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My love/hate relationship with HGTV February 19, 2010

Posted by Emily in Blogs I read and like, design, rants.
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My name is Emily, and I’m a design addict.

My Google Reader is bursting with “homies” blogs and typography blogs and blogs with names like “Lovely Package” and “Happy Tape” (who knew cool tape – patterned, colored masking tape from Japan – could be so entertaining?) But none of it takes the place of flipping through a well-designed design magazine.

But where to go?

Domino, one of the greatest home design inspirations, closed down about a year ago.

Living Etc is a British decor magazine I love, but I can only, in good conscience, allow myself so many $8.50 issues every year.

I started subscribing to Country Living, and though it leans a bit more, well, country, than I’d like, it sort of holds me over. What Country Living lacks in cheekiness, my ReadyMade subscription more than makes up for. There’s twee urban hipsterness to spare, and sometimes interesting spaces, but it leans a bit too “look, I’m modern and eco friendly”  for my taste. Dwell is the same but even more.

The last two New York Times Habitat features have been so incredibly DULL, as Decorno and others have noted, that I find I’m throwing up my hands.

Honestly, outside of blogs and the occasional Living Etc droolfest, I get my best design fix from reading through my mom’s Better Homes and Gardens magazines.

And so we come to HGTV. Like Country Living and ReadyMade and so on, to some extent HGTV only factors in due to lack of better options. 95% of the houses they feature are blah beige suburban split levels with massive garages – not really my thing. And so few of the people featured have any sense of the possibilities of the house, what it could become. They want new, low maintenance, move-in ready. They pay way too much attention to paint color (which, I will admit, is atrocious when it’s not beige – lots of bubblegum pink bedrooms). And so their wishlists are eerily similar:

  • stainless steel appliances
  • “open plan living”
  • “room to entertain”
  • hardwood floors
  • if one of the few urban episodes, off-street parking
  • and most want a formal dining room

They tour the three houses, each of them saying “this must be the master” as they walk into the biggest room.  For some reason, most of the episodes seem to take place in Canada, so I’ll admit, there’s a little giggle value with the accents. On Property Virgins, pushy Sandra Rinomato guilt trips them into making swift decisions, as though their Canadian outposts have three houses, total, on the market. On My First Place, plenty seem to think their dads will mow their lawns (say wha?) and then they feign surprise when the house they buy gets one room kitted out with boring furniture and lame Target art on the walls.

Is this the best we can do? I remember thinking, back in the day when Trading Spaces didn’t suck, that most of these people didn’t have bad taste to work with – just no taste. Matching bedroom sets, sectional couches around massive TVs (and little else), no moldings or interesting features, berber carpet (or the ubiquitous new hardwood floors) and white or off-white paint, maybe with an awkward accent wall. It’s all such a snore. And somehow, also the American dream.

And am I solving that exasperation via HGTV? No. I’m still flipping on the TV after work some days and shaking my head at what HGTV usually has to offer. But I am looking out for some alternatives, and currently taking any suggestions you might be able to offer.

Whatever happened to Thanksgiving? November 9, 2008

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Montana, rants.
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Don’t get me wrong. I like Christmas as much as the next person, but I am starting to resent it.

For years, the Christmas decorations have been hiding out year round in the dark corners of WalMart, and maybe I am more likely to notice as I missed my last American holiday season, but Target, my beloved Target, has also started stretching the Christmas season into late summer and early fall. I know, we’re in a recession and stores are hurting and people love spending their minimal money on reindeer sweatshirts and singing, dancing Hula Santas, but there’s just one main problem with all of this.

This most American fascination with buy, buy, buy starts to eclipse the most American holiday―Thanksgiving.

And I miss Thanksgiving.

The idea of Thanksgiving is so different from what Christmas has become. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about slowing down, not racing around elbowing off other mothers intent upon buying this year’s version of Tickle Me Elmo.

Thanksgiving isn’t about wanting more. It’s about being grateful for what you have.

Thanksgiving is about eating and drinking and chatting and spending time with people you care about. There’s rarely any pressure to attend lame office parties, and I don’t know of anyone who feels a need to wear any theme jewelery for the occasion.

Thanksgiving is about celebrating fall, taking note of the crisp evenings and maybe a skiff of snow.

Thanksgiving is about traditions that weren’t created by Hallmark. And new friendships. And old cultural ties.

The morning after Thanksgiving, all bets are off and I understand that. It’s likely that I’ll be out early with my mom and sister, looking for good deals, avoiding any place where elbowing is taking place, and enjoying each other’s company, some breakfast, and the official emergence of the Christmas season. We’ll probably head out on our annual Christmas tree cutting excursion the next day.

But until then, I don’t want to see commercials about planning your Christmas meal. I don’t want to hear Christmas jingles when I go shopping for pumpkin pies. And I don’t care that KMart is offering layaway for people buying outside their means for Christmas.

