February Things

Things I’m Learning.

She likes pretty rugs.

She likes pretty rugs.

This past month, I have been getting the hang of cat-parenting. Yes, a lot of people my age are dealing with actual parenting for humans. And I know it sounds silly, but until recently, I don’t think there was ever anything truly dependent on me for their long-term survival. Enter Sophie, the calico cat we inherited from Peter’s father. Since Peter has been busy packing and dealing with paperwork and appointments, I have taken on the main role of kitty caregiver. When we first got Sophie home, she literally hid under the blankets of our bed for more than 48 hours. She did not eat, bathe or use her litter box. There were two terrified bright green eyes staring at me when I would peer in at her, but Kitty wouldn’t budge. But now, I am happy to report that in a few weeks Sophie has made exponential progress, sitting between us on the couch in the evenings, gobbling her food like she’s starving (she’s not), and enjoying laps, playtime and brushing. Also, I guess since I feed her, she kind of thinks I’m the best. She sleeps curled against me at night, follows me around, and sits opposite me on the couch while I’m on the computer, paws tucked in, watching me work with fascination. I feel a little guilty, since just as she is getting settled in here, we have to move her across the country in a month, but Peter is sure she’ll love Seattle. He is already talking about taking her to Pike Place Market in a baby sling and showing her all the fresh seafood. Yeah, uh-oh.

Things I’m Making.

Idle hands, as they say… So, I’m attempting my biggest knitting project yet- a striped throw blanket. There will be seven colors, and I am currently on #2.

From http://www.purlbee.com/. I'm thinking this is what it should look like when i'm done, although I substituted a couple of colors and the wool is probably not quite as luxurious.

From http://www.purlbee.com/. I’m thinking this is what it should look like when i’m done, although I substituted a couple of colors and my wool is probably not quite as luxurious.

In keeping with the surprisingly (for me) DIY theme, I also attempted to make my own Valentine’s Day card for Peter, mostly because the nearby art school gift shop –with the best cards ever, not an exaggeration– has permanently closed (SAD!) I almost went to Walgreens, and then I thought, but wait, I can make a better card than whatever they have at Walgreens, so I got out my art bin, sketchpad, pencils and pastels and illustrated a little card, complete with drawings of us and our cat Sophie. I am actually pretty happy with how it turned out… I even put a bird on it.

Cooking: There’s been a lot of take-out lately (with mixed results) due to the craziness of this past month. But after awhile, the body starts to crave something healthy- something you make yourself so you can rest assured you haven’t just consumed your allotted saturated fat for the month in one sitting. Here’s a cliche, probably three years late, but did you know how awesome and versatile quinoa is? Of course you do. So I’ve been making quinoa for breakfast (brown sugar, cinnamon, almonds, berries), AND quinoa for lunch (with shredded chicken, apples, chickpeas, corn, almonds, green onions, feta cheese, and a homemade dressing of apple cider, vinegar, olive oil, honey, and salt.) Thanks, Pinterest.

Places I’m Going.

Once the initial sheen of San Antonio wore off, I really stopped doing stereotypical “touristy” things. At first I was all, “Ooh, let’s walk down to the Riverwalk for dinner!” Now I’m like, “Ugh, I hate all those tourists with their strollers and the overpriced Olive Garden-esque Italian food.” But when I have visitors, I do things I wouldn’t normally do, and actually really find myself enjoying some of the events and destinations of this city. My mom visited this past week, so we ventured out with like tourists, and a major surprise for me was how amazing the San Antonio Botanical Gardens are. Nope, I had never visited, despite loving gardens and living here for a year and a half. No excuses, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. But I’m so glad I had the chance to see this place before moving. Despite being technically winter, and a dry winter at that, the foliage and flowers and succulents were gorgeous. I especially liked the zen-state-inducing Japanese garden and the Texas Native Trail. I know this is Texas, so I shouldn’t be surprised by the size of things (HUGE, always huge), but seriously. This place had its own lake with a log cabin for the East Texas Pineywoods area, and a whole street showing traditional Texas lawns, complete with little houses. So, so cool. I loved that it was educational and scientific, with detailed labeling- it would be a killer field trip for Landscape Architecture students- but it was something kids could enjoy, too. Who doesn’t love a whole street of miniature houses?

One of the houses and lawns- Spanish-style. Adorable.

One of the houses and lawns- Spanish-style. Adorable.

