don’t call that vintage:snaps

My designer friends would probably tell you that the resurfacing of the 70s and 80s aesthetic sensibility is so five years ago, but I am aware of it now, so I’ll just say that it’s “new.”  Maybe it’s because I realized my son is closer to the age of 21 than I am (oh, *&%$!) Maybe it’s because I visited a Swatch store on vacation, I don’t know, but I am seeing pieces of my childhood resurface in the oddest of places. Only now, the hipster at American Apparel is telling me it’s ironic, and fresh, fashion-forward, but still, gulp…vintage.

Every generation nods with a wink at a generation or two from before. I wore John Lennon glasses for a while, and for no reason. Maybe it’s fine for the kids who are enjoying it the first time around, but isn’t there some kind of rule preventing me from whole-heartedly embracing dingy bad photos and questionable shoulderpads, because I lived through them already? Maybe.

I’d like to welcome you to part 1 in my blog mini-series. “Don’t call that Vintage – I bought that new.”

I am about a year late to the hipstamatic party, but I am completely hooked on taking early 1980’s photos with my smart phone, which I realize is weird on about 7 different levels. I posted some of my work (may I call them “pieces?”) on Facebook, and almost immediately got a snarky remark, from a favorite snarky remark giver – a college freshman currently living across the country.

“Someone just discovered the hipstamatic app,” she wrote.

I had, and it was a problem, and I knew that.

I was lounging around in quarantine AGAIN with a flu-ridden kid when I downloaded the app to my phone. Hipstamatic takes what would be a perfectly good photo, and subjects it to vintage film, lens and flash effects. The kid with the flu was actually the one subjected – to me taking multiple photos of him sitting on the couch, taking a nap, watching tv, or pretending to take a nap in the vain attempt to get me to perhaps go away.

I showed John my results, and he nodded. After about the 10th oddly lit and grainy shot, he sweetly said, “They’ve made many advancements in photography, you know. On purpose. Pictures are much better now.”

“I know, I know. But look how gritty it is. It looks like the 70’s.”

“But why would you want it to look like the 70’s? The 70’s really didn’t look very good. We knew that while the 70’s were happening. And we were kids.”

When we met up with some old friends at a Starbucks (sure it was a Starbucks in Las Vegas) I showed them my handiwork. Megan was nice enough to play along with me. I’d snap one, and then we’d quickly look at it, critiquing each shot…the flash, the composition, and how our hair looked. Our husbands looked at each other, rolling their eyes the way only grown men and 12-year-old girls can, and went back to talking about basketball.

Other than the photo of a “Tigers Love Pepper” t-shirt, the rest of my Las Vegas photos were taken this way, as were the bowling photos a couple of days later when parents from our church went out for a high-brow night on the town. There is something about Las Vegas and bowling that seem to be the perfect vehicles for gritty, grainy images, and face-distorting lighting.

After 11 grueling minutes of Internet research, the dormant cub reporter in me was intrigued to find out that there is actually a backstory to the hipstamatic craze. (I will call it a craze, because I am currently very interested in it, though I don’t actually have any research to back up its popularity. Apparently, I am currently not that thorough of a cub reporter.) There is even a touch of controversy and a hint of burgeoning urban legend. Suppooooosedly, two brothers manufactured a handful of all-plastic hipstamatic cameras in 1982, that were inspired by Kodak’s instamatic cameras. The brothers were tragically killed in a car accident a short time later, and nearly all of their photos were lost in a housefire in the early 90’s. The story goes that a third surviving brother strives to continue Hipstamatic photography to cement his brothers’ legacies and further the artform that they loved.  However, conspiracy theorists boasting more than 11 minutes of Internet research claim that no such story can be substantiated, and that it is a clever marketing ploy designed specifically for suckers like me, and kids being ironic.

Whatever the story, I love these ridiculous pictures. 1980’s flash does wonders for my vintage skin.

Three of the four photos above are from my camera. The other one is legit. (Hint: my mom’s pants are also legit.) The one with the female humans (girls? ladies? moms? women? that’s a whole different issue) is me and my friend Megan (she’s the adorable pixie on the right). We’re waiting for the fountains at the Bellagio entertaining ourselves while our husbands rolled their eyes. Again.


