Two girls. Two plus years of friendship.

One store devoted to making life a little more bearable.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Seriously, What's that Smell?

I called in sick today.

As Katie said--yeah sick of this place.

Call it a mental health day. Call it lying, if you must. Doesn't everybody wake up some mornings and think, there is no way that I can get up and go through with the normal routine today? Most of all, I have no interest in pretending my coworkers are funny. (Though Katie really is funny.) I can't stand that fake baby voice that one of them speaks in when she wants to be particularly condescending. And I don't feel inspired when I am making copies.

Instead, I am hanging out at the house today. I've got some cleaning to do--lots of cleaning actually. Yesterday, my sister--who lives with us--walked in the door and said, "this place stinks."
"Stinks like what?" I said, sniffing mightily.
She wrinkled her nose, "like--human."

She's right. Once she pointed it out, I noticed the smell of lived-in-too-long. Some people might call it stale, but to me, stale is locked-up and untouched. This is the smell of running in and out to work and school and meetings. It's the smell of family meals that don't start until 10 PM. It's the smell of burning the candle at both ends.

So my job today is to make this house smell less like human and more like comet. And while I am home, I'm going to fulfill our latest order (thanks jennynucity!) and if I get a chance, I'm going to stop and smell the roses, the ones in my very own back yard.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hello. My Name is Rachel and I am a Televisionaholic...

Okay. I admit it. I am the TV addict in this duo.

Katie is pretty take-it-or-leave-it about TV. When I ask her, "What did you do last night?" She has answers like: went for a jog, saw Bill Clinton live, did a little bit of casual sky diving.
Yeah, but did you catch the latest episode of America's Next Top Model?!?

Lately, though, I have been renting a lot of DVDs of cable television shows. For one thing, I get tired of watching ANTM and CSI and SVU. (Note to self: Rachel, crack open a book or you will lose the ability to spell real words.) Cable does do it better. But I am cheap and poor so I only rent a single show at a time, instead of paying a lot for a few shows at once.
Watching TV via DVDs is great because:

1. I definitely get to see new, edgy stuff.

2. I get to watch them over and over and over again. I can fastforward through parts I hate and hit pause when I need to get up and find something. And I start to memorize stuff so that I don't really have to pay that much attention, but somehow the electric hum of the familiar show brings me comfort.

The second scenerio happens often as I particularly like to watch TV while I am crafting. Hope this doesn't blow your image of the angsty artist who shuns mass produced products of society like fast food and pop music...and cable TV. My husband is that guy. I am the girl who loves handmade stuff with quality and character (like you can find at etsy) and I like TV; in fact, the TV I like most is also cut from a different mold than the average stuff and has fabulous characters.

Here are the top five television shows (in no particular order) that I love to watch--or rather listen to--while I make new stuff. (Bear in mind that I have not included any of the British television shows that I love, mostly because they are often crime dramas staring little old ladies and I have to know you better before I reveal my full nerdiness.)

5. Dexter. For one thing, Michael C. Hall is brilliant. He needs so little dialogue to convey such complicated emotions. I love him for that. I just plain love him.

Also, this is great when I am really just listening to it because I don't have to see all the gory scary bits if I don't feel up to it. I just put my head down and focus on the photo mat I am making.

4. Gilmore Girls. I know. I know. My aforementioned husband really doesn't understand my love for this show. What can I say? The heart wants what it wants.

3. Big Love. What I like best about this show is that I really really am rooting for Bill. I believe that he loves all of his wives and I want him to succeed in making his polygamist lifestyle work

An accomplishment, I think, given that if my husband decided to be a polygamist--he'd be a polygamist living on the curb.

2. Weeds. It seems to me that this is a show all about grief and since my mom has always called me The Queen of Tragedy--it's right up my alley. Plus, it can be absolutely hilarious.

1. Six Feet Under. I lied when I said that these were in no particular order. Six Feet Under is my alltime favorite show. I love the Fishers. (I am the Queen of Tragedy, remember?) I love Michael C. Hall. I love Nate and Brenda and the way they never, almost, always find each other and get lost at once. I love the creepy funeral home flowers and the way that Ruth braids her hair. To be honest, I don't watch the DVDs--though I own them all--much any more because it depresses me that the series is over. I know everything ends, but maybe I don't like reality TV, even when it is as good as this.
It turns out that television is the real soundtrack of my life.
p.s. Katie does have a new secret obsession with The Batchelor, but don't tell her that I told you that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Aunt is a Long Lost Iranian Princess...

