Saturday, December 29, 2007

Top Ten (plus a few more) Songs of 2007

Because some of the year's best songs didn't make it onto the year's best albums. (Then again, some did.) In no particular order:

"White Winter Hymnal," Fleet Foxes
TIE: "My Favorite Book" & "Take Me To The Riot," Stars
"A Sunday Smile," Beirut
"45," The Saturday Knights
"I Feel It All," Feist
"Here Comes One," Lavender Diamond
"Pull Shapes," The Pipettes
"Energy," The Apples In Stereo
"Black Wave/Bad Vibrations," The Arcade Fire
"Station Grey," Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter
"Scythian Empires," Andrew Bird
"Be Easy," Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings
"Only Lovers Left Alive," The Long Blondes
"All The Old Showstoppers," The New Pornographers

Top Ten Albums of 2007

Drumroll, please...

1. In Our Bedroom After The War, Stars
2. The Reminder, Feist
3. The Flying Club Cup, Beirut
4. 100 Days, 100 Nights, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
5. Neon Bible, Arcade Fire
6. New Magnetic Wonder, The Apples In Stereo
7. Music From The Motion Picture Once
8. Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird

9. Imagine Our Love, Lavender Diamond
10. Challengers, The New Pornographers

Favorite song that's not on an album yet: "White Winter Hymnal" by Fleet Foxes (I love these guys!). Visit their MySpace page to hear it, or watch the video below for a live version (it's the second song). Hmm...I may have to include a top ten songs of 2007 just to give them their due.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Live through this...

I know it's been ages since I kind of exploded in October when two new teaching gigs and opera rehearsals began all at the same time. Most days I work from 8:30 - 5 and then rehearse from 7-10, which doesn't leave much time for anything else! Things will be slowing down next week after the opera ends and school concerts are done, so hopefully I'll get back to posting more regularly. In the meantime, I thought I'd share this video of one of my favorite groups singing one of my favorite songs. Stars has a new album out, In Our Bedroom After The War, and it just might be my favorite album of 2007. In any case it's certainly as brilliant as their other releases. This song, "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" from Set Yourself On Fire, still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Eva Cassidy - autumn leaves

The annual autumn windstorms arrived today, and over the next few days will be taking the leaves off the trees; with the leaves go the beautiful fall colors. We lucked out this year, having much more sun than usual in September and October and much less wind (or at least it has seemed that way). Normally the leaves start to change and then 2 weeks in there's a big storm that knocks them all down before you really get to enjoy them. This year, however, I've been able to see trees turn from green to yellow to orange to red to burgundy, and in some cases (my favorite) bright fuchsia. Walking around Green Lake between 4:30 and 6:00 has become an almost daily ritual, because it's then that the setting sun shines amber on the water and the trees start to look like a painting. On Tuesday my friend Jenny pointed out a graceful tree with bright red leaves, its branches sloping gently toward the ground. "It makes me think of a little girl saying, 'Look at my pretty new dress!'" she said, and she was right. Halfway around the lake, one group of tall trees with slender branches are all yellow, save one small swath of green at the very top of each. Looking across from that point you can see the rows of trees leading up to the stadium; their colors gradate from gold to red and back again. Another set of trees by the community center has red, orange and burgundy leaves that appear to be floating on the air rather than their branches. Just past the Bathhouse Theater are my favorite trees that change each season. As they lose their green leaves they start displaying bright red berries; these berries will be virtually the only spot of bright color around the lake come December. Right now they look perfectly in flux, just like the rest of the trees. Did I mention that I love this time of year?

I'll be out for a walk around the lake tomorrow, trying to catch the colors one last time before the gray of winter sets in. Then there will be other excitements: Halloween, steamed cider, lots and lots of braised meats, holiday specials on TV, not to mention the buckets of Swiss Miss hot cocoa to be consumed. (Yes, most of my winter joys are food-related. Aren't yours?) But for this weekend, I'll be keeping my eyes toward the sky, looking for the sun and saying goodbye to all those beautiful fall colors.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Have I got a deal for you!

In my last post a few months ago I promised to give the scoop on affordable cards printed by small manufacturers. I'm finally making good on that promise, so without further ado here are some of my favorites:

Great Arrow Graphics is based in Buffalo, New York and produces a huge variety of hand silkscreened cards, created in their own studio. Okay, maybe they're not such a small company now, but they were when they started and they've stayed true to their vision. Plus they have such a large selection that you can usually find a good card for everyone on your list. Cards typically cost $2.25 - $3.95.

Saturn Press is another of my favorite card lines, but they don't have an official website or even an email. They print on Swans Island, Maine using antique letterpresses, and their images tend toward the vintage/nostalgic/whimsical end of the spectrum. You can visit
If The Birds Knew to see some images from past and present cards, but if you want to find them you'll have to do a little digging around your town; the various Paper Source chains also occasionally keep them in stock. Cards range from $2.50 - $3.50.

B Designs is another New England letterpress line; they sell individual cards and boxed sets both online and in stores across the country. Their tiny size cards are perfect for thank you notes or holiday cards, and their collection of images ranges from classic (cherry blossom) to wonderfully weird (a frog conductor). Individual cards range from $2.00-$3.00 depending on the retail markup.

Seltzer is a newish line created and printed in Queens, using recycled paper and vegetable-based inks. Their cards are sometimes quirky, sometimes sweet, and they also have hilarious wrapping paper. Cards typically run $3.25 or so.

My newest favorite card line is
fomato, because the cards are simultaneously so bizarre and adorable. The only downside is that I can't figure out where they're printed, because every card has a different location ("Riscani, Moldova." "Ermeton-sur-Biert, Belgium"). I need to email them and ask, but in the meantime I just can't stop myself from buying them. Just look at this card to see why - they're awesome! We have a hard time finding fomato cards in Seattle, but Black Ink in Boston carries them so every time we visit we stock up. Cards are usually around $3.00.

Now I know the downside of sharing your favorite line is that it might not feel so special anymore, but on the other hand if it's too special they might not sell enough to keep printing! So I'm sharing these (particularly the lesser known lines) in the hopes that sustained business will keep them producing wonderful cards. What's your favorite small card line? Leave a comment and let me (and everyone else) know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Slahw me dahhhhn...

Okay, I don't usually use my blog to make fun of young and mostly innocent ingenues, but Lainey really hits the nail on the head with her critique of Emmy Rossum's new video. I just don't get it--IMDB says that Emmy was born in New York, yet in this video she totally sounds like she's trying to be the younger crowd's Enya. Watch for yourself, but be warned: you probably won't get through it with a straight face.

Here's the link.

Now get it out of your head by following up with this totally awesome video from Flight of the'll be so glad you did!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good times never seemed so good...

We got back from Boston last night and I'm still recovering, but I have to write while I remember the trip.

We got in Saturday morning at 6:30, after a flight with a screaming child. Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep, so after a stop at Dunkin' Donuts (for Larry) and Diesel Cafe (for me) we went back to his sister Linda's place and crashed for a while. The rest of the day was perfectly lazy; we bummed around Harvard Square and stopped in at some of our favorite shops from the last visit. We also got hot chocolate from Burdick's, which is really the most insanely chocolatey hot chocolate you will ever drink. Love it! That night we went to S & S Deli for dinner and rented Stranger than Fiction, which if you haven't seen it yet I highly recommend.

Sunday morning we had brunch in the South End and took a stroll through the Public Garden, where Make Way for Ducklings was set. On the way there we walked along Newbury Street where all the fancy shops are, and Larry saw A-Rod pushing a stroller. We wanted to ask him why he wasn't getting ready for the game but refrained. I guess he wanted to do some pre-game shopping.

