Friday, November 29, 2013

Links I Love

It's that time of the week again: Links!

I love the variety of lighting and expression in these beautiful portraits of mothers with their one-day-old babies.

Like Harry Potter? Like real life? What if there really was Harry Potter in real life? The folks at Movies in Real Life found out.  (My favorite part is toward the end when he actually gets down to the platform with his luggage and owl, around 2 minutes in.)

This Dutch artist's Grey Power project that brings children's drawings of their grandparents to life. The colors, imagination (and multiple limbs) are fantastic!

Enjoy random things and awkward social situations? Then this 2008 Viva Piñata commercial is right up your alley!

Need a puppy pick-me-up? This list of 16 Dogs that Ruined the Picture. Here are a few of my favorites: 

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I guess I really love effective marketing. Here's another commercial I love, this time for GoldieBlox! (Edit: the original video with some awesome and empowering lyrics had to be taken down due to some questions of copyright with Beastie Boys, so here's the version with a different music selection in the background.)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

New Traditions

Holidays are so much fun. Every single is marvelous, and sometimes quite strange (We celebrate Columbus, but not some of the geniuses who made our modern life possible, explain that to me). But no matter the holiday, every one celebrates it their own way. In my family all holidays are low key.  Even Christmas is chill and fairly relaxed and deliciously lazy.

Let me tell you a funny story.  My wonderful husband comes from a very crazy and awesome family.  The first time I met them? Groundhog Day. During their annual Groundhog Day party. That's right everyone, they celebrate that. And literally every single other holiday they can figure out how to celebrate.  We all went on a mini vacation to celebrate 11-11-11. I'm not kidding. They are so much fun!

Don't get me wrong, I love the way my family does things. It's my comforting home routine. We have our specific meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years.  I look forward to them every year.  The first year I spent any holidays away from my family was the first year I was married.  We went down to my grandmother-in-law's home for Thanksgiving.

Along with 100 other members of my husbands family.

 I was completely shocked. I grew up in a home of 6, and we occasionally had others over, but our biggest number was 15, and we were all exhausted afterwards. Not to even mention the different food they served.  For one, we arrived 4 hours before the meal was scheduled to be eaten. And we peeled pomegranates for hours.  I had never even had one before.  I am now quite skilled at seeding them, its probably one of my more random talents. Then when we did eat, I was unfamiliar with half of the items being served. Pomegranate salad: delicious and unhealthy. Broccoli salad: not delicious, in fact quite the opposite (although I am the only one who thought that!) Coconut cream pie: I guess this one is normal, but my family is sheltered.  And there was no chocolate chess pie. Never heard of it? You have a void in you life that you didn't realize existed until just now. And it needs to be filled with chocolate chess pie. Imagine a chocolate pie that is akin to brownies, but much creamier. Words cannot describe.

Anywho, back on track.  I was in shock, it was a strange sense of culture shock.  It never occurred to me that people did things differently than we did. Small minded I know, especially considering I have lived in more than 10 states, in Europe, and like to think of myself as educated.  I felt like a small town girl making my first foray into the big city, and I was unprepared.

But I loved it.  LOVED it. Suddenly not only were there strange disgusting dishes to be tried, but a whole host of other traditions I never realized existed.  Now I want to do it all.  I want to celebrate Columbus day (even if I find it to be an unexplainably stupid holiday).  And now that I have children, I love making up traditions.  We have Easter egg hunts on the morning of Easter to make the kids work for their candy.  We open Christmas presents early throughout December because I am so impatient and it stretches out the magic just a little more.

Sometimes growing up and learning new things can be hard, but other times it can open up a world of great new things to try. Delicious and disgusting and exciting new things.  Seriously go out there, burst your own little bubble of comfort and look at something new.  Because pomegranate salad or chocolate chess pie certainly make that journey worth it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Confessions of the World's Most Socially Awkward Person

I'm such a socially awkward person. Every time I tell my husband my latest awkward moment of the day he always assures me that these things only seem to happen to me and that I seem to be a magnet for embarrassing calamity. Some of them are small and seem to be an almost daily occurrence like the time I told an acquaintance of mine about a weird baby name I had heard only to find out that her daughter shared the same name, or when I asked my mother in law if her new hair-do was for Halloween (it wasn't) But some of them are big moments, that make me wish I could change my name and move to Mongolia.

So, confession time.

I confess that at my previous job my boss was a little person. He wasn't often in the office because he was out doing important boss things. One day I rounded a corner, walked smack into him, and knocked him down with my legs. And then to make bad matters worse I said, "I'm sorry I didn't see you!" And then I stammered, "Oh I didn't mean you were difficult to see.... Uh I just wasn't looking down there.... I mean, not that I need to look down to see you..." And it continued, in that horrifying vein, stammering inadvertently offensive things in between apologies until I finally slipped away into embarrassment oblivion. And to top it off, that was the first time I had ever met my boss.

