Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Sloth Video

Ok, so full disclosure:  I simply adore Ellen.  Also, I love a sloth.  It is my go-to animal to visit every time I visit the rainforest at the Henry Doorly Zoo (recommended), and it is one of only two beanie baby likenesses to ever grace my belongings.  Tags off, S'il vous plaît

So when I saw a few things around the interwebs today about this video, I was dubious.  I mean, Ellen is generally hilarious, but is this really that good?  What could possibly make this particular clip so amazing?  The proof is in the pudding, friends.  And I just couldn't help myself.  This is one of the funniest videos I have ever seen.  I literally had tears running down my face by the end - it's just so darn silly and relatable and ridiculous and wonderfully cruel all in one.  Watch and be amazed.  And then watch again.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Warm Fuzzies

Aren't these just darling?!  Made from an easy-peasy kit from Target, these little fuzz-balls will make perfect Valentines for my homeroom kiddos.  And in the meantime, I have an awesome little fuzzy-wuzzy army guarding my desk.  So cute! 

Book Lust - A Perfect Day for Bananafish

This weekend marked the 2nd anniversary of the death of J.D. Salinger.  
Perhaps the single most talented, and easily my favorite author I've ever read, J.D. Salinger was a gifted author, a recluse, and a man surrounded by mystery.  He is now and will forever be greatly missed in the literary world for his depth of character, incredibly realistic and gritty use of dialogue, and for introducing us to the Glass family - a family rife with issues, celebrations, moments of insanity, and Perfect Day[s] for Bananafish.  It is a great loss, but the impact he leaves on the world, though he may think it phony, is far larger than the sum of its parts.

A Switzer Saturday Night

Lordy Pete, it's been a crazy week and change.  Last week was the last week of the quarter at school - always a busy time and this one was no exception.  And after a few too many 14 hour days, and a complete lack of inspiration - weekend calls. 

It seems I'm one of the last people to join the fun, but I finally got my invite to join Pinterest on Saturday!  Oh, it's such a never-ending candy-store of goodness!!   Of course, I ended up spending waaay too much time poking around and was nearly late for my Switzer Saturday Night, but there is so much to inspire.  And what a difference that makes!  
I've already started a great Valentine's Day DIY project inspired from the pins there and am so excited to share it soon!  So fun.  

Anyone who's known me for any length of time understands that I'm not really a girl who lets her hair down too often.  Literally.  I love to wear my hair up.  Always have.   And as a result, I've always got my eye out for cute and simple ways to do it up.  So when I found a tutorial for a simple, interesting, and oh-so-modern-yet-classic Gibson tuck from Sara Lynn Paige, I was over the moon.

{find the tutorial and more images here}

Not only is the hair gorgeous and super simple, the photos and video are so beautiful and easy to follow.  

I decided to try it out Saturday night for the Dale City Civic Association Awards Banquet.  My good friend Dana was nominated for Dale City Teacher of the Year, so we got all dolled up and rolled out to celebrate. 

Ok.  The awards were actually incredibly long and a bit dry.  The MC was prone to dry and not especially funny off-the-cuff jokes between awards, we were rather smooshed in, and in the end Dana lost out to a retiree.  But overall, not too shabby.  It's such a great thing to be recognized - not only because Dana is so dedicated and truly deserving, but to see our school represented so well and for such a great reason was really wonderful.  

In celebration and in continued honor of the great family Switzer, the fun continued as we made the trek to Leesburg to see Dana's brother, Tony play with his band.  Bitter Creek has been jamming to awesome tunes since they were just teenagers.  Some members have come and gone, but the spirit that keeps them going has sustained.  From classic rock to country to bluegrass to 90's alternative, Bitter Creek plays it all.  And they're good.  Damn good, at that.   Great music with great friends at a great place.  Makes for a great Saturday night in my book.  

{Downtown Saloon in Leesburg, VA:  2 parts biker bar to 1 part hipster cool = recommended}

{the tasty beverage}

{with the lady of the hour}

{Check out Bitter Creek here}

Sunday, January 22, 2012

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

The котек is snoring... so cute.  

Life Lessons in Banana Bread.

For the past couple of days, I've been feeling a bit down in the dumps.  The worst thing about that is that I tend to feel bad about feeling bad, which is beyond annoying.  Queue the vicious cycle (violins optional).    