My mother's youngest sister is five feet (and one half inch, she adds) tall--much much shorter than the other women in our family. For instance, I am 5'3'' (and a half). Also, she has tiny little feet and deep green eyes. The rest of us are brown eyed girls.

Sure these differences may seem small and easily explained, especially with a basic working knowledge of genetics and recessive tendencies. But when my aunt was just a little girl, my mother convinced her--based on what she considered to be damning evidence--that my aunt was the long lost daughter of the Shah of Iran, switched at birth with my grandparents' baby boy.

Far-fetched? A little--but my aunt Susie was born in Tehran during the heydey of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's rule of Iran. My mother was five years old at the time and had to climb out the window to get the attention of someone living in the compound who had a car and could take my grandmother to the hospital. The family (which also included my mother's middle sister, Judy) spent three years there while my grandfather served in the navy.

Susie was granted duel Iranian citizenship at birth--a fact that made her a foreigner according to my 8 year old mother and means that she could never return to the country for fear of detention.

Neither Susie nor her sisters remember very much from their stay on the other side of the world. Many of my grandmother's memories are steeped in a sense of being desperately isolated and always afraid. It was a difficult unstable time in America. It was a difficult unstable time in the world.

Not much has changed, really.

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech at Columbia University this week, I couldn't help but think of Susie, who will never see the land of her birth, and of three little faces that stare out at me from my favorite photograph of their childhood. When will we live in a world where we are not so afraid of each other? When will we live in a world where difference is finally tolerated? And borders are not so defined?

I think when we do, it could be ruled by an Iranian princess who happens to live in Dallas, Texas.

Friday, September 21, 2007

This Just In...

Katie just created this absolutely gorgeous decorative organization piece. It's available in our etsy store. Don't know about you, but I spend WAY too much time looking for my keys. Now, I'm going to be staring at this beauty and thinking, "My god, my friend is talented!"

Stay tuned for more great products in the next couple of days!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Last weekend, Richard and I went the Austin City Limits festival at Zilker Park.

Our ACL experience started out with a bang (and a lot of smoke) as one of the beer trailers caught fire. It ended with Bob Dylan and even now, his voice is no whimper.
Along the way, we saw:
  • Joss Stone
  • Kaiser Chiefs

  • Queens of the Stone Age

  • The Killers

  • Spoon

  • Indigo Girls

  • Muse

  • The Decemberists

  • Blue October

  • Damien Rice
  • Devotchka

  • Amos Lee

  • Lucinda Williams

  • Ghostland Observatory

  • Wilco
  • LOTS of friends we hadn't seen in ages. Isn't it funny that in a crowd of 60,000 we managed to run into people we know and love?

Things we didn't see:

  • Fire ants (Richard was particularly happy about this)
  • Arctic jackets--cooler festival than usual, but still on the warm and humid side
  • The aforementioned Pete Yorn
  • Shade

And KATIE!! Even though we were at many of the same concerts.

Thus, I am left to believe that sometimes you find things you didn't know you missed when you aren't looking and sometimes, you miss the things you like the most even when they are right in front of you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good Intentions

But when she arrived in the new country, the immigration officials pulled her swan away from her, leaving the woman fluttering her arms and with only one swan feather for a memory. And then she had to fill out so many forms she forgot why she had come and what she had left behind.
Now the woman was old. And she had a daughter who grew up speaking only English and swallowing more Coca-Cola than sorrow. For a long time now the woman had wanted to give her daughter the single swan feather and tell her, "This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions." And she waited, year after year, for the day she could tell her daughter this in perfect American English.

--Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

I am exactly one week late in blogging about September 11 and what it means to me. I had every intention of weighing in on the subject last Tuesday--but I didn't. The day passed me by and then several were gone with it and, to be honest, I barely felt their passage. Life has a way of interupting all my best intentions.

Six years ago this week, I was in the midst of preparing to fly across the Atlantic. I cried at the airport and even at twenty, I clung to my mother. Know that I love you, I begged her. She didn't make me get on the plane. In fact, in the wake of September 11, it would have been easy to get a refund on my ticket and some of the girls that I went to school with did just that. They cashed in their junior year abroad for a chance to mourn and process at home. I will never know what it was like to live in America in the days that followed that first September 11.