I confess that when I waited tables in college, I was the worst waitress ever. We were supposed to grate cheese over each salad we served. It always took quite a while for the customer to say enough cheese and I used to zone out while I was working the slow, dull cheese grater. One day some little old lady with short curly hair leaned over to get something while I was grating the cheese. After a while I looked down to see I had been grating cheese not into the salad, but into her hair the whole time. I was mortified. It was a ton of cheese! But she hadn't noticed so I just sort of walked away and didn't mention it. She still had a mountain of cheese in her hair when she left the restaurant.

I confess that I think I committed the worst foot-in-the-mouth moment that has ever happened in the history of the world. A lady in my neighborhood threw her husband an 80th birthday party that I attended. It was in a church, there were speakers, there were musical numbers, there were flower arrangements... A few months later we were talking and she mentioned a song to me. I said, "Oh right, isn't that the one you played at your husband's funeral?" By funeral I meant birthday party...

I confess that I kind of sort of called the cops on my neighbor one day when he came over to borrow an egg. To be fair, it was a neighbor that I had only seen at night so I didn't recognize even though we had talked several times and there had just been a bunch of break-in's in our neighborhood and I was sort of going through a paranoid, protective new mother phase and I didn't really think the police would actually come! But come they did. Four squad cars, several policemen questioning neighbors and interviewing witnesses before they came to my door to tell me that my neighbor was just making peanut butter cookies.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Characters we love: Doc McStuffins

As a mother of a preschooler and a toddler, I am often assaulted by horrible, mind numbing "entertainment" that is equally annoying and pointless. Not only that, but most of these shows play into typical stereotypes that undermine the potential of my daughters.

That is, until Doc McStuffins came along.

Doc McStuffins is Disney's animated tale of a six year old named Dottie, known as Doc McStuffins. Instead of dreaming of castles and princesses, Doc aspires to be a Doctor, just like her mother.  Doc spends her days diagnosing ailments and treating her stuffed animal patients with the aid of her magical stethoscope. Not only is this one of the rare occasions where a Disney female protagonist wears a lab coat instead of a ball gown, Doc is African American.

Myiesha Taylor a Doctor and mother of a preschooler said she was excited to see, "a child of color in a starring role... and she’s an aspiring intellectual professional, not a singer or dancer or athlete.”  She decided to create an online collage featuring Doc surrounded by photos of real African American women medical professionals. She wrote,  "We are trailblazers. We are women of color. We are physicians. We ARE role-models. We are Doc McStuffins all grown up!"

When my preschooler discovered Doc she absolutely fell in love, and so did I. At three years old growing up in a large, multicultural city she didn't even notice that Doc's skin color was different from hers. For her fourth birthday, she requested a Doc McStuffins birthday party and requested chocolate cake because, "Doc's hair is brown." Hannah tells me that she wants to be "A doctor or a nurse and a mommy," when she grows up. I'm sure she'll go through lots of phases between now and adulthood, but I'm very happy that one of her role models is a little girl who wants to make a big difference. Plus how can you resist THIS adorableness? 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rewarding yourself: Moving Edition

When I accepted a new position at the 2nd largest university in the United States, it hadn't quite hit me that we would be moving over 1100 miles. All I could think about was NO MORE WINTER and I GET AN OFFICE WITH A DOOR. I had only a few weeks to prepare for the move. We had to pack, make several trips to Goodwill, find a mover, figure out a new place to live, get boxes, sign papers, freak out, breathe, eat out for days, say goodbye to our small number of friends, freak out, etc...

By coincidence (or God, however you see fit) we were moving to the same town as some of our closest friends from a previous city. They graciously let us stay at their beautiful home while we searched for a place of own.

I blame our hotel-like atmosphere for what followed.

I set my eyes on this lovely 2 bedroom duplex that had been completely redone on the inside. This was the nicest place we have ever lived. It had a driveway! And a dishwasher!

The next day we signed a lease and I instantly wanted to paint the walls. Then we needed rugs to cover the nice tile. Then we needed a new comforter to match our new walls. Then we needed some mirrors to hang in the front room. Then we needed a whole set of stuff for the guest bathroom.

A little past our renting budget, and two credit cards later, I realized that no one would even see our place for months. I wouldn't even get a paycheck for 4 weeks. My husband was jobless.

