Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry, Happy Christmas Wishes

My favorite Christmas carol is Carol of the Bells. The song is shrill, kind of silly, features the onomatopoeia ding-dong a lot and is fast/allegro with people singing over each other at points. What's not to love? I played this song in my church handbell group when I was in the sixth grade. I never enjoyed or enthused over my violin or piano lessons (despite my parents' best efforts), but I loved playing the handbells. Wearing the white gloves, polishing the brass on the bells and depending on the other bell-ringers was all part of the ritual and the fun. After our handbell group played, the candlelight service commenced with the sanctuary lights dimming and the flames passing from one candle to the next in our very large Southern church. Those flickering points of light provided lovely illumination and cast everyone in angelic glow. I have this aural and visual memory firmly etched in my mind.

By the time I was in the eighth grade, my family had moved to the tiny town of Cross Lanes, West Virginia. Our church there was much smaller, as was the church sanctuary. The candlelight service was held late on Christmas Eve. This smaller church did not have a handbell group, but relied on the voices of the congregation for the music. As we left the Christmas Eve service that year, snow fell at a quick rate. The snowflakes caught bits of light in the quiet night sparkling like tiny stars falling. By Christmas morning, the whole town was covered in a gorgeous white, glittering blanket. That's my only white Christmas so far in life. I treasure the memory of it.

A good story features groups of three, because three is the magic number. It takes at least three legs for a stool to stand, three wishes for the moral of the tale to unfold. Even in the Holy Trinity of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, three is the number.

I'm only listing two favorite Christmas memories here, because I think that the third is yet to come.

Merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Yes, this video is 16 minutes long, but well worth your time. Watch it! I went to school in Plano with the star/producer of this video, TJ Thyne. I often ran into him at speech tournaments and theater events. He's always been a charming person and a great actor. Someday I hope to be part of such a fun yet poignant film project.

And remember, you're great!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Saucy... Pasta Sauce

Yesterday I ventured down to south Austin at 4:58 AM to shoot a commercial for an Italian restaurant. Much pasta was consumed during filming. The pasta was delicious when it was warm, but cold pasta is not my favorite. I highly recommend the peach Bellini, and am craving one now despite the chilly temperatures outside. The cran-grape juice masquerading as wine featured a prominent fruity bouquet with a smooth, sweet finish.

The gorgeous ladies in the photo with me are Anne Clare (with whom I've worked on four different projects now), Yael and Michelle. They were so much fun! If you see the commercial, rest assured that we didn't have to fake the laughter at all.

I feel blessed to get paid to giggle and slurp pasta all day. However, that 5:00 AM call time was not so heavenly.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Way Too Tender-Hearted

One of my favorite cats I used to visit during my time as a Furry Godmother petsitter has a blog. The cat's people-mom is a writer, so you do the math. I subscribe to the blog updates and had not seen an update for nearly ten months. I figured that Tippy, the twenty-two-year-old sassy cat, earned her wings in kitty Heaven already, but I just received a blog update from Tippy. She is very tired, but still here in the earthly realm. She talks about how her mom is strong, young and healthy for a person, while Tippy is nearing the century mark in kitty years. Tippy assures her readers that she has had a great life, feels that she has fulfilled her destiny and needs to nap forever soon. She thinks that her mom will be okay since she's young and healthy.

I can't stop crying. It's ridiculous, I know.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Selling Out, But with Principles

Last Monday marked my second acting appearance in a commercial capacity. I worked as an extra for a series of promotional videos for the University of Texas' new business conference center. Because I graduated from UT, and have fond memories of my time there as a student and an employee, I feel just fine about lending my image and implied endorsement to the new conference center.

The other actors, film crew and I were treated to lunch at one of the center's dining halls. The food was delicious with lots of different choices. The dining area was comfortable and lovely. Well dressed porters stood by to clear dishes. It was by far the best craft service (food) I've ever had on a set. The rest of the conference center features warm, modern design and decor. Fast, free wifi is available throughout the building. The conference rooms offer options for huge windows with natural light that can easily be covered by an automatic shade for better viewing of projector presentations. The staff from the UT School of Business who managed the shoot were incredibly nice and appreciative of our time. Overall, I'd love to work with this bunch again should they ever need me.

You'll never catch me in a commercial for (dead) fur coats, weight loss potions or raisins. A girl has got to have her principles! I can't endorse goods or services that I wouldn't willingly use.

Deck the Dog

Chad and I haven't had time to deck the halls just yet. I managed to hang an evergreen wreath. Chad put the lights along the roof, only to find that half of the bulbs are burnt out, and that the timer (which he naturally left up on the roof) isn't set right. But, we did deck out Janie with her new Christmas collar and leash. I love that her collar says "naughty" and "nice", because Janie behaves very nicely when she knows you (or Santa) might be watching, but she naughtily squeezes through the kitty gate to grab kitty toys or kitty food when she thinks no one will know.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Open Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

Over the years our relationship has had its ups and downs for sure. The Barbie Condo with elevator was awesome, but the boxing gloves -- Santa, what were you thinking? Anyhoo, I've been a mostly good girl this year. I cleaned up my room, removing that big pile of junk from the top of my dresser drawers. I cleaned out my closet and donated most of the old clothes to charity after Buffalo Exchange turned up their stylish noses at much of it. I've kept the cats' ears clean and walked the dog a couple of miles each day. Which brings me to my first request:

I really like this wall mounted fish bowl, and think I can find a place for it that will be safe from the cats and dog. I also want a blue beta fish that will happily swish around in his fancy digs.

Santa, you know I love to read, but have little time to do so lately. Please no books, DVDs or CDs this year as I am well stocked with these items.

I know it's a big request, but what I really, really would love is an automatic dishwasher. Any washer that's energy and water efficient in a white color will be perfect.
Honestly, with our 56-year-old cabinets and low counter tops, it will be hard to install a dishwasher, so if you could send an elf skilled in electrics and carpentry to install the new dishwasher, I'd be ever-grateful. Pretty-please!

I don't know if you have any pull with the talent agents in Austin, but I want Heather Collier Talent Agency to represent me in my pursuit of an acting career. I've heard she's the best! Put in a kind word for me, K?

Maybe it's a little odd to make requests for other people, but if you could bring my husband, Chad, a new bicycle for Christmas, I'd love to ride bikes more often with him. Ozone Bikes has several stylish and comfortable cruiser bikes that I think he'd like.

Please stuff my stocking with some M&Ms, Toblerone, Regal Cinemas gift cards and invitations to fun parties & delightfully dorky game nights.

What kind of cookies do you want me to leave out this year? Or is it a raw veggie plate kind of year?

Thanks from your friend & fan,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

That's a Wrap!

Monday marked my sixth appearance as an extra on Friday Night Lights. Monday was also one of the last days for filming of the show's third season. I've become chummy with some of the other regular extras. I'll kind of miss them, as the large majority of Friday Night Lights extras only work on FNL, and not on other television shows or films.

