Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Whatever you want

I thought this was a funny story. A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) is at a conference this week in Chicago on her own. After hitting the gym at the hotel after her last seminar, she went back to her room and called down to room service to order up some dinner. She ordered her meal and a glass of pinot noir. Thinking out loud, she said, "Can I order two glasses of wine?"

The woman taking her order laughed and said, "Honey, you can order whatever you want."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I had to stop by the Post Office today at lunch to get some more stamps for first of the month bills and such. They didn't have very many choices to chose from, but they did have these awesome cowboy stamps!! (I may have surprised the man at the counter when I gave a little excited squeak about the cowboy stamps. I don't really look like a cowboy fan.) I can't wait to send out some cards using them!

Definitely sending a Roy Rogers one to my mom; she loves Roy Rogers. (Personally, I like John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn, but he wasn't one of the cowboys in this bunch.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

Happy birthday, Will Shakespeare, and Happy St. George's Day, England!

Shakespeare's birthplace

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


Aunt E forwarded me this email, and I really liked it a lot, so I am sharing it with my blog readers. It is about keeping things in perspective, which I find hard to do sometimes.

As is the way of email "forwards" some of the truth of this original column was lost, and with this post I am trying to restore the truth. The original email came with this header: "Written By Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio 'To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:'" I Googled Regina Brett, and she is not 90. That is an urban legend; she is in her 50s. (Either that or she has some DAMN FINE genes.) Anyhow, these are Regina's perspective on perspective.

Regina Brett's 45 life lessons and 5 to grow on

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.

It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here's an update:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don't ask, you don't get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

This is my little bit to show how much I appreciate our environment. (It makes for AWESOME viewing!)

Tidal marsh, Chapin Beach

Salt Marsh

Evening Primrose

Housatonic River

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

British Rock Films

On Monday night, I watched Pirate Radio, a Richard Curtis film that is known in the UK as The Boat that Rocked. The film is about a pirate radio station on a ship off of the coast in the 1960s that broadcast rock and roll 24 hours a day back when British broadcasters didn't allow that sort of thing! (Egads!) The movie was really entertaining and was chock full of some of my favorite Brit actors. Kenneth Branagh and Jack Davenport play the government officials hell bent on bringing down the pirates, while Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Chris O'Dowd (ROY!), and Nick Frost play a few of the pirate broadcasters. (ARGH!) Two of the sassiest girls from St. Trinian's and the ever excellent Emma Thompson make cameo appearances! Yay!!

Being set at a radio station, you can imagine that the soundtrack is killer. It is some of the very best '60s music, including The Kinks, Turtles, Beach Boys, Who, Rolling Stones, Moody Blues, Dusty Springfield, and Procol Harem. I was totally singing along with much of it. Rock and roll from that era was such fun, and this film really highlights that.

This film actually resonated with something very personal to me. Back in the day before our local alternative station here in Boston was streaming on the web, JR and I had each downloaded the Virgin Radio UK player onto our computers and would listen to that all day. (I actually can listen to music and work at the same time. I actually work BETTER - and not just when I am collating - when I have music on in the background.) There was tons of our favorite music, and yet, every day, at random points during the day, one of the DJs would play Guns and Roses' "Paradise City". It was so incongruous with the rest of the music on the station, artists like Blur, Supergrass, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Manic Street Preachers, Morrissey, and Kylie (that's Minogue.) We would email each other when it was on and laugh and laugh. Now our station does stream on the web, but a few years ago, it was the Virgin player that got us our daily dose of Brit pop.

North Americans be forewarned: there was a significant amount of editing from the way this film was shown in Britain to the way it was shown in America, so people watching the Region 1 disc should be sure to watch the deleted scenes to appreciate the scope of director Richard Curtis' original vision.

This film is definitely getting added to my list of favorite British rock and roll movies: 24 Hour Party People, Velvet Goldmine, and Sid and Nancy (although I have problems with that film, mostly because I hate Nancy SO MUCH.) I still need to see Control, and I want to see Nowhere Boy, even though I am not a big fan of the Beatles. (I know, I know, take away my Anglophile card.) I also really want to see the Blur film, No Distance Left to Run, but that is proving difficult to find.

Do you have a favorite rock and roll film that you think I should watch? If you do, be sure to let me know in the comments, and I will let you know in another post what I think of it!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Exhuming McCarthy

On my drive home from my doctor's appointment after work today, I was listening to Tom Ashbrook's "On Point" on WBUR where the topic for the first hour was "Examining the Socialist Charge". This was prompted by today's Tea Party rally on the Boston Common, starring Sarah Palin. (While I don't agree with many of the tenets of the Tea Party, I can understand its members frustration with the course things are on at the moment. However, the fact that the Tea Party has a politician who used state funds for personal expenses as their spokesperson makes my head hurt.)