Fast forward to 4 weeks later. My husband is still jobless. That paycheck is gone. Six people have seen our place and zero of them have seen that new shower curtain or comforter. We still have the same couch and chair we've always had that my husband found a Goodwill before we were married. We came home to a floor covered in broken glass from the mirrors everyday for a week.

Did we really need two new rugs that cost more than one of my loan payments?

I realize that I felt the need to reward myself for working so hard toward this new position. Endless cover letters, 8-hour interviews, and countless rejections had taken their toll.

Next time, I think I'll just get myself 2 cartons of ice cream and call it a day.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Sometimes I get bogged down by the internet.  There is so much time-wasting and mind-destroying junk out there, it is nice every once in a while to find all the wonderful things the internet makes possible and all the awesome things it would be so hard to find without it. 

I've mentioned Smart Girls at the Party on the blog before. I love it.  But there's also a YouTube channel called Ask Amy where Amy Poehler answers questions submitted by girls.  There's a wide range of topics.  My favorite, though, was her video posted after the Boston bombings.  "Just because something has a gazillion views doesn't mean it's worth your eyeballs." Perfectly said.

I like all these quotes from Walt Disney, but I might like how pretty most of them are presented more than the actual quotes.  That kind of thing goes a long way for me.  Still, great advice from Mr. Disney.

I kind of want to read all of the books on this list of the most famous book set in every state. Ideally, I would also be independently wealthy and could travel around the country and read each book in each state. Even more ideally, I would arrive in each state during peak weather conditions and stay in the most comfortable of lodgings (maybe a snowy day in Utah in a cabin in the mountains with a cozy fire and blanket or 70 degrees by the water with a hammock on the porch, you get my drift).  One can dream.

This has been floating around for a while on the ol' interwebs, but it kind of blows my mind.  The Pixar Theory.  All the Pixar movies laid out in an order that explains how all the Pixar movies actually take place in the same world.  I'm amazed at how someone has actually figured this out.  Also, how someone had the time or motivation to figure this out.  Also, it's a little crazy, but not so crazy that you don't spend time yourself thinking about it.

Finally, this photo project, I'm Not a Look-Alike!  None of the people photographed are related.  Insanity.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Love Affair (With Food)

First, I am happily married, no problems there.  I am not talking about that kind of love.

I am talking about food. I LOVE food.

Growing up my mom had a fairly limited food repertoire.  She isn't a bad cook by any means.  She just knows where she is comfortable, and what my father will eat.  It is a very small area, trust me.

It wasn't until I was about 13 that I figured out that there was more food out there than chicken and rice and Sunday roast.  I really thought that roast was what everyone ate on Sunday.  Some unspoken rule, it's just the way it was. When I learned that there were different cultural foods beyond the "Mexican" food my dad loved (which let's be honest, is more American than anything else, he doesn't even like it spicy! Sometimes I'm surprised we share DNA)  Chinese, and Indian, and Cajun.  I loved trying it all!

I also found my love for cooking around the same time.  And because my mother had never made (or hadn't within 10 years) many of the foods I wanted to try, it was just a blind guess.  I didn't even start with recipes.  I just had ideas in my head of what I thought would go well together and made it.  I have to admit, my family ate some pretty horrible stuff.  I once tried making stir fry with just a frozen veggie mix, which I now scoff at, and was so worried they would stick to the pan I used about a cup of vegetable oil.  It was inedible.

But as I've gone I have actually found I have a small talent for it. I'm no Bobby Flay, and I'm certainly not Paula Dean (thank heavens), but I can certainly navigate my way around the kitchen. I usually don't use recipes either. I like to get ideas from them, but then I make it on my own. With the big exception of baking.  That's not really something you can wing it on. You really do need precise amounts of baking soda and salt.  Trust me on this one.

I love to try new foods, and I am happy to say that I have had many great opportunities to do so.  My dear friend Megan (editor of this blog) introduced me to one of my favorite Indian restaurants.  Bombay House is always very high on my list of choices for date night sans kids.

I also try really hard to expose my children to different things.  My son usually rejects it all.  He has tried some things. My daughter, however, will eat everything I offer her.  She loves salmon and chicken tikka masala. She's a huge fan of Nutella (who isn't?) and I love watching her try new things. I feel some strange sense of pride getting my children to try foods that I'm sure my father hasn't and wouldn't ever try.  And when they like it, I feel like I have made some big parenting success. (Some days my world feels very small, I take whatever I can get!)

