Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When in doubt, make a cheesecake.

So Tropical Storm Debby has been the major subject of conversation around these parts this week; I spent a particularly nerve-wracking two-and-a-half hours driving past accident after accident on the interstate on Sunday night, and was greeted by swinging power lines, downed tree branches and two seriously freaked-out felines when I woke up on Monday morning. In spite of the fact that it would have been much, much easier to stay in bed instead of venturing out into the rain and wind and driving to work, I did end up making it to the office relatively unscathed, although the amount of debris and flooding I encountered makes me slightly (read: very) concerned about what will happen if we get an actual hurricane this year.

But on the bright side, if a tropical storm isn't an excuse to make a mug of homemade hot chocolate and fresh whipped cream, I don't know what is. So there's that.


In other news, Father's Day was two weeks ago (oh, hey, my middle name is Obvious), and I've been meaning to tell you about what I gave--or, rather, made--my dad for the occasion. 

Here's the thing about my father: He is notoriously picky. He likes books, but only suspense novels, and he's persnickety about which ones he'll read--although, randomly, he got really into The Hunger Games a few weeks ago. He hates shopping, although he does like being gifted clothing--but seriously, how many polo shirts or pairs of Sperry topsiders does one man need? 

Here's the other thing about my father: He and I are pretty much the same person. We don't have the easiest relationship, but our internal hard-wiring is identical. 

So when I decided to make him a cheesecake for Father's Day ("Cheesecake for Father's Day" is totally the name of my band's first single), I knew he'd like it--and I was right. So I scoured the Internet for cheesecake recipes and, even though there were a bunch of super-fancy flavored ones that looked delicious, I settled on a classic New York-style version by--who else?--Martha Stewart.

We've talked about how I met Martha Stewart, right? I did an interview with her for work last year and she was quite lovely; I was ridiculously nervous, but she was calm and cool and collected, and she kindly posed for a totally fangirl picture with me. After our interview, which was in someone's house on Siesta Key because the owner of the home was throwing a party in her honor, I followed her and her publicist out of the room, and right as we were about to part ways, she turned to me and asked, without batting an eyelash, "Excuse me, do you know how long this party is going to last?" Oh, Martha.

Anyway, Martha's cheesecake is truly a thing to behold: It has a rich, buttery graham cracker crust and a filling that's made of an obscene amount of cream cheese, as well as sugar, sour cream and a little hint of lemon. But what's nice about this cake is that, despite the rich ingredients, it's really, really light. The lemon helps that, of course, but something about the way the other ingredients come together makes for a creamy, almost fluffy cake that practically melts on your tongue. There's no brick-like restaurant cheesecake here. Here's the recipe if you'd like to make it yourself.

By the way, my dad loved the cheesecake, but I didn't get to try it because I made it on Father's Day and it needed to chill for at least eight hours--which meant I had to leave for Sarasota before it was done (hello, my middle name has changed from Obvious to Dummy). But my delightful mother squirreled away a piece for me and I got to have it when I was at my parents' house this weekend, so my taste buds have experienced this cake first hand--cross my heart. And trust me, it's delicious.

Photo: Martha Stewart

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why I like to lift my legs in tiny, painful increments on Tuesdays

A few weeks ago, my friend and co-worker Lauren told me that she’d been taking this new-to-her exercise class called Pure Barre. I’m not quite sure how we started talking about exercising to each other at work, but the gist of the conversation was that she really likes Pure Barre, that it was a totally different kind of workout, and that  I should try it sometime.

Well, OK, I thought blithely. Maybe I will. I like working out and I’d like to lose my—ahem—“Christmas weight,” so why not?

Before I go any farther, here’s something you should know about me: I have a propensity to get really, really excited about certain things for short bursts of time, but after that period of time ends, the thing I’d previously been so excited about drops off my radar. Are some of you like this, too? (Please say yes.) It’s actually not a bad habit to have when shopping, for example—in fact, I’ve channeled said fickleness into a litmus test of sorts, the litmus test part being that if I forget about the item I’ve started obsessing over after a couple of days, then I obviously don’t really need it anyway—but when it comes to stuff like, you know, exercise, it can rob me of some good and good-for-me experiences.

Pure Barre almost fell into that camp. After Lauren told me about it and I’d agreed to try it, I kept having scheduling conflicts that forced me to have to back out. But I finally made it to a class, and while I was a bit (OK, a lot) intimidated—you do a bunch of the exercises at a ballet barre, hence the name Pure Barre, and I am not, I repeat, NOT a dancer—I ended up kind of loving it.

