Friday, December 24, 2010

Wishing You a Charlie Brown Christmas

Harry recently reminded me of an old Christmas standby and the tree that still makes me tear up.

"All it needed was a little love."

The Gospel according to Luke:8-14 (from the KJV):

"'8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'"
"......That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Sending love and assurance of what Christmas is really all about.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Money Can't Buy Everything

As we're looking into implementing incentives at work for excellent performance objectives I began to wonder if they would actually help me do my job better. I mean, I already have a great job and more money than I need so why should I be paid even more for doing my job extra well? I wondered, would I actually be able to ramp up my performance with the promise of a few extra hundreds on the line? What I learned from this video is that I'm looking at the whole thing wrong; I must measure my motivation by more than dollars and cents. This, I suspected but wasn't able to pinpoint the true three motivators until I saw this brilliant little short film. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Alternative

I stumbled upon this fantastic collection of indie/alternative Christmas music on Indie Rock Cafe. Some of it's awful, some so bad it's good and some is amazing:
The Friendly Beasts—Sufjan Stevens
Holiday—The Hopefuls
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas—Daphne Loves Derby
The 12 Days of Christmas—Belle & Sebastian

One I haven't seen on the list but I think qualifies is Vampire Weekend's Holiday too.
There's a player on the Web site you can use so you don't have to deal with a separate Windows Media Player opening up in a separate window.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


This is the first Thanksgiving I've had with my family in two years and though absence makes the heart grow fonder, I found that this year I was even more aware of how much I have to be thankful for. I am thankful for:
1) My parents laughing together, just the two of them
2) The fabulous cinnamon cucumber pickles it took the neighbor two whole days to make and seconds to enjoy (she's in her eighties too--we bought six jars from her this year and she nearly burst with pride)
3) The fact that the English language is ever increasingly accepting of the sentence that ends in a preposition "I have a lot to be thankful for."
4) Spontaneous home manicures with my little cousins
5) That cars provide a tropical microclimate against the single-digit temps outside as we go over the hills and through the woods
6) Not finding any spiders bigger than a dime in my room all year long
7) Family members who zone out the conversation because the pie is so good
8) Overhearing my aunt trying to make a legitimate case for "team Edward" to another adult
9) Memories of last year's urban family thanksgiving in Cali where the mixed group of bohemians shared tofurky, gluten-free rolls, and home-brewed beer
10) Family and friends who love me better than I deserve, mean more to me than they can possibly know, and the great God who supplies them

Monday, November 22, 2010

Song Steps

Amazing, I wish I could think of something like this to inspire and motivate people to do change one behavior for the better...just give me time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fall Reading

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
This, my fourth Steinbeck novel, was recommended by a dear friend—I’m so glad he suggested I read it because I feel sure it’s about the last of the Steinbeck novels I would’ve gotten around to. It’s about Danny, a poor, former soldier (WWI) who returns to Monterey to an unexpected inheritance: two houses. Danny uneasily slips into the role of a landed man and inadvertently is given a chance to reconcile his new station by the fact that his friends—each a bum in their own way—begin to matriculate first into the spare house, then into Danny’s own home. The plot tracks various episodes in the paisanos’ lives and their forays into love, theft, scheming, camaraderie, religion, all soaked in the men’s dipsomania.

I found the story really slow initially but realized it was me, not the book that wasn’t measuring up. Once I began to examine the unique personalities of the friends and read into some of the symbolism of the book, it began to come to life. Three quarters into the book the reader unexpectedly starts to feel the pull of the ending and begins to regret that some dramatic conclusion looms, as they always do in Steinbeck novels. The end hits hard, not just once but twice. The plot resolves poetically and the only way it can and would only be considered simply a “sad” ending if the reader has missed the point of the climax entirely.

Currently reading:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Jackson is the famous author of The Lottery, a short story published in The New Yorker in 1948 that evoked such a strong response that many unsubscribed from the magazine entirely, sending Jackson hate mail by the boatload. Even my Mum, renowned at our Lutheran school for her liberal literary tastes said of the story, “it’s not the sort of story you want to be known for teaching, sure I would recommend it to some of my students but I never taught it.” Despite its macabre theme and unsettling ironic points, the piece is one of the most anthologized short stories in American literature.