I believe that everyone should have a passion.  One of mine happens to be something my whole family benefits from everyday. (Well, there have been some meals that were certainly not a benefit. But mostly it's good.)  I love making dinner and lunch.  I love trying things, and my husband is great about eating them, even when I know he doesn't like it.  Being passionate about something that I get to do everyday is wonderful!  And I truly do have a love affair with food.  It's in my top 5 favorite things in the world. And that's really saying something, since I have some of the best family and friends this side of the Mississippi, and the other side too for that matter. It's delicious, and marvelous and never ending. You can try anything, and it's delicious (usually). Find your passion, and don't let a few bad moments (or stirfrys) deter you! Embrace what makes you happy, no matter what it may be. Be you, and be lovely.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Confessions of a Real Grump

 Sometimes you just have a bad day. It's true. There are days that start out fine and then something happens and I realize: Nope. This is not what I wanted to be doing today and not how I wanted to feel. (And, yes, I know I am in charge of how I react to things, blah, blah, blah… "Only you can make you feel a certain way" or whatever that quote is…) Sometimes, though, you just need to feel it. Feel grumpy. Feel sad. Feel hurt. Feel mad. Feel whatever it is that is tugging at the back of your thoughts. Because, and I swear I heard this on an Oprah episode (and look at Oprah--she’s definitely got her poop in a group!), if you're feeling a certain way then there's a reason. It is justified. If there wasn't a reason then you wouldn't be feeling however it is that you feel. (Heavily paraphrased, of course.)

So, yes. On the day that I’m writing this I feel tired; I feel stretched too thin; I feel un-heard and under-appreciated; I feel jaded; I feel downright grumpy!

Guess what? That’s okay. The good news is that this feeling doesn’t last forever. Usually a good talking-out session combined with a good sleep helps shed light on the situation and scare away the grumps and negativity. Even the most positive people need a crummy day of reality once in a while to help them remember the good days, right?

(And the even better news, I know that by the time this is posted I'll be coasting along in a grump-free zone after, hopefully, having gotten it out of my system for a while!)

How do you handle a not-so-great day?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Power of Vulnerability

This TED talk went viral a little while ago, but I was thinking about it again the other day and thought I should share it in case you missed it. It's funny and beautiful and empowering - pretty much all of the things I love. Enjoy!

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Anti-Bucket List: Things I will never do (and I'm okay with that)

Recently I've been overwhelmed by all the things I've yet to accomplish. Maybe that sounds spoiled and ungrateful, (because it is) but I've been sick and exhausted and generally useless, so I decided to make a list of things I will never do (by choice).

1) I will never skydive. I'm sure this would be great for lots of people. In fact, I purchased skydiving tickets for my husbands 30th birthday so he and his best friend could go. They had a blast. He's threatened to do the same for my 30th birthday. I've promised if he does so he will either be murdered or served divorce papers.

2) I will never get plastic surgery. It's just not for me. I'm happy with the way I look and the only thing I'd ever consider being reconstructed in any way is my postpartum bellybutton which somehow reminds me of a sad clown, but even then who really cares about my sad bellybutton?

3) I will never run a marathon. This one I'm a little bummed about. But I remember when I was finishing my half marathon and there was a diverging path for people running the full I remember thinking that I couldn't imagine going  ANOTHER 13.1 miles. Too much training for me.

4) I will never own a pet. This one might make me a monster, but pets are a lot of work, and kids are a lot of work, and I opted for kids. The rewards are much greater in my opinion and they aren't as smelly.

5) I will never pay for designer anything. If you are into designer labels, more power to you...but I think it sends a materialistic message that I wouldn't want to send. It's not for me. If someone gave me something for free, I would take it and use it, simply because I love fantastic deals and free is as fantastic as deals get. Related note: my husband received a Coach wallet for a Christmas gift from one of his students one year. It was extremely generous, but he ended up selling it because as a teacher, he felt odd walking around in his JC Penny Dockers with a Coach wallet in his pocket.

6) I will never watch the Austin Powers movies.

7) I will never go hunting. Camping is bad enough, but camping with bloodshed is worse.

8) I will never stop being in love with Zac Efron. And I will never apologize for that.

9) I will never read 50 Shades of Grey.

10) I will never get a tattoo. I can't think of anything I'd rather not do, besides skydiving. There is no single word or image I can fathom being happy with for my entire life. Even if it were something as beautiful as my children's names, how can I be sure I would always love the font, size, and location of my very permanent and painful choice.

11) I will never be too old for Harry Potter.

Friday, November 15, 2013

An Insane Range of Links

Happy Friday everyone! Here are some things that I am enjoying this week. Have a wonderful weekend!

This list of reasons to be a parent made me laugh so hard I was crying, then laugh that hard AGAIN when I was showing it to my husband. My favorite image from it is probably this one:

This brown butter icing is my new favorite thing on the planet. My sister-in-law and I made it for our babies' joint birthday party, and my life changed forever. Now that she has posted it, let it change your life as well.

