Thursday, December 22, 2011

Paper Snowflake Gift Wrap

I always say, "Presentation matters!" when it comes to gift-giving, but I may have outdone myself this year. But what else was I supposed to do while finishing Season 2 of Breaking Bad? I mean... really. It's so easy, it doesn't even require a tutorial. Just wrap a gift in white paper, make a lot of paper snowflakes, and tape them to the box by their centers, so the edges flutter freely. 


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fiona Apple's Vocabulary Lesson for Sorely Wronged Ladies

A few weeks ago I put Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine in rotation because Courtney E. Smith put it on her Top Five Desert Island List, saying, "We are chronically inseparable in times of trouble, Fiona and I. She wasn't cool, she was commercial, and writing songs straight out of her journal on that first album... It feels like we've grown up together, but haven't necessarily grown out of our bad habits." 

Since then, every woman I've asked has confessed that the album carried her through a rough spot. Even more than eating ice cream straight from the carton, it's a secret ritual. Sorry to blow the whistle, ladies. Here's a news flash for the uninitiated: Pounding the steering wheel and singing "What wasted unconditional love / On somebody who doesn't believe in the stuff!" works. It's the perfect cathartic cross between lament and something much fiercer--with teeth. And it's smart. Unfortunately, it's too smart. I repeatedly had to turn to Webster to decode Fiona's diction.

Fiona says: A voice once stentorian is now again meek and muffled.
Webster says: sten·to·ri·an
[sten-tawr-ee-uh n] adjective: very loud or powerful in sound: a stentorian voice.
In English:
Some dude made her feel disenfranchised.
Use it in a sentence: The stentorian patron shattered the library's stillness.

Fiona says: You came upon me like a hypnic jerk when I was just about settled.
Webster says: Nothing. But says "A hypnic jerk is an involuntary muscle contraction, sometimes called a myoclonic twitch, that occurs during the lightest stage of sleep. This stage 1 sleep occurs as you begin to fall asleep. There may be a sensation of falling followed by a physical jerk back to wakefulness."
In English:
Some dude shook things up.
Use it in a sentence: A hypnic jerk rudely pulled Desdemona from a pleasant half-sleep.

Fiona says: Oooh, after all the folderol, and hauling over coals stops, what will I do?
Webster says: fol·de·rol 
noun: falderal
Umm... right. Falderal. THAT EXPLAINS IT. Except no.
Webster says: fal·de·ral
[fal-duh-ral] noun:
1. mere nonsense; foolish talk or ideas. 
2. a trifle; gimcrack; gew-gaw.
In English: Drama has become the norm for this woman, and she isn't sure how to function without it.
Use it in a sentence:
Selena stared at the cherub-patterned Persian rug idly, ignoring Kanye's folderol.

Fiona says: Conversation once colored by esteem became duologue as a diagram of a play for blood.
Webster says: du·o·logue
[doo-uh-lawg, -log, dyoo-] noun:
1. a conversation between two persons; dialogue.
2. a dramatic performance or piece in the form of a dialogue limited to two speakers.
In English: Seriously?! Using "Duologue" instead of "Dialogue" is way too pretentious.

Use it in a sentence: Never.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make-Ahead Lasagna with Turkey and Spinach

LASAGNA!! I like to eat, but I don't like to spend hours in the kitchen. This is my new favorite meal because it hardly takes any time to make--but it's so tasty. Build the layers a day ahead and refrigerate overnight, then come home after a busy day and just throw the pan in the oven. I've spent weeks tweaking the recipe, and this is my favorite version.
1/2 lb. ground turkey
1 shallot, finely chopped
8 oz frozen chopped spinach (thawed, drained, duh)
1 container (15 oz) ricotta cheese at room temperature
1 can (14.5 oz) chopped Italian style tomatoes
1-1/2 cups Ragu roasted garlic spaghetti sauce

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. dried basil
9 lasagna noodles, uncooked
2-1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese
Cooking spray

Monday, December 5, 2011

Have Yourself a Gothic Little Christmas

Carol of the Bells is my favorite Christmas song, but it's far too short. I wanted to hear a version that didn't end after a blissful minute and a half. Seek on Spotify, and ye shall find... Goth Christmas music! Yeah, it's weird, but Winter's Knight by Nox Arcana sounds like Christmas in a music box in a castle made of ice and glass in a Bavarian forest. It's beautiful! If you can get past song titles like "Phantom Toccata" and "Hallowed Ruins," it's very pretty and--most importantly--concludes with a long version of Carol of the Bells.