I started We Have Always Lived in the Castle yesterday over my lunch and when I physically returned to my desk, mentally I remained behind in the pages of Jackson’s eerie novel. I was singing its praises to Peter over coffee last night and, as he’s a writer, I asked him how an author manages to engross the reader when a) the protagonist is unlikable, b) the action is practically non-existent, and c) the passage of time is slow. He explained that the author has somehow made me care about the main character without my actually knowing it and is thus able to interest me in every move she makes. Whatever it is, I’m hooked and I can’t wait to get off of work today so I can be alone with my book.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
I’ve taken up another cinderblock of a book in Atlas Shrugged. Peter and I read The Fountainhead this time last year simultaneously (which means he started it and I followed close on his heels like a little sister) and we’ve opted to do the same with Atlas Shrugged this season. It’s good for our friendship; he’s a hermit and I’d rather be living in a commune so we’re able to discuss Rand’s philosophy on society heatedly (and we love any excuse to argue with one another). I can’t wait to dig in. I found her very surprisingly readable last year.

Want to read:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott—it’s time to finally read this, don’t worry, I’ve got the Kleenex ready. Besides, I am named after one of the characters (albeit, the most boring March sister…oh well, the name “Meg” is prettier than “Jo” and I can only hope I meet a better end than Beth).

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Possession by A.S. Bryatt—I will always associate this book with my overnight stay at the Denver airport last year trying to get home for Christmas and Alison’s wedding. It’s dense and I’m worried I’ll have to restart the whole thing, but it’s really well written so it’s worth it.

Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen—Mum and I are reading this one together whenever we get around to it.

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck—I’m ready to add a sixth to my Steinbeck collection.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller—don’t tell Mom, but I’m 99% sure it will be under the Christmas tree this year and I can’t wait to devour it; I’ve heard good things.

The Omnivore's Dilemma
by Michael Pollan

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender—the plot is about a woman who
can detect the emotions of whomever is cooking for her (her mother feels certain discontent when she makes lemon cake) and her brother and father have equally unusual gifts as well. It’s a magic realism book which could either be genius or completely awful but I’m optimistic.

Great House by Nicole Krauss—who also wrote The History of Love, which was so sad but very good, I will give her one more chance in this one. It intrigues me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Turn On

I didn't know lighthing could be this gorgeous. This is not even remotely Halloween related but I had to share these lovelies from Yellow Goat Design.

Chaos Theory

200 Drop Pendant
...or 100 drop pendant or 150 drop pendant or whatever size you require. The unit pictured is 2400mm in diameter with 200 drops as the name implies. Each drop can vary in length and each drop consists of a 600mm long x 40mm diameter crystal glass tube with a frosted band around the outside (optional) and a bi-pin inside.

Angels & Demons

12 oval shaped polished metal hoops dripping with crystal strands, each hoop suspended inside and above the other. Finally a shower of 90mm diam solid glass balls containing a 12V bi-pin or LED light source completing the illusion of frozen rain.

There is an elegant twist in this combination of long crystal strands. Each is built and weighted to create a deceptively simple helix and is lit by unseen downlights set off to one side.

These beautiful wings in 6mm clear acrylic with edges that glow in the dark are best hung in clusters.



Koolstick Chandelier

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fall Flicks

Long ago, I did a post on Essential Summer Movies, well this time I have a list of fall films. Autumn is when I gear up (i.e., buy up a ton of used books) for winter reading season and since it's such a busy time of year, my impatient mind demands more movies than it does novels so I grab a blanket, warm up cider, and curl up with Daisy to watch a good movie.

Disclaimer: many of these films are not for the faint of heart—I'm not proud of my penchant for scary movies, but these are relatively tame compared to the vast majority of scary movies—these picks are plucked perimeter of the horror genre but be aware that they will make you jump.

1) Diabolique (or Les Diaboliques)—1954
My first choice comes from The Criterion Collection and was acknowledged as influencing Hitchcock's Psycho. This classic thriller is not as overacted as some of its 1950's constituents and more than most foreign films, this French piece has real "je na se qua" that soon makes you forget you're reading subtitles.

2) The Ghost and Mrs. Muir—1947
In terms of scares, this movie is positively child's play but I love it because it's a sweet little love story set by the sea and done in all the cheesiness and predictability as one could hope. However, Gene Tierney is absolutely gorgeous and would be as coveted an actress today as she was then for her flawless beauty and ease on camera. Probably not one for the boys, but if you loved old romances as a little girl, try it out.

3) The Haunting—1963
Director Martin Scorsese placed The Haunting first on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time and for good reason. This film pioneered some scare tactics no one had seen before which I will not enumerate so as not to spoil them.

"You doin' okeey there, Marge?"
"Yep, I just think I'm goin-a barf!"