Music to Which I am Listening.

(I know, that dangling “to” bothered me as well.)

I have really been enjoying the classic stylings of Sam Cooke lately.

As for newer artists, these two songs- dreamy and mysterious- by Grizzly Bear and The Dirty Projectors- have somehow captured my mood lately.

P.S. Just listen- don’t watch- the Grizzly Bear video if you’re at all squeamish.

January Things.

Here, a joint post in which we discuss what has been recently occupying our minds.

ALISON

hottoddy

Things I Like.

There’s a bite in the air even in San Antonio this winter, so these days I enjoy the feel of cozy, loose sweaters (worn with fitted jeans or black leggings, so I don’t look like a bag lady), the inner warmth of crock pot dinners, chai tea in the morning, chamomile tea at night, and maybe a hot toddy in between.

And positivity. I like that. Thus, I will not have a Things I Do Not Like. At least…not this month.

Things I’m Reading.

no-one-belongs-here-more-than-youI am currently halfway through a collection of short stories by Miranda July, called “No One Belongs Here More Than You.” The stories are bizarre, funny, deeply sad but hopeful, and…resonate with me more than I’d like to admit. I have a feeling, although I have no evidence for it, that one has to be at least slightly damaged, even in some undefined way, to enjoy July’s work. One thing I noticed right away about this collection is that the voice (always first-person) is basically unchanging throughout the stories, despite the wildly different situations the various protagonists find themselves in. That singular voice could be a considered a criticism, but to me it created an impact and a sense of cohesiveness and made me appreciate July’s style more fully. This book is certainly not for everyone, but it is perfect for me, especially at this time in my life. I think Ms. July has even inspired me to tap into the short story well that lies somewhere inside of me.

Things I’m Thinking About.

These last few days, as I need a distraction from Real Life Shit, I have been daydreaming about What It Means To Be An Artist, (in my case, a writer), and what I need to work on. One thing I have trouble with when I sit down to write is that I have a deep need to Represent It All. I want to scoop up each morsel of life, hold it all at once, and spray it over the canvas, so to speak. I am the dog with a ball in its mouth that also wants the ball in his master’s hand. But no one can Show It All through art. Well, maybe the James Joyces of the world can come close, but I know my limits. Disciplined artists? They choose the little truths. They start with an idea, a truth, and the trick is, they don’t add to it, they subtract from it until they have reached its essentials. Those who practice this method realize they can’t impact It All, but instead they seek to create little waves that might ripple. My goal, as a writer, is to learn and master the art of truth by strategic subtraction. Knowing this might be half the battle.

Things I’m Listening To.

m_ward-hold_time-art

I usually love discovering new music, but I’ve been in a rut lately, listening to familiar favorites like M. Ward, Jeff Buckley, Wilco, and soothing but stimulating classical music like Debussy. (Oh, and I share a birthday with him… nerd alert.)

AMY

Thing I’m Listening To.

(To which I am listening… ahem, grammar nerd here)

So it’s been around a while, but this video has everything I need to cheer myself up so I’ve been pulling it up almost daily to bask in the cheek of it. Seattle sights, Seattle inside jokes, Seattle faces. The weather is bitterly cold in Saint Paul and I keep dreaming of my old haunts (and cursing my instagram feed for all the photos from people I know who live places that aren’t sub-zero!). Plus, man, I miss that awesome Goodwill off Dearborn!

Things I’m Reading.

A peek at my Goodreads account shows me just how much of a homebody I’ve been the past month. Lots. Of. Books. Here’s just a sampling.

From the entertaining and imaginative but really not challenging category comes the Scott Westerfeld Leviathan series. Really, it is a perfect series to read in the middle of winter when the darkness and snow makes me want to stay inside and pretend I’m somewhere else. It’s a young adult science fiction steampunk alternative history novel, so there is something for every part of my imagination. One of the main characters is a teenaged girl and she’s quite well written. Sensitive, strong, smart but still a little dense at the right moments to make her feel real. Oh, and the artwork is fantastic.

westerfeld

Staying with the young adult theme, I finally read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. How it missed me when I was in middle school (or high school, or college, or well, until the ripe old age of 30) is beyond me. I could only barely relate to Charlie, he’s just too, well to use his teacher’s terms, gifted and special. But the whole mood of the book, the whole feeling of being a lost teenager, not understanding how to navigate life, wanting to opt out of difficult situations and just live in one’s head – I could have used that when I was a teenager. And, least of all, I’m glad I didn’t see the movie because I can’t imagine such a tender, real and beautiful yet raw EPISTOLARY NOVEL be a live action film. Just can’t imagine it. Don’t want to. It’s so much better just living in Charlie’s head and seeing the world through his somewhat foggy filter.