I spent that autumn in England.

I was afraid to get on the plane--and so was everyone else. (It was the most polite flight I have ever been on. ) But I was more afraid to stay behind. I thought that it might hurt my academic career to show up at college three weeks late. And I was sure that someone would know the truth--that I was absolutely frightened for my life in that first few weeks abroad. But the thing is that I was always frightened, even before the events of September 11.

Leaving home--what is more frightening than this?

On the morning that I arrived in London, I had three cups of coffee and accidentally brushed my teeth with Benadryl cream.

And then I met my husband. He was standing in the doorway of the hall's communal kitchen. He wore a yellow skirt and had a commanding presence when he demanded, "Where have you been?"

Now he claims that he was asking out of concern, that he and other British students had been warned to be considerate of their American counterparts in this difficult time. I like to think that the rest of that question was...all my life.

Yes, indeed, where have you been all my life?

On that first September 11, I knew as I watched the replay of events at Ground Zero that this would be a defining time for my generation and I imagined telling my children that I would never forget where I was that day. ( a bed and breakfast in Denton, Texas suffering from serious food poisoning while on a short break with my mom...)

I did not know that in the weeks that followed I would meet my husband. I did not know that only a year later (to this day), he would write a letter that professed his love and changed our lives. I did not know that four years after that we would be married--and facing a mandatory seperation because of our different nationalities. I did not know that on September 11, 2007, my husband would finally be welcomed into my country as a permanent resident. A temporary permanent resident--actually.

I did not know that our lives would be constantly touched by the red tape and suspicion that has marked my country's response to the attack.
I did not know that we would live through other crises that struck closer. (A bus blew up outside the school I had previously attended in July 2005; my inlaws were on the last plane leaving Heathrow for the US on the day that several planes were grounded there because of a thwarted terrorist attack--they were on their way to our wedding.) I did not know that we would make a life together, one that seems inextricably linked with the way the world is today.

We are a family with ties around the globe. We live in a small world and we live in a world that seems more frustrating and more scary than it used to be. This is what I will remember and what I intend to tell my children, my children whose world I can yet hardly imagine:

In the midst of one of the most fearful times of my life, I found just that. I found life.

In the years since, my naivete has been reduced to rubble. The ivory tower of first love is gone. I met my husband six years ago this week and in that time I have known the best and worst of him and of myself because that is what life is like and life always prevails.

There are so many things I did not know six years ago as I cried on my mother's shoulder. I thought that I was leaving home--maybe forever. How could I have known that I hadn't even found it yet?

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's alright. It's alright, cause you're saved by the...

I'm a nerd, a real lover of homework and pop quizzes. I prefer an essay to multiple choice any day of the week. I'm the kid who always has her hand raised. And my least favorite part of the day--recess.

But I hate the first day of school. No matter how old I get--or how many years of schooling I put behind me--the first day makes me seven years old again. I'm the new kid, the one who gets tripped at the door by a mean girl whose scabby knees are not hidden by the folds of her smocked lilac dress. I'm the one who has to sneak in during the pledge of allegiance because her parents are not morning people. I'm the one who doesn't know where the bathrooms are and is too afraid to ask.

The first day makes me sick.

When I was in college, I mentioned this to a friend. My exact words were something like this: "No I don't drink orange juice on the first day of school because it makes me puke. You know what I mean?"

My friend suggested I just might have an anxiety problem. Ahh...perhaps.

Here are the things I am worried about (in no particular order):

  • I will be unmasked as a fraud. This will be the day/the class/the year that people will find out that I have been pretending to be smart or interesting or informed. I will be totally unprepared.
  • I won't make any friends. I was the new kid--several times. Once, my teacher pointed out to the class that she wanted them to be quiet like me. She didn't understand that was quiet because I had no one to talk to.
  • I won't know where the bathroom is and I will be too afraid to ask.

Tomorrow evening, I am starting an informal class at the university extention school--four weeks of photography lessons. This is something I have wanted to do for some time. I only hope that I can force myself through the door.

Oh, I also hope the girl in the smocked lilac dress doesn't show up. I can't stand that kid.