The Coen Brothers added "based on a true story" at the beginning of the film despite the fact that the crimes detailed in the film are a very loose adaptation of two, unrelated Minnesota crimes (neither of which involved a certain piece of heavy machinery). Why a film taking place in North Dakota that comprises over 75 uses of the f-word and has a body count of seven works I don't know. It just does.

5) When Harry Met Sally—1989
A break from scary films, this makes the list because any script written by Nora Ephron is exquisite—it's autumnal and one of the best romantic films of all time. Fun fact: in the museum scene, Harry ad libs, "But, I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie." Sally laughs and looks to her right where Rob Reiner silently prompts her to go with it.

6) The Village—2004
In my humble opinion, this is last good movie M. Night Shyamalan did. I know many were disappointed by the explanation of the monsters but I thought that there was enough psychological depth to make it work. There's something that really works about Shyamalan's idyllic, homey setting being disrupted by unpredictable monsters; this dystopia piece just works. Fun fact: the movie was rated PG-13 when it came out into theaters only after Shyamalan agreed to omit a single sound effect that had taken the film to an R-rating right before release (wouldn't you love to know what the sound was?).

7) School Ties—1992
Not a scary movie either, this one's for the girls starring Matt Damon, Brandon Fraiser, Ben Affleck, and Chris O'Donnell. 'Nough said.

8) El Orfanato—2007
Guillermo del Toro is a genius and this thriller proves it. There are so many little details and elements this Spanish director includes that reward the observant viewer. It's kind of scary, not going to lie, but it's not over-the-top frightening and unlike so many other scary movies, this one actually has a plot. The thing I love about Spanish films is that you're guaranteed to see something you've never seen before on screen.

9) The Birds—1963
First, Tippi Hedren, one of Hitchock's famous icy blond leads, is absolutely stunning. I love the scenes she's in opposite Suzanne Pleshette, a feisty, warm-blooded brunette, as they make a perfect foil. Maybe that's why Hitchcock used the famous split-focus technique to capture both beauties in the scene where Mitch is on the phone with Melanie and Annie's character listens in. Tell me what you think about the musical score of the film when you finish it, I'd like to hear your thoughts (veterans to the film know what I'm talking about).

10) Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?—1962
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, only two of the most powerhouse women ever to grace the silver screen star in this thriller about the two reclusive sisters. The very best part of this movie? Crawford and Davis hated each other with a passion that made their onscreen tension so fabulous. For example, during production, Bette Davis had a Coca-Cola machine installed on the set to anger Joan Crawford, whose late husband had been CEO of rival Pepsi-Cola and who herself was on the board of directors of that company. During the kicking scene, Bette Davis kicked Joan Crawford in the head, and the resulting wound required stitches. In retaliation, Crawford put weights in her pockets so that when Davis had to drag Crawford's near-lifeless body, she strained her back.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thin Spaghetti Sauce, Pricey Mustard, and Milky Weak Coffee

Malcolm Gladwell is a stud. I have a minor crush on his brilliant mind, ability uncomplicate concepts, and his amazing hair. I read Blink when I was living in San Diego and eagerly embraced Malcolm Gladwell's easily understandable theories on how we, individually and collectively, make our decisions. Also the author of The Tipping Point and Outliers, he revels in explaining why we behave the way we do. If you don't have time to read one of his books right now, at least you can enjoy a short TED Talks presentation he did on the nature of choice and happiness. Enjoy!

By the way, if you don't know about TED Talks, wake up and smell the dark, rich, hearty roast. It's a small non-profit perpetuating ideas worth spreading, most popularly, via short presentations by great minds like Gladwell's. TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Last night I went tangoing for the second night in a row (am considering going again tonight). I'd worked a 12-hour day and gone straight to Barry's to dance with two older, distringuished tangueros who were kind enough to dance with an amateur like me (it helped that I was the only female who showed up to Tuesday tango night). As I drove home last night, I wondered why I was spending my time dancing when there were so many other things I should be doing. I have goals I'll never reach if I don't start getting organized and apply myself and there are people I neglect to feed my dance habit. I thought about it, and this week I'll spend five nights out of seven out dancing. Why am I doing it?
For one thing, the exercise is great. It's the only workout I enjoy and as my appetite shrinks and my legs grow strong, I feel my waistline veeeeeeery slowly diminish. But there's a better reason: four years ago in Buenos Aires, I tried to tango and after a horribly failed practica, I swore it off for life. I just knew I couldn't do it and uncharacteristically took it off the table forever, or so I thought. Now that patient instructors and kind male partners have taught me that I can be an acceptable tanguera, I feel immensely empowered. It is the first time in a very long time that I believe that we can do the impossible if we try. That, as cheesy as this line is, we truly do miss 100% of the shots we don't take.
Now that the lessons and practicas aren't a huge struggle, just a matter of polishing and improving, I feel ready to use this as a springboard toward accomplishing other things I've been putting off out of laziness and hopelessness.