You’ve been there. Your kiddo’s been sick, or you’ve been sick, and you are on lockdown; a self-imposed quarantine. Not to be melodramatic, but being in the house for now going on 3 days is starting to feel like an experiment. Not gross or demeaning like that reality show and beacon of debauchery, Big Brother, but like something far more domestic and yet…. psychologically intriguing.

The first hours were consumed by tending to the little guy with the stomach bug who looked up at me with his big brown “why me mommy?” eyes. As he finally started to mend, he dismissed me from my spot next to him to wander through the house like a phantom in yoga pants and a hoodie,  far enough to give him some space, but not so far that I could not be at his beck and call. John was officiating the lovely wedding of two lovely people and was busy shuttling Jake to football games and maneuvering through baseball sign-ups and Sunday duties at church.

The at-home assignment was mine.

I didn’t notice my demise until a good 32 hours into the… “experiment,” and this is its  manifestation.

Cabin Fever List of Things I Learned While on Lockdown (2010 edition)

  • The bottoms of the living room curtains don’t match up. I looked at it for a minute and tried to fluff them, but they are linen and don’t really fluff. Eeeh….*shoulder shrug*… whataya gonna do?
  • Tetris is therapeutic. It’s science, yo. Jake’s weekend assignment is to prepare a speech about a development in science. And thanks to the fine folks at Oxford, we now know that the best video game ever, Tetris, can ease the flashbacks associated with some milder cases of post-traumatic stress. But not Pub Quiz, the other game in the experiment – so don’t try Pub Quiz – because what Oxford is surely implying is that Pub Quiz is stupid and does not fix PTSD. Just to be clear….this is a class project. I do not assign him speeches about science for fun, though if the ‘tween eye rolling persists, I may give that a whirl.
  • Now two weeks after the glorious World Series, MLB Network is still going strong. Only now the on-air “analysts” have all the time in the world. We were about an hour into the Cliff Lee “analysis” before I cajoled Jake into changing the channel.
  • Captains in football have a C on their jersey.
  • If there are weird hard-to-find ingredients in a recipe, I simply will not make it. I will not scour the Internet looking for ideas on suitable substitutions – I will just simply not make it, and I will, henceforth, edit my recipes accordingly.
  • If you stare at Hex Nano Bugs long enough, you forget they are little vibrating robots and not real bugs. And then when you do realize it, you can’t decide which scenario is actually freakier…actual bugs or robot bugs.
  • There was a week this summer where Jonathan Franzen and his serious face and serious new novel “Freedom” made it into every magazine I subscribe to. Good for you Franzen, you should relax a little and enjoy it.
  • The BRAT diet is quite addicting, and somewhat luxurious if you haven’t been the one doing the throwing up. Saltines and white toast and rice and applesauce with Gatorade to wash it down. I’m enjoying it because by tomorrow night, I’m sure mac n cheese will surely be back in the request queue, and I’ll be obligated to re-introduce vegetables into my repertoire.
  • Every door slam is loud and suspicious. By the end of day 2, I was that lady. Peeking out through the curtains (not the uneven ones) to see just what everybody was doing out there. Noticing  when they left and when they came in. What time did they check their mail? How long did their gardeners stay? Why on Earth do the neighbors on the corner have the U-Haul trailer every weekend?
  • Being tucked away inside provides one an odd sense of security when there have been multiple mountain lion sightings in the neighborhood in the last week. Perhaps said mountain lion saw me peeking through the curtains, and thinks I am taunting him, and is now lying in wait behind that Pontiac Grand Am across the street.

So If you were to peer down into the living room right now where I am typing this, and you were to look past my messy ponytail and oversized hoodie (heat rises! It’s cold down here! Be nice, or I will make you do a speech on air density) and you could zoom in on what I’m writing you would be relieved that it does not in fact say All work and no play makes Colleen a dull girl. All work and no play makes Colleen a dull girl. All work and no play makes Colleen a dull girl*. I’m not typing that, so don’t worry.

Necessary Sidenote: Rear Window is one of my all-time favorite movies, but I always thought Jimmy Stewart’s character was a bit much. I totally get him now, and that’s after just over a day of being at home. If I was restricted to a wheelchair and blue button down pajamas in my 3rd floor walk-up, I’d have the cops investigating every one of my neighbors, I’m sure.