Sounds like this...
But looks like this. Am I the only one thinking of direwolves and Winterfell?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tropical Landscape Painting

It took three months, but I finally finished my first painting on canvas!  It's not perfect, but I learned so much as I worked, and I'm happy with it. After doing three paintings on paper, I realized I love doing it and will continue for the foreseeable future, so I began to invest in better supplies. Now I'm perusing the Dick Blick catalog as it it's Vogue, lusting after thick, buttery, densely-pigmented paints the way other women lust after Louboutins.
Hi. I made a thing.
I love the look of vintage paint-by-number paintings. It's fun to consider that the the mind needs to make sense of chaos, takes a group of colored blobs, and translates them into a recognizable image. It's like inviting Rorschach into your living room. Juxtaposing the casualness of paint-by-number with the seriousness of certain images amuses me. My friend Adam has asked me to paint Medieval religious iconography in this style for him, and I love that idea. But this piece was made for Keith, and he isn't as interested in the irreverent juxtaposition of images. But Keith wants to visit Hawaii, and he can't do it now. So for this piece, I combined the look of a paint by number with that of a postcard.

I used the "make your own paint by number" method I described before, but this time I worked from a stock image. Every step of the process was done by hand. After I made my template on paper, I transferred it to canvas with carbon paper and red pencil. Do you know how hard it is to find carbon paper nowadays?! It's also time-consuming; the tracing alone took about 5 hours. But I'm glad I did it. As I traced, I changed parts of the image and made it my own. Before, I painted directly onto my template, and it felt too impersonal.

When I began painting, the lessons began...  

First lesson: One's first piece on canvas probably shouldn't be twenty-four by thirty-six inches. Oops.

More lessons, a few more pictures, and what I did with it when I was finished...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Four Weddings and a Funeral is stupid. Except for the hats.

I just watched Four Weddings and a Funeral for the second time in three days. I had to re-watch it to put my finger on exactly what bothers me so much about the movie. I wanted to love it, because it has so many things I like: Bad hats, awkward British people, dour matrons, young Hugh Grant, young Hugh Grant's floppy hair and crow's feet, and awkward dour British matrons in bad hats. It would've been perfect, if not for the awful romance.

Please take each other out of the dating pool for the sake of everyone else. Thank you.
Exhibit A: Charles
Charles is a bachelor who says he's still single because he's waiting to be struck by love-lightning. Really, though, he's mean to women and so indecisive he can't even commit to not committing. We meet five of his ex-girlfriends and learn that he mocks women when they are sick, makes fun of their weight, and talks badly about them behind their backs. His hot-and-cold behavior leaves his most recent ex-ish girlfriend, Henrietta, an emotional mess. Take one look at Hen, and you realize that dating Charles is a nightmare. You wouldn't wish this dude on your worst enemy. But Charles has really cute hair, so it's okay.

Exhibit B: Carrie
Carrie is The American, so she is aggressive and extroverted. Stereotype, WHAT? Roger Ebert says that her character is smart. But I'm not so sure, because she never goes beyond superficial banter. What I can tell is that Carrie really, really, really needs male attention, and she gets it by inviting strangers into her hotel room. Even if it means cheating on her fiance. Desperate? Yeah. Dangerous? Maybe. Self-esteem? What's that? Penises are neat! I'm Carrie, and I want all the boys to look at meeeeee!

The icky plot, with spoilers...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Roy Lichtenstein Pop Art Comic Book Halloween Costume

How was your Halloween? I hope you got lots of candy. I didn't get any candy, but I did get to spend time with lots of friends. And I won second place in a costume contest! I am so proud of this year's costume. If you're considering a Roy Lichtenstein or Pop-Art costume for your next costume party (who can wait 'til Halloween, right?), DO IT. It's much more fun than being a slutty fill-in-the-blank, and you probably have most of the supplies at home, so it should be cheap. The very talented Amy of Ace of Face did my makeup, but you could do your own.

Here's a guide to your Pop-Art transformation...