Sunday night was the reason for our visit: after 3 years, Larry finally got into the lottery and was able to get tickets to a Red Sox/Yankees game. We chose the last Red Sox/Yankees match-up of the season, and were really excited when we found out that Curt Schilling would be pitching against Roger Clemens. It was an authentic Red Sox experience - we lost in the bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded, by one run. Heartbreaking. But it was still a very exciting game, and definitely worth the whirlwind trip. I loved being in the ballpark, eating a Fenway frank, hearing all the Boston accents and cheering along with the crowd. I even got the chance to properly boo that traitor Johnny Damon.

We got some extra entertainment in the bottom of the seventh inning, when some crazy fan ran onto the field! He ran to second base and tried to high-five Eric Hinske (who had just hit a double), then he stole and put on Robinson Cano's cap! He was doing a pretty good job outrunning security and I know I wasn't the only one cheering him on, because it was hilarious. Finally someone tackled him and they started to cart him off the field, when he tried to escape AGAIN. He didn't succeed, but it was awesome to watch.
Soxy Lady has some video of the guy, and a much better recap of the game than I could hope to provide, so I suggest you visit her site. I totally agree with her complaint about people who don't deserve to go to a game at Fenway. The people in our row got up so many times that we wondered why they bothered paying for seats!

Although it was tough to watch the Sox lose after flying 3,000 miles to see them, it was completely worth it and now I'm hoping we'll get picked in the lottery for playoff tickets...

As we were leaving Fenway, vendors were selling funny t-shirts that mostly made fun of the Yankees. My two favorites were "A-Rod: Mr. April, Miss October" and "Derek Jeter Drinks Wine Coolers." I love Boston!

Yesterday we drove to Concord to visit Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. Yes, I'm a total dork and I don't care who knows it. The tour was really fun, but the introductory video was a little weird - they had an actress who played Louisa, which was bizarre in itself, but then she kept talking about herself in both past and present tense. Creepy! One cool thing I didn't know was that Louisa's sister May was an accomplished artist who had several paintings shown at the Paris Salon. Their parents let May draw all over the house, and in her bedroom there are drawings all over the walls and windowsills. She probably would have been just as famous as Louisa, but she died 6 weeks after having her daugher Lulu. Of course now I have the urge to read Little Women again and try to find the similarities between the Marches and the Alcotts. Outside the house, a local club maintains a garden just like the one described in the book (chapter 10):

"The garden had to be put in order, and each sister had a quarter of the little plot to do what she liked with. Hannah used to say, "I'd know which each of them gardings belonged to, ef I see 'em in Chiny," and so she might, for the girls' tastes differed as much as their characters. Meg's had roses and heliotrope, myrtle, and a little orange tree in it. Jo's bed was never alike two seasons, for she was always trying experiments. This year it was to be a plantation of sun flowers, the seeds of which cheerful land aspiring plant were to feed Aunt Cockle-top and her family of chicks. Beth had old-fashioned fragrant flowers in her garden, sweet peas and mignonette, larkspur, pinks, pansies, and southernwood, with chickweed for the birds and catnip for the pussies. Amy had a bower in hers, rather small and earwiggy, but very pretty to look at, with honeysuckle and morning-glories hanging their colored horns and bells in graceful wreaths all over it, tall white lilies, delicate ferns, and as many brilliant, picturesque plants as would consent to blossom there."

We also visited the Old North Bridge, one of the first battle sites in the Revolutionary War. One thing I really love about New England is how much of our nation's history is still there in the architecture and landscape. Also, it's just plain beautiful. I do have to say that Concord appears to win the prize for most commemorative plaques per square mile. Besides Louisa May Alcott, Concord was home to Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville and others that I'm forgetting. Add to that the Colonial and Revolutionary historical events, and you have yourself a lot of plaques.

Emerson's house was closed the day we visited Concord, but we'll save it for the next visit. I hope there will be many more visits, because Boston (and New England in general) is just a fun place to be. And I have photographic evidence to prove it.

Yawkey Way, outside Fenway Park

In our seats, section 18 of the grandstand

Curt Schilling warming up

The Old North Bridge in Concord

View from the bridge

Concord School of Philosophy
(founded by Bronson Alcott, on the grounds of Orchard House)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Weekends away

I finally turned 30 last weekend! I say "finally" because once you're 29, really, you're so close that what's the point? Better to just be 30 and be done with the twenties. Happily my birthday fell on a Saturday this year so I got to celebrate all weekend long, first with a dinner at The Pink Door with our good friends Kristine and Bob, and then on Sunday night with a surprise birthday dinner at Cremant, organized by a very sneaky Larry. It was my first ever surprise party, and a great way to kick off my next year.

We spent Labor Day weekend at Bumbershoot, seeing so many bands I can't remember them all. Fortunately Larry made an Excel spreadsheet to use as our personal schedule - his nerdiness comes in really handy sometimes. So here's who we saw:

Carrie Akre
Crowded House
The Shins
The Saturday Knights
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Gogol Bordello

The Watson Twins
Art Brut
Stars of Track and Field
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Kings of Leon
The Apples in Stereo
Zap Mama
Devendra Banhart

Fleet Foxes
Andrew Bird
The Damnwells
The Frames
Steve Earle

Larry got us tickets to the KEXP Lounge, so we got to see several of the bands there. It was nice because it was a smaller room, the bands often played acoustic sets, and it was cool inside. I can tell I'm getting older because the first thing I wanted to do whenever we got to a different stage was find a place to sit! But come on, it's 3 days of non-stop shows - I had to pace myself, right? (at least that's the story I'm sticking to...)

My two favorite acts of the weekend would have to be Rodrigo y Gabriela and Fleet Foxes. Rodrigo y Gabriela are an acoustic guitar duo, but the way they use their instruments would make you think they have an entire band up there. Gabriela uses her guitar like a percussion instrument while Rodrigo's amazing fingerwork goes up and down the frets faster than you could imagine. I've never heard two musicians play tighter in rhythm! It was mesmerizing to watch. Fleet Foxes are a Seattle band that's been around for a while, but I hadn't heard them till Bumbershoot. They play 70's inspired/influenced rock with lush 3-part harmonies, and I just love their songs. In fact, I think they might be my new favorite band. Not that anyone could ever supplant the Decemberists, but there's always room for more great music...

Other extra fun shows, in no particular order: The Saturday Knights, Crowded House, The Shins, The Watson Twins, The Apples in Stereo, Art Brut, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Smoosh, Steve Earle, Andrew Bird. All in all, a fabulous weekend.

This coming weekend promises to be equally exciting. We're headed to Boston to watch a Red Sox/Yankees game at Fenway Park!!! Look for me on the highlight reel - I'll be the one getting arrested for rushing the field to hug David Ortiz. We might also go to Concord to visit Walden Pond and Louisa May Alcott's house (Larry's not the only nerd in this relationship), and of course there will be some good eating involved, because when is there not?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A few of my favorite things, sturgeon moon* edition

Ben & Jerry's new Creme Brulee ice cream
morning walks around Green Lake
purple nail polish
Flight of the Conchords (still)
lunar eclipses

*Aug. 28, 6:35 a.m. EDT - The Full Sturgeon Moon, when this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water like Lake Champlain is most readily caught. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because the moon rises looking reddish through sultry haze, or the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Maybe he should have sung "Clocks" instead...

Thanks to Kendra for pointing out this awesome local story! I used to live in Wallingford, just 2 blocks from Changes, but back then I preferred to sing karaoke up the street at Goldies. Who knew "Yellow" could trigger such blind rage? Or should I say it made her see red...hee!

Link to Seattle Post-Intelligencer article and related content here.

Karaoke singer attacked after starting song
Woman punches man on stage


It could have been the Coldplay song "Yellow" that upset the patron of a Wallingford neighborhood bar. Or perhaps it was the karaoke singer who belted it out.

Employees at Changes, on North 45th Street, said they don't know, but the ensuing melee just past 1 a.m. Thursday was one unlike anything seen at the bar before.

As soon as the man on stage started singing about the stars in his best Chris Martin impersonation, the woman reportedly said: "Oh, no, not that song. I can't stand that song!"