I finally got a title for my recurring extra role which was "upscale booster mom". Talk about pressure to impress the wardrobe people! Extras for FNL are told to bring their own clothes, and are further instructed about which season you're supposed to be representing in your wardrobe choices and sometimes specific colors. Not only did I need to bring appropriate choices that were not white, not black, not covered in busy patterns, not adorned with logos, but that were upscale looking. It was tough, but I never had to borrow any clothes from the wardrobe truck for FNL! If an extra has to borrow clothes from wardrobe, the person gives their pay voucher to a wardrobe team member to "hold hostage", meaning that if the extra doesn't return the clothes, they don't get their pay voucher back, and they don't get paid. Trust me, the last thing I want to do is stand in line at the wardrobe truck at the end of the shoot to return clothes, and then have to go stand in another line to get my pay voucher signed.

Back to Monday's scene, Connie Britton, who plays
the (very attractive) school principal and wife of the (very attractive) football coach, delivered hilarious jokes and spoiler information while ad libbing a speech at the "senior brunch". She is one funny lady! It was one of those you-had-to-be-there moments, for which I was happy to be there.

Maybe by the time season four of Friday Night Lights starts production, I'll have the talent agent I want, and I'll be able to book a speaking part with more than one line.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Favorite Things 2008

Oprah has her list of favorite things. Just in time for the giving-thanks and gift-giving season, here's my list of faves (in no particular order):


My furry family of Marigold, Kenji, Sonic & Janie

Scented candles of all kinds, but especially the Mexican Cocoa soy candle by Pacifica or Thai Lemongrass soy candle also by Pacifica

Books and time to read them, but don't buy me more books. I have plenty for now!

Movies at Regal Cinema's Arbor Theater

Sporty shoes and gym couture from Betty Sport

Soigne boutique's great selection of clothes and accessories

And finally, I pine for this ridiculously expensive wreath from Pottery Barn.

Unlike Oprah's super-lucky studio audience, you won't find these items under your chairs. Sorry.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Make It Work

Today's title refers to Tim Gunn's signature saying on the reality show Project Runway. Tim looks over aspiring fashion designers' creations in various states of readiness and says, "make it work." What a great catchall statement. One can convey a variety of sentiments ranging from heartfelt encouragement to implied catty disapproval with this one phrase.

My television and film career thus far has consisted of only a few spoken lines and many extra/background roles. Adding a few more "extra" credits to my acting résumé last week, I pretended to be a college student for a Westwood College commercial and played a concerned constituent at a Dillon city council meeting for Friday Night Lights. I made some money while making it work.

This week, I was back on the Friday Night Lights set as an "upscale booster club mom". I donned my multi-strand fake pearls and tweed blazer with straightened coif to give the impression of an upscale mom. The wardrobe lady didn't like my tweed blazer, and while rifling through the other clothes I brought, plucked out a royal blue velvet blazer, aqua v-neck sweater and said, "I'm loving the blues. Make it work." She then sent me to change clothes. The pants I brought were too big and hung low on my hip bones. I wiggled out of them without even unzipping or unbuttoning them. So I tried a skirt I bought this summer. The skirt fit better, but was a little loose. I guess I made it work, meaning that my outfit looked okay, but this situation has driven home the point that it's time for another closet clean-out and another list of need-to-buy wardrobe staples as my body shape changes to a healthier size. Make it work.

Yesterday was a long, sweaty day on the FNL set. We shot a pep-rally scene in a school gym and then a hotel lobby scene as if we had traveled to an away football game. I spotted lots of FNL principal cast members, but am no longer giggly with starry-eyed fan feelings. They're just like the popular kids at school to me now. I like some of them, and don't particularly like others, but I respect their position in the pecking order. I was so glad when my scenes finally wrapped yesterday to come home and have a shower after wearing my sweater and velvet blazer outside in the 80-degree Texas weather. I heard a rumor that filming of FNL will move to Canada next year, which contradicts an earlier rumor I heard that this will be the last season of the show. I have no idea what the truth is, but think it would be odd to film a show revolving around landlocked, dusty, small-town Texas football in the chilly, scenic coastal city of Vancouver. Make it work.

I'm tired of being an extra. In stage shows, I am accustomed to playing larger parts with spoken lines and, well, some real acting. Walking back and forth through scenes without looking at the camera isn't really acting. And while I've never been an enthusiastic sports fan, pretending to be all cheery and peppy at the fake football pep rally yesterday wasn't really acting either. I'm having trouble right now making this work, this acting career that doesn't include much real acting.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

BYOP 2008

Gather round as I tell the tale of the first BYOP party many moons ago. I lived alone in a tiny studio apartment, only about 350 square feet total with a giant closet and a tiny hot water heater. I had to walk uphill both ways to the bus stop to go to my stupid soul-sucking job trading mutual funds. The only thing that kept me going some days was the grand plan I had to host a pumpkin carving party as Halloween grew near. I invited my seven friends at that time to "Bring Your Own Pumpkin" to my apartment for some fall festiveness. I spread a plastic paint drop cloth on the floor and all seven friends and I crowded around and wielded sharp instruments in close proximity of each other. We crafted some lovely creations, but that was back before those new-fangled digital cameras, so it's hard to share the photos with you youngsters in the blogosphere. Each jack-o-lantern was lovelier than the next. And lest you think the pumpkin carnage was senseless, we roasted the seeds and ate them, providing sustenance for our merry-making.

The BYOP party grows larger each year now. While each pumpkin carving party is great fun on its own merits, I'll always remember that first one fondly.

Here are a few photos from BYOP 2008:

I have to admit, this last pumpkin was my fave. Nick M. made a trick-treat-toe game with removable Xs and Os. Clever!

Sadly, Chad was so busy helping me prepare for the BYOP party this year, that he did not carve a pumpkin. Eek! I've requested that he pay penance by carving a turkey portrait into a pumpkin for our Thanksgiving centerpiece. Look for photos of that later this month!

Not Gonna NaBloPoMo

For those of you who are unaware of what NaBloPoMo is, as I was until last year, this shortened phrase stands for National Blog Posting Month. The idea is to have bloggers post each day for the month of November. I did this last year, and while it was good practice for writing and a good exercise in discipline, many of my posts were boring and full of psychobabble. I'm sparing myself and my loyal readers (Hi Grandma!) that exercise this year.

However, I wish Jensational the best as she embarks on NaBloPoMo. She is a far wittier writer than I can hope to be with fabulously irreverent accounts of her adventures as a new mom, working woman and city dweller. Go Jensational!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How I Spent the Weekend Before Last

It took two days, a big roll of blackout fabric, one expensive trip to the nursery, two semi-expensive trips to Lowe's, twelve bags of mulch, much sweat and exertion, but Chad & I finally have something approximating landscaping in the front yard.

Chad also tilled up the yard and spread grass seed and nontoxic fertilizer in the front yard. Now we just have to wait for the grass to grow. In the process of digging and tilling, we found several big rocks and lots of little plastic plant markers. One of our sweet, octogenarian neighbors told us that a part-owner of Shoal Creek Nursery lived in our house for several years, and planted the whole front yard like a lush flower garden. Then the next owner of the house ripped up all of the plants and had grass in the front yard. I'd love to see a photo of the yard back in its flowering garden glory.

Coffee, Tea or...