Basically, Pure Barre (for those who haven’t tried it) is like a super intense Pilates session: you do small, isometric, ballet-inspired movements that work your core and that are quite different from my normal exercise routine, which is made up of a whole lot of cardio and not much else. And while you definitely get your heart rate up with Pure Barre—I admit it: I was breathing hard after the warm-up portion of the class—you also feel like you can have a normal conversation with someone after you finish each routine.  But the best part—to me, at least—is that you concentrate so hard on form and performing the movements during class that afterward, when you emerge from your highly focused (and, in my case, so-focused-you’re-squinty—attractive!) state, you just feel clear. It’s awesome, especially after a long day at work.

So yes, I totally felt that clear-headedness right after my very first class, and was proud of myself for getting through the whole thing—Pure Barre is hard, guys. In fact, I was kind of smug: I wasn’t even sore when I got home that night! I’d also gone to spin class the day before—I was the picture of health! I looked in the mirror knew that the Christmas weight was ALREADY melting away!* Pretty soon, I’d be a ballerina!

Um, yeah, and then I woke up the next day and was more sore than I’d ever been in my entire life. Everything hurt. It hurt to lift my arms, it hurt to lift my legs, it hurt to sit, it hurt to laugh. I had to explain to people all day why I was grimacing when I lowered myself into chairs or, you know, took a step. So much for being a ballerina—I’d been humbled by the barre.

But I went back to a couple more classes—in fact, I’ve been going at least once a week ever since—and like most things, the soreness has faded over time, and what’s left is that clear-headed feeling that’s so addictive and, often, elusive. Also like most things, practice makes perfect—I can feel myself slowly getting more flexible as the days go by, which is pretty cool. It’s kind of a win/win.

And that, my friends, is why I like to lift my legs in tiny, painful increments on Tuesdays (and sometimes Thursdays, too).

*Do you get like this as well? I am so guilty of coming home after a tough spin class or elliptical session and looking in the bathroom mirror as I glisten with the sweat of the workout while thinking, “Yep—skinnier already!” even though that’s totally nuts. Please tell me I’m not alone with my crazy.

Photo credit 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hats off.

I have a ginormous head.

No, really.

It doesn't look huge (...I don't think), but it is. For example, if I get a wild hair and decide I'd like to wear a hat, it's got to be a men's size large or extra-large--which means, as much as I would like to sport this cute J.Crew number, I generally don't wear hats. Sigh. Hard life, right?

Anyway, it has come to my attention that since Florida is sunny for a great part of the year--without a doubt one of the best parts about living here--I should probably get a big, floppy beach hat, mostly to avoid getting horribly sunburned on my pale, pale scalp. (Side note: Scalp sunburn is the worst, isn't it? Ouch.) (Second side note: "Scalp" is kind of a gross word.) So I'm on the hunt.

But I'm curious to know if you guys wear hats, too, to the beach or otherwise. And actually, do you wear headbands or other hair accessories, as well, or are you like me--happy with a brush, a hairband and the occasional bobby pin? And, ooh, most importantly, are you in the Big Head Club like I am?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Favorite thing: Swan paddleboats.

Friends, I have written a lot about my love for the swan paddleboats at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando (see: here and here), and here is another post to add to the books.

You see, the thing about these paddleboats is that they are exactly what you picture when you hear the words "swan paddleboats." They are big, white, plastic, swan-shaped vessels that you lower yourself into and then maneuver around the lake via two sets of pedals. And no matter how many times I see them, they never fail to excite me. "Look at the paddleboats!" I squeal, pointing gleefully to the middle of the lake. "We should totally rent one sometime."

Well, Internet, this weekend we did just that.

I should say that the last time I was in one of these paddleboats I was approximately eight years old. My grandparents were visiting, which means it must have been around Easter, and my whole family went out for lunch at a lakeside restaurant that's now long gone. Afterward, we took a walk around the park, and my grandfather decided to take me out in one of the paddleboats, probably after I begged and pleaded.

The best part of this story, however, is that I insisted I would help paddle, but who are we kidding? I "helped" my grandfather paddle for about two minutes before I got tired and stopped, and I'm fairly certain that I did not put my feet back on those pedals for the whole rest of the 30-minute ride. I'm fairly certain that my grandfather's legs hurt pretty badly the next day, too.

