Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BREAKING NEWS (or: How I Found the Perfect Light Fixture in 2,000 Words or Less)

We interrupt this camping trip to bring you the following Special Report:

From the Decorating Division at Bizzyville HQ...Flash!...Almost exactly a year ago, long-time readers will recall my bedroom redecorating project and my well-documented obsession with painting pretty much everything charcoal. At that time, I repainted my bedroom, hung new drapes, and switched out the comforter set for a richer, more tone-on-tone effect (get me and the design terms). I stopped short of switching out the ceiling light fixture, however. The dreaded "boob light" has been an eyesore ever since offending my delicate (har!) design sensibilities with it's boobish, K-Martina-esque, cut-glass, brass studded elements (gag!). I posted back then of a plan to switch out that fixture in favor of something else from IKEA (Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh! [You have to sing it in your head to the tune of "The Siiiiiimp Soooooons!" Like me.] or something at least similar to the fixture at IKEA that I thought would be appropriate.

And then, like most of my projects, after days of hyperactive, frantic progress...nothing. La-la-la! Oh, I was offended now and then by the boob light. Okay...all the time, truth be told. And even though I would go so far as the occasional stroll through the light fixtures at Lowe's, or other local and regional (mostly) chain stores, I never saw anything that would work. Certainly nothing that thrilled me. And that's what I wanted: to be thrilled by my (reasonably priced) bedroom light fixture.

Is it SO much to ask?

If you're one of those lucky people reading this nestled in the comfy bosom (it's all about the boobs!) of a large urban area with a plethora of shops and stores to choose from, you probably cannot comprehend just how limited and sad the light fixture choices are in the backwater territory that is Paducah, Kentucky. Or for that matter, just how limited ANY design choices are in these parts. Especially if you're on a budget (like, say, myself). Down here, your choices are: Lowes, Wal-Mart, Home Despot. For serious excitement, we drive 45 miles to Target.

But that's about it.

And, yes, I can shop online. But that often gets expensive and then you get into shipping, and then what if one doesn't LIKE it, having never SEEN it...blah blah. This went on. And on.

And then.

And then!

I went to Atlanta. And we all know what's in Atlanta, right? That's right...


[Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh!]

Ya'll! Seriously! I could have PARKED MY SUBARU on that "K"! The place was H U G E beyond my wildest expectations. We could have fit super Wal-Mart in one corner and it would have no doubt cried like a little bitch in the face of the wonder. (To review, I don't get out much--certainly not much to the Big City. And hardly ever with my car in tow. And, obviously, NEVER EVER to IKEA [Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh!]).

Once in the door, and strolling through the endless, modern affordableness of it all, I was kind of crestfallen. We had only allotted a few hours to the joys of IKEA [Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh!]. We had already been to lunch and an art gallery and shops. By now, we were already verging on the tired (and had a full evening in the offing to boot). What we SHOULD have been doing was making lists! Getting there when the doors open! Planning ahead! Munching on trail mix and staying hydrated! We should have been hunting that place like the cheap, affordable design starved wolverines that we could be! Instead of tired, shell shocked slightly punch drunk middle aged women. Which is what we are.

Nevertheless! We resolved to make the best of it.

And we happened upon it pretty quickly. The bedroom light fixture of my dreams! It's big. It's unusual. It's white (the perfect contrast to the dark walls). It's a little crazy. Wait a minute...big, white, unusual crazy...


(Clucky Chicken!)

Trouble was, the "big" part. It was actually a big, funky white globe-like thing. The fixture was, in all honesty, HUGE measuring something like a yard across. Sure, I could hang it in my bedroom. Above my bed. And then it would rest approximately on my chest while I slept. Good times!

In the end, I had to concede: right fixture. Wrong size.


We pressed on.

We wandered through dining rooms and living rooms and kitchens and sat on magically non-puffy furniture that matched startlingly simple accessories. We marveled at stuff that could work this way and that: upended and upside down. So simple! Crap that was plasticky and inexpensive, but still not revoltingly Early American. WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR ALL THE CHEAP CHAIN STORES IN MY STUPID TOWN?

Finally, at a tiny tableau where the Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh design wizards had managed to perfectly stuff a completely equipped kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom into a mere 325 square feet, I realized I was home. Everything was tiny and within arm's reach. From my couch, I could spit on my bed and my dishwasher. I stretched out my legs and they were immediately met with a tiny foot stool a mere six inches away. On the TV (surprisingly large, but a flat screen mounted flush to the wall and thus not requiring any precious square inches), was only one channel: CNN of course, this being Atlanta. Perfect! News 24/7. I had Internet service and my iPhone. The walls were already painted a thoughtful charcoal. Yes, yes! Oh, yes. I was home.