I've been busy, and alternately, recovering from the busy. A week ago, I got to play that 1965 flight attendant after all. According to one of the casting people associated with that movie, the director handpicked each extra based on their photos. The director insisted that I should be the flight attendant and ordered the wardrobe crew to make the dress work. Luckily, the vintage dress was stretchy polyester and posed no problem.

Last Wednesday, I awoke at 5:00 AM to put my hair in hot rollers and drive an hour down the road to the tiny Georgetown airport for my 6:30 AM makeup call time. The hairstylist teased my hair and used about twenty bobby-pins to coax my hair into a 1960s updo. Then the makeup lady worked her magic with liberal use of black eyeliner to make me look 1960s glamorous. Then the other extras and I sat in the big tent and waited for the rain to stop. We waited nearly two hours, because the airport was supposed to be set in Tuscon with a line referencing how hot and dry it was.

When we finally got to go to the airport landing area, we climbed aboard a vintage 1957 airplane to film our scene of disembarking the plane with the film's title character, Temple Grandin, who was played by Claire Danes. Claire climbed slowly up the steps to the airplane. She took her spot and asked where I'd be standing as we exited. She & I talked about how flying seemed much more glamorous back in the 1960s compared to how grueling and unglamorous air travel is today. Claire has gorgeous eyes in person. She is very willowy. One can't help but want to hug her and offer her a hearty meal upon seeing her.

After a rehearsal of the scene, the director decided that he wanted me to stand at the bottom of the airplane steps and say goodbye to the passengers as they left. We shot the scene about fifteen times from different angles and with different cameras, pausing a few times to wait out short rain showers. At one point during all of this, I heard a voice behind me call out, " Dear, your slip is showing." I turned and said, "Thanks for telling me, but why are you looking at my slip?" to none other than Catherine O'Hara. She replied, "I gotta stare at something between takes." Then she called a wardrobe lady over to help me fix the slip. Catherine O'Hara is strikingly beautiful in person. She seemed very nice and good-natured, hanging out with the extras between takes.

We finally wrapped our scene around 3:00 PM and headed back to base camp/the tent to change out of our costumes and hand in our pay vouchers. When I gave my costume back to the wardrobe lady, she smiled and asked if I knew I was singled out to be the flight attendant. I said yes and explained about the concern over the dress not fitting. She told me I looked perfect and that I got a lot of attention from the crew. *blush* Then she congratulated me for doing such a great job. Her very complimentary gushing was the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae on that rainy Wednesday.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Housewife/Actress Needs Vacation

I've been busy. The past few weeks have seen me at auditions, acting workshops, working as an extra, acting in a film director's workshop for the University of Texas and then filming that scene, doing the usual housework/chores and trying to make it to the gym three times a week for 90-minute sessions. The next few weeks of my calendar hold more of the same.

I'm tired. I want to go away to a nice hotel somewhere quiet for a few days (maybe weeks) where I'll sleep a lot and read some books. While I'm gone, I'd like for a professional handyman (or handywoman) to patch the sagging trim work around the carport steps, replace the carport door, repaint all the exterior doors and shutters from black to "blackberry jam", install an electric dishwasher, build custom cabinetry and drawers in the kitchen to replace the 55 year-old cabinets and drawers that will be damaged when the electric dishwasher gets installed, replace the columns around the front porch & carport, repair all the cracked concrete in the carport and repair the rotting wood trim on the corner of the carport roof. While I'm gone I'd also like for a professional landscaper to level the yard (front and back), design and install an irrigation system, plant lots of pretty native/drought-tolerant plants, artfully place some big boulders along the front and busy-street sides of the yard and build a raised bed in the back for my veggies that are outgrowing their pots.

Just call me when it's all done, and (maybe) I'll be ready to return home. Thanks!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Night Lights, Take 2

I worked as an extra again yesterday for "Friday Night Lights". (I have got to watch that show this year!) Another lady and I got plucked from about twenty other extras to stand with actors who actually had lines at a scene featuring a real estate open house. I got to say a line too! It was, "No. Not yet." Exciting stuff!

Super-cute (but not as cute as my husband) actor, Kyle Chandler, said "hi" to me as we passed in the doorway to the open house. I've liked him ever since he was on "Early Edition".

After my scene was done, I had to clear out of the camera range, but was not allowed to leave yet. A nice crew lady gave me a folding chair that said "cast" on it. I got to sit in the room with the sound guys and watch the monitors of the different cameras. The sound guys even gave me a headset so I could hear what was happening on set. I felt like a real actor, and not just "background".

I think that FNL gets such good reviews from critics because the use of natural lighting whenever possible and the multiple camera views of each scene make the show look real, as if you're there. I also love that the scripts are somewhat loose on this show, allowing for a bit of adjustment for the situation and realism in the language.

Just before sunset, the director told us we were wrapped and sent us back to base camp in big, white shuttle vans. This second go-round on FNL was nicer than the first.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

But They're Real

I got a call today from an HBO production shooting in Austin. The Casting Directors liked my look and set aside my photos for consideration for a role as a 1950s era flight attendant. This is one of those phone calls actors dream of getting! And the movie stars
Claire Danes, who I've loved ever since she played Angela on "My So-called Life".

Anyway, I'm confirming some information for the casting lady over the phone which includes my clothing sizes. People in the 1950s were generally smaller than people today. My shortness is working for me, as are my small-ish feet. My pant size, dress size and shirt size are all fine for the vintage costume pieces. Then the casting lady asks my bust size, and I tell her. She says, "Really? Are you sure?" I confirm that I had a professional fitting for new bras recently (after all that weight loss) and that, yes, that's my bra size. She then says, "I think that takes you out of the running." I'm crestfallen and watching my role as a 1950s flight attendant slip away. I blurt out, "but they're real. It's not like they're crazy implants. I can mash them down with some ace bandages or something." The casting lady goes on to say that she's sure they'll have something else for me, and that they'll be in town shooting until Thanksgiving. Don't call us, we'll call you, and all that.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

I Love Facebook

acting workshop teacher wrote a scene last week called "I Hate Facebook". After the scene was performed to a warm response with lots of laughter, our teacher informed us that he actually deleted his Facebook account last week, because he hated it so much. He went on to say that he loved MySpace, but that hardly anyone but seven-year-olds use that site anymore. He & I will have to agree to disagree. I love Facebook, and hated MySpace. I was a slow adopter to online social networking, only joining Facebook about a year ago. I had my doubts early in the game, and scoffed at people who had hundreds of "friends" on Facebook. However, I love reading my friends' status updates, viewing their photos and following links they post. It's a fun way to stay in touch with people. Then when I see one of my friends in person, I can ask about the audition they aced, or the ailment they suffered, or the vacation they took, etc...

I just read this great article in the New York Times Magazine from Sept 7 about how people can totally digitally know each other via Facebook and twitter. Read it for yourself and we can chat about it in person or online.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When We're Crazy-Rich

Chad and I have several shared verbal tics, one of which is to muse about things we'll do or have "when we're crazy-rich" as in, "when we're crazy-rich, I don't want a giant house, but it should have a big area for parties and two bedrooms with big closets and two bathrooms and solar panels on the roof and sun tunnel lighting in every room except the master bedroom, because when we're crazy-rich we'll sleep late everyday."
* happy sigh as I envision this house *

When we're crazy-rich we'll also have:
a long vacation touring England, Scotland & Ireland
a tiny apartment in Rome for extended stays -- Io amo Roma!
two kayaks and somewhere to store them
a Toyota FJ Cruiser to carry the kayaks to the lake -- Maybe there will be a more eco-conscious version of this vehicle by the time we're, you know, crazy-rich.

