Month: August 2014

Stream the night away–in a posh hotel

Sometimes after a long, hard day of advertising (and they happen way more often than Melrose Place ever led me to believe), I just want to come home and watch something that requires no complicated thinking or thought processing whatsoever on my part. Mindless escapism with a sense of style is what I am looking for and luckily Netflix comes through for me with plenty of options every time. (A show like Mad Men, while entertaining to some, is just too close to reality for me despite it taking place in the 60’s, although no one has ever been run over by a lawnmower or killed themselves at any of the agencies I have worked at, even if they considered it for a quick minute.)

One of my dream jobs has always been to work at a super chic luxury hotel. The type of hotel that caters to heads of state from places with so many consonants in their names I can’t spell them let alone pronounce them properly and twenty-something internet billionaires. In order to do this I would definitely need to step up my sartorial game though as it has become far too lazy from working in the agency world forever where pretty much anything goes wardrobe-wise and my preference for over-priced casual wear has gotten out of hand. For this job I will need to dress exclusively in Prada (Chanel would be just too casual, sorry Karl!), rock a cat-eye like Kate Moss and get a much more professional hairdo, a super sleek blunt-cut bob so awesome even Anna Wintour herself would be jealous of it. Everyone else at the hotel will be simultaneously jealous and impressed by my ability to do the seemingly impossible such as finding discreet high-class escorts (male or female) at the drop of a hat, while securing tables at the hottest new restaurants and scoring tickets to those impossible to get sold-out Broadway shows. Did I mention I will need to relocate as well as get a new wardrobe and haircut for this job?

That bob will be mine, minus the bangs. I have spent a year growing those suckers out!

That bob will be mine, minus the bangs. I have spent a year growing those suckers out!

Hotel Babylon: actually this might even be an even better location than NYC for my fantasy job as this show is set in London, my favoritest city on Earth. Hotel Babylon is based on a book that I have never read by Imogen Edwards-Jones (hyphenated names = posh in the UK) and ran on the BBC for four seasons. For the first two seasons the hotel is run by a tough as nails career woman with a bad marriage (natch) named Rebecca Mitchell (Tamzin Outhwaite in real life, forever Melanie Owen from EastEnders* to me). The other various hotel employees all have their own personal baggage (pun intended) and include a stereotypical catty gay guy receptionist named Ben, another receptionist Anna Thornton-Wilton whose fake hyphenated name is as fake as her accent, Rebecca’s right hand man with a secret criminal past Charlie, and Tony the jaded but ever so efficient concierge. I am pretty sure Tony has my dream job, but not my dream outfit since he wears a uniform and that is a big fat NO in my book, unless it’s Prada, and even then I would have to think about it.

Why hello Mr.Nelson, come on in.

Why hello sir, come on in.

Hotel Babylon is like a modern, much more stylish version of The Love Boat, with new guests and new stories for each episode. Most of the guest stars I wouldn’t recognize if they came to my front door trying to get me to read the Watchtower. Sadly this happens kinda regularly with a Kingdom Hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses down the road. A congregation Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson himself is rumored to be a member of and while I might open the door for him I still would not read the Watchtower. Not ever. And while I might not know these guest stars faces their names are certainly familiar because I do read the Daily Mail every day (I know it’s bad but it’s fun bad) and I always think to myself, who ARE these people? And then there they are, in the Daily Mail! This show is trashy good fun (just like the Daily Mail) with a posh British accent (definitely NOT like the Daily Mail). Amazon Instant** since Netflix must have lost the rights to this one back in July when Outrageous Fortune disappeared and my life changed forever because of it.

Grand Hotel: lots of critics and regular people like to compare this to Downton Abbey but I think that is a a major diss because this series from Spain is way more fun. While there is the same sort of Upstairs/Downstairs vibe going on and it takes place in roughly the same time period, the romance between the rich girl whose family owns the hotel, Alicia Alarcon, and Julio Olmedo/Espinosa/Molins (he has a lot of aliases), the waiter, is the centerpiece of this series rather than a side note like the relationship between Downton’s Lady Sybil (poor dead Sybil) and Branson her chauffeur turned husband turned widower. Mama Alarcon and her evil henchman Don Diego will do ANYTHING to hold onto the Grand Hotel, they are kind of a lot like the Borgias in that way. Add in some craziness that would not be out-of-place on a daytime soap like a faked pregnancy (hello Beyoncé!), some baby swapping, illegitimate children crawling out of the woodwork, a serial killer and a bromance rivaling that of Joey and Chandler from Friends between Julio and fellow waiter Andreas, and this show kicks Downton’s proverbial British ass.