(photo: Nikki May)

My friend Nikki, sensing quickly there was no use dissuading me, joined me in my new living room and offered me coffee from a thoughtfully placed mug. I accepted. In my new life, I was suddenly a coffee drinker. We sipped our coffee and greeted our fellow Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh shoppers. To their credit, they didn't seem surprised to see us and were even seemingly appreciative of our pointing out the finer points of our new living space,

"See that cabinet?" I said to a young Birkenstock shod woman with a baby in a stroller. The woman stopped, ran her hand over the top.

"You'd never know it, but that actually holds SHOES," I told her.

"REALLY?", she exclaimed, opening the false front cabinet and marveling at the shoes within.

"Huh-huh. We enjoy it," I added, nodding sagely and taking another sip of my coffee.

Two immaculately dressed young men wandered in and smiled at us sprawled out in my new living room,

"Coffee?" I offered holding my cup aloft.

"Uh, well..." the shorter blonde man began, laughing...

"...we'd love to, but we're kind of in a time crunch," the taller dark headed one finished for him.

I shrugged. "Next time, then!"

But, alas. The rest of the (exhausting) day bore down on us.

I bid my new home a sad and affectionate farewell. We pressed on. Through a bewilderingly large collection of rugs, faux plants. Miniature children's furniture. Mirrors! The kitchen accessories. THE KITCHEN ACESSORIES, OMG! Miles and miles and miles of them. I managed to somehow extract a set of glasses from the tumult. We wandered through the bowels of the place, no longer tiny room tableau's, but the stocking section. Where all the merchandise is kept. We eventually passed the lighting section. Wait! THE LIGHTING SECTION!

And there it was: my light fixture.

White, thrilling, unusual (weird, even), but this time, only HALF the size of the original fixture we'd admired upstairs!

Could I posssibly love Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh more? NOT REALLY!

And she lived happily ever after in her almost completely redecorated bedroom with her awesome and thrilling and affordable IKEA light fixture that came in approximately 500 unassembled pieces. But that's okay! I still love it!...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Camp Adventure Recap Park Two

[Editor's note: This post is part two of the story of a tent camping trip (my first) that I took in April. If you haven't read the beginning start here with Part One.]

So, there we were. Four middle aged women, a little medicated, a little inebriated, and, let's face it, a little crazy, snoozing away in a tent in a nearly deserted campground engulfed in the biggest storm system the region had seen in years. This same massive system would go on to produce 162 tornadoes across fourteen states, including a couple in our region, and cause a total of 43 fatalities.

A satellite image of the weather bearing down. Imagine four crazy sleeping campers tucked into the extreme western end of Kentucky.

I am still amazed at our ability to sleep under these conditions, even considering the level of medication involved, both liquid and otherwise. (In hindsight, I am also amazed that the untried tent sheltered us so well). Though I am a famously deep sleeper (once asleep), I remember waking that night several times to the sound of some ungodly howling wind in the distance, and the sound of the rain slapping the tent was fierce and constant for hours. Despite it all, when the wind and storm would rouse me, I could muster only a faint thought of, "Wow, that really sounds awful..." or, 'Gosh, this could be it...I suppose..." before quickly lapsing back into a comatose state.

This would go on into the wee hours of Saturday morning when what would REALLY rouse us all from sleep would not be the wind or the rain or the weather at all. What would wake us would be one among our number peering out the door flap of the tent and screeching in a piercingly loud whisper,

"Something's out there!"

Trust me when I say, that's a statement that is right up there with the very last things you want to wake up hearing at 3:00 a.m. in a frigid, dark, but still drippy and now eerily quiet campground. My guess is that the three of us still ostensibly snoozing by this point were about half awakened by this unwelcome news.

Not one of us stirred.

After a few seconds of silence, our one alert, lonely camper made a final, ominous, and VERY LOUD announcement,


before charging out of the tent and commencing to engage in what sounded like possible combat with whatever was threatening the camp site.

This last declaration was enough to stir the rest of us to clumsy, if confused action (I'll confess in my case to looking for my iPhone for the camera--I did want to squeeze off a photo or two of whatever was about to kill us all*). After a great deal of flailing around, one of us would be alert enough to charge out after the first hefting the world's dullest hatchet, whilst Camper #4 and I, vacillating between terror at what might be happening outside, and uncontrollable giggling hysterics at the use of the word "varmint" (both of us agreeing the last person we knew to use the term being possibly Jed Clampett), crawled together toward the tent flap to peer into the darkness.