Witnesses said her distaste for Coldplay quickly took a violent turn, and she leaped at the would-be crooner, shouting expletives and telling him that his singing "sucked," while expressing the same opinion of the song, according to a Seattle police report.
She pushed the man and punched him, all in an effort to stop his singing.

Other patrons went to the singer's aid and hauled the 21-year-old woman outside.

"It took three or four of us to hold her down," said Robert Willmette, one of the bartenders at Changes.

The woman, Willmette said, "went crazy" when she got outside, punching him twice in the face, and throwing blows at the others gathered around her.

But the person who drew most of the music critic's ire was an off-duty Seattle police officer. The off-duty officer identified herself as a cop, gave her badge number and had another patron call 911 to request help for an officer.

The response was fast and overwhelming, with both patrol officers and Gang Unit detectives converging on the normally tame neighborhood bar.

"They blocked the whole street off," Willmette said.

According to the police report, the woman's rage only grew when the uniformed officers arrived.

The officers took the woman, whom Willmette described as "a little hippie girl," to the ground, but she was still able to head butt the off-duty officer several times before she was handcuffed.

After treatment for injuries she suffered in the scuffle, the woman was booked into the King County Jail for investigation of assault. She was also held on a warrant issued for a previous theft charge.

The off-duty officer also went to the hospital, for treatment of several cuts, scrapes and bruises.

Later Thursday morning, bar employees were shaking their heads over the woman's bizarre behavior.

According to the night bartender's notes, she had just one drink -- a single shot of J├Ągermeister.

She didn't appear to be one of the regulars who flock to the bar for its karaoke nights on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Most are regulars who come for the pleasure of the singing, and the police are rarely needed.
"She was just crazy," Willmette said.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thank you for coming to the St. Croix County Fair

We just got back from my family reunion in Baldwin, Wisconsin. It was a lot of fun to see all my aunts, uncles and cousins, and Larry got to meet them for the first time. This is probably a good time to mention that we got engaged about a month ago, so everyone was asking him lots of questions, congratulating us, etc. And of course they all loved him, because really, who doesn't like Larry?

My cousin Jennah was showing her horse at the county fair, so we went over on Saturday and Sunday to watch her and check out the fair. Larry had never been to a county fair, and I hadn't been to one in several years, so we had to go through ALL of the buildings (even the smelly ones), see the exhibits and eat lots of fair food. We took my cousins Brooke and Luke along on Sunday and checked out the rides and games. Word of advice--never ride the Tilt-a-Whirl directly after eating a corndog and deep-fried cheese curds. Trust me on this!

Here are some of my favorite photos from the fair:

Deep fried cheese curds, a Wisconsin specialty

Jennah and Izzy

SO cute!

Brooke and Luke on the Tilt-a-Whirl

Aww, so dainty.

The best slogan ever

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's a slow news day

This summer is the speediest yet--how did it get to be the end of July? This is how I know I'm getting older...not only does EVERY month seem to go by with lightning quick speed, but I think I've written "how did it get to be (insert time of year here) already" in at least 4 other blog posts. Those of you who know me won't be surprised that I'm repeating myself, but this is excessive even by my standards. Oh well--another pleasure of getting older is that I just don't care enough to stop doing it.

I don't really have anything else interesting to say until next week, so I'll end here with a few fun photos that I've been wanting to put up for a while.

My very first lattice crust pie (pre-oven)--strawberry rhubarb with homemade crust, thank you very much. Although the real thanks must go to Christine for her foolproof pie crust recipe.

Larry is always finding new ways to amuse himself on the long (carpool) commute home.

Unbelievably, Zach likes to sleep this way...

...and Nigel just wants to be left alone.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Goodbye, Bubbles

Beverly Sills passed away this week at the age of 78. Not only was she an amazing singer who introduced opera to much of mainstream America, she also directed the New York City Opera for several years and later became chairwoman of the Metropolitan Opera. She will most definitely be missed. You can read her New York Times obituary here.

Another opera singer, the French soprano Regine Crespin, passed away today at the age of 80. You can read her obituary
here. My favorite story about her is this tidit (from the NYT obit):

"Recalling her performances at the Met with the powerhouse tenor Franco Corelli in 'Tosca' and Massenet’s 'Werther,' she said he was convinced that eating raw garlic before a performance was good for the voice. But when they sang duets, Corelli would regularly burp. She learned to adjust, Ms. Crespin said."

Further proof that opera singers are a crazy bunch... (and I say this as a member of that bunch, though I don't think I could stomach raw garlic!)

Blah blah blah.

It's been ages since my last post and may be a bit before I have time to write another "real" post, meaning one where I don't just whine about how I'm too busy to post. But seriously, between choir rehearsals 3 days a week, teaching my harmony class once a week, out-of-town guests and the summer barrage of sporting events, I have had almost no spare time. And the spare time I have had was devoted to reading my book club book, which by the way I heartily recommend--it's Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time, about the Great American Dust Bowl. Don't be fooled by the 300 page length, which I thought would be an easy summer read. It's incredibly dense but fascinating and you won't want to skip a paragraph, so don't be like me and only give yourself a week to read it, or you will find yourself staying up late and getting up early to ensure that you finish it before everyone comes over because how embarassing would it be to not finish the book when you're the host?!?


Anyways, I have some fun things I really want to write about, like our AMAZING culinary experience at
The Herbfarm or the fabulous Feist show we went to a week and a half ago. Plus I have a couple of delicious summer recipes to share. So stay tuned...hopefully next week I'll find some time to sit down and write something worth reading!

Monday, June 18, 2007

My new favorite show

HBO has a new series, Flight of the Conchords and it is AWESOME. If you missed the premiere, they'll be playing it throughout the week, or you can see clips from the show at their website. To get the feel of the episode, watch the clips in this order:

Hot Women
Most Beautiful Girl
Band Meeting with Murray
Robots Video
I'm not Crying

You won't get to see the whole episode online, but most of it is there and it's AWESOME. (Did I say that already?) Here's one of my favorite clips to get you started:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"I could make that!"

I was in a stationery shop the other day when I overheard another customer snidely whisper, "I could make that myself!" to her friend. It wasn't the first time I've heard that comment and probably won't be the last, but I'm always surprised by it--I mean, unless you're going to complain directly to the sales associate or manager, it's a good idea to save your comments until you've left the store!

With the prevalence of rubber stamp and card making supply stores (Impress, Paper Source, etc.) it's not surprising that the DIY attitude is becoming more and more common. And I can certainly understand someone thinking that they could make a card themselves, especially if they're looking at something that's been made with a rubber stamp, or is comprised mainly of layered papers, or looks "handmade"; these kinds of cards can be pretty easy to execute. Plus, sometimes it's just more fun to create something yourself and play with beautiful papers. But it often seems like when people say that they could make a card themselves, they're usually also commenting on the price of the card and how it's not worth the marked price. So I thought I'd do a price breakdown, based on some common card making items available at Paper Source. Here's what I found:

1 pack of 20 A-2 size cards in curry: $5.25
2 packs of A-2 envelopes (10 in each pack for $3.25) in gravel : $6.50
1 brocade rubber stamp that I thought was cute: $8.50
1 ink pad in ruby red: $5.10
Total before tax & shipping (or gas to get there): $25.35

Now, if I break down that cost per card, it gets really cheap--around $1.27 a card. Perfect if I need to make my own invitations or a bunch of thank-you notes (which I have done before and had a lot of fun with it). But I have to remember that this estimate doesn't include the value of my time spent making the cards. Plus, I would die of boredom if I had to use 20 of the exact same card for anything other than invitations or thank-you notes; I only buy 6 or 8 packs of stationery for this very reason. And if you only need one card, it's a pretty hefty investment to make it yourself. That $6.00 card is starting to look reasonable by comparison.