When we're crazy-rich, we'll continue to donate money to the following, but on a crazy-rich scale:
Capital Area Food Bank of Texas
Caritas of Austin

Thursday, September 18, 2008

That's Me Right Behind the Stars

Last Tuesday when I was on the set of
the movie that's probably going to be a Lifetime movie, but not definitely, the extras casting lady pulled me aside and said the director wanted to be sure I'd be back for a scene shooting later that night. The very nice casting lady could have been pulling my leg, or maybe the director said something like, "ask that girl in the yellow top to be sure and come back tonight." I'll never know.

Later that night I did go back for another scene. I was delighted when the first assistant director (AD for short), a sweetly efficient teddy-bear of a man, pulled me and another actress out of the bunch and positioned us directly in front of the camera. He and the director had us scoot up a few inches, back a few inches, look this way, look that way, and then they dropped little sandbag Xs at our feet to mark the spots where we stood. Then we were dismissed so that the principal actresses could step into their shot. I simply served as a stand-in for lighting purposes. Ouch.

Fortunately, I returned for two more scenes later where I was very likely recognizable in the shots. Yay.

Last night, I went back for yet another scene, set in a small-town Texas roadhouse. The first few shots, I doubt that my own mom could pick me out of the crowd. The third shot (third time's a charm!) I was getting a crash course in the Texas-Two-Step dance when the teddy-bear of a first AD, asked if he could borrow me for a moment. I gladly agreed to get away from my overzealous dance partner, even if it meant I was a stand-in again. Imagine my delight when I was seated directly behind the main actors for the pivotal dramatic scene in the movie! Why yes, that's me reacting to the big news that actor C. Thomas Howell reveals! *Remember no spoilers here. You have to watch the movie when it comes out.* Yay! Oh, and that's also the back of my head in the final scene where all the principal characters are lined up at the bar.

In my humble opinion, C. Thomas Howell is a super-nice, super-funny guy. He was juggling billiard balls and cracking jokes between takes for our amusement. During a scripted scuffle with another actor, CTH was very respectful of the other actor, making sure that he was comfortable with the staged shoving.

Last night's schedule didn't see me hit the hay until 4:00 AM, but it was worth the missed sleep.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

That Movie I'm Working On

It turns out that the movie for which I'm doing a few scenes may not be for Lifetime after all. I got this update from the casting director today:

"Please Note: This project is not being made by Lifetime. It is an independent feature that will be presented to Lifetime by a Director who has had other films picked up by Lifetime."

Drats! This movie better get picked up by Lifetime. It's part of my five-year career path to be in a Lifetime movie. Whatever will I do if I have to deviate from my (totally random) five-year plan due to circumstances that are beyond my control? (She typed sarcastically.) But, seriously, it would be cool to be in a Lifetime movie.

I won't be posting any spoilers here, but the movie is looking great from what I've seen on set. Totally Lifetime worthy. Maybe even a little too good for Lifetime.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yes, That's Me in the Lifetime Movie!

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of hearing Bonnie Orr, an Austin screenwriter and producer, speak at a Network Austin Film Mixer. Among many interesting stories, she shared her latest project with us, a movie she wrote for Lifetime network. Though I hate to admit it to most people, I love me some Lifetime movies once in a while. My favorite Lifetime movie ever has to be Tori Spelling's "Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?" about a deranged stalker boyfriend and a brave mother who helps her daughter (played by Tori) break free from her oppressor.

While Tori Spelling is not in Bonnie's new movie, the movie is filming about an hour down the road from Austin, and is making good use of local talent. I got to work as an extra yesterday. First I sat in a library doing research at a computer. Which meant that I had one web page open checking emails and chatting with friends between takes, and then switched to another web page about British Royalty history when the camera was rolling to make my "research" look legit. The Lockhart, Texas library that we filmed in yesterday was beautiful with hardwood floors, stained-glass windows and tin-tile ceilings. Everyone on the set was super-nice, with the notable exception of one ego-driven rude person who earned themselves an equally rude nickname. I swear I am not responsible for the nickname, as I try to remain professional and polite on set. I recognized several people from that indie movie I worked on this summer, and I knew two other actors from my acting workshop. I'll be going back a few times over the next two weeks for other scenes. I even get to cry on camera in some upcoming scenes. Yay! My superpower is crying on cue. When it comes to acting, for me crying is easy, but laughing believably when there's nothing funny is difficult. Try it now, wherever you are, laugh really loud. See? It's difficult. And if you're at work or out in public, you're probably getting funny looks now. Ha ha.

I'll post a link when the movie comes out. Maybe I'll even have a little viewing party. We can play "spot Jenn's elbow" and "where's the back of Jenn's head" as we watch.

Chain Letter Brings Books!

A few weeks ago I received a chain letter from my pal Kristen in Tennessee. I groaned and thought, "I don't have time for this nonsense." When I read the letter and handwritten post-it note, I realized that this was not the typical bad-luck-befalls-any-who-break-the-chain kind of chain letter, but an informal book club chain letter. I sent one book to the person listed on the back of my letter. Then I sent the letter on to six people with Kristen's name and address on the back of their letters, and so on.
I have already received two books! Neither of which I've read, and both of which look very good! Thanks, fellow bibliophiles!

Janie's Fall Wardrobe

Janie models her new daisies on an orange background collar for fall. Who's a sweet, pretty girl? Janie is!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Smells Like Fall

This morning Janie and Sonic wanted to hover in the doorway rather than committing to going outside or staying inside, so I turned off the AC and left the back door open. I'm a permissive pet-mom in that way (and in many other ways).

As I sat on the deck with my morning Diet Coke under the shade umbrella, there was a light breeze. It was pleasantly sunny, as opposed to the burn-your-retina sunniness of most summer days. The air felt cool, even by 10:30 AM. That's when it hit me, the smell of fall. It was in the air for just a few minutes. Oh reverie! Fall air!

Then some big truck went bumping along that busy, numbered street we live next to, and I smelled truck exhaust.

I highly anticipate the real start of fall, when that clean, leafy smell invades the air more constantly.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another Reason I Love Half Price Books

Most trips to the Half Price Books store on North Lamar Blvd at Koenig yield gems such as vintage Nancy Drew books, reduced price chick-lit books, quirky stationary or cash. (I sell our old video games, books, DVDs and CDs there.)

Yesterday l
ow blood-sugar, allergies and ennui collided to render me uselessly cranky. I went to Half Price Books as a pick-me-up treasure hunt. After wandering the store and striking out in the Nancy Drew search, angels sang and a light shone upon me when I spotted Party Girl on the DVD rack. This movie stars the lovely and talented Parker Posey as world-weary party girl looking for her purpose and finding it in the library! This DVD is no longer manufactured and hard to find. I nearly wore out the videotape of this movie. When Chad & I (finally) made the switch to DVD only player (no more VHS) last year, my tape of Party Girl was no longer relevant. But I kept it, because I love the movie so much. Party Girl is my movie-woobie, like Linus' blanket or Lucy's duck, I need this movie near me. And now I have it in DVD form.