...BELL (as in Bellview)
an update on my photography class
What exactly was I so freaked out about? Why did I need my (little) sister to come into the building with me to find my room as if it were my very first day of school? Why did I not realize that this was going to be the kind of class where the person with the biggest, fanciest camera was also (always, inevitably) going to be the person who thought that the whole class would be devoted to teaching her which buttons to press? (Big round one on top.) Why didn't I see her temper tantrum coming? The screaming and stomping of feet when our teacher said that not every one had the biggest, fanciest camera and so he had to focus on theories of photography. The evil look she gave him when he suggested that he was more than a human instruction manual. And the hysterical near-tears fatalism of it all. Next time, I think I'll offer to let her use my point-and-shoot.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Inspiration of Plain Jane

I just saw Becoming Jane in the theater this evening. It was a lovely, loving little flick and one that any self-confessed anglophile (see post below) should see.

I believe that I may indeed be in love with James McAvoy now.

I know that I am in love with Jane Austen.

Several years ago, I visited her adult home at Chawton. The house was a postcard idyll. The seventeenth century cottage had sash windows and creaking wooden floors and wide door ways and ancient trees. It was romance and tradition at once. It was also drafty and rather small.

And the smallest thing in the whole place was Jane Austen's writing desk. No oaken behemoth, the desk instead resembled one of those desks (antiques by a Texan's standards) from my elementary school which was basically a chair with a tray attached, a tray about one inch wider and longer than a ledger sized piece of paper--the kind of desk on which you can't write and rest your elbow at the same time.

On this cramped desk, in this rather ordinary home, Jane Austen wrote some of the best novels ever written in the English language. And she wrote those novels when the form was just that--novel.

If Jane could change literature forever, if Jane could change expectation forever (after all, she was a woman who could write as well as a man...gasp) while writing on this tiny little desk (and answering the door and serving tea), why should I ever feel discouraged?

Comparatively, my pursuits are small and my resources are vast. My opportunities would be unfathomable to Jane. I never, ever have to serve tea. (Good thing, too, my british inlaws would probably tell you.)

This week, Katie and I made some elaborate plans about the future of our store. I was exhilarated by the brainstorming as it happened, and then immediately wracked with worry and doubt. But the dreams we have are within our means and the space we have to maneuver in is vast enough for all our visions. At least at the moment.

This is what I learned tonight: when I grow up, when I really grow up, I want to write like Jane Austen--and look like Anne Hathaway.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Top Ten Reasons I'm an Anglophile

Today I finally made a treasury over at etsy that I am very proud of--so proud that I am devoting the blog to the same topic as my treasury: Anglophilia. Specifically, my deep, abiding case of it.

The treasury has a bunch of great items that are either related to my love of Britain or made by British crafters. See the world. See my treasury. (For those who don't make it over before the treasury expires, I will be posting some of the great items so that you can admire those sellers as much as I do.)

Here are ten things that I love about Britain:

1. The accents...and yes, there are many. Everyone seems to have a different one there and they all sound like music to me--especially Welsh ones. Usually, I can't understand what Welsh people say, but I find myself smiling and nodding in genuine agreement as their words up and down and dance all around.

My favorite accent of all time, though is, of course, my husband's. I love the way he says puuh-fect in stead of perfect and s-ree lan-ka for sri lanka and when he's annoyed with me, I'm Ray-chuw and not Rachel. His words make me melt. (They make a lot of other Texans melt too. He gets lots of free food--and a job offer--because of it.)

2. Tea time. Is there any cozier daily ritual? I always feel renewed after having "a cuppa" with my British friends.

3. British people have the best coats. Think about it. They have to wear them all the time. If it was nighttime starting at 2 in the afternoon for half the year AND it rained every single day AND the temp never EVER seemed to top 65--I'd have a great coat, too!

4. They have huge working vocabularies. When Richard and I have children, I think I'm only going to let him talk to them. That way they will learn words like whilst and hegemonic and they will actually use them. All the time. If I teach my kids to speak, they'll say things like yeah, mom and dad, i'm fixin' to do what y'all asked. Which would you choose?

5. Hats. Lots of amazing hats, especially at weddings and when they go to the races. (Sigh...they go to the races.)

6. There are vending machines devoted to selling cadbury's chocolate in most train stations.

7. Last time we visited, my husband had to go to the emergency room. No one ever asked how he was going to pay for the visit.

8. Shakespeare was British. And so was Dylan Thomas. Everyone in Monte Python was British. Nigel from Top Model is British, too. And Twiggy. So are the Beatles. Prince Harry is British. And my two beautiful nephews are British. And so is Winnie the Pooh. (Personally I think the oldest bears a striking resemblence to Winnie--only my nephew is cuter and prefers yogurt to honey.) And Beatrix Potter. And Harry Potter. And Mary Poppins. And Julie Andrews for that matter. I think I've proven my point.