Cardigan, skirt, shirt, and shoes in Pop-Art primary colors
Nude stockings you will never wear again
Washable red Magic Marker
Pearl earrings and necklace

Thought bubble sign:
Foam core board
Fat black Sharpie
X-Acto Knife
Wooden dowel
Black and white paint or spray paint
Clear tape

Black liquid eyeliner
Black pencil eyeliner
Gigantic fake lashes
Paintbrush or very fine makeup brush
Red lipstick

1. Assemble your outfit. Put on your stockings and use the red marker to make an even grid of dots ALL OVER your legs. Contort into crazily painful positions to do the backs of your legs like I did, or have a friend help. Let the ink dry 20 or so minutes before removing the stockings. Now you look like you have a bizarre case of measles from the waist down. Take a shower.

2. Make your word bubble. Trace the shape and letters onto foam core board with pencil. Do both sides, so you're saying something whether you're coming or going! When it looks right, trace back over with black Sharpie. Cut your word bubble out with an X-Acto knife. Paint the wooden dowel black, and paint one end of it white where it will attach to the word bubble. When the paint is dry, tape it to the back of your word bubble.

3. It's makeup time! Put on your outfit, but leave the wig and necklace for last. Begin by doing your makeup as you usually would: Apply concealer, foundation, blush, and a light off-white eyeshadow on the eyelid. Then apply heavy black liquid eyeliner, extending upward AND downward 1/4 inch from the outer corners of the eyes. Apply mascara and false eyelashes. Draw over your natural eyebrows with black pencil eyeliner, making them slightly larger than they really are. Don't put your lipstick on yet!

4. Now it gets fun! Use the red cream makeup and the tip of a Q-Tip to apply an even grid of red dots all over your face, neck and upper chest. This part looks scary. Don't worry, you're not finished yet. Let the makeup dry completely, then dip the paintbrush in black cream makeup and draw lines outlining your features. Outline your entire face, the tendons in your neck, your collarbones, one side of your nose, and the indentation between your chin and mouth. Draw on cartoonish fake cleavage. Apply red lipstick, and outline your mouth in black. Do this last, because it's so easy to smear it otherwise.

5. WAIT FOR EVERYTHING TO DRY. Don't be like me. I got excited, put on my necklace too soon, and ruined the makeup on my neck. When everything is dry, put on your wig and necklace. Now take LOTS of pictures, and go enter a costume contest! 

  • If your stockings get wet, the ink will run. You've been warned.
  • Carrying that huge sign around means EVERYONE knows where you are, at all times.
  • Carry a small black clutch. Don't ruin the effect with a big brown purse.
  • Dumb guys will ask you if you're dressed up as a girl who has the measles. It's perfectly acceptable to say, "No, I am dressed up as a woman who is not talking to you."
  • Practice doing your makeup at least once before you debut the costume in public.
  • I know you're tempted to paint your face white underneath those red dots. I was too. But don't do it! It looks creepy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

We broke up. Now I guess when Beyonce gives the command, I'll put my hands up.

We all hate people who present a perfect online personoa. You know, "I'm naturally a size 2! I live on cupcakes and cocktails and gee I wish I could gain some weight! I'm married to a Ryan Gosling clone (feminism included), and look at the flowers he sent me at work today! My house is perfect! It's full of Heywood Wakefield furniture I found for, like, $2 at Goodwill!" GO DIE. But it's a balancing act: How do I write honestly without violating other people's privacy? Maybe my newly minted ex boyfriend doesn't want our breakup posted all over the internet.

xkcd nails it again.
also, the camera was his. hence the lack of recent entries.

Yeah, breakup. I said it. 

It happened a few weeks ago, and I've been struggling with how to talk about it. Pretending it didn't happen feels disingenuous, but I don't want to say much about it in this forum. Not because I want to pretend I'm perfect, but because I respect his privacy. I'm okay, just weathering the usual ups and downs that follow a breakup. I probably need to get out of the house more, but I'm shy about reaching out and making plans with other people. *cough* *cough* call me *cough* Painting, reading A Feast for Crows, and repeatedly watching Annie Hall isn't so bad, though.

Someday this will probably all be hilarious.
So. Let's talk about my top five most hilarious OTHER breakups:

5.Three days after our breakup, he was trying to replace me with DUDES. Um, yeah. I might have done some online snooping. It was a creepy thing to do. But his new online profile was MUCH creepier. Promise.