Currently I’m reading Sacre Bleu – which is a mix that should really appeal to me – historical fiction/mystery/satire set in France and featuring Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Vincent van Gogh. But I haven’t really dug into it yet. Plus… the text is printed in blue, and this makes my eyes hurt and also is a bit too CUTE for my liking. I will report back later on that.

I Like.

VINE!  The videos people are uploading range from strange to terrible to very creative. The sound aspect annoys me so far, since you can’t edit that — it can get loud and a lot of weird ambient noise gets chopped up and run together. BUT! I think it would be really interesting if used in a directed way. My museum brain is thinking of ways museums and educators could use the platform – such as asking for submissions on a theme, or asking people to respond to a question or prompt.

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I’m Working On.

Many things. Being more patient. A new sewing project (gunmetal washed silk crepe de chine – wish me luck!). Motivating myself to start playing my violin again. Learning Dreamweaver. Thinking about data privacy and copyright, because I find it fascinating.

How to Celebrate St. Paddy’s Day (Without Getting Drunk)

Well, I’m part Irish and–at least in the US–on the feast of St. Patrick, that’s the part that counts. For me St. Patrick’s day has never been about getting drunk (especially not off green beer… ick) but more about reflecting on my heritage (and eating boiled supper*). As this year’s feast day falls on a Wednesday I suspect most people won’t be out all night closing down an Irish pub. I will be curled up with some potatoes** and a movie. There are a few Irish movies on my to-watch list that look promising (Once and The Wind That Shakes The Barley) and let me suggest five “Irish” films (quotes because, well, one is about Irish-Americans, and only some were actually made in Ireland, and, well, are those enough qualifiers for you?) if you would like to do the same.

The Magdalene Sisters is about what the Irish (well, the Church) used to do to unwed mothers and “fallen women”. It is a heartbreaking commentary on the practice of locking these women up in Magdalene Asylums, away from their families and children, to toil over vats of laundry and piles of ironing. Gosh that sounds depressing. I am terrible at writing compelling synopses. Fun fact: the last Magdalene Asylum in Ireland closed in 1996. Ninteen-ninety-six.

In America is about an Irish immigrant family living in a rundown apartment in Hells Kitchen surrounded by poverty, but here’s the twist – it takes place at the turn of THIS century and is a semi-autobiographical tale told through the eyes of the family’s oldest daughter.

The Quiet Man is full of stereotypes (about men, women, Irish, Americans, priests, drunks), but of all the films starring Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, it is my favorite. And let’s face it, all the films starring O’Hara and Wayne are FULL of stereotypes, but you just have to make a mental note and get over it and allow yourself to enjoy the wonderful chemistry between them. It’s about an Irish American (Wayne) who returns to Ireland to work his ancestral farm and falls in love with a local spinster (O’Hara). Again, please trust me because I know I fail at writing compelling descriptions, it’s entertaining and sweet and beautiful and funny. I mean, look at this still:

The Secret of Roan Inish is by far my favorite Irish movie. It’s a story about a young girl who believes the story her grandfather tells that her baby brother was taken by the mythical selkies (creatures in the shape of seals who can shed their skins to take human form). The best thing about this film, besides the enchanting Fiona, is the beautiful, sweeping cinematography. If you watch this film and don’t want to move to Ireland to live in a stone cottage and search for selkies, then I don’t want to be your friend.

The Boondock Saints are twin brothers whose particular brand of vigilante justice is sanctioned by God. It is by turns funny, violent, intense, and amazing. Willem Dafoe is fantastic as the FBI agent in charge of finding the brothers. You notice there is an FBI agent in this movie – well, that’s because it takes place in Boston, and the twin vigilantes are Irish American. But this film is just too good not to include in my list.

*Boiled supper is the Irish culinary tradition of cooking meat and vegetables together in one pot. In the US, the meat is usually corned beef, and the veg are usually cabbage and potatoes. The reason Irish Americans usually eat corned beef is it was the cheapest cut of meat available to Irish immigrants, and somehow it became a tradition. Thank goodness the cheapest cut wasn’t something like tongue.