The Grand Hotel even has some real people show up as guests like Agatha Christie (who also shows up in an episode of Doctor Who, but that episode features giant bee people and is even too weird for me and I am a fan), as well as Harry Houdini who even performs one of his daring escapes. Interestingly enough, everyone who works or lives at this hotel seems to have above average hearing abilities, like whatever the ear equivalent of 20/20 eyesight is these people have it and thankfully they use their super human abilities at every opportunity in hallways and doorways all over the place or else we would never know what was going on.

After watching all 42 of the episodes available on Netflix I have now picked up some basic Spanish beyond counting to ten and writing no basura on my recycling box at work so the cleaning staff does not throw it away. All that valuable second language knowledge is going to go to waste real soon if Netflix does not get the remaining episodes like yesterday. Not to mention that season three ended with an explosive cliff hanger and I need to know what happened por favor!!

* Pretty much every actor in the UK has either been on Doctor Who or EastEnders or both. It must be some sort of a rite of passage like a spiral perm or a goth phase, not that I ever experienced either of those. Well, maybe just the one.

**good news people, apparently my Netflix search skills suck because guess what showed up as a recommend show for me, on Netflix? Why Hotel Babylon of course!

 

Two cats + one mouse = one super annoyed human

This year I decided to experience the third annual Walker Art Center’s International Cat Video Festival from the comfort of my own couch with my own refrigerator and snacks within easy reach. No need to worry about parking or finding a spot to sit on a lumpy lawn. Nope, this year I was going to stream it and my cats could even attend since they don’t get out of the house much if at all (vet visits when absolutely necessary). Of course being cats they were not around when I wanted them to share the past year in cat videos with me. (Funny how the minute I try to write one of the few checks a month I write, girl kitty Z always manages to show up to make sure anyone who gets a check from me thinks I have recently suffered a stroke thanks to the constant bombardment of her head to my pen.) The dog and I figured screw them, and were super excited to be able to stream via Animal Planet’s live channel on the Roku so we could see all the action on a big TV and not on a tiny iPad.  (A quick shout out to anyone not familiar with a Roku. They are the bomb. The new starter model is slightly larger than a USB drive and I can’t say enough how much I LOVE this device.)

Of course no streaming event would  be complete without some technical difficulties, the first being the giant inflatable screen going down, and then when that came back up again the live stream went down. As Roseanne Rosannadanna (RIP Gilda) would say, it’s always something. My wireless has also been going down a lot and just when I was beginning to think this cunning little plan of watching from home was not so cunning after all, Animal Planet Live was actually ALIVE again. Yeah!! All was right with the world, until two things happened. First of all, Gotcha Kitty was robbed and only got third place, third place for a face this cute and so very sorry? For shame WAC Golden Kitty Award voters, for shame.

 

 

And then boy kitty A came flying up the stairs, with something dangling from his mouth. At first I thought it was a tuft of fur. Anyone with cats knows about these random balls of fur that suddenly appear and float across floors and you think jeez, why did I spend $400 on that Dyson and vacuum everyday when I should have just gotten a hairless cat? It seems so obvious now. But the smart-assy swagger in his step pretty much confirmed my worst fear in that it was no mere tuft of cat fur in his mouth, but the fur of a tiny rodent. A dead one I hoped, incorrectly. I grabbed the dog and we jumped on the countertop as boy kitty paraded around the kitchen and dining room enough to interest the tiredest girl kitty in the universe, Z,  from one of her epic naps. I was so distracted and grossed out by his behavior that I barely saw who won the Golden Kitty Award this year which was The 8 Signs of Addiction.