Thank you, Half Price Books. Thank you, Hollywood Video for going out of business and selling your library of movies to Half Price Books.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who Wants a Cuddly Kitten?!

My fellow animal-lover and acting pal, Tracy, rescued four sweet cuddly kittens and their mama-cat from a raccoon attack. (Bad raccoon!) Tracy is keeping the mama-cat, but would like to find great homes for the babies. She says,
"They are very sweet, friendly, playful and loving . They get along great with other cats. Not sure how they react to dogs. They are 10 weeks old. They are fully weaned and eat Kitten Chow and Canned Food. Litter box trained. They are wormed and de-flea’d and ready to find loving, happy homes."
Let me know if you'd like Tracy's phone number to set up a kitten meeting. She has three boys (two gray-black puffballs and one orange striper) and one girl (a tortoise shell beauty).

If Chad and I weren't already housing three cats and a dog, I'd take one or two of these cuties, but we have a delicate balance in the fuzzy department right now. One more cuddle-monster might tip the scales in favor of the wild kingdom and send the fur flying.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Top 5 Reasons I Yearn for October

1. The cooler weather. Recent sub-100-degree days have offered an enticing preview of fall.

2. More willingness on my part to go outside, so I can repaint the trim that the previous owners of this house chose not to finish painting. It's on the roof peak. I spotted the incomplete paint job when I was watering our neighbors' plants back a few months ago. It's been bugging me ever since. I also want to repaint the shutters and doors from black to purple. Yep, purple. The paint color's proper name is "blackberry jam".

3. Gardening season! That dustbowl of a front yard is going to get a major overhaul and another baby tree. The baby tree we have out there now is lonely.

4. My birthday. The one day out of my year when tater tots and cupcakes are an acceptable meal.

5. The BYOP party! It's gonna be fun! I love carving jack-o-lanterns! Save the date of Saturday, October 25.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

Yesterday I joined the ranks of many other central Texans who have served as extras on the television series Friday Night Lights. Set in the small fictional town of Dillon, Texas, the show revolves around high school football. I have never watched it. But yesterday I dined at the Dillon country club (actually Green Pastures Restaurant here in Austin) at the table next to the Garrity (football booster dad and head cheerleader daughter) clan and their guests. Janine Turner (of Northern Exposure fame) played a trophy-wife to some dude I didn't recognize.

I've often reported that I prefer the thrill of performing live to the hurry-up-and-wait repetition of film. The physical rush of acting on stage sometimes feels like my heart might jump out of my chest and I might pass out, which can be unpleasant at first, but feels invigorating once I find my rhythm and remember my lines.

Last weekend when I was serving as background scenery for my friends' sitcom pilot, I had fun. Between scenes I chatted with my pals and met some new people that were friends of friends. The sitcom guys were very gracious and said "thanks for being here" many times. In contrast, I didn't know anyone on the set of Friday Night Lights. The FNL crew mostly seemed annoyed at having to talk to us, rather than thanking us.

Yesterday started on a pleasant-enough note with the wardrobe lady liking my dress and the makeup lady complimenting my expert ability to apply liquid eye-liner. My car was chosen to be parked in the lot at the "Dillon country club" for which I was paid an extra $10/the equivalent of two-and-a-half gallons of gas.

Once we got to the restaurant, the boredom began. All of the extras had to wait in a small, stuffy room while the crew finished setting up the main dining room. Yawn. After 20 minutes we were herded in cattle-style and shown to our seats. I confess that I took a certain seat at my table on purpose by telling a man that "we should sit boy-girl-boy-girl" when I really wanted to sit facing out into the main dining room. My calculated move paid off as I watched the principal actors file in later and sit directly in my line of sight at the next table. For three hours, the other extras and I pantomimed conversations and pretended to eat. There are NO sounds allowed when the camera is rolling except for the main actors delivering lines. We had to be very careful to avoid clinking noises from glasses or silverware. The food had to be re-plated and picked up after every scene to be delivered again later, so we could NOT eat anything but little nibbles of our dinner rolls. My table mates were all talkative attention-mongers (actors, sheesh!) while I preferred to sit quietly between takes as directors and crew members walked around telling us to stay quiet and making the shhhh! sound/gesture. All the shhhhh-ing sounded like air rushing out of giant tires.

After the film crew shot each scene they needed from five different viewpoints, the crew and principal actors were whisked away in waiting vans. The other extras and I had to sit semi-quietly for thirty minutes and wait for the dust to settle before we were allowed to return to the casting office to sign-out and hand over our pay vouchers. Watching a show get made takes the glamor out of show business.

Maybe this season I'll actually watch Friday Night Lights so I can point to the teal out-of-focus blob at the Dillon country club and exclaim, "That's me!", but I hope I'll have better things to do.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

One Step Closer to Dream Job

Regular readers (hi Grandma) and friends know that it is my dream-job to act as a sitcom-mom in a popular series for about five years, then maybe go off and do some Lifetime movies. Guess who was just cast as the mom for a sitcom pilot? ME! And it's a paid role. (Not that I act for the money, but money for work is a nice bonus/validation.)

Disclaimers: This sitcom may never see the light of day. If this sitcom gets picked up by a network, the network will likely recast all roles. If this sitcom does not get picked up by a network, it may be produced as a web series, or may just die quietly like so many sparks of creative-genius before it have.

I spent the past weekend working as a featured player (nice name for extra) on this same sitcom pilot. We filmed from midnight until sunrise at a restaurant after it closed each night. (Sound stages are awfully expensive. The owner of this restaurant is a mutual friend who let us use the place for free.) I know the writers of this sitcom, and think they are a great group of talented, smart, well-connected young guys who will go far. I am happy just to be a part of their dream. In turn, they are thankful for my willingness to give up a few nights of sleep to be background scenery (an extra) in the restaurant scenes for their pilot episode. One of these writers called me tonight to offer me the (paid!) role of the mom. Which means I'll be losing some sleep next weekend too for the nighttime filming.

Yay! I am so thankful for this great opportunity, and so thankful for the sense of encouragement that this role gives me in the grander scheme of things.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sing It, Sister!

Last week as I was out running errands, I looked ahead from my stopped position at a red light and saw a young woman standing on the concrete median between six lanes of traffic. She was NOT holding one of those sad signs begging for money. She had on earphones and was singing, or maybe lip-synching, and gesturing passionately. I assume that there was music coming through the earphones, but maybe not. Maybe there was just music in her head. Hopefully the music wasn't telling her to do bad things. I was at the red light long enough to see her finish a song, take a little bow with a flourish, and start another song. I totally stared at this really confident/kinda crazy girl as she performed. I didn't dare roll the window down to see if I could hear her actually emitting any sound, because I was a tiny bit scared. As my friend Jenny says, "don't mess with crazy, because crazy always wins."