On the flip side, let's look at a typical manufacturer's cost in getting a card to market. They have to spend the time coming up with a viable design; print it themselves or take it to a printer; in most cases buy cello sleeves and spend time stuffing cards into the sleeves; print and mail catalogs that they hope will inspire retailers to buy their product; rent or own some amount of space to house their product in; and buy the boxes to ship that product. For all of this work, they will in most cases be making less than half of what you're paying for that card, because each store has plenty of their own overhead costs (rent, utilities, employees, etc.) that need to be covered by the retail markup. No wonder so many card and stationery designers have day jobs and sell their product as a side venture--it's a difficult category in which to turn a profit.

Of course, my sympathy for manufacturers disappears rapidly when I see a card that is poorly designed or executed, or even worse, a blatant rip-off of another line. But that's a topic for another post. My point is, just like with most things, you get what you pay for. If you're paying top dollar for a card like those made by You Send Me, it's because each little bead, sequin and/or piece of glitter has been placed just so on that card. The paper used is a heavy card stock, often with a (more expensive) pearlized sheen. The designs are adorable, whimsical and fresh. Plus you get a protective glassine sleeve and a beautiful opalescent envelope to mail it it. You can tell that they have taken the time to create a quality product, and it has cost them a sizable amount of money to make it, so it will cost you more to buy it. Compare that to many of the mass produced cards on the market, which are printed on thin paper with even thinner envelopes. Another factor is where the card was printed; many of the more expensive cards are printed by small manufacturers in the US, while larger lines print overseas in huge print runs. Look at the "Printed in..." on the back of a chain store card next time you're out, and you'll see what I mean.

This isn't to say that only expensive cards are worth buying; there are lots of elegant, fun, witty, beautiful, etc. cards that can be found for around $3.00 or in some cases even less. A future post will be devoted to affordable cards that are still cute and in most cases made by small companies, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, whether you buy all your cards or make your own, remember to support your local card shop!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The laziest post ever.

Since I started my blog last year, I've been keeping track of bizarre search terms that lead to my site. I've been waiting for the right time to post, and I decided today is the day, mainly because I'm too lazy to write anything original. So here, listed in descending order of bizarreness, are some of the craziest search terms around.

1. long fingernail slave (I think this definitely has to be the weirdest...not only do I not blog about those kinds of things, but my blog didn't show up until something like the 14th page of Google--how long was this person researching their incredibly random topic?!?)
2. stinky garbage girl (so...confused...eewww.)
3. poo (you write one whiny post about the person who puts their dog poo in your garbage can, and wham! you're on the "poo" search engine list for life!)
4. chocolate pudding dessert named chocolate fatso (the person searching was from Grinnell, Iowa--doesn't "chocolate fatso" just sound like a Midwestern dessert?)
5. dance ramer (awesome.)
6. Kristen couch (I know I spend a lot of time on the couch, but come on now!)
7. mailing address for Christopher Guest (yes, because not only do I have his address in my Filofax but I've posted it for the whole world to see...)
8. Theo chocolate sucks (actually it rules--it's delicious, and if you take the factory tour they give you TONS of free chocolate. I think the person who typed this in sucks!)
9. kill the groove (um, you better not. Sophie Ellis Bextor will mess you UP.)
10. dressed in yellow she says hello come sit next to me you fine fellow (considering that I posted the entire lyrics to this rap I'm not surprised at this one.)

Happy weekend!

The annual Father's Day dilemma

Every year, it's the same old selection of Father's Day cards. Golf clubs, neckties, fishing reels and martini glasses comprise nearly half of all the available cards. At least another 10% is wasted on Canada geese or other waterfowl, usually accompanied by some hokey quote. 10% more are specifically created for the little ones to give Daddy, another 10% are addressed to the "World's Best Dad," and an additional 10% is given over to the "For the Father of my Children" market. That doesn't leave too many for the rest of us to choose from. So what do you do if you're a grown-up kid or just hate cheesy cards? Here are a few of my favorite solutions:

"Stone Repeat Father's Day" from Egg Press (card is taller than shown in above image), $6.00 + shipping, available
here or check out their list of retailers.

"Lawnmower" from Two Piglets, app. $4.50, find a local retailer

When in doubt, a beautiful blank card is always a good option. "Two Leaves" from B Designs, sold with their Woodland Collection ($25.00 for 10 notes, + shipping)
here or find a store near you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The dinner club

Last Saturday night (5/19) we got together with 7 other friends for a special dinner at Cremant, a newish (it turned one in March) French restaurant in Madrona. Before I even get to the dinner part, I just have to say what a sweet neighborhood Madrona is--there are several cute shops and restaurants along the main strip, but it doesn't feel gentrified yet. Case in point--the ad for the Madrona Farmer's Market, which takes place in the Grocery Outlet parking lot. Love it! But back to Cremant. We had booked the Salon du Jardin for our dinner, which we figured was a private room in the back of the restaurant. Well, it was, but it turned out to be completely private--we were instructed to walk outside and around back, where we saw the door for our room. It's separate from the rest of the restaurant, with a door to the kitchen. I will confess that I was really excited when I saw that we had our own restroom.

We had decided ahead of time that we would let the chef choose our menu, so we had no idea what the evening would hold. We started with aperitifs, a kir royale for me and cremant (French sparkling wine from outside the Champagne region) for Larry. As the group settled in with our drinks, the host brought out a plate of cured meats, a pot of house-made rillettes (!), and 2 pots of a delicious spread made with albacore tuna, roasted fennel, olives and eggplant. You mixed it all together and then spread it on your bread--so good. Not as good as the rillettes, mind you, but then I might be just a wee bit biased since rillettes are one of my absolute favorite treats and are usually hard to find.

Our next course consisted of 2 huge platters of endive salad with walnuts and Roquefort, and a plate of 6 roasted marrow bones. I had never had marrow before, and when I first saw it I felt a little nervous, but the taste was incredible. We were instructed to spread some marrow on a bit of bread and then sprinkle some fleur du sel over it. The marrow was so smooth, like butter but even more rich, and the salt added the perfect contrast. The salad had a great tangy bite to it, and paired beautifully with a Vouvray white wine. It was so good that toward the end of the course when we saw the waitress start to take people's plates away, Larry and I quickly loaded our plates up with more salad so we could keep eating! (Yes, we are gluttons.)

The third course arrived just as everyone was finishing their wine; it was cote de boeuf and a potato gratin. The host poured us Vacqueyras, a Rhone red wine, and we started in. The beef had been braised but was still rare--again, something I normally wouldn't have tried, but it was AMAZING. There was a great crust on the outside and lovely pink, tender meat on the inside. This dish may well have converted me to rare meat. The gratin was rich and creamy, a perfect match for the beef. I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record with the "this paired beautifully..." and the "what a perfect match..." but it's true. There's a lot to be said for putting yourself in the hands of the chef; they know what dishes will go well together (and what wines to pair), they can plan a meal that will leave you satisfied but not stuffed, they can serve you the best of what's available that night, and you get to sit back and be surprised. Of course, there are some surprises you might not want--before we went Larry had requested that we not be served steak tartare or veal--but it's fun to put yourself in the chef's hands every once in a while. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now, but try it some time!

For dessert the host brought out one of each dessert on the menu: creme brulee, chocolate mousse, rice pudding, and plums that had been soaked in Armagnac. Each dessert was delicious (the plums surprisingly so), but the creme brulee was my favorite. I really wanted to order one just for myself, but I refrained. We were all amazed at what a perfect evening it had been, and started talking about where the next dinner club would be.