By the time we got our head torches (still on our heads) switched to "on", it was all over. According to Camp Defenders #1 and #2, Camp Smokey Hoe Pie (don't ask) had fallen victim to a couple of marauding raccoons. The pair, described as a young, agile raccoon who had likely cased the joint and, finding our unsecured coolers easy pickings, had signaled to "Grandpa", a brooding, obese raccoon comparable in size to a human four-year-old. The pair then gleefully worked their way through half of our provisions prior to discovery. And none too quietly, either. The trash, the chocolate, the Reese Cups, an entire package of Bratwurst, and eight of our dozen eggs (smashed!) were consumed by the time Camper #1 realized what was happening.

Keep in mind that accessing some of this food required the little bastards to open not only the coolers, but also the Tupperware containers within the coolers. Accessing the garbage meant they either shimmied up an eight foot pole, or climbed atop two stacked coolers and jumped for it (it was suspended in mid-air). That's right, kids, it was a veritable raccoon freaking flying circus up in there. And for God knows how long, too.

According to Camper #1, when she shouted at them, the smaller, more agile raccoon made an immediate break for it, but big, fat Grandpa merely snorted in her direction and continued to casually enjoy his plunder. It wasn't until she was fully out of the tent and actively engaged in shouting and throwing shit at him that he finally decided he'd go ahead and waddle back into the forest.

Shell shocked, groggy, and creeped out to say the least by the predator encounter, the four of us, by now all out of the tent, were slowly coming to a few realizations. First, we'd survived the storm. Secondly, it was really, really cold. And, thirdly, damn, these head torches are handy! The restrooms, which were quite clean, warm and well lit (thankfully) were located about 50 feet away. This would have been a very dark (but no less frequent) hike indeed without the aid and effortless hands-free light of our our bright, shiny headgear. Since we were the only women in the campground, the restrooms and showers would quickly and happily become our personal domain for the duration of our stay. Our blow dryers, flat irons, lotions and towels would stay tucked away there--almost just like home. If, you know, home was a freezing cold campsite that had to be constantly defended against a pair of wildly aggressive rogue raccoons.

I won't lie, the idea of giant furry vermin pawing through and feasting on our foodstuffs was enough to make me weak with germ nausea. I mean, disease, hello? Botulism? Rabies? Trichinosis? Misfolded prions, anyone? My semi-recent experience in Biology class had left me with just enough knowledge flying ineffectually around in my head to keep me terrified at times like these. I mean, dear God, I had to go ahead and assume that, at the very least, fat grandpa and junior aren't regular bathers.

But, again, not for nothing was the chuck stocked for months. I had Lysol (previously used to spray down the ENTIRE bathroom facility prompting one nervy camper to suggest chemically induced asthma could possibly be a danger equal in severity to the germs themselves--to which I responded, "Did you bring your shower shoes? Because you know you can't step a naked foot...EVER...onto this floor, right?) and some antibacterial wipes which were used to wipe (and it pains me to say this) the raccoon prints ((skeeve)) off of everything. That accomplished, the coolers were stacked and the lids fastened down securely--this time with bungee cords.

By now, it was 4 a.m., and all of us were teeth chattering cold. Again, I had my doubts about how we would sleep in the now quiet camp in light of the fallen temperature and recent excitement, but once again, against all odds, we would pile back into the tent and fall again almost immediately to sleep...

[To be continued. Again.]
*My photos were all uniformly black. Alas.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Camp Adventure Recap PART ONE

[This is Part One of a post I started and have been meaning to complete since returning from this camping trip IN APRIL. I'm very busy.]

Well, here I am...post my very first tent camping experience...alive and well having survived a multitude of wilderness horrors.

Challenge #1, the weather, was evident long before we loaded up our 10,000 lbs of camping gear and headed to LBL. Both the regional and national weather service(s) were calling for a weather event of potentially Biblical proportions in the run up to and including Friday. Our local weather guru and go-to meteorologist on Facebook,
Beau Dodson, had been warning of impending potential weather doom for days. Personal texts and Facebook comments ranged from (at best) "Good Luck" to (at worst) an unceasing chorus of, "YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE OUT THERE".