I recently went to see a lecture by one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, at Symphony Hall in Salt Lake City. The lecture was quite wonderful and largely concerned the story of how a woman named Alva Smith went from being an wealthy socialite with Kardashian-like spending habits to being one of the most avid supporters of the suffrage movement. You can listen to an abridged (but still great) version of the lecture here, as it was broadcast on the Hinckley Institute Radio Hour earlier this week.

I've been trying to teach myself how to make dolls recently, and my favorite place to look for inspiration and tutorials (especially for hair, which still baffles me) is the Wee Wonderfuls website. If you've never checked out Hillary Lang's work, do it. I get so sucked in trying to figure out how she makes so many beautiful handmade toys that I have to go to bed instead of actually trying to make toys myself.

Doctor Who fans, just in case you haven't seen it yet, you can watch the 50th Anniversary minisode that went up this week here. It probably won't make sense if you don't have at least a little bit of a background in Doctor Who history, but if you've been eagerly awaiting the 50th anniversary episode with me, it will make you drool with excitement.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Confidence Boosters

Sometimes I feel like I lived my life a little out of order.  For instance, I loved middle school and absolutely hated high school.  That's not normal, I know that.  Also, I had a healthy, and possibly somewhat misplaced, sense of self-confidence during high school and college, and now that self-confidence is barely staying alive.  I never really had to work at believing in myself or my abilities and now I have to work really hard.  I know it has to do with anxiety and several unfortunate events during my mid-twenties, but knowing the cause doesn't really help solve this type of problem.

I'm finding the only way to solve it, step by painfully-slow step, is to kind of hack my brain and trick myself into thinking more confidently.  Sometimes I falter and fall back a step or two, but there's still plenty to learn in backwards steps.  So I'm constantly searching for ways to boost my confidence in myself.  Turns out, they are all super cheesy.  Self-affirmations, compliments, celebrating small achievements.  It's weird to get super excited about doing your hair, make-up, and wearing a real outfit to work on a Tuesday, but I kind of do get excited about it because it's a step forward.  I have a framed poster next to my bed that says, "Every thing is going to be alright," because that's actually a helpful thing I need to be reminded of every day.  I try to look in the mirror every day and admire one thing about myself.  It could be my hair or my outfit or maybe it's the fact that I'm all ready for work and leaving on time, instead of 10 minutes late. Some days, some weeks, are easier than others, but for the most part it is actually working for me and I'm starting to feel more like my old, happy, and confident self.

Do you struggle with this? What boosts your self-confidence? 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Unrealistic Expectations

I was talking with my husband and I said, "I don't know why we think everything is supposed to be easy and that we should always be happy." We would definitely like to be happy all the time and have an easy life, but it's just not realistic all the time.

Unrealistic expectations in life can cause real disappointments. I don't think we should have a negative outlook on life. I'm an optimist, and I enjoy it. There's a psychological term "self-fulfilling prophecy" meaning that if you believe something it can come true. I think that's wonderful!

Pessimism is unbecoming. It is a depressing way to live. Some people say they are pessimist so they won't ever be disappointed and will sometimes be pleasantly surprised. But a pessimist wouldn't be pleasantly surprised, they would just find something wrong.

Being a realistic optimist is what I like. You have high hopes for life, but you understand that bad things can and do and will happen. People die before you think they should, people get sick, people lose jobs, natural disasters happen, human nature kicks in and makes a mountain out of a mole hill. But you can still see the silver lining on the storm cloud, you can still see the good in most people, you can still see the blessings you have in your life.

Plan for tomorrow but live in the present.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Characters We Love: Olivia

Each night, in the mad rush to lay my kids to bed there is one ritual that we hold pretty sacred, and that is story time. Hopefully we’ve managed to get enough books at the library to allow us to read two or three new stories before bed. We go through phases like everyone else, but my two year old daughter has been stuck in the same phase for months.

“What do you want to read?” I ask.

“Olivia, Olivia, Olivia!” She chants, sounding like she has a mouth full of marbles, (its much cuter than I’m making it sound.)

I don’t mind reading  Olivia books.

Olivia is a lovable pig, the brain child of author and illustrator Ian Falconer. Olivia has a penchant for the color red, a willful personality, and an ambitious spirit. Olivia is anything but passive. 

I sort of stumbled upon the Olivia books based on the artwork and several suggestions from Goodreads lists, but when I opened the book to find this strong, confidant pig that has this incredible zeal for life along with the attitude that anything is possible, I had to get my hands on every Olivia book I could find.

Olivia, according to Wikipedia, is six years old. She is a daughter, a big sister, a student, like any other six year old…but in her imagination, she becomes so much more. A lion tamer, an acrobat, a famous dancer, a supreme court justice... 