So, in an effort to stick to the plan, keep a chin up, and break some ruts, I planned out some fun throughout the upcoming week and decided to call on an old favorite to liven up the here and now.   And so we bake...

Baking banana bread is my go-to feel better experience.  It's so much more than the end result.  It really is about the process  - it's downright transformative.  

The thing about banana bread is that it's moody.  It doesn't bend to anyone else's rules or expectations.  It can be trying, and frankly, always starts out looking like snot.  And I kind of love that. The best bread is made of old, once-frozen-now-thawed bananas; they are gooey and drippy and slimy and disgusting.  But pretty bananas just don't do it.  The bananas, the very thing that makes it oh-so tasty, are probably the most initially revolting part.   If that isn't a metaphor for life, I don't know what is.  

Once the wet and dry ingredients are mixed - the batter just kind of does its own thing.  Sometimes it's super runny.  Sometimes it's shockingly thick.  It does what it wants, when it wants.  And if you're feeling too controlling, too tightly wound, it'll do a number on your psyche.  But that's part of its charm. A successful banana bread forces you to trust.  It forces you to continue along the process and trust that it is what it should be; not what it is at the moment (which may make you incredibly nervous or uncomfortable), but what it will be.   Life lesson #2.  

One of my favorite moments the first time I visited my long-distance ex-boyfriend's apartment, years ago, was the first time I attempted to close the drain of the bathroom sink.  It didn't close.  I asked him about it and I'll never forget his response:  "It does what it wants.  That's why I like it.  It's got personality."  He said it with the biggest grin.  
I think of that experience and that trip every time I bake banana bread.  Because what he said is totally true and relevant.  It does what it wants.  It is moody.  And it'll do what it needs to in its own time, forget what you had in mind.  How you choose to react to it is your choice.  

Every recipe I have claims the baking time to be around an hour - give or take a few minutes.  But in actuality?  Sometimes that time is dead on.  Others, like today, it takes an additional half hour or so.  You just have to keep a weather eye and check back.  You cannot despair.  You cannot be swayed by the outward appearance.  Sometimes the end result is golden, rounded and perfect.  Sometimes, it looks a giant mess.  But the end result is always worth it.   Life lesson #3.   

No matter the process, from the icky initial snot-like consistency to the strange and sometimes mysterious baking time requirements, the end result is always beautifully imperfect.  And oh so tasty.  

I feel better now.  

Life-(re)Affirming Banana Bread

1 1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. butter, softened (at room temp.)
1 1/2 c. smashed banana (old brown frozen ones, thawed), 3-4
1/3 c. water 
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs (at room temp.)
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. baking powder
1/3 c. raisins and/or walnuts, optional

In a large mixing bowl, mix sugar and butter together until well blended.  Add banana, water, vanilla and eggs;  mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and baking powder.  Slowly mix into banana mixture.  If you're inclined to use nuts or raisins, now is the time.  Bake in a greased and floured loaf pan at 375F for ~50 mins.  Remove from oven when a knife inserted to the center of the loaf comes out clean.   Allow to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.  

Serve with spreadable butter and a tasty beverage.  Great for breakfast, snacks, or a tasty dessert.  


Eyes closed.

Home Movies.

How many of us grew up knowing a parent or family friend with the perpetual video camera-to-face accessory?

More importantly, how many of us know full well that there is an enormous stock of never watched home videos stashed somewhere - and let's be honest,  there aren't a lot of moments that inspire us to rush home and pull one out.

Today, while trolling around my favorite blogs, (boho baby bump), I found an amazing compilation video that I can't help but share.  This home video not only catches all the big moments of the event, but so many of the little ones that really capture the spirit of the day.  Sure, these moments are there in the long, drawn out versions I grew up with, but here they are captured and commemorated in a succinct and memorable fashion that takes that special moment and elevates it to another level.  And under 4 minutes, anyone who missed the event isn't bogged down with obligation to suffer through an exact play-by-play.  Genius.  

Find this excellent source of inspiration here.  (you're welcome)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In Heaven There Is No Beer... or... How the Hawkeyes Saved the Day

I got pulled over tonight directly in front of my house. I'd already parked and had bag in hand when the lights flipped on, so it was a bit of an unpleasant surprise, to say the least. Two of Prince William County's finest paced around the car, shining their flashlights into the windows - checking for up to date emissions, plates, etc.  
"License and registration?"  You bet.  "Did you know your headlight is out?"  hmmmm.  