One last story...just about everyone ordered tea or an after-dinner drink, and I saw that Chartreuse was on the digestif menu. I've always been curious about Chartreuse--I know it's made by monks and that it's where the name of the color comes from, but before Saturday that was the extent of my knowledge. Since we had already had such an indulgent night, I decided to try it out. It came in a little brandy snifter and was that beautiful shade of green. I raised my glass, took a deep sniff and...nearly burned my nose hairs off! Seriously, it smelled like rubbing alcohol. I took a sip; it tingled all the way down my throat. Don't get me wrong, it tasted pretty good, but it was so spicy--almost like the bite you get from cinnamon oil--and I am a wimp about spicy things. I encouraged everyone else to have a sip, not only so they could smell and taste it, but so that I would have less to drink! It was quite an experience, but it didn't end there. About 10 minutes after we left the restaurant, I realized that I was totally blitzed (don't worry, Larry was driving). I had been fine all through dinner, so it was definitely the Chartreuse. I guess it's not a drink for amateurs!

Next up: Sitka and Spruce, on June 22nd.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

And her name was Veronica

CW announced their fall line-up today, and Veronica Mars was nowhere to be found. While the show never reached the awesome level of Season 1 (isn't that nearly always the case?), it was still entertaining and interesting. But apparently not as interesting as, say, The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll, or Friday Night Smackdown, or a series based on the Gossip Girl books. (which Kristen Bell is reported to be narrating--at least she'll have a new job...) Maybe it's just as well, because in the last season it's been turning into more and more of a teen soap instead of a noir mystery. But still--why do the best shows on TV always get cancelled?!? At least I still have How I Met Your Mother, and Heroes, and Lost, and The Office...and isn't Project Runway starting up again after Shear Genius ends? Hmm...okay, maybe it's better this way. With one less show to watch, maybe I'll stop watching so much television--not likely, but anything's possible. And I can always pop in the V Mars Season 1 DVD for a bit of nostalgia. Misty water-colored memories...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

May to Decemberists

The Decemberists came back to town last Friday and put on an AMAZING show. Those of you who know me are probably thinking that I was predisposed to think that, given my near-obsession with them, and that's true. But still. It was amazing!!! The show began with a darkened hall and a rousing Russian nationalist tune--perhaps in deference to the original Decembrists? In any event, it was a great way to start. I felt like I was listening to the overture at an opera.

As the band came onstage, another beautiful backdrop came down behind them, this time a night scene (I think it was depicting the same village as before) complete with full moon and butterflies. They started the set with The Crane Wife, Parts 1 & 2 and then went into Part 3. Although I love the way the album starts with Part 3 and goes straight into The Island, it was nice to hear the entire cycle in its original order. It seemed like from there they really followed the album for a while, playing The Island, Yankee Bayonet and O Valencia! (maybe not in that exact order, my memory fails me there). Later in the show came Shankill Butchers (with the stage appropriately bathed in blood-red light), The Perfect Crime No. 2 and the show closer When The War Came. In between there were old favorites like Leslie Ann Levine and unreleased gems like Cut 'Em Up, Boy (deemed "too violent" for the album, it featured Chris and Jenny pairing up on the keyboard while Colin put his theater major skills to work. He borrowed someone's cell phone to deliver the last verse that started with, "Listen up, boy..." and I'm still wondering if there was actually a person on the other end of the line.)

Near the end of the set Colin announced that it would be their last song, and the audience was treated to...the vocal stylings of Chris Funk! He launched into his falsetto rendition of The Outfield's Your Love and got the audience to sing along on the chorus: "I just wanna use your love tonight/I don't wanna lose your love tonight." A couple of people in front even whipped out their lighters. It was truly awesome. They ended with an extra-long version of When The War Came, but came out shortly after for an encore, of which the highlight was the crazy audience participation piece Mariners Revenge. I've never had so much fun pretending to be eaten by a whale. (If you're confused right now I recommend that you dash right out and pick up a copy of The Decemberists Handbook DVD from your local record store.)

In the middle of the set Colin took a moment to apologize for the show they gave in the fall, which they felt was "crappy" because he was so sick. Well, I loved that show even though he was sick--like I've said before, the whole beauty of seeing live music is that you never know what you'll get. You just have to go with an open mind and enjoy the moment. So I don't think they needed to apologize, but I wasn't complaining that they wanted to make up for it by playing an extra-long show. It was the perfect, the perfect, the perfect, the perfect, the perfect, the perfect, the perfect, the perfect night.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Everyone deserves a second chance...

That's why I'm rooting for Jeff Weaver to have a better game today. He gave a really candid interview to reporters in New York, chronicled by the Seattle Times here. Basically, he admitted that he's been too much in his head and just needs to get out on the pitcher's mound and follow his gut. You have to respect a guy who owns up to his shortcomings but is still trying. Hopefully things will go better today and he'll get to stay in the rotation.

In other news, today we went to the
Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale. We brought home 10 different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, bok choy, Swiss chard, basil, thyme and sorrel. I'm going to keep a notebook on how the different varieties of tomatoes do and will post the results throughout the growing season for any other interested gardeners. We got almost all "odd-colored" tomatoes, like Green Zebra, Limmony and Black Plum to name a few. I can't wait to see what cool colors and crazy shapes they turn into.

I'll put up a separate post about the Decemberists show last night, but here's the short version: Best! Show! EVER!!!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Happy Decemberists Eve!

Tomorrow night we're going to see The Decemberists at the Paramount. We saw them back in the fall, but since I'm pretty much obsessed with them Larry got me tickets for Valentine's Day so we can see them again. I've been looking forward to this show for nearly 3 months and it's finally here! I have a feeling it will be the highlight of the weekend, though it has some stiff competition: we'll also be paying a late night visit to SAM's 35-hour marathon grand opening, and going to a discussion/book signing featuring Tim Gunn (eee!). So while I'm not sure what the very best moment will be, I believe I can safely say that this weekend is going to ROCK! Tune in for the full report on Monday...

Monday, April 30, 2007

Pushing pushmepullyou design

One of my favorite artists is Eleanor Grosch of pushmepullyou design. [Full disclosure: I was introduced to her work by Larry, who worked with her in 2005 to create a poster for a benefit show he organized. I loved the poster she did for the benefit, but she became one of my favorite artists all of her own accord--by which I mean her incredible talent, wit and design sensibility.] She is constantly creating new animal illustrations that are both modern and whimsical, like the city pigeon that I hope to add to our collection soon, along with the mourning dove. Her prints are affordable and way cooler than some tired "masterpiece" poster. Plus she silkscreens all of her work by hand, with an average print run of 50 (each piece is numbered), so you're getting a limited edition piece. But the best part is that you'll have her beautiful print on your wall and it will make you happy every time you look at it. Trust me!

If you're not ready to commit to a print, Eleanor also has a collection of
greeting cards and post cards that are just as fun. We got a few cards last year at Bumbershoot and I love them--bright, colorful and A6-sized, which is larger than the average 4-bar note card and therefore quite handy when you want to write a little longer note. And at $10.00 for 6 cards, they're a downright steal. Right now I'm liking the mice a lot, but they're all pretty darn cool. There are lots of other fun things to buy on her site too, but since this blog is about paper I'm not going to tell you. You'll just have to visit and see for yourself, but be warned, it's hard to resist.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

What does $8.325 million buy?

Apparently, a head-case pitcher who gives up 6 runs in the first 1/3 of the first inning. That's right, at tonight's game Jeff Weaver pitched line drive after line drive, allowing nearly the entire Royals batting order to hit off of him. Now I know he has a history of pitching badly in April, but this has to be a new low. They should take him out of rotation for a while and get him to a good sports psychologist so he can get his confidence back. Because when I start feeling relieved that they put Mateo in, it is NOT a good sign.

So what do you do when it's the bottom of the first inning and you know your team is going to lose? You eat. Tonight was an unparalleled festival of gluttony. Major and minor league hotdogs, a cheeseburger and french fries, warm peanuts, disgusting yet delightful nachos with cheese and salsa, one desperate-attempt-to-warm-up coffee, a souvenir size Sierra Mist, and finally the really-cold-but-still-awesome-7th-inning Dr. Pepper. Mmm. We got to the ballpark early so we could watch batting practice, which was fun--we're usually the ones dashing in halfway through the first inning, so it was nice to be settled and watch all the pre-game rituals. It also meant we didn't have to stand in line as long for food...I think we'll have to remember that trick for next time.