The Lonely Island's "I'm On a Boat" was stuck in my head the ENTIRE time.

This time, I'm happy to report, I did help, but here's a funny story: The guy who rented us the boat was the only one working at the time, and right around the time we walked up, a long-ish line began to form behind us. The swan paddleboat renter guy was so, so nice and accommodating, but he forgot to tell us that the boats move best when you paddle slowly, not like you're participating in some sort of crazy fowl race. So we ended up paddling like maniacs, panting and sweating, for the majority of the ride--thank you, spin class, for strengthening my leg muscles, I really appreciate that--right up until we neared the dock again and the guy called out, "Oh, you guys are supposed to paddle slowly! I think I may have forgotten to tell you that. The boat moves better that way."

Thanks, Mr. Swan Paddleboat Renter Guy. I definitely got my cardio in that day.

Anyway, Jell-O legs aside, the swan paddleboats were just as fun as my eight-year-old self remembered. Plus, it was a perfectly sunny day, the weather wasn't too hot for Florida in mid-June and the water was a gorgeous blue.

And really, sometimes that's all you can ever ask for, anyway: a beautiful afternoon with people you care about in a big, white, swan-shaped boat.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Up in the air.

On Friday night, Nik Wallenda--a renowned stuntman from a famous circus family, and also a Sarasotan--crossed Niagara Falls by tightrope.

Sarasota had been buzzing about Wallenda's stunt all week; a big downtown block party had even been organized so locals could watch it, and according to reports, hundreds of people turned up to do just that. I had plans to be in Orlando this weekend, so instead of joining in with the local celebrators, I curled up on my parents' couch with my mom, dad and the dogs and watched the walk on television.

It was an interesting range of emotions that washed over me as I watched what transpired in Niagara Falls that evening: What began as indifference ("I'll watch 20 or 30 minutes of this, tops," I thought at first) quickly turned into excitement (someone was actually going to tightrope-walk Niagara Falls), then awe (the falls are so breathtakingly beautiful, and even more transfixing at 10 p.m. at night, a contrast of dark, almost-black rapids and frothy white waterfalls), then nervousness (the rain and mist were intense; what if he slipped and fell?), then sheer, unbridled pride when it was all over, not only for Nik Wallenda--he'd made his lifelong dream come true! Talk about moving!--but also for (and yes, I realize how icky this might sound, but bear with me) human beings in general.

The thing is--and I know I'm going to be greeted with a great big round of "Um, duh"s when I make this next statement, but hear me out, I have a point--we live in a world that is incredibly dependent on technology. (Um, duh.) I'm pretty much attached to my iPhone at all times--hello, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, etc.--and it's hard for me to unplug even after a day of work at my desk in front of the computer; I often come home and spend even more time on my laptop, usually until my eyes glaze over or the cats start looking at me like, "Shut that thing off and pet us, woman." I will say that this behavior seems to be very commonplace, but, of course, that doesn't necessarily make it a good thing, does it?

So to watch the 33-year-old Wallenda walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope using no fancy technology whatsoever felt, to me, like a victory for all of us. In an age where everything is motorized, computerized, digitized, instantly accessible and often forgotten as quickly as it happens, Wallenda's walk--which he completed using only elkskin-soled shoes and a balance beam--felt like a throwback to the good old days; a reminder of the sheer power of the human body and of determination, perseverance, sweat equity and simplicity.

Amazing photo of Nik Wallenda, above, by Frank Gunn for The Canadian Press/AP Photo; black-and-white effect by yours truly.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

You're my sweetheart.

Music is a subjective thing. We know this. There's a very good chance that you might hate the songs I love, and that's OK. For example, I adore John Mayer and lots of people feel quite the opposite. I went through a boy-band obsession during the later part of my high school career that almost drove my parents crazy--my mom to this day starts to twitch if she hears even the opening bars of any song on the *NSYNC Christmas album. And even though these days I like to think I have pretty good taste in music--aside from the new John Mayer (obviously), right now The Avett Brothers and Van Morrison are on heavy rotation--like the occasional mid-afternoon Kit-Kat bar, I am also a fan of a sugary pop song, particularly when I'm sweating profusely on the elliptical at the gym.