A few minutes later...

"I just can't give you a ticket. Not when you have a Hawkeye license plate holder.  Anybody who believes in the Hawkeyes is good in my book."   

Cheers, Iowa.  Happy Thirsty Thursday to you!  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


"Until then home had been amorphous and elusive: it presented itself in tantalizing glimpses, with the impersonal familiarity of old family photographs.  But all these feelings belonged to the past.  Home was constantly changing before my eyes." 
 Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

For a long time, I've devoted more hours than are probably good for me to searching for and trying to create a space for myself.  A home.  And it has been so hard.  

I'm a girl of many dreams, a healthy dose of wanderlust, and a sense of nostalgia that has caught me by surprise time and time again.  In my head ... in my heart, I feel like the place you spend your days in should reflect you - not only your style or taste in furnishings, but it should be a space that allows and can encourage your true self to emerge and flourish.  I believe in this.  I do.  But I know it's ridiculous, too.  Because whatever issues I have with or in my space -  they're all me.  

Once upon a time, there was the itty bitty room in the college house I fondly (... or perhaps not so fondly) called "the hut" - a 6' x 8' room with a stand-out closet.  I had a twin loft bed with a desk my dad scored from a school auction for $1 underneath.  There was enough room for my antique high boy, the loft/desk combo and a slim line of required novels for my lit classes.  That was it.  I shimmied to the ladder at the foot of my loft - there wasn't room to sit up.  The previous tenants used the room as a closet.  But I loved it.  

Two years later, I moved into one of the single rooms of my sorority house.  It was long and narrow and was in terrible shape when I moved in.  The girl who had lived there before had been in that room  - and clearly hadn't moved anything - for three years.  The plaster walls were crumbling around the switch plates and there were more than a few dirty rectangles outlining a crystal clear map of every item that had been in the room before.  My dad and I spent the day and more money than we'd planned on painting and fixing the room up before hauling my things up and in.  My sorority house was built in 1912.  The wood floors were uneven and splotchy from so many attempts at updating.  My father's classroom box fan (now considered a vintage piece - love that) sat in the window in a desperate and futile attempt to keep the air moving.  A $10 hallway carpet served as entryway and yoga mat.  When in bed, I could reach my arm out and touch my desk chair "across the room."  But goll-ee I loved that room.  Through bats, screeching roommates, and scorching temperatures - it was love.    

After college and after traveling around the world to a life of quote-unquote servitude, I had the opportunity to live in two apartments that would be forever etched in my mind as nothing short of amazing.  Both were broken in their own ways - the first had no furniture except a giant shkaf, a broken sofa which served as bed, and two small stools.  The kitchen cabinetry was removed by the landlords.  Between the Kruschev-era stove/oven and the sink provided by the teachers in my school (clearly removed from a dacha in the country somewhere) stood a school desk.  I fashioned a shelf under the desk out of two pieces of plastic siding that were inexplicably on the balcony to serve as storage and pantry.  My refrigerator was donated by another teacher from my school.  It had rusted nearly all the way through, was covered in old, somewhat mysterious jam, and every few weeks had to be turned upside down so I could beat the ammonia crystals loose within the cooling coils.  
The second was fully furnished in a hodgepodge of florals, wood-tones, mountain-scene wallpaper, and stickers featuring 80's television stars, hair and pornography.  I had two beds in the bedroom.  I took the padding from the extra to create the 2" padding atop the plywood.  It was strangely one of the best beds I've ever had.  Everything was covered in musty, yellowed wallpaper - cabinets, pantry, balcony, the works.  The kitchen sported lower cabinets that could not be opened and shockingly blue wallpaper.  The living room still housed a full shelf of books and coats in the entertainment center.  It did have carpet and a vacuum.  The vacuum had to have come from the early 1960s.  It worked - ish, and the metal casing always turned my hands black with tarnish.   It was kind of amazing.  
In both apartments there was no hot water and I boiled my bath-water on the stove in a 15 gallon bucket.  It took 2-3 hours to boil (depending on how cold it was outside) and required incredible balance and awkward upper body strength to carry this giant bucket of boiling water across the apartments to pour into the bathtub.  I had arms of steel.  
For all of their weirdnesses and quirks, I adored them.  