I want to take things one holiday at a time. I am thankful for Thanksgiving, and I’d like to actually be able to appreciate it without being overwhelmed by all of the red and green.

Stuff White People Like: Unpaid Internships November 6, 2008

Posted by Emily in jobs schmobs, moving, rants, working.
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I had to giggle (and violently shake my fist) when a friend pointed out post #105 on the site Stuff White People Like: Unpaid Internships.

Over the course of my job search, I have been flabbergasted by the extent to which unpaid internships are offered as the main, and sometimes only, way to get started in a number of fields. Of course these internships are mostly 15-25 hours a week and often require a commute, making another full-time job a bit dicey, and are located in huge cities where rent and cost of living are high.

As the site says, “White people view the internship as their foot into the door to such high-profile low-paying career fields as journalism, film, politics, art, non-profits, and anything associated with a museum…If all goes according to plan, an internship will end with an offer of a job that pays $24,000 per year and will consist entirely of the same tasks they were recently doing for free.

Please add publishing to that list. I must be “the wrong kind of white person,” because I just can’t buy into the idea of competing to work for free.

Although I think I found the $25/week stipend for the internship at a famous art museum, with a job description which looked like this: Duration: January – June, 2009; a 6-month commitment expected. Average of 15+ hours per week, Monday through Friday plus evening and weekend special events as required.” even more insulting. 25 bucks? Really?

Read the entire post here.

The scary corners of the World Wide Web, my hometown, and beyond September 12, 2008

Posted by Emily in Montana, moving, rants, working.
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I’ll admit that my posts of late have been a bit on the lame side. (Well, hey, so has my life.) There’s only so much one can write about days that revolve around walking the dog, researching jobs online, spitting out a cover letter or two, and then letting the dog outside. And back inside. And back outside. Repeat.

Today when I went to buy beer, the checker asked me if I was was UNDER 40 YEARS OLD. Stunned and little hurt, I mumbled an “uh, yeah” and handed over my ID. It was a new low.

The mailman’s arrival is quite often the day’s highlight, and I have been receiving nothing but frequent flier notices and pushes to join my college alumni association, when I get anything at all. A friend said she sent me a postcard from Romania about a month ago. It still hasn’t arrived, and I am starting to doubt it ever will.

As for job searching, it’s not like I’m the only one out there who’s going, or has gone, through it. I realize that. But that doesn’t make it any less soul sucking. Between the unpaid internships and the pyramid schemes and the companies that specialize in lifelike duck decoys (I kid you not), there are a few respectable professional postings out there. Many of the secretarial positions seem to require 10 years of experience and/or a Masters degree (wha?) but others set the bar a little more within my reach. They generally require an online application that repeats your resume line by line, but that’s OK. At least then you get an automatically generated response saying they received your application materials and, if they like you, they’ll be in touch. Who knew job hunting was so much like dating?

Many of the job postings require you to include salary requirements with your cover letter. I realize this is fairly common practice, but it’s one that perplexes me. Aren’t they going to be (theoretically) writing the checks? Isn’t it sort of their job to make an offer, one I can take or negotiate or turn down or whatever? It’s like when teachers would ask you what grade you thought you deserved–I may not have said A+ but I never understood the kids who gave themselves Cs. Are they idiots? Or just self loathing? Content with mediocrity? Maybe just clueless.

But in this case, the teacher figure is tricky. Aim too high and you’re booted right off the bat. Aim too low and you’re basically giving yourself a C. It’s a mean ploy.

In trying to figure out the cost of living in five or six cities across the country, I have been scanning some of the Craig’s List “roommate wanted” listings. Again, there are some people who seem real and who seem like they could perhaps be normal people in a cohabitation scenario. But then there’s the guy who “lost his live-in girlfriend” and is thus seeking an open-minded 18-30 year old female to share his pad. 1 bedroom, 1 bath. Don’t worry, he wants to meet first to “establish trust and chemistry.” He posts a picture, in case I had any doubts. Yikes.

Actually, there are a lot of guys who post no pictures of the places they apparently live, just photos of themselves. Seriously. Messed. Up. This isn’t chemistry.com, people.

That’s the update I can give at the moment. I’m looking forward to heading to Missoula in about a week to attend a reunion for a student group of which I was a member. It’ll be nice to catch up with some friends I haven’t seen in a long time, and others I see more often but not enough. In the meantime, there are cover letters to be written and creepy roommate ads to be avoided.

Wish me luck.

Maybe I’ll become a professional kickboxer August 21, 2008

Posted by Emily in jobs schmobs, rants.
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A thought on the job search:

“I don’t want to buy anything, sell anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”

-Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) in “Say Anything”

Lovely Lisbon August 13, 2008

Posted by Emily in Andalucía, blog, photography, rants, teaching, Travel.
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This post has been long in coming, both for the typical blogger excuses as well as the fact that I have thought a lot, one might even say struggled a bit, to try and explain (even to myself) just why I enjoyed Portugal, especially Lisbon, as I did.