Thanks for indulging yet another selfish post—I hope that someone might read this and feel encouraged to try something unfamiliar and uncomfortable and overcome his/her own fears. It's a wonderful thing to discover you have more in you than you thought.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gettin' Hitched

My dearest Sarah is getting married this weekend! I don't know her husband-to-be nearly as well as I'd like to, but I know him well enough that I have no reservations about his becoming a permanent fixture in both Sarah's and my life. I can't wait to see my already gorgeous friend dripping in lace and overwhelmed with joy on Sunday and I wish the bride and groom all the blessings and happiness they can stand. Love you, Sweet Sarah.

This is a picture of the two love birds during the same trip during which Chris proposed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Head Cold

Am feeling under the weather, will post again soon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

One Amazing Thing Friday

I can't take any credit for finding this, my dear friend Ann W. showed this to me last night and I've become obsessed with it. I've already watched it six times. Everything about this works, the kitschy background art, the two very beautiful people in adorable threads, the song, and of course, the ah-mazing hand dancers.
Two celtic dancers when they're not dancing with their hands, these two are adorable.

I can only post this small size so I encourage you to double click the embedded video below to see bigger on YouTube.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Object Orange

I can't take any credit for this whatsoever, I found this on my friend's blog, Jerry. Jerry is a new friend of mine; he's the best tango dancer I've found in Lincoln so far but he only moonlights as that, in real life, he'a an architect with a really cool Web site and blog. Here is a recent post about art students in Detroit who, sick of looking at all the dilapidated houses in the area, decided to paint them bright orange. Find out why by clicking here, I thought it was an awesome story. Thanks Jerry!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Photo Phabulous

These made me happy and gave me ideas. That's all. Enjoy Carl Kleiner's work!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

All Tango-ed Up

Not the best picture of me ever or anything, but I'm proud of it because it's of my first tango lesson.

Oh my word. I have a new obsession. I am addicted to tango.

I swore I'd never be able to tango. This was based on a humiliating tango lesson during my time living in Buenos Aires—I'd just come from Mexico where I'd finally become a really pretty good salsa/merengue/bachata dancer and I foolishly assumed that the prowess I finally showed for those dances would come through in tango. I was so dead wrong. My partner actually left me on the dance floor partnerless visibly frustrated with my clumsiness. Part of my problem is that I kept pulling away from him as I felt he was skeevily pressing me to him (erm, it's called close-embrace tango...he wasn't skeevy, he was right). I swore off the art then and there and was almost in tears as I sat alone at my table and changed back into my street shoes.

Well, a couple weeks ago I'd left behind my credit card at Sur Tango's salsa night and returned for it Friday evening after first friday art galleries. I grabbed the card, and made to leave but I was mesmerized by the dancers. Cheek to cheek they glided across the floor perfectly mirroring each other, but their feet made rapid, fluid movements that belied their relaxed, unmovable frames above the waist. The girls curled their lovely legs around the men and the men returned the favor by bending her back elegantly. I sighed and was almost out the door when I bumped into a dancer friend who insisted I participate. Despite my (I thought) firm protests, he slipped my purse off my shoulder, firmly backed me onto the dance floor and drew me into his frame so a lesson could begin. He was brilliant and made the movements very doable. I've been going to lessons since and have been loving every second of it, even the awkward ones when I step on or kick my partner during a "castigada".

I honestly didn't think I'd love anything more than salsa and tango still ties with bachata but tango has stolen my heart. I fantasize about it all day at work and look forward to putting on a dress, my suede-soled shoes, and plastering my hair up for an evening of lessons three days a week.

So far I can do the "parada", "carousel", "castigada", front and back "ochos", "bolero", and "hook". It's the leading into these moves I still have trouble following but I'll get there.

Try tango. So far, the best part of all of this is the amazingingly friendly and accepting tango community in Lincoln. They are so eager for me to catch on that they never let me sit out a dance and are patiently giving me tips which I soak up as much as possible.

When I grow up, I want to be a tanguera.