Of course, maybe the girl at the intersection wasn't crazy. Maybe she lost a bet and had to perform to settle the score. Maybe she was getting paid to be out there, like the time I dressed up as Batgirl and walked around Sixth Street for that scavenger hunt. Maybe her performance was a homework assignment from her summer session of Psychology 301, like the time my Psychology professor instructed the class members to do something socially unacceptable, but not dangerous, and then write a one page paper about people's reactions. Hey... maybe it was for a Klondike Bar!

Friday, August 01, 2008

What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar?

This following is excerpted from an email from a pal I met at an acting workshop. Go to the Klondike website and vote for her video! Details:

"Recently I had the pleasure of working with my friend and colleague Q Manning to create the following spec commercial for a contest currently being hosted by the Klondike bar company. The piece in question stars myself and a 4'x4' Klondike bar monster (voiced by the lovely & talented John Gholson), and can be viewed here:

Jen Blair's Klondike Video

It is imperative (IMPERATIVE!!!) that you VOTE VOTE VOTE for us once you view the commercial, as a substantial cash reward hangs in the balance! The site requires one to "register" in order to vote, which is a bit of a pain in the @$$ (apologies for this)...nevertheless, your love, support, and good juju (in the form of a vote for "5 Klondike Bars") would be greatly appreciated :-)"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jaws of Life versus Jaws of Death!

Awwww, isn't Sonic sweet the way he hunkers-down next to St. Francis (patron saint of God's critters) in our backyard? Looks can be deceiving! Earlier today, as I went out to the deck to herd Sonic inside, I saw a tiny green tail dangling from Sonic's lips. I had to pry his mouth open while giving him a very gentle squeeze to liberate a tiny baby chameleon lizard. The lizard dropped to the deck and sat in a daze for a few seconds while I hauled our fourteen-pound Sonic-kitty inside. I watched out the window as the baby lizard shook off her brush with death and skittered away. Sonic stood by the back door and howled for fifteen minutes, wanting to get back out for a rematch. That's not a fair fight, little dude, not at all.

On a semi-related note, I've been tempted lately to give up on my vegetarian lifestyle and eat some meat. Almost every night the scent of grilled meat wafts over from some neighbor's house to my nose, causing visions of cheeseburgers to dance in my head. Last week, Chad was eating chicken tenders and I almost reached over to grab one. But today I saw a dead pigeon and suddenly meat is not at all appetizing anymore. Problem solved.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Craft Club!

It's been a while since my craft club last met, but that lull gave me time to finally finish our last project. I made these cute quilted coasters. The Amy Butler fabric is leftover from my quilt class project. The fabric and the quilt class were courtesy of Craft-o-rama.

Make your own quilted coasters with this link to the Martha Stewart website.

Janie + Kenji = Furry Friends

Kenji, our scrappy Siamese-mix kitty loves her Janie-dog. Kenji is very at ease with Janie, and likes to relax in the same area with Janie. This despite the fact that Kenji weighs nine pounds and Janie weighs a healthy forty-six pounds.

Our other two cats will walk near Janie and like to sniff Janie when she's sleeping, but they don't hang out with Janie the way Kenji does.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What Chad Does at Work

(Click the triangle to play the video.) The part of Chad is being played by the designer guy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Old Enough to Know Better, Young Enough to Not Care

My weekend was delightfully busy. I'm worn out from fun. Saturday after a few chores, I went to book club, and later raced over to West Campus to be an extra for a movie. I don't want to jinx anything, but the movie is feature-length and the crew is very professional and well-organized, so maybe the movie will get released and maybe my parts will make it into the final cut. I was part of a kickball team on Tuesday for this movie, and part of several party scenes for this movie Saturday night. My fellow-actors Saturday night ranged in age from 16 to 24. I did my best to blend in and not call attention to my advanced age. I wore a cute shirt from Alloy (one of those clothing catalogs aimed at teenage-girls) that the wardrobe person loved.

I let my extra/actor cohorts do most of the talking between takes on the movie set. I smiled and nodded and said "cool" and "awesome" to their cute, naive chatter. It was refreshing to hang out with the youngsters. I even got invited to a college party at the 21st Street Coop. Around 2:00 AM, one of the teenage girls had to call her mom to check-in and assure her mom that she was still safely on the movie set, and that no one was consuming alcohol. (No one was. The insurance policy for the film cast and crew doesn't allow any alcohol consumption. See? Very professional group.) One of the kids I had been talking to was a 22-year-old bartender for Chuy's and he started discussing fake IDs and policies regarding age and alcohol. Then he asked how old everyone was. I tried to shirk the question, but he was dogged about finding out my age. I finally confessed, "I'm 35." This was met with audible gasps and "no way"s. The group consensus was that they thought I was older, like 23 or 24, but had no idea I was 35. "You just blew my mind," said the 20-year-old who had been hitting on me earlier.

Thank you, teenage-girl clothing catalogs. Thank you, dim lighting. Thank you, sunscreen. Thank you, Monica at Maximum FX, for my youthful and flattering haircut. And thanks especially to my sweet husband who puts up with my youthful shenanigans, such as staying out half the night dancing in West Campus to be an extra in a movie.

Sunday was busy too with fun potluck brunch plans, an audition that went well, a trip to Deep Eddy Pool, a call to the AC service people (ugh), and lots of hand-watering of wilting plants.

Hooray (and thank goodness) for my lazy Monday.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

5 Things I'm Loving Lately

1. The Mediterranean Mezza Salad from Central Market, although I pick off the dolmas (stinky, blech) and black olives (also stinky, blech). Is it weird to have a crush on a salad?

2. Matt & Nat Purses and Wallets, no animals harmed in the making of these fashionable accessories. My latest acquisition is being delivered soon!

3. Carolina Liar's song I'm Not Over, every time this song comes on the radio I turn up the volume and rock-out like the doofus I am.

4. Wearing a size 6. Yes, I've met my goal of breathing room in a size 6. Just 3 more pounds to hit my goal weight.

5. Buffalo Exchange for giving new life to my now-too-big clothes and giving me some spending money.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

We're No Winos

Elsa with her daughters on the terrace at Villa San Andrea

Me in the nice, cool wine cellar at Villa San Andrea

Chad and I are not fine wine connoisseurs. Most wines just taste yucky to me, grape juice gone bad, except for the white sparkling variety such as champagne or prosecco, but even then I prefer my bubbly on the sweet/asti side. Chad likes some reds reasonably well, but he can't name a region or varietal or vintage preference. So why would we pay to go on a tour of two wineries in the Tuscan hills outside of Florence? Because we wanted to see the Tuscan countryside and get away from the bustle and shuffle of Florence. As the tour van wound through some parkland and hills, Florence looked more scenic from a distance.

Our first stop was Villa San Andrea. The lush landscape of the place sprawled gorgeously across 1300 acres. The old houses, church and wine cellar oozed charm. The air was so fresh and fragrant with lavender blossoms, that it almost tasted of relaxation. The various wines fermented in giant old oak barrels housed in a pleasantly cool subterranean chamber. I even liked some of the wines we tasted. When people speak of Tuscany, this is the happy place that my brain will reference. Aaaahhh...