My favorite moment from the show was when a caller who had grown up in East Germany but now lives in the States said that Americans have no idea what Communism is. It gave me pause. Because we don't know what Communism is. Even though we have to pay taxes and bail out the banks and things are hard right now for middle class people (like myself) in America, at least we can go to school and study things that we want to and take jobs in fields we are interested in rather than be assigned a job in a field just because there is need. We don't need to get permission from the government before we get married or go on vacation and be told by them where you have to live and have them tell you that you can only have one kid (but if it is a girl then you can try one more time for a boy.)

"Communist" is a word that has been thrown around a lot lately. It reminds me of McCarthyism. Let's not go back there, America. Find another word, find another way.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Not Another Night of: "Hello, *insert location here*!"

Last night, JR and I went to the Oberon Theater in Harvard Square to check out the Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley project EvelynEvelyn, which has prompted a some controversy on the internet. I preferred to reserve judgment on the whole thing until I actually saw the show and heard the music. I loved Amanda's music in The Dresden Dolls, but I haven't listened to her solo album: "Who Killed Amanda Palmer?". It wasn't intentional; I just wasn't interested when it came out. But I did like the teaser music that EvelynEvelyn had posted on MySpace, so when JR proposed going to the show, I was game. (I never really believed that EvelynEvelyn were real people, although I never had confirmation one way or the other.)

So JR and I got in line at the Oberon around 7:15pm and were finally let into the theater about 20 minutes later. (I had been feeling lousy all day, but I wasn't going to let the not inexpensive tickets go to waste.) We had bought reserved seat tickets, so we went over to the area with cocktail tables and booths and got seats with a great view of the stage, which were also perfect for people watching. The crowd was quite diverse in terms of age and, for lack of a better term, scene. (Ie. there were scenesters, but not everyone was a scenester nor was everyone who was a scenester from the same scene.)

We ended up sharing our table with a young couple, Matthew and Molly, who had been to several other ART shows this season, and we were chatting a bit about that before the show began around 8:30, with a short solo set by Jason Webley. He was able to take the audience from 0 to 10 in about 3 short minutes with some audience participation. He was followed by a solo set by Amanda Palmer, who thanked her parents (who were sitting two tables behind us) and her neighbor and sang a song about her childhood home that I really liked a lot. Then, the totally awesome Sxip Shirey, who had acted as the MC earlier in the evening, came out and performed a set. JR and I were just blown away by this guy, who uses pitch changers and found objects to compose and perform really interesting pieces.

After a short intermission, Sxip came back out to introduce the Evelyn sisters. [What was not readily apparent was that Sxip was now playing a character in the EvelynEvelyn piece. Once we figured that out, it made a lot more sense because we had loved him, and now he was being a jerk.] The Evelyn sisters (played by Palmer and Webley) came out and performed a "side show" musical telling their backstory with Sxip playing their handler who was obviously abusing them in addition to exploiting them. There was a definite script to the performance, but it was obvious that things weren't locked yet. There were several funny moments when each of the performers broke character.

The original music was very good and spanned a bunch of different genres, from vaudeville to country western to 80s rock ballad, while the Evelyns switched off between the piano, the accordion and ukulele. They even played the first movement of "Moonlight Sonata" while Sxip played around with shadow puppets. A lot of the original music juxtaposes dark lyrics with lighter music, and something about one song, "Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn?", reminded me of "Uncle Ernie" from The Who's Tommy. The music concluded with a ukulele cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" that reminded me of the version by Broken Social Scene that was in The Time Traveler's Wife.

As far as the production goes, I think that the cast of EvelynEvelyn was fortunate to have such a loving and forgiving audience last night because there were several production issues in the theater last night that were distracting: mike levels changing, a guitar's amp cut out, difficultly switching between instruments. Hopefully those problems will not occur again tonight. I think that last night needed to be considered a "preview", and once the tour properly begins a lot of these rough edges will get smoothed out. On the other hand, those rough edges were some of the best moments of the night. I did think that the stage at the Oberon was too small for what they were trying to do. They needed more room, and I hope that can be fixed at other venues.

We stuck around for the Q&A, and I asked a rather nerdy question about the eclecticism of the music, which resulted with me inventing the word "cross-genrely". (In my defense, it was past my bedtime.) I AM interested in process, especially in something which I felt was a musical departure from what I expect of Amanda Palmer, and she and Jason did give a fair answer to my question. On the walk back to the car, JR and I agreed that it was a really good night of live music, and it gave us something to think about too (although I don't think that it was offensive in the way that some people were concerned it would be). I particular enjoy it when you see music performed in way where you didn't feel like the band is going to take that exact same show to another town the following night. The uniqueness of the evening is going to stay with me for a while.