So, yeah: All this--rather randomly--to say that I was watching TV the other night and a Bing advertisement came on. I don't generally pay that much attention to commercials when the TV on, usually because I'm typing or eating at the same time, but I liked the song that accompanied what was happening on screen, and the refrain--"I belong with you/You belong with me/You're my sweetheart"--stayed with me the rest of the night. A little Googling revealed that the song is called "Ho Hey," that it's performed by a band called The Lumineers, and that the video for the song is awfully sweet, which is why I'm sharing it with you today.

Maybe you'll like it, which is awesome.

And if you don't, that's OK, too.

 Update: The Lumineers' whole album is fantastic. Thanks to Mary for recommending that I listen to it all the way through.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Entryway seeks TLC.

Internet, I am about to show you something that is not too pretty.

It's my entryway. Actually, calling it an entryway is a bit of a lie--it's really my front door and the space that surrounds it.

Reader, it is ugly.

The thing is, as I've mentioned before, I live in a small apartment. It's big enough for me and the cats--and certainly an upgrade from the studio I lived in prior to moving here--but there's not a lot of room for stuff. Which is, actually, totally fine with me, aside from this entryway dilemma. I just want it to be prettier, you know?

I think the desk is OK where it is--prior to it being there, a chair lived in that space--but it's that mirror-hook area to the left of the front door that's bugging me. My dream would be to put some sort of little catch-all-type piece of furniture there, but the space is so narrow that incorporating something like that means people walking through the door would slam right into it. I'd prefer to preserve my friends' kneecaps and avoid that.

Chalkboard paint is something I've wanted to incorporate into my home for awhile now, and I'm wondering if painting a swath of that wall with it--and framing it somehow--would help. Actually, I'm also wondering if I should paint the door itself. Or--on a completely different note--if I should start the process of creating a big gallery wall and have it stretch all the way over to the front door.

Basically, I'm at a loss. Any advice?

P.S. On a separate-yet-related note, I bought this print recently--I've wanted it for years--and I love it. It's hanging in my bedroom now and is decidedly not ugly. Unlike my entryway.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Going, going, gone.

It's always easier to be the one who leaves, isn't it?

I'm often the person who is leaving. Most frequently, I leave my parents' house (and my parents) to drive back to Sarasota, back to my life here. When I visit my family in Pennsylvania, I'm the one who comes and goes--they stay. And because my apartment is so small (and, all right, because it's also sometimes very messy), I usually hang out at my friends' houses--which means I leave there, too. And you know what? I never think twice about it. It rarely feels unnatural. I guess that's the plus side of being the leaver--you're the one who is moving on.

But this weekend, two of my favorite people both left me in Sarasota. And, oh, doesn't that sound dramatic? I should clarify that it was neither dramatic nor did they leave me, you know, forever: one is going to South Africa for a three-week vacation (hi, my name is Jealous, not in the least because it's winter in the southern hemisphere and a face-melting 95 degrees here--are you tired of playing that tiny violin for me yet?); the other lives in north Florida and is simply going home before we reconnect next weekend. But still, for someone who is usually the leaver--or at least thinks she is--the other side of the coin is strange. I felt melancholy for the first part of the morning; there's a little hollowness inside me.

It'll pass. It always does. By tomorrow afternoon, I'll be caught up in the rhythm of the week: My fingers tapping against computer keys, responding to emails in the morning; my car wheels rolling over asphalt on the way to the various places I go throughout the day; a bowl of popcorn near me on the coffee table as I talk on the phone to my other wonderful friends who live in town; my arms and legs starfish-ed across my bed at night because I'll be the only one in it again. Life goes on and we adjust. We just do.

I still think it's always easier being the one who leaves, though.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head.

If you live anywhere in the state of Florida, chances are you've gotten drenched at some point in the last 24 to 48 hours. Case in point: I was picking up my lunch yesterday and got caught in sideways rain and wind so intense that it turned my umbrella inside out and then made my car shake while I was stopped  at a red light. ("Is there a tropical storm I don't know about?" I wondered--quite seriously--several times prior to getting safely back inside my office building, albeit with sopping-wet shoes, pants, shirt and hair.)

It was so windy, in fact, that it reminded me of the time I thought I was stuck in a car wash and decided to climb out of the car while the car wash was still on. Oh yes, I did do that, and it's a tale that prompted my mother, when I told her about it, to roll her eyes and wonder why she'd spent so much money on my college education.