 

 

Like most cat owners I don’t expect A LOT from my cats but I think a bare minimum should include that in the unlikely event that there is a rodent in our home, not only should they catch said rodent (minimal props to A for that), but they should take care of it like Michael did to Fredo in The Godfather. And if you can’t do it yourself call a hit cat, just get rid of it. This did not happen. Both cats chased it and batted it about so much that I actually started to feel sorry for the mouse as obviously these two cats had not such a good time in FOREVER. Finally I got sick of sitting on the hard granite watching somebody else have that much fun so the dog and I went to bed. I closed the door and stuck a bath towel under the space between it and the floor and hoped to find, as much as it would pain me, a dead mouse body in the morning. Preferably somewhere obvious. No such luck. At first they acted super interested under a computer armoire and then the living room couch and by the time I was ready to leave for work they weren’t interested in anything except going to sleep because they had been up all night partying with a mouse and were very tired because of it. Seven hours later, this is what boy kitty possibly looked like:

Does this look like the face of a stone cold killer? (disclaimer: this may or may not be one of my cats since the NYT cat trackers could be watching )

Does this look like the face of a stone cold killer? (disclaimer: this may or may not be one of my cats since the NYT cat trackers could be watching )

 

For the rest of the day and since then, neither one of them has acted like anything was askew in their world and I was beginning to think that a miracle had occurred and that the mouse found its way out of my house just exactly the same way it had found itself inside my house. ( I know this probably isn’t true but I can dream, can’t I?) And then on Saturday when I went to put something in my pantry after I’d been to the store I smelled that smell. That singularly gross smell that can only mean one thing: death. Because I don’t always like to face these facts right away, if at all, I waited one day before investigating any further. I got a plastic bag ready for the removal and put on my Playtex Living Gloves (well, one of us was alive poor Mr. Mouse Man) reserved for only the gravest of household chores like body disposal. I started to remove things from under the pull out shelves while trying not to think too badly of my cats, boy kitty A in particular who got me into this whole mess, when I noticed the smell was emanating from another area. I saw a russet potato in the wire racks (potatoes are known stink bombs when they go bad) but this one passed the smell test. Then I saw a plastic bag with some new potatoes from the farmer’s market in it and I knew I had discovered where my dead mouse smell was coming from, only it wasn’t a mouse at all but a potato. The mouse lives!

 

For those of us whose cats aren’t internet superstars but are just regular old cats who when called upon to do ONE thing in their entire lives and can’t even do that, take solace in this song and know that you are not alone.

 

 

 

 

Totally worth it–the hair edition

I am not super vain but I am a little bit vain and my main vanity is without a doubt my hair. I am fortunate to come from people with good hair and lots of it. A few years ago I had some weird shit going down in my life and the end result was I started to lose alarming amounts of hair. Now I normally shed a lot but this was different and one day in the shower I pulled out a huge clump. I almost had a heart attack which would have been super awkward for both me and the poor EMT’s who would have had to haul my naked balding ass out of there so once I regained my composure I started Web MDing and Googling to find out what was going on. After a lot on internet searching I did correctly self diagnose myself although it took three different doctors to finally find one to agree with me.

What I had was something called telogen efflufium. It is fairly common and tends to show up after a metabolic or hormonal stress event and can even be triggered by taking certain medications. For lots of women this can happen after giving birth and for me I think it was a brought on by a combination of excessive stress and a strong antibiotic. All I know is it made me realize just how much of my self-worth was wrapped up in something that I had up until then taken for granted.

I have never been cheap about my hair though. Even when I was in high school I went to a good salon, Horst, in fact, no Great Expectations for me. Does anyone else remember those in the 80’s? They were like the Great Clips and Fantastic Sam’s of today. Once I started messing with the hair color for real in college I paid big bucks and worked as a cocktail waitress to help pay for that as well as books and tuition and you know, college stuff. And while I am lucky to have good hair I am not GOOD at hair. I can use a flat-iron to straighten it but since it is pretty straight already that doesn’t really count for much. Precisely because I am so style challenged, products are a big deal to me and here are five that I think are worth either the cost or the effort to search out.