The other highlight (besides watching my favorite player Yuni) was watching Raul Ibanez in left field. He made 3 really sweet catches tonight, one for a very exciting double play. Even on a bad night, it's still fun to be at the ballpark.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Oh for the life of a cat

Other than a brief period from 2:30-3:00 spent whining for their lunch and then eating it, this is what the boys have done today. I have to admit I'm a little jealous.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A few of my favorite things, weekend edition

homemade ice cream
cocktails at noon on a Saturday
The Namesake--go see it immediately, it is just soooo good. ps. Bring Kleenex.
Rex Lee as Lloyd on Entourage
lying on the couch all morning with the Sunday NY Times
springtime in Seattle

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The joy of television

I love TV. At any moment of the day it's there, waiting to suck you in with a Lifetime movie, classic music video, or syndicated sitcom (of which the best by far is still Golden Girls, thank you very much). But I hate the end of the season, when you're never sure whether or not your new favorite shows will get picked up for another 18 or 24 episodes. Cases in point: Friday Night Lights and Veronica Mars. Now I know V Mars is actually in its 3rd season, but I just started watching it this year. I became obsessed so quickly that seasons 1 & 2 on DVD showed up in my Christmas stocking and were devoured in 2 sleepless, junk-food filled weekends (and a couple of very late weeknights). Sure, there are 5 more episodes to go (indicating that CW might order more for fall), but they are stand-alone mysteries that won't have the same emotional and dramatic arc of a season-long investigation. And there's no guarantee that it will be back in September. Then there's FNL, which I never thought I would be watching so religiously, but it's seriously one of the best shows on TV right now. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are so great as the football coach and his counselor wife. Add to that an adorable romance between the quarterback and the coach's daughter, a fabulous supporting cast that provides intriguing sub-plots every week, and the sheer adrenalin of watching the Dillon Panthers play, and I find myself glued to the couch. How could NBC even think of cancelling it? I just don't understand how TV execs make their decisions these days. Take a show like Studio 60: yes, it's true that despite having a gifted writer and stellar cast, the series had a very uneven season and has often come across as more preachy than funny. But should it really be cancelled to make room for another violent family drama like The Black Donnellys or, when NBC decides that's a dud too, another reality show? Um, NO. Studio 60 has the potential to turn into something great--even with its dull moments, there's still intelligent writing and genuine comedy. It deserves a second chance!

Just as the network season is coming to and end, Bravo is following its Wednesday cash cow slot (aka 10 pm) into the salon with Shear Genius, yet ANOTHER attempt to follow the Project Runway formula. Now I like Top Chef but just couldn't get into Top Design--Todd Oldham put me right to sleep. Shear Genius, however, is luring me back into the land of wooden hosts, celebrity guest judges and lots o'drama, which this time is all about the hair. With real people saying things like, "I AM success" and "If I had just had 20 more feathers it would have been explosive," how can you go wrong? It's so bad it's awesome. If you're looking for a new guilty pleasure, look no more. And even if you're not, you should prepare yourself to be sucked in, because it's only a matter of time before they air the Shear Genius marathon. You know you can't resist...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tiptoe through the tulips with me...

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is in full bloom up at Mount Vernon through April 30th. Now I know you can't actually tiptoe through the tulips or they'd be ruined long before the end of the month, but it seems there is a shocking lack of songs written about tulips so it was the best I could come up with. Christine and I checked the festival out last Friday (more on her trip in my next post), and I think this weekend will be the best time to get out there before petals start dropping off.

This one's for you, Christine!

Tulip Town is totally worth the drive, and the 4 bucks admission. Just be sure to eat lunch before you go, or eat there--no outside food is allowed.

Tulip Town

And it was all yellow...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

(I wanna) call it love

This will be my last post for a week or so, as Christine is coming to visit from LA and it looks like she's bringing the sun with her--hooray! But I have to write about the fabulous show we went to on Monday night. Sondre Lerche and The Faces Down played at the Crocodile Cafe, the first time he's headlined Seattle since 2004. (In between he opened for Elvis Costello at the Paramount, but it was just him and his guitar.) I have a soft spot for Sondre because Larry took me to that 2004 show on our first date. So of course I would love him just for being a part of our history, but in addition to that he is one of the best pop singers playing nowadays. His music is so catchy, the rhythm is tight, there are interesting little twists and turns in each song, and did I mention the brilliant lyrics? Like these: Just like in that old movie about Carlotta's spell /I feel obsessed like Scottie felt/ minus the drama and the fraud /I hope I got to get into her way /Out of my way. Truly, he's fantastic.

Now, Sondre's albums are great on their own, but nothing can really compare to seeing him live--especially when he plays with The Faces Down. Morten (bass), Kato (guitar) and Ole (drums) are the most entertaining band I've seen recently. Maybe those Norwegians know something the rest of us don't, because the 4 of them together had soooo much fun onstage Monday night that it was contagious. I found myself grinning like an idiot through most of the show because it was just so fun to watch their antics. They weren't even antics, really; you could just tell they were having a good time. It's refreshing to see a band so lacking in pretension. That's not to say they don't take their music seriously, because they're all obviously very accomplished on their respective instruments. During Monday's show we were treated to several mini jam sessions within individual songs, which is often the best part of going to see live music. You won't hear anything like that just by putting a CD in the stereo. It was especially fascinating to hear them, after having jammed for a few minutes, bring it back around and return to the song. Lots of bands do this, but few do it so well.

We missed the opening act, but I really liked the second singer
Willy Mason. He's got a Johnny Cash, Mason Jennings kind of sound and his voice is really quite hypnotic. I felt bad for him because he was sick, but in my opinion it just added to his charm because it enhanced the bluesy, scratchy quality of his voice. I'm definitely going to be adding his album to our collection.

Interestingly enough given my last post, Sondre's playing The Waiting Room in Omaha tonight. Seriously, when did Omaha get so cool?

Update: The Omaha show has been cancelled because they're stuck in a snowstorm. See, this is why I live on the west coast.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Somewhere in middle America

Today's NY Times Travel magazine has an article about Omaha, where I spent many of my formative years. It's funny how it never felt like home when I lived there, but now the longer I'm gone the more nostalgic I become about it. I get especially nostalgic when Larry and I start looking at real estate and realize that for the price of a teeny-tiny home in Fremont we could practically have a mansion in Omaha. Then again, I always say that the catch is that we'd have to live there. This article, however, reminded me of all the wonderful things Omaha has to offer, and it's got me longing to go visit. I just don't think I could live in the midwest again after living next to the ocean for so many years, and I'll take a rainy Seattle winter over a snowy Nebraska winter anyday. But for a long weekend in late spring or early fall, Omaha could be a great destination.

In case you're visiting anytime soon, here are a few of my favorite Omaha locales:

Old Market in downtown Omaha--I could (and did) spend hours sifting through old sheet music at Antiquarium, which is still my favorite used book store anywhere. I also like Ted & Wally's, The Diner, The Underground, and Retro Recycle (although the incense can be a bit much). Christine and I used to eat at Spaghetti Works in the Old Market on a very regular basis. Mmm, spumoni!

Also in the Old Market: Delice European Bakery. I love their chocolate mousse in its own edible chocolate cup, and the fresh fruit tartlets. I also recommend any of their savory pastries for lunch. Yum!

Catch a movie at Dundee Theatre, the very last single-screen movie theater in Omaha. It really is the best.

I love thrift shopping on 24th Street, and at the 84th Street Goodwill. The thrift stores in both Omaha and Lincoln are awesome--not overshopped or overpriced, and you can find great vintage pieces. Although maybe I shouldn't be sharing this information...