4. He was still in love with his ex wife. We started dating a year after he separated from his wife and moved to another state. But he broke up with me so he could have a super-fun paper-signing party. For two. With the ex wife. Who he was SO SO SO over. Riiiiiiiiight.

3. His church made him do it. We'd only been dating for a few weeks when he told me his church elders said I was an evil temptation, and he couldn't see me anymore. Umm... thanks? YAY BIBLE BELT!

2. He stood me up on Valentines' Day. And that was the only signal he gave that we were breaking up. Seventh grade boyfriend, wherever you are... don't worry. I'm totally over it. Totally.

1. He rolled around on the floor in garbage to prove how much he DIDN'T need therapy. I can't make this up: He kicked over a garbage can, flopped to the floor, and had a temper tantrum. He flailed and yelled, "I don't need therapy!" while he rolled around in trash. Um. Yeah. CUE BREAKUP.

(Fun fact: two of these are THE SAME GUY. Guess which two and win a prize!)

This reveals way too much about my bad taste in men. Let's ignore that, shall we?
Time and perspective make everything funny, right?
I seriously need to get out of the house this weekend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Straight-faced thoughts on sex and violence in Game of Thrones. With, like, citations. YAWN.

George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series has consumed me. I spend evenings reading and nights dreaming of banners depicting Lannister lions and Stark direwolves. Last Friday, I asked some friends what they think of the series. One of the guys wrinkled his nose and said, "It's too rapey." A lady friend smirked. "Men always say that!" she laughed. Really? Really?! I'd never had that conversation before, but her comment made me think.

Waste your entire lunch break.
I like the series for the shiny armor, rising and falling empires, magical ladies clad in scarlet robes, family secrets, hidden identities, direwolves, and baby dragons. Especially the baby dragons. Not for the violence. But each 1,000-or-so-page novel does have a handful of pages that refer to rape. The books aren't about rape, though, and it's usually mentioned to identify the bad guys and separate them from the good guys. Bad guys rape and pillage. Because RAPE IS BAD. THANK YOU CAPTAIN OBVIOUS.

Early this year, censored versions of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn were published and widely derided. Remember that? The n-word had been removed from the text and replaced with the word "slave," even though Twain had used the offending language to criticize racism, not to endorse it. Many thought it was wrong to publish the book in a historically inaccurate way.

Likewise, most people who defend the poor treatment of women in Game of Thrones argue that rape scenes are okay because the characters' behavior is historically accurate. But I think that arguing about historical accuracy in a book with witches and dragons is silly. Instead, I say if that stuff is historically accurate, and if those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, then let's not forget. Here are some icky old cultural norms and laws to consider, ganked from Wikipedia due to time-crunch. I wanna finish writing this AND have time to do my hair, y'all:

"In some cultures, rape was seen less as a crime against a particular girl or woman than as a crime against the head of the household or against chastity. As a consequence, the rape of a virgin was often a more serious crime than of a non-virgin, even a wife or widow, and the rape of a prostitute or other unchaste woman was, in some laws, not a crime because her chastity could not be harmed (Source)."

"Until the late twentieth century, spousal rape was not considered a true rape case because the woman was traditionally viewed as the property of her husband (Source)."

Sucked to be a lady, huh? And these concepts are clearly seen in the Game of Thrones books: Brienne of Tarth isn't raped by her captors because it would reduce her value when her father pays her ransom. And Daenarys Targaryen's wedding night isn't exactly consensual, but no one in the books calls it rape. Even though I don't especially enjoy reading those pages, I'm all for including them so that we can all cringe, and feel uncomfortable, and make sure that stuff doesn't ever become normal again.

What do you think? Should violence and rape and the n-word and all kinds of other bad stuff be kept out of literature because it makes us feel weird? Or should it be kept in because it's so obviously bad, and that keeps it from being normalized?

Friday, October 14, 2011

I live here: Living Room Makeover

New paint and a new sofa can change everything! I've been reluctant to share photos of  my living room because it's still in progress, but I've got to show you my dreamy new sofa and cool gray walls. When I first moved into my place, I chose red walls for the open living room/dining room space because I thought I wanted to live in Amelie's apartment. Perhaps I just want my own personal soundtrack written by Yann Tiersen, because I got more than I could handle with those red walls. I used Merlot by Benjamin Moore. It's pretty, but it's intense. It would be a better choice for a smaller space.
Amelie collage credit
To make matters worse, I hadn't honed my taste. My furniture was--and still is--a mix of lucky thrift store finds and hand-me-downs from the family. But at that point, I didn't know how to mix different styles without making a mess. The huge Flexsteel sofa just didn't work with my other things. When I found a long, low, supser-sleek Pfister by Knoll sofa with goose-down stuffing at Pre to Post Modern for LESS THAN $400, it was love at first sight. Buh-bye, Flexsteel and red walls. Hello, Knoll and gray walls!