**Because, damn the stereotypes, potatoes are fantastic! And there are so many ways to cook them… the possibilities are endless.

First photo credit from flickr user seminarianvoitus

Mix Tape Monday

Photo from leandroid on flickr

I’ve slowly been working my through the WKE series Don’t Move Here, short video episodes about the Portland music scene, and Episode Six is all about tapes. As in cassette tapes. As in homemade cassette tapes. And this episode, above all others (even the one about awesome poster designers Mike King and Guy Burwell, and believe me, I love me some cool poster design) gives me the warm, fuzzy, music-is-wonderful nostalgic feeling. Even though I was a bit young to make mix tapes with actually cool music and all of my really good mixes have been on CDs or e-mailed to me. Still, I remember sitting by the radio with my finger on the record button on my parent’s enormous stereo, waiting for my current favorite song to come on and praying, PRAYING that the DJ didn’t talk over the into. And even though I’m not sure what I would do with a mix tape if someone gave one to me – my car has a CD player, and I listen to most of my music on my computer – “mix tape” is still my preferred phrase to describe a carefully chosen assortment of music. “Playlist” isn’t ever going to cut it, and mix CD doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

I’m not confident enough in my own musical taste to share compilations with my friends, much less the internet, but in honor of St. Patrick’s day, allow me to present a collection of classic “bar songs” my friends and I compiled for a St. Patrick’s day celebration a few years ago. I dubbed it the “Drunk Song Sing-Along” mix because most of the songs were chosen for their power to make us want to sing (and our inability to resist breaking into song once we’ve had a few drinks). Let me preface this list with three things – 1. these are not “cool” songs, 2. we are all a product of the 80s and 90s, 3. we are all from the Midwest and cut our teeth in dive bars and VFWs and this music feels like putting on an old sweatshirt.

Art B**tches Drunk Song Sing-Along

  1. Jump Around – House of Pain
  2. Mr. Jones – Counting Crows
  3. Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty
  4. I Think I Love You – The Partridge Family (David Cassidy)
  5. Only The Good Die Young – Billy Joel
  6. Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
  7. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
  8. Shoop – Salt N Peppa
  9. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
  10. Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin
  11. Summer of 69 – Bryan Adams
  12. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
  13. I Love Rock and Roll – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
  14. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
  15. Livin’ On a Prayer – Bon Jovi
  16. Piano Man – Billy Joel
  17. Love Shack – The B-52’s
  18. Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard
  19. Cecelia – Simon and Garfunkle
  20. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
  21. Closing Time – Semisonic

I’m thinking about posting some favorite mixes that my friends have given me over the years… any interest?

Photo credit leandroid on flickr.

Music videos I’m loving right now

In the past few days I’ve come across two lovely videos – and the songs aren’t bad, either. Actually, the videos are so lovely that I have a difficult time paying attention to the music and lyrics, so I really should listen without watching and spend some time with the music.

The first is a stop-motion film for the song “Sleepwalking” by A Fine Frenzy. Angela Kohler and Ithyle Griffiths directed the film (How much do I love the name Ithyle? Quite a bit).

Next is an enchanting animation to the song “No Turning Back” by Sarah Blasko.

In trying to round out this post with another few videos, I wasn’t able to quickly recall any newer videos but was reminded by quite possibly the best music video ever – “Frontier Psychiatry” by Avalanches. This song will always remind me of art classes my sophomore year of college and a certain guy who probably had no idea how amazing I thought he was.

Alison and I have been talking about music and the past and memories, so it seemed fitting to tack this on. As you can see, I’m a sucker for quirky, creative and (often) animated videos.

What I like (this week).

Grey and white.

Though anyone who knows me will recognize my love for bright! happy! saturated! color, lately I’ve been drawn to shades of gray and white. Must be because I’m gearing up for winter – even while gazing out my window at the wall of vibrant green two story holly trees. I’ve also been spending a lot of time on Etsy, spearing my lips with my favorite Smith’s Minted Rose Balm, and choosing a green bean recipe to make for Thanksgiving.

Bud vases from Grass Roots Design.

Milk glass eye wash from DK General Store.

Caramel marshmallows from Whimsey and Spice.

Chickadee print from Rocky Top Studio.

Woven shrug from larimeloom.