Kerastase Masqueintense Conditioner: kind of pricey but worth every penny. Conditioners in generally are important to me because not only do I have a lot of hair (when it doesn’t all fall out from stress) I have snarly hair. I buy mine from Drugstore.com because it’s cheaper than in salons and they usually have deals on shipping.  A few years back I watched the movie The Kids are Alright and I was liking it better than I thought until that bathroom scene (spoiler alert!!) after Julianne Moore’s character sleeps with Mark Ruffalo’s character  (totally understandable, he is adorable, except for you know, her character being a lesbian and all) and he had this in his shower. THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL ANY STRAIGHT GUY WOULD BUY THAT HAIR CONDITIONER. From that point on the movie lost all credibility for me and was forever ruined. About $50-$60 dollars depending on where you purchase it but you only need a small amount so it lasts a long time.

I don't even believe Mark Ruffalo uses this in real life unless his wife buys it

I don’t believe Mark Ruffalo uses this even in real life

Mason Pearson Hairbrush: my love of all things British even extends to something as basic and mundane as a hairbrush*. These perfectly designed brushes were first made in 1885 and the style has barely changed since. The combination of boar and nylon bristles massages your scalp like the fingertips of ten thousand tiny hummingbirds if hummingbirds had fingertips, and as someone with a sensitive scalp that is very much appreciated. I went to one of the local blow dry bars and thought they did a fine job but the stylist used hard plastic bristle brushes which really hurt my head. I seriously  had to take Advil afterwards. Mason Pearson brushes are a bit of an investment, but if you take care of them they will take care of you. I bought mine from Amazon for about $150 and since I plan to use this brush until I die I’d like to think I will have a few more years of good use out of it. A lot of brushes don’t even go through my hair and in the winter when the static monster comes to visit me and I want to cut it all off to a length I know I would later regret, this brush and a dose of Kerastase pretty much takes care of the problem. I am like the Chazz Michael Michaels character in Blades of Glory when it comes to this brush, it comes everywhere with me, although it does not have its own carrying case.

 

The Tesla of hairbrushes

Compared to Chazz Michael Michaels $12,000 hairbrush this one is a total bargain

Color Wow: I have been messing with the color of my hair since I first tried Sun In and lemon juice as an early teen. I have altered the color in some way or another since then and have been everything from blonde to red to my current pretty close to natural light brown. The only difference is I have now transitioned from someone who LIKES to color their hair to someone who HAS to color their hair. And while I don’t have a ton of grey hair I have enough to know that I do not like it. It is expensive to color your hair so I try to spread the appointments out as much as I can and root touch up kits help enormously with that. I have tried the little mascara wand-like types but I tend to forget to screw the cover back on properly and then when I go to use it find it all dried out and the brush is so tiny it is tedious to use. It also makes my hair feel crispy and I only like that effect in my bakery or other food products. No issues with any of those problems when you use a powder root touch up and I like this one from John Frieda a lot. Quick and easy to use, it also lasts a long time. You can find it online and at Ulta, for about $35.

Color Wow makes the greys go away

Color Wow makes the greys go away

Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray: as someone so horrifically bad at styling this is one product I can use to kind of make a difference in the every-day-looks-the-same appearance of my hair. A couple of spritz of surf spray and I get a little something something going on with it. My hair no longer slips out of all restraining devices and it truly makes it feel like you have spent the day at the beach, without the sand or the sunburn or the near drowning experience like I had earlier this year (the Pacific Ocean is not my friend). You can buy this at a million places, I usually get mine at Sephora. B&B Surf Spray comes in a couple of sizes and costs from $15-$26 depending on said size. A little bit goes a long way and there are recipes out there on the web to make your own version but unless I can eat it or drink it I don’t really want to make it.

image

Beachy textured hair, without the beach or the jellyfish, I am super afraid of those

Bumble & Bumble Pret-a-Powder or Oscar Blandi Dry Shampoo: I am a big fan of dry shampoo in general and these two in particular. I like the Oscar Blandi’s smell and a tiny bottle is cheap, around $11 at Ulta. I think the negative for a lot of people with this one is that it is a white powder and if you have darker hair it can be difficult to blend it in. The B&B is larger and at $26 costs more, but it is colored more like the Flesh crayon in your Crayola big box of 64 so no weird blending in with your scalp issues here. The other nice thing about the B&B is the enormous amount of body this product gives. If you like big hair or are from Texas, then this is the one for you. There are lots of aerosol versions of dry shampoos (including both of these) and I have tried a couple with the same gloppy disastrous results. Aerosols and me just don’t mix whether it’s hair spray or dry shampoo so I will stick with the powders thank you very much.