A little too soon (I could have spent a week Villa San Andrea), we were off to our lunch destination down a dusty, bumpy, narrow dirt road. Our fearless tour leader, Elsa, assured us that the food would be well-worth the journey. Elsa never steered us wrong. The restaurant spilled out of a tiny old house to giant picnic tables under shady, vine-covered pergolas. I never thought I'd pine for pickled purple onions, but they were delicious! The roasted garlic was smooth and non-stinky, the perfect companion to the rustic bread and fresh tomatoes. The fresh-made fettuccine with walnut sauce made my eyes roll back. I said, "mmmmmmm" aloud as I tried the ricotta-filled ravioli with white truffle shavings. The big Tuscan broad beans with olive oil and sea-salt were simple, but scrumptious. All the above were vegetarian dishes, like me. You'll have to ask Chad how the meaty stuff was. Elsa told us that she waits for this meal all year. (She only visits the Florence/Tuscan region once a year.)

Our next stop was the Panzanello Winery. While the land for this winery dated back to the same family for over 400 years, the buildings were all new and had that new smell. I should disclose that I loathe new-house-smell and new-car-smell. That's why my house is old and my cars are always previously-owned. So I was a bit dissatisfied by the scent/bouquet of this winery from the get-go. The wine here doesn't soak in the giant old oak barrels. The wine here soaks in new, small barrels for just a few weeks. It also doesn't age as long in the bottle before shipping out to market. None of the wine here tasted good to my less-than-refined palette. However, the owners of the place were super-nice and the winery is a recognized organic farm. Don't let my opinion prevent you from buying their wine.

That was our last day in Italy. The next morning, we were at the Florence airport bright and early for our flight out. We got delayed in Frankfurt for an hour by an organized labor union slow-down, which isn't a full strike, but shows how the airport could quickly come to a stand-still should a full strike occur. Those uber-efficient Germans got it all out of their system and got the show on the road after just an hour! Eight hours later, we landed in Washington D.C. to find our next flight delayed by three hours. By the time we finally pulled into our driveway in Austin, we'd been awake for twenty-six hours. Yikes.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Florence/Firenze: Not My Favorite

On June 21, we departed lovely Positano with a collective wistful sigh. We spent six hours on the mini-bus with two stops at foul Autogrill locations along the way to arrive in Florence.

Our first stop was to check into the Jolly Hotel Carlton. Our awesome tour guide told us that the hotel was a four-star establishment, and that due to a fashion week event in Florence, it was the only semi-nice hotel with available rooms. Unfortunately, we caught the hotel in the midst of a major renovation. Chad and I were the only people out of the six-room-booking for the group that had both a functional air conditioner and hot water. However, our room was not yet renovated and still retained the old stained carpet, peeling wallpaper and leaking shower door. We opted to keep the room despite the flaws since there weren't any better options. Our awesome tour guide apologized profusely and swore that she'll never book rooms there again. The staff at the hotel did their best to hide from guests. When we could find them, they were reluctant to help us with anything from buying museum tickets, to giving directions, to taking our order in the restaurant for lunch. I'd be demoralized too if I worked there.

Anyway, after an hour to drop bags, grab a bite and take care of business, we met a local tour guide to see Florence. I'm sad to opine that Florence is overrun with mouth-breathing tourists. I don't think of Chad and myself as mouth-breathers, unless we're having bad allergies, but we were adding ourselves to the hot, sweaty, shuffling, teeming mass of tourists.

Florence feels like the wannabe, tacky cousin to Rome. Frankly I was disappointed when I saw all the "great art of Florence" in person. The scale on the various parts of the David statue are all wrong. I know that the figure of David is meant to be viewed from below with the statue up on a high pedestal, and that Michelangelo was reportedly trying to trick the eye with the weird proportions of David, but it just doesn't work. Yo, David, what's up with your giant hands and little body? Botticelli's Venus looked faded and crackly in person. I thought that the colors would be breathtakingly vibrant in this Venus painting, and maybe they once were, but have faded with time. The Duomo, with three different colors of marble on the overly wrought exterior looks a tad tacky and filthy from Florence's polluted air.

If Florence was a movie based on a book, I'd warn you to read the book, but to save your time and money, and skip the movie. By all means, study the art history and look at the lovely renditions in the history books, but skip the trip to Florence. The city is dirty, crowded and sad.

BUT, the Tuscan countryside outside of Florence was enchanting. More on that in the next post.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Positano - Positively Gorgeous

On June 18, we bid farewell to Rome, taking advantage of one last yummy, free hotel breakfast with the great cappuccino. The three-hour bus ride from Rome to Positano featured a stop at Autogrill. Autogrill, Europe's answer to Stuckey's (minus the charm), delivers dirty bathrooms with no seats on the toilets and $4.00 (in American money) Coca-Cola Lights (also known as Diet Cokes in America). Flat stretches of highway between Rome and Naples were punctuated by occasional hilly villages with pretty old buildings and one modern shopping mall. Naples (the city of Chad's birth) spilled over with many tall apartment buildings for as far as the eye could see. Then the terrain took on a hilly, curvy nature with narrow lanes and switchbacks. Hello, motion sickness! We started to see the Tyrrhenian Sea and lovely, ancient cottages stacked into the hillsides, blanketed by Bougainvilleas and other lush flowers and greenery. I forgot about my motion sickness, distracted by the beauty.

Hello Positano! Hello great hotel on the beach with lovely views and a private balcony for each room. Hello free welcome drink. Hello beach. Hello yummy pizza and gelato just downstairs. Yes, let's stay a few days.

On June 19 we ventured out on the tour bus to see a few sites: La Basilica del Crocisisso of Amalfi - a grandly adorned church, Gardens of Villa Cimbrone in Ravello - breathtaking views well worth the steep hike, and Pompeii. Honestly, I could have skipped Pompeii. It was hot and dusty. The same lava dust that buried everything, and possibly contributed to the suffocation of Pompeii's former residents, left a fine layer on me that day. Our tour guide (not our beloved Elsa, but a local guy) was a pompous jerk. The presence of lead pipes carrying water around Pompeii and the keystone arch architecture were impressive feats of technology for that time in history, but the "art" featured advertisements and bawdy scenes of erotica -- kind of like media today. Yes, very advanced civilization. Did I mention the heat and dust? We ran straight to the beach after our field trip to dunk in the cool sea water.

The Amalfi Coast region is known for its lemons, which vary in size from softball-sized to cantaloupe-sized. With this abundance of lemons, the locals cook up a strongly potent alcoholic beverage called limoncello. They package it in cute bottles and sell it as souvenirs. We tried limoncello one evening after dinner. Syrup-sweetness, tartness and high alcohol content yielded involuntary pucker-faces from both of us.

June 20, our last full day in Positano, Chad and I skipped the planned ferry trip to Capri in favor of enjoying the beach and the beauty that Positano offered. Aaaahhh... relaxing and refreshing.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Io amo Roma! (I love Rome!)