Not-as-necessary Sidenote: I was in fact stuck in my San Francisco 3rd floor walk-up apartment for many many days after my knee surgery years ago, but most of that was spent in bed, and I could not sit by the window and spy on my neighbors which is for the best. I had already discovered to my dismay, that the older couple across the courtyard preferred to eat breakfast in their underwear. During that stint at home, there wasn’t fancy “wi-fi” so books and the E! Network were my windows on the world while John was at work. One of the Deacons from my church showed up with a casserole. Nobody had ever brought me a casserole and I didn’t know casserole etiquette so the entire operation stressed me out. The lady was very nice, but anxious to drop it and go. I can’t blame her, I probably looked kind of scary – wild eyed and pale from the sunlight deprivation. My dad would call me at the same time every day to check on me, presumably to ensure that I hadn’t lost my mind.

*and yes, oddly enough, The Shining is my other favorite suspense movie of all time, though I far prefer Grace Kelly’s outfits to Shelly Duvall’s.

no commission

There’s a good chance you’ve been on the receiving end of one of my enthusiastic, yet earnest pitches for whatever has most recently caught my fancy. I figure I was going to write about it all eventually, so I’d put it together in one convenient index, forcing me to find new stuff to write about later. You’ll see it’s broken down into three of my favorite areas of interest, Media & Books, Food & Beverage, Entertainment.  For fun, give yourself four points for every one that I’ve tried to talk you into, or if you’ve been a good sport and  tolerated one of the related Facebook posts.


Donald Miller had been on the New York Times best seller list for a bazillion weeks before I read Blue Like Jazz. But you’d have thought I was his agent. I was reading it in the front seat of the car in the church parking lot. (It’s a long story, I don’t usually just sit out there.) Some people I knew walked by and I stuck my head out the window to yell at them, “I’m reading Blue Like Jazz – have you read it? You have to read it.”

  “Um yeah – we’ve read it… like a year ago. Thanks though.”

 Joel Stein’s Awesome Column in Time Magazine. Sure I read the rest of Time too, but usually after I read the Awesome Column. However, if there’s a difficult story elswewhere in the magazine I know I’m supposed to read to fulfill my duty as a caring and informed human, I use it as my incentive to make it through the depressing statistics and heart wrenching anecdotes. You could call The Awesome Column my reading dessert. Joel Stein makes everything funny, and I like things that are funny.

New York Magazine. I actually wrote about this magazine last week in glossy. John was packing for Africa, and I was reading New York Magazine’s article on James Franco:

“John you have to take this with you.”

“I’m out of room in my carry-on.”

 “It’s a magazine – you can fit it.”

“No I can’t.  I have a huge binder.”

“How ‘bout I put holes in it, and then put it in your binder.”


“Ok, how about I rip out the Franco article and you carry it in your pocket.”

 “James Franco? You can’t be serious.”

“I am – you have to read this.”

 “Fine.” We had a very similar discussion a month early about their piece on bed bugs. This magazine is that good.

The Lovely Bones Ok, this is definitely not funny. Even if you loved it as much as I did, don’t make my same mistake and try to talk anybody, let alone everybody, into it. That’s not the kind of material you can force on another person.


The Chilada – this is The Lovely Bones of adult beverages. Though I may associate this drink with lazy summer nights in the backyard, the base is Clamato & you can’t just make another person try to enjoy that.

I’ve had so many Facebook status updates about Jack in the Box tacos that I am finally out of material.

Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Caramel Fudge & Coldstone Banana ice cream This all-important category depends on which of my two pregnancies we’re talking about. After Jake was born, John said he was fully expecting me to give birth to Jake and Ben and Jerry. I ate a pint of this just about every day, which paired with my daily secret second breakfast at McDonalds, helped me achieve those extra 70 lbs every pregnant lady longs for.  My enabling friends at the PR agency where I worked would accompany me for mid-day ice cream runs. Shortly before Jake arrived, I sat down at a staff meeting and cracked open a pint. I don’t remember the meeting topic, but I do remember scraping the bottom of the cup about 5 minutes later having inhaled its delicious contents. I looked up with the spoon in my mouth and the entire agency was staring at me, mouths agape.