The walls are painted with Dark Ash by Behr, and I love this color. It makes the room feel so much cooler and fresher. If you're interested in seeing the rest of the room, check out the Desk portion of the house tour. When you first enter the room, the desk corner is to the right. I'm not showing the rest of the room, because those pieces of furniture are on their way out. I'm looking for a matching pair of low Danish Modern end tables, because the end tables I had before aren't proportional to the new sofa. I'll stain them to match the coffee table. And the HUGE armchair and ottoman are going to go, too. I set up my easel in that corner, and it's too crowded. I may look for a slimmer chair or pair of chairs, but I haven't decided yet. What do you think?

In a perfect world, I'd go out and buy these tomorrow:

Pair of Danish Modern End Tables by Finn Juhl
Danish Modern Teak Lounge Chair by Dux

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time by Courtney E. Smith

First things first: This is a GIRL'S guide to record collecting, not a "women's guide" or even simply a "guide." That means this is the paperback equivalent of painting our toenails and prank calling boys while singing into our hairbrushes. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with that. Music is fun, and talking about music should be fun, too. But this isn't a serious collection development guide, or even a comprehensive n00b guide. Record Collecting for Girls is a breathless memoir of who-I-dated-and-the-soundtrack-to-each-relationship, peppered with genuinely interesting band backstories and info about the music industry. And a lot of Elvis Costello worship. I'm totally down with that. There are also some obnoxiously self-important statements like, "In the interest of full disclosure, I kind of accidentally made Fallout Boy happen." I'm not at all down with that.

I want to make one thing very clear: I didn't choose this book myself. When I came to work last week, I found that Cara had placed it on my keyboard because, as she said, "This is a Jen book." I was sort of amused that she'd pegged me as a record collector, because I don't think of myself that way. But when I glanced at the cover, inwardly shuddered, and thought I don't want to read some other chick's Top 5 lists... I realized it was aimed directly at women like me.

I was thisclose to Elvis Costello.
No zoom was used in the
snapping of this photo, ohno.
Top 5 lists? Yeah, of course she goes there. Under the guise of "let me tell you about me and this boy," Smith covers top 5 lists, High Fidelity, the thorny Beatles vs. Stones question (STONES, y'all), the importance of the perfect playlist (though I still prefer Tedd's guide to mixtapes), groupies vs. band wives, the trouble with boys who like the Smiths a little too much, and every other music nerd cliche. I enjoy it because it's familiar, and she makes me reminisce and laugh. But I'm not sure that readers who haven't experienced the cliches firsthand would enjoy it as much as I do. There are just too many in-jokes, and Smith is so deeply immersed in music culture, I'm not sure she realizes they're in-jokes. She's preaching to the acolytes, not to the choir.

Yes, I STILL want to be
Susanna Hoffs when I grow up.
The "guide" portion of the book consists of 3 - 6 page interludes between chapters, chock full of useful information about music blogs, lastfm, AllRovi, the music community in SecondLife, and advice for developing one's musical taste. But those looking for such guidance on every page will be disappointed. Still, it's fun. And the chapters are divided in such a way that they don't have to be read in sequence. So if you're looking for Pop Culture 101, not a memoir, skip around and read the chapters about girl bands and Madonna. Smith interviewed Susanna Hoffs for this book. I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shopping sucks. These clothes don't.