"I never promised you a rose garden"

This weekend, I went home to help out with the planting day at the Walnut Hill Park Rose Garden. Nearly 200 volunteers came together at 9am on a cold and windy Saturday morning to put nearly 800 rose bushes into the ground. (I was first on registration and later on rock removal duty.) About an hour or so after we started, the clouds blew away and the sun came out. It turned into a beautiful spring day for making the community just a little more beautiful. The garden is at the top of the park by the WWI memorial with a beautiful view of the city and neighboring communities. When it is full of fragrant roses, it is going to be that much nicer.

Walnut Hill Park, New Britain, CT
Walnut Hill Park, New Britain, CT

I can't wait to see how the garden looks in bloom in June!

Friday, April 9, 2010

It's Planting Day!

This weekend, I am headed back to my home town to help with a big community garden project. The Friends of the Walnut Hill Park Rose Garden are helping to replace a public rose garden that was originally planted in 1929 and was plowed under during the 1990s in the city's one F.L. Olmstead park. (Living in Boston, I am lucky to enjoy a LOT of Olmstead parks. My personal favorite? The Arnold Arboretum.)

A new imagining of the rose garden was proposed last year and approved by the city's Parks and Recreation Department. After a year of planning and fund raising, tomorrow morning 150 volunteers (including Sister K and me) are going to plant 750+ bare root roses in the new rose garden in the park.

Did I mention that this venture is not being paid for by the city? The planning and labor is being done on a volunteer basis, and the costs are being covered through generous donations of people in the community. This is community building at its finest, especially when the entire community will get to benefit from this beautification project. I am really excited to be a part of it and really proud of everyone who worked on it!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Getting Graphic

After watching both of the Hellboy movies again within the last month and watching one of the animated Hellboy films on Starz! the other night, I decided that it was time to check out the graphic novels. I ordered the first in the series last night from and received it in today's mail!! (Amazon Prime, you just paid for yourself.) Really looking forward to starting this.

(In an attempt at full disclosure, I need to confess that the reason I watched Hellboy in the first place is that I have loved Ron Perlman from afar since the days of "Beauty and the Beast". I loved that show... well, up until Catherine got kidnapped and had the baby. Season 3 was poor. But the first two seasons filled my little romantic heart with joy for tortured, literary, unrequited love. What can I say? I am a geek.)

I only started reading graphic novels a couple of years ago, after seeing V for Vendetta. But I really like them. So far I have read V for Vendetta, Watchmen, the first two League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (poor Alan Moore; no wonder he takes his name off the movies), Stardust, and the first three books in the Sandman series. While the artwork isn't always my style, being a very visual person (which I think is why I am so into film), I really like the combination of the artwork and the story. I especially love a series panels where there is no dialogue scripted; the story just unfolds through images. This can be SO evocative.

The other great thing about reading graphic novels is that you don't have to wait for the next comic to come out. I am so not about the waiting. :-)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

You cannot escape from Martha at the holidays! (Or, at least, I can't)

This past Sunday, I hosted Easter for Sister K and the Aunties. It was a lot of fun, but also a lot of hard work, especially since 1. it was the first time I had ever hosted a holiday, and 2. I had never had to cook a ham before. (I spent the entire day Saturday inside cleaning and doing prep work because I knew I wouldn't have time on Sunday what with Mass and all.) Fortunately on the ham front, I bought a Buddaball ham, which was precooked, and I just warmed it up in the oven for about a half hour at 350F with some pineapple slices and that was all it needed. Served it up with some horseradish and mustard. Delicious! I love ham, and now I have enough left over to make croque-monsieurs!!

We also had St. Germain cocktails to start, and they were a BIG HIT! I just think that they are the nicest aperitif, especially for spring, because they are so light and refreshing. (Plus, St. Germaine and champagne just go together in the best way.)

For favors/placecards, I modified an idea that I had read about in the April 2010 edition of Martha Stewart Living. I filled Mason jars with a layer of jelly beans (Munson's, of course) and a layer of Cadbury Mini Eggs with a Cadbury Creme Egg nestled on the top. (Oh, how I do love my Easter candy.) I used Mod Podge to affix a fun paper print to the top of the jar and then glued a spring patterned grosgrain ribbon around the center of the jar, which I then tied into a big bow. I slid a place card that I had hole punched at one end onto one of the loose ends of the bow and then put the jar in the center of the place setting on the table.

For one of our desserts (Aunt T made a carrot cake), Sister K made Easter egg-shaped cookies, which she then decorated using Martha's royal icing. These cookies tasted just like these awesome PacMan cookies that we used to get when we were kids from Deeter's bakery in Berlin (which sadly no longer exists, both the bakery and the cookies.) It was a little bit of childhood recaptured.

Things were too crazy for me on Sunday, so I took a few photos of our special Easter crafts yesterday after work. (There should have been more of the cookies in the photo, but I had eaten them for breakfast. I may have also had a good number of the jelly beans.)

Jar of candy, in lieu of Easter basket Egg cookies


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