Coldstone banana was Zach’s fault, and unfortunately my quest for this creamy perfection lead me to one of the moments I am least proud of. I like to think of myself as a really happy-go-lucky customer….I’d go so far as to say the waitstaff person’s dream! But the high school kid behind the counter that summer who broke the news that banana had been replaced with wasabi flavor for a fun promotion, might paint you a different picture. I may have yelled a little, but there was mostly snarky ranting until the kid looked like he might cry, and I had to go storming away with stupid vanilla.

Do you wonder whether God tests you sometimes? That maybe he puts the opportunity in front of you to do the right thing – the hard thing – to see how you might react? Well…. I failed. I was at the library the VERY next day after the wasabi incident, and here comes that poor kid. I darted behind the new releases and hid. I’m sure all I would have had to do was to point at my gigantic pregnant belly, crack a joke and apologize (I would have meant it), but I couldn’t because I was so mortified with myself. It’s been five years, and I obviously still think about that kid, and have a feeling I’m going to have to answer to that one someday. Oh and by the way Coldstone, how’d that wasabi experiment work out for you?

Banana yogurt shakes. The best ones ever were around the corner from my first real job at the headquarters of a stuffy, strict, now-non-existent bank. In hindsight, I don’t know if I should have tried to sneak so many of my coworkers out of our fairly monitored building at 2 pm in our suits and shiny shoes, only to have us return with giant Styrofoam cups of banana yogurt shakes.


Disneyland. Dear parents, it’s never too early to take your kid to Disneyland.  

I had not realized my loyalty and devotion to the classic Christmas movie status of Elf, until I was walking from the parking lot at work with some guy who had a desk down the hall. I mentioned Elf, and he said it sucked. Before I knew it, I said sternly that I needed to go and jay-walked across the street, only to end up walking parallel with him, en route to the exact same destination.

Saturday Night Live. We were recently in New York and by a very happy set of circumstances ended up sitting in 30 Rockefeller Center, Studio 8H. It was a Tuesday (the Tuesday before Jay- Z & Betty White – holla!) but we got to see the set guys working. John turned to me and said, “oh no – are you crying?!?” Of course I was. When I got home I likened it to people with simpler tastes perhaps seeing the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa, or the ocean for the first time. In all fairness Roseanne Roseannadanna was my earliest impression in pre-school, and then, ironically, there was that Church Lady phase during middle school.

Twin Peaks. I’m still thankful I was not alone in this during high school. There were a few of us, and we dressed up like the characters to watch, and worked in as many Twin Peaks references as we could into regular conversation. We felt so avant garde, because the majority of our classmates thought it was lame, and us lame by association. I know now we were ahead of our time. Twin Peaks makes Lost look as complicated as Murder She Wrote.

You knew I couldn’t not mention Twilight. Believe me I had no intention of loving Twilight at all, I fell into it. As I’ve heard from my Twilight semi-support group, that’s just kind of how it happens. I am buoyed by the growing network of fellow Twi-moms. For the rest of you, a word to the wise, there are more of us than you might think.

And alas, the DVR. The first piece of technology that I mastered before my tech-savvy husband. It has actually lessened the day-to-day stress of my life. You should have seen the crease in my brow when, back in 2002, I realized that our VCR wouldn’t record channel 7 or my beloved Alias. John would have to huff it down the hill from his very serious seminary studies in the very serious seminary library to take over bedtime so I could watch Sydney Bristow get herself out of yet another jam. The DVR – good for the heart, and the marriage.

 I know I get this level of generally unbridled enthusiasm from my dad. When he was into Marie Calendar’s frozen pot pies, he bought me a case of them, twice. The same goes for the Lipton powdered soup in the handy “3:00 pick me up” size. And then there are his movies – My Blue Heaven and Captain Ron starring Kurt Russell. Don’t tease him about Captain Ron – he’ll walk across the street just to get away from you.

Tally your points and let me know if I owe you a banana yogurt shake.


Mmmmmmm, magazines. They’re glossy and portable. You can roll it up, and tear stuff out. You can recycle it, dog ear the pages, even make a collage. They come personalized – with your name right there on the front, delivered to your doorstep. They’re full of stuff that you want to know, already know, should know, and sometimes wish you didn’t know.

Someone worked hard to make it and get it out to you, and they cared what it looked like and maybe back in the day, they were a journalism major, and now they are worried about the future of the printed word. They’ve seen ad pages decline, and though I’m betting these fine people love the Internet, I’m pretty sure they curse it too.