See a show at
Sokol Hall. Sadly, I wasn't cool enough to know about the great acts that come to Sokol when I was younger, but if I lived there now it would definitely be on my list of favorites. Just a few of their upcoming shows are (local talent) Tilly and the Wall, Aqueduct and Tapes 'N Tapes.

If I think of anything else, I'll add it. If there's anything you think I missed, let me know!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

One of my least favorite things (canine edition)

I love dogs. I plan to have a dog or two someday. What I do not love is the person who, every week on trash day AFTER the trash has been picked up, leaves their stinky dog poo in our empty trash can. It's gotten to the point where I wait for the garbage truck to come, then go out immediately after the trash has been picked up to put the can away before they can strike again. But sometimes I forget, or have to be gone for a while, and then I come home to that stealthily dropped plastic bag in the bottom of my trash can and get angry all over again. I know I'm crossing the line into crotchety-old-man territory, and will soon be angrily waving my morning paper at the neighbor kids while wearing a bathrobe over my white t-shirt, plaid shorts and sandals with socks, but I can't help myself. Other people's dog poo is just gross.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

You call this spring?!?

Sunday was the most perfect kind of spring day--sunny and beautiful, with just enough breeze that you're comfortable, but warm enough to drive with the windows down and wear shorts to play tennis at the park.

This morning it's sunny, but it's 33 degrees outside and there's frost on all of the cars.

Is the Fremont troll punishing us for Missy's impertinence last fall?

Monday, March 19, 2007

I still remember

Okay, it's a week late, but here's the Bloc Party review:

The evening kicked off with Seattle pop duo
Smoosh, who were fabulous as always. Their music just makes me happy, and Chloe can really rock out on the drums. I was a little sad because we arrived in the middle of their set after dinner at Dahlia Lounge (we could have skipped dessert to make it on time, but how can you go to Dahlia and not have their doughnuts?) Fortunately we saw them last fall at the 826 benefit, and since we live here I'm sure we'll get to see them again before the year is over. Up next was Final Fantasy, the name Canadian singer Owen Pallett gives his solo project. He played violin (extremely well) and a little Casio keyboard and sang, while a cute girl made movies on an old-school overhead projector using different colored and cut-out transparencies (just like high school!). I loved it. My favorite movie started with a transparency that had a black and white drawing of a winding path that went over a lake; there was a giant tree that cut through the middle. As the song went on, she put different colors of perfectly cut-out transparency over each part of the drawing until it was all colored in. Then she had a transparency with a drawing of a little man that she floated over the original drawing so it looked like he was walking down the path. It probably doesn't sound as cool as it actually was, but the overall effect was incredibly charming. I should also mention that Owen has a lovely voice, and that his new album is called I Poo Clouds. I'd love to hear the back story behind that title...

Seattle was the first stop on
Bloc Party's US tour to promote their new album, and they put on an amazing opening night show. If I were 10 years younger, I would have been down front dancing, but as it was we enjoyed watching the kiddies go crazy from our seats off to the side. (I know I'm still young, but since it was an all-ages show I felt really old next to all the little 15 I just hate standing for 3-4 hours straight at shows nowadays, so I certainly feel old.) But I digress! Bloc Party's songs combine serious lyrics about modern day London with these incredibly catchy beats. The music was brilliant, their energy level was through the roof, and they looked good onstage.

About halfway through it became clear that the best part of the show for me was watching Russell, and of course Russell's hair. (see pictures below) I had just seen a similar haircut in a Prada ad earlier that day and was totally in love with it. It's the kind of cut that is soooo cool but looks good on noone but the model, you know? But! It looked completely natural on Russell. He was just adorable. I just wanted to give him a hug, he was so cute. I'll stop now since I'm starting to sound like a stalker, but seriously--the hair!!! Anyways, it was Russell's 26th birthday on Sunday, so at one point between songs Kele got the whole crowd to sing Happy Birthday to him; it was a sweet gesture and of course we all sang along. That kind of collective energy is what makes going to live shows so much fun--you just don't have experiences like that sitting at home on your couch! So if Bloc Party is coming to your town, get thee to the box office today and pick up your tickets. It's well worth it, plus you'll get to see Russell's hair for yourself. And you do not want to miss that.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Addendum to AFoMFT, late edition

Just got home from the Bloc Party show and my official new favorite thing is...

Russell's hair!

(photo by Jenna Decker; see more of her work here.)

(photo by Juliette Robert; see more of her work

I'll post a full review of the show tomorrow, but in the meantime, how cute is Russell's hair???!!??!?

Friday, March 09, 2007

A few of my favorite things, early daylight savings time edition

NPR made a great point yesterday: if we now only have standard time 5 months out of the year, can it really be called "standard" time? Hm. But on with the list...

Swedish pop music
pink champagne
pushmepullyou design
having Fridays off!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The extremely early bird does not get the worm.

We're having a yard sale tomorrow to raise money for my good friend Christine and have put out quite a bit of publicity in the papers and online. The sale will be from 9-4, and I specified no early birds, but another friend who is experienced in yard sales warned me that they would show up anyways. Well, I guess she was right. An elderly gentleman just rang our doorbell asking if he could come in and see the books that we would be selling tomorrow. When I said no, he asked if he could come back tonight. I said no again. Then he asked if he could come at 7 tomorrow morning and played the age card to gain sympathy (he's 75). I finally said he could come at 8 and hang around until I get the books set up. Which I know is unfair to the people who will come at 9, and I feel a little bad about that, but I just did't feel like arguing with him. On the bright side, it's nice to know that at least one person will be coming to the sale tomorrow!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Shameless plug for my fabulous mechanic

If you live in Seattle and are looking for a good mechanic, may I suggest Dr. Don's Automotive in Ballard? They are just awesome. Honest, helpful and downright friendly.


This morning I dropped my car off for an oil change, then took the bus home. On the bus I witnessed something that nobody should ever have to see: public grooming. A man sitting nearby was using a fingernail clipper to trim his chin hairs. On the bus!!!

After a few seconds of appalled staring, I regained my sense of politeness and thereafter stuck to furtive glances in his direction to see if he could possibly be doing what I thought he was doing. (He was.) He appeared to be using the reflection from the bus window for a mirror, as he pulled his chin skin taut with one hand and clipped with the other. Blech. I mean, we all know that natural light is the best light for facial grooming, but come on! Doing it in public is just unnecessary and wrong. I've had this image seared into my corneas for the past hour, so hopefully posting this will clear my brain, much like passing along an earworm helps get it out of your head...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I can't believe it's going to be March next week, or the Andy Rooney post.

Seriously, this year is flying by at record speed. Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Last Monday we saw
Camera Obscura at Neumo's and they were brilliant. I've missed them the last two times they came to town, so I was excited to finally hear them live. I was a teeny bit sad that they didn't play "Books Written for Girls," but it's pretty slow so maybe it would have been too much of a downer. They did play my favorite-est song of theirs, though, ("Suspended from Class") so I can't complain.

On Valentine's Day we went to the Triple Door for a special
Jesse Sykes show. She played some old songs and of course, lots of stuff from the new album which came out last week. Get thee to Sonic Boom and check it out! One thing I love on this album, besides the music, is that in the liner notes where all the musicians are listed, there are hand-clap credits. Now my new goal is to be a hand-clapper for her next record. Jesse, if you're reading this, I'll do it for free as long as I get a credit....

Over the weekend I saw Music and Lyrics. It's worth seeing it for the music video alone, but I will definitely be adding the DVD to my collection when it comes out.