Thanks for indulging this post, I know it's pretty focused on me, me, me but I am just bursting with enthusiasm over this.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Three Things to Tell You:

1) I love classic literature. LOVE it. Like, pretty sure I ruined a couple promising dates by waxing poetic about the brilliance of Jane Eyre's caracter or the deep perversion of Dracula, or arguing that Gatsby is the most tragic individual in literature since Hamlet. I even loved The Scarlet Letter while my classmates scoffed! However, I have finally determined (with 100 pages to go, mind you) that Anna Karenina is nothing but a verbose doorstop. This massive tome was NOT worth my time. I know it's this multifaceted Russian commentary covering everything from religion, sportsmanship, politics, industrial revolution, to infidelity, parenthood, and sex (and well it should, comprising a whopping 864 pages--only Harry Potter can get away with that much heft).

Seriously, I didn't find any particularly redeeming qualities about this book. No real take away quotes, thoughts on life, none of it. I am not totally sorry I read it but I will be much more selective in the next Russian novel I take up. Giving it minus one star out of five. Blech.

2) On the upside, Mumford & Sons music has given me new-found hope in new alternative/indie music (so has Florence + The Machine, I guess) but check out these fabulous songs! WARNING: "Little Lion Man" has the f-bomb in it over and over--not in a totally crass way, I think the group was trying to add edge to their folk song with the expletive and I forgive the gimick for its fabulous sound.

3) is the I Ching. If you haven't messed around on that site lately, you're genuinely missing out. I discover my best music on "All Songs Considered" (though I would skip the most recent show and try this post), get my literary snack from "The Writer's Almanac" and have been known to listen to up to 12 past episodes at a time just to catch up. Morning Edition is the best news site you will find period (BBC is a close second). Don't forget my post on StoryCorps
I posted (and probably made you cry, again, sorry!) in August.

Enjoy the latter two, skip Anna Karenina.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Fall is here and I can prove it:
1) First Husker game (and win) of the season was on Saturday. Sorry we wiped the floor with you, W. Kentucky, can't say you weren't warned!
2) Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Salted Carmel Hot Chocolates are at Starbucks. I've only indulged in the first so far but the second promises to be almost as heart-stoppingly delicious and bad for me as the first so it will happen soon.
3) Squashes are starting to show up at the Farmer's Market and the first crop of apples is sneaking into the grocery store and consequently being swarmed by apple loves (I got the last two honeycrisps on the stand last week).
4) I'm already getting the "winter reading itch" and plotting the books I'll read in Winter 2010/2011
5) The weather has necessitated runs back into the house for cardigans and sweaters
6) My favorite clothing Web sites have been advertising shooties (booties + shoes)

7) Peach pies are beginning to give way to apple pies soon (though, the peach pies were fantastic, if I may say so myself—I acheived a lattice top this year too).

8) I've revived my ghost story I'm writing and it's coming together plot wise—now I just have to write the dang thing.
9) Previews for scary movies are coming out; I tell myself I'll go to all of them but really end up just renting one of the not-so-scary ones six months later.
10) Halloween candy is out and I bought my mother a bag of mallowcream pumpkins yesterday.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

There's No Place Like This: Socotra Island

Socotra is a small Yemeni archipelago of four islands and islets in the Indian Ocean off the coast of the Horn of Africa, about 350 kilometers south of the Arabian peninsula. Socotra is one of the most isolated landforms on Earth of continental origin. The archipelago features narrow coastal plains, a limestone plateau with caves, and mountains which rise to 1,525 meters above sea level.

Like the Galapagos Islands, this island is teeming with 700 extremely rare species of flora and fauna, a full 1/3 of which are endemic, i.e. found nowhere else on Earth.

Socotra is home to more than 800 species of plants, some 240 of which are endemic to the island, and there are certainly many more plant species that have yet to be discovered. The climate is harsh, hot and dry, and yet - the most amazing plant life thrives there.

A Dragon’s Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari) is seen in front of the Skund mountains on the island of Socotra, Yemen. The tree is so named because any injury to the bark results in a deep red liquid excreting from the scar – compared in the past to the "Blood of Dragons". It's also called the "Dragon Head Tree" since in legends, when brave knights beheaded dragons, they discovered that two grew back in the place of the one, and four grew in place of the two, and so on; this tree looks as if great heads have sprouted from all the primary branches amassing into a big, multi-headed beast.

The branches spread out into the sky and from below appear to hover over the landscape like so many flying saucers... and from above they have a distinct mushroom look.

There is also the Desert Rose (adenium obesium) which looks like nothing so much as a blooming elephant leg.

A Socotran Fig Tree (Dorstenia gigas) with a bizarre swollen trunk that almost has human proportions grows against a limestone rock face on the island of Socotra. The plants are one of over 300 plant species endemic to the island.