My lifelong relationship with magazines started innocently enough when I was a girl. I’d find every hidden picture, and read every kid-submitted poem in Highlights. Of course the jokes in Readers’ Digest were BRILLIANT. Then things got a little dark and gritty as my relationship with magazines got complicated. The problem really started with Seventeen, and the now defunct teen mags Young Miss and Sassy. That’s when I was brainwashed into the thinking that pretty much every teen girl had a boyfriend and flawless skin and could easily fill out a strapless formal. I quit those, and opted for Newsweek and the since-shuttered TAXI, aimed at urban sophisticates. I skewed the demo for each.

I would be the first in my family to pick up Newsweek and read it cover to cover the day it came in the mail. My knobby knees would be slung over the side of the armchair, and my thumbs would be black from the ink on the cover. I’d proudly point out to my Dad that week’s Conventional Wisdom, cut out the few political cartoons I understood, and would nod solemnly with earnest concern as I stumbled through the meatier stuff in the middle. I was quite certain that this would impress my celebrity crush – Tom Brokaw – if I were ever to meet him.

I’ll never forget walking home with a classmate the week Leona Helmsley was the Newsweek cover girl. “The cover just says ‘Rhymes with Rich’ over her photo…Isn’t that awesome?….Get it? ” She looked at me like I was a major disappointment to our species then excused herself, suddenly remembering something she had to do elsewhere.

My adulthood garnered a number of short-term magazine relationships ….in retrospect, all fairly reflective of my stages in life: Elle, Rolling Stone, Spin, In Style, Biography, Cooking Light, Wired, People, Business 2.0, Real Simple, Entertainment Weekly, Parents, Bon Appetit, The Economist, Vanity Fair, Guidepost, Travel & Leisure and Time. My longest relationship so far is with Sunset, an annual gift from my brother and sister-in-law. I half expect to know someone every time I turn a page in Sunset. A couple of years ago, I yelped when one day I did turn the page and there was my neighbor, smiling and sitting in her very sleek Sunset-worthy kitchen.

Most of my magazine break-ups were undramatic, ending with me lazily letting my subscription expire… we simply grew apart. There were a couple of noteable and glorious flameouts though. People Magazine and I spent a lot of time together right after Jacob was born. There were issues spilling out of the pockets of the rocking chair in the baby’s room. I’d devour it shamelessly until one day, it turned out to be pretty shameful. As I finished the issue, simple crossword and all, I looked up to realize I’d absolutely ignored my baby for who knows how long, leaving him in the jumpy saucer until he was in a trance. I broke up with People right there, for the sake of my children and children everywhere.

Years later things got pretty hot & heavy with Vanity Fair. The pages are made from the most luxurious high quality paper in the universe – so shiny and glossy you just want to wrap yourself in it. The writing is superb – as if each word inside was penned longhand by someone smoking a cigarette in the bar at the Algonquin, wearing heavy spectacles and cursing me under his or her brandy laden breath while running their weathered hands through a head full of wild and unkempt hair. However, after each behemoth issue, I was utterly depressed. It was Seventeen all over again. Only instead of ill- fitting prom dresses I was up against “bright young things” who were all well traveled, well heeled, overly educated, perversely accomplished, and somehow actually saving the world. I walked out of that relationship in the night with nary a note, bitter, jaded and unsure if I could ever love a publication again.

I wish I could tell you who introduced us, but I did in fact meet one. New York Magazine, NOT to be mistaken for the New Yorker. The crossword puzzle is hard, but not too hard, falling somewhere between People and The New York Times. All the cool stuff I’m proud to know about art and music and interesting people – I get from this magazine. The writing is clever and smart, approachable but not pedestrian. It doesn’t depress you like Vanity Fair, or embarrass you like People.  It’s 2 hours well spent. I read every real estate ad for a city I will likely never live in, and every restaurant review for places that will most certainly be closed by the time I ever get back there.

I can happily report that my magazines and I are in a healthy place…they are well balanced and forgiving, not at all needy or demanding – I’m entertained and educated and allowed the space and time to be independent and my own person.

By the way, I did meet Tom Brokaw once when I was in college…I can’t say that he was entirely impressed.