I haven't loved my space since.  I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me.  And again, I know it's ridiculous.  Four walls, floor and ceiling don't make or break you.  They don't create anything.  
Since moving to Virginia, I've lived in new(er) builds with roommates.  That is the reality of this area and this life at this moment.  And it's not necessarily a bad thing.  I just can't shake the dream of having my little shoebox in the sky - a space that is my own.  

Today, after round two of the great dental adventures, I've been feeling kind of crappy and have spent the better part of my day in my room watching movies and trolling the interwebs.  And that's when it hit me.  While musing about the adorable accessories on Jen(from Jen Loves Kev)'s desk, I had a realization.  I am completely full of shit.  

{See more of Jen's decor here}

 Sure, I'll readily admit I can kill a succulent faster than boiling an egg, despite my nagging urges to have tons of them.  (They're some of my favorites.)  But the general style of it all, not to mention the cute little owls, currently exist in my world, too.  

I rent a room in a house shared by four 20-30 somethings.  It is not mine.  It is not the little shoebox in the sky I've always dreamed of.  I don't have a desk or a dining room or even a shared living room space that jives with my idea of "homey."  I sit on the floor of my room to do my work or read/write/watch TV or movies/eat dinner.  My little Mel-bel's food and litter are just a wee bit too close to my bed to be considered spacious.  But you know what - it's mine.  

And even though it's too new to warrant having "character",  too normal shaped to be considered itty-bitty or cozy, and too put together to have the struggles or issues my favorite spaces did, it works just fine.  And I'm sure, once I do move to a place of my own and have the free reign to arrange and decorate it in ways that please me, I'll miss this place too.  Ok, so I lack the ever elusive living succulent... or even a desk on which to put one...  

I already have what I've been lusting for.   

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The way is in the heart.

"The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart." - Buddha

Good Things.

Today was a pretty ho-hum day.  So here's to a few things that have made me super mega happy recently:
  •  Hugs from my favoritest, most annoyingly loveable cheerleader.  She's short, she's squirmy, she's been with me for all three years and she may or may not have "stalked my website" yesterday.  :)  Best. Hugs. Ever.  This girl has driven me crazy, up the wall, around the bend, mad with hysterical giggles, and so full of love it surprises me every day.  She's the best kind of lovely - the kind you never see coming but who will never ever let you forget them.  Mija - te amo!! 
  •  Read A Book.  If I had guaranteed immunity, I would totally show this in class.  Because it's amazing.  And just so happens to be an extension of my internal monologue.  And so inappropriately funny.  Mad love to my friend Kyle who introduced this bit of magic to me a few years ago.  It makes me laugh every single time.  

  • Blaring show tunes in the car and singing along on the drive home from work.  "No good deed goes unpunished..."  So cathartic. 
  • Kitten cuddles.  Is there anything better?  After a long day, my best girl Melo always greets me at the door with a meow.  Sure, she probably just wants a belly rub and a snack, and sure, she can be moody as all get out.  But when she makes the move for the cuddle, it makes it all the more amazing.  Love. Her. 
  • Pomplamoose.  The collaboration between Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn is just so darn cute.  They have a wealth of covers and original songs put together into "videosong" format - where every sound you hear is represented by what you see.  Their style is quirky and driven by the layering of Nataly's voice and the many, many instruments Jack and Nataly play.   A real life couple, they just make my heart feel warm and fuzzy.  Also the music is good.  Which helps. 