I hate to shop for clothing. There, I said it. Kick me out of the Girl Club. Whatever, I don't care. Shopping for books, jewelry, or furniture is fun. But clothes shopping is miserable.
  • a) Prices are insanely high, and I worry about my finances after buying clothes...
  • b) Unless I shop at Forever 21, which is cheap. But most of their clothes look like crap after being worn twice. And really, I'm thirty. Wearing Forever 21 head-to-toe makes me feel silly.
  • c) I don't know what size I wear. Depending on where I shop, I'm a size 4, 6, or 9.
  • d) I despise dressing rooms, mostly because the lighting reveals previously invisible stretch marks. 
  • e) When the clerk pounds on the door and chirps, "How are we doing?" I want to punch her. Who is this "we" to which she refers?!
To avoid high prices, intimidating stacks of the same pant in four different sizes, and saccharine salesfolks, I mostly shop at Goodwill and weird vintage boutiques. They don't scare me, but they make my closet a little scary: I end up with 10 statement piece skirts and a lot of black shirts that ended up at the thrift store cuz they're a little... off. My closet is the Island of Misfit Toys, but for clothes.

So once or twice a year, I make a list of required basics, venture to the mall, and shop with grim military precision. Last week was Shopping Week. And for the first time, it was fun. Is it just me, or are clothes prettier than they were in years past? The shapeless Mary Kate & Ashley neon hobo rags are finally gone, pants are not cut low enough to show off the wearer's bikini wax, and flatteringly nipped waists are everywhere. HOORAY! THANK YOU, MAD MEN!!!!!

Everyone thinks their figure is hard to shop for. And everyone is right. But I SWEAR it's hardest for those of us who are simultaneously small and curvy, and not-quite-petite but definitely not tall. A large chest makes me look fatter than I am, and a small waist and large hips make it difficult to find pants that fit. BUT! These things fit like a dream and make my someone-else's-trash thrift store stuff look like treasure.
The Limited Grosgrain Waist Pleated Skirt
This high-waisted skirt is endlessly flattering. I love it so much, I bought it in teal AND black.

G by Guess Tara Trouser Jeans
The neat cuff, dark wash, and smart buttons on the back pockets make these jeans ideal for work.

The Limited Side-Stripe Cardigan Sweater
See the black stripe on the side of this sweater? It whittles your waist down to nothing and gives the illusion that you've been on the French Model Diet for a year. It looks good with sweater guards, too!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to paint a Mondrian mural

I knew someone who painted his living room Grover blue. Yeah, like the Sesame Street critter. It was an overwhelming color, and if he was going to rock it, he needed to OWN it. So I told him we should paint a Mondrian mural on his wall and turn the room into a space-age bachelor lounge. To my great surprise, he let me do it! And it looked fantastic. So now I'm gonna tell YOU how to do it. First, you'll need stuff.

painter's tape
white, blue, red, and yellow paint
(sample-size paint jars from Home Depot or Lowe's are perfect)
a big fat Sharpie Magnum (if you're lazy) OR black paint (if you mean business)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Soundland 2011

Soundland, formerly known as Next Big Nashville, is a 4-day, multi-venue festival that showcases the best up-and-coming Nashville musicians, as well as some exciting out-of-town talent. It's a great way to discover new bands while seeing old favorites. I'm exhausted and exhilarated after 3 days of fabulous music (I skipped Wednesday's shows cuz I'm old and sleepy). And no, this is not a fashion blog, but O HAI NEW CLOTHES!
But let's talk about the music, shall we?
The best of the best:

1. Reptar
Image credit
Reptar are from Athens, Georgia. They sound like a danceable mix of Talking Heads and Vampire Weekend, with a vocal style cribbed straight from Animal Collective. Their vibe is an infectious mix of college bravado, Pop Rocks, and sunshine held together with a kickass beat. It's impossible not to shake your hips while listening! And equally impossible not to grin while watching their keyboard player, who is most likely a direct descendant of Animal. As in, the Muppet. Yup.

2. The Black Belles
Image Source
Jack White pulled The Black Belles out of a hat last year (I'd like to see THAT hat!). I didn't know anything about them until I saw them at the Neuhoff Factory stage yesterday, and I immediately loved their Morticia Addams look and their 60s (bad)girl-group meets surf rock sound. Imagine watching Scooby-Doo projected onto the side of a big white marble mausoleum while eating licorice whips and giggling maniacally. That's what it feels like to listen to the Black Belles. Good musicians scoffed and told me that these ladies don't know how to handle their instruments. I don't care. Maybe I'm just fond of them because they remind me so much of my best friend, but whatever. Fun is fun, and these ladies put on a good show.