Rome radiates busy, beautiful, happy city vibes. The residents are, for the most part, very well dressed and stylish as they weave in and out of traffic on their scooters or in their tiny hatchback cars. The only thing about Rome that detracted from the ambient loveliness was the presence of way too many pushy street-vendors. As we stood at the Trevi Fountain, vendors buzzed about like aggressive bees trying to sell me roses, plastic dolls, fake Prada bags, photo-taking services, weird flying toys, cheap scarves and tacky posters. My mantra was, "no grazie" along with a shake of the head. These vendors sent their cousins over to the Coliseum and the Spanish Steps too. I wanted to soak in the beauty and history of these sites, but was distracted.

On Monday, June 16, Chad and I woke from a long night of good sleep for yummy, free hotel breakfast of rolls, cheese, fruit and the best cappuccino I've ever had the pleasure of drinking. Then we were off to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. Guess what? No vendors! The Pope does not allow that foolishness! The Vatican Museum is like a crazy hodge-podge of antiquities with no clear rhyme or reason to the collections. The Sistine Chapel lives up to its reputation for sheer volume of painted surfaces and beauty. (If you've never seen the movie The Agony and the Ecstasy, I urge you to view it.) But my favorite thing in the Vatican City was St. Peter's Basilica. My description of the architecture, sculptures, mosaics and awe-inspiring aura simply can't do it justice, so I won't try.

Chad & I were both battling sensory overload after Vatican City, so we scurried back out the gates to Rome-proper and found a little sidewalk cafe for lunch. My margherita pizza was fine, but I expected big basil leaves and freshly sliced tomatoes, what I got was more like a school cafeteria pizza. Maybe lunch-lady Doris studied her pizza skills in Rome?

On Tuesday, June 17, we had a free day and chose to go to the Capuchin Crypt. We read about this place is Esquire magazine, and as luck would have it, the crypt was half a block from our hotel. When the Cappuccini monks ran out room in the burial chambers, they took the old skeletons and made elaborate decorations all over the walls and ceilings with bone fragments. The effect was both beautiful and chilling. The inscription on the floor in the last chamber reads "What you are, we were. What we are, you will be." After the Capuchin Crypt, the visit to the catacombs later in the day was anti-climatic.

Like all good tourists, Chad and I went to the Mouth of Truth and snapped photos of each other sticking our hands in the mouth. We both still have our hands, so I guess we're pretty honest.

Tune in tomorrow for tales from Positano and the Amalfi Coast region.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Roman Holiday Starts

June 14 and 15 marked my first trans-Atlantic flight. We flew through the night on Lufthansa to get to Italy. The sun was up the whole time, but the flight attendants had passengers close the window shades to create darkness for those who wanted to sleep. I think I got about 45 minutes of fitful sleep over the nine hours it took to get to Munich. The Munich airport had nice, modern architecture. The German passport control agents were very friendly. One joked that we should skip our flight to Italy and vacation in Germany instead. Next time, maybe.

On the flight from Munich to Rome, as I walked through the first-class section of the plane on my way to the cattle pen, I mean economy section, I saw Kristen Bell (star of Veronica Mars - one of my favorite TV shows and recent co-star of the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Dax Shepard on our flight. They were arguing about Kristen's need for salad and Dax's insensitivity to her need for salad. Apparently, Kristen and Dax were on their way to Rome to shoot a movie titled "When in Rome". After our flight landed in Rome, Chad and I stood right by Kristen and Dax on the shuttle bus from the plane to the airport. Kristen and Dax were very quiet and clinging to each other, probably scared that someone would recognize them and try to chat. I played it cool and only talked to Chad, barely looking their way at all.

Chad and I spotted lots of errant luggage on the ground in Rome. The Rome airport was chaotic. No one asked to see our passport. No one checked our bags. When Chad and I were in the Cancun airport three years ago, they had better security than the Rome airport.

Rome itself was lovely and amazing though. After twenty hours with little sleep, we barely had time to check into the hotel before we had to meet a tour guide to see the Monuments of Rome: The Coliseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and other historic spots.

Click here to check out our Italy photos on

Check back tomorrow for tales from the next two days of our trip.


Yesterday one of my friends and fellow-actors passed away at his day-job workplace from a massive heart attack. Phil K. played my husband in two shows during the 2007 dinner theater season. I've been in many other shows with him since 2002. He was a talented actor, a creative writer and an accomplished director. He was too young for this ending. In my jet-lagged and sleep-deprived state, I am stunned at this news.

Friends, do something for me this week: I want all of you to eat healthy, get plenty of rest and exercise. Take care of yourselves, because I want you around for a long time.

On a happier note, Italy news and photos coming this evening.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

No Place Like Home

After ten crazy days touring Italy, we are home. I'll be sharing much more about the trip soon, but after twenty-six sleepless hours of travel, I'm just so thankful and glad to be home!

Top 10 Things I Missed Most While Away:
our three funny cats, now clinging to me & Chad like purring Velcro
our sweet dog, now freshly bathed and home from Camp Four Paws
100% cotton bedding that is starch-free
the giant tankards of iced tea from the drive-thru
my own fridge full of cold drinks
my full-size bottles of grooming products
our washer and dryer (which I'll be spending much time with in the coming days)
our friends (who I can't wait to see)
my friends' blogs (of which I can't wait to catch up on the reading)
my gym, because stomping around cobblestone streets and lava road just isn't the same

More about the trip soon...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Friend-Making Machine

I got the following email with the subject line "Friend-Making Machine" from Chad this morning:

"I went through the Emerald City Press drive-though to check it out today. The girl that came out to take my order was happy to see Janie. And then when I paid for my order, I got a complementary doggy snack for "the puppy." They squealed with glee when she ate her treat, then we drove off."

Our dog, Janie, is a sweet, mellow girl. She's very popular at Chad's work. (He works at a place that allows employees to bring their well-mannered dogs to work.)

Later today I talked to Chad on the phone. A coworker sent a note out mid-morning that some dog left a oops-poop behind a plant under the stairwell. Chad went to investigate. He figured out that Janie was the only dog in that area at that time, so by process of elimination (pun intended) the poop must be hers. Chad cleaned up the mess. This is the first time that Janie pooped inside since we adopted her. It was probably an emergency, and with no thumbs to open the door for herself to go outside, the plant looked like the next best option.

Even popular kids mess up sometimes. Luckily Janie has forgiving parents (and coworkers) willing to clean up her messes.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Bought Swimsuits, Didn't Cry!

Men may not be able to relate to this post.

Ladies, I know you can relate/commiserate/empathize. Swimsuit shopping is hard. Bad lighting, partial nudity and full length mirrors can dent even the sturdiest of self-esteems. Typically, swimsuit shopping leaves me wanting to curl up into fetal position and cry for a few days in a quiet, dark corner. Okay, I exaggerate, but I usually leave without a new swimsuit, but with some new body image issues.

After losing thirty pounds and doing lots of regular exercise, I happily picked out two new swimsuits today. Yay! I am at peace with my shape and weight. The great selection and nice sales associate at Everything But Water helped the process for sure. And I wore cute three-inch-high heels while I tried on the suits. Hey, if it works for thousands of beauty pageant contestants, who am I to knock it?

I won't be posting any photos of myself in my new swimsuits. While I am at peace with my body, I'm not an exhibitionist or very good at Photoshop.