for a swim at the pond and a duckling follows him home. Franklin decides to keep him as a "secret pet," despite his mother's earlier mandate of "no more pets," and a swirling tale of chaos and deception ensues.

My problems with Frankling and the Duckling:

1. Inconsistent worldbuilding. Because this story takes place in a universe where animals are anthropomorphic (Canada), I would classify it as fantasy. I believe that fantasy should still follow logical rules, however. Franklin lacks any decipherable set of rules governing the universe. Franklin, a turtle, speaks, wears clothing, lives in a house with electricity ... and yet sleeps on a rug in the middle of his room, which is otherwise full of modern furnishings and toys (a full bookshelf, a toy chest, and a hockey stick?!). So Franklin's society has mastered mass printing, carpentry, textile production, electricity, and more ... but he still sleeps on the floor.

Weirdo.

Also, his dining room table looks like this:

Franklin's dishonesty has no impact on his appetite.

So apparently humanized turtles prefer to eat their meals on something that looks like a pagan altar. Happy summer solstice.

2. Inconsistencies in the application of anthropomorphism. Ok, so the turtles are basically humans. I'm fine with that. But the anthropomorphism is grossly inconsistent from species to species, with no indication that there is any method to the system. Franklin's best friend is a bear named ... wait for it ... "Bear." So the turtle gets a lovely, Anglo-Franco name, but his best friend (who is higher on the food chain and of a more intelligent species) is called "Bear." Find me a kid with sober parents named, "Human," and then I'll roll with "Bear."

This next concern is not confined to Franklin's universe. It is common in children's media featuring anthropomorphic characters (Arthur comes to mind): animals owning other animals. Again with no explanation for how the authors decided to stratify the species, we see Franklin perusing a pet store with a cat and dog in the window (again, how is a reptile more advanced than mammals??). He already owns a fish, and the entire plot revolves around his failed attempt to adopt a "wild" duckling. The whole system reeks with the subtle stench of ethnocentricism, racism, and slavery. Did you know that "Franklin" is an anagram for "Canadian Supremacy League"? Look for my upcoming Change.org campaign to get this book banned from our schools.

"So I can't have another pet, not because of their inherent right to freedom as fellow animals, but because I can barely keep the fish I do have alive? Makes sense, Mom."

I don't like when a character's animal-ness is meaningless and unacknowledged. Franklin's turtle-ness has no impact on the story at all ... so why is he a turtle? The first Franklin book of the original series was about a turtle afraid of the dark inside his shell--that's good animal literature. In this story, however, every depiction of Franklin could be seamlessly replaced with a picture of a little boy (hopefully wearing more than a neckerchief). Franklin's identity as a turtle is ignored, and the story is worse for it.

3. Weak grasp of animal biology. First, why is Franklin just a bit smaller than a bear cub? That's one creepy-big turtle. I predict a pregnancy-augmented nightmare in my future.

It looks like the duckling just told Bear that his mom got shot and made into a rug that now graces the living room floor of a lifestyle blogger.

Also, why does a turtle own earmuffs and a hockey stick, when a quick google search reveals that turtles in cold climates (Canada) spend the winter in hibernation (the term is actually "brumation" when referencing reptiles)? Franklin shouldn't be able to play hockey because he should be spending all winter burrowed under a foot of mud.

Finally, Franklin isn't even a turtle. He's a tortoise.

4. Stupid plot with a horrible message. Franklin's mother declares "no more pets" on the first page. Franklin ignores this and tries to domesticate a duckling, in secret, in his room. The duckling destroys his room, twice. He lies to his mother's face about the quacking she hears, twice. After Franklin's little sister exposes him for the deceptive little reptile he is and the duckling's family collects their prodigal, how does Franklin's mother respond? She praises him for "taking such good care of the duckling" and offers him another pet. In what universe does lying to your mother and letting a wild animal rip apart your room merit greater privileges and responsibility?! Not even Canada, people. We can blame Franklin's mom for the entitlement generation.

Consequences.

The story ends differently in my house. In my version, Franklin's mother expresses disappointment that her son acted in a way so contrary to what he had been taught about honesty. She tells him that trust takes much longer to gain than to lose. Then she flushes Franklin's goldfish down the toilet. Just kidding: these anthropomorphic turtles don't have indoor plumbing, so she feeds it to the duckling.

Franklin's face when he finds out what happens to "Goldie."

Throw this reheated croissant in the garbage, parents. It's not worth the calories.