But anyway! That's a story for another time. Back to the one at hand.

Yesterday was the worst of the rain, at least so far, and when I'd gotten inside and thrown myself into my desk chair, relieved to be in a place where water was not falling from the sky, I looked down at my soaked leather heels--boohoo!--and thought, "I should really get a pair of rain boots." I had a similar thought last Friday, when it was also raining, and when I was hopping around outside--in a pair of gold shoes, no less--like a maniacal fairy, trying to cross the street while at the same time trying to avoid the huge, deep puddles of water that had accumulated as a result of the City of Sarasota's very bad drainage system.

So: rain boots? Yes or no--and specifically yes or no for someone who lives in  Florida, where the weather is temperamental? It'll be sunny one moment, pouring down rain the next, then sunny again. Often, it will rain heavily in one place and not another, and those places can be as close as your front and back yards. Also, you can see rain coming here; if you're in the car, for example, you can often see the sheets you're about to drive into long before you actually reach them. (Do you experience that where you live, too? A friend of mine who lives up north said it's not like that there. Is it?)

And if the answer is still yes, what kind? There's the iconic Hunters, of course (and I love the coral color, above, although I'd probably go for black or olive green), but they are expensive--as are Kate Spade's, which are adorable and feature bows. Target makes cute ones, but I'm afraid my friends and family will disown me if I bring home another polka dot item. Do you wear rain boots? Is the buy/wear ratio worth the investment? Pleas share.

(And yes, I realize I just wrote a whole post about rain boots--I live a wild and crazy life, I tell you.)

Photo via

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let's chat.

I have some things I would like to discuss.

1. Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products. Do you use them? If you don't, you are seriously missing out. My favorite, favorite, favorite scent is geranium, because it sends me back to summers at my grandparents' house in Pennsylvania, sitting at the stools in the kitchen as a breeze blew in through the open windows. (Related: I think my middle name should be "Nostalgia.") My second favorite scent is honeysuckle. It is glorious.

2. Josie Maran argan color stick in Petal Pink. I love Josie Maran's cosmetics line; her argan oil has become a daily staple, as has her argan lip treatment (it feels so good on my perma-chapped lips). The lip treatment is kind of thick, though, so when I need something moisturizing that also has a little bit of color, I swipe on this stuff, which is the perfect shade of pink. (Her Magic Marker cheek and lip stain is also delightful.) And in other lips-related news, Rosebud Salve is also really great.

3. These shoes. I am a woman obsessed. I really want them. I tend to buy a pair of wedges every summer, and usually a cheapie pair from Target because I also tend to walk hard and therefore ruin said wedges. So, yes: I wear them until they break, and when they do, I typically tumble to the floor in a terribly embarrassing way, often in my office or in front of someone important, usually while wearing a skirt. Anyway, all that to say that I love this pair and I wish they would go on sale.

4. Mad Men. Oh, Mad Men. Do you watch? Please tell me you watch. The past few episodes have been so great, and Sunday night's moved me (and also freaked me out) to the point where I thought about it all day on Monday. Like, I was sitting in my lunch meeting at work, crunching on a potato chip and thinking about Mad Men. I was typing emails, but thinking about Mad Men. I was talking to people -- coherently, I hope -- but thinking about Mad Men. You get my point. I think Season Four is my favorite (and "The Suitcase" is by far my favorite episode of that season), but I alternately can't wait to see next week's episode and am crushed that it means that the season will be over.

5. Pure Barre. Have you guys ever tried this workout? I was supposed to go last night, after work, but guess who forgot she'd agreed to go to a dinner meeting until a reminder popped up in Outlook 15 minutes before said meeting? (Guess who was also in jeans with greasy, ponytailed hair?) So I'm going to another class instead--obviously, since I missed Tuesday's--with my friend Lauren from work, and I'm a little scared that I'm not going to be able move when I wake up the next day. If you've taken a class or are a Pure Barre-or-similar addict, please let me know.

OK, I think that's it. Anything you would like to discuss? Lay it on me!

Photo: Jamie Beck for A Cup of Jo

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The way to a man's heart.

I was rearranging my bookshelves the other night--they look so much better now, you'll be happy to know--when I found myself clutching my grandmother's yearbooks, which I've written about before and which are chock-full of wonderful details about her life and things that I know I'll treasure forever. I don't know how I got lucky enough to be the person in my family who gets to keep them, but I'm so happy I am, even though I feel a pang when I look at or touch them.