Psst, dry shampoo is every girl's friend

Psssssst, dry shampoo is every girl’s friend

*honorable or should I say honourable mention goes to another British hairbrush that is worth mentioning, the Tangle Teezer. As anyone with long hair knows you NEVER use a brush on wet hair, except that is precisely when to use the Tangle Teezer. Super cheap and especially great for kids or people like me with sensitive scalps. No pulling even with the snarliest of hair. Like mine. 

Please sir, can I have some more? Kinky pudding shots that is

Did you even know there was such a thing as Jell-O Strawberry Creme Instant Pudding*? I am not so sure even Jell-O is aware it exists because it’s not listed under products on their own website. Was this mysterious strawberry creme instant pudding an urban legend like the old don’t flash your headlights at a car without its lights on as it’s a gang initiation and you will be shot and killed instantly? After trying three different grocery stores with no luck I was just about to Snopes this elusive product when I decided to give old Amazon a try, and lo and behold, not only did they have it, but they also had a book I wanted (The Last Weekend) that also did not seem to exist in a store, total amaze-balls! Being Amazon, they also bewitched me with the offer of two-day day shipping if I signed up for Amazon Prime (sigh, again) and since I wanted that pudding BAD I fell for their cunning scheme hook, line and Jell-O pudding sinker. Even though the last time I tried Prime free for thirty days to catch up on all the episodes of Bunheads I missed I had to PAY for half of them. Not cool Amazon Prime, not cool.

Oh Amazon, I wish I could quit you

Oh Amazon, I wish I could quit you

For those of you who unfortunate enough to not be on a first name basis with Kinky, it is a “naughty fusion of super premium vodka distilled five times with succulent mango, blood orange liqueur and passion fruit” that once you taste it will make all your problem ago away. Pouf, just like that, at least until the bottle runs out. It’s kind of a small bottle so depending on how many problems you have, you might want to double up.

So very pretty, it's like the Christy Turlington of booze

So very pretty, it’s like the Christy Turlington of booze

One package of Jell-O Strawberry Creme Instant Pudding–and good luck finding it in a store but if you do, I want to know where it is

8 oz. container of Cool Whip–this took me almost as much time as the pudding to find because I normally find my dairy products in the dairy section and whatever toxins this stuff is made up of have to be kept FROZEN

3/4 cup Kinky, of course

Whipped cream to top–real stuff, well, in a can, but found in the DAIRY section

Some sprinkles, to make it pretty. I used pink to match

Shot glasses with lids–mine were 2.5 oz and holy crap they are not cheap, or I am when it comes to plastic shot glasses, seriously, ten dollars??

Ten dollars for these? I guess because they are imported from France. Apparently mousse shots, or creme brûlée shots are big over there and yes I made that up

Gelatin glasses imported from France. Apparently mousse shots, or creme brûlée shots are big over there

Mix the Kinky and the pudding mix until blended, add in the Cool Whip a little bit at a time until incorporated, you know like Hobby Lobby. I put this mixture into a pitcher and poured it into the shot glasses, spooning it in was far too messy and tedious. I was not blessed with the patience gene.

Chill in freezer for a couple of hours, makes about 18-20, depending on how much sampling goes on. Not that I did that or anything.

My little Kinkylings, before they go into the chiller

My little Kinky-lings

Just like the margarita poptails, I made a few of these Kinky-free, figuring some children I know (who just happen to live in my neighborhood) might like them. I am not 100% sure if it is a good idea to get them familiar with the idea of Jell-O shots but what the heck, one of them will be off to college in three years and their parents weren’t around. I am also not sure if Shaun Ryder and the rest of the Happy Mondays would be into Kinky, but since their known for being notorious consumers of copious amounts of both drugs and alcohol (see 24 Hour Party People, no, really you should, it is a great movie with even better music) I am going to say yes.

 

* thank God I had to order four of these boxes from Amazon because let me tell you, Jell-O Strawberry Creme Instant Pudding is insanely good and I don’t even like pudding. Now I know why there are so many Pinterest boards dedicated to it. It also supposedly comes in Peach Creme, which might be almost too much for me to even contemplate right now.