We also celebrated Chinese New Year Saturday, and spent lots of time shopping and cooking for our New Year feast. Saturday night our friends Rod and Shannon came over and we ate: dumplings; ma po doufu; beef with snow peas and oyster sauce; ants climbing trees (bean thread with pork); sweet and sour shrimp; chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, mu shu pork, and roast duck (we bought a whole one from Uwajimaya). For dessert we had ginger and green tea ice creams--yum. Sunday night Missy and Jessie came over and we ate: leftover chinese broccoli and sweet and sour shrimp; sole with mushrooms and rice wine; shrimp with ribbon noodles; vegetarian ma po doufu; vegetarian ants climbing trees; bok choy with garlic. For dessert Missy and Jessie brought puppy chow (I think it's rice chex with peanut butter, chocolate and confectioner's sugar, but I don't want to know the recipe or I'd make it all the time). We'll be eating leftovers all this week, but I don't mind because Larry is an awesome cook so it's all delicious. Plus it means we won't have to cook for a while!

Friday, February 02, 2007

You better not kill the groove...

Thanks to The Imaginary Socialite for reminding me how much I loooove this song and video! You can go to Sophie's website to hear a bit of her new single; the album comes out in a couple of weeks. You know it's going to be dance-tastic.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A sad day for the opera world

Composer Gian Carlo Menotti died today in Italy. He composed many wonderful operas of the 20th century, among them The Medium, one of my favorites. He is probably best known, however, for his sweet, classic Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors. Amahl premiered on television in 1951 and is still shown at the holidays. You can read Menotti's obituary from the New York Times here; may he rest in peace.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I love that dirty water...

Larry's sister lives in Boston, so we got to stay there for a few days between Christmas and New Year's. The first day we drove up to Freeport, Maine to visit the gigantic L.L. Bean. Of course we had to take a picture by the giant boot.

On the way there we stopped at the DeLorme headquarters in Yarmouth to visit
Eartha, the world's largest globe. I'm still partial to the world's largest buffalo, but we had fun checking Eartha out.

The next day Larry's parents drove up for some family sightseeing fun. [Sidenote--I need to mention that we got coffee the first two days at
Diesel Cafe, which had the best coffee I drank on the east coast. If you live in Boston I highly recommend it.] We walked through the Public Garden, which I found out has a fascinating (and well-deserved) monument to ether. We also walked a good chunk of the Freedom Trail...

and visited the Paul Revere House. One thing about the house that I found really interesting was the discolored glass in the windows:

The guide told us that homeowners ordered their glass from England and had it shipped over. The mass-produced glass would often have particles of dust or other imperfections in it, so while the window arrived as clear glass, the individual panes would discolor over time. I think it would be cool to have that happen to your windows--it's like having your own custom stained glass.

The next day, the 30th, we took a tour of Fenway Park. It was exciting to be in the park, although it would be even more exciting if we were at a game. Or if Big Papi was our tour guide. Still, it was fun to learn Red Sox trivia, like that former owners Tom and Jean Yawkey's initials are written in Morse code on the manual scoreboard. Now I'm going to spend every home game looking for them.

By the way, those seats behind us go for $450 a pop, and that's only if your number is chosen after you enter the lottery for them. But the view is amazing...

We had purchased buttons for the First Night celebration, which gets you free admission into a ton of places. So on New Year's Eve we headed first to the New England aquarium, which had free admission till noon. The penguins there are seriously cute. Then it was on to the Old State House, Old Granary Burial Ground, and Otis House Museum (also old, but the word is not featured in the title). We had dinner at Whole Foods, where Larry got a slice of "Manny" pizza--they describe it as "pizza just being pizza." Love it!

Finally, for no other reason than that I think this is a really cute picture, here's one last shot of Boston:


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The First Emperor

This is the first of what will probably be several posts on our trip back east...

Holiday Tree at Lincoln Center

After spending Christmas in Rhode Island and New Year's Eve in Boston, we went back to RI for New Year's dinner with Larry's family. We took the train from Providence to New York on January 2nd, got into Penn Station at 2:45, and were at the hotel by 3. It was fabulous--our
hotel was 2 blocks south of Central Park and across the street from Carnegie Hall. We couldn't check in till 4, so we decided to stow our bags and walk to Lincoln Center, to see how far we'd have to travel for the opera that night. It was only 8 blocks away--woo hoo!

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center

On the way back we saw Ethan Hawke and Martha Plimpton at Columbus Circle. They're both performing in
The Coast of Utopia right now, so we guessed they were heading to Lincoln Center for call time. We had an early dinner at nearby Cafe Europa and went back to check in and get ready for the opera (!).

The New York Times didn't love The First Emperor, but I did. Here's what I think: the NYT critic is paid to go to operas. His job is to look for errors, missteps, things to criticize--and to commend where he sees fit. I, on the other hand, go to the opera a few times a year (and had never been to the Met before this). I'm going to the opera because I want to be told a story, hear beautiful singing, look at pretty costumes--in short, I want to be entertained. I'm predisposed to like what I see, because I've paid (okay, Larry paid) for the ticket, made an effort to get dressed up for a fun night out, and am excited to see the opera legend Placido Domingo create a role, watch Tan Dun conduct the score he composed, see Emi Wada's beautiful costumes and experience a story directed by the amazing Zhang Yimou. How could it have been anything but a fabulous time?

Granted, the first act was a little s l o w . . .but hey, there was a lot of exposition to get through. The second act moved much more swiftly, and the percussive score (assisted by a HUGE gong downstage left) kept things humming along. My favorite character was the Yin-Yang Master, performed by Wu Hsing-Kuo (who came over from Peking Opera for the occasion). His singing and incredible dance skills completely mesmerized me every time he came onstage. I also thought Michelle DeYoung was great as the shaman, often blurring the line between singing and shrieking. The freakishly long fingernails and crazy costume helped to make her a very scary shaman. Placido Domingo gave a convincing performance as the self-absorbed emperor who decides not to have Gao Jianli killed for deflowering his daughter, because he needs the musician to finish writing China's new national anthem (his obsession with the anthem was pretty funny at times). Of course, Domingo's voice was phenomenal. It was nice to see him tackling a new role and embracing a different style of music--at this point in his career he could easily coast on recordings of old standards. I think it speaks highly of his artistry that he's still challenging himself.

The sets were innovative--lots of brick-like blocks suspended from wire, that continually changed figurations and depicted (at various times) steps, an amphitheater, the Great Wall in progress, the emperor's castle/fortress, and the completed Great Wall. The costumes were just gorgeous--Princess Yueyang's dress at the beginning of Act 2 was probably the prettiest (long robes in two shades of pink), but the chorus costumes in Act 1 and the Yin-Yang Master were cool beyond imagination. They wore double-sided robes, with masks on the back of their heads, and when they turned around they would perform arm movements that made it look like the mask-creature was shimmying and dancing on its own. Seriously creepy, and so cool.

Musically, I think Tan Dun was trying to give the vocal melodies a similar feel to the zither that was often onstage--that would account for the soaring lines, strange leaps and chromaticism that I heard throughout the opera. I thought it worked in its way, and though it did make for some slow moments I didn't think it was painfully slow or boring. It just wasn't the traditional Western operatic style that we're used to, and rightfully so considering it's not a Western story. There was a lovely duet between Gao Jianli and Princess Yueyang, and the slave song/national anthem was quite moving. My favorite musical moment would have to be the Act 2 intro/overture. Tan Dun took one of the motifs (from the slave song, I believe, but I could be wrong) and started changing it up in the orchestra, tweaking intervals here and there for an awesomely strange theme & variation moment. Maybe it comes from singing with the Esos for so long, but I love that stuff! If I were in the orchestra that would definitely be my favorite section to play.

We pre-ordered champagne for intermission and had such a wonderful, decadent time drinking it on the Grand Tier and people-watching. The chandelier/light fixture in the center of the staircase was sooo pretty and sparkly, and around the lobby there were costumes on display (Marc Chagall's Queen of the Night costume for The Magic Flute was very cool). There was also an exhibit going on of modern paintings inspired by opera heroines. I really liked John Currin's Helena, which you can sort of see
here (scroll to the bottom, the last thumbnail). All in all, our trip to the Met was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I hope I will get to have many, many more times.