Anyway, I'd carefully placed them in their new spot on my shelves when I glanced down and saw another book of my grandmother's that I'm now the owner of. This isn't like her yearbooks, though; it's quite different.  No, this is The Settlement Cookbook.

Subtitle: The Way to a Man's Heart.

My grandmother wrote her name and the date--1942--inside the front cover of the book, which was authored by someone named "Mrs. Simon Kander" (I love that the publisher included the "Mrs."). It was published in 1941, so right in the throes of World War II, and I'm fairly certain that, by that point, my grandfather was overseas in Europe, so maybe my grandmother was trying to bolster her recipe repertoire for when he got back. I don't know. What I do know is that this book is a veritable encyclopedia of food. Who knew that there were so many ways to prepare a rice ring? Does a potato chocolate torte--made with freshly cooked and riced potatoes--sound good to you? How about sardine pasties, or something called a "snack porcupine"? Mrs. Kander has included all--and many, many, many more--of these recipes inside her book, which weighs in at a whopping 622 pages. In the back, she's even planned out some hypothetical menus for events like "corn on the cob dinner" or "mock steak dinner."

On the first page, my grandmother has transcribed a recipe for bread and butter pickles, which calls for six quarts of sliced cucumbers and instructs the cook to "be careful to avoid boiling, as that makes the pickles soft" (ha! Hello, I'm twelve). On the back, she's written down a recipe for barbecued franks with a Worcestershire-based sauce. I don't know how or why she came to choose those particular recipes to jot down, but I do know that her handwriting in 1942 looks exactly the same as it did last year, which is both comforting and so sad, and I also know that Mrs. Kander's expansive and detailed collection of recipes didn't much help my grandmother in the culinary department; she was never a great cook. (Thankfully, she and my grandfather were already married, so clearly cooking ability was not the only way to a man's heart.)

Still, this is another one of those irreplaceable items that I feel so lucky to have. The dog-eared and stained pages make me feel close to my grandmother--I like thinking of her standing in her kitchen, her brow furrowed as she stirred whatever was simmering in a pot on the stove. And who knows? Maybe someday I'll have an occasion for which I need to make a "snack porcupine," and when I do, I can smile, wipe my hands on my apron, and say that I got the recipe from my grandmother's old cookbook.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Let's talk about my hair some more!

Well, after all the talk of bangs last week, I ended up with...not a lot of bangs. I do, however, have a lot of layers and a really deep, dark, chocolate-y, almost-black color that I am in love with. It may seem counter-intuitive to darken one's hair in the summer, but I march to the beat of my own drummer...or something. And anyway, this color--while darker than my natural dark brown--feels like me, which is a relief.

Don't get me wrong, I really liked the balyage I had put in around the holidays--you can see some of it in the photo above--and the woman who put that color in my hair did a great job. But it started to feel tired after a couple of months, and when I was in Target trying on a maxi dress  a week ago, I noticed a bright blonde stripe right in the middle of my ponytail that was, in some weird way,  totally appalling to me (I believe this is what's known as a "first world problem"). So--because I am fueled in great part by instant gratification--I picked up the phone and made a hair appointment that very day.

The funny thing is, I made an appointment with a stylist who'd cut my hair before, and who cuts my friend Kate's hair regularly and does a great job. So I felt pretty confident in how my 'do was going to turn out. But then, on Friday afternoon, I got a call from a very nice-sounding woman at the salon, informing me that said stylist had sliced her thumb open in a freak kitchen accident and could not fit that digit through her cutting shears. I could reschedule my appointment, she offered apologetically, or switch to a different stylist.

Because I'd been excited about getting my hair cut all week, I decided to keep my appointment but switch stylists, and let me tell you: There is something disconcerting about heading into a situation in which someone who has never touched the hair of anyone you know is about to come at you with a pair of scissors. I'm not even one who's particularly attached to my hair--I lopped off a whopping 10 inches last spring and didn't flinch--and I was still a little wary.

But DeeAnn, the woman who cut and supervised the coloring of my hair, was just lovely, and it's kind of a relief to think that I've finally found a salon I'll be sticking with, and, frankly, always should have stuck with. It's important for a girl to have a good hair salon, I think; there's something about getting a great haircut that boosts the self-esteem.

Plus: head massages while being shampooed.

I mean, come on.