To be honest, we never really considered calling the thing off, having planned it for well over a month. We wouldn't be denied just because of a lil' old tornado, or golf ball sized hail, or high winds, or severe thunderstorms. Or, you know, ALL FOUR at the same time. Which is what was ultimately called for.

We hustled to the campsite just as soon as we could tear ourselves away from a solid two weeks of frenzied packing which, even in the 11th hour before we drove away, showed no sign of abating. In the end, we didn't so much finish packing as just force ourselves to stop. And this only because the vehicle, a roomy SUV with an additional carry-all in the hitch, threatened to become inadequate to hold our constantly evolving list of "bare necessities". We arrived at the camp site at 1:00 pm, under menacing skies and constant threat of WEATHER and set about the important business of beer drinking and erecting the Grizzly Den .

Perhaps not surprisingly, the former would prove much less complicated than the latter.

Because the tent was new, it meant neither of us had experience pitching it and so were forced to, on occasion, resort to the indignity of instruction reading. This was usually closely followed by increasingly inventive and inspired cursing. Complicating matters was the state of the soil which was wet, soft, and pliable and not at all inclined to grasp our tent stakes which, once "set", took to springing out of the ground with alarming regularity. In addition, the area at the site designated for tent pitching, while really roomy looking when not accommodating an 8-person tent, we soon discovered was actually smaller than the tent's intended footprint. So, stay with me here: weather, soft soil, inexperience, an area of inadequate size=annoying. Eventually, we hit on the idea of covering the tent spikes with heavy rocks we hunted and lugged over from a spot some yards away.

Despite the challenges, after a few tedious and exhausting hours, the tent was up. Not only up, but covered with the rain fly and sprayed with silicon for additional
waterproofing in anticipation of the rain. It seemed very iffy at the time as to whether the rock covered spikes would hold. (They did. For three damn days. It was a miracle.)

Not too long after the successful tent pitching, Campers #3 and #4 arrived. And, in fairly short order, 4 out of 4 girl campers agreed: regardless of the weather, we'd be staying at camp for the duration, thankyouverymuch. That settled, we soon turned our attention to the important business of: dinner. For all of you picturing us huddled around a fire simmering a lone miserable can of pork and beans, think again. It's not for nothing we watch the Cooking Channel 24/7.

We fired up the gas burner and had soon boiled up a pot of lemony Old Bay seasoned goodness: shrimp, corn on the cob, potatoes, and kielbasa. For dessert, we lit our first campfire and enjoyed the obligatory 'smores--but with a choice of Hershey chocolate OR Reese cup. Exciting, no?

As if on cue, just as we polished off the last of the melted marshmallowy goodness, the rain began to fall. We had enough time to tuck away our foodstuffs in the coolers before ducking into the tent and hunkering down for what we hoped would be a not TOO eventful first night. When I say we hunkered down, I mean we continued the steady infusion of beer whilst perched on our inflatable mattresses wrapped in our sleeping bags; the four of us all dressed for winter complete with sock caps (it was freezing cold by my standards, temperature in the upper forties).

(View from the tent just before the rain hit.)

As the rain pelted the tent with increasing regularity, darkness fell, and the wind began to howl, we broke out what may have, arguably, been the MVP of the metric ton of camping equipment we'd brought along: flashlights for our heads. And by that I mean battery operated lights on an electric strap that we fitted around our sock-capped heads, and adjusted until the light rested just above our foreheads. I've just Googled and found the proper term for these things: head torches. And, no I do not have a photo of ANY of us wearing one. Because we looked positively ridiculous, a fact we noted pretty immediately as the four of us enthusiastically donned our new head gear. The lights had a constantly "on" setting or a "blink" setting. I'm sure the "blink" setting has a practical (perhaps emergency) purpose, but in our case, it was cause for a disproportionate amount of hilarity, having drank a little too much beer and finding ourselves in a tent in the woods in a near-deserted campground about to be engulfed in a monstrously large storm system.

As all four head torches blinked merrily away, giving a decidedly disco effect, we amused ourselves queuing up songs we deemed appropriate to the situation on our iPhones. Big winners: trance music: The Chemical Brothers, "Galvanize" and, less groovy but much more topically, REO, "Riding the Storm Out".

Despite the danger, the unceasing noise of the howling wind and rain, the beer, and the hilarity, we would all fall unexpectedly (and maybe inexplicably) into what we would later agree was an unusually deep sleep. I doubt it had anything to do with the sleeping pills we'd uniformly ingested earlier. This would last until the wee hours of the morning when we would unceremoniously awaken to a new challenge....

(To be continued.)