3. Those Darlins
Image Source
Creepy paper-mache chicken head =
My souvenir from a Those Darlins
CD release party, circa 2008-ish. :D
Those Darlins never, ever disappoint me. The first time I saw them perform was at a house party in 2007. They've changed so much since they were clogging in my friend's basement, and they just keep getting better! They traded in the calico for gold sequins and an in-your-face swagger, and they were ON yesterday at the Neuhoff Factory, absolutely fearless and sexy and channeling Mick Jagger. They TORE IT UP, finishing with an extended version of Shakin' All Over that had everyone moving. These ladies (and their gentleman drummer) rock. Keith had never seen them live, and he loved it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I've been living under a literary rock; Lev Grossman's The Magician King is already out!!  But before I read it, I had to revisit The Magicians. Have your read it? Imagine this: Dominick Dunne and Bret Easton Ellis team up to rewrite the Harry Potter series, culminating in an existentialist crisis which takes place in Narnia. CRAZY, RIGHT?

Fortunately, The Magicians pays homage without becoming too derivative. The wizarding school Brakebills is no Hogwart's; its students are deeply flawed and the school itself is ominous. Questions abound: Who is the beautiful paramedic who caused Quentin to arrive at Brakebills? Why do the fourth-year students disappear for half a year, and why are they so emaciated when they return? How was the fabric of our dimension punctured, allowing The Beast to enter? Will Quentin ever feel fulfilled?

Grossman's characters can have whatever they want--except happiness. They are brilliant and bored, and turn to a lazy sort of decadence just to pass the time. This is what would've happened to Harry, Ron, and Hermione if there had been no Voldemort, and no greater purpose. Instead of exploring the clash between good and evil, Grossman asks how one can find satisfaction when success and fortune come too easily. The theme is not as grand as that of Tolkein, Lewis, or Rowling, but the unresolved questions create an exciting tension, and the magical settings are fun to explore.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Clearly, we all need Beirut music boxes.

Last weekend Keith gave me this beautiful Beirut music box as an early anniversary present. Only 100 were made, and it plays Scenic World, which is one of my favorite Beirut songs, and well. It is perfect. You should buy one too so we can get together and wind 'em up and make them play in round. Like Kumbaya, but way better.

I'm excited because Next Big Nashville-slash-Soundland is this weekend (even though I don't like Next Big Nashville's new moniker). One wristband = 4 nights of shows, woo-hoo! I missed M. Ward last night because I needed sweet sweet sleep, but tonight I'm seeing Reptar, Ghostland Observatory, and the very lovely Jasmin Kaset. I'm especially excited about Reptar cuz they've been compared to Talking Heads, Animal Collective, and Prince. Whoa. Dancing shoes required.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy stuff is happy. And I love your blog.

 Laura at Smallgood Hearth (check out her good crafty ideas!) kindly shared the Happy 101 award with me. Woo! My first award! It's time for me to share ten happy things and pass it along. So. Here's some stuff I love:

1. Beirut Their new album, The Riptide, just came out. Darling Keith special-ordered it for me before it was released, and it arrived charmingly hand-addressed from BadaBing. It's dreamy! Listen to "Vagabond." When it breaks down into dizzying arpeggios, you'll fall in love.

2. Twin Peaks Audrey is adorable, Cooper is quirky, and the coffee is really, really good. Laura Palmer's cousin is NOT Laura Palmer, weird stuff is weird, and the owls are not what they seem. I think that sums it up.

Image Credit / Buy it on etsy

3. This insane and beautiful Dia de Los Muertos Dollhouse (!!!)

4. The smell after rain You know, that smell that smells like mushrooms and secrets and dark, damp cleanliness.

5. Reciprocity It's that moment when another person sparks something good and creative in you, and the other person lights up, too. That's a good moment.

6. Cooking for someone else Last night Keith and I made goulash.

7. Denim pencil skirts I bought a beautiful one today. I can't wait to wear it with riding boots, a slim turtleneck, long chunky cardigan, and a wide belt.

Image Credit

 8. Classic London Fog trench coats So you can stay dry while you enjoy that fresh rain smell.

9. Enthusiastic new volunteers When they bounce up and down because they're genuinely thrilled to be at the library, they remind me that I have a great job. 

10. Airports I love quietly watching other people's lingering goodbyes and loving greetings. I love the pilots' regalia and the miniature bottles of soda. I even love the tiny efficiency and perfect practicality of airplane bathrooms. Most of all, I love the sense of suspended reality, of being neither here nor there (yet).

And now the award goes to...
(drumroll, please)