  • The Hungry Caterpillar-themed birthday parties.  My friend Steffany's little bundle of cuteness will be turning one soon, and to celebrate she's having a super cute party.  Looking through all the DIY Hungry Caterpillar birthday projects online today was so inspiring. And while crafts aren't... well, they may not be Steffany's strong suit... little Mack's birthday is bound to be an abundance of adorable.  
{newborn Hungry Caterpillar costume found here
  • That tingly feeling that comes from being suddenly thrust in front of an astonishingly attractive man.  Ahhh.  Sometimes I wonder if I've just grown out of it - that silly little butterfly-y intimidation I used to get when I met someone 'Oh God' hot.  But it happened today - for the first time in a long time.  Sure he was married and - even if he hadn't been attached - completely out of my league... it wasn't really about him.  Not at all.  
  • The family farm.  My cousin Tyler is considering following family tradition and going into farming.  I think to most of my family, it was a huge surprise and maybe a bit more risk than your average 20-something is willing to take on, but I have nothing but love for it.  City girl though I am, I feel more connected to that farm than I do most anywhere else.  It makes me feel unbelievably warm, fuzzy, and proud as all hell that even if only for a trial period, the farm we grew up on and shared so many amazing experiences with our parents and grandparents will function in the truest family tradition.  I am no farmer - I don't know anything about what it takes financially or physically or emotionally.  But I know that this is the farm that my grandfather was born on; the house that he grew up in.  The place where I learned how and when to pick strawberries, when to stop picking asparagus, how to count out an easy mile walk without any global positioning assistance, how to keep the teeniest of newborn kittens alive, how to sew, count cars, hang a porch swing, bake bread, and make amazing somethings out of nothings.  Tyler is the son of a third generation farmer - and I can't imagine anyone better for the job. 
  • The Big Bang Theory.  Feisty, uber smart, and hilarious in all the right ways.  I love that this is a show clearly created for the post college set.  It makes me happy in all the right ways and on nearly every day!  I don't know what I was doing before I discovered this 30 minute ball of amazingness, but I'll tell you what  I'm doing now.  Nothing.  Seriously... there are mini-marathons on TBS three times a week.  I'm getting nothing done.  But it is so worth it.  I don't know how to express this completely... oh wait... Bazinga!  

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Fierce Urgency of Now

On this day of days, I believe it is important to look with a critical eye at where we've come from, and where we are.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy will always top my list of people I would sit down to dinner with if I could.  I don't have questions for them, I just want to be in their presence.  I want to be lucky enough to hear them and see them with my own eyes.  And I wonder so many things...  

What would they think of where we are now?  Would they be proud?  Would they be ashamed?  What wisdom would they have to impart to us, to inspire us to keep dreaming, keep hoping and keep fighting for a better world?  

Death has fantastic romantic power.  These men were just people - extraordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations.  But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what weird quirks they may have had.  It doesn't really matter what questionable decisions they may or may not have made in life.  The thing that matters is that despite the changes that have occurred since the 1960s, their words still inspire. Their motives still ring true.  Their ideals still drive us to become better.  As people.  As a country.  

We are lucky to have been blessed with their presence.  
And should my dream dinner come to fruition... I'll have the chicken.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When life hands you beets... make borshch!

It had been an embarassingly long time since I'd gone to the dentist.   So when I finally hauled myself in a few months ago, I was bracing myself for the response.  Turns out, I hadn't quite braced enough.  And the shockingly high resolution color photos took over where any denial may have tried to hide.  Se la vie.

I went in today to take care of phase one.   It was intense.  I left the office without any control of the left side of my face; talking was really hard and I kind of felt like I'd had a stroke.  At first, I thought it was just in my head  - but after looking at my reflection once I got to the car - turns out no.

      {smiling as hard as I could}                                                  {oooh face}

I don't look too crazy, but jeesh.  The smiling picture just kind of looks smirky - which isn't anything to cry about.  But when I tried to put my lips together in an 'ooh' shape - I was so surprised!  The left side of my face just stayed put.  I couldn't believe it!  
I drove home, feeling even more solidified that taking the day off work was a good choice.  My mouth and face felt crappy crappy, and go figure, it's lunchtime.

Comfort food to the rescue!  

One of my favorite things to make is борщ (borshch).  This simple, nutricious, and oh so tasty Ukrainian treat is just what I crave when I'm feeling under the weather.  Loads of people get nervous and uncomfortable at even the teensiest mention of beets and cabbage, but it's soooo worth it. 
I ate TONS and TONS of this stuff when I was overseas.  Every family has its own recipe, and I finally feel like I've accomplished the impossible.  Today, for perhaps the first time in recorded history, my борщ was better than the originating recipe.   And that is no small feat.  ...nor is finding Americanized ingredients that compare to their Ukrainian counterparts.. but that is another story. 

I feel like it's important to share amazing eats and great recipes.   My борщ comes from my dear friend Geri's Ukrainian mother-in-law.  And while I've adjusted a few ingredients to ensure the Ukrainskiy taste rings true in my Americanska  kitchen (without the all important "meat" seasoning called for in the original recipe), I do feel like it's a recipe that would satisfy many a demanding Slav.   