Olivia is very fashion conscious. When she laments wearing her school uniform, she proclaims that she must accessorize, and accessorize she does. Red is her color of choice, and to my knowledge, she is never seen out of it. She loves wearing her mother’s lipstick. At one point, you see her sitting at the mirror after just applying lipstick. In her mind, she looks radiant, while in reality it is apparent that her imagination may have run away with itself again as her lipstick is smeared all over her face. 

Praise for Olivia is not limited to my two year old. She has many admirers such as Mikhail Baryshnikov (the ballet dancer), David Hockney (the artist), Gloria Steinem (the feminist/activist), and Dame Joan Sutherland (the opera singer). 

I think what I love most about Olivia, is how she really embodies childhood in the best ways. Sure, she's dramatic and often oblivious and insensitive, but she isn't mean spirited. I see so much of my own daughters in Olivia. 

Another thing I love about Olivia, is she challenges traditional gender roles. She loves to play dress up, but she also loves to  plays sports. To her, being unique and doing what she wants to do, not what is expected for typical six year old girls to do, is very important. 

My favorite line in the book Olivia, is when her mother tells her "You know Olivia, you really wear me out, but I love you anyway." Olivia replies, "I love you anyway too." 

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Father's Thoughtful Love

This extraordinary father did something amazing for his family. Diagnosed with terminal metastatic melanoma, Fred Evans arranged a surprise ceremony for two of his daughters so he could walk them down the aisle (of his four children, two were unmarried).

The love captured in these photos is beyond moving.

I honestly have no words for this. Just grab a box of tissues before you click through to read the article and see more images. What a remarkable family.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Staff Picks: Works of Art

Lindsey: So here's a thing. I have a degree in Art History.  This only really means that I graduated college because I'm better at remembering pictures instead of numbers.  I kid. Kind of.  Not really. But still, I majored in Art History because I love art.  I love buildings.  I love looking at beautiful things and am constantly amazed that people created those things.  I've been known to cry while walking through a museum.  I'm intrigued by the stories of artists.  A lot of them were totally crazy, but they created beautiful things that continue to effect people in personal and moving ways. I struggle to choose a favorite artist, even more so when choosing one favorite piece of art.  It's impossible.  So here's one of many:

Claude Monet Londres, le Parlement. Trouée de soleil dans le brouillard

Looking at this on the computer does it absolutely zero justice.  I hadn't really paid any attention to this painting until I walked by it in a museum and couldn't stop looking at it.  I love how the light shines.  The sun in the fog feels like a literal light shining, but it's just paint on canvas and I love it. 

Cara: I'm certainly no art historian, but I do know what speaks to me and what I like, almost immediately.  I've mentioned this artist on the blog before, but StoryPeople by Brian Andreas absolutely captures my heart. There's no one work of art that tops my list, as I tend to say "that's one of my favorites!" every time I see a story of the day come across my Facebook newsfeed.  The quirky artwork, partnered with the words that are just so true to human nature and life, make me smile or, as my good friend Xa likes to say, "feel all the feels." 
Open large picture
Real ReasonStoryPeople by Brian Andreas

Melissa: While I didn't major in Art History, I considered it, after taking two humanities classes taught by the incomparable Mrs. Kiem. My favorite movements in art were the Renaissance and Impressionism, and since Lindsey has chosen an Impressionist painting I thought I'd choose a sculpture. 

Pietà (Michelangelo) St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

Although I've had the fortune of seeing some of the great works of art around the world, I haven't yet traveled to Italy to see this magnificent work of art. I think my favorite thing about this sculpture is the disproportion of the bodies. If you'll notice, Mary looks like she could be a linebacker, while Christ, a full grown man, is easily cradled in the arms of his mother. To me, it symbolizes the love for a mother for her child, who will always be her child even when they are grown. I also love how Christ's skin folds where she is cradling him under her arms, such precise detail in a work of art created from stone. I also love Mary's face, serene and youthful. I'm going to cheat a little and include a link to this video of Don McLean who wrote this song after not being able to reconcile the fame he received after writing the song American Pie, which he dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh.  Because I love The Starry Night. 

Paige: So... I'm sort of art-dumb. Anything too modern or too interpretative goes way over my head. I do love me some photography though and Ansel Adams has always been one of my favorite photographers. I particularly enjoy his photo of the Grand Tetons and the Snake River because to me there is nothing more beautiful than mountains and rivers. I am a huge nature lover and I think Ansel Adams and I would have made great friends.