Part of it was timing. After a month of partying in Córdoba but not going anywhere, I was ready to break out. It had started to get hot, most of the other foreigners there had returned home while all of my Spanish friends were still working. There was also foot fetish weirdo in my elevator, but he can be considered little more than a footnote.

Arriving in Lisbon, I was pleasantly shocked by the hostel, a renovated mansion with hardwood floors and IKEA styling. (read my Everywhere magazine “place” blurb here). My room was on the top floor, with skylights, high ceilings, and small patios overlooking the river. For 20 euros, I felt like I was staying in some sort of resort (although I guess sleeping in a bunk bed and sharing a room with 9 strangers could pull the plug on that fantasy..I just went with it).

I walked all of two minutes up the hill to Noobai Café, where I experienced the first of many international menus, a real treat after living in the very Spanish south for so long. Although everyone told me Portugal isn’t as cheap as it used to be, it remains Western Europe’s bargain spot, cheap even as compared to Andalucía. If I wanted to, I could have eaten really cheaply (and well) throughout my stay, but instead chose the “more bang for my buck” approach, paying what I might normally but feeling like I was eating the best thing on the menu, over and over again. Back to the resort mentality.

For some contrast to the trendy Santa Catalina-Bairro Alto area, I spent the afternoon and evening wandering around the Alfama district, the only part of Lisbon spared from the 1755 earthquake that rocked the city. (get it?) Everyone was gearing up for the Festa do Santo António, hanging papier-mâché fish and colorful paper streamers as part of the celebration honoring Lisbon’s patron saint. It occurred the day I left Portugal, sadly, but I did catch a bit of the Festas de Lisboa while I was there. I capped off the night at A Tasco do Chico, a fado bar close to the hostel. After seeing Carlos Saura’s amazing film “Fados” at Córdoba’s Filmoteca, I had been really curious to hear the traditional Portugese music sung in person…and not at an overpriced, strictly for tourists place in the Alfama, either. Amateur night at A Tasco do Chico was perfect–one of many examples of old fashioned Lisbon mixing comfortably with Lisbon as Europe’s new hot spot. The people at the next table were eating traditional sausage, which is lit on fire at the table, while the singers were wearing sweatshirts and Members Only jackets. The young Portugese guy across the table from me was a fado fan, a genre so rooted in the past, but then spoke perfect English, was there with a friend from one of Portugal’s former colonies, and offered to translate for me as the songs were just beginning. (For a Spanish speaker, written Portugese is easy to understand, but seeing as how it has nine vowels and everything seems to have a strong “shhh” sound, it’s really difficult to understand spoken, and even worse sung.)

See the scene from the movie here:

The next couple of days were spent wandering, eating, and taking pictures at my own pace, enjoying the people watching and the perfect weather. I made the trek to Belém, as much for the famous pastéis de Belém pastries as for the Torre de Belém, a center of Portugese nautical pride that just happened to be all dolled up in what appeared to be a huge necklace, I assume for Santo António. I rode the Elevador de Santa Justa for the chance to see Lisbon’s terracotta colored roofs from a good vantage point. I whizzed through all of the ancient art at the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian museum in favor of some of the rugs and Arabic art on loan. I skipped the Convento do Carmo at the last minute, instead rooting through second hand book stores in a fruitless search to find English or Spanish books.

The next morning, the French giant FNAC offered a huge selection of English books, more than I had seen at one time in eight months or so, and then I made a pit stop at Swedish H&M without having to feel guilty for missing any key Lisbon spot in the meantime. One of the greatest parts about Lisbon is that it somehow all felt like it fit–from trendy boutiques and international menus to dusty old bookshops, tile front houses with laundry out to dry, and streetside stands selling bifana sandwiches. It managed to be one of the cities most stuck in time one minute and most up to date the next. How all of these people peacefully share Lisbon’s seven hills is really beyond me.

On my last night in town, I experienced the cool community feel of Bica, a pedestrian-only hill where students gather at night to chat and drink the 1 euro beers on offer from state fair-like stands along the way. One of the random Aussies I was with bought a veggie burger from a guy toting an Eliza Doolittle looking basket on his arm. After a little while in Bairro Alto, we took a taxi to the waterfront and hit some discos there, managing to get in despite inadequate footwear on my part.

One of the highlights among a number of highlight days: Quinta da Regaleira. Once again ditching the mainstays for something a little different, I passed up the most famous sites in Sintra, a charming, albeit touristy, city outside Lisbon in favor of the Quinta da Regaleira. As I wrote here, it was like something out of a fairy tale. Since I already wrote about the treasure hunt feel of tracking down sites A through X, I’ll just plan to post some photos in the next week or so. I’ve gone on long enough. Next up: Porto.