 Українский Борщ
(Ukrainian Borshch)

2-3 small potatoes, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
2-3 small carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 small cabbage, sliced thinly
1 green pepper, chopped
1 large or 2-3 small beets, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
"Vegeta" vegetable seasoning
2 c. low sodium organic chicken broth
water (amount variable to amount of borshch you want to make)
olive or (ideally) sunflower oil
1-2 bay leaves
2-3 T. tomato paste
2-3 oz. beef roast, optional

Start boiling broth and water in a soup pot.   Add beets and allow to boil.  Add potatoes and cabbage.  Boil until soft (~20 mins.).  In the meantime, put some oil into a frying pan.  Add carrot, onion, and green pepper.  Saute with bay leaves until carrots are bright orange and onions begin to soften.  Stir in tomato paste.  Once mixed and bright, stir into broth.  If you feel like adding meat, and usually I don't, this is the time.  (I had some leftover roast in the fridge that I added - delish!!)  Continue cooking until potatoes are soft.  Add plenty of dill and Vegeta, to your taste.  

Serve in a big bowl with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.  Great with fresh bread and cheese and a steamy hot mug of tea!  


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lazy Weekend...

Just what the doctor ordered.  After any holiday or break from school, it's always a little (ok a lot) hard to get back into the swing of things.  So - after all's said and done - while I didn't get as much done as I wanted to, it was a good weekend.  Full of lots of fun, lots of laughs, some good food, a scary movie and plenty of kitten cuddles.

Friday nights are typically reserved for some low key fun with my friends Raegan and Dana - but this week was super exciting.  Our favorite little hole in the wall Chinese place closed its doors a few months ago.  We were SO upset.  It had been around for decades and had some truly great stuff.  I completely judge a Chinese restaurant on the quality of their crab rangoon and wonton soup.  And this place was A1 Awesome.  But!  We found out Wu's Garden has returned... under new management, a new(ish) menu, etc...  but still.  The food is definitely different, but still quite good.  Yes. To. This.

 Now, actual weekends have been tough for me for a while.  Sure, I get to laze around the house, and the weekly chores and errands get done, but it's darn easy for me to become such a sloth.  Lame, but true.  If there are advanced plans - heck yeah I'm there.  I'll even get up crazy early!  But... the internal motivation for the mid-day solo jaunts has been tougher to find.

I'm not a big fan of the fact that this winter has been really warm.  I'm a four-season girl, through and through.  It bothers me immensely that I didn't have a white Christmas (It wasn't even brown - it was green!).  But who am I to neglect such a gorgeous day? So Saturday, despite the suddenly deep rooted desire to become one with my couch, I ventured out and traipsed around the Manassas Battlefield for the last few hours of sunlight.  I took just a short trail - a little over a mile - but stopped to take loads of pictures with my new camera as the sun just started to go down.  It was beautiful.

In an area where everyone seems to be hustling from here and there and rushing to impress each other with every step taken, it's such a blessing to have this retreat so close to home.  I can't wait to explore more of the trails.  It's such a huge area, and I've seen so little of it in the five years I've lived here.  Time for that to change!
So much of the area I live in and around used to be forest.  But development takes its toll, and most of the wooded area has long ago been turned into suburban sprawl.  I'm a huge fan of trees - if I could live 300 years, I'd plant Burr Oaks every day and watch them grow tall and strong and knotted.  Stately.  It's the same feeling I get when traveling down an open expanse of highway in Nebraska - where you can see for miles in every direction.  It's so quiet.  Serene.  I find it incredibly comforting.  And it was just what I needed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Lust - Thank You Notes

Holy crap is this amazing.  There is no planet, no universe, or crappy mood that you could possibly inhabit where this would not make you crack a genuine smile.  Oh, it's funny 'cause it's true.

"Thank you... guy with the $10,000 sound system in his $800 car, for driving down Broadway this afternoon.  You're loud.  You're proud.  You're in a '91 Tercel.  Thank you." 

A standard bit on his Late Night show, Jimmy Fallon's Thank You Notes, is a histerical look at obvious truths played out every single day in our weird little worlds.  He states, in just a few sentences, all the thoughts we think to ourselves, but dare not say out loud lest we sound a) like a huge jerk or b) like we just took a trip to crazy town.  It is supremely rewarding to not only find affirmation that other people think these things, but that Mr. Fallon has the eloquence to state them with such profound hit-it-and-quit-it swagger.  To the guy who brought us "Idiot Boyfriend," I thank YOU.  

Kinda embarrassing... Kinda awesome...