Jill: I have a really hard time picking out a favorite anything (except a favorite food, of course, which will always and forever be Oreos). There are just too many things that I love out in this world! I needed to pick something to share will y'all today, though, so I went over and over in my mind the many museums I have been lucky to visit. It could just be because of its proximity to me (I live just south of DC in Virginia), but the first exhibit that popped into my mind was the First Ladies Dresses in the National Museum of American History. Whenever I find myself downtown, my day is not complete until I run over to the museum and stop by the exhibit to soak it all in again. My dream job is to be a costume designer, so these gorgeous dresses from all periods of United States history fascinate me. Perhaps the designers of these gowns did not know they were creating pieces of art at the time, but that is what they are.

Helen Taft's inaugural gown, the first to be donated to the Smithsonian's collection.
Image source

Lis: I've always liked "Premier Chagrin" by Daniel Ridgway Knight. Two women who seem to be good friends talking about something important. It always seemed like a good friendship to me.

Elise: During my art history classes in college, I surprised myself by falling madly in love with modern art. The really snooty part of me wants to say it's because there's all sorts of historically significant manifestoes behind the art, but the honest part of me just thinks it's visually interesting. I love Kandinsky, especially his later work, but today I wanted to share an image from Andy Goldsworthy. I love his work because it imposes strict order on nature--everything he uses to create his art comes from nature--and that order juxtaposed against disorder speaks to my soul. (It's kind of like when I only have the energy to clean my bathroom and the rest of my house is a mess. Except not.) For more amazing art by Goldsworthy, check out the documentary Rivers and Tides.

Rowan Leaves Laid Around Hole
Meg: I had a hard time deciding what to choose, because most of my favorite art isn't my favorite because I want it in my house, but because it just made me think about it FOREVER. (I almost used a Goya work from my Music Civ class, but I don't think it's my favorite - it's just so upsetting that whenever people talk about art I always think of it first.) I ended up torn between two and went with the one that translates best as an image (but you should check out my runner up on the Tate Modern website and let me know if you can see how cool it is if you aren't in the room in person.) I settled on John Singer Sargent's "Gassed," which I saw in the Imperial War Museum in London while I was studying World War I. It's so heartbreaking and real, and I think it's so symbolic of the tragedy that was World War I - so many young men fighting for their countries without any real idea of what they were trying to accomplish, enlisting blindly without realizing that war is much less glorious than they had imagined it would be. In person, the painting almost looks like it was painted with the mud and clay of the trenches, and it's the complete opposite of so many war paintings that came before it.


What's your favorite work of art? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How To Apologize

It's hard to sincerely apologize, but here's a little help from Mumford and Sons:

It was not your fault, but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really (messed) it up this time
Didn't I, my dear?

You can add- 'I'm sorry, I'd like to make it up to you.'

An apology is a great foundation for reconciliation.

When you know you've made a mistake and need to apologize, it can seem agonizing to do it, but once it's done, you'll feel better. Even if the other person won't accept your apology, at least you did all you could. If they do accept your apology, you can begin to fix things and have a stronger relationship.

Remember- don't burn bridges, build bridges and use them!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Truths Learned from Matlock

I usually tell my friends that I'm an 80 year-old trapped in the body of a 30 year-old. Mostly this is based on my taste in television (Matlock, 60 Minutes, CBS Sunday Morning, Antiques Roadshow, old Britcoms that air on Public Television) and my proclivity for saying "I'm too old for that" and then deciding to stay in at home rather than get dressed up to go out and do whatever the young folks do these days (did I mention I'm actually 80?).  

Growing up, one of my favorite shows was, and still remains, Matlock. You really can't beat a sassy Andy Griffith, in a snazzy grey suit, solving mysteries! Thus follows my Truths Learned from the television show Matlock.

Matlock: The Fourth Season
  • Surround yourself with people you trust.

Ben Matlock had the best of the best working with him, and he put his life (and the lives of his clients) in their hands.  How I use this: I make sure the people I have in my life are ones I can trust as well. So often friends (especially growing up) are friends of convenience, but at this stage in my life I'm privileged to be able to choose those I spend time with.  

  • What seems obvious sometimes isn't always what is actually the truth.

Matlock's clients would appear to have every bit of evidence pointing straight at them, but Matlock knew to dig deeper to see the big picture, not just the easy one that was first presented to him.  How I use this: I try to remember that the easy route isn't always the best route and I try to keep in mind that there can be a lot of things I don't know about a given situation.  

  • Pay attention to the details.

It's Matlock's attention to the details that helped him win (almost) every case. How I use this: I try to keep in mind the important things whether I'm working on a project, trying to brainstorm what gift to get a friend, or thinking of ways I can help those around me. Sometimes the littlest detail can make the biggest difference and brighten someone's day. 