9. I lived in the Forest of Dean, England for the year that I was two. I have few memories of it, except for the taste of cherry yogurt, and a daisy chain that my "child minder" made with me, and the sheep that ate our grass. But I think that it imprinted England on my heart forever.

A few pics from that first year:

I also got into hats whilst there...when in Rome, right?

And drum roll, please...

10. Did I mention that I have the most darling British husband in the whole world? back then...playing the good english boy

and now...

I guess he's always the beginning and the end of it for me.

P.S. here are some screen shots of the treasury as it is about to expire. I think that these great sellers will still be around even if you read this next month or next year. Check them out at today.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Light Lite

Like someone sitting on the back row at a big tent revival, I am struggling mightily at the moment to find the light. We haven't had much here. In Texas. In August. Go figure.

Last weekend, I committed myself to taking better pictures of our products. They're great, but the photos we have don't do them justice.

Some of them are just too messy. My dining room chairs are on display behind the photo mats. The pink wallpaper is a feature--we've never been in love with that pink wallpaper. Our lives are on display a little and our lives are just a little bit too much for a promotional shot.

I took a second set of promotional pics a couple of weeks ago. My husband built a light box. Thank god I married a man with an inate sense of geometry and an uncanny skill with scissors. Katie has an engineering background--so she does fine when called upon to build light boxes and french memory boards (coming soon!) and homes. Okay. She hasn't built a home yet--that I know of--but I wouldn't put it past her. Meanwhile, I can print instructions. That's it, the extent of my expertise.

So Richard built a light box. But somehow, we couldn't find the light. My second set of promotional shots were too dark.

I know it's not the camera. I took these great pictures with no available light a few days ago while on vacation in Chicago:

I am left to think that outdoor shots of our indoor products are best. Now I have to get the weather to cooperate. Can I blame global warming for this?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Labor Day

On this holiday weekend, it seems fitting to consider those who won't be going on vacation, the people who can't afford an extra day off, the ones who work so that the rest of us can play. There are plenty of people in this country that depend on minimum wage to buy food and to provide shelter. A three day weekend doesn't really do them much good.

I have spent a great deal of time in the etsy forums recently. Lots of posts talk about needing a sale. I believe these people--mostly because I need a sale too. I would love to make enough in my store to pay for my monthly electricity bill or to make my student loan payment or to build a nestegg so that my new family doesn't live month to month. In these ways, I need all the sales I can get.

And yet, I know very little of need.

The etsy venture that Katie and I began planning for in May was financed relatively easily. We work hard because we want to make our money back and more. But neither of us actually depends on this income and I doubt that we are alone in that in the chatrooms and forums of etsy.

We began because we wanted a different quality of life. Not because our lives depended on it.

There are people in this country and around the world who will be laboring on Monday. Most of them won't even be aware of the holiday. It won't really matter for the ones that do know about it.

There are so many people who work to live. To survive.

Because we aren't in that position, because we feel lucky to have abundance, because we were able to choose to change the quality of our lives, because we don't worry about survival, because we have a world class education (that's what those loans were for), because we have so many options, because we have etsy, because we have each other--we want our products to help others have options too.

When you buy from us, 10% of the purchase price will go to organizations that make microloans to people in the developing world. Microloans are very small amounts of money (to us)--often as little as $25--loaned with manageable repayment terms to start up a very very small business.

Most of the recipients of microloans are women. We kind of like that--women still have a way to go in the world and one more helping hand isn't going to hurt.

The amounts are small. We like that too--our small donations make a difference to someone somewhere.

These are loans, not charity. We are happy to give to charities too and we believe in the great work that they do as well as the deep need for nations and multinational corporations to do their part on the grand scale to make whole countries better. We want more of that, not less. But we also understand that a loan can be equally empowering--when the terms are fair.

When we help change the world (with your help, of course), we want it to be transformed into a world where women everywhere feel the same sense of pleasure at having had the opportunity to earn just a little bit of money, a little bit of respect for the hard work that they do. That has been our greatest pleasure since starting our venture--our adventure.

Learn more about microloans here.

And please do check in on a regular basis to see how much you have contributed to the lives of women whom you've never met. (I guess that is us too!)