Today has been a good day filled with lots of little remembrances of Ukraine.  Ah... I love.  Most cheesy and kind of embarrassing, hence being called 'guilty pleasures' - but they make me smile білше,білше, та білше.

The biggest one of the day?  Look, friends, and be amazed:

Selena Gomez and The Scene's "Love You Like a Love Song."  It has this fantastic autotune meets electric drum meets 15 year old singer thing that is so reminiscent of the Russo-pop that infiltrated my brain overseas. It's trite and kind of annoying, but I can't help it.  I love it!!
Now if only I could find some Руслана...  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Book Lust - The Virgin Suicides

The story of the Lisbon girls' journey from stifled teenagers in a repressive home to an out and out quintuple suicide is unlike anything I've ever read.  Very muted.  Powerful.  The unknown narrator, who with his friends is fascinated and perplexed by his mysterious neighbors, gives enough information to satisfy, yet gracefully leaves the important questions unanswered.  There is no pretense to understand.  No solution to  discover.  No pretty little bow to tie up the perfect story package.  It is as complex as the subject matter demands.     

"We were amazed our parents permitted this, when lawn jobs usually justified calling the cops.  But now Mr. Bates didn't scream or try to get the truck's license plate, nor did Mrs. Bates, who had once wept when we set off firecrackers in her state-fair tulips - they said nothing, and our parents said nothing, so that we sensed how ancient they were, how accustomed to trauma, depressions, and wars.  We realized that the version of the world they rendered for us was not the world they really believed in, and that for all their care-taking and bitching about crabgrass they didn't give a damn about lawns." 

Set after the Detroit auto-balloon had begun to burst, The Virgin Suicides hints at the grit and struggle that's part of the Detroit landscape today.  A what once was, could have/should have been, just may be if you take the time to look situation.    The tragedy is a part of the fabric of the neighborhood.  It's part of what makes it what it is today.

Oh, how I love...

Now.... kiss! 

To new beginnings!

{Champagne + festive sparkle sticks (from here)}

In the spirit of all things good in a New Year, I feel it is important to strike out anew.  The past few years have left me feeling a bit lackluster, full of indecision and an astonishing lack of inspiration.  Much to my own surprise, after a much talked about big birthday (the big 3-0) and loads of soul searching, it appears I have fallen to the wayside of my own life.  Like I'm waiting for life to suddenly happen to me in some fantastic POOF of awesomeness.  

I'll spare you the suspense.   That... hasn't happened.  

Ok.  New tactic.  As many uber smart people have noted over time and space- if you want something out of life, go get it!  So - to kick start the new year and a new outlook on life, I find myself following in the footsteps of so many awesome people before me.  Artsy, thoughtful people who have taken the time to carve out a true space in their lives for what they love and who are oh so wonderful to share it with us all.  I'm super excited to be starting a blog!  It so jives with my New Year's Resolutions - and already - one day in, I feel accomplished!  Like this is the year those pesky resolutions are going to stick...  And what better way to make sure they do?

Resolutions for a New Year (2012 edition)

  1. Live Actively: I'm a bit embarrassed to admit, I've done a fair bit of wallowing of late and it's time to snap out of it.  This year is all about branching out, trying new things and creating space for the things and people I love in my life.  I want to take risks and push my way out of the comfy, cozy, lazier than thou existence I've come to know.  And oh yeah... learning to say no to the things that don't really make me happy can only help.   
  2. Get out of debt:  I want and need to completely pay off two of my credit cards and set up a bit of an emergency fund.   I have quite a few bills and I'm working very hard to pay it all off - the sooner the better.  It's not fun or glamorous, but it is oh-so necessary.  
  3. Cook with love:  I love to cook, and for some reason, I've kind of fallen out of the habit.  It's time to tie on the apron and get back to it!  There is not better way to show someone that you care for them than by preparing and sharing a meal.  
  4. Love the girl in the mirror:  She's fun, she's smart, she's adventurous, and while she's made some iffy decisions in the past and may not always be the perfect image of a modern domestic goddess/fashionista/indie role model/green citizen/lover/friend -  it makes her who she is!  And gosh darn it, if that isn't why people love her.  She's done some pretty amazing things with her life - even if she has a hard time recognizing it every day.  Maybe it's about time I take care of that girl. 
So cheers, kiddos!  Here's to an amazing and blessed new year! 

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