  • Always trust your gut.

The evidence didn't always surface right away about his clients (usually on trial for murder), but Matlock had a great way of trusting himself to know when a client's story rang true. How I use this: The older I get the more I realize that there's something within each of us that helps guide us toward what's best (and I do my best to listen to it). 

  • A little ribbing and friendly competition can sometimes bring people together.

Ben Matlock and A.D.A. Julie March always had an interesting professional and personal dynamic.  Though they were on opposite sides of the courtroom, they often worked together to find out the truth and catch the (correct) bad guy. They definitely didn't agree all of the time, but I think that helped strengthen their relationship (and getting a courthouse food cart hot dog together after the cases wrapped up didn't hurt either). How I use this: I won't always think exactly like the person next to me, or even my closest friends and family members, but that diversity of thought and discussion of differences can help strengthen those relationships and can help me grow.  

  • If you feel like you're being followed you probably are, so keep checking that rear-view mirror.

I know this one is a bit literal, but hey, it's always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings. 

  • A good grey suit is timeless.

I just love Matlock's closet full of several hangers filled with the same grey suit.  How I use this: find a style that works for you, something you feel comfortable in, and stick with it. You can't go wrong with the classics (solids, polka dots, and simple classic cuts), but it should be whatever makes you feel comfortable and confident. 

  • Good banjo and guitar playing, along with a friendly sing-along, is a great way to end the day.

Nothing wrapped up an episode like Matlock's guitar pickin' and singing, and you could see that he liked sharing that.  How I use this: Find something you love and share it with those around you.

First: are there any other Matlock fans out there? Second: if yes (Hooray! Let's hang out sometime--I've got the first 5 seasons on DVD we can watch!) - what truths have you learned? And for the rest of you, are there any other television shows you get nostalgic about?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween Costume Round-Up


Long before my son was born- nay, long before we even knew he was a son, not a daughter, we started calling him Bean. It started with a comment from an ultrasound tech that our child was a jumping bean who wouldn't stay still long enough to get the needed measurements and it snowballed from there. Today, he is a three-month-old little guy who gets called Bean by pretty much anyone who talked to me or looked at Facebook during my pregnancy. Which is pretty much everyone in his life. I wanted to honor his nickname for Halloween, so I decided that he was going to be the cutest little can of baked beans you have ever seen. Round it out with a couple of bbq cooks (my husband and I) and I declare my Bean's first Halloween a success!


 At the last minute, I decided to make these.  I am still patting myself on the back.  I started at 8pm on Friday night and they were done by 2pm Saturday. Felt and foam board. Go me.
 My niece wanted to be a zombie, but hadn't been able to figure out what kind of zombie.  My mom was cleaning out my grandmother's cedar closet and found her wedding dress from 42 years ago, stained and browned.  My mom got so excited for my niece to be a zombie bride and, admittedly, she's the best zombie bride ever.  Credit goes to my sister-in-law, who is amazing, and my mom who was able to part with this dress when I had major reservations.

Finally, our little puppy dogs (technically Snoopy and Ribsy).  I made the Snoopy sweatshirt a few years ago when we were all Peanuts characters and I made the Ribsy hoodie on a Sunday afternoon.  I'm telling you, take a hoodie, attach ears and a tail, and people will be endlessly impressed with your creativity and skill.


 My husband and I dressed up as Harry Potter and Hermione, although some people assumed I was Ginny and some people just assumed I was a generic Gryffindor but either way, I finally got my husband to dress up as my fantasy boyfriend and that was pretty cool. Cool fact: both Adam and Harry were born in 1981.

My girls dressed up as the Disney Jr. line up. Paige is Minnie Mouse, (in a costume I found for $10 on sale from $40) and Hannah was an adorable Doc McStuffins, wearing a costume that I put together for all of about $11. The best part about Hannah's costume is she'll be able to wear most of it as a regular outfit. Paige requested that she be a robot next year.

My son Cooper was a skeleton this year due to a hectic month of traveling, moving to a new house, having house guests, and then reading an article about a woman who decided to "let go" of the perfect Halloween costume idea and her life became infinitely better. Sshh don't tell anyone that these are really just pajamas.

I also had to include a photo of my cousin Sydney dressed up as Willie from Duck Dynasty because I think she's awesome. While all her girlfriends were dressed up as princesses, my cute cousin, who has her own hunting rifle by the way, decided to dress up as Willie. She already had the camo and the duck calls so why not?

Meg: You already got to see my costume stylings, but here's a picture of my baby in awe of her Halloween candy haul, plus one from trick or treating with cousins.

Hope you had an awesome Halloween!